This will be the view from the terrace of our new house up in the cafetal. At the moment only the foundations have been laid and the whole project will take some months to complete as it is an ‘in-house’ job, but it is advancing at a steady forward creep, having overcome the usual administrative hurdles whose purpose might best be expressed as ‘you can’t do that there ‘ere’.
Well, you can, but only after jumping through the usual hoops and parting with extravagant amounts of money in order that your own plans should be signed off by a real architect, who estimates the building costs and takes a fixed percentage fee based on his own estimate….
But exorbitant though that fee might be it’s a damned sight worse if you are rash enough to get him to do the plans as well.
Apart from involving a delay of several months while he takes a holiday on the upfront portion of the fee, then recovers from the holiday, then it’s Christmas and New Year with the family at the beach and only when January ends does he run short enough of money to think of completing the job.
Together with all the others he has been sitting on for months.
You have to be careful, too, that the house does not run the danger of being considered – for tax purposes – as ‘luxurious’ which would bring it into a higher tax bracket.
The money raised from this tax is supposed to be applied to improving the standards of housing of the poor, but as the body supervising this process believes that charity begins at home and is busy rehousing its relatives on the proceeds, both from a fiscal and moral point of view it is better that the house is not classed as luxurious.
We had thought to build a house here before – and then changed our minds. Luckily…. as the Italianate villa with a tower that we had first had in mind would have seen us paying enough annual tax to enable the supervisory body to house the entirety of its sisters and its cousins, whom it reckons up in dozens and its aunts.
We like our original house, tucked in as it is under the hill, but despite adding a balcony and extra bedroom it is bursting at the seams and we need something larger, if only to house the books.
There is, too, the fact that we are not getting any younger and it would make things easier to be on flat ground.
While indoors is fine with the current house, going out involves walking steeply up or downhill to get to garden, stables or pool.
Up on the top, with a bit of leveling, we have a flat area all around the house and on a lower level, another flat area on one side for housing for the sheep, cattle and poultry and on the other side somewhere flat for the veg garden.
A house, however, is nothing without its surroundings, so we spent part of the last rainy season transporting the plants Leo had been growing on in pots up to the house site, to give an avenue of palms interplanted with gingers in the short term…to be ruthlessly hacked out should they start to run amok. Thugs they may be, but they are beautiful when in flower.
But the guava now has company.
This bijou residence is where Danilo spends the night – and will continue to spend the night while materials and tools are on the site, as the entrance from the road is now wide open and he worries about theft.
He is not alone. He has his two dogs for company, Calamardo and Rowley.
Calamardo is a black and tan specimen, rangy and intelligent.
Rowley is a brown pit bull type, stocky, half blind and single minded.
Both are lovely dogs once you get to know them, but while getting to know Calamardo is easy, approaching Rowley makes the etiquette of ancien regime Versailles look like a picnic.
You have to be accompanied by Danilo as master of ceremonies: you do not arrive on foot – if you wish to retain same.
On arrival, Rowley will hurtle towards you, to be intercepted by Danilo. You may then open the car door – and leave it open for Rowley to sniff you and the car. He circles you widdershins several times and then pees on a tyre.
You are now accepted at court.
The next time you arrive Rowley will hurtle towards you and give you a lick. Half blind he may be but his sense of smell is acute.
I have not discovered what happens if he does not pee on a tyre…but having seen him demolishing the thigh bones of oxen with consummate ease I prefer not to contemplate the prospect.
So far no attempts at theft have been made….but Danilo has had other visitors.
Further along the road is a spot much frequented by those seeking a little privacy for their romantic interludes and not willing or not able to pay for a couple of hours in one of the many ‘pay by the hour’ hotels, the car windows open to the warm night air.
You can estimate the usage by the number of takeaway boxes and cans of soft drink thrown from said windows into the hedge alongside.
Well, the top photograph shows the view in daytime…at night too it is a beautiful spot under the stars and the wide open entrance has, of course, attracted business from the hedgerow.
Danilo reckons it takes just a few moments after the car starts bouncing on its springs before the couple realise that they are not alone….Calamardo at one window, Rowley at another, breathing heavily.
Collapse of stout party guaranteed.
He was telling us about this over coffee this morning when Don Freddy called in.
He looked grave.
You should take a few precautions, you know…
The dogs won’t hurt them….they’re only curious.
No no…you should take a torch and pencil and paper.
To note down the number plates of course! Don’t you see…you could look them up on the Registro Nacional the next day and threaten to tell their wives!
You could make a fortune!