A month later I was back, extremely nervous, to see what lovely surprise awaited me now. I was also very anxious about the bills for of those there had been many. It was a blustery cold day when I arrived, really sunny, but the wind blew me horizontal. Talking of horizontal, I looked around at the thick strands of builders plastic clinging to the gorse, streaming in the wind. Sodden bags of emptied cement sat like alien landings around the midst of these bushes – so far into the thickets that I knew I would never be able to brave the prickles and fetch them out.
I went up to the masia with this man and some walls of the house were beginning to go up, but although it had received a roof, the little casita has been neglected and I could see that in a month of Sundays I would not be able to live there. There was no floor, no glass in most of the windows and a bit of a bomb site overall. that aside, the main house, the masia if you could call it that, was wrong. The doorways were ridiculously wide (you told me to do them like this he said – I did not). The truth is that when he had asked about door widths in order to get proper quotes from proper builders, in particular one, I had given him a width and height and he had taken the height for the width and the width for the height and so there were all gaps, but not enough walls to open these future wide doors into.
Then I saw that In the to-be kitchen some strange Salvador Dali type shelves had appeared in a corner, hewn in rough stone, and all I could think was “no way could I place anything on these without it toppling over”. How middle class am I? I was also not too sure about the concrete floor which had been started straight on the soil though truthfully it looked pretty ok.
I asked where were my quotes? No need for those, can’t you see the work we are doing? But I need quotes, otherwise I do not what it will cost and if I can even afford it – what about the builder in town, what about Manual? Oh, he comes once in a while and tells us what to do, and also the technical architect from your building project came, and we get on very well, and he said everything was great. Don’t worry, I have got everything in hand. And the casita? Oh, that it nothing, it will take use a week to finish.
Four months ago he had said it would be done in a month, and in this month I had expected to see quotes. How had I let it get this far? When did it become too late? There is a terribly funny movie, or rather a terrible movie that is funny, totally exaggerated, called The Money Pit and I may as well have been in it. I saw myself sinking and did not know how to get out, and there was no getting around the fact that the language difference was a terrible barrier. This man and I spoke French together. Imagine. Really, do.
He gave me a pile of bills from the local builders’ merchant to pay and so I went to pay them, good little girl that I am. One thing led to another and I started to blubber in the middle of their office. I think it was just looking at the sheer amount of the sums and trying to work out what I was getting, or not getting for my money, which was rapidly drying up, and basically feeling totally as if I was in a visual and oral fog.
Carlos and Gemma, whose builders’ yard it was, spoke no English and no French, and started a frantic phoning around to find someone who did. Eventually they came up with a distant cousin called Pilar who spoke with an impressive Geordie dialect (she was an English teacher and had spent her year abroad in Newcastle), and between the three of them it was decided that I should ditch this man, and then `Carlos and his builders’ yard would build me a lovely house instead.
I wanted to be grateful, and I guess I was, but another part of me said, here I go again, another builder, and is that what I should really do, wasn’t I in a builders’ yard in any event, and did he really know about old stone? And besides how was I going to get rid of “this man”? I really did not feel that I had the strength needed to tell him, thanks, but no thanks, and actually I felt physically intimidated. Not for the first time in my life, I wished I was a man, a strong man, but not “this man”.
“I had given him a width and height and he had taken the height for the width so there were all gaps but no walls to speak of – it would not have been possible to install a door that opened property”