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The Crazy Guy

The Crazy Guy
I'm known amongst the Spanish where I live as "El Loco", largely because, despite my advanced age, I'm always active, doing this and that. So I'm "The Crazy Guy".
This blog is about some of the things I've been getting up to lately.

The Building History of a 72-year-old DIY Fan
Thursday, January 5, 2023

A 72 –year-old British man has just completed the total reforma of a village house in the tiny pueblo blanco of Montejaque (Málaga).

Known as The Crazy Guy, the former languages teacher, school inspector and translator, has been a resident of Montejaque and Ronda since 2008.

But his relationship with the northern part of the Serranía de Ronda began eight years earlier, in 2000, when the Devonian visited Ronda for the first time with his then wife, Jeryl.

 

Silver wedding tour

We came to Andalucía to celebrate our silver wedding  anniversary and over the course of a week did a circular tour which incorporated Ronda, Arcos de la Frontera, Jerez, Cádiz, Sevilla, Granada, Córdoba, Antequera and Málaga.

All beautiful places in their different ways, but the place we liked the most was Ronda, so we decided to buy ourselves a "bolt-hole" in the area.

 

Piso Blanco and Casa Blanca

After viewing umpteen properties over the following 18 months, we bought an apartment in the town in December 2001. We called it Piso Blanco, because it was (ie white) and reflected a part of our surname.

In 2003 we bought an abandoned house just 50 metres from Piso Blanco, which we christened Casa Blanca (of course!).

I had learned many DIY skills from my dad, and I had already carried out some major work on our house near Warrington (eg re-wiring, creating an en-suite bathroom, converting a garage into a music room/second lounge and even building a tree house for my two children).

With great enthusiasm I took on the task of converting this run-down house in Ronda into something liveable.

Over the course of two years, with the help of my family, Jeryl, Amy and Tom, and friends Alan and Johnny, we created the new, improved Casa Blanca in the Barrio San Francisco.

 

Life changes

A period of turbulence in my life – redundancy, nervous breakdown and divorce all in the same year, 2005, coincided with me renovating a second house in Ronda which belonged to my girlfriend of the time, Maude.

The house was located in the Las Peñas district near the town centre and was named El Rincón, because it was tucked into a corner.

When my relationship with Maude ended, I returned to the UK and went to live with my mum in Thelwall near Warrington.

 

Luxembourg

Out of the blue an old friend from university contacted me to ask for help over the summer of 2008. How could I refuse?

Jac, a Welsh lady, had studied the same languages as I had at the same university, namely Spanish and German, and we were in every class/lecture together. I had fancied her back then, but my pal Dan was quicker off the mark and indeed the couple married while we were all still undergraduates.

After graduation Jac and Dan moved to Luxembourg to work for the European Commission as translators. They soon had two children and their lives seemed settled. However, Dan was experiencing mental health problems, went off the rails, started taking hard drugs and had several affairs. Sadly, he ended up taking his own life.

Jac decided to stay on in Luxembourg, despite being a young widow with two small children. She left the Commission and developed a new career as a piano teacher.

Fast forward to 2008. Jac had just bought an old house for her daughter Miriam and husband and needed my help to get it into shape.

The deal was that Jac would pay for my flight and give me board and lodging in exchange for my labour. Sounded good to me!

With my mum’s blessing off I flew to Luxembourg for the summer. The renovation project was fun and I was surprised at how much I was able to contribute at the ripe old age of 58!

It turned out to be a great summer. Jac and I even had a short romance, but there was to be no future in it, sadly from my point of view, as 40 years on from our student days I still fancied the girl from the Welsh valleys.

Disappointed, I did not go back to the UK with my tail between my legs. Instead I flew to Spain to spend a long weekend in Ronda.

 

"Coup de foudre" in Ronda and Montejaque

Little did I know that I was destined to meet the lovely Rita …..

In the meantime, retired and single, I had decided it was time to stop living with my mum and should buy myself somewhere to live in the UK.

I sold Casa Blanca in Ronda and bought Tunstall Villa, a run-down Victorian villa in Latchford, Warrington. This “reform” was to be my project for the next couple of years. Three years later I sold it to buy a home for me and Rita in the Ronda area. We had married the year before, in 2010.

Back to the present, married to Rita for 12 years and a Spanish resident for 14, and after a significant gap in terms of DIY, I sold Piso Blanco and used some of the proceeds to buy an old house in Montejaque. I needed another building project.

From August 2020 until August 2021, with four months working time lost to Covid-19 lockdowns, I worked with friends Jorge, José, Stewart, Miriam Leti and Kiko on renovating the house which is now an exciting mix of traditional and modern.

I originally named the house Casa Real, in honour of the family that owned the house for three generations. Their surname is Real. However, that name doesn’t work for SEO purposes, because it also means “royal house”, so I’ve changed the name to Casa Montejaque.

