Patio Living

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

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.


Live amongst colour-they are there for a reason

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

Use colours and let them into your life and home, it will cheer you up, stimulate the economy and distract you from every day niggles:)

Think ‘fashion’.

Think ‘season’.

“When we finish dressing ourselves, we dress our homes.”

Top designers, like Michael Kors, use a palate of three basic colours, one of which is often either black or white.

Its worth spending a few pounds on some coloured matching accessories and its worth changing them over twice a year in spring an autumn. It sounds fussy but trust me once you start it’s a welcome ritual.

Easy cheap immediate touches are;

Flat cotton toilet mats (thin ones like in European hotels are easier and cheaper to wash)

a rug somewhere

sheets/duvet set

towel set

bathroom toothbrush mug/glass/plastic

water glasses

table cloth

curtain /net

lampshade or two

coloured candles

throw blanket

plastic storage boxes to be left on show (retro ones with holes)

vases or pot plants

So choose your colour group.

This spring I used masses of lime green and bought every cheap item I come across that was a good quality, thick and rich colour.

Candles, plastic storage boxes, salad bowls/servers, picnic stuff etc in lime green. It goes so well with pinks, pale blues, yellows, oranges, and lemon.

If your base colour is white it’s a perfect mix and match but remember one of those colours have to dominate while the others hang as accents. They can’t all dominate.

This winter I will bring out all the reds, navy, dark green and anything else for the festive season. I can throw white and cream in as abase tone and a few gold or silver bits for sparkle. Go to Ralph Lauren and see what he does with the basics.

I have not thrown anything away from previous houses. Unless its broken, dirty or dangerous just give it another role e.g. towels to clean floors,,  old pillow cases use as under pillow case liners, old sheets can be dust covers for stored clothes.,,

Pick out the colours on the most important special focal item in the room, a painting, a lamp, a rug, a throw, or a vase.

Get down to Zara, Michael Kors, Prada, and Mui Mui and see what colours are in season and in what combinations.

The Italians lead in style, the USA follows hot on its tracks,  the English follow the USA (influential ‘buyers’ in home wares with MBA’s) and the French try to be different.

Change over the colours for the winter season so back in with reds, burgundies, greens, navy, browns , etc.

Change over for the summer season with limes, pinks, blues, and yellows.

Birds arrange twigs, and we arrange scatter cushions. It’s your nest and you can move stuff around to your hearts content and it’s the best cure for insomnia:)

To Light or not to Light.

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

There is not much new these days to say about candles.

You either light them or you don’t.

The word candle originates from Middle English ‘candel’, from Latin ‘candela’ from before the 12th century and a quick glance at the unfathomable spendor of French Roccoco chandeliers, before the Revolution, shows us they reflect more than just light.

It also shows a preference for;

Looking good in soft lighting.

Hiding the room faults and marks on the carpets.

Saving on electricity or replacing odd lightbulbs long gone.

Trying to get romantic on some level.

Confusing your guest-they wont see much.

Adding a level of elegance to dinning.

Candles cannot make a smaller room look larger in size, but it can help hide what a box it really is. Cost has become a factor in lighting candles as, apart from Ikea small tea lights, they are getting pretty expensive.

If you can find a reasonably priced candelabra for the table, buy it and collect  all the tall coloured tapered candles on sale.

Popping a tea light into the top of a big expensive candle and not buying it down saves it last visually but there nothing of the aromatic smell or light.

Small candles laid out and spaced in lines give a pretty Four Seasons Hotel moment and best on patio’s, small gardens, walled spaces without much wind.

A very good expensive scented candle can perfume a room without even being lit which is especially good for bathrooms, halls, and bedrooms.

Turn big candles upside down and burn the other end if the wick has disappeared too deep inside to reach but pay special attention to where this thing will drip. Candle wax only comes off easily in the films.

T J Maxx has the best collection of well priced, boxed scented candles that make very good gift and cost the same as wine or chocolates. I give alot of candles  or insense sticks these days.

Expensive candles should only be lit with folks you really like:)) I have regretted wasting some great candles.

Madonnas trick of pouring hot wax onto a bare chested man does not work as either he has to be a masochist, or accuses you of assult, after all, it cant be ironed off.

Do not get drunk, cause a fire and burn the house down with a 50p candle.

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..

Books you hang onto.

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

Get rid of them. Cleanse.

Unless they are meaningful to you, educational, future reference material, large coffee table , valuable, with great photos,  get rid of them. Be kind and give them to a charity.

No one is.impressed by your ability to read. We all read these days, Its not the 17th century.

They collect dust, take up space and smell. Same with old magazines and papers. They all turn to dust and clog your lungs.

Buy a kindle

Do not collect news papers past a week old. Keep only expensive magazines,  and National Geographic mag are acceptable in the bathroom.

Give the others to the local launderette, dentist, doctors, hairdressers or leave them on the stairs. They won’t be there for long. Same with old CD, tapes,videos. Let someone find them and make their day.

Books can really bring out a stubborn side of a person. We think they represent ‘who we are’ .

