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Spanish Secrets: Diplomatically Difficult

…Down quiet, leafy lanes, at every twist and turn, this tiny Spanish village held a turbulent history of family squabbles…

There’s a lot more to buying an old Spanish farmhouse and doing it up than you might think, as Craig Briggs reveals. To read earlier episodes of Craig’s farmhouse story – and many more articles about life in rural Galicia - please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.

Yesterday’s wrangling with our neighbour Maruja over the construction and exact position of the new boundary wall ended on a less than satisfactory note. Not content with reaching a fair and reasonable compromise, she’d ended the negotiations with an offhand remark regarding the windows at the rear of the house. Like a maverick poker-player laying her trump card, Maruja delighted in this parting salvo.

Her vague and mischievous comments suggested another long-standing neighbourly dispute. Determined not to reveal our concern, we waited until the village mêlée had dispersed before eagerly questioning Pablo as to the nature of these antagonising remarks.

“Don’t worry. It’s nothing” Pablo gingerly declared, obviously surprised that we’d understood Maruja’s subtle insinuations. We pushed him further for a response. Clearly he knew more than he was saying.

He began by explaining that the previous owner of the house, Don Antonio, had built two windows at the back of the property without proper permission. This unauthorised act had created a long-running feud between him and the owners of the neighbouring farmhouse. The dispute had continued for decades. He couldn’t remember when it had started.

This part of his response didn’t really worry us. The windows were very small, allowing only a limited amount of sunlight into the accommodation. Although it would be better to keep them, it wasn’t essential. If the worst came to the worst we could always brick them up. It was the second part of Pablo’s explanation that concerned us the most.

The farmhouse at the rear of ours was owned by two of three sisters. It was an inheritance from their parents. For some peculiar reason, the bequest was unequal, resulting in the farmhouse being divided unequally between the two. Occupying the right and smallest portion of the house were Señora Amable and her husband Castro. Pablo has a habit of describing everyone he likes as a, bueno hombre (good man). This was the case with Castro and Amable. He insisted that we wouldn’t have any problems with Castro or his wife and the quarrel over the windows didn’t involve them.

That was all well and good, but Pablo was obviously holding something back.

“Who is the other sister?’’ I asked, impatient to find out what Pablo was anxious to conceal.

“The other sister is Carmen”. Pablo paused. We waited silently for an explanation.


“She is…..” he paused again, “difficult”.

Pablo heaps praise on all those people he thinks deserve it. For those who don’t, he is the most diplomatic person I know.

“What do you mean, difficult”? I enquired.

Reluctantly he explained. The third sister in the trio was none other than Maruja. We were surrounded by feuding family members. I couldn’t imagine anyone more difficult to deal with than Maruja but seemingly there might be.

Down quiet, leafy lanes, at every twist and turn, this tiny Spanish village held a turbulent history of family squabbles. As new members to this rural community we would reserve judgement on others until we’d met them. In the meantime, it couldn’t harm to investigate our legal position over the contentious windows.

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Copyright © 2007 Craig Briggs



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