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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.

Getting plastered.
26 July 2014 @ 18:10

Benjamín had recommended his cousin's son, Iván, for the plastering, saying that he was a brilliant plasterer and would do a really professional job. 
'Si, it's his normal job in the week, so he can do it for you un fin de semana.'
All rooms except for the kitchen and two bathrooms were to be plastered over the allotted weekend, and Iván would be helped by a few other men. So one Friday in April we vacated the house and went off to a lovely hotel called La Puerta de La Luna, in Baeza. It was in a beautiful medieval building, every bit as good as a parador, but we weren't bothering with paradores ever since they'd been so mean-spirited when my father died and didn't allow us to take our two nights we were owed over into January. We had a chat with the owner, a wealthy businessman from Madrid, and it felt nice to speak to that kind of Spaniard and have an intellectual discussion (he slagged off the andaluzes, which amused me: 'They think they're so abierta! Well, they're not. They're muy cerrada!'). It was lovely to sleep in a luxurious hotel, soak in the bath and just be away from our life on a building site. 
We returned to La Gloria around 8pm on the Sunday, feeling all refreshed.  But as we went in through the garden gate I could sense something was amiss. Adrian put the key in the lock in the darkness and then fumbled around for the light switch inside, only to find that the electric wasn't working, so we couldn’t see a thing. Also, the floor felt funny, very uneven, which was strange because we had all newly-laid terracotta tiles. Adrian managed to locate the electricity fuse box in the darkness and the lights came on. We couldn’t believe our eyes. The floors were completely covered in rubble. I started to question my sanity. Hadn't we had all the tiles laid here in the passage? And in the living room, which I was looking at as it was also covered in rubble?
We walked through the entire house, aghast to see that the tiles had completely disappeared under several inches of plastering rubble.
While we absorbed the awfulness of the situation, we decided to make a cup of tea, but we couldn't get any water out of the taps. It took a while to realise it had been switched off at the mains. Well, why should it have been? It didn't make any sense. And why couldn't the inconsiderate so-and-sos have switched it on again?
'I am absolutely furious,' Adrian was ranting. And I wanted to cry. We had to pick our way through the house and calm down enough to put the kids to bed and have a few glasses of wine to help us sleep.
The following morning, Iván came knocking on the door for payment.
'Do you like the walls?' he asked. 'They're very smooth, arent't they?
'Yes, but what about the floors?' I said.
'Que? What about the floors?
'They're ruined and they were new tiles.'
'Oh, that will take no time at all,' he reassured us, 'just a bit of quitacementos and they'll be muy bien.'
We didn’t want to fall out with them, as they were family of Benji, whom we considered (maybe stupidly) to be a friend as well as our builder; and we just didn't have the strength to put up a fight and tell them: 'Well, if it's easy to clean up the mess, you do it!' (I would have no problem saying that these days; but that was another time...)
We paid up and spent weeks trying to clear it up, firstly filling bags with all the loose rubble and then scrubbing as hard as we could and using a knife to get the worst bits off. Even then, we could not get all the stains off and paid one of the Romanian labourer's wives to do a few days scrubbing the cement off, but at 50 euros a day, we couldn't even see what she'd done by the end and instead spent time for years afterwards occasionally attacking some of the marks with quitacementos to finally clean up their damage.
Thinking about it some time later, I thought the only explanation must be that they’d thought our newly-laid terracotta tiles were old tiles that were going to be removed as the Spaniards never did their houses in the rustic style, using clinical marble and lino instead. It reminded me of a friend from my old street, when I showed her our new reclaimed wood kitchen in our Edwardian house (we’d all grown up in a street of council houses, where she still lived). 
‘Yes, it’s okay, but it’s a pity about the old sink,’ she said, referring to our newly-installed Belfast sink. The plasterers must have been stupid though to think they were old tiles, considering most of the house was a new-build, attached to a restored shed, that certainly had never had any tiled floors; just a load of dust. But then some people are thick.

To see our current properties for rent take a look at. There is still one week available in the second property during the summer holidays (10th to 18th August): 

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

And also another of our completed projects:

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

 

 



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2 Comments


maddiemack said:
27 July 2014 @ 11:37

It could just be the way they work, Eggie. When we were sales agents for a Spanish Building Company we were amazed to see that the entire building team left an incredible mess in every property they built. As each house and apartment was completed, a team of cleaners went in and thoroughly cleaned off every bit of cement and plaster...leaving each place spotlessly clean. This allowed the building team to put up the properties very quickly and, of course, the extra expense of the cleaning team was passed on to the purchasers!


eggcup said:
28 July 2014 @ 14:00

Yes, Maddie. Spanish builders are less likely to clean up after themselves than British. But this was a really ludicrous scenario - to completely cover the newly-laid tiles throughout the house in rubble. Often, 'builders' in Spain, whether they are Spanish or British, are not trained at all. In the UK, on the other hand, we have some great trusted builders we often use, and in addition to knowing what they're doing, they're meticulous about causing no collateral damage and it's rare to get a problem. In Spain, we did a lot of building work and there was some kind of hassle every time. You have to be very robust to handle a building project there. All the best. Eggie.


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