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Spanish Secrets: Courtesy Call

…It was early summer and the calm air was hot and stifling. The car’s air-conditioning fought a losing battle with the soaring temperatures, as we turned down another narrow country lane. Large leafy boughs, from majestic chestnut trees, briefly shaded us from the afternoon sun…

Craig Briggs is about to meet with success on the house-hunting trail in Galicia.

For more of Craig’s wonderful articles about his new life in Spain please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on his page.

My waste paper basket overflowed with scaled drawings of the tiny old house we’d viewed with Pablo. It didn’t matter how many different ways I drew the plans, I couldn’t fit two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, a dining room, and a lounge into the available space.

Our proposed holiday-rental house would either have to be advertised exclusively in Dwarfs Monthly magazine or we needed to find another larger property. Such a shame as I’d thought of a most appropriate name for the place – Wendy House.

Having taken time to show us the house, we thought it only polite to let Pablo know that we wouldn’t be making an offer on it. This was a courtesy call that really paid dividends.

“I have other house for sale. If you want to look,” he retorted nonchalantly in his fractured English.

Eagerly we agreed to meet him later in the day.

It was early summer and the calm air was hot and stifling. The car’s air-conditioning fought a losing battle with the soaring temperatures, as we turned down another narrow country lane. Large leafy boughs, from majestic chestnut trees, briefly shaded us from the afternoon sun.

“Slowly now, it’s here on the left,” Pablo’s voice had a calm urgency.

Melanie and I glanced at each other in amazed disbelief, speechless at our discovery. On this sizzling July afternoon, months of house hunting might finally be coming to an end.

“You not like it?”

Pablo had mistaken our stunned silence as a sign of displeasure. Nothing could be further from the truth. He’d presented me with a mirror image of my mind’s eye, albeit through a pronounced squint.

Leading from the country lane to the property was a narrow driveway lined on either side with dry-stone walls. Their weathered granite was encrusted with rich-green mosses and mustard-yellow lichen. Tall grasses swayed gently in the warm breeze, a testament to the property’s abandoned state. Ten metres down its length a pair of low metal gates guarded the entrance. Their white gloss paintwork had long since lost its lustre. The lifeless paint was peeling and flaking under the roasting sunlight and patches of rusting iron stippled their surface.

Beyond the gates the driveway opened into an unkempt pasture. Tufted patches of green were highlighted in the parched enclosure. In some places the boundary walls were overgrown with thorny blackberries, snaking over the ground from a spaghetti-like mass. Adjacent trees cast shimmering shadows along the ground, whilst a few small and thirsty-looking fruit trees wilted in the afternoon heat.

The house itself was a romantically appealing farmhouse, typical in design to many local houses. Its walls were built from local granite, some of which had clearly been reused from much earlier buildings. At the front, three tiny windows were framed by huge granite blocks, another feature of old farmhouses. Above its aging ramparts rested a terracotta tiled roof; an undulating collage of rusty-reds and earthy-browns covered with chequered patches of symbiotic fungus.

“If you’re interested and want to look inside I can get the keys?” chirped Pablo.

My dreamy imagination was abruptly interrupted. Why would we want the keys? It was obvious to any sane person that the house was a ruin.

“Yes, we’d like to have a look inside.” I replied.

The house might be a ruin but after months of searching, this was exactly the ruin we’d been looking for.

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