Not a boarding house #livinginSpain finding a synonym – oh, and more guests

I don’t like the term boarding house, it somehow carries an indelible image (for me) of being genteelly shabby and smelling of boiled cabbage and I have no idea why, since I have never, to the best of my knowledge, stayed in a boarding house that fitted such a description.

The hunt was therefore on for synonyms, with a bewildering array of options from the handy website powerthesaurus.org – inn, rooming house, pension, hostel, hotel, lodging house, hospice, guesthouse, ordinary, tavern, fleabag, hostelry, doss house, flophouse and oh so many others – I liked caravansary but reluctantly gave it up when I realized I had to be able to put up 50 camels to really justify the name. It would be too crowded, and the dog would hate them.  The neighbours might get upset, too.

I looked up several, and guesthouse is definitely the answer. Inexpensive lodgings, tick – I’d rather have guests delighted with what they are getting, than finding fault. In a house over a century old, at least in parts, there is fault to find and always will be.  Private home with conversion exclusively for guest accommodation, tick.  So the Casa Excéntrico, with the entire upstairs exclusively for guests, is now officially a guesthouse.  By the way, that’s not a piercingly green carpet in the pic, it is fake grass. One day there will be new tiles but right now, fake grass is adding a suitably eccentric touch and coping nicely with the current, soon-to-be-sorted, occasional alarming mini-floods which burp up out of the overloaded storm drain. Spain doesn’t rain often, doesn’t rain for long, but it does rain hard.

Atrium to hall

After the crazy hubbub of August, where I was stripping rooms in the morning and making them up for the afternoon, one anxious eye on the clock so I didn’t forget  to go teach between 1 and 4, things went abruptly quiet. No more ironing sheets in the laundry, leaning back so the sweat from my nose didn’t drip onto the pristine sheets.  No more steaming the floors with the big fans on full blast so I didn’t pass out from the combination of 40 degree temperatures and the floor-steamer. No more thanking my guardian angel for making me decide on a 3 day minimum, I honestly don’t know how hosts can do this every day.  Utter silence. The French guest who had booked for two weeks backed out two days beforehand saying eh, ‘allo, I ‘ave no memory of booking zees, and that was it until the Estonian lasses arrived.

Just as quickly it has gone back to hectic, it is an absolute mystery. October should be quiet, but I have both rooms booked at the moment, and a week’s break, and then both rooms booked again – I’m not complaining, just puzzled. I scrupulously refresh my calendars on both Airbnb and HomeAway regularly, they are the first options that come up for anyone looking on price, and now the market is booming again. Well, long may it last, although I’m rather hoping to use the week’s break to get the house ready for the anticipated winter guests from November onwards. Radiators have to be carried upstairs, a permanent cover built for the gas geyser (which currently has to be switched off and covered when it rains), and a tumbledrier not only sourced but housed.  320 days of sunshine a year is all well and good but the other 45 days are scattered between September and March, I’m a little behind. Until my builder-buddy Nick can get his car (and heavier tools) to the front door again, it’s all on hold. Grrr!

There’s an American guy in the front room who had originally booked for a weekend and keeps extending his stay – he’s house-hunting in the Lecrin Valley but becoming increasingly charmed by Velez itself  and could even end up changing all his plans and becoming a sort of part-time neighbour. I can remember all too well being utterly bewildered by the variety of the places for sale between here and Granada!  Originally he had short-listed two. One is a tiny (one bedroom) perfect villa just above the Alhambra, with a roof terrace with views of the Palace and Granada itself. The other is at the top of the mountain behind Niguelas, a solid cabin squarely in the national park with fruit and olive trees and  views, on a clear day, to Africa, but it is 45 minutes up a winding unsurfaced track. He’s thinking he will probably buy both. I said he needs to look around more. He has the option of renting the Granada one first so will be off as soon as that lease is signed.

The couple in the back room are absolutely lovely, but he’s French with a little English and a little Spanish, and she’s Spanish with no English and no French. We have the occasional glass of wine together and chatter away in three different languages. Builder-buddy Nick says I should stop being so chatty but I honestly don’t start the conversations. I’ll admit I do enjoy them and don’t run away and hide. And when we had a mini-flood yesterday (I really can’t WAIT for the roadworks to be finished and my non-return valve fitted) my lovely guest insisted on helping brush a substantial pool of water from the hallway back up the slight slope towards the atrium drain. They go today and will be missed.

My birthday falls around Halloween and I always take the day off – this year I have booked off teaching but will have the house full, so it won’t be completely relaxing. Just as well, perhaps. Wouldn’t do to be getting lazy.

grin

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Splish-splash – oh, and 19 20 #livinginSpain

The rain in Spain falls mainly – so far as I can gather – at the top end of the town. It then roars down towards the older part of the town as a raging torrent, foams its way along the narrow streets and hits the t-junction at the bottom of my road at a speed of about sixty kilometres an hour. There’s some serious turmoil as many thousands of litres of water try to battle it out at the t-junction. Spanish plumbing, especially in very old bits of old towns, consists of grids in the street that scoop water into the storm drains. Most houses have patios and terraces open to the elements, and they have grids too, and underground drains which are linked directly to the stormwater drains.

