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Arguing about all sorts: the third year of our Spanish adventure

This account of our life in Spain is loosely based on true events although names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals. I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories and from my diaries of the time. I may have also changed identifying characteristics and details of individuals such as appearance, nationality or occupations and characters are often an amalgam of different people that I met.

A Spanish wide-boy tries to rip us off
03 May 2014 @ 14:40

While all the nonsense with our British 'builders' was transpiring, another situation had developed and reached its denouement with a local old Fascist. 'Ricardo' was a wrinkly, scrawny, scruffy, little wide-boy who unfortunately we engaged because the dumper-man we knew was busy doing up the house of a local Dutchman and wasn't going to be available for months. Of course, no bugger warned us about Ricardo (instead, after we had a big falling-out with him, people said, 'Oh yes, he's no good. He always does that kind of thing,' even if they were the ones who'd recommended him. This is the Spanish way). 
Anyway, over a period of three weeks in November we had got him and his little dumper truck to take away rubble from the demolished part of the old house and also to bring down bricks and cement, because the street was inaccessible to lorries. In fact the whole transportation thing added greatly to the cost of the works. It was only with hindsight that we worked out that old Ricardo had engineered some of the complications in order to get more work for himself an get kickbacks from others.
Over the three weeks, he would do the odd job - maybe take two loads of rubbish away on a Monday, bring three loads of bricks down on a Wednesday - each trip might take twenty minutes. But he would hang around for hours, like he had all the time in the world, watching the men work and chatting to them.
I just assumed he didn't have much work on.
Pepe, our first choice whom we'd used before, charged six euros per load, so Ricardo wasn't going to get a lot for the work he did for us, but he seemed unperturbed and in no rush to be paid. Apparently he dabbled in various enterprises including mule-trading (mule-traders had a similar reputation to our second-hand car dealers) and didn't seem short of money, several times offering to buy me a beer if he saw me passing the bar. 
Each Friday (pay day), we'd draw a few thousand euros out of the bank and settle up with the workers. Ricardo would invariably be there as I handed out the notes.
'Ricardo, cuanto te debo?' I'd ask. I preferred to pay bills straight away so that I could write up the payments in my 'Lord of the Rings' notepad and know I was up-to-date.
'No, no hay prisa, there's no hurry,' he'd say and wave away any idea of payment. Since I couldn't force him I just assumed he'd bill us for the few euros whenever. 
One rainy day, he offered to take me to a nearby village where there was a stone quarry. Benjamin and the Romanians together with an alcoholic man, by the name of Fernando (he would drink about five litres of his home-brew wine out of a little leather bottle every single day - pouring it from above his head, not touching the spout with his mouth) had spent a couple of weeks rebuilding and improving a 40 metre by 4 metre retaining stone wall, with steel reinforcement. This was to prevent the house and pool we had planned for the garden from slipping onto our neigbour. After a week or so they started to run out of stone, having recycled what had been there before; we would now need some lorryloads of extra stone in a similar size and colour (although it was the neighbour below who would get the aesthetic benefit; we couldn't see it as it was below the house and garden).
The day after going on the stone trip I had been speaking to Ricardo's cousin, whom I knew fairly well and I mentioned how Ricardo was in no rush to be paid.
'Pues, eso puede ser un problema,' he warned. 'You need to insist he gives you a bill now. I don't like the sound of it. He's dodgy and might try and overcharge you.'
Crikey, if his own cousin said that, I had to take action. I decided to write down all the deliveries I could remember that he had done and also to make a note of days when he had done nothing. For instance, the day we went to the quarry it had been raining and no work had been done at the house and no deliveries had been made and he'd presented taking me to the quarry as a little (presumably unpaid) excursion. 
Adrian was working in the UK when a few days later I insisted yet again that I wanted the bill. I was so adamant, as I flagged him down in his van outside the bar, that he reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a little invoice, casually, as though it had been there all the time. I scanned it quickly - it was a list of various dates and the number of deliveries. The total came to a thousand euros.
'Que es eso?' I asked. 
'La cuenta,' he replied.
'Uh, there is no way this is the right bill,' I said.
'Yes, it is,' he answered.
'No, es ridiculo,' I continued.
'Look. This is the bill and you'd better pay it.'
'I'm not paying it,' I said. 'I can't believe you're trying to charge us a thousand euros for a few deliveries. There's no way on earth it could come to this.'
'You had better pay it,' he said, 'if you don't, we will never drink together again.'
'Good. I wouldn't want to drink with you!' I nearly shouted, and I threw the bill back at him, as several locals at the bar stared.
'That's the end of their little cosy beers together,' I could imagine them saying.

To see the end result of all the work on the casa, take a look at the house now: 

http://www.homeaway.co.uk/p86636

And also another of our completed projects:

http://www.homeaway.co.uk/p475271

 



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