Celebrity stressbusters

20th February 1998 at 00:00
Peter Smith. general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, relaxes by visiting Toytown Two or three years ago I went with my wife and grown-up daughter to a dolls' house fair and discovered an incredible craft industry with so many beautiful things being made in miniature.

On impulse, I bought a turn-of-the-century dolls' house. I bought it for all of us, but I suppose I play with it most. It is leisure disguised as work.

It is made of hardwood and is huge - it rather dominates the sitting room - and has 11 rooms, each eight-and-a-half inches tall and 10 inches square, not yet all furnished.

Decorating a dolls' house is much more difficult than decorating to full size and, because the work is so fiddly, it requires a lot of concentration. At the same time, it is also mindless because while you are doing that you cannot be thinking of anything else, which is the relaxation element.

My job is very public, very accountable and involves making often controversial decisions with little notice. It also involves working long hours and I find the best winding-down activities are those that require considerable concentration but are also mindless.

My other winding-down hobby is cooking. I taught myself when the children were young. If we were having guests my wife would put the children to bed while I prepared the meal.

I love making French dishes. Coq au vin is probably my favourite.

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