I made myself a promise in the early 1960s. I had bought lots of rustic pottery bowls and dishes on Samos, and had a simple tin lantern welded together before my eyes in a Turkish market. One day, I was certain, there would be the right place in which to put them.
That day arrived about 10 years ago (circa 1985) as I wandered through a village in the Canary Islands with my friend and host Christophe Gollut. Spotting an open padlock on a heavy wooden door, and being naturally nosy, we pushed it open and let out yells of pleasure. I saw it, I loved it, I had ghastly cold feet and I came to an agreement with the mightily surprised owner of the ruin all on that same day.
What I now had on my hands was a double-fronted house with a fairly towny street facade, and a much more farm-like inner courtyard and sloping cobbled garden on to which every single room opened. The salon on the first floor gives on to a wide veranda shaded by the fine trelliswork screens (or celosías as they are known locally) that had caused Christophe and me to scream with delight on day one. God knows how the three families who had last occupied the place had managed with one tap, a few bare light bulbs dangerously strung about and alone earth closet, but the absence of these creature comforts was a blessing, since it meant that I could work out exactly what I needed and where it should be put. Not that drawing up an electrical plan and drainage system came naturally, and my forced logic in the matter has not proved entirely successful either.
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