Inspiration

Detour with Postcards from Midlife – Episode two

Ruth Richardson

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 two, they spoke to Sunday Times bestselling author, Tasmina Perry, about about planning her novels from clifftop cafes in Cornwall, arriving in St Ives in a baggage compartment, and the joys of going off-grid.

Trish: 

In this episode of Detour, we’ll be talking to fellow travel enthusiast, and possibly one of the most joyful people I’ve met. Tasmina Perry. Dubbed queen of beach reads, Tasmina is one of the UK’s most popular women’s fiction writers having sold over 2 million copies of her books, which have also been translated into 21 languages. Tasmina trained as a lawyer, but switched to journalism before writing her debut novel Daddy’s Girls in 2006, which went into the Sunday Times top 10. She has since written 14 novels, as well as the thriller Mine under the pen name, JL Butler, which has been sold in a six-figure deal to Sony Pictures. She’s been married to her husband, John, for 17 years, whom she happened to meet and fall in love, with while working on a travel magazine together. And they now live in southwest London with their 16-year-old son Fin. Welcome, Tasmina. 

Tasmina: 

Hello! Great to be here!  

Trish: 

Well, thank you for joining us for this little travel detour! Now you have set your novels in some pretty glamorous locations, and your readers will have enjoyed them on beaches all across the world – being the queen of beach reads. So, let’s start with finding out about the most fabulous beach you’ve been on. 

Tasmina: 

Well do you know what, one of the best trips we ever took, was a beautiful house in Maui in a place called Hana, which is about three hours north of where everybody else goes, it’s literally like going to paradise. I think we’ll probably go on to places that you actually want to return to and that’s definitely one. In a 10-mile radius, there was a golden beach, a white beach, a red beach and a black beach. And the red beach was amazing. Apparently, Hillary Clinton had been there a few weeks before with this special service detail. And you sort of needed to really clamber and I’m really not a hiker, but we got there. And there was sort of a rock formation that made the sea like a lagoon, it was, it was incredible. And then we went on to the black beach. And there were all these Hawaiian kids that were there. And nobody was in the sea. So, me and John, my husband… 

Trish: 

Sharks?  

… Yeah, yeah. Do you know what, it was almost worse? It was a really notorious stretch of beach that had this wave called ‘The Dumper’ and it was actually really dangerous. So, me and John go wading in and we saw all these kids, and they were laughing at us honestly, and you know, and then we soon found out that the waves were not just vigorous. They were absolutely, they sucked you in, it’s probably quite a dangerous undertow actually. Anyway, we got dumped. So, we came wading out to safety on the Black Beach and all the kids are still laughing their heads off and you know what I looked down and the wave was so powerful – It had ripped my swimming costume, down to my waist. So that would be my top tip. It was like paradise. 

Lorraine:  

And what about British beaches? Because obviously I spend most of my life on a British Beach. I’m from Cornwall, got married on a in a church practically on the beach, in North Cornwall. What are your favourite British beaches? 

Tasmina: 

Well that’s an easy one. We spend as much time as we can in St. Ives, so Porthmeor. Which is a surf-y beach, it’s just my happy place to be honest. 

Lorraine: 

Yeah, golden sand that beach as well. It’s like a kind of Caribbean beach, isn’t it? 

Tasmina: 

It is! So, I always think it reminds me of Australia because it’s got that ruggedness to it as well. So, whenever we’re there, there’s a place you know Lorraine, you might know it if you’re from Cornwall, called Porthmeor Café? 

Lorraine: 

The one on the cliff? 

Tasmina: 

That’s it and it’s really hard to get into actually, now the secrets got out. But you know, I do all my planning, so I get my little table – they’ve got these heated pods, and I’m with a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich that’s where you’ll find me. 

Lorraine: 

So, is that where you plan your books? 

Tasmina: 

Do you know what, I actually do do a lot of planning there. Yeah, I just take myself up and yet sadly you only get an hour slot now for breakfast. I’m often there with a notebook and it is incredible. 

Lorraine: 

Do you swim or are you sea swimmer when you get there? Or do you sunbathe? What are your beach activity habits? 

