The Blue Beast Sixteen

Wednesday, 5 June 2002

Early Days in Ezkurra

Got the keys late on Monday afternoon and arrived at 6pm hoping to find that the owner had turned up at the weekend as requested to clear up all his mess. Elisabeth, the mad estate agent, had called him and he had said he would come and sort things out. Not that you would have noticed. He had emptied the fridge and cleared away the seed potatoes spread out over the kitchen table but done little else. 
The place is filthy! 

Kitchen

The building itself is sound and in good state of repair. 
The bathroom is modern and fully tiled but everything needs a damn good clean. I daren’t use the kitchen until I have bought some industrial cleaning fluid and removed years of grease. 
Swiss Cottage? More like Swiss Hovel! Cobweb Cottage, Casa Cat Shit call it what you will, it’s my home for the next six months. I lit a fire and unloaded my stuff from the Beast. 

Bathroom

I can’t use the huge garage under the house that forms the ground floor until I can find the cat and strangle it, or at least train it to use the countryside as its litter tray instead of the bags of sand and cement stacked up on the garage floor. 

Garage

I discovered a washing machine plumbed into the garage and tried it out. Water gushed everywhere and it made a hell of a noise but the filthy, grey cotton rugs came out cleaner and whiter than they went in so I have something to put on the bare tiled floors. 
Or at least I will have when they are dry which could take forever as it has not stopped raining since I arrived. It was a glorious 30 degrees as I drove up from Rioja on Monday but a depression has settled over NW Spain and the temperature up in the mountains has dropped considerably. Hence the log fire, the only heating I’ve got. 

The useless fireplace

Hot water comes from one of those little gas hot water heaters that spring into life with a woooomph! when you turn on the tap. Or it would have done if I had realised I needed to connect the gas pipe from the heater to the bottle of butane gas inside the oven. Having sorted that out I can now have a hot shower every morning or until the gas runs out. I am told the gas man delivers every week but which day I don’t know. I’ll buy another bottle when I see him and thus have a spare so I’ll never run out. 

On the lease it says my address is ‘una casa sita en la ctra. de Leiza s/n en Ezkurra, Navarra, Espana, denominada chabola‘ which translates roughly as ‘an unnumbered hunting lodge on the Leitza road in Ezkurra, Navarra, Spain’ which hopefully will explain to the postman where I live. I am about 4kms from Ezkurra which has a pelota court and a couple of houses and a restaurant which I have yet to try. Pelota is the main Basque sport, it’s like squash played with your hands, very fast and fierce. Some times it is played with long basket-woven bats. That just makes it even faster. 

The other way is Leiza which is about half an hour away because of the twisting winding roads and the logging trucks that hurtle round the bends. I drove into Leiza yesterday and bought cleaning materials and had lunch in a crowded little restaurant. Had to wait 20 minutes for a place at a table and joined three other men who ate in silence. Seems like they all work at the paper mills and get only an hour for lunch so speed is essential. Nevertheless they eat well. I had a delicious thick soup of ham and garbanzos (chick peas) followed by a whole tiny braised leg of lamb and a bottle of house wine. I declined dessert and had a coffee and brandy instead. As I didn’t want a receipt the bill was €9, 6 quid! The owner used to be a long distance lorry driver and obviously knows what his customers like. The place is heaving and there are always men waiting to get a place at a table. I am going there again today as soon as I finish typing this, partly to have lunch and partly to use his phone line to send this email to you. The red wine is served chilled and the bottle is left on the table, drink what you want and leave the rest.  It’s included in the price of the meal. I haven’t worked out what happens when you drink the whole bottle and ask for more, do you get charged extra? No doubt I will find out one day. 

When I got back after lunch, I set about cleaning the kitchen which is also the main room. I had bought ammonia to strip the grease off the extractor fan and washed all the walls and floors with industrial strength cleaner. It looks a lot better today. I defrosted and scrubbed out the fridge and freezer this morning. 

Kitchen cleaner

Leo had taught me the secret of being busy but happy and productive. Do what you want to do and as soon as you get bored, go and do something else. I thus decided to stop cleaning for a while and start adding some creature comforts to my new home. I found an old radio in a cupboard. Now, I have no idea what that word ‘old’ means to you but I suspect you are thinking valves, bakelite, knobs, wooden case. Not a bit of it. Old now means an enormous Sharp tuner amplifier plus record deck and tape player and two big speakers. The sort of thing I bought 20 years ago and thought was the bees knees!! It had miles of cables and wires and so on and no instruction book (not that I would have read it anyway). I had great fun putting it together and I have now got a classical radio station playing all the time. My next task is to find out how I can connect my little Sony Discman to it to be able to play my CDs. There’s a TV set in the corner. I can get 4 decent Spanish channels and 2 very fuzzy Basque ones. It has one of those power aerials that needs to be plugged in which is hanging from a wire attached to the beams with other cables running all over the place. Very ugly and unsightly! Took the lot down and began rearranging wires and cables, encouraged by my success with the radio. Tidied it all up and put it all back together. That looks much better. Turned on the TV and the power aerial. Could I get a signal? Could I hell! Nothing but snow and hissing. Eventually, I gave up and hung the aerial from its little wire again. Perfect. All the Spanish TV you could wish for! Moral; if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. 

View from the bedroom window

Next job is to try and sort out the bedrooms. Both have beds but no mattresses. There are some mattresses on the upper floor but I am not sure about using them. I have been sleeping on the base of the double bed using a sleeping bag and duvet to keep warm. Hard beds are supposed to be good for your back. Why does mine ache so much every morning then? Can’t wait to get my stuff from Ted’s garage sent over here. Not that I’ll ever be able to squeeze it all through the front door, never mind find room for it inside. The three sofas will have to go into the cellar along with the cat. 

Weather is brightening up. Cloud and mist lifting. Might be able to see as far as the end of the Beast’s bonnet if I’m lucky. Off for my lunch

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