Living in Spain, warts and all

The Masochist in Me

It has recently struck me that, had I for some inexplicable reason been born a monk, then I would have been one of the self-flagellating kind.

“How can I possibly be so slow on the uptake?” I hear you ask. A pertinent question, indeed, when I consider the evidence.

Let’s see. When we first bought this magnificent piece of land some six years ago, it was almost entirely buried under six-foot high weeds liberally sprinkled with old cars, dead dogs and rubbish of the larger, less disposable kind like mattresses and so on. I, obviously sporting spectacles of the decidedly pink hue, thought it utterly beautiful and failed entirely to figure that it would all need a thorough clean-up, and that it would also harbour a vast array of more unwanted stuff of the animated variety.

Next, we ran into the neighbour from hell on our northern boundary, who, having first tried ineffectually to extort money from us, then made it abundantly clear to us that our presence here was as welcome as a bucket of fish entrails on his cornflakes, and has since then done whatever is in his power to cause us grief.

Then, we put trust and money into the hands of a builder/architect combo who subsequently disappeared off the face of this particular segment of the Earth when their failure to apply for and (more importantly) gain the requisite licences for our house came to light.

Meanwhile, I was obliged to be shacked up in a static caravan (aka the Sardine Tin) for two years while we tried to sort out i) the illegality situation, and ii) the completion of the building. I was subjected to the alternate tortures of deep freeze and slow bake by turns, and knee-capped myself regularly in the cupboard laughingly labelled the double bedroom.

My merry band of intellectually-challenged waifs and strays, which started somewhere in the distant past with John and as of today amounts to twenty-six creatures in all, have never paused in their expressions of neediness, despite my own trials of existence.

The taking up of residence in the house four years ago may have brought with relief an end to the phase of canned living but it set in motion an intense period of hard physical graft as we erected parrot housing, fencing, retaining walls and various and sundry other structures, while at the same time trying to knock back into shape the various terraces that descend to the river from our vantage point on the lip of the valley.

We are now finally at a point at which we could sit back and enjoy the views. So what happens? We submit a project to convert a part of the barns into luxury canine boarding facilities, so that I may earn a crust here and just maybe, if we’re fortunate and it proves a success, allow John the luxury of giving up the day (and night) job as a commuting firefighter in the UK.

To be fair, the project was submitted last December – a professional inch-thick and costly document drawn up by our ingeniero agrónomo (rural architect). At that point, we were told that we would have a decision within two months, but hey! I am so much wiser now to the paths of administrative communication here in Spain. We have recently been given the verbal green light, but still the paperwork has yet to reach me. This sounds so familiar …

Anyhow, the green light is sufficient for John, who has been champing at the bit since February, to drop onto the project like a ton of bricks, and so we’re off again.

The barn (or, strictly speaking, three barns, a room and an open-fronted covered store) is a fairly large structure, sixty metres in length and six metres deep. We are going to use just a hundred and twenty square metres of it, at least as a start. Bearing in mind that we are now at the hottest point in the year, and that the roof is corrugated iron, I probably don’t have to point out that it is like a sauna inside, but I’m going to anyway because I need you to share my agony.

During the past week we have taken down four brick-built dividing walls from the pertinent portion of the barn and subsequently carted out all the (thousand or so) rescued bricks together with the rubble. This required the wearing of dust masks of the Darth Vader ilk, together with ear defenders and goggles, which, while admittedly protecting our lungs and audio-visual organs, managed nonetheless to exacerbate considerably the sense of meltdown.

Having transported Himself back to the airport yesterday, I have a short period of respite in which to work out schedules of quantities for various materials that I will order with haste, before the great August shut-down of all things constructional. Then John arrives back here on Thursday for his eighteen day vacation.

Pass me the cat o’ nine tails, will you?


Comments on: "The Masochist in Me" (8)

  1. How about the Benjamin Franklin exercise much loved by HR managers and social workers – take a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle and list the columns ‘For’ and “Against’. In your own time – begin. I bet I know which column wins!
    Look out over that wonderful view and say to yourself ” Oh no! Not another beautiful day in Spain.” Alternatively you could just ‘PUFO’ as we used to say in the Paras.

  2. Oh, I ‘put up’, don’t worry. I just consider you all to be my personal therapists, and so I unload on you. Don’t mind, do you?

    • not in the slightest – (that looks odd) Jeez! We’re all human and dealing with an alien bureaucracy, as well as the heat this time of year. Don’t have a problem with our neighbours – in fact when the village was fighting off a quarry and cement works they provided an armed guard day and night (I kid you not) to protect J and me from threats to our persons and property. You have this one bummer who might well succumb to dysentery with the right addition to his water supply 😉

      • He’ll be spitting feathers when the kennels open – he’s done his utmost to block it.
        All other neighbours are, as in your experience, supportive and friendly.
        Regrettably, it only takes one.

        His water supply is the same as ours. I must trust in karma.

  3. Mad dogs and Englishwomen springs to mind!

  4. Wrong sex to be a monk Debs unless you wear a frock of brown!!

  5. O Deb! I share your agony and am delighted to offer any therapeutical help I can. Having said that, you are definitely on the “road less travelled” here, biting off and chewing what most of us are too feartie to even dare to smell. But you clearly have a dream, a big dream, and the determination to see it through to completion, despite the odds, and let´s face it, everything in Spain is odd. (Oh no, she´s Spain-bashing again Mammy, tell her to stop!). Stop I won´t. Sorry, all you cultural relativists, sorry all you apologists of Spain being “different”, sorry all you John Carlins in El País today arguing that Spain is a “healthier” country than Britain. Spain is a backward, inward-looking, politically immature configuration with the legal and bureacratic infrastructure of a third-world country. There. I´ve said it – and not just because of your post Deb, but because I´ve also met Spain head-on in my little urban neck of the barrios, not twenty minutes from the capital, and I´ve read a buncha books on it too. When your boarding facilities are the pride of Bullas, your books on the subject will be both awesome and epic (and I don´t use these apellatives lightly as all Americans do.) ¡Arriba Deb! Mo xxx

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