Tasmina: 

The beach activity habits…. So, there’s two really great beaches in St. Ives, one’s Porthmeor, one’s Porthminster. And last year, all the kids were in and they were like, ‘Oh my gosh, Tammy! Come on, get in. You never go in.’ So, I said, ‘Well, I’m not doing that!’ But somebody bought a paddleboard! Well, you’ve never seen anything like it. 

Lorraine: 

I’m very against paddle boards. 

Tasmina: 

Well, so am I now, because, it was the most undignified performance probably ever seen on Porthminster Beach. 

Lorraine: 

They’re impossible. It’s a knockout, going on a paddle board. 

Tasmina: 

It is! Tell you what was hilarious. So, there was, there was a beautiful boat out in the water. Not very far out, actually. And, who were probably witnessing this ridiculous performance from me. And it turns out it was Tom Cruise’s yacht. 

Lorraine:   

Oh, yes. His yacht was in the bay! It was so exciting. It was enormous as well. It came all the way up the coast, because we saw it from Daymer Bay as well. And we were like, What the hell is that boat it’s the biggest yacht – with all the slides. 

Tasmina: 

And you know what Lorraine? We actually gave up the paddleboarding, and ended up writing ‘Hello, Tom’ in the sand! 

Trish: 

Listen, I think we should go back in time a bit, to discover more about your love and passion for travel. We’ve mentioned the fact that you worked on a travel magazine, which was where you met John, but let’s get back to childhood. What kinds of holidays did you go on as a child with your family? 

Tasmina: 

You know what I was brought up in Salford, my parents made the decision to send us, at 11, to private school, a grammar school fee paying school. You know, we weren’t a wealthy family. Something had to go, and what, what went for us was family holidays, to be honest. And so, I remember when our friends who lived up the road went to Disney World and I was like, ‘can we go, can we go?’. And I just remember them saying, ‘it’s all going on your education’. And, so, do you know what, I really get that now, I get sacrifices that parents have to make. So honestly, we didn’t go on holiday. And then actually, I think this probably is what sparked off my love for St. Ives. When I was about 14, My mum goes, and my dad was always working, so he never came anywhere with us, my mum said: ‘right, come on, I’m taking you all to St. Ives’. And so, we got the train, which from Manchester is a real… 

Trish: 

Long journey, it’s about 8 hours maybe… 

Tasmina: 

And you know what, I think in the 80s, it was probably pushing nine or ten. And I just had this really, really vivid memory of being in the baggage compartment, of that little train that goes from St Erth’s to St Ives. And of course, you know, a massive health and safety violation now, but I definitely remember the doors being open. And here’s me sitting with all these postal sacks. And the train coming around the bay and just seeing this, you know, this stretch of Carbis Bay. And it was it was that was the magic of travel for me of seeing something, because before that, I just used to read atlases. I mean, you know, I did end up as an author. So, when people say, ‘Oh, well, were you a reader as a child?’, I did read a lot as a child, but I actually I used to read atlases. So, I could probably tell you, you know, the capital city, currency and population facts, I was like fact nerd! Because we live because we never went anywhere. But when we did go somewhere it was it was seeing that. And it’s literally like a very clear snapshot in my mind now. And I think that, as I said, was a really transformative experience for me.  

Lorraine: 

So, when you hit your teenage years, you must have thought, right, that’s it. I’m going I’m off interrailing sleeping on beaches. I’m going to Magaluf. I’m going to party. I’m going to Tenerife. Did you do that? 

Tasmina: 

I’m sad to report that having found this love of travel, I didn’t travel in my summer holidays when all my friends were sort of interrailing and you know, Greek island hopping – I remember when Ios was the place to go. Yeah, I didn’t I was working. I used to work every single holiday but, that said, I had a job at do you remember Granada Studios Tours which was kind of they used to big it up as kind of the Universal Studios of the North West. First of all started off in the Magic Show. Then I ended up in the hot dog caravan and a band came to dance in front of my hot dog caravan.  

Lorraine: 

Bucks Fizz? 

Tasmina: 

No, no! Better. Take that. It was Take That and dancing outside my hot dog caravan. I went up to him and said, ‘Listen, I’m about to go to law school, and I really don’t want to go to law school. I want to be a journalist. But I’ve never interviewed anybody,’ and the guy who was there, said, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, sit down. Hi, my name is Rob’. And it was Robbie Williams. 

