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The winter of our discontent

By Mr Grumpy - Thu 2th Feb 2012

Today’s news states that this coming weekend is likely to be the coldest weather that Spain has seen in 7 years, and it started me thinking about the first disastrous winter that I spent as an expat in Spain.

We arrived in Spain in the April and rented a property until ( after a number of cock-up's en route, which you can read about Here ) we finally moved into our Finca on New Year's Eve.

The Finca had been empty for about 6 months, and it seemed quite cold and bleak as you can probably imagine. There was no ADSL, Telephone, TV, the electricity at that time was a builder's supply and unreliable at best, and the water pipes ran across the surface of the field and had a tendency to freeze solid if the wind blew in the wrong direction.

For the benefit of those of you reading from the UK my Finca, like many other properties in Spain, did not benefit from cavity wall and roof insulation, carpeted floors or central heating. In short it was bloody cold and making it anything vaguely resembling warm was hard work.

Both the Mrs and I were very fortunate to have found work quite quickly and so were earning an income; however, we further complicated things by finding ourself temporarily without any money at all.

To cut a long story short (although the link to the longer version is Here ) we 'lost' a lot of money on a currency exchange transaction and the process of getting in back meant a lengthy appeal. We had equity in a property in the UK but didn't want to take 'the easy option' and get some cash that way - forgoing a long time and secure investment just for the sake of a few weeks living costs.

We had given all our domestic appliances away on leaving the UK to save on the cost of moving them over, together with the fact that they would require changing over if we did, and as we had been renting for 6 months + it hadn't been an issue, so our immediate income as soon as we moved in was to pay for things like a Cooker, Kettle, Toaster, Washing Machine, TV etc...

Money we simply didn't have at that time.

We also had a few minor repairs to do on the property; the car was due for its ITV etc... And so we were faced with a bit of a problem.

- We decided not to sell the UK property and as we were pretty confident that our appeal to have our 'lost' money returned would be successful, we decided that we would just have to get on with things as best as we could for a while.

- We decided that a fridge or freezer was not an immediate issue, as it was Jan 1st and the water pipes were frozen most mornings.

- We decided to forego a Kettle, Toaster and cooker with our first month's wage as we could use one of the wood burners for both cooking and heating. Genius! - Except for not being able to afford any firewood. Nor could we afford a chainsaw and as such most evenings after work were spent in the woods trying to kick trees down.

- Obviously the food that you can cook on top of a wood burning stove is limited which, together with a limited food budget, made dining in an interesting prospect. I can recall eating warm bread rolls stuffed with Guacamole made from Avocados we managed to 'borrow' from a neighbouring Huerta.

As the news today confirmed, that winter must have been both one of the coldest and miserable I have ever been and was little more than camping out. The lack of heating, lack of facilities like washing clothes and boiling the kettle, having to rummage in the woods for firewood etc... made things difficult at best.

Fortunately, we did win the appeal a few weeks later which enabled us to splash out on the luxury of food etc... and also allowed us to sit on our property in the UK until the property market peaked.

I wouldn't call it ‘poverty’ as such, as we were fortunate enough to have a number of options open to us, but chose to batten down the hatches for a few weeks.

It was an interesting month and makes you appreciate the little things all the more.

Comment on this Blog

I can´t believe your fortitude. It´ll be nice for you to be comfy and warm and well fed during the coming cold spell!
Mo - Thu, 2nd Feb 2012

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