PROPERTY / If I could live anywhere: Shirley Conran, writer

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Lives with her cat, Caramel, in two apartments in Monaco

LOCATION: Fiji. When I go on round-the-world trips to launch my books I generally end up in Fiji and spend a week sailing. It is the most beautiful place I have ever been to. If it weren't for my children I would live there - it is slightly difficult to weekend in Fiji from the other side of the world. I love the culture, and the people are so nice. The women are all huge; perhaps I like it because I feel so teeny there.


CHARACTER: I would settle for the suites in the garden of the Regent Hotel where I have been going for 10 years.

CONSTRUCTION: I hesitate to use the word 'hut', but each suite conforms to the local tradition in design and is built of wood, stone and thatch.

PERIOD: The Regent was built about 20 years ago. The local village owns the land it is built on, and all the hotel staff are local.

ROOMS: Because I need the space I'd have two suites. That would give me two double bedrooms, two bathrooms and two living rooms. In one suite I'd put in a kitchen. In the other I'd have an office full of machinery and filing cabinets: it would look like the inside of a submarine.

ESSENTIAL KITCHEN FEATURES: Two simple, inexpensive dishwashers (one is never enough for a family meal).

DECORATIVE STYLE: I would decorate in browns and creams, and have Fijian artefacts - such as the papyrus fan, canoe paddle and war axe that are in my bathroom at the moment.

ANY SPECIAL LUXURIES: Lots of cats and a whippet. At present I live in an apartment block and have only one cat, who goes to the cat hotel when I go away. A CD system throughout that nevertheless could be switched off in each room: I love Mozart, jazz and the modern composer Kevin Volans. A small swimming pool. My own Hobie-cat and a sailing instructor.

VIEW FROM THE WINDOWS: The sea and a deserted island on the horizon. The first time I went to Fiji I saw all these hunky Australians lounging around the pool. I curled my lip in disdain and swam to the island and back. That evening one of the Australians knocked at my door and said: 'Are you the lady who swam to the island?' I allowed with quiet pride that I was. He said: 'Well, I'm going shark fishing tomorrow - exactly where you swam.'

SIZE OF GARDEN: About 25 acres. One of the big advantages of living at the Regent would be no staff problems; I wouldn't have to bother about whether the gardener was sick or not.

GARDEN'S BEST FEATURES: Rope hammocks strung from palm trees.

NEIGHBOURS: Ideally, none.

MOTTO OVER THE DOOR: 'Please do as you please.'

WHAT IT WOULD COST: The Regent is built on land owned by the village of Denarau. Obviously, Shirley Conran would not be able to purchase suites at the hotel, but she could stay there for pounds 250 per suite per night. Non-residents who wish to buy land in Fiji require the consent of the Minister for Land. According to the Fijian Department of Land and Survey roughly 12 per cent of freehold land is owned by non-Fijians. If Shirley Conran were to build her dream house in an area like that occupied by the Regent it would cost approximately pounds 100,000.

Shirley Conran's latest novel, 'Tiger Eyes', is published by Macmillan at pounds 15.99

(Photograph omitted)