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Spanish Secrets: Caue For Concern

…His broken and heavily-accented English was always clear and to the point.

“You English?” He asked brusquely, at our first meeting.

“Yes.” I replied.

“I speak English. You want to buy a house? I have a house for sale.”…

Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie continue their search for a house which can be developed as a holiday let in Galicia.

For more of Craig’s columns please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.

Our house hunting using conventional estate agents had drawn a blank. It was time to reacquaint ourselves with Pablo. After all what did we have to lose?

We first met Pablo over two years ago. He works as a pump attendant at a petrol station on the outskirts of Monforte. I liked him from the first moment we met. Not only are we the same age but like me, Pablo lived and worked in London when he was a young man. He had an honest abruptness derived from possessing a limited foreign vocabulary. His broken and heavily-accented English was always clear and to the point.

“You English?” He asked brusquely, at our first meeting.

“Yes.” I replied.

“I speak English. You want to buy a house? I have a house for sale.”

At the time, all I wanted was a tank of fuel. Undeterred by my lack of interest he continued with his impromptu sales-pitch. Using the car’s dusty paintwork he fingered a rough plan of the house and surrounding land and then drew a more detailed scribble on the back of his receipt pad.

Since that first meeting we’ve chatted together on numerous occasions. The weather, travel, family and politics have all been discussed but the subject of houses had never cropped up again. It was now time to ask him if the house was still for sale. On our next visit to the petrol station I did just that.

“Sure it’s still for sale. You want to buy?” chirped Pablo.

“We’d like to take a look at it.” I replied.

“When you come?”

Whatever the subject, Pablo’s narrative lacked most if not all none-essential elements of speech; adjectives, metaphors, politeness and political correctness were not necessary to convey his thoughts. We agreed to meet him later that afternoon.

It had been a beautifully warm summer’s day and the temperatures were still high when we met Pablo at 6 o’clock. Before long we were driving towards a small village. Two ancient Cyprus trees marked the entrance. These naturally grown obelisks are typical of older Galician village settlements. We drove slowly through the narrow, rough lanes of this enchanting hamlet. Old stone houses, both large and small, nestled together in harmony. We parked the car and continued on foot.

“This is where I live.” Pablo stated, pointing at a farmhouse on the right, “with my father-in-law.” He added.

A few metres further down the lane was the house he’d brought us to see.

“This is it.” He announced proudly.

Based on the asking price, we hadn’t expected much. From that point of view, we weren’t disappointed. It was a small stone house in a state of abandoned dereliction. It backed onto a narrow lane. We clambered through tall grasses and around to the front. Stone steps, made from old granite blocks, led to a quaint wooden balcony. A large plank lay atop the rotten balcony boards and led to the front door. Carefully we walked the plank, pushed open the unlocked door and crossed the threshold.

The interior consisted of one large room with bare stone walls and an exposed roof space. The floorboards were mostly intact but a leaking roof had left several areas damp and rotting. Downstairs the cellars were dark yet comfortably cool. Dusty cobwebs hung from woodworm-infested ceiling joists. The stench of farm animals still clung to the dank air. Outside there was a small patch of garden. Central to this was a charming well, complete with an old rusting pail dangling from a worn rope. The tiniest of walled vineyards occupied the farthest corner of the garden.

The place was certainly quaint with many endearing features, but we weren’t convinced it would provide sufficient living space. We thanked Pablo for his time and left to consider our options.

We felt deflated and dejected. Perhaps we wouldn’t find what we looking for. We were fast running out of options. It now seemed possible that we might have to change our plans and rethink the entire situation.

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