Monday, 14 May 2007
Starting Out Topless
It's a windy, stormy, sunny Sunday in Castilla-Leon, and we have no roof on our house.
I awoke at 8 a.m. with the wind lowing in the rafters overhead and a steel-colored sky outside the door slats. We are sleeping in the pantry these days, due to the roofless condition of the main house. The pantry, or "dispensa" as the locals call it, is a windowless, whitewashed adobe room, a very cavelike space with a lumpy concrete floor and wavy walls and no ceiling -- a view right up to the roof beams. It was populated with beetles until we decided to move in last week. We bug=bombed and patched the worst of the cracks, then had the construction guys move our bedroom furniture into there.
It really is not too bad. It is cool and stoney, like a tomb. Or a hermit's cave, or a monk's cell. I bet there are tourists paying zillions to stay in rooms just like this in exotic places, calling it "adventure accommodation" or some such marketing tripe. I can see the appeal, kind of. At least until the beetles come back.
I sleep in there with Paddy, or Patrick, my husband of three plus years. In October 2006 we bought the dispensa and kitchen and patio and Big House and the corral out back from a family that's owned it "since forever." It's all surrounded by a big wall and made of adobe bricks (aka "mud,"), and was originally designed as a home for mules and sheep. Human habitation was an afterthought. The whole place really deeply wants to fall down and turn back to Earth as quickly as possible.
When I saw the heavy sky I could only imagine what rain might do to the exposed mud bricks inside the 2-foot-thick walls. But I did not panic. I pulled the plastic lawn chairs in under the covered entryway, secured the lid on the big whitewash barrel, made sure the tools were all safe inside the hay barn. The hens out back were unfazed. Nothing you can do about the weather, anyway. Gotta just let it happen.
I ought to know that by now. We've lived through a Castilian winter. We slept in an unheated, un-plumbed, barely-wired main house, which meant a chilly dash outdoors in the wee hours when nature called... or adoption of the chamber pot. We have lots of chamber pots. They came with the house, one under each bed, which also came with the place, along with all kinds of castoff furniture and many decades of accumulated junk. Some of it is crap. Some of it is fabulous, like the antique wood-and-flint threshing sleds and dozens of hand-forged spikes and tools, and a baby doll dressed in full Franco-era military uniform. And some is incomprehensible: like the taxidermied guinea pig.
Until last week we had ceilings designed for 19th-century Spanish farmers, who are no taller than 5-foot-6 or so.
But all that is gone now. Now, we have no roof. We look across the courtyard and see the sky through the second-floor windows. We've looked very forward to this, but still it is traumatic.
After six months we finally found Mario, a contractor willing to take on this massive infrastructure job, and he's starting with the roof. He expects to pretty much gut the house, level the floors, install two bathrooms, a kitchen, a pantry and dining room, a back porch and a new bedroom upstairs, as well as rewire it all and connect it all to the water and sewer system. Oh yeah, and heat it, too, hopefully using some sort of green energy source. All within two months.
Vamos a ver! We shall see.
But finally progress is being made. The man came on Friday and installed a zippy internet connection, which inspired my friend Tino from Vigo to urge me to Blog about Life on the Campo.
It didn't rain much, all day long. It got quite nippy and windy, so we stayed in the kitchen most of the day, cleaning and cooking and visiting. All day the wind opened and shut the the window shutters up in the empty second-floor windows, like eyelids on its big yellow-brown face.