23. Getting to grips with it all
David Cramp | On 15, Oct 2012
Starting work on a virtual rebuild of a very old farm house is actually a major thing to do in life especially when you don’t have the cash to pay someone else like a builder to help. Any spare cash was needed to invest in bees and equipment and of course to live so it was evident that yet again we had to do the job on our own. Throughout the project, we did use neighbours who had building experience to help us and this was invaluable and gave us a break to get on with trying to earn a living. The start of it all nearly went very well with an urgent trip to hospital.
Firewood was one of life’s necessities over the winter period and very early on was nearly my end. Carrying a nice olive log down through the steep part of the grove, I managed to slip over. I rolled down the hill and at the bottom rose very groggily to my feet just as the log arrived, bounced, hit me with force in the back and flattened me. It reminded me of a Tom and Jerry cartoon. The pain came in my cheek for some reason and I was unable to touch my face at all, so after a cup of tea which failed to cure the problem or the pain, Anna took me to the local medical centre where, after an x-ray, Dr Toro sent me straight off to the mines hospital at Rio Tinto as an urgent case with two bits of spine broken off! It was those bits that stick out near the top, probably from the days when we had fins or defensive spikes or whatever they were. I did palaeontology at London but wasn’t very good at it and can’t recall all the details of primitive anatomy which in any case seemed to revolve around ancient shellfish. At Rio, after a very thorough examination I was declassified from urgent to ’sit there and wait’ and knowing that it would be some time, I drifted off for a couple of beers in the hospital bar with some of the other patients (who all had brandies) who were in the same position and we discussed our various symptoms at length. Eventually we were rounded up again and I was told that the ‘bits’ that had broken off could remain floating around in my back and they wouldn’t affect me in the future. Evidently the pain in my face which was due to contra rotating ganglions or some such thing (my Spanish went a bit astray at that point) would go away very soon. All of it was true but to this day I have to have periodic heavy back scratching sessions in the area of the ‘bits’, after I assume they have had a floating around session.
But the house project was saved and I was considerably more careful from then on around the finca and one bitterly cold day we started work on the most basic and essential part of our new home, the septic tank. The part of the reference manual on making septic tanks made it all look easy and we dug and dug and dug and found we had dug a well which is really not what we wanted. Then we found that it wasn’t a well but an underground stream – again no good. To cut a long story short, we stayed working on this project for two days and a night without rest until we could safely say that we had sorted the problem out. Then we dug channels to the house, piped the lot, made a cement roof to the tank in situ, made a removable hatch and covered the whole lot with earth and went to bed. Sorted! This was a cause for celebration and celebrate we did, well into the next night. Even though we still had no bathroom facilities, we did have a septic tank – and then, even more good fortune came in the form of valuable intelligence; a neighbour informed me that he had located a source of ex (and some not so ‘ex’) telegraph poles for new roof beam purposes. All I had to do was to collect them as long as it was quick and with cash and no questions asked. I was never one to ask unnecessary questions but I had no facility whatsoever for carrying telegraph poles and so had to obtain the services of a lorry and driver whom I agreed to meet at 5am the next day as we had to collect the poles at 6am. As my taste in just about everything including wine and beer is entirely based on cost, I went for the cheapest quote and the resulting journey taught me much about the Spanish character and the peculiar way that Spaniards see the world – and it fitted very well indeed with our newly emerging view of the world.
At least now we now had started the project and both of us were beginning to see a way forward and seeing actual progress. Building materials were stacked up around the ruin in profusion and certainly enough to get started and both of us were itching to do just that. But of course the bees needed special attention at this time of year.
Spring is always the time for swarming and we really needed to graft new queens for colony increase before spring got really underway. So yet again, apart from the pole collecting expedition, building was delayed.
The next day I set off to collect the new roof beams.