Wednesday, 12 December 2012


Eve was English. If there was anyone who could overcome setbacks, rise above unpleasantness, ignore what she didn’t want to know and keep a stiff upper lip, it was her.  After I quite unnecessarily and stupidly told her that I had had an affair and she walked out of the house into the Frigiliana street, I watched her from an upstairs window, pause before straightening up, throw her cigarette away, stamp on it and walk off with a determination that suggested she had made a decision about the situation. Wether that decision was favourable for me or disastrous I, of course, had no idea.
 So I waited. I sat down on the edge of the bed and tried to imagine what she was thinking, what she was going through and managed to convince myself that what I had just told her, what I had just confessed, had been a shock but not that upsetting. It could, in fact, be a relief, a release for her from having to pretend that all was well between us when, for some months now it had not been.  On the other hand this was perhaps just wishful thinking on my part and the emptiness in the pit of my stomach made itself known again. Then I heard, with great relief, the boy's voices and laughter. I leapt to my feet, looked out of the window. They were coming home for lunch with Eve, all holding hands.
 So we sat down round the table on the terrace and had a happy meal as though nothing at all had happened and, once they had gone off to play again, Eve went to have a siesta which had become routine, leaving me to clear the plates and wash up.
 She never asked another question. My infidelity was never mentioned again. It was not forgotten, certainly not forgiven but, apart from several nights when it seemed to me that she deliberately turned her back on me in bed, the unsettling episode passed.

 We now started to look for a property to buy in earnest. We wanted an old village house which could be converted into something exceptional.
 After two days of asking around, an elderly man stopped us in the main square and said he had a ruin for sale which we might like to have a look at. We followed him up a cobbled alley to a large building behind the 16th century church. He pushed open a massive double door that was falling off its hinges and bid us enter.
 It wasn’t so much a ruin as a disaster area, and vast. The mud, boulder and stone walls were nearly a metre thick, the roof had collapsed, he suggested it might be wiser not to go up the stairs as the wood was rotten and the upper floors were dodgy, then he led us to a huge patio and up some steps to six large cement vats. With a smattering of Spanish, signs and waving of the hands, we gathered that we were in the pueblo’s ancient Moorish soap factory.
 We moved through an archway to what might have been termed a garden if there had been a bit of greenery and less dust, beyond this was a half acre rubbish tip.
 The old man looked at us and shrugged in way of asking if we were interested.
 I asked how much.
 'Wan tousand fife hondrid powns esstairlinge,' he said in badly rehearsed English.
  'For the house ?' I said.
  'For todo. La casa, el jardin, el campo. Todo.' The house, the garden the rubbish tip, everything, or so we understood. One thousand, five hundred pounds sterling.
 Eve and I managed not to exchange excited glances. If we’d understood correctly it was an incredible bargain.
 I made a face, I shrugged and told him we would let him know mañana.
 Twenty four hours of ceaseless discussion and endless calculations followed.
 The next day we went back to the ruin to take measurements. Once the vats were removed there was a surprisingly large area to play with and if the rubbish tip was cleared there would be room for a swimming pool and various terraces.
 We got down to drawing plans. The living room and an open plan kitchen would give onto a central patio. A master bedroom with en suite bathroom upstairs, a room each for the boys, a guest room, another bathroom. It was all possible.
 We made an offer, it was instantly accepted and word went round the village that we were completely off our heads.
 The next day, the old man introduced me to the best builder in Andalusia ( Manolo, his nephew ) and I took him straight to the ruin and showed him our plans on site.
 He looked around, sighed, shrugged his shoulders, lit a cigarette, puffed out a cloud of smoke and was kind enough to convey nothing derogatory when a slight prod of his finger caused a whole wall to collapse.
 There would be difficulties in getting the material up the narrow cobbled street, there was also no water nor electricity, but if I was ready to pay a little more up front his brother in law, the village plumber and electrician, would get these connected quickly. With five other cousins, an uncle and someone else’s father, he’d get what we wanted done. It would take six months. His estimated cost was incredibly low.
 We shook hands, There was no point in signing a contract, he didn’t value pieces of paper but he would start work as soon as I had got the deeds of the property and a permit to rebuild had been granted by the Ayuntamiento - the local Town Hall.
  It took six weeks, several trips to Malaga, countless photocopies of our birth certificates, passports and bank accounts before we had all the necessary documents in hand enabling Manolo and his seven men to start work half way through May.
 The Andalusians have the reputation of being slow, indolent workers. This is not so. Anyone making a study of their character will soon realize that they do not care a fig about success but that they will work very hard for is enough money not to work at all. 
 Five months and three days after they had started pulling down and rebuilding, our Spanish house was ready for us to move in. We arranged for our stored furniture in Somerset to be shipped over, bought  everything else that was more suitable for a house in the sun than for one in the rain and, once installed, turned our attention to planting the garden and building the longed for swimming pool.

1. The living room before renovation
2. The living room after

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