From the heart of our home comes the feeding of the 5,000. During almost any holiday there is a steady stream of bodies around our kitchen table, testing the patience of Claire, our Top Banana, who came from England for a few weeks to help out after the birth of my third son and stayed for fifteen years., and lives at No.1 Chick farm. The table was designed by me a long time ago and has the original stainless steel top, which has been scrubbed so often it’s taken on an entirely new patina. The table is normally creaking with titanic-sized bowls of tropical fruit, not just because we try to persuade our children that fruit tastes nearly as good as chocolate, but because we love the way fruit looks – inviting and decoratively fab.
We don’t always eat in the kitchen. I have fun setting up dining tables in various places and in various ways, moving location, and thinking up new decorations, whether it’s a table sprinkled with lucky nuts we have collected from the beach, or Eiffel Tower-sized vases with palm fronds, or a simple assortment of shells mixed with votive candles. I change the tablecloth from formal white to a stretch of colored linen fabric left over from reupholstering bedroom chairs, or possibly an Indian mirrored bedspread. I mix up the location and the guests as much as I mix up the decoration. And David mixes up the drinks.
Recently when I invited a few of the IH Ambassadors over for dinner (64 of them), I wanted quite a wild table setting, so we laid raffia matting down the center, with long twirly branches on top, mixed in orchids and bougainvillea and lots of greenery beside folded green and white block print napkins designed by our friends at Pomegranate. To give the glass votives height we turned vases upside down and balanced them on top, keeping the large church candles in place with pink sand from the beach.
Most evenings, though, we sit as a family around our terrace dining table under a canopy of stars, with the smell of sea air and night-blooming jasmine. David, the children, and I gently argue the more important issues of life, like whether your eyes really turn square if you watch too much TV, while an uninvited gecko tiptoes past on the warm ground. A lot of life happens around our dining table that holds many family secrets, and underneath which lies a snoozing dog. Or two.
It’s hard to imagine Hibiscus Hill without the chaos.