The Pink Agendist

by E.B. de Mas, reachable at: pink.agendist@yahoo.com

Tag: sotogrande

A Beautifully Gardencentric Day

Spring is really here. We went to the vivero (garden centre) this morning and got three hibiscuses (to put in large pots, 2 for the pool surround), and some indoor plants (begonias and more azaleas). Flowers are starting to bloom in the garden as well. The pergola is half covered in greenery (stephanotis), which is a huge improvement (eventually I’ll get around to getting rid of the white chairs and buying some in a natural material). We also got fresh basil, so we’ll have pesto tonight. It’s been an excellent week work-wise. Two great sales and another two on the back-burner. This means we might be able to increase our 12 month budget reserve to 18 or maybe even 24 months. Result of lessons learnt from the financial crisis…

Someone must be misbehaving. Roughseas is going to love this!

I wonder who’s misbehaving?!? They’ve sent out the agreement one must sign when one buys to all the homes. This has only happened once before and I won’t mention names or the colour purple :D

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and

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I love the presumption that one has money/property because it just generously fell on one’s lap.

Here’s Sotogrande:

Flowers, Food & Wine in Southern Spain

irisesandhibiscus My irises look amazing. I should have planted more. Yesterday we had people over for drinks in the garden and what turned out to be an amazing selection of cheeses and saucissons from a little shop called Au Régal Auvergnat in La Bourboule in central France. A kilo and a half of good chesses and a selection of 6 saucissons can do two events of around 12 people each (comfortably, meaning there will be left-overs), and will cost you less than €60. The shop-owner was a bit surprised when I explained I wanted everything sent to Southern Spain- he did a superb job with the packaging. I also found a giant tin of stuffed olives, it’s nearly the size of the kettle. I scattered them along with cherry tomatoes and little pickles around the place- served a decent white and a decent red and that was it. There couldn’t be an easier (and inexpensive) way of entertaining a largeish group of people. I looked moderately chic (in a casual way) in a navy jacket with an orange collar and piping, beige skinny jeans and a white shirt.

HA- I completely forgot I’m 36!

It’s 2:33 and I’ve just been reminded by an email that I turn 36 today. How does it feel? Much like 35, but I think I’m feeling better about life in general. Ageing has been a good process for me. Particularly the past few years. Experience has allowed me to progressively see the world in a very different way.

At this point of the game I feel I can wholly accept life (and myself), whereas when I was younger I was constantly trying to change everything. I wanted to change how I looked, where I lived, how I interacted with the world and how the world interfered with my plans. Constant self-inflicted torment and torture. Pointless endeavours.

I’m very pleased to finally feel thorough contentment. The solid kind that isn’t easily shaken, that doesn’t depend on anything material and isn’t leveraged on other people’s opinions of me. I feel free. Yesterday we were discussing whether this happens because of the hard times we go through or despite them. I’m still not quite sure. Difficulties do make us more aware of the good times when they’re here.

Reading, learning and observing played a vital role in the process- so did CBT, in a strange delayed way. It didn’t relieve my anxiety at the time, but when I finally had the maturity to put it into practice, it worked like a treat. That was an interesting lesson. I wasn’t ready for change; Too attached to patterns of thought/behaviour with negative outcomes.

Anyway, it’s a beautiful day. The house is spotless as we spent the past week cleaning in preparation for yesterday’s visit. I even polished the brass fittings in the kitchen, so they’re shining as they were on their first day. The visit went very well, I think. The clients/buyers stayed for an hour, which is a good sign. They were charming and very complimentary about everything. They seemed to really ‘get’ the house and what we’ve attempted to create. They asked all the right questions- but you never know, it could go either way.

The Murder Posts Are Gone. Examining Worth

There’s enough information out there already. I decided that adding to it was unnecessary and nothing is gained by the family who must be suffering terribly.

One thing I do think is worth mentioning is the problematic and misguided manner in which we assign value to things in the world. How we confuse the value of what we own for our personal worth. I know it seems so obvious, so cliché to point it out- but it’s endemic. This murder was just the extreme version of it. The mindset that allowed for the chain of events was one whereby people convinced themselves that life wasn’t worth living because they couldn’t afford a luxurious lifestyle.

