Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Finca project - the kitchen

Regular riveted readers may still be aware of the tortuous ongoing project of revamping the finca.

With the sitting room and dining room completed earlier - and that was probably the worst half of the house - I said the next room to do was the kitchen.

When I said 'do', I didn't actually mean finish it, and make it into a perfect kitchen. Oh no. What I meant was paint it so that it looked presentable, rather than looking dusty and dirty as it had suddenly become.

When we first bought the finca many years ago, the kitchen, was well, basic. There were cracked white tiles from floor to ceiling around the sink and cooker area and not much else. There still isn't much else, but at least we got rid of the cracked white tiles.

We also got rid of the nice white sink that was - natch - cracked, and full of ants. The cooker didn't last long either, one of the burners was dodgy so it went out. The cooker, not just the burner. We have bottled gas in our village, and the idea of a dodgy burner and a full bottle of butano is no fun at all.

Once the tiles were gone, the walls were re-rendered. I say this as though it took no time at all. It took months of course. What took even longer was choosing tiles. Tiles, it seemed, had become computer generated. Or at least the design had, and, there were irritating little pixels all over the place. Probably ok if you are not short-sighted, but I needed to find the least irritating design without pesky pixels.

Eventually I found some and they were duly applied. The golden rule in our village is tiles should be a metre high to prevent the damp sucking through the soft stone that our houses are built from. We stuck an extra layer of tile above the metre rule, plus the border tile on top of that.

Because tile adhesive is expensive, the way to tile in our village is to stick a blob of adhesive on each corner, and if they are feeling flush, possibly one in the middle. This is NOT a good idea. Do you know what can lurk in those nice gaps between the tiles and the wall? Yes. Dear little, and not so little, cockroaches. We knew an English couple who had a bar (don't they all?) and when they retiled the kitchen in the bar, the walls were full of cockroaches happily nesting behind the tiles in the lovely gaps. Just cover the tiles with adhesive, people. Unless you want a cockroach sanctuary of course.

Tiles are expensive. Paying someone to put them would be even worse, fortunately I didn't have to do that. But, I actually reckon they are a good investment. 1) blocks the damp problem 2) Incredibly easy to clean 3) They don't need replacing as often as the walls need painting.

Onto the work. The walls above the tiles had been filled when we were attacking the dining room, so that was part of the prep done. I washed the tops of the border tiles down to remove the dust so we could cover them with masking tape. Same with the light fittings.

Next, all the pans came down to be washed and stored in the dining room while the walls were painted. We sheeted up and brushed the dust off the walls.

Then, a coat of Benjamin Moore white paint. It covered so well, that apart from touching up a couple of pan marks, we decided one coat was enough - the other two rooms all needed two, plus stain stop. Our fastest job to date. Done in a day. Dust sheets removed and pans back on the wall.

It was a bit of a shock when all the other jobs have taken weeks. So - next - the bedroom. Another long job, and we will probably move into the back house to sleep so that we can work more easily.

Anyway, some comments about my minimalist kitchen.

First up, the fridge is Fagor, a Spanish company and is excellent. We bought it from the shop down the road that sells seconds. They don't deliver so we had to take it home and wait 48 hours for it to settle. It had a couple of dents in the side. So did our AEG in the UK for which we got £40 off when it was delivered less than perfectly.

I can live with cheap and less than perfect these days. We still get the two year guarantee. So why pay more??

Table with rather rusty legs and corner cabinet are both IKEA from many years ago. Legs on table may get sprayed. Corner thing was actually part of an office suite but it serves for a good spice shelf.

Plastic chairs came from my mum and dad's since the pine ones got moved to the dining room.

Oh, the sink. Yeah, we'll get one of those white ceramic things one day. But for now it's a red plastic bowl stuck on top of a Black and Decker workmate. It works well enough, so, no rush. We chuck the water out on the street. Hopefully missing our neighbours.

Filled walls, pans already down

Lots of pans to take down and wash, more filler on top left

Copper engraved prints to take down, light fittings washed off

Sheeted up - but don't disturb Pippa

Pans already back in place - and gleaming clean

And round to the fridge, chattering away in the corner to itself

Yet more clean pans, painting, engravings - all back

Door still needs painting, solid wood, originally from our neighbours
Also, note the feature stone arch above the doorway

Always need a food piccy. Mozzarella and tomato salad with capers
Recipe to follow

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Gibraltar National Day 2011

Well, it's that time of year in Gibraltar when, if, you aren't wearing red and white that you look rather odd.

Red and white are the Gib colours and today is National Day. It is party, party, party from first thing to early tomorrow morning. Not for oldies like us of course.

What to wear? Well, courtesy of The Paint Shop in Europort we had acquired two new free red T-shirts. Very good. I had - too late - searched the shops for some new white shorts and failed miserably.

I went out this morning and decided it was TOO HOT for trousers. I glared at my offending creamy white ones and decided to turn them into shorts. Have scissors, needle and white cotton - will make shorts.

Partner skulked off for a couple of hours work but came back before the big hour at 1pm wearing his Gib T-shirt. We were set to go.

Long trousers.

And now made into shorts.

And free T-shirt.

There I am..

Partying on in the car park.

And in King's Bastion.

Now, can we sneak in here? Unlikely.

