Patio Living

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’
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Thank you China. And thank you to all our hard working Chinese cousins who work long hours, in poor conditions, on megre wages, away from home in factories to produce goods for us that we hardly even value.

We meantime,  in Europe, are exporting knowledge gleaned over centuries, fought for in blood, against medieval religious doctrines forbidding research, two world wars and fierce competition, to advance medicine, science, infrastructure, physics, construction and mathematics.

I just got the garden chairs, from Argos, in a smart aluminium trim and black canvas seats. Cheap as chips as I will be moving country again soon.

I know black holds the heat, but its very trendy. White shows the dirt, and they only had a purple or turquoise, which were horrible.

If I need to leave them I won’t complain as the folding loungers were £19.99 each, and the arm chairs were £7.99, so no great investment there. The point is I need to get into the outdoors, and sample all weathers, in day in our ever changing psychotic climate. We have a small patio now and I intend to be all over it.

In the 1990’s Florida had the best patio furniture, with solid strong metal frames and lightweight woven wipe down seats, in very slick contemporary designs. Made ‘to order’ and a glass topped table, four chairs, a couple of loungers was several thousand dollars.

The only other alternative were the white stackable moulded plastic ‘petrol stain’ chairs for the working class, again, another Chinese gift.

The western world then turned to wooden outside furniture, preferably Teak, just when we realised the Rainforest was disappearing never to regrow. Brilliant Idea to reintroduce natural woods into home decor when a strong viable alternative was being made-all be it more expensive.

The Rainforest was now being chopped down to supply the western world with wooden garden sets and no one says a word.

Habitat Furniture Store brought back the humble ‘deck chair,’ using less wood and bright coloured canvas sling back seats.

They were comfortable, light, drip dry and naff but had shabby chic status but at £29.99 each, a set of four becomes a middles class luxury.

B&Q gave us metal ‘Bistro Sets’ appearing on every tiny balcony, leading us towards a more European new cappuccino culture.

Using an outdoor metal ‘Bistro Set’ in a kitchen brings the garden inside and saves a fortune. Its summery, cute, folds away

and costs a fraction of dinning furniture. Put cushion pads under the feet, not to scratch the floor, and stick a plant on the table. Viola!

‘Decking’ came along about the same time as the new wooden furniture. ‘Decking’ is the new ‘turf’ and very nice it looks too.

Boring, badly grassed small back gardens suddenly become designer decked spaces, spot lit, easy to clean, and with a few carefully chosen grasses.

By intensifying the space it takes on intimacy and feeling, Candles, chairs, music, Bistro Sets, lanterns, water features, extra high fencing, stains, levels and gravels.

Its a couple of days work and a few hundred quid but a zen space for the year.

Start all this as you move in. Once your settled it will become a project for the next summer, and the next, and the next..

Go into the garden centres and ‘get the bug’. Some tree, ornament, trellis, pot plant, lantern will catch your imagination and you will have to drag it home. Thats the ‘seed’ of desire for your new patio. Plant it and let it grow.

Use herbs as small plants, coat decking in a pale ‘celadon’ paint, as when it wears away, it will look shabby chic.

Wire brush and clean old brick walls, replace the mortar, put down rat traps under decking, wire up holes so nothing can ‘move in under there, including people.

Get a good hose and outdoor broom.

Put a spare small fridge outside and cover with a bright thick French plastic table cloth.

The odd silk daffodil, crocus, grasses, fleshy leaves can save the day by adding colour. They do droop after it rains so wash once a season in soapy liquid.

Sheets of bamboo trellis do well as terrace roofing material. Pin down well with electric cable hooks.

Mix yellow sand with white outdoor mat paint to get a stone like texture to cover bad walls. It won’t come off so remember that.

Block small holes and open pipes with clear plastic bags so animals don’t nest e.g wasps.

Use outdoor boat lights with grill facings if you need quick economic light fixtures.

Sprinkle corse table salt mixed with white washing powder over surfaces to keep away the cats/rats as they don’t like to lick paws full of OMO. When it blows all over the place (it doesn’t seem to move) it will be cleaning and deodorizing anyway.

Yes, that is a snake you see on the white tiles in the photo. I bought a few toy wooden ones to scare away the cats and birds. Not sure it worked, but it sure thrilled the man in the Medina who sold me an item no body wants in this world:)

Use disposable ashtrays e.g plastic cups half filled with water.

