After listening yet again to the endless arguments between builder, project manager and architects we decided to “do another runner”.

We sneeked off in early November with our friends the Snellings to visit mutual friends Stuart Walton and Pauline Latham in N. Portugal.  Many of you will remember them when they lived in the Lecrin Valley.  They have just finished building a beautiful house in a stunning forested area near to the towns of Arganil and Coja – which has the additional benefit of wonderful views.  It was great to see them again and to see a project well finished.  We took our time and returned via Caceres and Merida – all of us visiting these fascinating towns for the first time. The whole trip was a very enjoyable and welcome breather and gave us hope.  Apparently though projects like ours are a whole lot more straight forward in Portugal than Spain.

We were only back a couple of weeks before we realised that the prospect of staying in the Valley over Christmas and New Year and continuing to cope with the bickering at the finca was simply not an option so in mid December we left the valley, the finca, the project and our animals again and took off with one backpack between us to first visit friends and family in the UK – then on to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand for a month.

All our escapes since the project began have proved to be essential for our sanity but also the project has benefitted from our absence too. With us out of the way the project team have had to work together to make decisions within the limitations (ie budget!!) we have set – and without using us as referees.


Before we left we organized a formal time extension to the contract for the builder and then all the other contractors who are due to follow. The reason for this was that we felt that not all the delays were down to the builder. However poor man management and discipline and a resistance to taking on more men to finish the work on time has clearly also contributed to the problem.

Originally our builder had told us that he would finish Phase One by Christmas. We felt that it would be prudent to give him more time and insisted on a finish date for Phase One of the end of February 2011 in his original contract to allow for any delays other than those he should have allowed for (eg. poor weather). In December we extended this to the end of March 2011. He signed to confirm his agreement to this extension and we went away feeling that we could look forward to Phase One being finished at the end of March.

November 2010

We had to live in hope – but its not looking likely……..!


We had a whirlwind trip to Southern England, landing at Bristol and first of all visiting Scarlett’s Aunt Joyce for tea near Cirencester. This is the first time Scarlett has seen Joyce (who hates to be called Aunt as she is only 16 years older than Scarlett) in 40 years.  In that time Joyce had had 6 children and moved around with her RAF husband. Scarlett had also married (twice) had her daughters and travelled with her (first) Army husband and then with Chris. It was wonderful to get together after so long and to talk about Scarlett’s Nanna (Joyce’s mother) and her father (Joyce’s brother). The next time Scarlett really hopes to meet her six cousins!

On the same day we had a super dinner with Scarlett’s father’s companion, Jill Francombe and her friend Judy Price at the Lords of the Manor restaurant in Upper Slaughter, near Stowe on the Wold. We all chose the wonderful tasting menu in this One Michelin Star restaurant. If you are ever in the vicinity include time in your itinerary to try it


The next day we went to London – always a treat these days when civilization seems a long way away from the Lecrin Valley. Here we met Scarlett’s other Aunt June, her cousin Angela and husband Alan. We all went to the Royal Festival Hall to hear the Messiah by (electric) candlelight. The members of the orchestra were all in costume that was delightful – but nothing was more special for Scarlett than getting together with June and Angela. We spent our last day of this trip in our beloved Oxford where we stayed at the Old Parsonage and had a wonderful pre-Christmas day with three of our girls, their husbands and children. We enjoyed a great lunch there and a walk in the crisp December air. Much to the children’s delight they were able to open presents early!




Justine and Ginny


Cameron, Chris, Louise and Tom


Libby and Ginny

Freddie, Harry, Nanna and Grandpa in the Dorm


In the evening we drove to Maidwell Hall, Northampton, the prep school where our two grandson’s Harry and Freddie are boarders. We attended evening service in the chapel and were so proud to see Harry in the choir and to hear Freddie say the Lord’s prayer faultlessly. We were able to visit all the dormitories that had been decorated for the “Best Christmas decorated Dorm” competition by their residents.



