Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Eat my dust

When I came home that May afternoon back in May 2008 a bit of the roof had fallen in. The immediate cause was a combination of heavy rain and the heavy boots of Iberdrola workmen walking on our roof. The underlying, and uninsured, cause was rotten cedar wood beams. The roof couldn't be patched and, at one point, the house was no more than four scarred and unsteady walls with the floor piled high with debris.

When we first moved in to the Culebrón house back in 2005 we had some serious work done. The sort that knocks down walls, digs trenches in the floor and leaves bundles of electrical cables sprouting flower like from the gouged walls. 

On the other side of an interior patio we have a bedroom separate from the main part of the house. Two or three years ago we had the roof on that replaced and we had a serious remodelling of the interior space done at the same time.

Paying for work and living in dust seems to have been one of the hallmarks of our time in Culebrón.

I've complained repeatedly and vigorously about the horrible Spanish winters in Alicante. It's been warmer this winter but it is still chilly. Fortunately we are currently well enough off to turn on heating whenever we want it. It's not sophisticated heating. Our power supply is so pathetic that we can't really heat with electric. Instead we use gas heaters. They use butane cylinders which are a pain to haul around and relatively expensive. The heaters can smell of gas, they produce a lot of water and Maggie is a bit scared of them. Oh, and she can't carry the bottles easily or fit them to the valves. When I am no longer able to lift and cart the bottles she could get very cold.

So Maggie decided that she wanted a pellet burner. It's a modern type of burner or stove that burns pellets which seem to be reconstituted wood fragments. I presumee the pellets are produced from trees grown specifically for the purpose. The heaters were probably designed to run central heating systems but they can be used independently too. I was against the pellet burner for a number of reasons, and I still am,  but Maggie went ahead and bought one anyway. Let's just hope that I'm proved wrong and it's a resounding success.

Maggie rang the builder we've used the last couple of times to ask if he could fit the stove before she bought it. He came to have a look and gave us some advice about the type of burner to buy. We also gave him a list of other little jobs that we wanted him to do whilst he was here. It ws a longish list but none of the jobs were particularly big. Cut a bigger space in the paving for the palm tree here, replaster that bit of wall there, reposition this bit of guttering etc.

It took the builder a while to get to us. Meanwhile we have had an 88kg pellet burner parked in our kitchen for the last fortnight. He and his brother finally started work a couple of days ago. All the jobs have got bigger. The stove needs power so the wall had to be channeled so why not have a couple of extra sockets in the kitchen at the same time? Whilst the chimney for the old burner was being removed they noticed holes in our last remaining original roof. The colour of monocapa, something a bit like pebbledash, is no longer available so the cracks in it can't be patched which means the whole wall needs skimming. And so it goes on.

The builder is a very mild mannered man and our experince with him has been very positive. Sometimes he comments directly on the shoddy or botched work he is repairing or replacing and sometime you can just see what he thinks. I saw him sadly shaking his head as he stared at the guttering that we'd asked him to sort. The gutter has never collected water because there is too much space between roof tiles and channelling so the rainwater splashes onto the floor or onto the head of anyone using the door beneath it.

I sometimes wonder if this house ownership malarkey is all it's cracked up to be. I lost money on the first house I ever owned. This one is presumably worth a lot less than when we bought it and the spending on it over the years would be enough to buy a house outright at the moment. Alternatively the money spent on repairs would have paid a €400 a month rent for twelve or thirteen years. Taking into account that we have rented an additional flat for around seven years of the time that we have been here anyway this house must be one of the worst decisions I've ever been involved in even though it's a nice enough place.

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