Living in Spain, warts and all

Posts tagged ‘damage’

Battered and Fried

I was not put on this earth to be decorative.

As children, both my sister Sue and I were extreme tomboys, eschewing dolls and prams for footballs and model spaceships. And we were dangerous.

Such was our reputation that the headmaster of our primary school, at first assembly of each new term, would routinely ask, “Which of the Cassidy sisters is in plaster this time?”

So there you have it. My maiden name was Cassidy. In the summer of my eleventh year, just before I was due to move up to my first grammar school, I managed to break my leg on roller skates. I was, therefore, christened by some perceptive (if not a little out-dated) wag with the nickname ‘Hopalong’ – and so I remained throughout my school days.

For some reason, Fate feels duty-bound to type-cast me forever. I am widely-known as being accident-prone, although in my defence I have to protest that often my injuries are not my own fault – that I am more unlucky than clumsy (although I may be that, too).

I mean, a spider bite (Bitten by Spain) is hardly an act of ineptitude on my part, although drilling a hole in my own leg (Tractors and Drills ) does admittedly fall into that category. And I will confess that I do sometimes take risks, like groping my way along the top of a high wall in the dark, in the wet, in heels ( Falling Rain) and clambering across a steep roof to recover a pathetic cat (Rescue!).

However, it is also true that often I am at the mercy of events that are foist upon me, rather than attributable to me.

Last week, I almost managed to modify my nose for free. I was looking after Ollie, the blue and gold macaw that resided with me for a year or so before he was adopted by Linda and Trevor, who have worked wonders with him and have turned him into a real cuddly bird. The trouble is, he is now so very friendly that he wants to be in someone’s arms all the time – not a possibility when I am trying to clean his flight. So as he swung down from the roof to grab me, I feinted sideways … into the end of a metal perch, face-first, and almost sliced off the tip of my nose.

There was a fair bit of blood, and a resulting effect of having been slashed by a lion. It elicited some raised eyebrows when I ventured forth into public places, but it has settled down now to a mere couple of fine lines that can be covered with a small trowel of concealer.

Not good enough for Fate. I have another parrot boarding with me this week. Mr. Pedro, I have already had cause to mention (The Good, the Bad and the Snuggly ), hates me with a vengeance. Despite constant protestations from Chris, his owner, who assured me when she left him this time that he hardly ever bites now (!), this parrot would kill me if he could but find the opportunity.

This morning I went into the flights to change water and dole out breakfast to all the parrots. In Pedro’s flight, I keep my distance – I wouldn’t even consider an attempt at handling him, as I find two hands are generally not enough and I cannot sacrifice one of them. Further, I enter that particular space bent double, to keep my face firmly pointed down and out of reach of his perch, since he has been known to swing upside down in an attempt to take out my eyes. A face full of parrot does not appeal.

Generally, I find that this works, provided I am quick with the removal of the food bowls.

Today, he was having none of it. As soon as I was in and at his mercy, he actually flung himself bodily off his perch and landed on the back of my head. There, he dug all his claws into my scalp to make sure I couldn’t shake him off, and proceeded to bury the point of his upper beak under the skin, while grinding away with the flat edge of the bottom beak in an attempt to scalp me.

The scalp is a thin piece of skin stretched tautly across the skull. When it is split, it bleeds profusely. I could feel blood running through my hair, but I didn’t dare raise my hands to dislodge my stowaway, for fear of macerated fingers. So I had to grit my teeth and bend further so that he was actually hanging upside down from the top of my head. Then I was able to brush him against a lower perch until he disengaged from my tattered skull.

This occurred almost twelve hours ago. The wound is still weeping dismally, and I am feeling sorry for myself. All ‘ aaah’ and ‘poor you’ expressions of sympathy will be welcome.

This all happened at stupid o’clock this morning, a time at which I am routinely having to heave myself out of bed these days. The cool and changeable weather we were dealt in April has given way to meltdown this week, and I have to get out to water the baby vegetable plants in the huerta before the sun gets to them. I also have to feed and water the parrots and my own pack of hounds before ascending from the house to the kennels to see to residents at around 7am.

Who said I came to Spain for the relaxed lifestyle, the mañana mañana attitude? What went wrong?


Shafted, Damaged and Shorn

The kennels are now open for business at last (YAY!!), although I still have some additional papers to submit.

One such piece of paper is a contract for cleaning. I actually have that in my grubby paw now, having exchanged it for four crisp 50€ notes. It was handed to me, along with a thick maintenance book, by a technician who at the same time placed four black mouse traps full of poison at strategic positions in the three barn zones that are not a part of the business, and in the kitchen, which is. Whether or nor I approve.

He also tells me that he has sprayed some sort of insecticide, although where, I didn’t witness.

Further, he has totally disinfected the loo. Which is brand new. And use of which I can count on one finger. He went in with a ghostbusters pack on his back, but no mask, and emerged a few minutes later instructing me to keep out for five minutes, for my own health.

