The blind leading the blind

Our next door neighbours in Liñeiras are English, for the moment at least. The house which they bought a couple of months after we acquired our pile of stones is back on the market and they are renovating another house in a nearby village. I think it was the enormity of the project which faced them, rather than the discovery that we were their new neighbours, which caused the change of plans.

We’ve met David a couple of times on previous visits but at the moment his girlfriend Catherine is over here doing work on the ‘other’ house. While she was up in Liñeiras a couple of days ago we got chatting and she came to have a look at the work on the barn. She was impressed, both with the price and the quality of the work, and she suggested that she’d like our builder Facundo to give her a quote for some work.

I mediated, and an appointment was arranged for Facundo to visit this morning to look at the works and arrange a quote, but it didn’t go well.

My Spanish mobile rang at about 10:30 with Facundo enquiring as to whether I’d be available to meet at 15:30 to go back to Catherine’s house and translate. They’d apparently not understood a word each other had said and agreed to bring me in as ‘piggie in the middle’. I’d been caught totally unawares, and whilst driving back from the house in torrential rain (which had sensibly halted all works), and agreed before really thinking it through.

This is the first trip that I’ve made to Spain on my own, without the castilian fluent Amanda, and up until the end of October the extent of my Spanish was to ask for a beer, or the bill. The rest of the time I spent grinning and nodding while Amanda did the speaking, waiting for a precis at some later time. I’ve hardly got a track record as a translator, but Facundo must have thought I was marginally better than nothing.

As the hour approached I got increasingly nervous. My discussions with Facundo have tended to involve a lot of pointing, re-explaining, miming, and frequently resorting to our ‘Spanish Dictionary for Construction and DIY‘. I was hoping that some of these recently acquired construction words would get me through, I just hoped that she wanted walls, floors, concrete and heating.

Catherine’s approach to detailing works is, to say the least, a little scatter-gun. She switched from describing essential works (heating, plumbing and cooking) to what she’d like to do in the future (balconies, exposed internal stonework, guest accommodation). Facundo was looking increasingly confused as I not only tried to translate but also to try and put some structure and priority to her requests.

What didn’t help, in visiting several of Catherines’ many outbuildings, was her fifteen month old male English bull terrier seeming to mistake my leg for a fifteen month old bitch English bull terrier….on heat. Trying to fend off his amorous advances, while consulting dictionaries and trying to remember what was being said, wasn’t simple. It was like a particularly difficult ‘It’s a Knockout Challenge‘ when just as you think it can’t get any harder they turn on the water cannons…and their tanks are full of farm slurry!

It was one of the most exhausting two hours (yes – two hours) that I have spent since arriving in Spain. Catherine’s Spanish comprises a sentence in English with the occasional Spanish word, which would almost be okay if that Spanish word was pronounced in such a way as to make it understandable to Spaniards. Facundo speaks no English whatsoever…and I was sweating beads of concentration.

It was definitely the blind leading the blind.

Catherine will get her quotation, but what it will be for is anyone’s guess.


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