Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Water, Fire and Air

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High in the mountains, to the untrained eye, the reservoirs appeared to be nearly full though down on the plains farmers were becoming increasingly concerned; the lack of rainfall and the rising temperatures did not bode well. These were the early days of Spain’s longest ever drought and forecasts about dwindling supplies in the long growing season, proved well founded.

Driving thousands of kilometres through this dry and dusty landscape, between the coast and mountains; stretching from Malaga in the south and Girona in the north east. The effects of the drought and what some regard as the creeping desertification of Spain were all around.

The contrast between the care free tourism on the Costa’s and the agricultural workers inland struggle was quite marked. Parched soils were difficult to work, the crops, grass and woodlands tinder dry. Water restrictions were being brought forward in an effort to conserve the continuity of supplies. The summer temperature soared to record levels and with no prospect of rain till autumn all that remained was to watch and hope.

Autumn came and went without significant rainfall in turn followed by yet another dry winter. The land was suffering and crops were threatened; and when in the following spring the long overdue rains did not materialise there was a growing sense of crisis.

Water tensions arose between regions who accused each other of wasting a national resource. Claimed efficiency in local methods of watering crops were contrasted more profligate methods in other regional Autonomies of the Spanish domain. The people of Valencia marched through the streets demanding that water be piped from the River Ebro to fulfil their needs; whilst their Catalan neighbours resisted those demands citing environmental issues as their chief concern for doing so. The Government planned to construct more coastal desalination units, they would take years to complete and people wanted water now. Property developers continued to constructed acre upon acre of housing all centred around thirsty golf courses. Villas with un-licensed swimming pools which could never be filled were built on demand.

Then disaster struck, nightly reports of fires consuming huge tracts of land estimated at up to 300,000 acres. Families and whole communities destroyed by the all consuming flames, 11 rescue workers dying in their particular battle against the raging inferno.

A disaster that was compounded by the carelessness and sometimes the criminality of people. Barbeques were held in high fire risk zones, despite participants having to scale barriers signposted with the fire warnings. In other cases blazes were started deliberately.

Firefighting helicopter

Friday, June 17, 2005

The tile patterns

The tile patterns are fairly simple 33 x 33 cm tiles laid in simple rows but with an inlaid border of herring bone effect tiles of 15 x 33 cm. The three larger areas of the ground floor would have a central panel surrounded by the border tile. The inset panels would also be offset to the main body of tiles thereby giving a variation to the rest of the rooms.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

One step forward two steps back

Our expert ‘instal:lador’ has worked his magic and everything within the bathroom is in position. The expert is looking vacant again, something he is very expert at!

When he was measuring the walls for the placement of the pipes, he had removed from the bathroom the very cabinet that was now causing the problem, and put it in an adjoining room. Despite advice from myself and his colleagues that he should simply draw around the cabinet carcass making a template on the wall. He told us this was his work and that he knew what he was doing. Our expert then walked backwards and forwards between the bathroom and bedroom taking measurements from the cabinet and transferring them to the wall where the cabinet would be fitted.

On examination of the situation he has identified the problem, that the cabinet case obstructs the connection to the water supply for the taps. His solution is that he will cut out a large hole in the cabinet, thereby weakening the cabinet but allowing him to connect to the water supply. In order to get this proposal past me he tells me about the situation, but does so by speaking German to me.

It is often said that the most powerful word in any language is ‘No!’

And so it was. I had to say ‘nein!’

Now I was insisting that he corrected the pipe work, retiled the wall and fitted the cabinet as it should be. As usual the extra work he caused was done by others, this is how one often recognises the expert.

Monday, June 06, 2005

A little light but a long tunnel!

The bathroom fittings were all on site and ready for installation. The fitter ‘istal:lador’ looked over them

“Do you have a crane?” he asked.

“No, why do we need a crane? There are three of us here”.

“But they are very heavy!” he complained.

And so it was that, I ended up carrying everything that was required for the following days work up the stairs. I placed everything in position so that the placement of the sanitary ware and cabinets could not be confused.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Slow progress

Arrived 10pm to find that the two bathrooms have not been installed, and that the tiling on the first floor is only partially completed.

Rather than removing the door architrave the tiler has cut round them by nibbling at the tile with pliers, the black grout and the broken edges look awful. Tommorow he will have to refit those tiles, come what may.

Had to put a make shift bed in the lounge; this will be my room for the next couple of weeks. There is a toilet down in the underbuild which is also the garage, what luxury! To make matters worse I will have to battle with those creatures of the night which inhabit that space, despite my best efforts to remove them.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Time management

The work is going much slower than I planned or could imagine, and with the weather getting hotter having to bathe in a plastic basin is a nightmare that has gone on too long. I have decided to go back to England for two weeks, a chance for the 'paletta' to crack on with the tiling. And for me it is an opportunity to get clean again.

Salvador Dali painted his clocks with distorted faces. In the heat and dust of Spain that is what happens to time here. At least to an outsider that is how it appears. In reality construction work is hard work exacerbated by the endless carrying of heavy materials and equipment. Add the heat and the draining effect of energy levels is soon apparent. The 'siesta' is an integral part of the body recovering its capacity for further strenuous endeavours.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Reform of the Bathroom.

There are two bathrooms which need to be reformed; the ensuite and the family bathroom.

After removal of the sanitary ware the next task is to retile the two rooms, after first removing the old tiles.

With only three days to complete the work before the tiler wants to start work it is looking like an impossible task. We therefore decide to get the builders in once more.

In the photograph the bath has been removed and the brick and tile base it sat in has been demolished. The tiles on the walls and every spot of the adhesive holding them on had to be removed by hammer and chisel. Even the mechanical hammer could not cope with the mortar and tile adhesive combination.

As soon as the builder rips out the two suites the tiler calls to say that he is behind on his present job and therefore will not be able to start work for ten days. This means that we will be without the two bathrooms for at least two weeks. With the weather getting hotter by the day this is news we do not need.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Materials to go!

The Materials for the Bathroom have arrived. We have decided to replace the two Baths with large shower enclosures.(80 x 120mm) The rooms each have good water pressure and with the capacity of the boiler invigorating hot showers should soon be possible.

The tiler is ready to start work as soon as the old bathroom suites are removed.

Shopping for materials is a strange experience in this country which still thrives on patronism if not nepotism. You the customer are not King here. You are not expected to show around for the required parts and materials. 'Installadors' and 'palettas' instead order on your behalf and collect the discounts they can negotiate with suppliers. 'Discuento' is still the first word learned by most Spaniards.

When you pay a visit to the large hardware suppliers your prospective purchase has three distinct elements.

First the 'Technico' will search his computer to ascertain if they can supply you with the correct part , he will print off a spec sheet and price the goods and add the IVA tax at 17%. He will then give you a discount of 10% if this is your first visit maybe 15% if it is a subsequent order.

Second the goods will be checked over by the counter assistant with your help.

Thirdly you now go to the office and pay a clerk for the goods and receive your validated invoice.

The process always seems like an exercise in job creation.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

February 2005

During the coldest winter in 50 years we had central heating installed.

All the upper floors had trenches dug into the floors to house the pipes.

When we bought the house we found that the owner had hidden previous damage to the floor of each room by the placement of rugs over the affected areas. In the picture the light grey area is the damage he hid from view.