Before the solar installation, I needed to create an access road to the house. In my official, very expensive authenticated building project there was permission for one. I had asked the architects repeatedly to bend it discretely behind the casita and have it emerge unobtrusively at to the side of the house. The intent was to flank it with cypresses in due course.
However, in the final plans, although the road was curved, it passed IN FRONT of the casita. If I had built it like that it would have gone through the swimming pool (no I haven’t built that yet – no money and terrified of complications) and ended up by my front door. No one wants a road going straight to their front door do they? Won’t bother asking about the swimming pool bit.
So I told Jose the tractor man to build it where I had asked it to be in the first place. Jose is quite a character and is known to frequent the bars, all of them, more than he should. He speaks with a heavy, often drunken local accent and I find him practically impossible to understand. But he is a genius behind the wheel, apart from the time he and tractor toppled over into an ex-pats ditch after one too many carajillos!
When he came to look at the job I made sure that Carlos was on hand to translate. He looked at me most strangely and it later transpired that he asked Carlos what kind of woman was I for he had come up once and I was in my nightie! God forbid.
The problem with Jose is he says he will be there at 7am but often it is 4pm, or even 7am the day after which is exactly what happened in the nightie incident. I remember the garment clearly. It was a white lacey floaty number that ended at the middle of the knees. Since feasted on by moths. Possibly a bit see through with the early sun.
What with my fine morning just-got-out-of-bed hair sticking out all over the places, I must have looked like one of those naughty fairies at the bottom of the garden – you remember those stories read to you when a mere sprat? Walter de la Mare stuff.
Jose asked if I had planning permission for the road and I presented him with the documents. He looked at the official stamp and nothing more. I will be here tomorrow morning at 7am, he pronounced. Yes sure, but by golly, he was. And I was up and washed and dressed in armour plating with straightened hair.
When Jose works, he works hard, neatly and fast. Within a few hours he had created the backbone of the road, exactly as asked. Carlos came by to inspect and we were all happy. Especially Jose who was off for his 10am breakfast in Ramons. These can and usually do last well into the afternoon, fueled by all sorts of liquors. Until shortly before 4pm actually…
But before he could climb into his tractor and head off, we saw a 4×4 belonging to the forest ranger department climbing purposely up the drive. It pulled to a stop in front of the casita and a bald headed stocky man smoking a cigar climbed out. At the time the irony if his smoking on the job passed me by completely. Not only is smoking on any job prohibited these days, but especially in the mountains when your principal job is to ensure fire safety.
What sidetracked me was the man’s menacing demeanor. He asked if I had “permisos”, and when I produced the document, he was not happy. “You have already two roads here in front of the house”’ he declared, waving at two hideous stony tracks created by the endless delivery of trucks with building materials. He ignored the fact that I had placed boulders in front of them to encourage the gorse to grow back and prohibit the random passing of vehicles.
Despite my protests the forest ranger was adamant these were roads, despite the lack of substructure or gravel. Then he inspected the document more and added that the road I was creating bent the wrong way according to my project. Actually so did the tracks but that did not seem to concern him. He was hell bent on having his moment of power. “You should have informed the forest department before you started,” he admonished, “then everything would have been be okay”.
“But I have planning permission. I only changed the bend a bit!”
“Well you cannot do it that way”. He declared smugly, ‘I am going to make a denuncia…and if you plant any more fruit trees” he added while looking pointedly at a small vineyard I had started, “ I will make another. This is mountain land”.
I started to cry. He softened a little and gave me his mobile number, but refused to give me his name. Just a number. 005. When I wrote about this incident in my syndicated blog after his third visit, he actually sent me a threatening email for daring to publish a photo of him smoking on my land. I do not wish you any harm, he wrote, “but…
“I stared at the “but” on my computer screen, a red hot flush of anger creeping up my neck. Friends who are normally quite antagonistic towards mainstream society urged me to remove it so after 4 weeks I reluctantly did. Not here.
It was a particularly hot summer and my little vineyard died. Oh well. The road remained a track for 6 months while I was put through the financial wringer by the town hall, the courts and the architects. All I had done was build the road as I had asked for in the first place. It was much more respectful of the environment than if placed in full view and had not resulted in any cutting of mountain trees or protected species. It was actually the same length as the road I did have permission for and is in principally the same place apart from the curve taking it sensibly behind the casita to the Hansel and Gretel house, instead of the main house. Today you cannot even see it, not from afar, and not even on the land. It is flanked with young cypresses.
But this little exercise in illogical control cost me a further 4000€. To date, because the case is ongoing. In fact last week, after I wrote this and as if having ESP, papers arrived at the ayuntamiento via the Valencian courts describing my crimes. The soft spoken secretary Pepe has assured me that they will write and say all is in order, but…
Always that “but”.
The last time the forest ranger arrived unannounced, with a companion, smoking his stinking cigar, I lost my temper. Be careful Carlos, warned, stay calm. But I did not. “Get off my land”’ I screamed at him, “This is private property and you have no appointment. Whoever said you had the right to trespass?”
He looked at me with a mixture of coldness and uncertainty.
I added,” And if I ever see you smoking again in the mountains, I will make a denuncia of my own”. The two of them hotfooted it down the mountain. The next week a chain went up at the bottom of the drive.
Some months later I saw him looking at the finca from a distant hill with binoculars. Felix was with me. We were having a fine Rioja and celebrating his spectacular terracing around the house – and the planting of more trees. Two olives, two cherries, two pomegranates and a quince to join the almonds and carobs already there. God forbid – fruit! Felix looked at me. “Shall we?” he suggested, a glint in his eyes. “Yes, yes, let’s,” I entused in Rioja spirit!
And without a moment’s hesitation, we turned our backs on 005 and lowered our trousers. I can vouch that mine was lily white.