Inspiration

Detour with Postcards from Midlife – Episode one

Chris Elmes

5 min read

Welcome to Detour, the Sawday’s podcast on inspiring travel. Our first three episodes have been made in partnership with Postcards from Midlife, presented by Trish Halpin and Lorraine Candy, both magazine editors and journalists with decades in their trades, who have worked on some of the biggest titles around. In Detour, they’ll be talking to inspirational women about how their travels have inspired and informed their lives and work. For episode one, they spoke to York-based interior designer Lisa Dawson about travelling with her teenagers, her plate compulsion and packing incredibly light.

 

Trish:

We’re kicking off this series with the interior and home stylist Lisa Dawson, who’s 195,000 followers on Instagram can’t get enough of her clever chic and colourful styling ideas and tips. Lisa, 51, began her career in fashion retail before moving into estate agency and then setting up her first online shop with Not On The High Street, selling interior homewares, after moving home nine times in 14 years. She bought her dream Georgian house in York in 2015, and has since set about demonstrating her resourceful decorating skills using thrift and charity shop finds to stunning effect. Her book, Resourceful Living was published in 2021, and she is married to Joe, with whom she has three children, Ella Max and Leo, aged 20, 18 and 13. Welcome, Lisa.

Lisa:

Hi, thank you so much for asking me to be on.

Lorraine:

Now. We’re here to talk travel and you grew up in Hong Kong, which sounds very exciting and glamorous. Is it somewhere you go back to for holidays? Has something from Hong Kong stayed with you? Is it food or a way of being or memories?

Lisa:

I think anyone who has lived in Hong Kong or in fact any sort of expatriate lifestyle has got a connection to the place. We left back in the late 80s and I didn’t go back again until six years ago when I convinced my husband, he took a lot of persuading, to go back with all our children. So I could relive my Hong Kong experience. And I really did. I dragged them around my old school and everything. They were fuming, but it was just amazing. I have such a connection with that part of the world, because I have so many good memories of my childhood there. So my dad passed away 13 years ago, but obviously we went out there for his job. So it was a time in my life when all my family were there together. So it was just really happy times. I always think back on those times with great love.

Lorraine:

It’s quite fantastic. I’ve been a couple of times actually, we went on our honeymoon as part of our Australia tour. But I also went when the handover happened, when Britain handed it back and went to the most amazing parties and saw Grace Jones play live. It was just such a fantastic experience. And at that point, you used to have to fly in through that airport that was at the end of the main streets. Completely crazy. 

Lisa:

Yeah, right over the top of the houses.

Lorraine:

We could see into people’s windows as we flew in. It was really extraordinary. 

Trish:

I assumed when you were covering it for a newspaper…

Lorraine:

No actually I had a friend who was working on the South China Morning Post and she was a chief reporter there. So I stayed with her but I also was part of the Press Club as well. So we had basically a VIP entry to absolutely everything and wow, what kind of struck me is, it’s very Chinese as well as very western at the same time. You could be in an amazing market where they would make you this fantastic suit overnight for half the price you could pay anywhere and then you would be in this very high tech area with all the high rises. 

Trish:

Lisa, you are such a creative and visual person. And I’m assuming you get inspiration when you travel because you must be looking for ideas all the time, for what you do. Are there specific ideas you’ve borrowed or adapted from some of the places that you’ve travelled to.

Lisa:

I absolutely love travelling. Travelling is what me and my family do above anything else. Even if we had no money whatsoever, we would save every penny to go travelling. That’s what we love doing as a family. I always get the most inspiration. At the moment I’m doing my outdoor area, we’re putting an outdoor kitchen, and that sounds really extravagant, but it’s actually not. It’s basically a bench with a barbecue on it and a pizza oven. It’s been made in breezeblocks and we’ve rendered it in concrete, and I’m painting it white with terracotta tiles, so it will really have that feeling of Spain, because I’m so inspired. I would love to go back and live in a hot country now, where you can have that indoor outdoor living all year round. 

Lorraine:

Do you buy stuff when you’re abroad? That you use? Is there something you’ve seen? And brought back and we can see it on your Instagram?

Lisa:

Well, every time I go away, I’m obsessed with the tableware. I cannot come home without bowls and mugs and tablecloths and all that sort of stuff. But one thing that I is I collect a plate from everywhere that I go, even in the UK, wherever. I’ll always get a plate. And I bring that home and in my office, I’ve got a plate wall that you can see that on my Instagram actually, a plate wall with all the plates from where we’ve travelled. It doesn’t even have to be a plate. It just has to be some sort of plaque.

