136 Square Metres of Chestnut

Have you ever wondered, as I once did, what one hundred and thirty-six square metres of tongue and groove chestnut looks like?

Well, wonder no longer.

136 square metres of pristine chestnut

After extensive research we identified a commercial wood yard in Ribadeo which could provide us with luxurious 150mm wide aged chestnut tongue and groove, both sides planed smooth within an inch of their lives, and in almost flawless planks of up to two and a half metres. A vast sum of money moved between our bank and theirs, and after a wait of about a fortnight a wagon wound its way to us from the coast with our new upstairs flooring.

Half a dozen planks were sealed together with strapping and after we manhandled them off the wagon onto pallets by the roadside, the next two hours were spent carrying them into the house and up into the only bedroom with a concrete floor over the top of duck boards precariously placed across the top of the ancient beams which were to form the flooring of a future corridor. Thank goodness it wasn’t raining, it would have been a disaster. As it was the wood now needed to acclimatise to the house for six weeks to minimise any future movement.

Once the ‘quarantine’ was over the next month was spent flat out working with a friend, and coincidentally a master shipwright, to fit together a massive double skinned and insulated upstairs floor in the two large rooms which would later be subdivided using 120 plasterboard sheets (but that’s another story).

It was a massive undertaking which used over 24 tubes of Sika, four hundred 40mm screws, 68m2 of heat and sound insulation, and eventually four large tins of hard-wearing polyurethane floor varnish. There was a short interlude between the skins to allow the plumbers and electricians to do their stuff and fit all of the services out of sight.

The fitted floor was then treated for woodworm, lightly stained using a natural product derived from the walnut tree (called nogalina which sounds more like you should spread it on your toast), and varnished four times (the first being a 50:50 mix with thinners, and the final one coming after a fine sanding and washdown).

Delighted with the finish

I’ve lost count of the man hours which went into it, but it was worth all the effort and I’m delighted with the results although we didn’t escape without injury. There were several splinters, sore knees and plenty of hands from which the sticky black Sika, which gets everywhere, had to be chemically cleaned. The air was often blue, but in the end it was all worth it.

All we’ve got to do now is keep it clean and polished until the arrival of our first guests.

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Back After a Three Year Absence

It’s getting on for three years since I last put anything on these pages, an awful record, and something of which I am deeply ashamed. You’d be forgiven for thinking that we’d done nothing in the past three years but on the contrary we’ve been very busy, and that is partly the reason why I’ve not blogged.

The other reasons are wide and varied.

I’ve been constantly frustrated with the Brexit disaster unfolding in my home country and disgusted at the rise of nationalism that has gone hand in glove with it. It makes me shudder the way that you hear of foreign nationals being treated by some of my fellow countrymen and politicians, especially when the people of Galicia and Spain have been so welcoming to us in the six and a half years since we moved here. It’s ‘done and dusted’ now, the UK will have to make the best of it, while we will stop ordering items from home due to the prohibitive taxes and fees, and consider applying for Spanish citizenship once we are allowed to in five years’ time.

Over the last year coronavirus has ravaged the globe and while we’ve been on the periphery of everything in our rural idyll, I understand that my posting photos and stories of live as usual may have not been what many wanted to see. We have had virus cases in our small village, and we have been incredibly careful with who we meet and what we do, but I know we’ve got off very lightly.

As the building works intensified, I had an increasing desire to keep things to myself until the ‘big reveal’. It has not been all plain sailing, coronavirus, the cost of materials, the availability of tradesmen and an increasing need to do a lot of the work myself has meant that progress has been slow.

Where are we now?

We have two ‘finished’ apartments. The heating system needs to be installed and some of the taps and drains need connecting up, but apart from that it is simply a matter of furnishing the downstairs (upstairs is totally finished), installing a few lights, and giving the whole place a good clean. We need to apply for the relevant tourist licenses, tidy up the outside suitable for a soft launch, and get ready to open and receive our first guests.


So why am I blogging again now?

I’ve a couple of ulterior motives which I must confess to.