Senseless as it may seem in the cold light of day, this defective thinking pattern is extraordinarily common, even if not to this extreme. (Many) People spend much of their time obsessing over possessions/social status and in turn that leads to unhealthy competitiveness. Once people are in that cycle, they stop seeing clearly.

If you stop to consider what actually makes YOU happy, rather than what society and the media say will make you happy, you transform your life in the process. A car might be important, or it might not. I’ve discovered my definition of happy is quite different from the conventional version. I enjoy isolation. Seeing a beautiful painting is more important than owning a wonderful watch. My favourite wine is a light Navarre that happens to be quite inexpensive. It’s the one ‘I‘ like. Not the one the critics or experts say is the best.

We should let ourselves be, exist, on more real terms; Taking the time to explore the many wonderful things that the world has to offer (often at very little or no expense). I promise it makes for a much more interesting and satisfying life.

The Glasmacher House in Sotogrande. Do you want to live up the street from me?

The Glasmacher house is on the market. Price €7,000,000 (US$9.63 million). It’s here in the F zone. You drive by us, then turn on the right and it’s at the end of the impasse, hidden by a hedge. Stefan, the owner, is amazing at landscaping. His last house had one of the prettiest gardens in Sotogrande and when this one develops a bit more, I’m sure it’ll be just as nice.

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Casual lunch for 5 with windswept hair

 

The table looks like this:

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And I look like this.

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And then there was tango

Mike was difficult yesterday for most of the day. His complaint is that I’m too abrupt in how I suddenly lose my patience and don’t have the energy to deal with people. He feels it’s unkind and leaves people feeling rejected.  The discussion went on forever, only interrupted by dinner at the old polo club. I thought we were going somewhere else, but I must have heard it wrong. During dinner the discussion morphed into something else and we continued to antagonize each other. It was tiresome. There was an unexpected tango show which lightened the mood (ish).

tango

I wasn’t looking forward to having the argument go on all weekend, so I relented and sent out a message to those concerned that I wasn’t angry, although I thought they were making ill advised choices- and they had my (reticent) support. They’re all emotionally involved in certain personal problems which means they’re not always thinking clearly; But anyway, Mike finally shut up, so I’m happy. Now that the house is empty again, I’m going to spend the day putting things in their right places. Everything had been moved around because of the (not so) permanent guests and the children. I’d been avoiding the formal living room for months now because the sight of toys everywhere and a large television there was disturbing. We are back to normal.

Home Alone (almost)

This is a glorious autumn, weather-wise. I can’t remember it ever being this mild in November. So much so that Rudy is outside sunbathing (after rearranging all the cushions at his convenience-Mike says he sees me doing it, so he’s just copying).

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Our forecast looks like this:

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Meanwhile storms are brewing all over Europe- and every time someone calls from the UK or France I make a point of gloating. Ha-Ha, my weather’s better than your weather!

Apart from the dogs, it’s just me in the house this afternoon.  Mike is handling some business in Gibraltar and our ‘permanent guests’ are away. Their lives are changing and it seems they’ll probably not be here for much longer. I’m not sure they’re all making the best decisions for themselves, but they’re adults. I’ve given myself the task to stop interfering with other people’s lives. I’m not an xxl black matriarch. People have to make their own way and learn by their own mistakes. Tonight we’re going to a small dinner party, so my peace was short-lived. The hosts are lovely and it’s a casual affair which is why I accepted. Plus, they’re having a huge do on the 23rd; Sit down for forty people and this is my chance to try to get out of it. I’m not sure I’ll be able to as it’s an 80th birthday and some people take birthdays very seriously- but I’ll try :)

I’m going to spend the rest of the day looking at houses in France on the internet. Mike is halfway to convincing me that the last one we liked is too big. He’s probably right. I know he’s doing it for my own good. He has these Ms. Havisham-like visions of me as an old man, alone, in a huge house that’s falling apart because I can’t be bothered. I admit I have those visions too, but it doesn’t bother me. I’ll wear ascots all the time and reminisce about how pretty and glamorous I was when I was 23. The lawn will be overgrown, the paint slightly chipping. Occasionally some young relative will come to visit in hopes of inheriting something and I’ll torture them with stories of how I’m leaving everything to my dogs and charity.

