The Monkey Speaks
Some say that in an ideal world the car mechanics would be German, the cooks French, the builders English and the lovers Italian. By the same token, a recipe for disaster might consist of German lovers, French mechanics, English cooks and Spanish builders. But through our almost twenty year love affair with el Cortijo del Rector, our old farmhouse in the hills of Andalucia, we have employed half a dozen so-called builders, and the only one worthy of the name is the last one. And he’s Spanish. Though I may dabble from time to time, for the past several years, Juan Antonio Ruiz known as Mono (Monkey) has been in charge of all our serious maintenance. Recently he and his sidekick Jesus have carried out an epic overhaul of our homestead, replacing half of the roof and almost all of the the windows, installing three new doors and extending the kitchen. For a two-man firm it was a massive project which started in October 2018 and only ended at five o' clock on Christmas Eve. We were eating grit for almost three months, which gives a special resonance to the word 'sandwiches', but the results were worth it. The Monkey Speaks is a chapter in my next book Wigan Pier to Andalucia.
Demolishing the old roof
The new tiles arrive. The rubble skips away.
The cherry-picker lifts the new tiles.
The tiles reach the roof.
Mono through my study window
Jesus through the kitchen window
To accommodate the new granite worktops the kitchen window has to move up.
A disused doorway disappears.
Converting the staircase window into a long overdue upstairs emergency exit
And here it is
The original front door later became a window and is just about to revert to being a door.
The damp, almost subterranean, downstairs bedroom needed a cavity wall to keep it dry...
Revealing the stony bones of El Cortijo del Rector.
Looking west from our new bedroom window.
We are completely watertight for the first time in seventeen years
Christmas Eve. The stove is lit.