We have the builders in at the moment. They´re building a porch over our front door. You know the sort of thing; somewhere you can ditch the wellingtons and leave the umbrella to drip.
Given that we live on the gloriously sunny Costa Blanca, I realise the need for such shelter may come as a shock. Trust me, our weather does not mess about! It doesn´t rain often, but when it does it puts the rain forest to shame. For years, our reservoirs have been at dangerously low levels. After a single month of torrential rain during the winter, some water authorities have actually had to open the sluices and drain the water out to prevent the danger of overflowing! I do not joke when I say that on one spectacularly wet weekend in March, we had 16 months of normal rainfall in 3 days.
But to get back to the builder. The man making a racket outside the door is Javier, a respected local builder. He does a superb job, but you have to be prepared to haggle to get the price right. You know the sort of thing; he measures up (by eye; the tape measure only comes out when he gets round to ordering materials) and scribbles a price on an odd piece of paper. You gasp in outrage, cross it out and write your own estimate in its place. Javier puffs out his cheeks, shakes his head and writes another price down. Generally, agreement is reached by the bottom of the first sheet.
It was Javier who built our extension for us a couple of years ago. With my usual eternal optimism, I had completely forgotten that after that I vowed I was never, ever going to have any work done on the house again. Javier assured us our extension would take no more than eight weeks, maximum. As he was due to start around mid-September, that sounded fine to us.
Come Christmas Eve, Javier said he would be back with us the day after Three Kings – 7th January. He did, however, drop us off a whole crate of oranges as a Christmas present. We needed the vitamin C, as the wind was howling through the temporary window and door frames and chilling the whole house. We had Christmas lunch at home that year, well wrapped up in layers of clothes to protect against the cold. We daren’t go out, in case we got burgled in our absence as the new back door was only propped up with a piece of wood. We weren´t lonely, however. At least once a day, we found a friend, neighbor, acquaintance – and at least twice, a complete stranger – wandering around our building site, inspecting progress. They seemed surprised that we were surprised to see them; it was, we were assured, the done thing. Javier making a good job of it, was he?
But the work was eventually complete. At the beginning of February, just as the weather took a turn for the better. Seventeen and a half weeks from the day the first JCB trundled into our drive (missing the outside casing of an air conditioning unit by millimeters).
It was finished within budget. And Javier did a wonderful job, which we are still happy with to this day.
The time scale for our porch is a week, mas o menos. Fingers crossed ….