We have launched our apartments website, very much in it’s rudimentary form, and you can find it at www.casalineiras.es. As time moves on we will add photos to tempt you, and details on availability and we look forward to seeing you once the worldwide coronavirus situation improves and international travel is back on the agenda.

I’ve also had another little business idea to make use of some of the skills and knowledge which I have picked up along the way. I am offering my services, on an hourly basis, to look after your property in Galicia. This could be grounds maintenance, regular checks for problems and resolving them, overseeing renovations works, helping you to source and commission such works, or if you are new to the area, helping you to shortlist and select a property from an independent viewpoint. You can find more information at www.ourmaningalicia.com and I’d be happy to discuss how I can help you.

I will endeavour to start writing more frequent blogs to tell you a little of what I’ve been up to in recent months and share some photos and experiences.

Thanks for your patience, hope to see you very soon.

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Local Eccentricities

You may have thought that two forty-somethings giving up well paid careers, selling a perfectly nice house, trading in our fast cars for a battered twelve year old estate car, and decamping to a Galician backwater, would make us the local eccentrics. But far from it, we’re the paragon of normality in a sea of oddballs.

Why do I specifically mention this today…I’ll come onto that later.

We’ve known for a while that we have a number of neighbours, mostly male, who would struggle to spell Mensa, let alone register an Intelligence Quotient adequate to become members. I have a strong suspicion that the disproportionate surfeit of these characters is down to an historical reticence to dip even the littlest of toes into the gene pool, and where what was considered as a marriage of diversity was be getting wed to someone who hadn’t been brought up under the same roof.

There is the local neighbour who is under the care of social services and who is brought two hot meals a day and a daily stipend of eight euros. He waits patiently for his money to arrive and then makes the five kilometre walk into town to spend it on beer and cigarettes before making the return trip (contents unopened) and spend the rest of the day smoking and drinking. He recognises our cars, and if he sees I’m driving he leaps into the road and after forcing me to stop he gets into the passenger seat. We’ve never exchanged a word, but we have an unspoken agreement. I pick him up, and he rocks backwards and forwards in the passenger seat mumbling under his breath and getting increasingly agitated the closer that we get to his house. When he wants me to stop he grunts, then gets out of the vehicle and slams the door shut. It’s a bit of a one way relationship.

Then there is a guy in the adjacent village with the thickest Galician accents which makes him totally unintelligible, even apparently to Gallego speakers.  He brings us eggs (but only if you’ve an empty box to give him), shouts at us in Gallego and then chuckles to himself as he gets back in his car and drives off. When we were having the roof replaced he took it upon himself, as a seventy-five year old of considerable upper body bulk, to climb the scaffolding to talk to the builders. No health and safety here.

But today’s missive comes as a result of the exploits of a nearby neighbour who is currently the talk of the town due to his antics earlier in the week.

He was walking past the house yesterday while I was sitting out on the patio enjoying a post-work cup of tea, and he looked a little disheveled. I wished him the traditional ‘good day’ expecting a similar retort, but no, he wanted to chat. I use ‘chat’ in the loosest sense of the word as he then proceeded to remove his coat and talk at me for five minutes at machine-gun speed, in Gallego. The bits of his soliloquy that I thought I grasped were about ; his father being stung by wasps, his car having broken down, him needing to go to the hospital, and him hurting his leg (which he rolled up his trousers to show me).

It was clear that I’d made a terrible decision, he was happily walking past with his eyes down to the road and was oblivious of my existence until my polite greeting.

I nodded, and occasionally said ‘Yes’, hoping that he wasn’t asking me a question that I’d regret answering in the affirmative to. I could hear Amanda sniggering to herself in the house as she left me to flounder before showing some mercy and shouting me in.

It turns out that a month or so ago his car caught fire in Ribadeo and made the local news. I’d seen him in a courtesy car for a couple of weeks but hadn’t put two and two together. After it was written off he bought another one, probably for a few hundred Euros and on Monday that broke down and was taken away to a local garage to be repaired.

grasscutter2Now this neighbour likes to go the seven kilometres into A Pontenova for a mid-morning coffee and a chat to his mates and being without a car wasn’t going to stop him. So he fired up his unregistered, untaxed, untested and frankly dangerous three wheeler grass cutter, donned a florescent jacket, and headed off into town.

