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Spanish Secrets: Alternative Power

Having bought a ruined farmhouse in Spain, intending to turn it into a holiday home, Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie call in a vital expert – an electrician.

To read earlier episodes of this venture please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.

Yesterday had turned out to be a very constructive day. Encouraged by these successes we headed into town for our Friday appointment with the electrician.

The morning’s weather mirrored our emotions, bright and sunny, without a cloud on the horizon.

The manager of the small electrical company was Miguel. He was a handsome man and knew it. His air of self-confidence verged on cheesy-arrogance. He was in his mid-to-late thirties, with a deep-olive complexion, jet-black hair and designer stubble. He accessorised his pop idle image with a trendy handbag slung low to his waist. Its thin leather strap was hooked over one shoulder and around his neck. He was very pleasant, perhaps too pleasant. His broad, ivory smile and affable manner seemed insincere and false.

After the usual introductory pleasantries he whisked us out of the shop and into his waiting combi van, Spain’s most popular mode of transport. This aptly named carriage is a combination of two vehicles, a small car and a small van. It’s an ingeniously designed utility vehicle capable of seating four people in relative comfort or, with the rear seats removed, fetching and carrying almost anything. Such versatility comes at a price. Despite its nationwide popularity, it is possibly the ugliest vehicle ever conceived and quite an embarrassment to be seen riding in.

As we drove through the town Miguel stopped unexpectedly and rolled the window down to speak to a stunningly beautiful young lady hip-swaying along the pavement. She was clearly disinterested at his insinuating advances and after politely acknowledging his heckle, made her excuses and rushed off. If his intention was to impress us with his cheeky charm, he’d spectacularly failed. We continued the journey and before long were driving along the narrow lane towards the house.

Let’s hope Miguel’s surveying skills are better than his chat-up lines I thought. Without electricity the house was worthless, just one more crumbling ruin blighting the Galician countryside. The only difference being we’d just bought this one.

He marched off confidently across the small pasture in front of the house and stopped roughly in the middle. Arching his neck and tilting his head slightly to one side he surveyed the horizon, searching for the nearest electrical cable. Having spun through 360 degrees on his heels, he pointed northward and once again marched off as if following his own finger.

“There’s a cable over there,” he called, “but that one’s no good – too many trees in the way.’’

Reversing his tracks, he walked to the far end of the house, into a narrow, unmade track which ran down the side. At the bottom of the track was an electrical post and at the top, another. It appeared we were spoilt for choice.

Unfortunately, here in Spain, things are rarely what they seem. For some inexplicable reason, an electrical cable in Spain cannot pass over a neighbour’s boundary. In small villages and hamlets, with limited public access, it often causes a problem. A very expensive problem.

Miguel moved from the lane and stood next to the house. Like a big-game hunter he closed one eye and pushed his face close to the house wall. Viewing the line of sight to each post, it was immediately obvious that a cable slung from the one at the top of the lane would cross the land of at least two neighbours; this one was out of the question. He turned his attention to the other. This too did not provide a direct line of sight across public land. Slowly and deliberately he stepped away from the house without taking his eye off the top of the post.

Suddenly he stopped, pointed at the ground and shouted “Here! You will need to put another post here.’’

By erecting a post in the garden, the cable would run overhead along the route of the public lane. The remaining installation would then run across our land to the house. Brilliant!

With a successful survey completed we returned to the shop in Monforte. Miguel explained that the national electrical company Fenosa, were responsible for the installation outside our land. He would send them a works request on our behalf and within a week they should have replied to us with an estimate. He could complete the remaining work. After a series of questions he prepared his quote while we waited. We thanked him for his time and headed off home, very pleased and extremely relieved with the results.

Earlier in the afternoon my mind had begun to conjure up images of towering wind-turbines or row upon row of jet-black solar panels cluttering up the garden. Who knows, we may well have been able to market the house as the world’s first environmentally friendly holiday home? I wonder how much advertising costs in The National Geographic?

email address
craigandmel@msn.com

Copyright © 2007 Craig Briggs


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