Do you want to be my next-door neighbour? Villa Safari in Sotogrande

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The last of the neighbours’ children went off to university this year, so they’ve decided to sell and downsize. The house is big (791m2=8514 sq. feet) and the design is based on a Kenyan lodge they love. The garden is interesting, the interiors are in a rustic style and they’ve kept it simple. The price is 2.5 million euros (US$3,344,961).

You’d get to be right next door to me, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be friendly :)

safari

The Sotogrande House by Ricardo Legorreta

This is the Legorreta house, it’s two streets up from us. As everyone saw it going up a few years ago, opinions were divided. I didn’t love it at first, but now it’s grown on me. I mean, it’s still not a place where I’d want to live as it doesn’t suit our lifestyle. I need a closed off kitchen since I don’t like being watched when I’m cooking and I like having a place that has lots of private corners so people can do their own thing without interference. Apart from the fact that if anyone saw what I look like in the morning I’d have to kill myself, or kill them. The house below is arranged around a central courtyard, so in a way it’s a modern interpretation of classical Spanish (and Mudéjar) architecture. That means that wherever you are, you can be seen by other people in the house. That being said, it’s still a magnificent house to visit and works beautifully for people who like this modern, integrated way of living.

 

Ugh- that was frightening

Fashion victim indeed. So I tried a more modern haircut before filming last month… you know, because people think I’m too old fashioned. BAD IDEA. I watched it back on television last night and I look somewhat ridiculous. Someone could have told me.

lamaisonfrance5Since then, I have gone back to this:

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Here it is. The part about the house begins just after minute 8.38. Apparently, I’m the interpreter. I swear I can’t possibly sound like that!

On a clear day we can see Africa (but not in the way Sarah Palin can see Russia)

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I’ve been talking about Gibraltar recently, so here’s a visual aid so you understand the geography. In the foreground is one of the Sotogrande golf courses. A 10 minute drive west is Gibraltar and then a short ferry ride away is Africa. We are very close to Tarifa, the southernmost tip of continental Europe. 

Spanish Summers

This is our 13th summer in this house. It’s gotten prettier over the years, but if we’re staying, I think it’s time for some changes to freshen things up. The outdoor furniture is looking a bit tired. The modern chairs I got for the pergola last year don’t really work. I don’t know why I thought they would. I’ve got my eye on these:

ironchairsAnd if all goes well, maybe a few of these sofas and chairs

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Guests & More Guests

Our summer guests have arrived. I’ve mentioned them before. The glamorous English ladies with large hats who wake me up by popping open champagne bottles outside my bedroom window. This year they’ve brought their recently separated brother in tow as he needs a break. Mike joked that we’re becoming a halfway house for divorcées. One of them went to the Queen’s Garden Party this year, so we got to see the before the party pictures. People aren’t allowed to take cameras and they do not serve alcohol- which seems a bit cheap to me, and outrageous to the girls :)

 I popped into their kitchen to see if everything was all right yesterday and found this:

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It made me feel entirely respectable and quite sober. I keep the wine in the wine rack and the rest in a cabinet. I love their un-ashamed-ness. We turned on all the lights for the brother’s arrival. It was a beautiful evening. We laughed ’til very late and then staggered to bed. I served canapés. A variety of things from pastes to tartares, but all served on thick slices of cucumber (peeled) instead of bread. Later in the evening someone decided to put a pizza in the oven but it burnt. Then another one was put in the oven and it also burnt. I don’t know how much we drank, but they say they have to buy champagne and cava again on Monday.

We’ve been thinking a lot about the move. People keep telling us we’re insane to go. The house seems to make everyone so happy. It’s like a little hub of good times. Now we’ve even found a way to make it useful and helpful to people other than ourselves. I know that the right financial move is to sell eventually- but I wonder if we couldn’t perhaps just continue living the way we do now. Ticking along without a ton of money in the bank isn’t the end of the world. But maybe that’s just me being irresponsible.

