Over twenty years ago my wife, Sarah, and I were not expecting much more from Lanzarote than winter sun.
But I fell, instantly and forever, in love with the island. Everything about it, the landscape, so architectural and delineated; the light constantly changing, always dramatic, never a cliché; the culture, so different from mainland Spain, so interesting, so ancient; the people, friendly, relaxed, reliable, good at what they do.
We started with a rented house, then quickly bought our own, in Guime. Then another. I learnt Spanish. We came more often. Our little boy loved the place.
Then one day I saw the inside of Casa Tegoya, then a restaurant high up in Geria, and knew I would not rest until I had bought a house like it: an old Spanish one with high wooden ceilings, cool courtyard, thick walls, shady terraces.
I found one in Macher. Only one problem. It was a complete ruin. But by then I had met Heidi Hupe, the then owner of Casa Tegoya and she has been my project manager, architect, builder and friend ever since. Sarah and I lived in some lovely houses during our long marriage: a medieval hall in Yorkshire, a thirteenth century Chateau (where Sarah still lives) in France, but my favourite house is unquestionably Macher.
Its unassuming traditional exterior conceals the richest of rooms (Sarah is very good at interiors) courtyards and internal gardens, like the sun-soaked Egyptian one and cool Moroccan water-garden.
My great joy in my business life, has been the power to encourage good artists. So it was natural to incorporate a studio, artists’ apartments and painter’s gallery into the Macher buildings.
And then one day the hideously ugly house next door was up for sale and I could not resist having a snoop. The minute I saw the double height sitting room, albeit buried in horrible décor, I knew I would buy it and I knew it would be a concert hall.
It turned out to be an ancient camel barn. And the rest of the sprawling building turned out to be old and beautiful. It was like discovering sleeping beauty under a muckheap. We (that’s me on the vision, Heidi on the project, Sarah on the décor), between us we managed to restore it into the theatre and two houses – one for public spaces like bar and lounge and one for the visiting artists.
I know it will be wonderful. I can’t wait. It is quite something to have just turned eighty and to feel I am just beginning on a new career.