Trish: 

Okay, so where was when did the travel start for you? So, what was the thing that set you on the road? Where did you go? 

Tasmina: 

So, I did have a year off actually. And I kept on working at Granada Studios Tours, and then went on a massive Amtrak trip around America… 

Trish: 

…That’s my dream… 

Tasmina:

… seeing America by train was incredible, actually. So that started off that sort of, and then I became a journalist where you would literally be sent to X, Y and Zed at a moment’s notice. And that’s when the real passion for travel started, I think. 

Lorraine: 

What spot was your favourite place on the Amtrak? Because I’m planning this is my escape thing. When I hit 60. And everyone’s left home, I’m going to America and I’m going to travel by train. 

Tasmina: 

Well, actually, the Amtrak network is pretty good on the East Coast, a trip that I later did was actually took the train from Denver over to I can’t remember it’s called I think it’s called something Canyon. But basically, it was in the Arizona sort of area. And then you know, the whole north, sort of, you know, Massachusetts, and the New England area. So we went to Salem, and all those really quirky places that I remember me and my friend, Claire, we just literally used to look at the source of the map and go, where should we go today? It was brilliant. 

Trish: 

And then, so it sounds like it really kind of went in parallel with your career, didn’t it? And as you kind of went into late 20s, and 30s. And then you met John, and you were on a travel magazine. 

Tasmina: 

Yeah. John and I met and another magazine, actually. And then I think we were both obsessed with travel. We were used to, and we were friends at this point, we used to come to my house on Saturday night and we used to dream of starting a magazine and I think, you know, obviously, you two, have been, you know, magazine gurus, 

Lorraine: 

Doyens, doyens, they call us Tammy 

Tasmina: 

I’m calling you doyens 

Lorraine: 

Icons if you like… 

Tasmina: 

Let’s use icon, let’s choose icon. But as magazine icons, you know, you’ll know that your brand very much needs a sort of a niche for want of a better word and whether that’s you know, there’s, it’s really hard to make it work in the general sector of magazines unless you’ve got a massive publishing company behind you. So, I remember we had lots of conversations with, you know, people that we would know and they, they helped us hone our dream magazine idea, really hone it down to where would it sit on the newsstand? What are your passions? What do you think’s missing in the market? And so, we came up with this idea for a magazine called Jaunt. 

Lorraine: 

What did you put on the first cover? What was your first place? 

Tasmina: 

The first picture was actually Heidi Klum in a swimming pool, but it was a swimming pool in London. 

Lorraine: 

Jaunty, as opposed to a jaunt? Yes. 

Trish: 

And then you guys obviously got together, got married. Was there a honeymoon?  

Tasmina: 

Well, there was a honeymoon Trish, but, I know you did something amazingly adventurous.  

Trish: 

Well, we did a canoe Safari down the Zambezi, Lorraine is horrified by the idea because you don’t think that’s romantic at all – do you? 

Lorraine: 

Well, I don’t think it’s very you, because you don’t like sort of insects and smells. And… 

Trish: 

… We actually had to, it was actually, it was really amazing, you had to camp on these little islands in the Zambezi using your oars as tent poles and you put a mosquito net over, you know, sort of sleeping bags and stuff. And you could hear hippos walking around! 

Lorraine: 

They’re noisy, hippos.  

Trish: 

Quite scary! But it was also, it was romantic because you’re looking up at the sky, the sky and the stars through you’re kind of muslin net, anyway, that was quite something I have to say. But what about you? What did you do? 

Tasmina: 

