As soon as September started, we began to twitch.
“When do you think they will start on the house?”
“He said ‘Some time September,’ which could be weeks way.”
“But it could be this week”
“Don’t get your hopes up.”
I think we took it in turns to deliver the same lines, and variations on the theme. We went over to take some last “before” pictures, taking special care to photograph the toilet door sign that featured so prominently in the lovely BBQ party back in the early summer.
We received the message last week that Jose-Manuel wanted to collect a house key and start work. We arranged that Dave and Lesley would give him the copy they hold for us, if he came to collect it before we could make it over there.
On Monday, he collected the key and dropped some supplies off. We were not sure exactly what, until we drove over on Tuesday to take a look. Supplies appeared to be a rather small pile of sand. We concluded that it would not be much use for a project the size of ours, but that maybe it was just a marker for delivery drivers, to confirm they were in the right place.
We were over there again on Wednesday, and the supplies now comprised the sand, a wheelbarrow, a large, empty oil drum and a couple of shovels. Things were hotting up, albeit in a slightly slow and mysterious manner.
Work started on Thursday. Our next door correspondents reported that they ‘had not hung about’ and that they had already stripped out the manky old bathroom, removed its roof and the end wall, and propped the sagging roof, ready to have some of the beams replaced. We were impressed.
“And they have laid the first course of bricks for the new bit of wall in the courtyard,” Dave reported.
By the time we arrived on Friday, about lunch time, the threshing circle where we normally park was covered in skips, piles of bricks, a cement mixer and far more sand.
The new wall in the courtyard was over two metres high, and Jose-Manuel explained that they would be adding a couple more courses of bricks. It seems that although the Spanish are typically shorter than the British, they build their ceilings higher than we do these days.
Upstairs, several roof beams had been replaced, and Jose-Manuel was ready to ask our opinion about replacing a couple more. The scaffolding and Akrow props meant we had to contort ourselves to climb the staircase, and we could see that at least a couple more of the beams had suspiciously saggy middles. We suspect Jose-Manuel prepared the quote to keep the cost of the permiso down for us, so we were happy for him to do the extra ones he thought necessary. Better now than later, when it would be far more difficult to do.
“You need to choose some tiles for the kitchen walls, the floor in the new area, the stairs and the floor upstairs,” Jose-Manuel told us. It seemed so soon, but it felt as if the milestones were flying by. We left, thoroughly impressed with just how much they had achieved in a couple of days.
We seem to have spent more time over there this week than here. Each trip has seen more progress. Tuesday had me brimming over with excitement as the old, collapsed chimney was replaced with a new, white chimney, complete with a tiny roof, made of curved terracotta tiles that match those on the rest of the roof. the props and scaffolding were dismantled from upstairs, and Michel Jackson and all the other rubbish up there was cleared into one of the skips and replaced with neat piles of bricks, ready for work on the new walls to begin. The area that connects the kitchen to the barn was fully walled in, and was sporting a roof. We cannot believe the difference this has already made to the feel of the downstairs.
We spent much of Tuesday and Wednesday scoping out tiles, doors and windows, and had barely arrived home last night, when we received an email from our interpreter, asking if we could meet with her, the builder and the plumber today.
The roof tiles on all of the old roof sections had been reseated by the time we arrived late afternoon today, and the builders were finishing re-pointing them. The tatty barn roof was no longer tatty, the collapsed corner of the shed roof had been re-instated, and the new flat roof was virtually ready to be tiled. plenty of black goop (a technical term) was slathered to seal any gaps between the roof and the buildings, and the ridge tiles were sitting neatly on a bed of white mortar. The poor old house was already looking as if someone cared about it, and I found its improved posture strangely moving.
We spent a couple of very interesting hours, trying to thrash out the fine detail of what would go where in the bathrooms, and rehashing the plans for the barn to allow adequate bathroom facilities, while encroaching as little as possible on the space I have ear-marked for the larder and utility room.
Poor Jose-Manuel scratched his head and scuffed lines in the dust to show the position of walls. Gaspi rattled off rapid ideas and measurements and suggested knocking out a structural pillar or two.
“Are you happy about this?” I asked Jose-Manuel, as his face fell further and further toward the floor.
“Solo pensando. Only thinking,” he smiled wanly.
At last we had discussed everything we could usefully discuss. The dogs had eaten the reflective cover we had put over their crate to keep them cool while they waited for us in the car, and I was gasping for a cuppa.
We bid a hasty farewell to Dave and Lesley and piled into the car for the fifty kilometre trip home.
“We’ll be in by Christmas!” I declared, jubilantly
“Let’s wait and see,” muttered Geoff, as we bumped our way off the era and onto the road home.