I went back to Liverpool, bereft, and yet strangely full of hope. Another part of me wondered if I was a lamb (ok an old sheep) being led yet again to the slaughter. However when something happens that you have no control over, well, you just get on with it. That is my experience anyway.
So I just got on with it, and re-adjusted the amount of money all this would cost, and enquired at the bank about the possibility of increasing our mortgage. Six weeks later, I returned, and there it was, my casita with stove, beautifully floored, painted, and in possession of a dinky little ensuite bathroom; adorable as long as you did not venture past the front of the cabin and see how its exterior clashed with the mountain landscape.
I plotted the positioning of slender trees, cypresses, to hide the rectangular monstrosity and drove down to Castellon to sort out a few basic necessities such as a camp bed, sleeping bag, and candles for my new home. Luckily I did not need wood as there was already a nicely matured pile left by the previous owner, chopped and ready to use under a copse of trees near the cabin.
That night, with Tracy, I lit (well she lit) my first fire and we burnt chicken and aparagus over it on an in-built grill thing. We could not get it to fit in all the way due to the pile of wood so kept the stove door open. Our bird spit and sizzled and sprayed fat all over the floor. We ate the charred carcass and blackened spears with relish at a make-shift table made of thermal bricks and wood planks. Licking our finger, we toasted the future with copious amounts of Rioja, much of which also joined the fat on the floor. However it was a night to celebrate, and by candle light you could not see much.
Eventually after much drunken conversation and far too many confidences, Tracy staggered off to her beat up truck and drove off home. After waiting for the sound of her diesel motor to fade down the mountain, I staggered onto my camp bed and drifted asleep, vaguely worrying whether she was in any fit state to drive. In the morning I received a lovely thank you text from Tracy, much to my relief. In time I would realise that everyone drove drunk around here. As long as it was local, they rationalised it. I will admit that I came to do the same.
Later, in the clear light of day, and after recovering from a dreadful hangover, I saw what a truly dreadful state Tracy’s beautifully laid floor was in. I should have realised how porous brick would be – I had chosen it because it looked like old terra cotta, but traditionally these bricks are used for window sills. I set about scrubbing and scraping it with vinegar and soap, then when that did not work, all the cleaning products I had bought for the new bathroom. But the grease and wine stains would simply not disappear. Eventually I gave up and covered them with salt and left for the airport, back to Liverpool. This little thing depressed me. It was symbolic. My first steps in the right direction, tainted. My beautiful floor besmirched and all my own doing. It did not take long.
“The brick floor was beautifully laid”