Lorraine:

Travelling with your three kids, which is a big thing in itself, is very much part of your life, isn’t it? What’s your favourite holiday? What is the one that they still talk about around the dinner table? I mean, mine is still talking about when we took them to Sri Lanka for my 50th. What’s the one that you all have together and share?

Lisa:

We’ve always prioritised holidays, so they have been unbelievably lucky. As I say to them all the time, they’re so lucky that they’ve travelled. But actually I think that the place that they have enjoyed going to the most was probably when they hit that age of stopping wanting the all-inclusive, just eat all you can and run around and go to the mini disco type of thing. And when they started wanting to dress up in the evening, you know, you’ve got girls haven’t you Lorraine? So when they started to want to dress up in the evening and go out for dinner and do adult type things. And the first holiday that we really did that for was when we went to Kassiopi a few years ago. My children are now 20, 18 and 13, but it was just at that time when they were really enjoying going out in the evening. And they started to appreciate going into restaurants. And we have great memories of it because that was a really good family holiday, where we enjoyed every bit of it. That was the first holiday when really the evenings became an event for them.

Trish:

I’m going to be really ignorant here. And so ask where Kassiopi is…

Lisa:

Corfu! We’d never been there before. And I wrote a blog about it. Actually, it is absolutely the most beautiful place. It’s so green and so lush. The beach is beautiful. It’s small enough that there’s enough for the children to be happy, but not big enough that it’s sprawling and it’s got loads of 18 to 30 groups hanging around. So it’s just perfect. And it was one of those holidays where the villa was beautiful, we were close to the sea, we could walk to the restaurants and bars, which is what they all want. So all the pieces came together. And it was perfect.

 

Trish:

And do you have those sort of childhood holiday memories yourself? Obviously, you’ve got the very strong memories of Hong Kong. But did you go on family holidays?

Lisa:

Yes. I mean, prior to Hong Kong we used to… this sounds ridiculous now…  we used to rent a house on the beach at Sandbanks, and obviously back in the 70s it wasn’t at all what it is now. So we would rent this massive six bedroom house on the beach at Sandbanks that basically the sand dunes went into the garden. And we did that probably until I was about eight. And of course then we went to Hong Kong and came back and obviously sandbanks became the place to go. But after that we used to go to the west of France and we would go there every year. We’d go with other families, and camp and we’d have big sloping roof things that my dad and his friends would erect, so we’d have a long table down the middle and we’d all meet for dinner. 

Trish:

Yeah perfect childhood kind of things. For our kids it’s Walberswick in Suffolk. We go every year with friends and we all rent individual houses so we’re not on top of each other, but we can meet on the beach. And I think those are the ones that they always talk about. And I think it probably blurs into one, but it’s really important, isn’t itm for kids to have these kinds of rituals around holidays. 

Lorraine:

When I talk about parenting teens, I talked to experts on rituals and memories and something like going to the same place all the time. While you might think that’s a bit boring, it’s actually really important for kids as their brains develop. It sets that kind of memory to lean on in their back in the back of their mind, it’s kind of subconsciously making them feel safe and loved, especially if it happens again, and again, in exactly the same place. So it roots their childhood, and the passing of time is more relevant to them, or it’s more evident to them, which is like celebrating the 16th and 18th, these milestone moments, having regularity and seeing the passing of the time is really important to them, I think particularly with trauma.

Lisa:

Also it makes them want to replicate it when they’re older as well. So I certainly want my children to have the same experiences, as I did, you know, I want them to feel the way that I feel about my family holidays in the past. So it makes me more keen for them to have similar experiences to me.

Lorraine:

So how do you pick a mini break? I mean, particularly now. I find it really hard, mine are aged between 11 and 20. 

Lisa:

It’s quite hard to pick something 

Lorraine:

A big gap between the last two is hard to find somewhere to go, isn’t it? How do you pick your holidays and mini breaks now as a family?

Lisa:

Mini breaks are really difficult, as I’m sure you know, as well trying to encourage them to come away for a couple of nights.

Trish:

They want exotic don’t they or they’re just they’re not interested. 

Lisa:

So actually, where I find my children are always keen to go, and will always go, is London, because we live in York now. They love it. They can shop, they can go to restaurants, they can walk around, they can see all the cool stuff. So that sort of thing works really well for them. They are less inclined to do the short, “just us and a cottage” for two nights. Yeah, that for them has lost all the appeal. 

Lorraine:

Are you going somewhere this year as a family?

