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Now living in l'Olleria, south of Valencia

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Hedge Your Bets

When we first saw the house, and last year, when we visited, the bottom of the garden was screened from the laboratory by a lot of nice plants. However, the plants were on the laboratory side, and, on our return this year, they have all been cut down. We now have the dubious sight of a shabby building as we sit on the terrace. After some thought, and investigation, we decided to put in a cypress hedge.

Another trip to the garden centre required. We found the plants, but there were no prices on them. We also bought some oleanders and a few other bedding plants. We found the lady, and the trees were just 0.95 each. It took a bit of doing, but we managed to explain to her, that we wanted 90 of them! She thought we only wanted to pay 90 cents! They are only about 3 ft tall, so we also got 5 taller ones, to make a pleasant break to the row.

We got them all in, including the 5 taller ones, but Ed simply made the holes the correct distance apart. When we ran out of trees, we went back to the garden centre and got 10 more!

106 Trees, all growing nicely

La Cassitta (The little House)

Well, at last, the time has come to remove the Wendy House. The two handymen are here, Paul (the neighbour) has a visitor, so there are 5 fit guys available! Ha.

Paul is happy to come over, but he thinks it is going to rain. Sure enough, as he arrives, it is pouring down. No problem, it will only take a little while to shift it. Ed gets everything in position using the machine, and many hands make light work – don’t they?

Well, actually, no. The house was really heavy, and it took a lot of effort to get it on to the truck. It was only going next door, but it turned out to be a mammoth task! In the meantime, the rain kept falling. And boy, does it know how to rain in Spain!!

The boys took it to Ursula, but then had to unload it again. It was absolutely tipping it down, but they finally managed. Then they had to get home again. Getting out of Ursula’s house is very difficult. The last time she asked anyone for tea, he had to check his diary first, to see when he had 2 day free in his diary!

Finally, they got back. Ed drove round to the back of the house, to let everyone out, but promptly bogged the truck down in the soft clay-like soil. Stuck.

The 2 gardeners left. They had left their car window open, so they had soggy seats for the drive home. (I did try to shut them, but the car had electric windows – all I could do to help, was put plastic sheets over the doors!)

Paul and his visitor tried to get the truck out. I don’t think the visitor’s red leather pumps appreciated the sticky soil! In the end, they gave up, and, the following day, Ed used the machine to get it out. It took about 5 minutes, even though he’d forgotten to release the handbrake! Right man – right tools – job gets done right!!

Boxes boxes Boxes

I still haven’t unpacked everything. Ed says it will be at least 4 years before it’s done. However, in reality, there are only about 8 boxes left, and most of those are labelled ‘Office’ so they contain the last few year’s of Ed’s business files, so I don’t need to unpack them. There must be some in the garage, because a few things seem to be missing, and I know we didn’t leave anything behind!

Yesterday, I had a huge unpacking day. I went and bought some shelves, and had a good tidy up. This morning, it dawned on me, that I didn’t have my fluffy bathrobe and some towels were missing. Do doubt they will appear in the box marked ‘living room ornaments’, having been used as padding! When I unpacked a box marked Spare Bedding, it also contained a large glass vase, so I’m sure that’s what I’ve done.

The kitchen is a mess, but as we are going to relocate it, I have no intention of doing anything more than keep it clean. The bedrooms are ok, and the bathroom functional, so maybe now we can have that month off that we promised ourselves!!

The Garden Centre

Wish we’d never found it! We spent about 1 hours bumbling round the other day. I had a fantastic book with me, that my brother had given me, so I could establish what everything was, and where it could go. We finally came away with… 1 lemon tree, 1 orange tree (Ed’s choices), 2 red hibiscus, 3 large lavenders, 3 big aloe vera’s, 4 rock roses and a big bag of compost! It only came to £60. We came home, and figures out what was going where, then went back in the afternoon, to buy; 2 big pots for the trees, a geranium and a bird of paradise plant. (She let us have the geranium free – she knows we’ll be back!!)

The Locals

We’ve met some of the neighbours now. On the first night, I introduced us to the lady down the hill, but on day one, my Spanish was very limited! I’m not even certain that she understood that this was now our permanent home. The lady at the other end of the garden however, had the benefit of a week of listening to Spanish, so I was able to introduce us, explain that we now lived here permanently, and had children in the UK. I must admit that a lot of that was her leading, and me following about 2 sentences behind, with ‘yes’ and ‘no’ where it fitted!

Several of the locals have made themselves at home, but some are certainly more scary than others!

The Back Garden

This, on the other hand, has already undergone a massive transformation. Ed has got happily carried away with the digger, and made some huge changes.

Ed has taken out some small trees that had self-set, and levelled out the ground. There were rocks, and old tree stumps, as well as rubble, and he had removed all of these from the top level. We want to put a lot of hard standing up here, to extend the pool area, and build in a BBQ / bar area. The blue pots have a lemon and orange tree – but more about that later!! The mid level has had a huge eucalyptus tree taken out, and then been levelled out. The tree root was huge, and took most of a day to unearth, but he’s done it!

We still have the little wendy house to get rid of, but that will need 4 beefy men to move, and the prospective owner to be at home to receive it. It will be going to a neighbour who only speaks Spanish, so will take a few phone calls to organise. (I can’t wait to get rid of it – then I can finally get my hammock up!)

Take the Plunge

The pool has a few inches of water in, which Ed cleaned out and then pressure washed the whole thing.

We have filled it again, but really, it needs a complete overhaul. We need to install a filter and pump and some lights, as well as re-tile the whole thing. We’ve got an acceptable price for the whole job, but we need to remove the old tiles first, so that is a job for October / November. (The current tiles are not pool tiles, and have started to splinter, so are quite unsafe really.)