So far, so good. My communal living experiment continues. Just Say Yes to Fairy Lights.

Despite having been a huge fan of the Golden Girls, I was sceptical when people talked about communal living. That was until I met my German neighbours. They’re three ladies of a certain age who have been friends for many years and realized they could have a much more comfortable life if they pooled their resources. This means that they have homes in two different countries, very nice cars and a generally very pleasant lifestyle. When one of them isn’t doing too well financially, the other two are there to help them get through the tough times. Their relationship model is democratic, They vote for things and try to negotiate solutions when they’re not all in agreement. It works for them, but I don’t think I’m capable of handing over that sort of control to another person. I get frustrated enough having to negotiate with Mike, so I’m experimenting with a different model.

The house has been full for nearly a month. The floor plan is ideal for having ‘guests’ as they have their own private areas which include a kitchen, a dining area, a living room etc. I’m trying to design a system where they feel at home, but I don’t lose absolutist control. We all do our own thing, but we meet for drinks at 8 and then dinner is served at 8:30. It’s convenient for them as they can rent out their own properties. For us, for now, we decided that all we want is a contribution to utilities. It’s quite expensive running a house this size, so if they pay 50% of the utilities, that eases our burden tremendously. Also, I’m only responsible for 4 dinners p/ week, and cleaning up after dinner is their responsibility. My undemocratic system was slightly tested last night. I’m improving on the garden lighting plan. At the moment it looks like this:

view from the terrace

view from the terrace

I decided to add fairy lights to some of the trees after I saw this picture:

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Somewhere in Australia

I’m only going to do the bushes by the pool (already done) and a couple of trees at the edge of the garden (waiting for more lights to arrive), just to give it some depth. There were some objections concerning the possible naffness of my choice. I dismissed such concerns on the grounds that it’s my garden and I’ll do what I want. Mike thinks I’ll eventually have to learn to say things in a softer, more diplomatic way. My exact words were: “I’m sorry, did I give the impression this was a debate? I’ve already decided I’m having fairy lights.” Mike thinks we can’t leave people with the impression they’re second class citizens in a country where I’m the dictator. I’m not sure why he finds my system so unreasonable as I’ve wanted to be a dictator since I was a little boy. Anyway, we’re going to have to learn as we go. At the moment I think everyone is quite happy. We’re all used to living in rather large properties on our own and having to do much of the work ourselves- so suddenly being able to ask someone if they can pick up some bread on their way home (instead of having to go out ourselves) is feeling extraordinarily convenient.

I’m exhausted-ish, so it’s a good thing it’s a Saturday!

The filming on Thursday was absolutely EXHAUSTING. We ended up with something I was comfortable with, except I had no idea how difficult it was going to turn out to be. I say hello in the intro (that’s the only time you’ll see me on tape), then my friend answers questions about the house and design- except she doesn’t speak French; So I had a threefold job. First I had to translate the questions from French to Spanish (behind the scenes). Then I had to come up with the answers with her. Then I had to translate the answers into French and say them into a microphone- different microphones, actually, as we had to change them depending on the room or if we were inside or outside. It’s one thing to speak a language, it’s an entirely different one to know the words someone else wants to use in another language. The show airs August 14th and they seemed extremely impressed with Sotogrande. They even decided to stay another few days to film at the polo and in the canals. If you want to live in an apartment and have your boat parked outside your door, it’s possible in the canals area.

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There were some funny moments. At a certain point she says “This antique rug is from England.”- my translation is “I bought this rug in England but I believe it’s actually from Turkmenistan“. I’m annoying that way. It’s a shame it’s going to be my voice, because my voice is awful- but there you have it.

Yesterday we had lunch at the yacht club with Mike’s sister. Today we had lunch in the port with our neighbour. We went to Mara, they’ve just opened a new branch in the port and the food is excellent. All of their other restaurants are great too. As luck would have it, the neighbour was wearing white trousers and a burgundy shirt. So we looked like we were uniformed employees of the same company. I finally gave in and bought a Samsung smartphone yesterday. My Nokia is over 10 years old and it’s decided to get moody on me. Some days the screen is black, some days it just cuts off in the middle of a call. I don’t like change, so I’ve been resisting this moment as long as I could- but my provider offered me an amazing deal. I basically got the phone for nearly nothing, so why not?

