A Moving Experience…


Surprises usually await me on return from trips abroad: one year a load of bullocks, another a pair of American Staffordshire pups.

This year, after – for me – an uneventful return from visiting my mother another surprise was on the books.

We were moving.

Not far…just up the hill behind our current house to the house which seems to have been in gestation forever.

It was being built by Danilo  in his spare time from looking after the finca, so progress was never going to be a sprint.

It turned out to be far from that as Danilo’s mother entered her final illness, so for several months he was able to do just the basics with the animals each day before going off to spend time with her.

She was younger than my mother, but worn out by perpetual childbirth – nineteen children – and a hard life with no mod cons and insufficient  food, despite the best efforts of her husband – who died in his fifties – and the older children as they grew up to provide.

I met her once, at a family get together: it was obvious how much she was loved and respected for her sacrifice – they all knew how often she had gone without food in order that the children should be fed; the backbreaking work of endless washing to keep the children clean to go to school in apple pie order; her determination that they would all have a better life.

Further delays were caused by our unpleasant North American neighbour. He tried every trick in the book to prevent construction from denouncing us for not applying for planning permission – a good try there as the fine for being caught is less than the fee for the application – to denouncing us for not paying Danilo’s compulsory insurance for construction work – ditto – with an attempt to obstruct our access to water as a sideline.

Whatever it is he is up to it is clear that he doesn’t like the idea of someone being able to see who visits his house and at what hour…

Still, he was duly stuffed and eventually work resumed. The basics were there, but all the finishing details remained to be done.

Which was where matters stood when I left for England.

Mother is coming up to her hundredth birthday this year but, uncharacteristically, had had a series of problems with a chest infection which was pulling her down so, as – pre Brexit – there was an incredibly cheap flight to London I took the chance to see how things were going.

She was down pin, off her feed and fed up with the miserable weather, but the application of a cattle goad to her doctor produced a course of better antibiotics and retail therapy did the rest….ill or well, mother can shop till I drop.

No sooner had we exhausted one shopping area than she was planning the next sortie…an entire summer wardrobe was purchased and once again I have to hail the staff of John Lewis for their customer service. Nothing was too much trouble to find the right fabric and style and to undertake alterations.

I took the opportunity to do my own shopping: Marmite, of course, and kippers in bulk from a superb fish shop in the town, hoping that for once Iberia would not lose my luggage in Madrid as otherwise the suitcase would probably swim home of its own volition.

Kippers managing to arrive at the same time as myself I relaxed, looking forward to a few day of cuddling the dogs and recovering from an overnight in Madrid airport.

No chance.

‘Oh, I forgot to tell you…we’re moving.’

This was, I admit, my own fault. I had waxed large before my trip on the idea that if we waited for everything to be finished we would be waiting until Doomsday but never in all my puff had I imagined that The Men would do anything about it.

They had.

Boxes galore encumbered the house….none of them marked….

Cupboards had been ransacked…provender recently bottled jostled with that of previous vintages…

Wardrobes had been attacked….kitchen appliances desecrated…

Never did I feel more in need of a sign:

‘Danger! Men at Work!’

So we moved.

Moving is always somewhat chaotic,so no surprises there…

I eventually found the soup blender and the potato peeler….the clothes hangers…

But there was one feature which defeated me…

Where were the interior doors?


Clearly there had been a hitch.

Julio -slated to produce the doors – had had a cashflow problem. His raw material supplier would not let him have any more wood until he had cleared his last bill, which he could not do as his last clients had not paid him.

His solution? As his last clients were gringos we would go with him to extract payment.

I put down my foot. Given that the gringos I see here are tighter  than a duck’s arse I could see no future in trying to extract payment in the foreseeable future unless armed with a machete and loaded for bear.

My solution was that we would pay for the wood and Julio would bill us for his work…

He has the wood…but until the finished articles appear the dogs are having a field day rushing from room to room and going to the loo involves a recce to see where The Men are working and  whence they are liable to appear without warning…

It has had decidedly deleterious effects on the morning George.






















Where do I go from here….?

terraces 001 Here being a hamlet in the hills behind Castellon de la Plana in Spain, a place well off the tourist route and likely to remain so as its airport, built at a cost of some 150 million Euros of public money and declared open in 2011 has yet to see a commercial ‘plane touch down on its runway.
Just as well in some ways as in 2012 the runway was declared too narrow for any hypothetical ‘plane to turn round.

So I didn’t get here by ‘plane.

Nor by train. I had wanted to, but perusal of what French railways laughingly call online timetables meant that all roads, or tracks, led to Paris.
You want to go cross country and pick up the Paris Barcelona service at some intermediate point?
Or pick up the service from Montpellier to the south of Spain?
Forget it.
The gloomy minds of the SNCF nerds responsible for the online timetables can only provide you with main line services or local ones. Very local ones.
And when you’ve spent three hours on a guessing game as to which very local timetable is the neighbour of the last very local timetable you consulted you find that even if you were to succeed in combining them in an infernal sausage link you inevitably end up in Narbonne at some unearthly hour with the prospect of sleeping on the station until the departure of the morning express for Spain.
Bring back the Thomas Cook European railway timetable…its disappearance another blow for civilisation as we knew it.

So, I booked a Eurolines coach for a seventeen hour journey to Castellon.
After the last encounter with Eurolines, notable for standing in a wind tunnel outside Lille station at five o’clock on a winter morning you would think I would have learned my lesson…but I persuaded myself that
A. Despite the violent overnight thunderstorms it was now summer.
B. There were no changes of coach to be made.
C. It was over one hundred Euros cheaper than taking the train.

Arriving at Poitiers from my one horse dorp on the bus which has replaced the train in rural areas I found that the station area resembled a Cecil B. de Mille crowd scene: the overnight storms had brought down trees which in their turn had brought down power lines and blocked the tracks.
Nothing had stirred since the early morning.

Thank goodness for Eurolines.

I had a seat to myself as far as Toulouse but the next eleven hours were spent with limited legroom, the journey broken up by the usual loo stops – the last of these being, by unlucky chance, only forty kilometres from my destination.
I staggered off the coach at Castellon and headed for the hotel across the road.
An inexpensive room with wifi and, bliss, a full size bath. I soaked there for ages before going to bed and sleeping for six straight hours.
I am not as young as I was.

And then to the house.
The gentleman holding the keys had come into town to collect me – the only bus being late in the afternoon – and we drove out through the remains of a once booming ceramic tile industry…derelict sites lying back from the road….into a countryside of scrub, olives and almonds the road rising and turning before dropping down into a broad valley surrounded by mountains.

A couple of villages, stony tracks leading off the road itself, pig farms, silos poking above the trees like cold war missiles, then turning off on a track between trees and fields of tomatoes…not staked, but sprawling over the golden ground…and with a final heave up the slope we are there.

spain 005 At the house I first saw in photographs over a year ago and last saw in the flesh in winter.

Our pied a terre in Europe…..

We’re out of France!