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Spanish Secrets: Wheels Of Fortune

For progress to be made in modernising Craig Briggs's ruined Galician farmhouse, the property must be linked to the power grid. An 8 metre tall concrete post has to be erected. Can the job be done immediately? Come on! This is Spain...

To read more of Craig's frustrating experiences as a property developer please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.

Following the discovery of water at our ruined farmhouse, further work on its restoration had ground to a halt. It was virtually impossible to proceed further without electricity. Each passing week brought us closer to winter and the inevitable winter showers. For work to continue over these cold, wet months it was essential to finish the proposed new roof.

Ten weeks after having the site surveyed by the electric board (Union Fenosa), we finally received the correct quotation for the installation. With this in hand we could now instruct work to commence. Without delay we took the new quote to Raul Electrical, our chosen contractor. Once again Miguel, the contracts manager, ushered us through to his office at the back of the shop.

“We have the new quote from Fenosa.” I announced, as I pulled the letter from its envelope and handed it to Miguel. “How soon can you install the post?” I asked impatiently.

The 8 metre high concrete post, situated within our garden, was the key to both the external and internal connection of the supply. Without it, Fenosa would have nothing to connect their incoming cables to.

Miguel reacted to my question as if I were telling a joke, his broad smile and laidback appearance only served to irritate my already tense mood.

“The truck is working in Lugo. It will be at least 6 weeks before we can start,” he replied.

The news came as a hammer-blow. Six weeks would take us into December. At that stage, there would be no possibility of starting work on the new roof until the weather improved in the spring.

“Don’t you have another truck?” I asked enquiringly.

The narrow lanes of the village made access for large vehicles very difficult. A fact we were already aware of after protracted negotiations with Maruja to purchase a strip of land that would allow us to widen our driveway. Unfortunately for us, the concrete post needed erecting at the other side of the house. Here access was restricted to a narrow rocky track. For most vehicles this track would be impassable. It transpired that the only suitable truck was currently contracted out on a large project in Lugo.

We left, angry and disappointed that Miguel had failed to mention this to us five weeks ago when we’d opted to have his company erect the post rather than Fenosa. That decision had already cost us five weeks' lost work and was about to cost us at least another six. Had we known this at the time our decision may well have been different.

The least we could do was take the new quotation to the Fenosa office and pay the asking price. This was the only way to ensure that our order would be processed and passed through to the works department. Miguel had agreed to liaise with them once the post had been erected.

Typically for Spain, six weeks drifted into eight. On the morning of the 18th December, we received a call from Miguel.

“We will be starting work tomorrow morning at 9 am.” he chirped confidently.

No apology, no excuses, just a brief but welcome statement.

The following morning we woke early and headed off towards the house. Nine o’clock came and went, as did ten o’clock. We were just about to leave when the distinctive rattle of an aging diesel engine echoed down the lane. It was them!

The truck looked like something that had just driven off the Hollywood set of an episode of the Waltons, a design more suited to the turn of the Twentieth Century than the Twenty-First. It was very short and very narrow, with disproportionately large wheels. These wheels afforded cavernous ground clearance, more than enough for a small pony to walk under. Behind the small two-man cab was a hydraulic lifting-arm and behind that an enclosed flat-bed. On this rested the concrete post.

There was as much of the 8 metre tall post hanging over the front of the cab as there was actually on the truck. Slowly and carefully it started to climb the steep rocky lane. It was now that this quirky looking vehicle came into its own. Each wheel worked independently of the others in both drive and suspension. It crept over the rocks like an advancing lizard. No sooner had it begun its ascent than the entire expedition ground to a halt.

With the post sticking so far out in front of the vehicle, there wasn’t enough clearance between it and the neighbour’s barn to climb the lane. Undeterred the two workmen jumped from the cab and with the aid of the hydraulic lifting-arm, moved the heavy post, first one way and then the other. It didn’t matter which way they shuffled the post they couldn’t position it so as to gain sufficient clearance to drive up the lane.

After a quick phone call to Miguel they abandoned further attempts and made a start on digging the hole where the post would eventually be erected. No sooner had they begun this, than that too ground to a halt. With the topsoil removed they hit solid granite, an impenetrable surface for mere muscle and hand tools.

We’d spent a damp and cold morning standing around only to find out that nothing could be done. This was a major setback. Without electricity our ruined farmhouse would remain just that – a worthless ruin.

Dejected and despondent we returned home. Would we ever get to restore our romantic retreat?

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craigandmel@msn.com

Copyright © 2007 Craig Briggs

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