Never leave food, or utensils with fat on them outside to attract animals.

Keep cheaper sun creams, mosquito repellent, and old old towels in a big portable basket

Treat the outside like an extension of your home and have warm boots, sallopets, hats, gloves at the ready and go outside.

It is one.


Lets talk ‘ice cubes…!’

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’
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We know ice cubes has nothing to do with ‘Downsizing your home’ …etc etc and the chances you will live/be/eat/drink and sleep alone but lets digress at bit…lets indulgunce for a while.

The most underated, dull, ordinary, standered food item has been the humble ice cube. They have been ignored to the point of gross neglect, and its a shame.

Store away these thoughts and ideas for when you’ Upsize’ back into the mansion, get a job in catering, have nothing else better to do or want to deliver someting unique. You and the guests will end up talking about ice cubes.

Rule 1; Ice cubes dont have to be made out of water.

Water may have been cheap but, apart from fillling up buckets, a few selective individual cubes delicatly placed in lovely glasses can liven up a regular drink.

Rule 2; Ice cubes can go in first and the drink poured over them. Its not a life jacket and does not have to be thrown in as a last resort to bounce then disappear.

Colour your ice cubes. Use the tear off flat pack ice cube bags which are so cheap at the supermarkets (Morrisons £1 bag)

Obviously use natural juices, carrot, cucumber, beetroot, fruits which can be mixed with water to get the right colour and thickness.

If using ice trays, its very easy to layer a couple of colours, but make sure the first layer is very solid first.

For ice trays pop in a pea, rasberry, mint leaf, pommegranite sead, cucumber slice, coffee bean, mini olive, choc drop, nut, or berry. It doesnt matter if they cant drink it and end up fishing it out with their fingers…it will amuse their tiny minds whilst fishing it out:)

If time is a problem buy some ready made fruit juices and use those. Yes it will add flavour but mostly just a sugary taste which is not waht you want.  Drinks loaded with pure ice, just loose the flavour of the drink first.

Tomatoe juice red ice cubes placed into a gazapacho soup adds nice touch. Add Lea and Perins, celery salt etc into the cube and add to Bloody Marys.

Freeze  bags of local cheap grapes when they are cheap and in season and throw the lots into a jar of white wine or sangria.

Freeze lemon/orange/lime rinds and mash them up under a cloth and sprinkle of everything. or drop whole pieaces into pitchers of Sangria.

Ice cubes of rose, orange and geranium waters go well over fruit salads and bowls of melon ot strawberries.

Freeze a shalow bowl of liquid, put a net/foil/papaer over the top and drop down mint sprigs so the stem freezes into the liquid like a mini garden. Use a a central table decoration.

Freeze squares of icream, add some liquer and pop into hot black coffees.  A few squares of sorbet look good over ice creams drizzled with sauces.

Last of all, freeze the left over wines and throw them into the cooking.

“Medium, rare or burnt to crisp?”

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’
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To BBQ, or not to BBQ that is the question?

Men like it because its pagan, and a justifiable mess.

Women like it because they don’t have to cook, and ‘he’s’ busy.

It tastes delicious and is a great evening outdoors.

Originally a few flames licked at our food brought us into a world of tastes and smells our ancestors didn’t know existed and couldn’t have dreamt of. Something obviously fell into the fire a couple of million years ago we get ‘a roast’! Wonderful.

Buy a BBQ if you have the outside space. The cheaper ones get used, the more expensive ones get admired.

Never ask your neighbours if they mind, as they will say ‘no’, unless they are invited over to eat.

Start early as no one can see meat in the dark, and avoid eating it raw or  drunk.

Remove all children away from flames with tongs.

Dress accordingly, and eat before the guests arrive so you don’t serve raw meat. Starving people serve underdone food.

Invite friends that help carrying and cleaning up.

Most man can’t resist taking over the BBQ until it either heats up or goes out. Its great therapy for them.

Most flats do not allow BBQ’s in the lease  light up, don’t be a nuisance, dance widely, play loud music or light fireworks. Just eat and keep quiet and you might get ‘smelt’ but not get noticed.

A cheap BBQ set  from Argos it will reduce the risk of it getting stolen, buy it in the winter or on sale and don’t expect hit last.  Even gardeners and thieves aren’t fussed about the £9.99 kit from Argos so it will rot before its stolen.

