Author and British TV presenter Kate Humble tells us her guilty pleasure and shares her secrets to finding balance and happiness every day
In a funny sort of way, I kind of did lockdown before everybody else. When I was writing A Year of Living Simply I lived in a little studio in West Wales for a month and didn’t see anybody at all. I just wrote and went on walks with my dogs, and it was actually kind of wonderful. What was odd, although gratifying, was that so many of the things that people found comforting during lockdown were the things that I had already been doing myself – like growing my own vegetables and making bread. It’s sad that the way most of us live means we don’t have the time to do or try these very simple things. And actually, things you don’t need to pay for are often the things that make you happiest.
This was a very personal project and was a feeling that sort of crept up on me. I wanted to shift the focus of my life. As I say right at the beginning of the book, I lost four really important people in my life in very quick succession. It wasn’t some sort of tragedy, I wasn’t robbed of these people, but it’s a reminder that when you get to my age you’re kind of the next generation to go, and I know that sounds a bit bleak, but it’s not at all. It’s just a little nudge to say, “You know what, you’ve got one crack at this.” So, as I say, this book isn’t a blueprint, it’s not a “this is what you should do”. No one should have to do anything. It was about exploring the things that I thought I enjoyed, or didn’t know I enjoyed, and realising that I actually got a huge amount of pleasure from them.
I think the main thing is not to be blocked by the idea of “I can’t do it.” This also isn’t like a crash diet; it’s not about denying yourself stuff. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s about creating space in your life for the things that you have always wanted to do and haven’t got round to doing. So, probably the best way to start, certainly the way I start a lot of things, is to go for a walk. I don’t take a phone, I don’t listen to a podcast. I just go for a stroll and let my thoughts ramble with my feet. It will be different for everybody, but living simply is saying, I don’t need to go and buy bread because I can make it, I don’t need to go and buy all my vegetables, because I can grow some of them. There’s something really life-affirming about that, it’s simply about identifying the things that make you happy and making sure you have the time to do them.
My guilty pleasure is cheese! The bluer and stinkier, the better. I once went to a cafè in Bristol that had cheese that was so stinky, it had to be served in a shot glass. It was delicious. But if the weather is freezing cold and raining and I’ve been doing something really physical like mucking out, literally the biggest luxury at that particular moment will be someone making me a cup of tea. There’s nothing better in the world than wrapping my hands around that warm mug and taking the first sip when I’m cold, exhausted and filthy. However, there are other lovely simple pleasures. One of them is going for a walk first thing in the morning and feeling like I’m the only person awake, or a really good piece of toast with Marmite thickly spread on it.
I start filming another series of A Country Life for Half the Price in the next couple of weeks, and that’s lovely. I think it’s going to be really interesting. I mean it was really interesting the first series, but the second series is going to be particularly good because I suspect quite a lot of people will be wanting to move in light of what’s happened this year, and hoping the countryside can offer solace. So, I think that’s going to be fascinating to see what the impetus is for them choosing to move to the country. I’ll be filming an Animal Park Christmas special – and I’m also tinkering with another new book…
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