Well, this is it isn’t it’s like what is romantic. You know, romantic can be something as simple as looking at the stars whether you’re in Scotland or you know, Africa, but for us, actually back to jaunt, we’d have this incredible experience of getting sorts of lavished with all these amazing press trips which by the way, were often too busy to take and then Jaunt folded because, there was, we ran out of money basically. So anyway, so we were there having created our dream magazine and we did it all ourselves and it was ours. However, we did fall in love. So, you know that was that was the upside of Jaunt. But yeah, so we, by the time we got married, we were unemployed Jaunt had just folded and we’re like, ‘oh my gosh, what should we do’ but you know, we’re happy because Jaunt folded, and John proposed and that was it. And it was it was. So yeah. So, we were like, okay, we’ve been tempted by the world of travel. And you know, we’ve got our dream list, our wish list of where we’d love to go in the world. And the honeymoon is when you’re supposed to do that trip. However, we’ve got no money. So, I remember thinking, right, what are we going to do here, we’ve got to, you know, have some initiative. So, I just found some cheap flights to the Caribbean and the cheapest flights I could find were in St. Maarten, actually, in the Caribbean, which is half French, half Dutch. So, the place that I found the hotel again, it was a really small hotel. And it was in a town called Grand Case on Comcast, I think you pronounced it. And I didn’t know again, this was sort of happy serendipity that it’s the culinary capital of the Caribbean. And there’s this amazing stretch. And it’s just called ‘the boulevard’. And literally you would have sort of Michelin starred restaurants next door to fishing shacks, basically, that served up the most amazing lobster and fresh fish and, that, so that’s what our honeymoon became actually was just us and this really cute little hotel by the beach, by a beautiful stretch of beach. And then every night we just used to wander down. And you know, sometimes we did feel a bit flashy or we splashed out on an expensive meal. But you could eat there for cheap as chips and this street. I don’t actually know why more people don’t write about it. Because in the Caribbean, it’s really famous. 

Trish: 

Not too shabby at all for a couple who haven’t got any money at all! 

Tasmina: 

Well, I came back a stone heavier! 

Trish: 

Fast forwarding to now because obviously you’ve got thin. Family holidays, what are they like for you? 

Tasmina: 

Well, do you know what, I think over the years, John, has sort of relaxed into his enjoyment of travel and like sort of quite low fi and Fin, the same. So, they love what it’s called. They call them shuffle holidays. Where all you do is like literally get up, shuffle down to the buffet, breakfast buffet, shuffle to the swimming pool, shuffle to play tennis shuffle, you know, basically shuttling between food and relaxation, whereas those sorts of holidays drive me absolutely mad. I have not sit still. And so, but actually, I’ve kind of made that work for myself. Because what I do now when we do a shuffle holiday, is I use that to work. So, there’ll be they’re shuffling between, you know, the bar and the swimming pool, and I’ll just find a shady spot with my computer. So actually, so for me, you know, my, I don’t know what you guys are like, but for me, relaxing is going to a museum, or going to a talk or seeing something. I’m kind of always like… I mean, the curse of that, obviously, is that sometimes you don’t truly relax. But yeah, but I think that’s about compromise. And actually we had an amazing discovery a few years ago, was a Disney cruise. So Finn was a bit younger than he was sort of just on the cusp of liking Disney or not. So, I thought, right, okay, we’ll go on a Disney cruise. And so, we went from San Diego down to the source of the Baja coast of Mexico. So, it’s quite a short cruise. But I discovered the joy of a cruise. I’d never been on a cruise! 

Lorraine: 

Yes! 

Tasmina: 

So, they were there relaxing. And I was at the towel arranging workshops! 

Lorraine: 

Can you do a swan, is that what you can, can you do a swan? 

Tasmina: 

I just make I can’t just make a swan, I can make a brontosaurus. 

Lorraine: 

Oh my goodness.  

Lorraine: 

Well, I like to hear about you taking a teenage boy on a shuffle holiday because that’s quite a feat of an achievement. But before we go, can we fire some, quickly fire some travel questions at you. What is your most memorable bar/restaurant? 

Tasmina: 

And do you know what, we went to a, it’s not really a restaurant, but it was memorable. So, we went to Harbour Island in the Caribbean. Again, nobody wanted us how expensive it was. It was phenomenally expensive. Even going to the shop was expensive. And then we met, I mean what I always love to do is just, I’m real chatter. I love chatting to people, and then they said okay, you need to go to, I can’t remember his name. But somebody in town, had a barbecue once a week, people sort of in the know, used to go to this house. It was you know, it was just a pretty normal regular Caribbean house. And he’d open up his garage and he had these like oil drums and him and his whole family would make these ribs basically. And we’ve never forgotten those ribs – the most, and it was like, it was the equivalent of about $2. 

Trish: 

That is so unique, isn’t it? It’s a kind of almost money can’t buy almost experience because you’re in someone’s, it’s so exciting. 

