It’s not all work!

We have come here for an adventure. The house renovation and garden creation are important and time-consuming projects, but we have promised ourselves time to live a little, follow other interests and explore the local area, too – after all, we don’t know it that well, so it is all new and exciting.

We started by visiting Castro de Coaña, an Iron Age settlement half an hour’s drive west of here. It is one of the most incredible places we have ever been. Stunning. Fascinating. Thought-provoking.

DSCF7492Asturias has a very proud Celtic heritage: think bagpipes and cider rather than flamenco and sangria. In Celtic times, the people in this area were accomplished gold miners, a fact not lost on the Romans when they marched in and took over. Many Asturians travelled to the far-flung reaches of the Roman Empire – including the British Isles – sharing their skills and expertise in extracting that precious metal from the earth. http://www.parquehistorico.org/recorrido_pobladores.php?codigo=12

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The “castros” were a distinctive type of Iron Age settlement in Asturias and the neighbouring regions of León and Galicia. We have seen reconstructions of Celtic roundhouses in Wales but this was like nothing else: an entire settlement of dwellings in all shapes and sizes plus a protective wall which in itself must have been an incredible feat of engineering. Located in a tranquil spot with a very tastefully-built visitor centre, it was a perfect place to wander round, followed by a picnic on the grass overlooking a beautiful hay meadow.

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I wonder how many Asturian gold miners ended up in Wales? The thought occurred to me as on Saturday evening, Roger pulled on his Maldwyn Harriers vest to take part in his first Spanish race, the Avilés 10k.

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Avilés is one of the major Asturian cities, about 45 minutes’ drive from here. Driving past it on the motorway it seems sprawling and heavily industrial, but the centre is beautiful, full of fascinating old buildings, funky new architecture and open green spaces. We were glad we’d left time to wander about a bit before the event.The race was brilliantly organised and well-supported; there was almost a carnival atmosphere with live music and children’s races. The 587 10k runners set off through clouds of streamers and confetti, doing a double circuit which meant spectators didn’t have to move or wait too long for the second pass.

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There was a great sense of sportsmanship and camaraderie, as well as downright fun, as people of all ages chatted and danced in the street (to a curious mix of Europop and classic British heavy metal . . .) before the prize-giving. The result? Roger came 28th out of 587, was first in his age group and set a new PB of 34:46 . This mountain running must be working. All in all, a great night out!

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Not quite so much fun but very necessary: a trip (okay, two) to the police station. As EU citizens planning to live in Spain for more than three months, we are required by law here to register with the Policia Nacional for a Residence Certificate; as we are living off our own means, we also have to prove that we have an adequate income and health insurance so that we don’t become a burden on the Spanish state. Fair enough. Two trips to the police station, one to the town hall, one to the bank, several frantic emails and a folder of rubber-stamped paperwork later, we finally got them: two flimsy green cards (which I’m terrified of losing!) that say we can stay for more than a holiday. Gracias, España! 🙂

Back to work. The more I hear about the electrics, the less I want to know. It’s bad enough that there is no earth, that everything (switches, sockets, lights) are on the same spur and that in the junction boxes, none of the coloured wires match). How about the fact that the cable serving a downstairs socket gets warm when the washing machine is on? Apparently, it’s because it’s a light cable and can’t carry the current. Or the one about the cable carrying all the electricity into the house which goes from 13 amps (barely adequate) to 10 amps? Fancy putting the kettle on for a cuppa while the washing machine does its thing? System overload. Heat. Smoke. Meltdown.

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In Roger’s opinion, no electrician on earth would have done what’s been done here (which begs the question, who did it, then?). Listening to him sorting it all out was a bit like watching one of those tense movie moments when someone is dealing with a bomb: of course, I knew he had switched the power off but even so, I was terrified (and I was only painting a door). “Now the white goes with the green so I don’t need that one.” SNIP. “This is horrible.” SNIP. “Okay, brown with the blue.” SNIP. “This is really horrible. This is downright dangerous.” As the old stuff comes out and the new goes in there is a definite sense of relief: the sooner it’s all replaced, the better.

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Actually, that probably goes for much of the house. Roger’s favourite observation at the moment is that when the house has a new roof, new wall, new ceilings and floors, new windows, a new bathroom, a new kitchen, new plumbing and new wiring it will be great. It does seem a little daunting at this point but we’ve tackled far worse places before so the only answer is to get stuck in – it has to get worse before it gets better. In local traditional style, the living accommodation is all on one level, basically a large rectangle of solid stone walls, split into several spaces by partition walls. We want to change the configuration slightly but even where walls are staying, some need replacing as they are completely rotten. This is the first time we’ve been able to remove a wall by, well, pushing a finger through it!

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Needless to say, it was nailed several hundred times top and bottom so a little extra brute force was required.. Time to brush up on some builders’ yard Spanish – I have a feeling there is going to be a big order for plasterboard needed very soon.

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There’s only so much in the way of dust and paint fumes that I can cope with at any one time: fresh air and some work in the garden beckons. After a very dry spell of weather, we had a couple of days of rain which is just what the garden needed. It might have been very wet, but the temperature hardly dipped so everything has grown like crazy, including the weeds, of course. It’s like weeding in a hot and steamy polytunnel without the polythene. All of a sudden, it’s starting to look like a garden and the veg are going well.

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We’ve had several delicious meals of baby broad beans, hot and cold.

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All four courgette plants are flowering which means baby courgettes won’t be far behind. The first squashes are flowering, too. 

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In all the excitement of moving I’ve totally lost track of what varieties they are: I know I planted seven types of which five germinated, we’re down to six plants and it’s anyone’s guess. I think this one is a Marina di Choggia as it’s been the biggest plant from the start, but we will see. Anyway, they are gathering strength and marching across my salad patch like there’s no tomorrow.

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On the subject of garden thugs, meet the kiwi.

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The previous owner (making a surprise return visit) seemed taken aback that we had reduced the size of his prize climber. Quite honestly, I’m not sure we were radical enough. I go in fear of my life every time I hang any washing out, those tendrils reach out and grab anything in sight. If it weren’t for the delicious fruits, I’m sure it could be classified as a pest. The flowers, however, are truly beautiful and full of bees.

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Our neighbour tells us that the peach trees here are a typical local variety which produce small fruits – delicious straight from the tree, but no good for keeping. As we’ve counted no fewer than fourteen trees, all with fruits on, we could be eating a lot of fresh peaches! We are not jam eaters but I might have to investigate stewing /poaching and freezing or even making a cordial – I hate the idea of waste, especially of a fruit which is such a treat. What a problem to have! 🙂

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4 thoughts on “It’s not all work!

  1. Stewed peaches should be great, very versatile – with ice cream, yoghurt, porridge, on cakes… Funny about the kiwi, it obviously likes the growing conditions there. Things are moving at such a clip! I like Roger’s assessment of the house, in Britain you’d have to add ‘new loft insulation’ as well. Isn’t Aviles old town amazing – I absolutely loved it. Oviedo is wonderful, too. The iron age settlement looks amazing, what a pity we missed that. And then there’s all the painted caves not too far away.

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    • So much to do and see! Painted caves definitely on the list. I can’t believe how quickly we’ve settled into the Spanish way of life. In France we just went non-stop for 18 months on house and garden, but this place is far too tempting. We will get there (eventually) but at the moment, one look at that view or the merest whiff of sunshine and we’re doing other things! 🙂

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      • That’s right, manana, manana. By the way, our neighbour does his own electrics and they are quite like yours. He has to run the generator to be able to hoover the house!

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