Having responsibility for my mother’s house in Spain (all of the costs, none of the ownership) is onerous and expensive , particularly because the house was thrown up by cowboy builders in 1973 using shoddy, inadequate materials. Every year since 2003 we have made improvements starting with removing the tree that had breached the roof, having the roof repaired and having the cracking platform upon which the living accommodation rests supported with pillars. Since then we have completely replaced the sewage system, rendered and clad the powdering brick, had the balcony that burglars used to access the property and steal my stuff turned into a secure room, replaced all the windows, the front and garage door, had the lighting upgraded, the house exterior and walls painted, the interior of the house repainted and completely refurnished and the garden totally remodelled and maintained, including having a patio built and a herb garden created.
In doing this we have had to visit twice yearly to do maintenance and organise repairs Because of the leave time taken to do this we have lost the opportunity of having holidays for the last thirteen years. Make no mistake, it hasn’t all been odious. Yes it has been very sad that we have had to sacrifice going to places that we wanted to go to including giving up our promise to revisit the place where we married (Las Vegas) every five years, but along the way we have made many friends, established an excellent relationship with a cracking firm of builders and an excellent rapport with our lovely, last chance hippie gardener and his workers. We have also come to love the place.
Prior to the last few years’ visits we have said,
“This one will be a holiday,” but no, something has always cropped up. Four years ago it was a whacking five thousand euros bill for a new septic tank. This Christmas, after a freezing lesson in how one open fire is not adequate to heat the property, it was a three thousand five hundred euro bill to install climate control. It is a testament to the quality of building firm, Monasor, that we arrived to find the two climate control units installed and looking like they had been there forever – no evidence of the considerable amount of electrical channelling etc that had to be done.
This time we excelled ourselves. Business day one of the trip and we had to have the builders around with an electrical problem.
Bless them, we cannot fault Monasor. Garrath texted the delightful Abdellah at around 10.00, he came around in less than an hour and the electrician came shortly afterwards. We were anticipating the worst of news but were pleasantly surprised when the problem diagnosed was relatively simple. The master residual earth circuit breaker was very old and malfunctioning, so a quick trip into Calpé got a replacement and we had juice back. Garrath asked for an estimate on a complete replacement distribution box and we had that by the evening and agreed to the price. It will be done within days. Ahem, UK readers, would you get that speed and quality of service in the UK? I think not!
Electrical cut outs and the necessary repairs meant that we had to postpone our plans to go to SUMA the local authority office to change arrangements for the property taxes to be paid so we will have to do that tomorrow because we have an assurance from Abdellah that the electrician cannot come tomorrow. Holiday? What holiday?
Other business stuff we have to do this trip is closing bank accounts and transferring standing orders – all exciting stuff that is designed to make things simpler for me when Garrath dies. It is all about hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
We are trying to make the best of the trip in between business stuff. Garrath had determined that we would lunch out every day but today I told him that I don’t want to feel obliged to stuff down far too many courses of food every day but would prefer to eat light and only lunch out as a treat. That agreed I went down to Mercadona (coeliac paradise, remember) to get light lunch materials while he awaited the return of the electrician.
The shopping was very funny. I dutifully got all my separate salad ingredients, took them to the weigh and label machine, labelled and sealed them and only then discovered that a ready made Insalada De Casa was there, ready prepared for two euros seventy five cents. DOH!
That shopping jaunt over I came back to the house where Garrath was plodding on with the moving standing orders stuff. After lunch and a brief discussion we decided to invite our friends and neighbours, Keith and Audrey, around for drinks and nibbles. So back to Mercadona for me to buy suitable nibbles and bottles of gin while Garrath plodded on with ‘hope for the best, prepare for the worst’ stuff.
When I got back I started preparing the nibble fest. I know Keith and Audrey’s tastes very well so it was a blue cheese dip for him, a chickpea and spinach dip for her, guacamole for us all, plus mortadella, cheese, pickles, crisps, maize dippy thingies and pickles.
Keith and Audrey arrived as agreed at 17.00 and a very pleasant evening was had by all. The food and drink all went down very well, but I confess to being impressed at Keith’s capacity for eating pickles. It almost rivals mine, but only almost!
Time for bed said Zebedee!!!