Tasmina: 

It is, and do you know what that would be the thing I’d often say about going on holiday, is just chat to people. I mean, what you know, Lorraine that trip where we did the Amtrak across the Rockies and then picked up a car, I actually decided, and so it was when sort of apps and phones, and we’re constantly on this and constantly on Instagram, I just thought you know what, we’re actually going to have one month digital detox, which sounds really hardcore. And so, we use a lot of maps, John loves his maps, and we used to talk to people. And so, when you actually haven’t got, because, again, you know, we’ve all worked in magazines, and very often, the same information goes round and around. So, there’s a real danger sometimes of relying too much on guides, or you know, sometimes they can give tonnes of great information. But other times, perhaps you’ll miss those real, you rely on them too much. So yeah, speak to people. 

Lorraine:  

And where would you go back to? 

Tasmina: 

Where would I go back to? We did actually over lockdown we did. Because obviously, we couldn’t really go anywhere. And we weren’t sort of one of the people, the brave enough people who risked getting stranded in Greece. So, we did the North Post 500 trip, you know, right around the top of Scotland. And that was incredible. You know, people say, oh, the beaches are like the Caribbean. Well, they were actually and there was, I mean, it was, we stayed in a lady’s caravan, obviously, I mean, planning. I mean, I don’t know if you’re a planner or a sort of a fly by the seat of the pants on holiday. But that’s one of the trips that you do have to plan actually, because there’s a real paucity of accommodation. So, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, John, I can only find this caravan or on a lady’s farm.’ And it was like a proper 50s caravan. It barely had any electricity. And there was midgies off the scale. But it was the, she kept Alpaca. And you could see the coast. And we were literally just I remember, just by low lights – we were just playing cards. I mean, when do you ever play cards? But it was, it was fantastic. So yeah, that whole trip, we did it pretty quickly, to be honest. So, I would love to do that again. And take it a bit slower. 

Trish: 

And are you, finally, you shuffling this summer? Are you going somewhere with museums? And… 

Tasmina: 

Well, no, because again, it’s all down to the compromise isn’t it and it’s always like, Okay, where are we going to go and Fin’s just doing his GCSEs. So yeah, so he was desperate for a shuffle. And obviously, I’m not desperate for a shuffle. So here was my cunning plan. I really wanted to go to Malaysia. And it’s been recommended to you by loads of people I’ve never been before. And of course, it’s so Fin and John are like, ‘Okay, great. You know, we can go to one of the hotels by the beach and just slob’. And of course, no, I’m not thinking that at all. No. So what I’ve done in a very cunning way, I do recommend this tactic for people who perhaps have unwilling family members, is trying to think of a way of making it fun. So, I found out that Malaysia you know, the movie we love this movie, Crazy Rich Asians…  

Trish & Lorraine: 

… Oh, yeah… 

Tasmina:

…Is actually filmed in Malaysia. And we’ve watched that, we’ve watched the film like half a dozen times, and we all love it. And so, this is what I’ve done. So, I’ve created this sort of, so it’s my way of touring Malaysia, but I’ve pitched it to Fin and John as Crazy Rich Asians Tour. 

Lorraine: 

Genius, genius idea, sleight of hand on the family front.  

Tasmina: 

Correct! 

Lorraine: 

Well, thank you so much for sharing all your tips and those lovely travel memories. 

Tasmina: 

Thank you. I’ve loved it. It’s been great talking to you, bye bye! 

Trish: 

Well, I’m feeling very inspired by Tasmina’s travels and if you are looking for even more inspiration and ideas, check out the fabulous Sawday’s website: Sawdays.co.uk – as they’ve spent 25 years finding, visiting, and choosing brilliant places to stay in the UK and Europe, all of which, are run with passion and creativity. 

Lorraine: 

Yes, Sawday’s philosophy is all about bringing people together, being champions of slow, ethical, and responsible travel, and their community of owners, hosts, guests, the Sawday’s team, local inspectors and in-country experts is really unique.  

Trish: 

If you like the sound of any of the holidays we’ve chatted about on Detour with Postcards from Midlife, then please check the show notes for Sawday’s recommendations inspired by this episode.  

Trish & Lorraine: 

Happy Holidays! 

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