No problem, I hear that from John all the time.

So – good money for extremely old rope? But at least it satisfies yet another requirement of the iltmo ayuntamiento, and leaves me just two itsy bitsy things more to sort: the plan of the fences, and the fianza (deposit). Until they up the ante again, of course.

I did hear mutterings about disabled access when the three wise men of the oficina técnica were here to inspect. They were debating the possibility of giving me grief about the step into our reception area. In this PC world, it wouldn’t surprise me at all – although I am, in all honesty, unsure quite how many people are going to drive their limited mobility vehicle into the campo with dog and wheelchair on board.

Then, of course, we would by extrapolation be asked to fill in all potholes in the camino so that the same wheelchairs can slalem down the camino to the river without upending (or at least, not until they reach the bottom).

I mentioned in passing earlier this year (Three deaths, a murder and a plethora of paper cuts) that I have a mangled thumb. This came about late October last as John and I were insulating and lining the roof of the kennels.

John was perched on a ladder guiding a sheet of plasterboard (2440 x 1220mm, if you’re interested) into place while I was stood below winding the lifter. This particular piece of machinery is one of those simple but indispensable tools without which the job would involve ten times the struggle, twenty times the sweat and a hundred times the swearing, and we were immensely grateful to have it onside.

The job required some fifty sheets of plasterboard in total. We were, typically, within striking distance of the end of it. Then, as I turned the winder for the final push to hold this particular board up to the rafters, the cable broke.

The whole platform, together with its load, came crashing down about my ears. My right hand, which had been on the winding handle, was thrown into the wheel, which spun violently in pace with the descending platform.

It took a mere two seconds, at the end of which I was bent double floundering in a sea of intense pain and nausea. John shouted at me. This, I have to say, is his usual reaction. As a firefighter, he is a qualified trauma technician and is the one who has to deal with some unspeakable injuries in the course of duty. But when it comes to any sort of damage to me, he keeps his distance and yells at me.

Always full of abject apologies after the event, he confesses that he cannot deal with injuries I might sustain and he shouts because he is scared.

That’s OK, then.

Anyhow, the thumb. I went to A&E for x-rays, but was informed that it was just tendonitis – that I had to take anti-inflammatories and wear a thumb support. I did this for several months, but nothing much seemed to be improving. My thumb is still swollen and distorted – I cannot straighten it, I cannot clench it, I cannot open jars, write, or pick anything up without dropping it again. It’s a mess, in a word.

So I then visited the GP, who sent me back to hospital to trauma, who then sent me for an MRI scan this past Tuesday.

Upon being called, I entered an antechamber, to be met by the radiologist who told me to strip off completely and don one of those see-through paper gowns with no back ties. I looked at him askance. I’ve heard bad jokes that start like this. Undress? For a poorly thumb?

Yes indeed. Unaccustomed as I am, I was unaware that my entire body would be thrust inside the huge torpedo of electromagnets and so needed to be, to all intents and purposes, naked. My hand was locked tight in a small box by my side – so small that I emerged with additional bruises, in case it wasn’t already uncomfortable enough. A pair of headphones were stuck unceremoniously on my head and I was instructed in no uncertain terms not to move. Not a muscle. Not a twitch nor a flutter.

No pressure, then. I’m lying there trying my damnedest not to breathe, but in fact I’m almost panting because I’m a tad claustrophobic and I am not enjoying the confines of the tube in the slightest. Then began the immense cacophony of noise.

Zip-zip-zip-zip-zip CRASH! rumblerumblerumble … ye gods, I can see the need now for the headphones. Twenty minutes of this (not long, he’d stated) was going to feel like an eternity.

But then, given my current inability to satisfy my need for nightly rest, I must have drifted into sleep.

Only to be startled back to the present by another sudden particularly loud and intrusive explosion of noise. Now I don’t know about you, but one of the parts most likely to move when I am rudely awoken is my hand. Then the headphones crackled into life. “Deborah!!” I heard his voice, tinny yet undeniably furious, “You must stay completely still. It’s ruined – we’ll have to run it again!”

So my twenty minutes stretched to forty-odd, and I lay there desperately trying to stay alert this time but unable even to pinch myself.

At least I fared a  little better than Marcos, though.

Marcos is our Podenco/Irish Wolfhound/bull mammoth/donkey cross, named for the saint on whose day he came to be mine four years ago. At the outset, he was a large and fluffy puppy. As he’s grown, he has become more and more hirsute, and his shaggy coat has become pretty disreputable with knots and snags and various embedded pieces of tree.

So I decided it was high time for a trim. I have in the past attempted to carry out this operation myself, but after the total ruination of several sets of John’s hair clippers, I have come to the conclusion that they are not man enough for this particular job, so I booked him into the veterinary clinic for professional grooming.

“A good trim,” quoth I, “To remove all the tangles and make him look tidier.”