The other day we had a heavy storm rumbling in from the east and a thunderstorm charging in from the west and they met pretty much overhead. It was bucketing down, soak-you-to-the-skin-in-seconds rain with crashing thunder and crackling lightning and I was really rather enjoying it when suddenly, and without  any warning, every drain in the house gurgled and erupted.

My downstairs bath and loo became brief fountains, the drains in the atrium and terrace burped up deliciously muddy storm water, and although I was lucky enough to have enough towels to jam into doorways to stop my downstairs apartment being flooded, other neighbours were complaining bitterly afterwards of being ankle-deep throughout their downstairs areas. I watched glumly from my towel barricade as my heavy-duty doormat floated sluggishly away and the smaller pot-plants in the atrium started shifting restlessly and still it rained. Poured.

Finally, after nearly two hours, the heavens closed again and the drains reversed themselves and started behaving normally, sucking away the flood from everywhere and leaving an attractive thin film of mud in its wake.

The Ayuntamiento (Council) had, so far as we could see, several options. Do nothing, and get lynched by several very angry householders. Put a big grid in the road at the intersection above us, and divert future floods along side streets where the water couldn’t pick up such speed. Fit every affected house with non-return valves. Or – their choice – dig up the entire road. No idea why, but it has been noisy.

By purest luck I didn’t have guests at the time  -although nearly every guest I’ve had so far has been absolutely fab, it would take a saint to take that in their stride.

I do have guests at the moment but they’ve been wonderful about the roadworks, which started on their third day.  They are a pair of Estonian blondes and the workmen stop work reverently the minute they step out of the house to go anywhere, and watch them wistfully out of sight.

Before them, and before the flood, I had an older Polish man and woman, friends who had taken the entire G suite, i.e. both bedrooms and the shared living room. The woman was very dramatic, and had a bracing personality. She said on her second day that the suite was lovely but I really shouldn’t advertise that it included a kitchen.

Um, I don’t. I’m in fact pretty clear on that.

She recovered quickly and said sternly ‘you don’t say it doesn’t have a kitchen.’  Guilty as charged but in my defence, there are over 30 photos on the listing, the ones of the living room do show quite clearly the fridge, kettle, table, no kitchen sink or oven  … anyway her main beef was the lack of a sink, and as I had a cancellation after them, and therefore an empty week, it now does have a sink.

What else – oh yes, Nineteen Twenty My Plate Is Empty is now up and running. Right now it is on a pre-publication price as it only officially hits your Kindle on October 6th. Click on the name here, or the pic in the sidebar and you shall be whisked to the Amazon nearest to you. I am not making much fuss about it today but will be issuing a flurry of tweets tomorrow because I am hoping to get a tiny surge of purchases around 6 pm GMT – well, we’ll see. It is, goes without saying, an absolutely brilliant book and fiendishly difficult to solve, even though I have checked and double-checked that every clue is in place and in plain sight.  It is also the last in this particular series and I shall miss my Lawns friends very much, I think.

So that, I think, is us up to date …

 

 

Guests, Spanish citizenship for the car, and bottles of wine #livinginSpain

It’s been a hectic August so far, more guests than I expected, they’ve been such fun – even the Spanish couple who gave me only 3 stars, partly on location. Well, location is one thing I can’t change, eh? And hardly my fault they were in the south of Spain to visit her father, who lives on the far side of Malaga, 80 km each way.  Tchah. She spoke no English but did say at least in her review ‘the owner speaks little Spanish, but one can understand’.

She took away with her my Spanish ‘notes for guests’ and the printer decided to have a strop so I couldn’t print more, but fortunately the next guests were, although from the north of Spain, fully bilingual. In fact he’s Irish – they met in Ireland, then moved back to her beloved country some 15 years ago.

Both are teachers, and he gave me a priceless list of 1000 questions guaranteed to spark students of English into comment for those awful moments in class when one has run out of topic but there is still 10 or 15 minutes to be endured. I’m still very new to tutoring, barely a year’s experience, and although I teach online through an agency, which supplies the topic and material, sometimes the pupil is more advanced than expected, the supplied material is covered in half the time, and the tutor has to get creative . . . so I was exceedingly grateful for that.

Irish J also went to the policia local with me as I am still renting out rooms on my temporary licence and haven’t heard anything from the tourist board. I know they’re snowed under with applications, but I also think I should be keeping records of guests, and advising the authorities, but, er, how? The policia local didn’t know either, but told us to go back in an hour. We did, and the next person we spoke to said to come back Thursday afternoon when there might be someone who spoke a little English who could possibly help me. It didn’t seem to be, put it this way, something that worried them very much, so I am not worrying as much as I did. At this point all my bookings are still through the websites Airbnb and HomeAway, so they are easy to track.   If all the guests who have promised to return do return, they’ve all said they will book direct, and my record-keeping will be sorted by then, right? Right.