Time to go sit outside, the weather is glorious.

Enough work for a Friday. It’s 27º C, and I’m going to do nothing but sit on the terrace and have a (many) drink(s). The pool thermostat is fixed, so I might even go in, or I might take some pictures of the garden. Meanwhile here are a couple from the terrace.

Casa Alba, Nancy Wilson, Amy & Me

We went out to dinner last night with a friend and her dog, Amy. Amy has a broken paw, were it not for the cast you wouldn’t notice. She jumps, runs and has a fantastic attitude. I wasn’t in the mood to iron, so I wore crumpled white linen and medium blue trousers. It’s wonderful to get to this point in life when one can say/think I don’t look good, and that’s okay. I spent my teens and most of my 20′s crippled by self-image issues. Hating the way I looked. Spending an inordinate amount of time trying to make myself look better. That seems to be over, for the most part.

13june2013Amy also wore blue and white

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ca08I’ve been helping put together a website in French for Casa Alba. That’s the gorgeous house (mansion, really) that I’m going to help show on French channel 5 in July (we’re filming next Thursday). I still don’t know what I’m going to wear. We’re halfway there, but I’ve still got tons to translate. I’ve loaned my website (for my house), www.sotogrande.us, as the web space since it’s an easy address for people to remember. Particularly because the houses are in Sotogrande. If you have any suggestions of what other information should be on the website, feel free to share. I haven’t finished uploading the pictures… so no need to suggest more pictures. Mike did a cute little sketch of the façade for it.

There’s a new commercial on British TV with a fantastic song that I’d never heard before: How Glad I Am by Nancy Wilson. It should really be one of our Gay Anthems. Have a listen:

Yes, but no, but yes, but no. In which one seems prone to thinking no but saying yes.

The television adventure returns for round two. After being granted a reprieve I wanted to be helpful (that’s sort of a chronic disease for me), so I thought I’d offer up my friend’s house to be on the show. It’s a multi (many-many-multi) million euro home and she’s exceptionally charming and talented, so really, she’s the one who should’ve been on television in the first place. The producers saw the pictures and loved it. My friend said yes to them. Suddenly I get a call today and I’m getting roped in to be on the program with her showing the house because I speak better French… And for some absurd reason I said yes.

So in the event you pick up French Channel 5, you may have the misfortune to see me, and even worse, hear me, in July. Before then, have a glimpse at her rather glorious home, and in the event you want to be my neighbour, and one-up me by living in a house that’s double the size of mine, and have a heated indoor pool (apart from the outdoor one), and have between 10 and 20 million euro to spend on a house (I’m not giving the exact price because it seems crass), drop me a line and I’ll help you arrange it :)

I swear it’s not gloating! (it just looks like it)

We had lunch at the yacht club today. They’ve got a new chef which is wonderful because I didn’t like the previous one’s food at all. The weather is lovely today.

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I got some amazing work news today as well… but I’m not going to say what it is until the 26th of this month at which point it’ll already have happened. Hint: it could have something to do with me and television, but that’s all the information you’re getting for now!!! Fingers crossed!!!

I’m Always Surprised at How Much I Can Drink

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Sotogrande Street

Dinner was amazing yesterday. The club/restaurant was overflowing with people. It’s funny because you drive down the streets of Sotogrande and never see a soul. There’s the occasional jogger or Filipino maid walking to the gates, but not much else. I had tuna tataki (again) as a starter, and then the rib eye, which was wonderful. Then an Irish coffee. Then we had a night-cap at the neighbour’s house which lasted ’til 3am (Mike came home about 2 hours earlier- lightweight!). I think I drank half a bottle of brandy. It was Orleans Borbón and went down like velvet. A friend stayed over here afterwards as to not drive home drunk. I hope the people from last night weren’t horribly bored by me. I talked much too much about antique yixing ceramics (which I’m currently researching). I discovered somewhere in adolescence that people in society generally prefer lighthearted, meaningless conversation and that seeming intellectual is uncool- so I learnt to disguise it well. Sometimes I forget and it bubbles up to the surface. Isn’t it absurd that playing dumb and pretty makes someone more popular than discussing things one actually knows about?

