In theory, now that we have a septic tank, the Ayuntamiento should be able to process our AFO, and then we can apply for permission to set Jose-Manuel loose on the building work. In practice, the recent election of a new town council has held everything up for a month or more. Jose-Manuel has another large job scheduled for “after the summer” and repeated enquiries are getting us nowhere.
When in this sort of situation, there are a few courses of action open to you. You may choose to camp on the doorstep of the Ayuntamiento and harangue everyone, including the new Alcaldesa until they get sick of you and grant your wish. Of course, this might backfire, as they have the piece of paper you want, and thus hold all the cards.
You could decide to “name and shame” with Facebook status updates, or talk about how you are never going to be able to move into your dream house and how you wish you had never bought it. This might help you work out who your true friends are and get it off your chest, but it might also get you sued for defamation of local dignitaries.
So what did we do? We threw a party. We had been talking about how great it would be to have barbecues and musical evenings once we moved in, but that eventuality was growing ever more eventual. Friends were asking when they could see the house, so we decided we would go ahead. That way, we could have our party now and show people the house before the work starts. We would bill it as a “Before” party, and If we had fun, we could have an “After” party as well.
Invitations were easy to produce, even if they did go on a bit about how basic the facilities are. Gaspi the plumber had made everything lovely in the water meter cupboard, but had not realised that we wanted the house connected to the water supply. As we are not living there, that is not nearly as daft as it sounds. We were not sure whether Geoff could easily reconnect the toilet and/or any of the taps inside the house. We might only have one functioning tap, and that was in the barn, so we laid it on thick, just in case.
The day before the party, we went over to the house. The reconnection went off without any trouble, and we were soon flushed with success. (I am sorry, but I had to do it!)
We plugged in a couple of fridges, so they would be down to temperature in time. OK, so Geoff got a bit of a belt off one of them, but we assumed all would be fine.
The prunings from the olive tree were ideal for checking if the barbecue flue was blocked. It worked so well that we flung on some lumps of a particularly spiky cactus, to burn the spikes off for safer disposal. We later found out that they smouldered and let off terrible smells all night long. We shall be the first people in history to upset their neighbours so thoroughly before even moving in.
We had some good friends over from the UK, so the day of the party we roped them in to help get everything ready. This largely consisted of them keeping Teddy out of mischief while we shopped for meat, salad, bubbly and disposable glasses, and reminding us about things we had forgotten.
Being June in southern Spain, we had no worries about the weather. We knew it would be gorgeous. We rigged up the sound system in what will become the office, and fed the cables to the speakers outside. Mark Knopfler played gently in the background as we lit the barbecue from the remains of the stinky cactus. Our old gas barbecue was on hand to allow as many people as possible to cook whatever they had brought, and Dave and Lesley brought theirs from next door, along with tables and extra chairs.
The dogs had a wonderful time, running about in the newly flattened garden and exploring the orange and lemon groves all around. Every so often they would appear, chasing each other happily, tongues flapping and tails wagging wildly. We put a washing up bowl of water in the barn for them, as it was a hot day. Teddy cannot resist digging and paddling in water bowls, so the barn floor was soon a muddy mess, as was Ted.
As people started to arrive, it became apparent that there was something very wrong with the fridges. Every time anyone touched any bare metal parts, they got a shock.
Our refrigeration Plan A was failing. Plan B was to unplug the fridges whenever we wanted to open them.
As pulling the plug out also had shocking consequences, we had to go to Plan C.
Plan C was to have an extension lead thrown over the wall. Music, fridges and fly zappers were duly plugged into next door’s supply, and Geoff checked our sockets to see if he could work out what the problem was. Two hundred and twenty volts running through the earth sounds bad, even when you have no idea about electrics.
Ramon arrived, waving a piece of paper. Now the water meter was all present and correct, the water company needed a signature. I was quite prepared to do it, but it seems that it is better to have a man sign the paperwork. Not sure whether this was officialdom or just Ramon’s macho style kicking in, I left him with a beer and went to find Geoff and a pen.
Whatever the reasoning behind who signs what, we have since received our first utility bill for the new house, which is a milestone of sorts.
There is no need to go into the reasons why the gas hose on our barbecue went up in flames. A mug of water, a slight panic and disconnecting the gas were all that was necessary to have us back on track.
Burgers and sausages smelled gorgeous before they turned black, until one of our guests rolled his sleeves up and took over for the evening. Picnic baskets spilled out salads and gin and tonics, and there was a gentle hubbub of people greeting friends, wandering around the house and meeting new people. Fortunately, everyone had taken note of the likely lack of facilities, and had come prepared with food, drink, plates etc.
I rapidly threw together an engaged sign for the toilet door, and we found a brick for people to kick against it to make it stay closed.
The dogs decided to stop gallumphing around the countryside at almost exactly the same time as the first burger came off the barbecue. They soon had a rota worked out: Teddy was in charge of big eyes and starving puppy impressions, Poppy covered abandoned plates and spillages and Min took on sampling beer or bubbly from any cups left on the ground. They were very efficient.
As the sun went down behind the hills and a golden glow of sunset, good food, nice people and alcohol bathed the place, the musicians among us began to do their stuff. Everything from Die Fledermaus to ZZ top, classical guitar, country music, The Beatles, Cliff … you name it, we had it.
The cicadas screamed, which is quite impressive when you consider how difficult it must be to scream through your knees. The electric fly zapper crackled and flashed in the corner. The evening air was alive with the buzz of mosquitoes and cheerful conversation, music and laughter.
If we had planned for weeks and tried to cater for everyone and organise efficiently, we would not have had nearly as much fun. It was one of those evenings where the magic just happened. Looking around at the crowd of friends old and new, dancing, laughing and singing together, we decided that if the “After” party was too long in coming, we would just have to have a few “During” parties as well.