I am Yvonne Williams (Emmerson-Peirce), I am unbelievably 60 years old, and can’t believe where the time has gone – I still feel full of life and have so much to do and see.
I have admittedly already done a lot in my life. Raised two wonderful children, built and continue to run a successful business as a Global head-hunter, been elected as a County Councillor, stood for parliament twice, and now with my wonderful and very supportive second husband have been working on a project to transform a neglected but beautiful Spanish property in Andalucia into a stunning home and boutique hotel to welcome guests.
Now celebrating, a year in Andalucia, with the feel of a good novel to describe the journey on the way, we are delighted with the results.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Gosh, that is a difficult one, because I always feel that I need to challenge myself all the time! I am best working under pressure, and finding solutions, not problems. I think probably public speaking was my biggest personal challenge. Although, not a shy person, I absolutely hated getting up in front of hundreds and sometimes thousands of people and making a speech. My voice would wobble, I felt I couldn’t breathe, I would stumble over words. Just awful! But having chosen to stand for parliament, I had little choice. I got over this and can honestly say this is no longer a problem, but it was for quite some time.
Project wise, without doubt reforming Cortijo Sabila has been a challenge. I did not speak Spanish. I had just had a brain haemorrhage and was on my own in Spain with two lively Airedales whilst my husband continued to work in the UK.
Supervising a team of builders, painters, electricians, plumbers, cleaners and gardeners in a foreign language is NOT for the faint hearted. With no kitchen, no bathroom, or hot water for weeks! Not to mention 5 acres of olives and weeds 2 metres high. I showered on one of the courtyards using a hosepipe, and cooked on an electric ring in the service yard. I had no fridge, so lived on fruit and vegetables provided by my new found Spanish friends daily and pasta. With meat just once or twice a week- as a special treat.
But, I loved it! It taught me so much about myself.
Those Chanel and Gucci handbags, stiletto’s and designer suits that were my UK uniform still remain in the wardrobe. Shorts, tee shirts, a bikini and a pair of shades are now my only requirement! I learned not to be fazed by the odd rodent, or birds entering through chimneys, acting as nurse to the vet when the dogs needed attention, arguing with town hall officials in Spanish, and working day and night bailing water out of the cellar when unprecedented rainfall levels hit Spain and before a hole was sealed! I could not have managed without the mobile phone and my laptop, I did manage for more than 8 months with no TV. Frankly, I was so exhausted at the end of each day; I would just climb into bed and dream in Spanish. But more importantly, I could not have managed without my new found friends – mostly Spanish who have always been there for me.
What’s been your greatest achievement personally?
This question is not difficult for me as a MUM, raising my two children to become wonderful adults and I think most Mother’s would say the same. Now I have my first grandchild who will surely become a great mate! I write him a little poem every single month or when he has achieved a new goal and I get to see him as often as I can.
As a human, and there is a difference. Then creating Cortijo Sabila as a stunning home and place to welcome guests is, without question, my greatest achievement and on-going challenge.
If you weren’t doing what you do, what would you be doing?
Goodness knows! For sure something challenging!
I am a great believer that we need to continually strive for a goal to really flourish. It would have been easy, especially when I had my brain haemorrhage to say, I am nearly sixty – time to retire, take life a bit easy. But what would I do all day. I have always worked hard, I was a single Mum for most of the children’s upbringing, and I had to work. But I have never seen work as a chore. I love working, I have always chosen to work in people orientated environments and can honestly say that apart from the odd difficult, or unreasonable client I have loved every minute! One day, I guess I will have to slow down, but then I hopefully will have many memories of successes to keep me company.
How did having a brain haemorrhage affect you?
Well I am not sure it affected me as much as my husband, who quite honestly thought he was going to lose me! I don’t remember everything, but do remember as I was recovering thinking that I wasn’t going to let this set me back in the search for fulfilling the dream of living/working in Spain. We had spent literally years looking for the perfect property to turn into a new lifestyle and within days or a couple of weeks of finding this, my stupid brain haemorrhaged! Fortunately, I recovered with no long term effects and I felt I needed something to take my mind off myself. I took a short break from head-hunting as I decided a change was as good as a rest. Now I am back on form, I manage to operate both as a successful global head-hunter as well as building Cortijo Sabila.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
Shirley Williams as an orator. Richard Branson as a businessman. The Queen for her unfailing duty. Meryl Streep for her acting ability.
George Clooney for (take a guess!!)
What does the future hold for you?
Who knows, but it will certainly be working hard to continue to build the reputation of Cortijo Sabila as a fabulous 5 star boutique hotel. I am sure this will personally be very rewarding, not necessary commercially to start with, but looking after interesting people who come to stay at Cortijo Sabila will be great fun. I also have my two wonderful Airedales as well as a variety of clients as company, and a very happy marriage and a lovely family and friends.
I am very, very lucky to be alive and living my dream!!