« Natasha And Paul | Main | One Surprise After Another In NYC »

Spanish Secrets: When To Look A Gift-Horse In The Mouth

...As we rounded the corner into the drive we were surprised and delighted to find Angel the stonemason, hard at work - only two days later than promised. Clouds of dust billowed into the air as an old tractor, equipped with a fearsome-looking shovel, drove rough-shod over the baked garden. The old boundary wall had gone to be replaced by plumb-straight foundations.

After countless site visits, numerous quotes, drawn-out negotiations and daily soul-searching, work had finally begun on the restoration of our romantic rural retreat....

Work begins on modernising an old farmhouse, then comes a surprise opportunity to buy another house, as Craig Briggs reports.

The glorious weather and soaring temperatures of August showed no signs of waning as we ended the first week of September. We’d left home early that morning and headed towards the sleepy, Spanish village of Vilatan, home to our ruined farmhouse. It was just after 9:00am when we arrived and the thermometer had already passed 20 degrees Celsius, as it climbed towards its daily high of 40 degrees.

As we rounded the corner into the drive we were surprised and delighted to find Angel the stonemason, hard at work - only two days later than promised. Clouds of dust billowed into the air as an old tractor, equipped with a fearsome-looking shovel, drove rough-shod over the baked garden. The old boundary wall had gone to be replaced by plumb-straight foundations.

After countless site visits, numerous quotes, drawn-out negotiations and daily soul-searching, work had finally begun on the restoration of our romantic rural retreat.

We stood for a while, watching, shifting from one patch of warm sunlight to another, as the overhead leafy canopy swayed in a gentle breeze. Before too long we were joined by a neighbour. He introduced himself as Ferol. He was an older gentleman with a warm, friendly face - the type of face that spends more time smiling than frowning.

After the briefest of pleasantries he launched straight into;

“I have a house for sale. Come and take a look. It’s just across the lane.”

Before we had a chance to comment he marched off across the garden towards the far end of the house. Dodging the carefree manoeuvres of a slightly overenthusiastic tractor-driver, we set off in hot pursuit.

Running parallel to the side of the house is a narrow, unmade track. Lining the track and occupying a corner position is a small, stone building directly opposite our house. It’s joined on one side to a quaint cottage and on the other to a barn. Despite its size, the quality of masonry indicated that at least structurally, the building was in good condition. Like most of the stone properties in this area it had a romantic appeal - A kind of, love-at-first-sight, charm.

“Do you like it?” asked Ferol eagerly.

We smiled politely and nodded our appreciation.

“Would you like to buy it?” He asked.

The obvious and sensible response would have been an immediate no! For some strange and inexplicable reason I found myself considering its possible use.

“How much do you want for it.” I blurted.

Ferol’s response was as predictable as mine;

“How much will you give me for it?”

I could hardly believe what was happening. The same questions went to-and-fro before finally Ferol said “Three thousand euros.”

A period of stunned silence followed. The price was much lower than either of us had anticipated. In a state of shock we asked for his telephone number and agreed to ring him later in the day with our response. We returned to the garden to find Angel and his mate manhandling large lumps of rock into position along the newly dug foundations. We said goodbye and left.

By now the sun had risen, mirrored by the day’s temperatures. It was a relief to be in the relative cool of an air-conditioned car as we trundled along the country lanes out of the village. My mind was still racing with the possibilities presented by Ferol when a familiar figure caught my eye. Lent against a stone wall, watching over a small flock of sheep, was Pablo. I pulled alongside and rolled down the window. I explained our meeting with Ferol and asked if he knew any reason why we should proceed cautiously.

It transpired that Ferol rented the building to another neighbour of ours but now, wanted to sell it. He’d offered it to them for 1,500 euros and in a typically Spanish manner they wanted it cheaper. Only after they’d refused to buy it had he offered it to us for double the price, again a typically Spanish practice when dealing with the English.

In view of this new information we decided not to make an offer on the building. The last thing we wanted was to upset the neighbours. Family squabbles and rivalry are handed down from one generation to the next, like inherited heirlooms.

This was one gift-horse I intended to smile back at.

email address
craigandmel@msn.com

Copyright © 2007 Craig Briggs


Categories

Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.