x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

The kitchen is my oasis of calm

The kitchen is where I feel safe, relaxed and surrounded by comforting objects.

I love to be in my kitchen, alone, with a project to engross me. I feel comfortable, engaged, creative and generally snug in my own skin. It's my den. I am quite instinctive here, safely surrounded by my stuff and able to launch forth from this haven to a variety of activities.

I suppose we all have this refuge. It is easy to recognise the importance that the bedroom has on our children. It begins as their cradle and then develops into their playpen, all their beloved toys laid out on the floor, their favourite cuddlies spread across the bed. Friends are invited in to this increasingly hallowed space. Parents are increasingly denied access as the status of the independent room grows and we feel privileged to be allowed over the threshold. Many a battle of supremacy occurs as the discussions ensue as to the state of this bedroom, as visible floor space dwindles and more and more essential props to life seem to need to be strewn across any horizontal surface. But it is their space and within it they retire into their own world.

So where does my husband have his den? Like many, I imagine, he slinks off to the study, and sits engaged in work-related material. It's no longer necessary to have an armchair in which to sit and to spread out your newspaper and disappear into its contents, as my father used to do, but my husband will achieve the same effect by accessing the articles on the laptop and escaping into the discussions he discovers. He has his den now in cyber form, and I wonder if it hasn't become portable in the form of his smartphone, into which he seems to be able to disappear at will, no matter where he finds himself. A seriously useful aspect of this indispensable object.

But enough of these musings - back to my den. As usually happens in my day, I am engaged in a variety of activities, and return, exhausted, to my kitchen. Once freed of the trappings of my excursion, I sit and regroup my thoughts over a cup of coffee. A calm returns and I am ready to attack the next project.

I love the radio, so it is usually on in the background; sometimes I am conscious of it and totally engaged in the programme that is on, but often it just acts as a soft sound to blanket out the rest of the world and enable me to exist in mine.

I am surrounded by many family snaps, mostly capturing fun moments in our lives. They make me smile when they catch my eye. The serious portraits are kept for the sitting room. And then there are many cookery books, which I just love to browse. My favourite pastime is to create something that I have come across in these browsings, something interesting and different, spreading out my tools across the entire kitchen. Often, as the creative mess increases, I will swap the radio for some music of my choice and turn up the volume, so there is appropriate accompaniment to the crescendo of activity leading to the finished dish.

But my kitchen is also a haven of calm, where I sit and contemplate, organise my thoughts and review plans and past events. There is always a pad of paper to hand to jot down ideas. If I look up from my papers I have a wonderful view out over the garden, which is inspiring in itself, and brings the outside world in. I love the way various members of the family pass through, pause or linger, dropping their comments on life as they go. Friends come and sit and chat, the casual nature of the place allowing for good, relaxed conversation.

The joy of my kitchen is that it is unique to me and my thoughts - but also open to all.


• Jane Goodhue is the wife of an expatriate businessman in Abu Dhabi