A writer’s kind of dream retreat.

I remember the chalet we stayed in during our stop at Airlie Beach on our Cairns summer road trip. The beach was not the prettiest compared to the others we saw, but the moon was out that night and we had a simple pasta outside our unit and played a few rounds of mahjong. I remember turning to Jacqui and said, “Wow, this could just be the perfect retreat for us writers to come and write our book.”

I will never forget.

Ye Olde Smokehouse @ Frasers Hill.

Imagine this.

You finish up the very last of your assignments that have not stopped coming in since three years ago. You pack up your laptop and leave the office in a jiffy before your boss exits from his room and calls for more tasks to be done. You get into the car, look over at the backseat and smile down at the duffel bag packed with a week’s worth of clothes, toiletries, your favourite book, and a set of white paper. You avoid the heavy traffic that usually leads you home, and set out for the Fraser’s Hill highlands.

You reach Ye Olde Smokehouse on the steep slope and check in to the room you have booked a few months back. The Guenevere Suite, a name worthy in the beauty of a valiant queen. You drop your bag and survey the room as the bell boy bid you a good night’s sleep and leave you be.

It has been a long day, and finally you are where you are supposed to be. You take a bath that seems to last a lifetime, change into the Peter Alexander flannels you bought a few weeks ago, perhaps reserved just for this occasion. You don’t need any air-conditioning, though the place has none to offer either. You don’t need any electrical fan, though it is there in case it gets too warm. All you need is to open your window to let in the cool breeze of a higher ground. Switch off your cell phone, you don’t need that anymore. Nevermind music to go to sleep to, listen to the loudest silence you have almost forgotten. You snuggle into the depths of the flowery linens, and the moment your head hits the pillow, all you remember is darkness.

Wake up to the whiffs of home cooked breakfast from the kitchen below. And you ask yourself, when was the last time you actually wake up at your own time, and cook up a breakfast that lasts you till tea time? So, you savour it and take the biggest inhale. The juiciest sausages, the runniest eggs, and the freshest orange juice.

You have the choice. Perhaps to have breakfast in your very own dining room. Or to the dining area downstairs, bid your neighbouring escapees a very good morning – and actually mean it – and read your favourite book instead of the everyday newspaper.

Maybe for the first few days, you take a stroll in the courtyard, listen to the conversational birds and string words together for your empty pages. Then, when it is more than enough, you find a nice spot you can be in, take a moment to take in the quietness and tranquility, and start the writing you have been putting off forever.

For lunch, head into the dining area to get away from the midday sun. Sink your teeth in some afternoon delight that the chefs have meticulously prepared for you. Have a chit chat with the staffs or the guests, exchange life stories, find out the seemingly poor looking bald man actually owns a rich box company across shores, or that the young waiter serving your coffee is actually saving up money to sail around the world for 80 days. You never know which storyteller may be your next Eskimo friend.

You find it easier to smile up at the approaching old couple, and you feel nice enough to offer them the closes seats in the living room. Strange, really. Because it suddenly strikes you that you have not been smiling – willingly – for a very long time, and that you would rather turn the other cheek than acknowledge frail old people.

Perhaps you can strike up a conversation with them. Start the smallest of talks, and ask the most random questions, like “what is your favourite TV show of all time?” or “if the Earth turns backwards, will we be walking backwards too?” Or maybe you would like some time alone. So, you make our way up to your room for a few more chapters of your writing. You can choose to write three words for the day, or three lines, or three pages, or none at all. You are in control, and you smile. You have never felt so liberated.

Come tea time, take a break. Step out into the warm courtyard for the freshly baked English scones and apple pie and freshly brewed coffee and tea. Find a little corner for yourself under the tree with your favourite book. Spread a layer of butter, another of whipped cream, and another of strawberry jam. Brush the tiniest crumbs onto the saucer and be prepare for the most sense imploding taste you have ever tasted. Be ready to hold back your moan as the moist texture brush against your salivating tongue and wash down past your throat as smooth as silk.

Take it. Take it all in. The lingering taste in your mouth. The calmness that surrounds you. As you watch the failing dusk in front of your eyes. Empty your mind as red turns to blue, and the inviting smell of dinner lures you back into the house.

As you sit in the warm bath again tonight, you feel a little down because the day seemed to have passed by so quickly. Suddenly, you grow afraid that the seventh day will arrive too soon, and then, you are back to the claustrophobic cube of your office and this time, your boss will corner you and dump a week’s worth of task on you that make you wish you have never taken the holiday in the first place. You sigh.

But then. You shake yourself awake. You are not going to spend the rest of your day-offs dreading of when it is over. So, you put on a smile and head to bed for another night. As you lay awake staring at the curtained ceiling, you thought what a wonderful day it has been. Nothing to worry about but the next line in your book. And the best thing is, you get to do it all over again tomorrow. Rinse and repeat.

There was no beach, nor immaculate moonlight, nor friends to play mahjong with. But I have England and a piece of its countryside. It is a good enough place for the writer to roll up her sleeves and learn to write for herself again.

++
Ye Olde Smokehouse Hotel & Restaurant
Jalan Jeriau
49000 Fraser’s Hill
Pahang Darul Makmur
Malaysia
T: +6 09 362 2226
E: frasers@thesmokehouse.com.my
W: http://www.thesmokehouse.com.my

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