Life seemed to speed up in February as we accepted a booking for a two possibly three week stay in the apartment at the end of the month.
We had explained to the couple, some house hunters from England, that the outside area was still a work in progress but that the apartment would be ready. Once the booking was accepted we had to focus on what needed to be done and what needed to be bought to ensure that our first booking went smoothly. Up and down the A31 we drove, either south to Elche or Murcia or north to the outskirts of Villena to our favourite tile shop where Senor Moreno was endlessly patient with my slowly improving Spanish and my having to return items when my habit of saying “Si, si” in response to a flurry of Spanish containing a few recognisable words after I had to my mind, clearly stated what I wanted, back fired yet again.
I should have learned my lesson after I cheerfully bought an empty gas bottle from the garage. I had successfully negotiated asking for the key to the containers and swapped my empty container for what I presumed to be a full one. The containers are horribly heavy whether full or empty, so the fact that it was empty didn’t register at all. When I returned to the cash desk I was asked a question which I didn’t understand but instead of saying lo siento, no entiendo or I’m sorry, I don’t understand, I breezily replied “Si, si” because to my mind I had got what I went for so further conversation wasn’t necessary. Oh, the embarrassment when I returned to swap the bottle and the lady behind the desk said “yes, my colleague told me you would be back” or words to that effect. I didn’t quite understand.
I also learned the Spanish for the equivalent for “Death by Chocolate” when we spent a day shopping in El Corte Ingles, a sort of Spanish John Lewis. In need of a little refreshment, Steve and I went to the cafe and I ordered two descafenada en sobre and what I thought were two small chocolate croissants. Again, not really understanding, I replied to a Spanish question containing the word chocolate with “Si, si” and two enormous plates of chocolate gateaux complete with chocolate sauce, cream and strawberries were presented with a flourish.
I am often met with looks of incomprehension when I speak Spanish but up until now no gales of laughter, unlike our friend Rhona who, in her and John’s early days in Spain, went to a DIY shop and asked confidently for a “condom for my pineapple door”. Rhona had meant to ask for a preservative for her pine door not knowing that the Spanish for condom is preservativo.
Once Stewart had completed all the structural work in the apartment, he moved on to the pool area installing a light in the pool, connecting electricity to the pool house so that we didn’t have to run a lengthy extension lead from house to pool every time we wanted to run the filter and replacing and levelling the coping stones around the edge of the pool. Stewart also installed a separate boiler and gas supply for the apartment and on discovering that the water pressure was on the low side for two establishments, a pump.
In order to complete all this work, Steve had to dig up and expose the existing water pipes and trace some electricity cables, discovering in the process more eccentric plumbing and wiring which Stewart had to make good in order to proceed. The day after much of this work had taken place the water went off. Having checked that the work that had been done had not caused a leak we naively assumed that the water would come back on again later in the day but no, it did not. We telephoned a neighbour who did have water and she directed us to the water company office in town which was, by the time I arrived, shut, so panicking only slightly as this was Thursday and our guests were due to arrive the following Tuesday, we bought several litres of bottled water and washed in the kitchen sink. We returned to the water office the next day and after some discussion, discovered that we are not covered by the Sax water company and our water company is based in a nearby town. We were given a telephone number but I hate using the telephone in Spanish as without visual clues and the possibility of writing something down, I find it very difficult. El telephone es muy difficile I said, possibly ungrammatically but clearly enough to the man in the office who kindly telephoned on my behalf and informed me that un hombre would come out to us shortly.
As Carlos drove through the gates an hour or so later, water was mysteriously restored. Phew.
Inside the apartment Steve and I painted, cleaned and painted again, assembled flat pack furniture until late at night, laundered the new linen to get rid of the newness and looked forward to the fun part of putting everything we had bought, saved and restored into the apartment. Our guests had said that they would phone us once they were on the road in Spain so that we would know when to expect them however, as we were taking the unassembled sofa up into the apartment, they arrived at the gate having tried and failed to contact us. Would they mind going into Sax for lunch we wondered, no they wouldn’t mind, fortunately and while they were gone, Steve and I raced to complete as much as possible. Sadly, we didn’t have time to complete the curtains I was making for the kitchen cupboards or put up the hanging rail but apart from that everything was in place by the time Paul and Sue arrived back.
As I write, los invitalos are ensconced upstairs watching the rain fall again. We have had torrential rain, high winds and even some snow since their arrival but each day the sun does shine, it is a little warmer and for the last couple of evenings we haven’t needed a fire or to turn the heating on in the morning. The almond blossom, which turned the orchards into a sea of pale pink, is nearly over and the leaves are coming out. The few plants left in the garden along with the fig tree and pomegranate are putting out shoots and I am desperate to do some creative planting.
Spring is definitely here and with it the promise of the long hot days of sunshine and the scent of jasmine, roses and lavender. It can’t come quickly enough for me.