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Author Debbie Moggach’s inspiration from skinny dips in Hampstead ponds

24 August, 2017 — By Gerald Isaaman

BEST-selling authors can be inspired in strange ways.

And in the case of Deborah Moggach, whose novels Tulip Fever and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel both became major movies, it was neither Holland nor India that provided the creative moment.

She has revealed that skinny dipping at the Ladies’ Pond on Hampstead Heath, virtually across the road from her home in South End Green, has given her the sensual experience to write not only admired novels but also TV productions as well.

“I’ve been swimming there all my life, sometimes in the middle of the night,” Ms Moggach, 69, writes in The Amorist, the upmarket erotic magazine. “I’ve climbed over the fence, stripped naked and swum in the moonlight with bats flitt­ing above my head and dipping down the drink.”

And come daytime, she says: “The meadow is filled with bare-breasted odalisques soaking up the sun and rubbing each other with oil. Many are stunningly beautiful and brazen in their nakedness with no men around to gawp. Swimming there, legs brushed by weeds, is deeply sensual and contemplative. Immers­ing myself, I sink into my subconscious and it’s here I think up my stories. The birds collude in this because they take no notice of us aqueous creatures. Once I saw a kingfisher sitting on a branch with a fish in its beak. It thwacked its catch from side to side to kill it, then swallowed it whole.”

She adds: “At a literary festival in Devon a group of us writers ran off in the darkness after dinner, tore off our clothes and swam naked in the river. The next morning I went back and retrieved our clothing, including my Wonderbra, draped over a bramble bush.”


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