Lots Of Things Not To Do


The road to hell may indeed be paved with good intentions, but at least it got paved, so I reckon it’s about time my own ‘good intentions’ were placed into some sort of order. That’s why today finds me wandering around the property with a ballpoint and a notepad, diligently documenting what the locals would call desperfecciones. (The rural Spanish are not as easily intimidated as I am. A collapsed roof, a stone wall reduced to rubble, or a half-acre field flooded by a blocked culvert will be casually dismissed by them as a desperfección).

A shorter Spanish word, todo, translates into English as all or everything, which seems ironically appropriate when I look at how my new ToDo list is shaping up.

Extremadura offers two brief windows – one in spring, the other in autumn – when the weather isn’t too extreme to get out and about and work on the finca.

During midwinter the seemingly random arrival of frosts, rain and gales put paid to any construction-related activities. The days being so short, and the terrain becoming a sucky orange bog don’t help, either. El invierno is, however, unmatched in its ability to rot, fade, oxidise, split, seize, crumble or otherwise beat up everything it finds in its path, so by spring there’s always plenty to keep me occupied.

In summer, the heat bakes the ground to pottery, and makes any physical work outside vary between unpleasant and downright dangerous. Each year produces a few sad cases of construction workers being killed, having collapsed beneath the afternoon sun while working somewhere high up. Paints, glues and cement products are already drying as you try in vain to apply them. Don’t even touch stone or metal, unless you’re wearing gloves, if it has spent any time exposed to the sun. So from the moment June arrives, and right on through September, a day classed as ‘productive’ will be one with enough books, shade and cold beer.

Here I am, then, bracing myself for the spring offensive; listing the jobs to be tackled and the materials to be sourced. Once the camino to the property has dried out sufficiently for the lorry to arrive without causing too much damage, I’ll be visiting the ever-helpful local builders’ merchants to ask Antonio to bring sand, gravel, shingle, cement, steel and a list of other odds and ends. The family running the business has become used to this clueless guiri turning up bearing odd samples of materials or bits of broken tools, having no clue what they’re called in Spanish. A dictionary is no help; having never laid a brick before coming to Spain, I’ve no idea what any of this stuff is called in English, either.

I’m not short of projects. Among many other examples there’s the terrace, which is (still) waiting to have a cement screed and then tiles laid; a couple of walls are awaiting render and paint; thickets of fast-advancing weeds need to be tamed; the huerta needs to be rotavated, fertilised and planted; irrigation systems wait to be overhauled, and a greenhouse is (still) waiting to be designed and built.

This may all sound very industrious and conscientious. Unfortunately, I know that I’m beaten before I even begin. I’ve already screwed up, because I’m making a list. This is an entirely un-Spanish way to do things, as a neighbour once pointed out to me:

“If you make a list at the start of the day, then sit down in the evening and cross off all the things you’ve done, there’s always the risk that some things will be left,” he said. “Much better to write nothing in the morning. Later, when the day is over, write down all the things you achieved.”

“Then you can cross them all out again and open a beer to celebrate.”

So in that spirit, today’s tasks included:

Write a list of things to do this spring.
Tear It Up.

Sorted. Now somebody pass me a cold one.


6 thoughts on “Lots Of Things Not To Do

  1. My to do list encompasses about seven volumes of books so I side with you Phil. Don’t write it down so as not to be disappointed

    • Hi Graham, thanks for calling in! In the end, the list gets new additions faster than I cross items off anyway, so it’s definitely not the way to go…

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