On entering town he drew the interest of a number of motorists, and their mobile phones, and soon the Guardia Civil were notified. He was apprehended in a local coffee shop, his location given away by his grass cutter being parked in the street outside.  His vehicle was confiscated, he was arrested, and after lengthy questioning he was released to walk home.

And that is where my badly mistimed pleasantry came in, and why I got blasted with both barrels. It was probably nothing to wasps, hospitals and broken down cars but a full explanation of the circumstances leading to his arrest and seemingly the police brutality which left him with a bandage around his leg.

He’s made the regional papers and apparently the national news (Telecinco) and has done his little bit to make Amanda and I feel all the more normal.

The bizarre thing is, I’ve since learnt that his name translates to ‘Perfect’.

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Liñeiras Amanda – Super Sub

Our house is part of a small hamlet of eight disparate houses, in a small village of twenty-two properties, in a small town of eleven parishes, and with a constantly diminishing population of just 2,330 people (down from 4,841 in 1970). One of the main reasons for our decision to move here was to be surrounded by mountains and forest and be remote from the everyday bustle of town life, but also to be part of a small friendly community, and close enough to a town for shops and services.

People choose to move to foreign climes for many reasons; the weather, the cost of living, the pace of life, and wanting to experience and enjoy a different culture and way of life. For us it was an element of all of these, but predominantly for a different and slower pace of life so that after nearly thirty years of twelve hour working days we could take a step back from the vicious and destructive circle of work, eat, sleep, repeat.

We both believe that it is important to become active members of the local community and I have to admit that Amanda has been much better at assimilating than I have.

This is probably more thanks to her brilliant command of the Spanish language and her ability to make friends. Since moving here in 2014 she has; worked in two schools, a local language academy, and for an adult education enterprise; taken a job in a local cake shop; attended courses and events; and, undertaken a few ad-hoc translation works.

But her latest ‘community integration’ initiative is the one which makes me the most proud.

She is now a fully-fledged amateur footballer, with more than half a dozen games under her belt, for Ribadeo FC/Sporting Pontenova FC combined Feminino Club de Futbol, playing in the Segunda Grupo 1 of the Liga Gallega.

Mandy Football Side

It was all thanks to a chance conversation eighteen months ago when one of the ‘Friday night ladies’ (a group of Mums who met for a cheeky glass of wine on a Friday night while watching their kids play in the local park) said she wouldn’t be coming next week as she was going football training. After a brief chat, her interest was pricked and she agreed to join the lady, and twenty other local girls and women, who were trying to establish a new football club, the first women’s eleven a side team in Lugo.

A year of training turned into five-a-side friendly game which they lost 25-1, and which eventually saw a merger with a group from nearby Ribadeo (30km away) for depth of squad and to form a side to seek entry into the lowest level of the Galician ladies league. Two heavy defeats in pre-season friendlies heralded the start of the season, with understandably low expectation from coaches, players and nearest and dearest, and on the 1st October 2017 a narrow 2-1 defeat away in A Coruna against SCD Pastoriza was their first ever competitive match.

Since then the team has come on in leaps and bounds. They train twice a week (in all weathers), have two coaches (the head coach who swears like a trooper, and his milder mannered assistant) and have remained unbeaten in the subsequent fourteen rounds.

Mandy FootballerAfter sitting out the first eight rounds, while confirmation was sought from the UK that she was not contracted to any club over there, Amanda has become the super-sub making second half appearances on seven occasions ranging from playing the full half to the last ten minutes.

Last Sunday her side overcame some atrocious conditions including; vicious hailstorms, gale force winds, and ankle deep mud, to beat their opponents by 11-1. They currently sit fourth in the division as they hit half-way point in the season, and the hard work in training and dedication to the cause has paid dividends.