Lisa:

Yes. It’s my husband’s 50th and it’s my daughter’s 21st. So we’re going for the big guns this year. So we’re going to, we’re going to Kalkan in Turkey. If you haven’t been, there is nowhere better to take teenagers than Kalkan.

Trish: 

It’s so lovely because they can just go off, in town and go to little bars. And there’s so much shopping and it’s really beautiful and really fun, isn’t it?

Lisa:

It’s really all enclosed. And they have beach clubs, which kids love. So we’re doing that for a week in July. And then in August, we’re going to California. So we’re starting in LA. And then we’re driving up the Big Sur and going to San Francisco and then coming back to Santa Monica for the beach for two days.

Trish:

So did you have a connection with York? Did you go there on holiday? What was it that inspired you to move there?

Lisa: 

My husband was offered a job there. When I was married, we moved to Cavisham which is near Reading and we spent a long time looking to move abroad because that’s what I wanted to do. In 2012, I got cancer, and I had loads of treatment and it was a stressful time. And at that time my daughter was moving up to secondary. And my husband was offered a job in York and I was like okay, so it’s not Hong Kong. Whiplash! It’s not Singapore. But let’s just go there because I think when I’d had cancer, I didn’t want to be that person in the playground with cancer, so it was nice to just go and have a fresh start. So we moved to York, and we intended to stay for a couple of years. And actually when we got here, the standard of living was really lovely. And the people are super friendly. And it’s you know, we’re close to the beach and it just was really nice. So we sold our house and moved here for eternity.

Trish:

And it’s opened up other parts of the UK for you to explore holiday wise maybe that you haven’t, or mini breaks or day trips about this place.

Lisa:

I had literally never been north of Watford prior to moving to York, I had never gone anywhere. We’ve got Whitby, Scarborough, Filey, Robin Hood’s Bay, and then further up you’ve got the Northumbrian coastline, which is beautiful. One of my best friends has just bought a house up there, she lives in Reading. So I’m very excited because she’s going to be up here more often. But yeah, it’s really beautiful. And the beaches! Because I’d spent a lot of my childhood going to the Devon and Cornwall area, I thought the beaches down there were beautiful, but actually up on the on that coast, they’re just astonishing. They’re so beautiful, just so beautiful. And now within 45 minutes of us.

Trish:

So there you are, MORE beautiful than Cornwall! 

Lorraine:

No, I’m not having that! I’m committed to my Cornish childhood beaches. What about your husband, then? Do you go on romantic breaks? Where would be an ideal kind of mini break for the two of you?

Lisa:

This is actually really a difficult one because when my children were small, we never ever did that. We’ve never done it. And I had friends who had dumped their children with the grandparents and off they went!

Lorraine:

You can’t do that with four. Nobody wants to take four children.

Lisa:

So we really have hardly ever been anywhere. And something horrific happened. My husband works in the motor industry and every year, prior to COVID at least, they would go off on kickoffs around the world and I never went. All the other wives were there but I never went because we had three children at home. Then after I’d been ill and we moved to York, I was like, right, I’m going and we’re going to Australia. And we got the grandparents to look after my three children, the eldest was 11 at that time and we were supposed to be there for 10 days. We came home after eight, because it was so horrific with a 12 hour time difference. They’d be on the phone crying at six o’clock.

Trish:

Australia’s quite ambitious for your first…

Lisa:

Yes! It was absolutely horrific. So we came home early. I think the only place we’ve been to for a weekend away is London, which we’ve been able to do since my daughter is old enough now to look after all three of them. Because Leo is only just 13. But yeah, we would take any mini break anywhere. We don’t even have a wish list. Anywhere we could go would be great.

Lorraine:

And what’s your most memorable holiday memory? Is there a kind of bar or a restaurant or a foodie experience that stuck in your mind forever and ever? And you just keep thinking I want to go back there?

Lisa:

Well, do you know just as lockdown seized, I think it was last year, I went online and I don’t know if you remember but Majorca came in as one of the places you could go. So I went online and found a finca in Soller which is on the north coast of Majorca. And we went to probably the most Instagrammable restaurant in the world, which is called… I’ve actually written it down to remember… it’s called Ca’s Patro March. It’s in Deia. And it’s that one that you always see which is on the side of the cliff and it has the sunset in front of it. We went there. It was absolutely beautiful. Annoyingly, they only take cash. So you need to be prepared before you go! And you have to walk down this great big, deep, steep hill in order to get to it and we had an amazing meal. The children obviously didn’t appreciate it at all. They were just taking Instagram pictures, but it was absolutely beautiful. That was the highlight of the holiday, I think.

