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Work-life balance

with Hattie Garlick

Is it really possible to mix work with family holiday time, and do either thing well? Telegraph Journalist Hattie Garlick takes a day out from her holiday in Watergate Bay’s beach lofts to focus on upcoming deadlines – with surprisingly productive results.

The best bit? There’s even time for a quick surf and cold beer before meeting up for a family dinner…

Hattie Garlick sitting on the swinging chair in the beach lofts

Dylan Thomas had his writing shed, perched precariously on the side of a cliff in West Wales. It was here that the poet wrote all his most celebrated work, his wife locking him in when bills loomed and money from masterpieces was urgently required.

This, I think, as I open my laptop, is my writing shed moment. I have sent the children away with my husband – to spend a happy day swimming, rockpooling, surfing and ice-cream slurping. It’s just me here in our beach loft. All I need to do is channel some Dylan Thomas and I’ll have written a breathtaking work of exceptional genius by tea time.

Granted, there are some differences between our working environments. Though charming, Thomas’ writing shed was small, dark and rather damp. I’m sitting on a soft swinging sofa, hung by a thick rope from the high ceiling of a very roomy suite. The air conditioning is perfectly calibrated, the WiFi instantaneous, the triple-glazing filtering out all distracting sound. I have a constant source of freshly brewed coffee, warmed cinnamon buns and chilled mineral water from the shared pantry down the corridor. Also, should I want anything else at all, a private concierge. 

But it was the view that inspired Thomas, and it’s this (if nothing else) that we share. His window had uninterrupted views over the water. Our beach loft teeters over the two-mile long, surfers’ paradise that is Watergate Bay. The wall is constructed almost entirely from glass, so as I type my first sentence, I’m staring at a panorama of Beach Boy waves.

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View from the beach lofts with Hattie Garlick

There really is something about this view, the pared down landscape of water and sky in horizontal bands that focuses the mind. By elevenses, I’ve met my first deadline.

And there really is something about this view, the pared down landscape of water and sky in horizontal bands that focuses the mind. By elevenses, I’ve met by first deadline. It might not quite meet the great poet’s standards, but I’m sufficiently pleased to award myself a half-hour break and a walk along the clifftops. I’m fairly sure a true poet would have left her phone behind, to absorb the drama of the landscape. But there’s 4G signal on up here on the coast path, and actually, the sea breeze knocks some fresh ideas into me so I stop for a spot of googling (sorry Dylan).

The Living Space - restaurant - window table

Back at the room, I pick up my laptop and take it to the snug in The Living Space, a cosy room off the main café where you can order a proper coffee, close the door and take a quick Zoom call (there’s also a boardroom, but I’m writing a travel piece, not organising a corporate takeover, so the large screen television for video calls seems a little overkill).

It feels strangely illicit, almost indecently decedent, to have so many spaces in which to work in such a beautiful landscape. Still, when the children and Tom join me for lunch they’re clearly having such a wildly wonderful time so I banish all thoughts of guilt.

The children have a slot booked in the XA Club, and will thus be busying themselves with ping-pong, vintage arcade games and Just Dance marathons. So, I close my laptop and go back to the room for my wetsuit.

View out of the ocean room window to the sea view and crashing waves beyond

Instead, I set up in the ocean room, beside another floor-to-ceiling window of rolling waves and get my head down. When I lift it up, it’s 3pm and I’ve filled pages. The children have a slot booked in the XA Club, and will thus be busying themselves with ping- pong, vintage arcade games and Just Dance marathons. So, I close my laptop and go back to the room for my wetsuit. A discreet, private set of wooden steps leads directly from the lofts down onto the sand and the Wavehunters at the Extreme Academy hire shop. Loft residents can borrow boards anytime for free, so I check one out and hurl myself into the water.

Reader, I am no more a pro-surfer than I am a great poet. But the cold water and crashing waves are exactly the reviver I need. Back in the room, I shower, pick up the laptop one last time and head to the Beach Hut diner, just beneath the lofts, for a cold beer and some final admin before the family returns for an early supper. The emails I pen are not going to win any poetry prizes. But… maybe it’s the evening sun reflecting on the waves. Maybe it’s the sense of calm created by an emptied inbox and the knowledge that I’ll be able to focus entirely on the family holiday from here on in. Either way, the feeling is pretty award-winning.

Window table in the Beach Hut at high tide

Hattie Garlick

Hattie Garlick is a freelance journalist who writes for The Telegraph, The Guardian, Financial Times and The Times.

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