Get BBQ tools from the Pound Shop,  or a cheap market  and expect to loose the lot. You won’t.  Only expensive BBQ implements go missing.

Think outdoors foods; Corns, salads, coleslaws, jacket potatoes, shrimps, fish….cook the lot and you can eat for three days.

Stock up on aluminium foil from The Pound Shop and start wrapping.

Put everything in large coloured plastic washing up bowls (the ones our Chinese cousins are making for us). All the sauces, all the salads, all the corns, knives and forks the lot.

Fish from the markets is the most affordable but get to know the stall holders to get the best deals.

Marinate the meats. Marinate, marinate, season and flavour all day or over night. Its easy in small fridges. Make kebabs, ribs, all cheap cuts and pretend its a holiday so have fun.

Buy cheap paper plates and cups and big black plastic bags for the rubbish.

Blame a child as the excuse for using plastic. Borrow a child if you need to.


everyone eats and drinks before you do. Its very rude but they do.

food gets left on the grass for animals

knives and forks get lost

steaks are not cheap

ashes will burn holes

neighbours get angry


everyone eats with out asking stupid gastronomic questions/requests

food can get thrown into the trees

plates/cups/foil gets thrown away or burnt

you can use cheaper cuts

lovely fire to sit around

smoking out an irritating neighbour.

I found the hardest thing about a BBQ is making sure your guests do actually arrive, stay sober and don’t touch the flames.

Dishes you can’t make in small kitchens:)

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’ Amazon and Kindle

Lobster thermirdor (go out for dinner)

Whole roast pig/lamb/goat/turkey (go on holiday)

Croissant (find french bakery)

Baked Alaska (it’s not even in restaurants these days)

Your own pastry ( buy  Waitrose ‘all butter’ ready made)

Stuffed goose (no room for fate geese)

Wedding cake (even a cup cake would be a challenge)

Bouillabaisse (buy in Selfridges)

Do not bring home live animals, do not set up a distillery, do not grow vegetables indoors and do not try to make a compost heap…they smell and annoy the neighbours.

Concentrate on what you can do-not what you can’t.

Do not see this a ‘limitation’ but more of a ‘freedom’.

I never made any of these dishes when iI had huge kitchens and now I can’t.

All the labour saving devices you buy, only end up owning you.

Years ago we had a freezer the size of a large coffin which we never thought we could fill. We did. But forgot what was in there and hardly ate the food at the bottom. It’s a symptom of bygone age when ‘more was more’ and ‘less’ was a misery. We sold the property, with the freezer, and I bet its still there..

Galley chef

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’
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Have you ever cooked in a galley on a boat?

No, not many of us have or ever want to. I passed the galley a few times and felt sorry for the poor bastard in there and hoped he found some peace in this world.

Its always surprising just how delicious and complex the dishes are that come out of a galley. So heres your turn.

Your new ‘size challenged kitchen’ has one very good feature…..You won’t be in it for long!!

The smaller studio flats usually have electric hobs-which I hate-they are expensive to run and I want to see flames under my food.

These are equipped with microwave ovens which I also hate.

Think about keeping;

a wok

a griddle pan

a steamer tray

a pressure cooker

a nori mat

a le creuset oven dish with lid

a salad slicer

a juicer

a liquefier

You must now plan your menus! Its not Le Circle and you have a small fridge and few ingredients-so plan. It’s only 7 days in a week and it’s not that difficult.

Sunday morning cooked brunch juice,coffee, eggs any way, trimmings etc

Sunday roast dinner in one/two trays in the oven by 4:00 pm. Boil everything first in a big pot, including the chicken and it will massively reduce the cooking time and reduce it drying out

The idea is to get TWO meals out of every preparation; One day then another, the following day.

A salad becomes gazpacho

A pie becomes a soup

A roast becomes a soup

A rice dish becomes cakes

Monday evening leftovers. Liquidize what is left for a veg chicken soup

Tuesday fish either in the oven or steamed

Wednesday Thai lamb curry with fishcakes

Thursday pasta and salad

Friday couscous in the oven with any meat

Saturday market day for all the fresh produce-salad for dinner

Or put everything left over into a nice pie dish and top with best quality ‘ready made pastry’ and bake into a pie.