Thank the gods it’ll grow again …

The Good, the Bad and the Snuggly

YAY! I finally have in my grubby little paw, as of last Thursday, a licencia de obras (building works licence).

It’s been a long time coming, so please forgive my excitement. And even at the last, the dragon in the Oficina Técnica made me run around the square and do fifty press-ups in each corner.

After signing in triplicate various statements and promises regarding public safety (hah!), site cleanliness (hah!), environmentally conscious disposal of all demolition waste (hah, again!), I was handed a precious form to take to the bank to pay the licence fees and a fianza (bond).

I made haste immediately to the bank and duly transferred loadsamoney into the account of the Ayuntamiento. I then returned to the Oficina Técnica to hand the dragon the receipted form in anticipation of the granting of the licence.

“Did you go to the Ayuntamiento?” she enquired.

“Er, no – why?”

“You need to go there first to show them this and to get a justificante (proof of payment) before I can issue the licence”.

“?” I said. “You are part of the Ayuntamiento and the bank tells me that you will know automatically that the transfer has been made”.

“Nonetheless”, she said, but didn’t expand upon it further. So I had to drive back to the Ayuntamiento (which is next door to my bank) and jostle for parking yet again, just to obtain a note from Sir to say that I had paid and could at last be permitted to receive the Holy Grail for which I have sweated for the best part of a year.

So now we can start officially on the transformation of the barns into luxury kennels. Which is good.

It is August. The temperatures have been touching 40º much of the time, and the sun has been beating down relentlessly from a cloudless azure sky. It was something of a pleasant relief yesterday, therefore, when rolling nebulosity brought in spatters of rain and some cooler, fresher currents: the plants and I all perked up considerably in direct response.

Today, however, has been another matter altogether.

It started with a misty plume hanging in the valley. At seven-thirty this morning it rendered the air almost cold, and I donned a cardigan to venture out with breakfast for the parrots. As I swept the flights, a watery sun broke through the haze and caressed the earth with warm fingers, imparting the promise of a bright and clear morning.

As the day wore on, the air became heavier and more ominous, and a portentous black billow swelled from the horizon, staining the sky like a bruise. Lightning flashes flared intermittently and thunder growled its choleric complaints. Suddenly, at around six o’clock, I was startled by the sound of bullets strafing the house, and was shocked to see hailstones like huge opaque marbles hurtling to the earth and rebounding to head height.

The ferocity of the bombardment was such that the ground was white within a matter of minutes. There was no time to protect, to save. Trees were being stripped of their foliage as I watched; ripe almonds and less mature olives were sheared rudely from their branches and dashed to the ground. The mass of hailstones, collecting on the canopies of the porch on the front terrace of the house, weighed heavily on the material, causing it to stretch and sag, and ultimately to part company with its support frame. The sails were left hanging forlornly as the culpable white balls slid in a great heap to the floor, knocking over the substantial outdoor hardwood chairs during their descent.

Swathes of debris from the camino above the house were swept down the driveway by the force of the hail-melt, leaving bands of  strewn stones and pine petioles. My car, exposed fully to the elements, suffered badly. Pocked and pitted by the icy precipitation, it now has an unbecoming hammered finish.

Dear friends Avril and Iain turned up at my gate within ten minutes of the assuaging of the storm, to lend extra hands and some gratefully received moral support. Between us we managed to drop the canopies without further damage, and to staple back the fly-screens that had been ripped bodily from the roof of the porch.

No-one could quite believe that we were witnessing such destructive climatic conditions in August, the height of summer. We mused that we should perhaps ready the nets in preparation for the rains of fish that we might next expect …

I spent some time last week soaking and deep-cleaning the parrot flights, the need for which effort has been completely negated by this weather. I did it in readiness for a couple of incoming parrots that are boarding with me while their owners Chris and Ken, friends from our previous place in Sucina (near the Mar Menor coast), holiday in Portugal.

The two boarders are a cute little cockatiel and an African grey. Oscar the cockatiel turned up uninvited one day on Chris’ doorstep and was named for Oscar Wilde. She has subsequently laid eggs. Mr Pedro, the grey, came to Chris as a pre-owned pet with a few issues, but who now adores both Chris and Ken and is (with them) a snuggly bird, giving kisses and cuddles on demand.

Not so with me, though, He hates the very ground upon which I walk and would tear out my throat given even a quarter of a chance. When I enter his flight, I do so with a strict choreographed dance routine to avoid having a faceful of parrot as he launches himself at me to claw out my eyes.

Pedro is an exceptional mimic, even for a grey. Ken spends a lot of time with him, teaching him phrases, songs, whistled tunes and so on. One of his favourite utterances is, “you’re lovely, are’n’cha?” However, such is his detestation for me that he can’t bring himself to say it in my presence. So he cuts it short, as a special gesture just for me – he glares at me, slits his eyes and says, loud and clear, “you’re lunch!”

Lucky me.

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