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Spanish Secrets: Dozy Dowsers

…This was the cue for him to begin his less than impressive illusionist's trick. From the glove box of his 4x4 he pulled out his magic wand – known to all as a divining rod. Holding two ends of a Y-shaped twig he marched to-and-fro across the garden.

Surprise, surprise!

In the exact spot where we had chosen our ideal location, the tail end of the Y rose like an erect flagpole. As he moved away it gently descended…

Craig Briggs and his wife Melanie call in an expert to drill a well in the grounds of the remote farmhouse which they bought in Galicia.

To read earlier accounts of the trials of turning the farmhouse into a holiday let please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.

The weather throughout the weekend was sizzling. A couple of lazy days in the summer sun were just the medicine we needed to take our minds off the enormous task in front of us. It was only four days since we’d completed the purchase of our ruined farmhouse but since then we hadn’t stopped. As usual, Monday came around all too soon.

We’d arranged three meetings. The first of these was with one of the three water-well makers. As with the electricity connection, unless we could find water on the land, our farmhouse ruin would remain nothing more than a worthless pile of stones.

We knew from having a well drilled at our house, that the well makers quote per metre - the deeper they drill, the more it costs. The correct term would be a borehole rather than a water well.

We couldn’t believe our eyes when we turned off the main road and headed into the village. For the first time in over four years of living in Spain, a tradesman was actually early for an appointment. He introduced himself cheerfully as Pepe. We explained our requirements and his only question was:

“Where would you ideally like the borehole situated”.

He qualified his question by pointing out that the final location would obviously depend on the presence of water.

This was the cue for him to begin his less than impressive illusionist's trick. From the glove box of his 4x4 he pulled out his magic wand – known to all as a divining rod. Holding two ends of a Y-shaped twig he marched to-and-fro across the garden.

Surprise, surprise!

In the exact spot where we had chosen our ideal location, the tail end of the Y rose like an erect flagpole. As he moved away it gently descended.

This pathetic parlour-trick did nothing to allay my fears over the presence or otherwise of water. What was important was his price per metre; a fee which is only payable upon the discovery of water. Why he felt the need to go through this ridiculous routine, I have no idea. We thanked him for his time and waited for our next appointment.

We hadn’t long to wait before they turned up - The Cambote Brothers. Despite them sounding like a pair of Russian trapeze artists from a travelling circus, they were in fact the second of our three builders. They’d been recommended to us by Pablo. His family had a house built by them and they had also renovated a similar farmhouse to ours, in the same village.

The two brothers seemed much more prepared for the task in hand. They asked countless questions and took a host of measurements; a complete contrast to the laid back approach of Jose. Despite this they did have one thing in common. They were just about to leave when they asked, “Is this the only entrance?’’ pointing to the narrow driveway.

By now I knew the significance of the question and explained that we were going to buy a piece of land from a neighbour in order to widen the drive. To which they replied “If you don’t widen the drive the quote will double. This driveway’s not wide enough for a lorry to deliver materials.’’

We thanked them for their observations but asked them to proceed with a quote based of the driveway being wide enough for deliveries.

The final meeting of the day was with Señor Chanquero, another borehole driller. Once again we explained what we wanted and once again he enquired as to our ideal location. This was his cue to reveal his ample dowsing skills. To our surprise, he pulled his diving rod out from his trouser pocket.

Not content with a spindly twig, Chanquero’s rod came in the shape of an impressive plumb-weight attached to a thin chain.

Far less impressive was his slight of hand which was a mere shadow of Pepe’s twig twitching. As he marched over our chosen patch of garden his wrist clearly began to move, causing the plumb-weight to arc. This comic confirmation of the presence of water did nothing to put my mind at rest. At least his price was better than Pepe’s, so we swiftly moved him into pole position.

All that now remained of our days labours was to crawl back to Maruja’s, cap-in-hand, and ask if we could still buy the land to widen the driveway. It was a task I wasn’t looking forward to, but it was vital to our plans. After a mind numbing day of Spanish translation and attempted explanations, we were glad to find that she wasn’t at home. Our meeting with Maruja would wait until another day.

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Copyright © 2007 Craig Briggs

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