30 Jun 2024

An Anniversary Weekend at The Pig

A statement I find hard to believe is true: it’s been five years since we got married. Ooof and what a five years. Honeymoon trip around America, buying a house, moving to a new area (those three all within the same five week period) pandemic, lockdowns, pregnancy, becoming parents to a sleepless child; I’m not sure there’s been much time for ‘wedded bliss’ or normality. But, hey, we have made it through still wanting to be married to each other and we were going to celebrate that. Just us two. AWAY FROM THE OFFSPRING. 

Forty-eight hours just us, temporarily living our absolute best lives at the luxurious Pig hotel, down in Kent. It was perfect. 

The Pig hotels have been on my bucket list for a long time now. If you’re unfamiliar, they are a small collection of hotels dotted about the country with an emphasis on local, homegrown food, comfort and indulgence. They are not cheap but damn, you get what you pay for. 

We headed to the Kent hotel, just outside of Canterbury, purely because it was the closest to us. I would have loved to have gone to the Dorset one which is basically on the beach, but this was the longest we had ever left Alfie so we a) wanted to make the most of the time and b) not be a four-hour drive away, just in case. (Ironically, we got stuck in hideous traffic on the way down and it took us four hours anyway but that obviously was not part of the plan.) 

An old school country manor house, beautifully decorated with woods and velvets and rich, moody colours, and full of lots of nooks and crannies. Absolutely nothing about it felt like a hotel. More like a collection of very cosy snugs where you could properly relax. Imagine a very rich person had invited you to come stay for the weekend and was a really extravagant host who would have been mortified if you were even momentarily peckish. The staff gave you the impression that you were joining them for the weekend; they seemed relaxed and chatty and yet never missed a detail. I’m always interested with how things work behind the scenes and found it fascinating to experience a team working so cohesively. Just little things like being wished happy anniversary casually by more than one person, as though they know you, and the realisation of the organisation that must go behind such small details to make you feel like you’re having a truly special experience. 

We stayed in one of their comfy luxe rooms with standalone bath, sage green panelled walls and beautiful countryside views. The team had also provided a card wishing us happy anniversary, freshly baked cookies and a beautiful wooden decoration with a ‘G & K’ carved into it. Such a lovely touch.

The Pig, Kent

The Pig, Kent

The Pig, Kent

The Pig, Kent

We’d arrived two hours later than planned, so had a very quick freshen up and then headed to the bar area which, at a guess, I’d have said was the drawing room once upon a time. There was an open fire, squashy sofas and mismatched chairs. I cannot emphasise enough how little it felt like you were in a bar or hotel, and more like you were in someone’s home. Gary had a local beer, I had a local wine and I kept squealing at how nice it all was. You know I did not play any of this cool. 

We had dinner reservations in the restaurant and, of course, the food was what I was most excited about. The restaurant was airier than the rest of the house, with large glass windows overlooking the gardens and grounds, and an open kitchen where you could see the chefs doing their thing in a way that felt homely. The connection to the kitchen garden seeped through in every aspect, from the shelves lined with huge jars of pickled goods, to the plant pots on the tables with real food growing in them (we had a brussels sprout plant). There was lots of greenery, wooden crates serving as furniture decor and a number of giant squashes in one corner. 

The Pig famously promises that at least 80% of the menu will be from within a 25 mile radius, meaning the menu can change daily. There’s even a map on the back of the menu, showing all their local suppliers and how far away they are. Even the small amount who were over 25 miles away were often only just; 27 miles for example. I also liked how the coasters and napkin rings were made out of old menus so even though new menus were being printed all the time, they were finding ways to re-use the paper. 

