Well hello any readers who are still following this blog. Long time no post eh but it’s soooo nice to be back. Again! Where on earth has the time gone? Lots of time spent on client activity – unfortunately one of my colleagues let us down very badly on a major contract which wasn’t fun for anyone. You really don’t want to know the details. Then we are dealing with lots of change too – more news later.
Anyway I need to backtrack a little bit to the autumn because a large slice of activity and time was taken up then at our house in Italy. You’ll recall we did a lightning visit in the summer to assess the damage to the property and take advice on what needed to be done. Well in October we did a follow up visit to get on with the task. As a regular reader you’ll know that the last journey there was nightmare of missed planes, trains and automobiles. Surely the trip down in our own car would prove less dramatic. Err. Well we had a tyre blow on the motorway an hour after landing in Belgium. I swear I checked the tyres before leaving and no sign of a problem. I hobbled down to a local village and sweet baby Jesus must have been smiling down upon me because there was just a coffee shop and a garage, and it was open and the guys were friendly. The boss stuck the car on the ramp and, after exclaiming in French words that sounded a lot like cock a doodle ducking foo, called me over to check out my tyre; the inside edge of it was completely worn, not down to the bare rubber but through the metal and down to the cotton threads. We both whistled incredulously. He wrote down the cost of a new tyre – about €150. Yikes. A bit pricey but this was rural Flanders and well he had one in stock so….Then he exclaimed in words that sounded more like my regular Anglo-Saxon and pointed to the left hand tyre. Its inside edge was similarly worn down to the bone though miraculously it hadn’t caused me a double blow-out. He explained that the alignment on the rear wheels was badly out (a common feature on BMW 3 series it turns out). He was working out the cost of two replacement tyres when he suddenly exclaimed – again – this time in very distinct Viking, whilst pointing out that the tyres were RFTs ie run flat tyres. These of course were not just more expensive but would take a day to deliver. We were faced with a bill of around €500 for the two tyres and an overnight stay and taxis. Sigh. It’s at times like this that I feel it’s not inappropriate to whisper the words FFS deeply, with meaning and not really caring who hears it. Even baby Jesus.
I looked at C forlornly then explained to the garage boss in my very best ‘O’ level French that a night’s stay was simply out the question and asked whether there was any other option. He disappeared off, brought his father in, slipped off the two tyres and stuck two replacements on. He explained that they were regular nearly-new tyres they had in stock, and whilst they were an inappropriate fit with RFTs, causing some slippery driving, they’d be probably alright to get me back to Blighty. I smiled and said I was so grateful but I was actually heading in the opposite direction – 1000 miles off in Italy. He nearly swallowed his tongue. He shrugged his shoulders and basically said it was up to me. I took this option and explained to C that we’d get the tyres changed as soon as we could. I asked for the bill expecting at least a couple of hundred €. He quoted me €80 and I asked in clarification that that was per tyre. He said no – ‘tout’ – all in. Bloody hell. Sometimes you get these random acts of kindness in life. And this was very much appreciated and the tyres were good for the journey and back. Indeed we just had the damn things changed in the UK and the alignment sorted.
But back to Italy. We arrived two days later and our very good friends and neighbours J&C had arranged a dinner for us and fellow neighbour and good friend F. It was so welcome as the last part of the drive down through Emilia Romagna/Marche was through pouring rain and quite difficult and we were tired as hell. We stayed at J&C’s that night which was so kind of them. Next day we checked out the house. It was in a poor state, there was major cracking down both sides of the extension as you can see here…
which had allowed huge amounts of water/damp ingress. So the insides of the house were full of mould and damp. This was compounded by the fact that the garden had turned into a jungle fall of 7 ft spiney plants and it was impossible to drive the car down the driveway which had become a weed-way. Here’s a shot of our car that we’d left 3 years beforehand and almost swallowed up by the jungle…
There was a rats’ nest under the bonnet and not too may snakes inside. Somewhere amongst that vegetation at the back was our stop tap for the water supply which after hacking through for half a day we found only to discover that the water supply had been disconnected. As well as the electricity supply. And our remaining gas stock had evaporated from the tank. Our telecomms links had ceased long ago.
So no lighting, heating, water nor phone/broadband. Sigh. But J&C just invited us to stay at their place whilst we got stuff sorted out, which was incredibly nice given that it was their autumn holiday. We did have a local contact M who was great in helping get the water switched on and the electricity supply re-connected. And we managed to get the gas company to come out and get the tank re-filled. But it took a week or more to get this all sorted and some €€€’s! Meanwhile J&C put us up, fed us and washed our clothes etc as we got on with the grungy scrubbing work each and every day for over a week. We just about got the place looking clean and mould-free before C had to leave. But in between we had a real cool blast with J&C who were the coolest hosts. We traipsed up every night covered in cack and they just supplied fresh towels and lots of encouragement. We did though take some time out to discover a fantastic new restaurant popular with the locals and caught up with a mutual good friend over a top dinner at one of our favorite eateries. Plus we had a real bloody laugh over some old memories. You had to be there really. Great pals.
I have to say that our mates and neighbours our just incredible people. When C and J&C had to go back sadly, our neighbour F invited me to use his place for broadband access and washing etc (our washing machine had ceased up) whilst he was back in the UK. Bloody decent. Then my best Bulgarian builder mate and hero N came along and together we took down the extension shown above and created a new portico and outdoor eating area. I’ve never worked as hard in my life and you can see it here almost completed…
I had muscles like Popeye and a six pack like… James Corden but no matter. I bloody love N’s work ethic and what he taught me as his willing, though dopey labourer assistant.
The problem with the original building was that the guy who restored our former farm property used huge building blocks to create the extension which are only used on banks construction and to shore up buildings of historical significance. It was massively over-engineered and pulled away fron the main body of the house. We – I- shifted about 25 tons of rubble. And in between the times that N came, I managed to get the major olive trees cut down to manageable size just using a plane saw. Hard work but definitely worth it to get the view opened up again.
Neighbour F had returned by this stage and was a fantastic help, like J&C, at being a dinner pal, source of support, supplier of soup etc. As I’d also cut down all my key trees I gathered all my olives off the cut down branches and heaping our harvests together F and I headed off to my regular oil producer, the hitherto lovely F. However after lumping our olives out onto the scales and into the ‘granny pile’ we were told that the pressing wouldn’t take place until a week or so later. Eh? This was a bit bizarre as it was really quite late in the olive collecting season. So instead of oil we accepted cash for the olives. Slightly disappointed we headed back to town where we checked in with our local chain saw/strimmer servicing guy who told us about another oil producing plant. We headed up there to be told we’d been out-done on the price of the olives by about 50%. All that frigging work just to be jizzed. I was ready to go but F bless him wanted some oil for his son and bought me a bottle too. See what I mean about our neighbours? Top, top folk.
Anyway I headed off back home the next day about a stone and a half lighter and with an empty wallet. We’ll be back, hopefully on Monday/Tuesday to complete more of the work. Update early next week – promise!
Great read as always Paul. It’s funny when we are in Tenerife nothing much goes wrong but leave the house just a few weeks and there is always some raid-the-piggy-bank problem!
Ah thanks Alan. Many thanks for your continued readership and sympathetic comments. Why can’t houses live for quite a few years without significant maintenance? Being built of things like brick and blocks etc.. Rubbish. Hope you’re well mate