I don’t have a hangover, but I think I might still be feeling a slight buzz. Sometimes I wonder if my body is just going to shut down one night, give up. Sorry, Sir, you’ve done enough. I can’t take it anymore. Then again, Winston Churchill lived until he was 90 and he always had a cigar in his mouth and a whiskey in his hand. Three of my grandparents are still alive and one died in his mid-eighties, so I guess genetically speaking I might do just fine. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? A lifetime of drinking and smoking and good food? My epitaph could be He never did what they said was good for him.

Some renters arrived this morning at the Laing house next door. They’re listening to some very questionable music of the rap variety. Maybe it’s hip-hop, I’m not sure which is which, but I find the sound unpleasant. There’s something aggressive about it. I’ve never understood the appeal. Isn’t the world sufficiently dire? Do people really need to go around saying ho and bitch and talking about violence- there’s not even a melody to soften the blow. Fortunately I can only hear it from my bathroom. Mike was right about how to place the house on the plot, we can’t hear any noise at all in any of the living-areas, bedrooms or garden. The weather is glorious and the garden looks fantastic. I think I’m not going to do anything of any importance at all today.

 

Out to Lunch (again)

Our friends from Hamburg are here (I know, much too early for the season), and they’ve invited us to lunch at Pura Tapa, which at the moment is my favourite place. Their summer house is 2 houses up from us, so there’s the added advantage that they drive and we get to drink.

I’m going to have the tuna tataki which is outstanding there. And I’m wearing stripes…

10may

A Quorn Review & Mondays

I’d forgotten to mention that a month ago we tried Quorn. We haven’t found it in Spain, but it’s available at Morrison’s in Gibraltar, so Mike went and got some there. I was pleasantly surprised. It’s the only meat-substitute that we’ve liked thus far. The ‘beef mince’, ‘chicken pieces’ and ‘lamb pieces’ work perfectly for a variety of dishes, the sausages are also good if heavily spiced. I’m still experimenting with cooking times and sauces because the recipes available online are quite limited, but it’s a keeper. We’ve been alternating Quorn and sea-food since, leaving red meat only for special occasions or when we go out to dinner. Curries, Indian or Thai, work beautifully. The mince works for Moussaka, Empanada, Bolognese etc. It’s a bit more tender than real mince beef, but if you mix it with a bit of pre-cooked couscous, you get a good texture that quite satisfactorily passes for meat.

Today I went food shopping. The local super-market was empty, which was excellent. This week is going to be busy. A lunch on Wednesday and a dinner on Thursday. I’m not looking forward to one of them. Mike told me that one of the hosts said ‘He must come too! I’ve told everyone about him‘. He is me, and that usually means I’m expected to be entertaining. Being entertaining requires energy that I’m not always in the mood to expend. It’s probably my own fault because when I was young(er) I was a bit hyper, more interesting and considerably more glamorous. I don’t put even 1/10 of the effort I used to into presenting myself or being a part of social encounters. I haven’t been to this or that party, I don’t know about what this or that person is or isn’t doing- and I’m not interested in gossip anyway. These days when I’m quiet, people from my old days ask what’s wrong with me. Anyway, I’ll do my best.

The project I’m collaborating on is coming out nicely. I didn’t like the look of the terracotta in the patio, so I suggested it be covered with the same marble gravel we have out front. It completely changed the feel. The place is in a development where all the houses are exactly the same and two nosy neighbours are now copying the idea- which is annoying, but that’s life.

The Palm Trees Arrived!!!

It’s fantastically sunny today. Feels like Spring is finally here. The palms that are substituting the pampas grass arrived!!! They’ll be planted on Monday. A crane needs to come to do it. I’m excited! The trees I planted on the North side of the house are starting to flower. We generally ignore that side entirely because the land is a different level to the South garden, which is big enough already- but I’ve decided to clean it up. Maybe some haphazard landscaping with succulents etc… We’re cleaning up the terraces, 14 days of sun are coming :)