Trish:

And are there any kind of books or films that have inspired you to travel? I was watching The Lost Daughter with Olivia Coleman [set in Greece]. I don’t know whether you’ve seen that film. I want to go there. If I was ever to go on holiday on my own, I would go there. I mean, obviously I wouldn’t want all the drama that goes on! 

Lisa:

I’m inspired by everything I watch. I want to go everywhere. I suppose Mamma Mia that’s just an absolute cliche classic, isn’t it? But Greece is one of my favourite places in the world. And my daughter’s there at the moment, in Crete. I was just saying on my Instagram this morning that she’s basically phoning me all the time and sending me photos. That’s sweet. Isn’t it? 

Lorraine:

Not like the old days when we booked our holidays on Ceefax and never phoned anyone!

Trish:

And went into the travel agents! Who does that now?!

Lisa:

I would definitely say Greece, I’m always inspired by it. And what was the other one Captain Corelli? So all of those I mean, just beautiful, with lemon trees. Oh, gosh, I love it all.

Lorraine:

I went to Antarctica inspired by a book, Terra Incognita, the Sara Wheeler book. She was out working with the British Antarctic station. She just wrote a really personal memoir and I couldn’t get it out of my head. It was stuck in my head for a year. When I just kept thinking I must go and then we took a sabbatical and went for eight weeks on a Russian icebreaker out there. Yeah, it’s very cold in Antarctica. I think that’s where my love of the cold comes from, Trish.

Trish:

It probably kicked it off. 

Lorraine:  

It wasn’t really a holiday, it was the most extraordinary experience because it’s 24 hour sunshine. And we were on a working boat that was mapping the coastline. So it was a geographical trip as well, with scientists. And we went to something called Peter The First island, which is one of those islands that island hunters collect, you know, very remote places. This was probably 22 years ago. I think it would be a really different experience now, because the whole continent has changed shape. And I kind of love my kids to have something like that in their mind that they wanted to do based on a book or a film, but they seem very, well, they seem very resistant to anything I suggest, generally! 

Trish:

As a traveller who spent a lot of time travelling, has been on lots of trips. What are your tips? Are you the best Packer in the world? Can you get to the airport in super quick time? What’s the thing that you can share that will be helpful for listeners?

Lisa:

I’m always massively organised. The thing that we do, which people are always aghast at, is that we only ever take hand luggage with us. We never take a suitcase. 

Lorraine:

I am beyond impressed. If you’re going on a California trip…

Lisa:

Well, I think the California road trip we’re going to have to take them because as my daughter was saying it’s not the same as going on a beach holiday. But if we’re going on a beach holiday or anything like that, we only take hand luggage.

Lorraine:

What’s in it then? 

Lisa:

We just… we just pack really carefully. We trained our children. We think really carefully about what we’re taking and only once have we been forced to buy a suitcase. And that was actually when we went to Calcutta because my children bought so much that we had to buy one to bring it home. But the reason that we don’t check hand luggage is mostly because I have a massive impatient family and they hate waiting for suitcases. That’s their worst thing. They can’t stand it. They don’t want to check in. 

Lorraine:

How do you manage to get your plate back then? 

Lisa:

I always have like a beachy type bag in my hand luggage, right? And that’s always enough. And also I shipped things back. I went away a few years ago and I bought a massive Indian bus sign, a vintage one and I had it shipped back. It was only 30 quid, much cheaper than you think.

Trish:

A couple of years ago a friend bought me as a present – packing cubes. These little pouches that you pack and they’re different sizes and you put them in your luggage, so you put all of your say all your vote your undies in one cube and all your shoes in another and you can just open up your bag and take out the cube. It’s so organised and what’s it made of just you know some kind of nylon you know and with a zip top with a kind of mesh top so you can see what’s in there.

Lorraine:

When we go on our road trip across America Trish, there will be a packing disparity between us because my packing is… you have to sit on the case and I just put it all in the night before. And you also be very neat. Maybe you should pack for me and I’ll pack for you and we’ll record it!

Lisa:

Are you going on a road trip? Or is this one day? The Dream roadshow?

Trish:

Yes, the dream road trip. We feel like we need to storm across America, talking to women about how fabulous it is to be in midlife and sharing the midlife message.

Lisa:

I think you definitely need to be doing that. 

Trish:

Well, listen, thank you so much, Lisa for joining us. It was so lovely to talk to you and hear about all your travels and adventures and also just so interesting how it inspires what you do in your work and at home and your creativity.

Lisa:

Thank you it’s lovely talking to you. Thank you for asking me.

 

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