Or wrap salmon/fish in tinned spinach and then ‘best quality pastry’ pop into the oven and its now ‘en croute.’

Or liquidize everything into a broth and top with croutons.

Or liquidize old salad, add chopped tomatoes, onion, cucumber and chill its now a gazpacho!

marinate all the meats and fish, it will add flavours

I could go on…..

Pies, salads, juices and soups will save the day every time!

You need to open the fridge and eat fresh normal food NOT bought bits.

If you don’t plan and organise in advance, you will eat out of packets with photos on them, and your life will become unhealthy and depressing. If you get fat your living space is smaller.

A photo of a luxury boat galley, pinned to the fridge for a month or two, might really help the mind, and save on swigging all the rum:)

Eating Ideas in smaller spaces

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’
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If you were stranded abroad, were suddenly invaded, besieged at every port, or rejected the Monsanto monopoly you would have to adapt the way you ate and to another cuisine, so adept.

Except this time, its another kitchen and perhaps a fraction of the size. Its same thing.

No person who cooks longs for a smaller kitchen, full of basic cheap alliances and no work space. No one. But if is the new situation I approach it mentally first.

It’s a ‘galley’ and your on a boat, it’s a ski studio and you are on a mountain, it’s a wooden lodge, caravan, in a tent, up a tree or in a cave but mentally, you CANT BE IN A SMALL KITCHEN. Its too stressful and no fun.

Put up some kind of ‘symbol’ to remind you and get your mental approach worked out first. A fish, a photo, a shell, a postcard, a mosquito net, something to give this space a theme and some humour. It will save your mind and save you drinking the cooking brandy.

You will be eating differently as food is very dependant on tools, skills of the chef and expectations of the dinner. All three of these are probably now diminished but you still have to eat and gleen some pleasure from it.

The Dinning Table.

Obviously you are getting a smaller table, or one that tips up straight after use and stores against the wall. Ikea do a ‘corner tables’ that open up for 4 people. I remember the top was terrible quality but a nice thick plastic highly coloured table cloth hides a lot.

A slab/piece glass with menus, newspapers, photos or postcards underneath is cheap and fun and covers so much.

If you have less space only use the coffee table to eat off. Get a couple of cheap wooden chairs, paint them bright colours and chop of the legs to make them shorter and stubby which looks cute and trendy.

If you paint them white tie on ribbons, add cushions, hammer in coloured studs, entwine beads, spray on mural so they are bespoke and cheerful. Think Momos.

Fix up a Food Bar table from Ikea with 2 legs, 2 brackets, 1 piece of Formica and 2 high bar stools. It looks great and

Saves so much space. Blend in the wall, pictures, seat and plant pot and create a theme.

Pull out canvas aluminium framed camping/fishing chairs from Argos are practical, light and cheap and you can throw them under the bed later.

Padded wooden lap trays are not that bad and complete the TV supper experience. You won’t die from eating off a tray, better than a magazine, and its good for the core muscles and balance.

Sit on the floor. Why not? Get cushions, take off the shoes, use a low table and sit on the floor. Our ancestors bonded on the floor and look what happened.

Spread out a washable cotton sheet as a mat and shake it outside every time or get a mini vac so you’re not sitting in crumbs and attracting the bugs. Do not eat onto thick carpets its unhealthy and are difficult to clean and will smell. Cover them or remove them first.

Eat outside as much as possible, eat at lunchtimes before you go home, take home doggy bags, get invited out, get invited over and stay friends with women that have dinner parties. Its better for you and will save the energy trying to cope.

You are going to be changing your diet as the roast pig, stuffed birds, soufflés and fresh ice cream look like they are off the menu:)


Turn the knob. Its no big deal. We were not born to eat microwaved food and I would never never waste the kitchen space on that ghastly black box.

Get one good oven dish with lid and think French. Sauté and chop and put everything into the dish and cook on low-preferable in the morning. Wash a lettuce etc and make a salad with real olive oil dressing and theres a family meal. delicious simple and not expensive.

Most bed sits don’t have gas ovens and electricity is very expensive on a meter so ovens are a luxury. So its a good hearty soup made on top burner and slowly.

I  never to cook at night. The thought of chopping onions at 7.30 pm makes me ill and i’m no longer hungry.

Cook in advance and in the mornings before you are too tired. Like they do on the continent .

Hungry people order take out!