How about this side?

Oh, yes, there is someone with a Paint Shop T-shirt - I know him!!

Party party party

Listening to the mayor's speech - Kaiane Aldorino was given the freedom of the city for her achievement in winning Miss World.

Releasing the balloons at 1pm. The 30,000 red and white balloons represent our population.

And - here is the declaration that we all listened to just before 1pm.

On this, our National Day, we, the People of Gibraltar, here gathered as a community:

1. Remember and celebrate past generations of Gibraltarians and others, who, by their efforts, sacrifices and determination made today's Gibraltar possible;

2. Celebrate and honour our country as a success, and the community that flourishes within it, and we express firm resolution to resist and overcome the challenges that we may face in the future, as all previous generations have done;

3. Declare our enduring commitment to a society based on, and upholding the highest principles of human rights, democracy and social justice;

4. Express our collective solidarity with those people in our community, and outside Gibraltar, who are economically, socially or personally vulnerable and in need of support;

5. Declare our openness to friendly relations and cooperation on the basis of mutual respect with all countries and peoples that share or respect our values as a community;

6. Acknowledge our obligation to future generations of Gibraltarians to care for our environment, and to assure the political, social and economic prosperity and success of Gibraltar in the future;

7. Celebrate inalienable right as a people to determine the future of Gibraltar, our homeland, in accordance only with our wishes, rights and aspirations;

And finally, on this, Gibraltar National Day, we send greetings to all Gibraltarians around the world, and we greet and thank all friends of Gibraltar in Britain and elsewhere.

And - when he got to number five - the woman next to us said - except for Spain. Because, she is right. Hands off Spain. Just lay off with your claim to Gibraltar. If Gibraltarians wanted to be Spanish they would have voted for that and they would have Spanish flags all over the place today. They don't. Gibraltar is an independent British Overseas Territory.


Sunday, September 04, 2011

Vernacular architecture

Although we live only a few minutes from the coast on the infamous tourist trap of the Costa Del Sol, there is nothing in our village or on our coastal strip that screams of Brits (or anyone else) On Holiday.

Walking around the beach on our usual stroll the other day, I thought I would take a few photos of the local domestic architecture.

There are a few key points to note here:

1) We live in a predominantly agricultural community.

This does not mean that people have huge fincas with acres of olives and all the rest of it - like we all watch on A Place In The Sun.

What it actually means is that most people live in the village and rent ground annually to grow their crops. A few lucky ones, slightly outside the village, have a bit of ground with their houses. These are the houses that most of the pix reflect.

They also invariably happen to be on the main road, not something your average Brit would choose, but it rarely bothers Spaniards.

And of course, in the village, there isn't enough space to have large plots of ground with your house.

2) A lot of the older houses were built out of soft stone from the local quarry. Looks great, incredibly thick walls, and - somewhat porous. Still, it's nice to have a stone house. Dread to think of the cost of that little cute stone cottage in the UK near the coast.

3) Houses when first built tended to have square rooms, maybe - but not always - an entrance hall, and to either side of the front door, a sitting room, and a kitchen, with one or two bedrooms behind. These were the posher houses. Poorer people had two rooms. One to sleep in and one to do everything else in. Cooking happened outside or wherever. Bathrooms didn't happen. Neither did glass windows, or electricity or mains water or.... etc.

There might have been a shady patio outside the bedrooms and/or a corral for the animals. And from this basic houseplan has developed today's village homes.

4) Spanish houses are rarely 'original'.

Spaniards have a positive mania for 'reforming' their houses to the latest ghastly fashion. Reforming basically means, either totally gutting or knocking down and starting again, all with single skin brieze block.

And - as they have to provide for their children - a nice looking single storey cottage will suddenly develop a floor above for their daughter/son plus offspring to live in.

Or the tiny bit of ground they do have, will sprout a single storey two room house, rapidly followed by the upper storey extension a couple of years later.

No mortgages for a lot of families where we live. The families just pitch in to provide a small bit of space for a young couple to start off their life together. But - would you want to live on the back of your parents?

These photos, as far as I know, don't reflect that syndrome - well not over the last ten years, although some do have either a roof terrace, or in one case, a - rare - two storey house that looks older than most of the current reforms. I've tried to show some of the houses that haven't been reformed beyond belief in order to provide homes for little Maria or little José.

So, off on our trip.

I like this house. If only it wasn't on the main road! The guy went to work in Malaga, the place belonged to his parents, and when he had finished his working life in the city, he moved back to the family home. He was lucky and managed to buy a cheap plot of land next to the house so regularly grows potatoes as a cash crop. He also has a similar sized decent plot right behind his house. He has a good sized stable, and a patio and the inevitable few outhouses. Next to the house is the track to the beach. As I say, not a bad house at all.

And from the other angle, the same house.

This guy has a house in the village and this nice place here, surrounded by ground too. Hmm, not without a peseta or so.

A single storey house - where the buildings have surreptitiously crept up the back and the railings signify the roof terrace.

A good example of a classic double-fronted single storey house.

A rare older two storey house - but see the work just above the roof of the house next to it? The two storied house matches in well, but the work on the side gives it away as one that was raised a storey some time ago.

This one has been revamped recently and looks quite striking. The words over the door refer to peones - workers.