Jakers! you'd think our eSpanish was better: we've had a lot of opportunity to practice it. Currently we have Bolivar, a wwoofer from Venezuela, staying with us for the Spring/Summer. Two years ago it was O'Manch' a young chap from La Mancha who could prune vines and play the piano. The first instar was Javier, from suburban Madrid, who spent nearly a year with us in the mid 1990s. We haven't been exclusively espagnolophile: for a couple of Winters we hosted Tadek a self-sufficient strawberry farmer from NE Poland.
Mais revenons a nos Javis. He was living with us to help with the children and the logistics of running the farm; in return he was clocking up social welfare credits back home in Spain which he could parlay into a year's unemployment benefit when he returned . . . and getting help with his English. Every Saturday morning when I returned from a working week in Dublin, he was hopping from one foot to the other to do blokey things with me rather than doing Lego with two small girls. One such day, early in our relationship, I suggested that he clear out the drain than runs beside the lane which bisects our property. This task is important because a clogged drain will fail to carry water, which will spill out into the roadway and sweep it all to buggery. I know: it's happened to us twice in the last 20 years. Javi's response was an incredulous "But Bob, that is one hundred metres!" . . . of head-high brambles, small saplings, enormous rocks and invisible quantities of other problems. Not being one to ask something that I was unwilling to undertake myself, I replied "Okay, Javi, let's do it together. We'll start at the bottom and see how far we get.".
40 minutes later, we had not only cleared the drain with slash-hook and sprong, rake and secateurs, but we had piled the mountain of brash onto a large plastic sheet and dragged it down to the haggard for burning. Five minutes after that we were settling down to a nice, and well-deserved, cup of tea. Seemingly insurmountable problems that yield to solution if you start pecking away at them somewhere became known in our family as Javi Problems. Not so difficult in the execution as anxiety makes them feel when you fail to grasp the nettle. We both learned something that day.
Javi's other problem was that he lacked any personal space, he had a bedroom but the girls were still quite likely to be roaring in the night and would occasionally wake him up, far too early, to finish last-night's Lego project. We had cleared out one of the ruined granite sheds to live in while the house itself was being stripped to its bare-bones and essential services / luxuries installed like running water; a front door that kept out mice; electrical sockets in all rooms; under-floor heating and windows that you could see through. In order to live in the shed we had created a timber box inside the granite shell and dry-lined it with sheet-rock [walls and ceiling] and tongue&groove pine boards [floor]. That plan was roughly shaken when we were evicted from our home in Dublin before the house on the farrrm was finished. So the shed was filled with furniture and boxes & boxes & boxes of accumulated possessions. Javi knew we had all the necessities for comfortable life in the house - he was sharing them on a daily basis. The material in the shed must, he reasoned, be surplus to requirements; not least because it had not been used for nearly two years.
One Friday at dinner, he tentatively raised the idea that IF we sorted through the clutter in the shed THEN he could shift his much smaller parcel of stuff and himself into the vacated space. We were willing, the next day was sunny and we sorted through 40 cu.m. of material before tea-time. The nicer furniture was shifted to the local auction-room where it was converted into cash. The much-loved but moth-eaten, wretched, touch-only-with-rubber-gloves sofa was put on top of a pile of empty card-board boxes and burned. We didn't know about carbon-footprint in those far-off simple days. It was a wrench, but Javi's Socratic method worked "This sofa: are you ever going to sit on it again? You have a nice sofa from Habitat in your living room, which is too small to accommodate two sofas. Can you imagine anyone buying such a sofa? [apart from us, by implication] Shall we just burn it?". Javi won his own place, which was for years know as Casa Javi, now simply The Casa, because it has housed a number of other inhabitants. But it lightened the load on our souls by the mammoth decluttering that he instigated.
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