Country Living


The house stands as it has for a century, sturdy and serene. The cracks in the traditional albero coloured walls speak of a dignified aging, the solid wooden doors are testimony to the time and care taken by the original workmen.

Classic. Historical. Irresistible.

I fell for it. Hooked, lined and sunk.


There are two bathrooms, equally badly configured, which have decided to share the task of driving me to distraction.

One has drains that continually block and back up. The other has a small hot water geyser that has to be unplugged before a tap is turned on, or the sleepy would-be bather gets a wake-up that out-caffeines even a cafe solo.

The local bugs seem to think they have squatter rights, and I’m dealing with an army of ants who, in defiance of the perilous piping, have taken up residence under the bath.

I have visions of them holding committee meetings about a long-term secret agenda, which entails developing electrified worker ants. These can be linked together to form massive chains of power, and will take over the world when the oil supplies run out.


With perilous plumbing and shocking electricity, it is time to call in the professionals.

Two electricians came the first day, and for a half hour time stood still as they gazed profoundly at the archaic system that passes for wiring.

Time here is at best an elastic concept, and such things as deadlines and punctuality are not in the average vocabulary.

They exchanged mutters, raised eyebrows and pursed lips, eventually coming to some agreement incomprehensible to any but the initiates.

The resident spider was dislodged from the main board, and everything switched off. They then thoughtfully mentioned that if I was working it would be a good idea to save any data on the computer.

The first technical task was to create an earth, and for this they needed that essential in any rural electrician’s bag of tricks – a fence dropper. Around this they wound the bare copper ends of two wires, one green and one yellow.

This is patriotism steeped in equal opportunities, as the flag of Andalucia is green and white, that of Spain is red and yellow.

The other ends of the wires were stripped and jammed into the closest wall plug. The dropper was then passed through the window and planted in the untended vegetable garden outside. Voilá – an earth.

After this heroic effort they left everything else exactly as they had found it and went home.

Exhausted by the challenge and their creativity they didn’t return for the next two days. On arrival, a 5 minute static observation was necessary to make sure nothing had moved since their previous visit. They then brought all their tools into my freshly washed hallway, took their sandwiches out of the toolbox and retreated to the grass verge for their bocadillo – the Spanish equivalent of a tea break.

Not to be caught out a second time, I had saved and switched off the computer the moment I saw their van stop outside. But early that morning I’d also set my first bread-baking trial in motion and there were earthenware bowls of dough of uncertain temperament rising in the kitchen.

In breadmaking, whenever you move to a new location you need to come to terms with the particular local environment. Altitude, humidity, temperature, all affect the final product.

Fortified by their jamón and olive oil, the pair returned inside and switched off the mains, at the moment that coincided precisely with the critical point of baking. Strike two for moi.

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