In between times, I spent a week in Hastings in February 2022 helping my son Tom to renovate a large Victorian terraced-house he and wife Su had bought as a project (chip off the old block or what?!).

Amongst many two-person jobs we completed, we replaced the old lead plumbing with copper piping, and dry-lined several walls ready for plastering.

I’ll probably be going over again soon to install a new bathroom.

 

NoteCasa Montejaque is now available to rent as a vivienda rural. You can contact The Crazy Guy via the Comments section of Eye on Spain.

 

© The Crazy Guy

 

Tags: Antequera, Arcos de la Frontera, Cádiz, Córdoba, Covid-19, Crazy Guy, Casa Blanca, Casa Montejaque, Casa Real, DIY, El Rincon, Granada, Hastings, Jac, Jerez, Jeryl, Jorge, José, Kiko, Las Penas, Leti, London, Luxembourg, Málaga, Maude, Miriam, Montejaque, Piso Blanco, property developer, Ronda, Sevilla, Stewart, Su, Tom, Tunstall Villa, Victorian terraced-house

 



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​​​​​​​Wrong way round?
Monday, January 2, 2023

The Crazy Guy retired at 55, divorced at 56, emigrated to Spain at 58, got married again at 60, bought a house in the UK at 61, sold a flat in Ronda (Málaga) at 68, and became a property tycoon aged 70!

Is he a very late developer or what? And why has he been so busy in the last few years?

 

Am I a late developer? Not really, life just happened that way.  Nervous breakdown, marriage break-up and redundancy all in the same year, 2004, is a pretty hefty triple whammy in anyone’s book. So a lot of adjustments had to be made.

Why am I so busy? Because the Covid-19 pandemic made me take stock of my life (and death). Surrounded by the latter, random passings from the deadly Coronavirus, a family death in a plane crash in Australia, the near death of my wife in 2021 at the hands of “el bicho”, as the Spanish somewhat dismissively call the Covid-19 virus, and my own long-Covid issues, I decided I needed to make the most of whatever time I’ve got left.

So, at the moment, yes, I am very busy. I continue to write for EyeOnSpain and other websites. I am still helping to bring my wife back to full strength, whilst coping with my own health issues. I’ve been doing up a house, created an allotment and I landed myself a job at the age of 71, although that didn’t last very long.

 

The Crazy guy

The young folk of Montejaque, the pueblo blanco where I live, near Ronda, don’t get it. Why is a retired bloke working all the hours God sends, including Sundays? Is he crazy or what? All they’re looking forward to is the day they retire ….. and they’re only in their 20s! They’ll have a long wait, I’m afraid.

I say to them, that if they ever get to retire (the retirement age keeps going up – so some of them will surely die before they reach it!) they’ll need to be active too, in order to avoid the crushing boredom of retirement with nothing to do. They think I’m crazy, sure, but I’m older and wiser – they’ll learn!

 

Prioritising

So, I thought I’d cut back on the writing, but that hasn’t happened. I find it therapeutic.

My lovely wife (the “Lovely Rita” – Beatles?) is getting better by the day, and I’m learning to live with my breathing issues. Covid got to my lungs and it won’t let go, so I just take longer to walk anywhere. We’d planned to do the Caminito del Rey in 2022, but I’ve had to pass on that.

Casa Montejaque has come along nicely and phases 1 and 2 of the renovation are complete and phase 3 is drawing to a conclusion. If it hadn’t been for the four months working time lost because of the two local Covid-19 lockdowns, and recent heavy rain, it would be ready. It goes back on the holiday rental market at the end of January 2023, when I hope to start picking up bookings for Spring and Summer.

 

Travelling

Since Covid we’ve been travelling more. Frigiliana, Extremadura, Madrid, Toledo, Germany, Cornwall, Germany again, Nerja, Malaga, Sevilla, London, Jerez de la Frontera, Germany yet again.

In 2023, we’ve got Hastings (England), France, Cordoba and Granada in our sights. Possibly Budapest.

 

Conclusion

So, yes, in many ways, I have kind of got my life the wrong way round.

Am I a late developer? Maybe.

Am I Busy? Yes, I am.

Am I crazy? Definitely!

 

© The Crazy Guy

 

Tags: bicho, Budapest, Cornwall, Cordoba, Coronavirus, Covid-19, Crazy Guy, Casa Blanca, Casa Montejaque, Casa Real, DIY, El Rincon, Extremadura, France, Frigiliana, Germany, Granada, Hastings, Jac, Jerez de la Frontera, Jeryl, London, Luxembourg, Madrid, Malaga, Maude, Montejaque, Nerja, Piso Blanco, property developer, Ronda, Sevilla, Toledo



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Montejaque Metamorphosis
Thursday, December 29, 2022

When The Crazy Guy bought an old Spanish house to do up in Montejaque (Málaga) in October 2020 he had a clear overall vision of what he wanted to create.

His aim was to turn the 19th Century village house into a vivienda rural, a holiday rental, as quickly and cheaply as possible.