We began with a few ‘bits’ – wild garlic & pea houmous and honey & mustard chipolatas. Served alongside fresh sourdough, sprinkled with herb oil and smoked salt. A part of me could have just kept eating that sourdough and smoked salt, not going to lie. Starters were chargrilled ‘0 mile’ mushrooms with watercress and pickled rhubarb for Gary and boltardy beetroot with goat’s cheese and pumpkin seeds for me. Gary had the Tamworth pork loin for main, and I had the Broxhall Farm beef rump with peppercorn sauce. Not one single bite disappointed. Everything was delicious. I had been eyeing up the rice pudding for dessert (I can’t not order rice pudding if it's on the menu) but they had sadly run out by the time we got round the ordering. Gary joked to the waiter how I’d been looking forward to it all meal and within three minutes one of the managers came over and promised to reserve one for me tomorrow. How bloody lovely this place was. So, dessert was the strawberry blancmange with strawberries and oat crumble, and Gary went for the lemon balm choc ice with rhubarb. And, hey, that blancmange was exquisite. 

Afterwards, we rolled to bed and lay down to digest for the night before coming back for more.

The Pig, Kent

The Pig, Kent

Guys. *Lies down dramatically*. The breakfast table. I have never had a hotel breakfast as nice as this. Two huge tables, full to the brim of delights. Freshly baked sourdough, fresh, sugary cinnamon cruffins from a local bakery, The Pig’s own harvested honey, poached apricots, chunky fruit and nut granola (my personal highlight, can’t stop thinking about it), freshly baked carrot & poppy seed muffins and fig & walnut energy bars, gooseberry compote, earl grey prunes, yoghurts – both diary & vegan, aallll the preserves, hams, cheeses, an egg boiling station… and that’s what I can remember. It was breakfast heaven. 

When my belly resembled that of Winnie the Pooh, I headed off to The Potting Shed for my spa treatment. Cosy wooden rooms (fully heated), out in the gardens where you can lie on a heated massage table and try not to fall asleep. I had the ‘Upper Body Unwind’, which involved a back exfoliation, back, arm and hand massage followed by a facial and scalp massage. Dreamy. When I returned with a shiny face and oily hair, I found Gary in a comfy corner, fresh coffee beside him, reading the paper and looking like a man who was actually relaxed. 

Heaven forbid we should actually get hungry, so after a quick hop in the waterfall shower to de-oil myself, we decided to have lunch in the garden restaurant where you can sit in the heart of the walled kitchen garden and munch on flatbreads made on the wood-fired oven. Something special to be sat eating a mozzarella and spring onion flatbread and be sat right next to the spot where the spring onions were still in the ground that morning. We had a gentle explore of the garden; it was so interesting to see all the food they were growing. Amazing how much more interested in gardening I become when it’s all about food. 

And then, quite frankly, we spent the rest of the afternoon on the sofa. Shoes were off, someone brought me a hot chocolate and I had a whole two uninterrupted hours to read my book. The only reason I got up was because it was time, of course, for complimentary cake hour. Remember when going on holiday used to involve happy hour at the bar? I can absolutely confirm that this is much better. Honestly, I bloody love being in my thirties. 

The Pig, Kent

The Pig, Kent

The Pig, Kent

The Pig, Kent

After languishing in the large bath in our room (me) and lying on the bed listening to a podcast (Gary), we leisurely had another drink in the bar before going for dinner round two. We were very full the night before so decided to just stick with the ‘bits’ for starters this time. Three courses instead of four, gotta think of the waistline you know…. 

The menu had changed since the night before with additions such as ‘Folkstone market lion of Monkfish’ and I loved the idea that someone had popped to the market that morning. We want back in for the wild garlic & pea houmous along with crispy chard stalks (seen growing in the garden that afternoon) and hock eggs. I think I could have quite happily had a whole meal of these little plates; they were all so good and it felt like a great way of trying as much of the produce as possible. For main, Gary went for the monkfish and I had the hand rolled ricotta ravioli with sage butter. I got my rice pudding for dessert (served with homemade jam), and Gary tried the chocolate mousse, piled high in a lovely-looking moussey heap on a china plate. 

After-dinner drinks was, not going to lie, a cup of tea in the bar and then it was back to bed with my book. 