As they are the only side in Lugo, all away games have to be played in A Coruna which is a ninety minute drive away. You have to admire their determination and can only be in awe of the way that a group of women, many of whom had never played competitive football before, have gelled into a very good football team who are a joy to watch and are currently in with a reasonable chance of promotion to the top flight of Galician ladies football in just their first year in existence.

To say I’m proud is an understatement.

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Additions to the Family

We have known Dolores since before we bought the house in 2010. Our estate agent introduced us to her as an ex-high flying executive from Madrid who had packed it all in for a quiet life in a Galician backwater. She’d bought her house believing it was in Asturias, only to discover to her distress that it was the very last house in Galicia, her two near neighbours being Asturian.

Every year Dolores has a problem.

In late Spring a heavily pregnant cat appears and takes up residency in her wood shed. Within days she gives birth and Dolores helps the mother to nurse the two, three, four or five kittens until they are weaned, at which point she tries to find them all new homes, from an ever decreasing pool of locals. If the mother arrives early enough in the year then she could easily fall pregnant again, and deliver a second litter in July or August.

I’m a sucker for kittens, and so is Dolores, who now has four cats of which two are the left-over, un-homed, products of her stray.

Once the mother has completed her motherly duties, in the safe knowledge that Dolores will be an always-willing assistant, she disappears again until the following spring. That’s one cat that knows when she’s onto a good thing.

Since we moved out here in 2014 every litter that has arrived has been trumpeted to us, usually with cute and adorable photographs, in the hope that we may become a home to one or more of her annual menagerie. We’ve always resisted.

Initially we had our own elderly cat (Bonita) from England and just three weeks after she died a stray appeared on our doorstep and adopted us, the outdoor (and occasionally indoor) Kit the Cat.

Since then we’ve taken Dolores’s phone calls and; ‘not liked the colour’, ‘we only want a black one’, or ‘we’ll only take a tom cat’ (after the trauma of neutering Kit) and while we’ve visited her house and made all the right ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhh’ noises we have managed to resist taking on any more strays.

Then in September we took a phone call from cat-woman Dolores. ‘My stray has had a second litter…..and one of them is black……and I think it’s a Tom cat’ she said. There was a discernible ‘I’ve got you this time’ air of satisfaction in her voice. She’d managed to manufacture our ideal, all black, tom. We had no option but to visit.

We both instantly fell in love, with both the black one and his mackerel coloured brother, and we agreed to take them once they had been weaned from their mother, and after we’d completed our Camino De Santiago.

3C4CDE2A-68BD-4285-8AB7-F498DFD697F3On the 14th October we made the short trip to one of Galicia’s last outposts and came home with a cat basket containing Lemmy (the black one) and Hendrix (the mackerel).

They will, of course, be outdoor cats. They are here to assist Kit in keeping check on the perennial rat and mouse problem that blights all rural areas. They now spend their nights in the bread oven house but have the run of the finca from dawn to dusk.

They are slowly growing up from the bundles of fur that arrived a month ago and are developing their own individual characteristics.

565F0ABF-836A-4CB8-A56B-119816F24FEAHendrix would be a brilliant competitor in any ‘kitten food eating competition’ as his prime Lidl pate is gone almost before it hits the bottom of the bowl, Lemmy is more of a grazer which means that either Amanda or myself have to stand guard and stop Hendrix polishing off his food too.

Hendrix runs into situations like a bull in the proverbial china shop, while Lemmy is much more cautious and if his early efforts in vermin control continue then he’s likely to be a top-notch mouser.

They are both very chatty and like to announce an impending ‘toilet visit’ as well as calling to one another if either drifts out of sight.

Gradually over the last month Kit has come to accept their presence and can even bring herself to play with them on occasions (although perhaps a little too roughly), before getting bored and going off to sleep in one of her many ‘safe spots’ around the property.

They are massive bundles of fun, love a human cuddle, play fight with one another, and then curl up together to sleep.

But that’s where we draw the line, there will be no more, three is our limit. We already spend more on cat food than we do on the human stuff, let’s hope that they soon start feeding themselves.

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