March 2011


One diversion I’ve omitted to mention since we started this blog is skiing. Well, today I rolled back fifteen or sixteen years to enjoy a superb day’s spring skiing – in France. Hardly next door to La Rectoria, yes, but an invitation from friends to join them for a weekend’s skiing was not going to be passed up. So we are holed up in Marignac some 30kms north of Vielha. Right now the legs are like jelly but it was great to get back on a pair of planks. The snow was wet and heavy with a consistency close to that of damp sugar, but the sun shone and our son had his first taste of the sport.

Now our priority never was to be situated in a ski resort when we started out to look for a suitable house five plus years ago. But La Rectoria is not only situated in some stunning countryside, handily placed for Barcelona and Girona , it is also within striking distance of some not too shoddy skiing. The nearest resort whose name escapes me right now is under one hour from La Rectoria, La Molina in Cerdanya and Nuria near Ribes de Freser are one and a half and Andorra about two hours. Today we are about one hour further west of Andorra enjoying French bread, pork rillette and some skiing. So the point of all of this is depending on when you come to stay with us you can indulge in a variety of past times. Skiing, golf, cycling, walking, history, natural history etc…….

Meanwhile back at the ‘fort’ work has been continuing apace against a backdrop of rainfall on almost biblical proportions. Some 250mm – ten inches in old money – fell over a period of five days last week. Thankfully no damage was done, although a little water did enter a bedroom and measures are being taken to ‘root out’ this problem; a channel is being installed along the back wall of the house and a water repellent product will be used on the inside wall. The main cause would however appear to have been a pile of builder’s sand at the back of the building which resulted in the accumulation of water. All in all the rains have tested and identified areas where excess rainfall has to be redirected away from the house and disposed of. Tiling of the bathrooms is almost complete on the top floor and the tracking of wiring and cementing of walls continues. Any external work ground to a halt due to the weather as much of the surrounding country side took on the appearance of Chinese rice plantations with fields submerged in water. With spade in hand we have been able to plant a few trees and bushes. A greengauge and an apple tree and two blackcurrant bushes. The sole cherry tree has also been moved close to where the hort will be. Thus in time we hope to harvest some of our own fruit.

My weekly visit to the site has been postponed until tomorrow.   Persistent heavy rain prevented any kind of activity today including a visit we had planned to Montmelo.  The motor circuit is just down the road from here in Cardedeu and home to the Catalunya Grand Prix.  The plan had been to get there early to join the ‘petrol heads’ watch the ultimate Formula 1 practice day prior to the start of the F1 season later this month.  Personally, I’m no great fan of what I grudgingly consider a sport and the thrill was planned more for our son and to experience first-hand the speed and certainly the noise that permeates across this part of Catalunya whenever a race is on.

Sadly, the bad weather made us think otherwise and consequently we spent part of the day doing some desk research thanks to the wonders of the internet.  Light fittings have been our principle target and we found a superb website, ambientedirect.com for yes, lights and more.  Meanwhile up at La Rectoria the week’s principle activity has involved feeding cabling to the basement, removing the old plaster from the facade, and the application of the concrete finish to the walls of the ‘Old Economic Kitchen’.  Arguably this room has the most character of any in the house – the old stone hearth which will provide guests with an open fire.  The old wood fired stove with places for four ‘ollas’ (pans).  The large stone sink and the wooden beams that adorn the ceiling.   Here we intend to offer guests possibly a wee dram prior to dinner or alternatively a post dinner digestive whilst they warm their toes by the fireside.

Tomorrow should make for something of a muddy visit but we need to cast a critical eye over the finishes that will soon be applied throughout and the furniture that will accompany them.  And time permitting we’ll be planting both a greengauge and an apple tree next to where we intend the ‘hort’ to be.  Let’s hope the skies clear!

I’ve had something of an irritating itch this last week.  The diagnosis was a need to write a few lines for the blog, something that didn’t happen last week due to an enforced leave of absence…..50th Birthday.  Uncharted territory and all that.   Thursday and the 365th day of my 49th year, so what!  Just another day, normal routine, blah!  Friday 25th and a clutter of metaphysical questions reveal themselves; highly anthropocentric.  Half a century gone where and what now? Kind of Janus like, looking forward and looking back.  Back on family and friends and the many threads which together have made for an interesting tapestry of  life.   Forward to a future yet to reveal itself, but one which in the greater scheme of things looks more uncertain and unpredictable than one might have foretold a short while back.  But then again that might be a ‘punto de vista’  formulated as a result of the onset of the next age in life.

In short, I was treated  to a most memorable birthday weekend spent in the company of a very special friend and having dinner at one of Spain’s best restaurants, El Celler De Can Roca.  Five hours of ruminating over 12 courses, not including canopes, chocolates with dessert and a very special birthday cake.  I won’t wait another 50 years to repeat the experience.  Once bitten, not twice shy!

Back to reality and one week on, by the end of today I was smelling like a mobile barbeque.  The day was spent burning material collected from the garden – branches from the pruned hazel trees, bamboo roots and other pieces of organic detritus.  The hope is that we get the area to the west and north of the house sown out in grass in the next two or three weeks.  The ground is moist and in the main it is getting warmer, although driving to the house today the Pyrenees have more snow on them now than they have had all winter.  We have been itching to get some of the external building work done and plans for a garden shed, pergola and lean to for bikes are rapidly coming to a conclusion.

Inside, the first hints of finishes are beginning to appear.  A major surprise was to see the first bathroom tiles being fitted and looking good too.  In  our two ‘premium’ bedrooms, where the beds are situated in the middle of the room, the stone bedheads have been constructed.  On the main floor we have been presented with a couple of options for varnishing the beams and wood finishes.  The neutral option was not one of them and I guess it will be the preferred one.

Finally, in line with our desire to maintain the idiosyncratic character of the place something of a mystery has been installed on the wall of the main hall.  A tile bearing the neat and flowing inscription ‘Be Be Cueta Cueta Nial Nial’ was found by our builder.  It means nothing in Catalan or Spanish as far as we know, but it was there in the house and someone at some point took the time and effort to score it indelibly into the stone and so it will remain.