I’ve swept around the pool area, but we can’t do anything more, until the pipes and electrics are in place.

The Great Clear Up

Well, the house has been empty for 3 years, so there’s a lot to be done. First of all, we need to remove about 5 years worth of pine needles from the front. They are a huge fire hazard, so this is a priority. It turns out, that there are a couple of helpful chaps, who will do the job, for a reasonable day rate. Needless to say, the Spanish speed of work is somewhat slower than hours, but then again, that’s exactly why we’ve moved here – to slow down a little.

We’ve had a huge laugh with the needles and debris. We found out where the local tip was, so went there on the Tuesday with lots of stuff the previous owners had left behind. (Old washing machine, cooker, children’s broken toys etc.) The lady was really nice, and showed us which items should go into which skips.

What a revelation. There are 5 or 6 huge skips in a semi circle, with a ramp to drive up, recesses to reverse or drive into, so you can drop your stuff into the skips really easily, then you just drive back down the ram, and leave. They take everything, ‘fridges, tyres – you name it – they have skip for it, or so we thought…

On Friday, we took a huge load of cut branches to the tip (Ecoparc). There was a man on duty. He took one look at Ed’s double cab, tipper truck and shook his head. We ignored him, and drove up the ramp, and stopped at the garden skip, and he shook his finger at us. No way! I shrugged and asked where, and he just wagged his finger at us again. Ooops. We left, with our load still on board.

The next day (Saturday), someone showed us where the unmanned tip was, in a nearby village. Off we went, but it was shut. No problem, there’s another one in the next town. Shut. So back home again, with the rubbish still on board. Monday, 10 am, off to the tip again, shut! This time, there was a policeman on guard. Mañana he said, ald told us that it shut at 1pm. Home again, with the same load of rubbish! The locals must think that we’ve chopped down a whole forest, we’ve carried that much around!

Tuesday – at last, the unmanned tip is open, and we can get rid of the branches! Not only that, the skips are the right height for Ed to use the tipper action, so the rubbish goes straight in. I was sad to see it go – we’ve travelled so far together.

Hooray, empty truck at last, time to load up with pine needles. Trek down to the usual Ecoparc… no way. This time, it was because the load was too combustious. They were not willing to take it. As previously, no alternatives were given. On Wednesday, we had a plan. Peter, the groundsman went with Ed to all of the local tips, and managed to get rid of one load – although with some persuasion. He reckoned that one day to one tip, and another day to an alternative one might work. Then, later on, he had a brainwave – get the local skip man to drop off a skip. This seemed like an obvious idea, but apparently his is so busy, he never arrives when he says he will. Ah well, desperate needs call for desperate measures… Shock, horror, the skip arrived on Thursday morning

The front garden is now well on the way to looking tidy…

The Adventure Begins

The usual chaos for everyone involved – as always. I don’t think it’s possible to move house, without something going wrong. In reality, I think we did very well. Jamie turned up early to help, I had a few things to finish packing, but the removal men didn’t arrive until much later than expected. As there were 3 of them, and 3 of us, it didn’t take too long to load up the wagon. However, they packed up everything, including a load of things we were leaving behind, the tarpaulin that Ed wanted to cover up the back of the truck, and even Ed’s rucksack that he wanted on the ferry! Thank fully, they didn’t pack the clothes he wanted for the trip, and he was able to find a carrier bag to put them in.

I dropped the keys off at the estate agents, even though we hadn’t even exchanged, let alone completed, on the house sale. Then I went back to the house, to pick up something Ed had left on the drive, only to find that Ed had gone back too, for a different route out, to escape driving up a steep hill with traffic lights at the top. So after 30 minutes, we were both back where we’d started! Still, the journey to Portsmouth was fine. We were at the terminal for ages before we finally loaded up. Ed and Jamie getting on board about an hour before me, even though I booked in about an hour before them!

The crossing was superb. We were really lucky with the weather. Very calm, even in the open water. We saw lots of dolphins. The first school was very large, and very spread out. I think there were over 150 of them. They came right to the boat, jumping and playing, and swam right under. We could see them really clearly, which was truly wonderful. Even the First Officer seemed impressed, as he made a comment on the tannoy, after they had finally passed by.

We arrived safely on Friday morning, departing from the ferry on schedule, 8 am Spanish time. However, we both then boobed!! Jamie had set Ed’s sat nav to avoid toll roads, so he was directed out through tiny roads, into villages and up steep hills. I accidentally missed a split in the motorway, and ended up in the middle of Bilbao – at rush hour! Still, we both sorted ourselves out, and the rest of the way was quite uneventful, apart from the sat nav’s thinking we’d gone off road, when we were actually on brand new stretches of autovia. (Mine once told me to turn right after 18 meters, when I was actually about 100 meters up, on a new viaduct. I ignored it.) Thankfully, on Friday afternoon, the solicitor called, to confirm that everything had now gone through with the house, we could now move out!

We got to the villa ok, and unloaded the cars, but had to wait for the removal van. Disaster. There was no way that he could get the huge van down the little lane, even from the bottom end. We ended up with him parked on the pub car park, Ed driving up to him with the truck, the 3 of them loading the truck, then Jamie and Ed unloading it again at the house. I then shifted everything into the right rooms, where I could. We finally finished it all at 2am!!

Needless to say, the next few days were spent, trying to sort everything out. Boxes for the garage were in the house, and boxes for the house in the garage! I couldn’t shift them all myself on the night, and if they had mostly garage stuff on one load, that’s where everything ended up! Jamie had soon had enough, so we took him back to Valencia airport, where we were able to get him an earlier flight back.