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Spanish Secrets: All's Well

…“It’s not going there!’’ Maruja was clearly agitated and upset.

Just when I thought everything was going well, the whole scene turned into a chaotic fiasco….

Craig Briggs tells of the dramatic day when a stonemason arrived to discuss the building of a boundary wall.

For more of Craig’s vivid accounts of life in rural Spain please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.

Time has flown since we bought our ruined farmhouse. We haven’t had a minute to ourselves since taking possession and this day would be no different.

Friday greeted us with another warm and sunny morning. Within an hour of waking we were speeding towards the house to meet Angel the stonemason. He’d agreed to give us a quote for the new boundary wall.

I was expecting the worst. Our neighbour Maruja had insisted on an unreasonable timeframe to complete the wall. It was the height of the Spanish building season and we’d been very lucky to find anyone to quote on the job. With time running out, we’d have to accept whatever price was quoted and hope he could start work immediately.

Angel was waiting for us when we arrived, sitting in the cool shade of a large Chestnut tree. Within a few moments Pablo and Maruja also appeared on the scene. Earlier in the week, Pablo had hammered two wooden stakes into the ground, one at either end of the driveway. These were joined by a length of string which marked the agreed position of the new boundary wall. We explained this to Angel and the importance of following this exact course.

With a keen eye, he surveyed the proposed area. A period of measured contemplation passed before he asked.

“How high do you want it?@’ He then qualified his question with a statement. “There isn’t enough stone here to build a wall.’’

The stone wasn’t a problem. Occupying one corner of our pasture was a crumbling ruin once used as a store. Any additional stone could be taken from there. In consultation with Maruja, we agreed that the wall should be one metre high. As the land sloped slightly, we further agreed that it shouldn’t be less than one metre at its lowest point. Maruja also insisted that we place two new granite gateposts at either side of the entrance to her field. Reluctantly we agreed. What else could we do?

“How wide will the wall be,’’ Maruja asked.

Angel moved towards the cordon and with his arms outstretched indicated the approximate width.

“It’s not going there!’’ Maruja was clearly agitated and upset.

Just when I thought everything was going well, the whole scene turned into a chaotic fiasco.

Maruja started by tugging out one of the stakes and swinging it wildly back and forth. Angel remonstrated with flailing arms and loud Spanish expletives. If we weren’t careful, all the hard work we’d done to date was going to be reversed.

Quietly I asked Pablo what the problem was. He explained than Maruja wanted the wall to finish on our side of the cordon and Angel was complaining that he wouldn’t be able to dig the new foundations. From our point of view, if the wall was built inside the agreed cordon, the driveway would hardly be any wider. Consequently, lorries wouldn’t be able to deliver building materials close to the house and the renovation costs would double. This would make the whole project unaffordable and leave us with a worthless ruin.

I asked Pablo to once again explain this to Maruja, but she was adamant. She stood in the lane with her arms folded and a face like thunder. Unable to persuade her to change her mind, Pablo went in search of help.

Firstly Ferrol, Maruja’s husband was summoned. He was a very nice man, amiable and understanding. Unfortunately he didn’t own the land and his influence over his wife was limited. Secondly Pablo called for his father-in-law, Ramon.

Ramon is the village elder and assistant to the mayor of the local counsel. He has a very deep and calming voice. Like a wise owl his authority and influence demands respect. Half an hour passed before Maruja began to calm down and became less aggressive and more realistic. Ramon explained that the driveway needed to be a minimum width of two metres, twenty centimetres. With all parties having given some ground, we finally reached a new agreement.

The price of six hundred euros for nine metres of dry-stone walling almost became irrelevant. We agree the price and in turn Angel agreed to complete the work before the 11th September. For the time being, everyone was happy.

As the saying goes, all’s well that ends well. Unfortunately we hadn’t even started, never mind reached the end.

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