Our recent trip to Ontinyent, our soon home to be, was beset with issues and moments of joy in equal measure. Some COVID related others even more out of our control. But despite life getting in the way, these few days, which have indicated the beginning of our new life in Spain, have been quite wonderful. The only way through it was to accept all, and to use that insipid and overused phrase of 2021 “it is what it is”.
It all started the day before we were due to fly to Spain. As a quick recap, we recently bought a house in Ontinyent, a lovely town south of Valencia, where we plan to move permanently in the next couple of months. The purchase process was simple for us as we hired a kick ass Spanish lawyer who did all the heavy lifting for us, and we were blissfully unaware of any issues right up to completion. At which point we asked for the keys and were met with attempted blackmail, threats and extortion from the estate agent. It appeared the seller was less than happy with the process, and as it turned out exacted her revenge by cancelling our water connection.
Now this doesn’t sound like a particularly impressive revenge tactic, however getting your water turned back on, as a foreign owner, in a language you don’t really speak, is incredibly complicated.
Anyway, I digress, more about this later.
So the night before we leave London, to turn the key in the door of our new house, where we start our new life, for the first time….that threshold moment, I have my phone stolen.
Inconvenient. Understatement of century. I need my COVID pass to travel, which is obviously on my NHS app and can only be accessed with a code sent to my phone, which, according to Find My Phone, is currently merrily making its way down the Wandsworth Rd
I don’t have my phone. The number’s been cancelled. What to do?
You can redirect to another number, which takes up to 24hrs to activate. So I redirect to Paul’s number hoping it activates in time to get our flights early the next morning. It doesn’t take up to 24hrs, it takes exactly 24hrs. So if this happens to you, don’t bother checking your app every hour to see if it’s activated. It’s 24hrs no more no less.
Flights rebooked and we’re back on track a day later. Finally, to open that door to that wonderful house. It’s been 2 months since we actually officially owned the property and it had been empty since completion. We’ve all heard the horror stories about buying Spanish property, like discovering the land is illegal, or it’s built on an ancient Indian burial ground and is then plagued with annoying poltergeist, or you just get squatters who are impossible to remove.
So we were expecting something. Most likely the squatters or at least illegal renters, or a family of raccoons.
Finally we arrive. The door is not swinging open on its hinges, there’s no obvious sign of squatters or poltergeist or raccoons. We turn the key. The door opens and here we are. A slightly chilly, musty smelling uninhabited for two months house. With electricity…lights….action!
Despite the acrimonious purchase process, the previous owner had left a useful list of services and local contacts. So she doesn’t hate us then? What a sweet gesture! It’s all going to be ok.
As we explore our new adventure play ground, and turn on the taps to a dwindling trickle, all may not be as peachy as first thought.
The water’s off. After half an hour of searching for a “stop cock”, is that what you call them? Or is that some kind of Victorian contraceptive? We discover the source is outside in the street. Council property. Do not touch on pain of death.
So here we are. No water. Just two toilets with full cisterns. I make it very clear to Paul that until we get the water back on, we have one flush each.
So make it count.
As I write this I am unsure of the status of the upstairs toilet, I opted for the downstairs one which I have kept in a controlled and manageable manner. Upstairs, Paul’s ablution domain, is an unknown quantity, a feral wasteland, potentially dangerous and should only be approached by a professional.
We are new to the world of Spanish plumbing and I think we may have already upset it.
So here we are, in an unfurnished house but for one double bed, which we lie on happily and make the most of that infuriating phrase, as we shrug our shoulders “it is what it is”.
Let’s have a snooze.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
How does anyone know we’re here? We’ve been here one hour.
It’s Laura, our English neighbour from couple of doors down. The grapevine jungle drums had got wind of our arrival and here was Laura, masked up and on our doorstep imparting a volume of very useful information about living in Ontinyent.
Laura is our insight into the water issue, Help us Laura we are ignorant newcomers to your world, we need you!
She sent over her husband Maurice. Known to the locals as “Golden Hands”. An auspicious title for a mere mortal but those hands, we believed, must hold all the answers, not just to our water connection problem but to life itself.
Golden Hands did hold the most basic of answers. We need to go to the water company. This is not a simple turning on of a tap.
In a nutshell, and I’m not going to bore you with the multiple trips to the water company, the broken Spanish in the council offices and the help from our trusty friend Vicente, who I will tell you about shortly, we are currently a step closer to getting the water turned back on. Hopefully by time I finish this post we will be able to flush freely once again! Or at least dream of such a thing.
And yes if you are wondering, we’re currently running on day 3 of no showers. If you get too close to us you’ll experience a sickly fugg of baby wipes and oily hair.
Vicente, one of those incredible humans you meet in life who will do everything for you, bend over backwards for you, if you deserve it of course. Luckily he thinks we deserve it, so we got the best of Vincent. A human dynamo, talks like a wind up toy that only stops when it hits a wall or falls off a table. An infectious love for life, his family and of course good food and wine, without a negative thought in his body. A rarity, a priceless artefact, and now a friend for life. But by God the man can drink.
He’s a friend of a friend from the UK, one of our very good restaurant pals, and lives 10 minutes from Ontinyent, so he took it upon himself to help us out with our plumbing issues and of course to show us the local area.
For two days Uncle Vinny (he doesn’t know we call him this yet) drove us around the stunning Valencian countryside, stopping at nearby vineyards to not only taste wine but to discuss potential exporting opportunities for our London restaurants, but mainly to drink delicious wine.
Stopping at local restaurants to eat classic plates of tapas, there’s no such thing as a bad local restaurant in Spain, simple food, cooked well and all washed down with wine made from the earth we are standing on. Although at one point I believe Uncle Vinny had four varieties of beverage in front of him, including Whiskey, beer and a boozy coffee.
My birthday day was particularly special. We paid a visit to Celler del Roure, whose wine we stock in our restaurants, so it was really interesting to see the winery itself with its ancient system of amphora cellers, that produce the freshest wines, demonstrating the difference in taste and texture from the barrel aged wines.
I could get wine nerdy here, but I’ll hold back, needless to say we were treated to a perfect breakfast of cheese, homemade bread and olive oil and those incredible wines. And it’s only 10.30am….and we met Thomas the donkey, named after Thomas Moore, ironically the happiest donkey on the planet who literally skips around the out buildings of the winery.
The day has started well. Then a drive to the coast, and hour away to Denia, where Uncle Vinny has called ahead to a luxurious seafood restaurant perched on the rocks. A feast of Turbot, sea urchins, oysters and langoustines await us.
Stuffed and snoozy we head back, slightly concerned that UV, who’s become a little burpy, may be over due for a siesta.
A new day a new dawn
Our third and final visit to the water company finally brings positive news of our water connection. So much so we’re told to go back to the house immediately, the water will be turned on in 2 minutes! No such thing as mañana mañana today!
Sceptically, we return. Ok so it might have been 20minutes before the man arrived, but arrive he did and then there was that moment, which may well be one of the greatest moment of my life so far, of turning on a tap and lo, there was water…
This day was about winning at house ownership. The water’s on, after a bit of fumbling, the boiler fired up, the gas is working. The last job was to change to locks incase our disgruntled ex-owner seeks further revenge! Our locksmith spoke not a word of English, expect for when he told us the price, but we bumbled our way through and have now happily closed the door behind us knowing our home is safe.
Our trips abroad are never dull. But this one, although short, was extra special as we now have a much clearer vision of our life in Spain.
After all, it is what it is…..