Sadly, parenting duties called in the morning so after indulging in the breakfast table again, sneakily taking a photo of the granola recipe in The Pig’s book (family members note – Christmas present idea for Kate), one last look around the kitchen garden and buying a jar of The Pig’s own honey, we were heading back home to our baby. Within a couple of hours, we were back changing nappies, playing with tractors and dealing with tantrums. I had missed him, but it was nice to escape reality, just for a little bit. Now, someone help me persuade Gary that we absolutely can afford to make this an annual trip… 

The Pig, Kent

The Pig, Kent

23 Jun 2024

One Minute Book Reviews: Spring Reads

Spring books

It's that time again. Spring passed in a rain-filled haze but hey, there were some good books. Let's delve in. 

Slug by Hollie McNish 

Not sure why it’s taken me so long to read this as I love Hollie McNish but it was definitely worth the wait. A gorgeous mix of poetry, essays and short stories all loosely based on the things we have been told to hate. I think everything Hollie says is just spot on, and so funny. I loved this. 5/5

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

An expansive novel that weaves together the lives of a 1950s vanished female aviator and a modern-day Hollywood starlet. This novel is a journey. We follow Marian’s entire life, and that of her twin brother Jamie, in incredible amounts of detail (several chapters are devoted to the story of her parents, before she’s even born). From her wild child days growing up in prohibition America to the glamour of wartime London, Marian is consumed by flight. Having become one of the most fearless flyers of her time, she sets out to be the first person to circumnavigate the globe from pole to pole. Half a century later, troubled actress Hadley Baxter is offered to play Marian in a film about her life which will lead her down a path of unexpected discovery. I can’t possibly unpick everything about this book in such a short review, but I found it extraordinary. I can see why it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. I’ll be honest, there were times where I flagged. It is long and extremely detailed. But by the end, I was so in awe of it, it couldn’t be anything other than five stars. 5/5

Lobster by Hollie McNish 

The companion piece to Slug, another brilliant collection of poems and essays around the theme of things we have been taught to hate and need to learn to love again. I gotta say, if you don’t consider yourself a poetry person, do check out Hollie McNish. I’m not big on poetry but her stuff is very readable and very funny/heartwarming. 4/5 

You Are Here by David Nicholls

A lovely, gentle story, beautifully written with such spot-on details. Marnie is stuck working alone in her London flat, often feeling like life is passing her by. Michael is reeling from his wife’s departure, taking himself on long walks across the moors and becoming increasingly reclusive. When a mutual friend and the English weather conspire to bring them together, they suddenly find themselves alone on an epic walk across the country. It could have been very formulaic, but this is David Nicholls so it’s brilliant. The witty, sharp dialogue is a particular highlight, as is the setting of the wild and bleak British countryside. 5/5

Funny Story by Emily Henry 

When Daphne’s fiancé leaves her for his childhood best friend just weeks before their wedding, she accidentally ends up rooming with the only person who could understand her situation: her ex-fiancé’s new fiancé’s ex-boyfriend. They are total opposites but united in their shared grief and after one tequila-fuelled evening, they form a plan which may or may not involve posting deliberately misleading photos of their adventures together. But their new ‘relationship’ is just an act of course…

This was my second Emily Henry novel and I’m learning that they are a lot of fun. Loveable characters, excellent banter, gorgeous summer rom-com settings. Basically, the perfect fun read. 4/5

The Lifeline by Libby Page

This novel can be read as a standalone story, but is technically a follow-up to the The Lido, Libby Page’s first novel which I really enjoyed. We re-join Kate five years later, now living in Somerset with a new baby and struggling with new motherhood. Living in the same town is Pheobe, a community mental health nurse, recently dumped and struggling with the demanding pressures of her job. They both discover their local wild swimming group and it kickstarts a journey to recovery for both of them. Libby Page’s novels are described as ‘hot buttered tea-and-toast’ fiction and I pick them up when that’s what I’m in the mood for. Even so, there was something about this one that felt a little too ‘twee’ for me, but it was gently enjoyable nonetheless. In particular, I thought the descriptions of early motherhood were written with the honesty only someone who has been through it could have and I think it could be very reassuring for a lot of people. 3/5 

