After a thirteen-hour drive from northern France, we arrived in western Asturias as it was going dark. Cloud smothered the mountains and the rain was torrential, each drop a deluge in itself. The house smelt damp, stale, unloved. The kitchen range refused to draw and filled the house with acrid smoke. After our long journey, a supper of bread and cheese followed by a couple of damp sleeping bags didn’t offer much comfort. Hungry, tired and despondent, all the dodgy things in the house (crumbling plaster, scary electrics, wobbly floor, grim bathroom . . .) seemed ten times worse. I know what we were both thinking: what have we done?
Well, actually, we know exactly what we have done because we’ve done it several times before and you’d have thought we should have learnt by now. Leaving a warm, comfortable, desirable home and established, productive garden – the result of years of investment in time, money and hard work – to start again in a barely habitable ‘project’surrounded by its own jungle is perhaps not the brightest of ideas. Why do we do it? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s an interesting hobby, perhaps a weird obsession or even some kind of illness? When we were house-hunting in the autumn, Roger was adamant that he didn’t want another big project. Mmm, okay – we’re obviously not cured yet.
At least experience helps at times like these: grab some sleep then roll up our sleeves and get stuck in, making sure the corkscrew is handy at the end of the day. Roger set about putting up shelves in the barn to organise the boxes of tools piled in the back of the car and trailer: we have learnt over the years that pretty much every project starts with the need for a shed (or several) where tools can be stored and organised. He then cleared out piles of furniture from the house left by the previous owners, some of which had been nailed – yes, nailed – to the floor to stop it wobbling (including a shelf unit which went straight to the shed), before taking some heavy-duty cleaning products into the bathroom.
Meanwhile, I set to in the bedroom, armed with a paintbrush. I love painting: give me a bucket of paint and a room in need of sprucing up and I’m a happy bunny. The windows in our house are mostly small but I crave light so the dingy dark brown ceiling and grubby walls just had to go. I whitewashed the lot. The floor is so uneven a stepladder would be dangerous so I rescued a stool that had been left there and wobbled about happily, singing along to some serious painting music all day.
What a difference 24 hours can make: the range drew perfectly all day and made the whole house feel toasty; the kitchen smelt of sweet wood smoke and fresh coffee (and a couple of days later, once we’d sussed the range, fresh bread).
The bedroom looked bright and clean, smelling of fresh paint, clean linen (no more sleeping bags) and a vase of narcissi from the garden; Roger rustled up a delicious hearty pork, bean and chorizo stew for dinner; in the newly scrubbed bathroom, the shower was piping hot . . . and yes, we found the corkscrew. Downhearted, us? Not a chance! 🙂