The next morning we left from Luton for Madrid, Dubai, Bangkok, to Hanoi.  It was a loooong journey! ASIA The next weeks are a blur of adventure, delight, awe, discomfort, exhaustion but overall wonderful experience. Having been brought up in Malaysia and lived in Singapore and Hong Kong Scarlett feels at home in Asia and we were both amazed and delighted, in particular, with the people and country of Vietnam. We had a great trip – we managed to experience

  • The land of motorbikes – we have never seen so many in one place as in Hanoi.  Gridlock took on a whole new meaning
  • 3 classes in Vietnamese and Thai cuisine – all in lovely outdoor kitchens
  • trekking bareback on elephants in the hills of N Thailand – we rode high into the hills – stunning scenery and gorgeous animals who live in an elephant rescue home
  • a full body Thai massage for couples……you are never too old!
  • the World Heritage sites of stunning Halong Bay and ancient Hoi An of Vietnam and then the amazing Hindu temples of Angkor Watt in Cambodia
  • cruising the Mekong Delta – a fascinating insight into life in the rice bowl of asia
  • the museums, galleries, markets and back streets of Hanoi, Saigon, Phnom Penh, Chiang Mai, and Bangkok
  • walking miles and consuming loads of fabulous ultra fresh flavours and street food


Despite the great time we had away, we were ready to get home. Happily all was well with the family, friends and animals when we returned. The project had progressed but not nearly as much as it should have done but we did find it looked more like a house.


Since returning it has become clear that more needs to be done to move the project forward faster.  Despite the fact that Phase one will not be finished at the end of March we have decided to move to our caravan on the site. Without the rented house in Albunuelas to maintain we can focus our own long “To Do” list for the finca and simultaneously ensure that the project does not get any later. We plan to move at the end of March.

Hopefully the weather will improve! It has been alternately wonderfully dry and sunny and then so disastrously wet it has turned the land around the project into a quagmire. Happily it only takes one dry day to restore it.

It is clear that we cannot go away again until we have seen the project finished so it was with great joy that we learned that Justine and Tom, Jasper and Ginny wanted to visit us here.  We had a perfect week.  The weather was so kind and we were able to organise a day at the beach with Bridget, Martin and their brood, a day in the snow in the Sierras, time at the Science Park and the Alhambra in Granada, time in the Valley, time at Bridget’s home in the Alpujarras including horse riding and even a grown ups only dinner.  Perfect – we can’t wait for them to come again!


Its taking shape… all the smaller contractors have started and we are seeing window preframes, plaster, metal railings, and tiles appearing.  Huge ditches have appeared between the house and the energy control casetta for the water and power connections.  The colour we have chosen is gradually spreading across the external walls.  We are now required to focus on features and detail internally which is both fun and reassuring.


It’s fair to say that despite highlights with family and friends the progress of project has introduced an element of frustration, disappointment and annoyance which set in at the start of 2011!  The need to get the project finished and to open the business obviously becomes more important the later we are.  However busy we are with our “to do” list the delays are a cause for concern.  POOP!

Is it only us who find the fact that despite being behind schedule, work stops at 12:00 on Fridays?

Is it only us who expect the professionals on the team to have regard to the budget?

Is it only us who finds a total disregard for keeping given and/or signed undertakings both deeply disappointing and insulting?


5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Mark Nevile said,

    Dear Scarlett and Chris,
    Lovely to hear from you both……hope everything is beginning to come together!

    Really looking forward to having a long catch up soon.

    Lots of love


    • 2

      Corinne Harradine said,

      All these wonderful places & people – your lives are so rich! I’ll keep both you & your project in my thoughts and prayers!

      Much Love,


  2. 3

    Dave and Margy Aus said,

    Greetings and best wishes
    Progress is very slow but you are getting there.
    Early Fridays when a long way behind are a bit OFF.
    With all this experience we assume that in future you will become building contractors in another life.Good luck.
    Good health to all
    Dave and Marg

  3. 4

    Deirin said,

    You never cease to amaze me – all that travelling+ that huge project + all those relatives!! Great to hear from you – only disapointed that you didn’t come to see us when you were in Oxford. Life here seems incredibly dull compared with yours but we go off on 16th April on our ’round the World ‘ ticket to take in Kevin & Co in Australia & visits to NZ New Mexico & Canada! I tink everything will now go forward swiftly for you now that Spring is here – keep in touch Love Deirin

  4. 5

    Jim and Ali said,

    Wow, you have been busy bunnies!!
    House is starting to look great isn`t it. See you in a few weeks.

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