Never blessed with much patience at the best of times, 20 odd years of running what had become the UK’s number one dining club had seen me grow evermore desperate to get out from behind the Chairman’s desk.
Each foreign trip or holiday – of which thankfully there were many – saw me scouring an ever wider geographical area of countries from France, Italy, Corsica and Sardinia to slightly more exotic Barbados, Australia, Brazil and St Barts, in search of either a dream house on which I could put my own inimitable stamp or, more preferably, a Shangri-La like plot of land upon which I could create a modernistic masterpiece.
Everywhere I journeyed caused the rest of the family to become bored stiff with futile and usually sweaty trips round foreign estate agent offices, where our requests to view evermore outlandish locations caused growing consternation for all concerned. “Id’s so ‘ot I could die”, explained one slightly over dramatic immobiliari in Siena.
It was like searching for the Holy Grail with lots of blind alleys and false dawns and never any location that managed to “tick all the boxes”. Tuscany came close. Year after year we’d journey to this most delightful corner of the planet, always taking a villa near the village of San Casciano, just south of Florence. Charming place, great food, wonderful scenery but with such restrictive planning regulations that saw the most architecturally unworthy lean-to slapped with a preservation order by the local council and where should you be so desperate to purchase this most dilapidated of structures, you could find yourself mired for years in a whole forest of red tape.
Add to that, that the good chaps at Easy Jet and Ryanair seemed not to know of its existence, meant that another of the tick boxes i.e. accessibility was always going to be difficult.
The same, sadly, applied to both Corsica and Sardinia where, even if flights weren’t just seasonal, it soon became apparent, tended to shut down for three quarters of the year. As a modern day metro-sexual, my penchant for scouring cutting edge kitchen and bathroom emporia as well as stylish little interior design studios was unlikely to be sated by the odd dusty antique shop or local artisan’s workshop.
St Barts was nice but, sadly, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brad Pitt and Kate Moss all thought so too and as a consequence property/building plot prices tended to be on the perpendicular side of steep. And with one of the most hair-raisingly precipitous aircraft approaches in the world, meant that the only way in was invariably by your own small privately chartered aircraft.
For years, however, whilst enjoying/enduring these globally frustrating sojourns, I kept reading about “the real Mallorca”. “Pish-posh” I always thought. I went to Mallorca in 1963 at the very beginning of the appalling onset of mass tourism, which saw the creation of some of the planets most benighted places including Magaluf and Arenal. What the hell would I want to build there for?
And yet, one grey, drizzly day in January 2007, whilst pitifully forced to scour the internet for yet more terreferma to cast my eye over, I chanced across a young Mallorcian architect’s amazingly contemporary design for a house that was now being built for sale, yes, you’ve guessed it, where else but Mallorca.
“Sod it” I thought, I’m going to fly over and see this most striking of buildings and at the same time lay to rest this myth that Mallorca is worth seeing.
Well, that was four years ago and in the intervening time I’ve singularly failed to lay that myth. So much so, that after much galloping and gazumping I became the legal owner of a gently sloping wheat field a couple of miles from the sleepy village of Sant Llorenc des Cardasa. Located on the east of the island in the beautiful Llevant Hills, this would be where I would build my modernist masterpiece.
The subsequent years have seen me track down an award winning architect as well as – apparently – one of Mallorca’s most lauded builders, as well as an assortment of camp followers such as technical architects, garden designers and a whole host of other expensively remunerated professionals.
In 2010, after years of first of all design dramas, followed by interminable issues with the local planning department, we finally broke ground in late April. Today, the house, nay estate, nears completion and I am both many years older and many thousands of pounds poorer.
A rye and sage tome of this quite probably ill advised venture is currently half written under the working title of “The Building Obsession”. Suffice to say followers of my blog will now be treated to regular updates of the dramas, catastrophes, delays and pitfalls as they unfold. To bring you up to speed with the story so far I have uploaded some pictures taken along the way.
Hopefully you will both enjoy and endure my travails as a prelude to rushing out to buy the finished book from those good chaps at Waterstones sometime in the near future.