After five weeks of homelessness whilst the interior of the house was being renovated it was time to head back to Spain. A most enjoyable and productive month, staying with family in the French countryside, had come to an end and the moment had come to face the reality of developments back home in our ‘caravan on a hill’. The finishing touches were due to be applied and I was keen to be on hand to oversee the finer details. Selena and Lizzy were due to travel back with me but Covid restrictions were still being adapted throughout Europe and the UK had just announced that any visitors from Spain would have to quarantine for 14 days. They were due to fly back to Wiltshire the following week from Valencia so the decision was made that they would fly from Bordeaux, thereby avoiding the quarantine requirement, with the added benefit of having an extra week with family there.
As predicted the work on the house was running behind schedule and there followed days and weeks of stress and uncertainty as we tried to negotiate our way to the end of the project. I was feeling the pressure of making crucial decisions alone, such as choosing the kitchen units and worktops, lighting and doors. If only we had been able to decide such things at the beginning! By the time Selena and Lizzy returned to Spain things were still not finished and the three of us had to sleep on a mattress on the floor in one of the rooms. Although the majority of the work had been done we had no kitchen worktop or oven so we were back to camping indoors, whilst still surrounded by the dust and tools of the builders, and until they had finished we were unable to place any furniture or home comforts.
If ever there was an example of how not to renovate your house, this was it. We made many decisions based on photographs on our mobile phones and everything was being discussed in a foreign language. Inevitably we had several curt conversations with each other as irritation levels rose and the months of being transient took their toll. Every now and then we would start to say ‘If I did it again I would do so many things differently’, but it was always followed by ‘I’m never doing this again’!!
Thankfully, before Covid had appeared, we had booked a week away in Majorca, so we took advantage of the opportunity to escape to some comfort again. After a quiet week on the island we returned home where we knew that the work had virtually finished. We arrived back in Valencia on a Saturday evening with the kitchen worktop and final touches to be completed on the Wednesday, so finally the end was in sight. However, life could never be that simple, as the excavations for the installation of a swimming pool were due to start on Monday morning!
The worktops were installed and finishing touches applied so that the inside work was finished on the Friday of that week. Unfortunately, although we were delighted with most of it, we were left with a hole in our ceiling. Having removed the old brick fireplace as requested, the builders refused to install the new log burner, leaving us with a chimney likely to fall through to the floor at any time, as the bricks were now unsupported.
It’s hard to describe the scenes here over those weeks of the summer. Lorries, cranes, diggers, countless tradesmen, noise, dust – both inside and out. It was incessant.
The pool work duly began and the hammering of the JCB lasted all week from 8am each morning through to 5pm (with suitable breaks for food and siestas). Our kindly neighbours must have regretted being so friendly as their pristine house, which they are trying to sell, was covered in thick layers of dust, making viewings somewhat difficult. They both wear hearing aids so I don’t think the noise was as much of a problem. After a week of digging it was apparent that we couldn’t have the pool as deep as we had wanted. The house sits upon a bed of solid rock and it was only at this point that I noticed that all of the surrounding houses have pools built above ground! Now we know why.
Needless to say, after a week of returning from Majorca, Selena and Lizzy were only too pleased to be able to get back to school and relative normality, escaping the mess and noise at home. However normality had changed considerably because of Covid and within a week of being back at school Lizzy developed cold symptoms and was obliged to undergo Covid testing. Having spent months more or less segregated from other children because of lockdown it was inevitable that this would happen when mixing with her peers again. The added complication was that, until the results were received, Selena had to quarantine as well. The test was conducted in a makeshift consulting room at the side of a local hospital, with glass windows and doors allowing everybody outside to witness the procedure within. A lady in full paper suit and mask was reducing children to tears as she inserted a swab deep into the nose to the top of the head of each patient. Thankfully Lizzy was oblivious to these scenes and didn’t seem concerned by the screams and tears of those before her. She took her turn bravely without fuss and we returned home to self isolate and await the all important phone call. Unfortunately the hospital were calling an old phone number, so what should have been a day or two of waiting turned into a week, but eventually the result was negative and the two were able to return to school, leaving me at home to oversee the pool project.
On one occasion one of the pool workers managed to smash into our satellite dish with his digger, disabling the internet and TV instantly, but unbelievably, after a call to the provider, somebody arrived to repair the damage the very next morning with no charge. In Spain?! I was amazed.
A couple of days of storms brought pool proceedings to a halt and inevitably the considerable rain entered the living room through the hole in our ceiling, bringing sooty water down our newly plastered white walls, but thankfully that was short lived and a builders sack was subsequently placed over the chimney to prevent a recurrence!
Life was almost normal. We were back into a routine of sorts; the pool work continued five days a week and we had our home taking shape with furniture, kitchen, television and internet all reintroduced. We were even blessed with visits from family as Selena’s Dad and my Mum and Step Dad all made the effort to travel, despite the Covid concerns. We kept ourselves to ourselves at home and the extra hands were put to good use with addressing the endless list of jobs, before they returned to the obligatory 14 day quarantine in England.
We were grateful to be able to take advantage of having extra people around and managed an extremely rare Friday night out with friends whilst Lizzy was taken care of. The task of getting home again was not quite as straight forward. I had expected to see a few taxis around but they were non-existent and it took a few calls to be able to find somebody willing to take us ‘into the wilderness.’ We live five minutes from the motorway but you would think we are in the on the other side of the world. The taxi driver had never heard of our village and looked scared for her life as we directed her along pitch black country roads, and it seemed incredible that she was not using a ‘satnav’ of any sort. She’s probably still trying to find her way back. It’s the same with the postal system, whether it’s from the UK or Spain, invariably there is a delay or a complication. You can put our address into Google and our house is found on the map. If I’m lucky I get a phone call from the driver asking me to send them my location via WhatsApp. If not there is usually a comment on the tracking service such as ‘delivery attempted, customer not at home’ or ‘incorrect address details’. On one occasion I had to meet the local postlady at the bar to receive my parcel, yet I live just around the corner from it. That worked out quite well though. Any excuse for a beer in the sun!
In fact I am awaiting three separate deliveries today, all from Amazon, and even though I have ‘Prime’, with guaranteed next day delivery, they were all due to be delivered on Monday and it’s now Wednesday!
I try not to let it bother me too much; life is good. The log burner has finally been installed (the builder eventually acquiesced and did a good job), the pool is finished, and we have a selection of therapeutic animals to care for; two cats (I won’t mention the hefty vets bills – that’s another story), a tortoise, and five chickens!! We still await our first eggs but indications are that they are imminent. I’m sure you will be interested to know their names.
Peggy, Phyllis, Elissa, Betty, Starba.
“De policía a granjero” as stated by Carlos the builder! (From Policeman to farmer)