Spanish-Irish P and J left, and were replaced by another Spanish couple, R and J, very young, with barely a word of English between them. They carried in (for a week’s stay) very nearly as much luggage as I had carted in the camper, including a portable air-conditioner, now that’s organized!

In the meantime Danish P in the front room finally left to return to Copenhagen, with hugs and promises to return often, and was replaced by a remarkably beautiful young Vietnamese lass and her devoted Czech partner, H and K.  He’d been before, she hadn’t, but fell completely in love with Spain, which she said is very like Vietnam. They diligently updated the visitor book with recommendations for other visitors – best local breakfast churros (photo below), a nearby source for paella, the closest nudist beach.  She did catch the sun quite badly on the nudist beach, and pulled down her sundress to show me her sunburn.  I asked if I could take a photo for the blog, which I think you would have appreciated very much, but she giggled and pulled the dress up again. Note to self – restock the first aid kit with more sunburn stuff.

churros

They spoke less Spanish than I do (yes, I didn’t know that was possible either) and had me translating for them with the daily bread van as they tried nearly all his wares. The best, they decided, was a crisp sugared bread biscuit six inches across.  I have no idea what it is called. When they left, they gave me a thank-you bottle of wine, and so did the young Spanish couple in the back room when they left yesterday. Very handy, since the lovely mecanico who has been helping me with the car matriculation refused to take payment and said I could bring him a bottle of wine instead. Sorted.

I only have one guest at the moment, with a Polish name but a flawless London accent, mainly because that’s where he lives, and he’s visiting his parents, who have retired to Velez. The occasion was a family gathering and he opted to rent a room from me rather than share one with his 6-year-old nephew. Theoretically, a wise decision. In the event, he might have slept later yesterday, as some very noisy work started without warning on a house across the street. A generator chugging, an earthmover (small but noisy) moving piles of debris and Spanish workmen chatting at the tops of their voices at 6.30 in the morning is no way to wake up on holiday. Luckily the Spanish weekend is sacred so not a sound this morning, he slept until 10, and leaves tomorrow.

work across the road digger

Even more luckily, I had already closed bookings on both rooms for the rest of the month. Just as well, if there is going to be a morning racket! More to the point, it is a year since I started this Odyssey, it has been an incredibly hectic year, and I need the break. I knew August would be hot, but nobody expected the savage humidity, which is not at all typical for Spain and has topped 80% on a few hideous days. Preparing rooms single-handed again and again to paying-guest standard in 80% humidity is not a bundle of fun.

I’m taking a teaching holiday, too – it may only be 3 hours a day, 6 days a week, but my predominantly Chinese students are also in a very hot summer and are tired, scratchy and listless by their evening which – the time difference – is when classes start. Being bouncy, upbeat, energetic and encouraging for 3 hours is exhausting.

The last book in my series – 19 20 My Plate Is Empty – has been stop-starting throughout this erratic  year and I’m still not happy with it, much of the break will be spent on that. I’ve loved the series, which has made some good friends along the way, and there’s no way I will finish with a potboiler. Already Scotland seems so distant that when I re-read some bits I’m taken aback and abruptly reminded of life there, so it has to be finished soon.

There’s one other good reason for the break, too – matriculating my car, which has been delayed so often I am now frighteningly illegal, as the MOT runs out.  With no classes and no guests I can focus completely on that (and have time to travel around on the coach system until it is sorted). The process started with Antonio the mecanico, but he’s having to close his garage and move as the city wants to widen the road. He called in the tecnico Manolo, who said all the car lights would have to be changed, but Sanchez the electrico just laughed at me for wanting to do such a thing in August. It is fiesta!  Come back on the 22nd, I will see then when I can do it.

Er, no can’t wait. The lights were sourced, ordered, and fitted by the priceless and irreplaceable Nick and I’ve spoken to Chris who will handle the re-registration (it’s what he does, deal with Spanish bureaucracy, and he is English, so there is no need for my pitiful Spanglish+mime skills, phew) and scanned to him all my documentation – passport, NIE, padron, and of course the car’s V5 logbook. He will set up the ITV appointment, arrange with Manolo to meet me there to issue the tecnico clearance, and then I can put the car in for its roadworthy test. It had its last annual MOT in August when I left the UK so – tick tock. Eek. There’ll be a blog on the matriculacion, since that’s a whole story in itself, once I have the final facts, figures, and my new registration plates. What a mission!

Today’s temperature is a rather fab 28 degrees, slight breeze, will reach 31 Celsius by late afternoon, and the humidity a not so fab but bearable 63%. We do seem to be escaping the rather terrifying storms and flash-floods up Benidorm way, my barometer is holding serenely steady.

And – breathe.

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