That idea didn’t last long. He got to love the place so much he decided to up the spec and create "something special", a second home, rather than a basic, run-of-the-mill holiday let.

 

The vision

I quickly settled on a set of basic principles:

  • Retain as much of the original fabric and decor as possible, eg original wall and floor tiles
  • Use recycled, found objects and second-hand items as much as possible
  • Turn it into an eco-house and make it as environmentally friendly as possible
  • Do much of the work myself, in order to save money and because I enjoy DIY.

Rather than try to complete the whole project in one go, I decided on four distinct phases:

 

Phase 1

To get the house on the rental market as quickly as I could

  • Complete electrical re-wire
  • Complete re-plumb, ie remove original lead piping and replace with copper
  • Remove two internal walls on the ground floor in order to create an L-shaped lounge, dining room and kitchen
  • Install two new bathrooms, one on each floor
  • Modernise the dated kitchen
  • Refurbish two bedrooms on the first floor
  • Fit banisters to stairs
  • Install TV and Internet
  • Decorate throughout

This went more or less to plan, yet took a year - much longer than I had planned.

Major hold-ups were caused by two Covid lockdowns, totalling four months, when we couldn’t work; and the need to demolish the kitchen ceiling/bathroom floor, as the wooden beams had rotted and it was unsafe.

Undeterred, we pressed on and the Casa Montejaque was ready to receive its first guests in October 2021. They were friends of ours, Hovis, Jacqui and Richard, and they agreed to "snag" the house, which was very helpful. They were very positive about their stay, yet made some constructive, and valid, suggestions.

My next guests, a German family of six, stayed for nearly two months in February/March of 2022. Dad Ollie, a time-served joiner, and I made a deal. He would do carpentry work on the house in lieu of rent. A win-win for all of us.

Meanwhile, Mum Lily was still breast-feeding the youngest child, Cailan, yet found time to join in the free Spanish classes in the village, while the three older girls, Leyla, Amy and Alice enrolled at the primary school.

After that amazing barter arrangement, phase 1 was finally finished and Casa Montejaque had a steady stream of guests throughout 2022, from Alicante, Sevilla, Ubrique, Denmark and the UK.

 

Phase 2

Extension of the roof terrace

Apart from providing more outside space, it would solve a leak problem above the main stairs.

Four of us worked on the construction for a month, and I spent another month completing the waterproofing, tiling and painting. Phase 2 is now complete, apart from a bit of tidying up, and the terrace is now three times as big as before. Job done!

 

Phase 3

Conversion of a former workshop and store into a third bedroom

This has been a major task. The existing roof was of corrugated iron sheets with clay tiles laid on top. So the room was hot in summer and cold in winter.

A friend helped me to install wooden beams with polystyrene insulation in between, which I subsequently finished off with bamboo. I must say it looks very traditional and rather nice.

The uneven wooden floorboards had to recovered and levelled, some extra power sockets installed and the whole room decorated.

 

Eco-house

In order to make CASA MONTEJAQUE as environmentally friendly as possible, I did the following:

  • Used re-cycled items
  • Up-cycled furniture
  • Bought many items second hand
  • Installed new double-glazed windows and front door
  • Purchased new electrodomésticos, ie hob, oven, washing machine, iron, and vacuum cleaner, with low energy ratings
  • Installed a new gas caldera for the hot water
  • Installed a state-of-the-art pellet burner for heating
  • Fitted solar lighting in external areas

 

Phase 4

Next on the list are photo-voltaic solar panels to provide all our electricity needs

This is pending until we’ve saved enough to pay for the work.

 

Digital nomads

The finished bedroom, to be called The Workshop, has two single beds, a built-in wardrobe, bookshelves and, la pièce de résistance, an office area to allow for remote working by renters and guests (digital nomads).

***

With just a few bits and pieces to finish off, CASA MONTEJAQUE will be ready to go as a "sleeps 7" by the end of January 2023.

You can view the results of my endeavours on my website. Please click on Interesting Links (right).

Should you wish to book, please do so directly via that link. It works out cheaper for you and for me.

 

Note:

Originally I christened the house CASA REAL in honour of the three generations of the family who were the previous, and only, owners of the house. Their surname is/was REAL.

However, I have been advised by experts that the name doesn’t work as regards SEO (search engine optimisation), so for marketing purposes I’ve changed the name to CASA MONTEJAQUE, which "does what it says on the tin".

 

© The Crazy Guy

 

Further reading:

Casa Real: A building project in Montejaque - Part I

Casa Real: A building project in Montejaque – Part II

Casa Real: A building project in Montejaque – Part III

Ollie and Lily

The houses that Jack built!

 

Tags: bathroom, building project, Casa Montejaque, Casa Real, DIY, eco-house, found, holiday rental, kitchen, Montejaque, photo-voltaic, recycling, re-plumb, re-wire, roof terrace, second-hand, secretserrania.com, SEO, solar panels, village house, vivienda rural



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