The Mars House by Natasha Pulley

Within the first three pages of this book, the entire city of London floods and I thought, buckle up lads, this is gonna be a good’un. January Stirling is a climate refugee, shipped to Tharsis, the terraformed colony on Mars, after his city finally gives way to rising water levels. He goes from being a principle of the Royal Ballet to a second-class factory worker, unable to gain citizenship. As an ‘Earthstronger’, a person whose body is not adjusted to the lower gravity, he poses a physical threat to those born on, or naturalised to, Mars. When Aubrey Gale, a controversial politician who believes all Earthstrongers should be forced to naturalise – a process that is disabling and sometimes deadly – chooses January for an on-the-spot press interview at a factory visit, it lands January in prison and Aubrey in the middle of a media storm ahead of the election. A made-for-the-press arranged marriage is proposed as a solution to January’s citizenship and Gale’s political success, kickstarting a story about politics, refugees, old mysteries and love across class divisions. Something I thought was done particularly well was that the character of Aubrey, and all those born on Mars, are gender neutral and it’s totally irrelevant to how well you can visualise (and fall in love with) the characters. It was a lesson in challenging your own subconscious bias and I liked it. I also loved how the (slightly terrifying) environment, politics and technology of the future felt very plausible. The plot was a little loose so perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, but I loved the world building and the gentle love story and would have happily meandered along in that world for another 400 pages. 4.5/5

Happy reading folks x 


13 Jun 2024

May Journal | Surviving or Thriving

May journal

 I had this moment in May, where I thought that I might actually be ‘thriving’ (as the Instagram kids say) instead of just ‘surviving’ for the first time in, ooo, about four years. 

A lot of the time, parenting a small child can feel like simply surviving. I never feel on top of anything; my standards for what is generally acceptable are a lot lower these days. Is my child alive? Excellent, we’re not doing too bad here lads; is the approach I am going for. 

(Except I’m not, not really. That’s what I tell myself but I really would like my child to also be in beautifully clean matching outfits from independent brands, playing with wooden toys, eating kale etc. But he’s actually wearing a second-hand Next t-shirt with marks on it, playing with his plastic tractor, shovelling pasta in his mouth and physically recoiling from me should I happen to put a vegetable in his vicinity. Hence why I’m going for the low standards approach.) 

But in that moment, the sun was shining, I felt positive about work for the first time in ages – the dramas finally over – Alfie was being very cute, I was actually being a half decent, super patient mother and I thought, hey look at us! 

Naturally, that afternoon, Alfie came down with the chicken pox. It was like the universe was saying, nah ah hun, don’t go getting too big for your boots. My thriving moment was gone and we were juggling childcare, spot counting and waterboarding the poor kid with Piriton for the best part of a week. 

But then, miraculously, he was better in time for our five-year wedding anniversary and we were able to go away childfree for 48 hours and live our best life in a luxury hotel. 

Feels like I’m getting whiplash as we ricochet between the highs and lows over here.* 


The glorious sunny weather at the beginning of the month, blue skies and the smell of suncream. Was that the extent of summer or…? 

Sat down by the trainline watching the ‘choo choos’, tractors and ‘hows’ (Alfie’s word for cows). 

Alfie insisting on watering the garden every day. 

The roses in our garden bursting into bloom. 

Fresh asparagus on the table, growing in my garden half an hour previously.

Baking with Alfie. 

A London wedding, complete with London bus, doughnut tower, quizzes and really nice people. 

Out early on a Saturday morning, eating pastries on a bench by the cathedral. 

It’s peony season people! 

My sister’s birthday meal. 

Wedding cake baking practicing. 

Re-watching our wedding speeches for the first time in five years. 

A double rainbow.

*A caveat that this is obviously all tongue in cheek and I know we are so very lucky. I found this to be a useful article about charities having an impact on the ground in Gaza if you’re looking to donate somewhere meaningful.