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Spanish Secrets: The End Of A Dream

At last! A restoration dream looks like becoming a restoration reality!

Craig Briggs continues his account of the frustrations of modernising a derelict Galician farmhouse.

Do please click on Spanish Secrets for more of Craig's entertaining accounts of life in Galicia.

The long, hot days of summer showed no signs of ending as we sat in the shade on the front porch. A chilled glass of white wine and a tasty tapa had become part of our daily ritual. The cool wine mirrored our mood as we relaxed in the comfort of the warm evening sun. All thoughts of property restoration, boundary wall construction and absentee stonemasons were set aside - but not for long.

The noisy rattle of an ageing diesel engine broke the silence. Travelling up the lane, in a cloud of sooty-smoke, trundled the distinctive shape of Jose Luis’s panel-van. It turned into the drive and shuddered to a stop. The door opened and Jose Luis stepped out.

Reluctantly, I pulled myself away from the comfort of my lounger and ambled across to the gate.

After the usual pleasantries he announced that he’d calculated a price for the restoration work on the farmhouse. His idea of preparing a quote was simply to tell us the cost there and then.

Not wanting to give anything away, I remained pokerfaced and asked if he could prepare a written quote. Having agreed he jumped back into his van and vanished in a haze of odorous, black smoke.

This was the second of our three quotes for the restoration work and was over 16,000 euros less than the first one. We were pleased - of course we were. We’d worked with him once before and knew he could do a good job but it was still more than we wanted to pay.

We were now pinning our hopes on the third builder, Manolo. Eager to find out if our restoration dream would become a reality, we decided to head over to his house the following day.

Manolo lives in a small village across the valley with his wife and two sons. We’d worked with him on a number of jobs for other people and I’d always found him honest, hard working and above all, patient. He was our preferred choice and everything now rested on his quote.

Knowing he’d be home for lunch we set off on the short cross-country drive to his house just after 1:00 pm. In common with most workers, Manolo downs tools at 1:00 pm and goes home for lunch, returning back to work at 3:00 pm.

His house is set-back a short distance from the road and reached via a dusty, unmade track. Closer to the house the driveway is lined both sides with colourful flowerbeds and two patches of healthy-looking lawn. Each patch of grass is fed with Manolo’s unique watering system. A length of garden hose punctured with tiny holes provides a cheap and effective sprinkler system.

Chained either side of the drive are two scraggy looking hounds. The one to the left barks the alarm as we enter, tugging at its chain as it paces to-and-fro along a well-trodden, dusty arc. The other and larger of the two dogs barely lifts its head. It’s far too hot for a Bearded Collie to be jumping around. By the time we’ve stepped from the car Manolo has appeared at the door. With its master present the dog calms down and returns to the shade of its oversized kennel.

It was obvious from the sheet of paper in Manolo’s hand that he knew why we were there.

“Do you have the quote for the restoration work?” I asked eagerly.

He showed us the paper and read through the quote, line by line, taking great care to explain every detail. All I was really interested in was the price. My heart skipped a beat as I glanced down to the bottom line. Our restoration dream looked like becoming a restoration reality.

Manolo’s quote was exactly half the price quoted by the Cambote brothers and more-or-less what I had originally thought it should be.

We accepted his quote there-and-then and shook hands to cement the deal. All we needed now was an electricity connection and a water supply.

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