They don’t…they represent what we ‘read once some time ago,’ which is only part of the story.

You don’t have space as your are ‘downsizing’ not trying to live in a library. Say good bye , thank you and pass the book on.

Repair, repair, repair!

Excerpt from “Downsizing your home with style and regain your freedom’
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If you lived in a hut you would have to slap new mud on the walls at least once a week, find, cut and throw leaves onto the roof, scrape up the gravel or chicken shit by the front door or squash a few snakes and bugs who were too close for comfort.

So whats new? You might be renting and you might be resentful but a few home repairs are going to be needed. Get moving to

The Pound Shop, the local cheap market, the local handy man store and buy the basics and store them in one of those nice clean bright plastic boxes our Chinese cousins are making for us.

A screw driver (philips and normal)

WD 40 -cheap beds and cheap doors always squeak and ruin your sleep


super strong drain cleaner liquid down every drain

gaffer tape

kitchen scissors

bug spray




spare light bulb

small remote batteries (the remote batteries ONLY DIE on the weekend after 5.00pm when its raining!!!)

nails (as you go)

packet fuses


If you buy them cheap it might cost about £10.00 the lot but will be ‘priceless’ on a day of need.

Don’t watch the place collapse around you.

I always tell and explain to my landlords and they think Im marvellous as I get us all involved and chipping in on the costs.


If the room is white/cream/pale grey etc don’t ask just paint it.

The reason is the following: when you lie in bed at night and look over the walls and ceiling noticing every past movement that room has had to endure ITS IRRITATING. If you didn’t make the marks its maddening an if you did make the marks its maddening.

Get rid of the marks and have clean, calm, quiet, inactive, harmonious, empty, smooth walls. You will sleep better.

It takes half a day. MOve the furniture into the middle. Scotch the doors and windows and put down some plastic. Whip open that virgin new paint with the wonderful aroma of chemicals, get the radio on, the clothes off and paint that room.

Use colour on one feature wall if the budget is tight. DO NOT use the darker colour at then ends of the rooms, around the windows as the brings the room in smaller.

If you are stylish and want a rich, darker, creamy shade you can break up that wall with a well planned gallery of pics or black/white large photos etc. More on that later.

Disinfect and wash showers, all walls, fix the groat and bleach everything including the bathroom light pull cord!

Spray 99% Anti bacterial spray on everything- including the air when you go out- for at least a month–mind the walls it drips down paint.

Clear all drains with Super Drain Cleaner every month. Rid yourself on what smells might come up, crud thats gathered or grease that formed so you start afresh.

Buy a new bathroom Lino floor from some offcuts outside a shop and cover the old cleaned one if replacing it is too complicated.

Buy a new loo brush and toilet seat. A new throne means a new rule. Sit in comfort and rule.

Plug holes in walls with polyfiller or paint or wash the doors with sugar soap. Put draught brush strips on the bottom of doors to block dust and stuff.

Fix and change all locks and get keys copied. WD 40 hinges and locks.

Buy a lampshade and side lamps as lighting is everything in a room and remove high overhead ugly light bulbs from ceilings.

Put down washable mats on wooden floors next to the beds, hallways, or kitchens. Put up mirrors or several small cheap ones in a line opposite windows to reflect light.

Kill rodents and bugs with all products needed like WW 111. Poor people tend to live alongside animals and have a much higher tolerant I notice where are rich folks simply do not. It might be religious, laziness or they just don’t know how to.

Buy a fire alarm, place in stair well etc, and the battery and test it frequently!

Double glaze windy broken wooden windows with plastic sheeting, selotape which will save on electricity. There are easy kits to buy to insulated glass windows.Block loose wooden window frames with supermarket clear plastic food bags to stop the droughts.

Replace or turn over mattresses. Buy a cheap Primark double/King duvet to put OVER the mattress and UNDER the sheets for padding as its washable and a lot cheaper than fitted mattress covers.

Buy or wash ALL pillows and use cheap Primark pillowcases as liners ‘e.g.’ double pillow cases.

Take down and return to landlord all old dirty curtains and buy new ready made Primark nets and curtains. Find the launderette for large items and wash everything every season.

Nail down or gaffer tape old stair carpet. its a difficult one as ‘no one’ owned the stair cleaning job. I bought a huge quantity of perfumed powered carpet deodoriser and threw it over everywhere like snow. If they weren’t going to clean the stairs it would certainly smell nice and they could now walk/tread all this in. I made my point.

Bleach or spray the communal bannisters and lift buttons.

Do not smoke inside and sell the cat or dog-they also smell:)

Every time the wind blows ‘the hut needs repair’ and its an ongoing war against nature. I think once a month should keep things in check.

Take photos of problems and email with dates and explanations. Keep a copy of all complaints letters

Make friends with the landlord as they are normally not so bad. I like my tenants and I knew what misery they could impose on my life via my property!! Give them a bit of sympathy and show you care so its not all about ‘us and them’ and if that doesn’t work…

I was wrong! So move.