14 Jan The Cortijo – home from home
The little house where we stay, Cortijo El Curato, is a delight. And, frequently, a frustration. Small, stone-clad, squat against the hillside, you have to look hard to see it in among the spacious, white- or magnolia-rendered pseudo palaces that sparingly populate the neighbourhood. They tower; the cortijo nestles. They look new; it looks old. They look ornate; it looks simple. But appearances, as we all know, can be deceptive.
Come in the front door (well, the only door, in fact) and the impression of simplicity is maintained as you look right into the sitting room end of the single public room: an old rug, a plain navy sofa and a wood-burning stove are first to meet the eye. Cast your eye further round and the picture starts to change as you glimpse the large and baffling smart TV. Sorry that should be Smart TV. Look left and the illusion of simplicity is dispelled completely as you take in the huge Samsung fridge (almost room to spend the night in there if the weather got stuffy or the two of us fell out big time) and the sleekly smart (so smart as to be unfathomable without the instruction booklets open by your side) SMEG appliances with their minimalist design and elusive knobs. Switching the wretched things on is the first challenge! Just as well we spend a few weeks there as it takes that long to fathom out the infrastructure.
Never mind, a salad would always suffice.
One of these appliances, admittedly not the sleekest on show, tripped all the electrics last night. Late on. We’re used to shenanigans with the boiler and the central heating (read on) but the electrics is a new one, apart from the total, local supply shutdown you occasionally get if it’s very windy. A quick glance outside confirmed that we were the one pool of darkness on an otherwise twinkling hillside. Torch, Candles. Matches. Fuse cupboard. Panic. Slight sensation of trepidation. A few flicks of the tripped switch to no avail but with no obvious ill-effects (no explosion, no fire, that sort of thing). Got the lights back on and isolated the power circuit as the problem – so basically all the appliances hors de combat! In the end, the kettle was the culprit.
This is our third year renting the cortijo; obviously we like it here. But something always goes wrong. There are little gremlins in the machines that lurk menacingly. The gremlin that grumbles most lives inside the boiler. The houses here are designed to keep cool in the summer but they can be chilly in the winter evenings when temperatures plummet. The wood-burning stove does a great job but sometimes you do need some heating and the cortijo has impressively solid radiators in each room driven by a petulant boiler housed in an outside cupboard where it seems to spend the days and nights scheming. The first year we were here it was forever conking out with error codes that made no sense; last year a more fundamental breakdown occurred and an inventive heating engineer fashioned a temporary repair that kept us in heat and hot water for our remaining few weeks. “Peter (the owner) will have to fix it properly now”, we said to one another last year as we waved the engineer goodbye. But, no, the temporary repair lives on (just) and the boiler’s behaviour becomes more bizarre. It’s hit and miss whether it switches on and, when you switch it off at night you can never be sure. I woke up the other night thinking I’d made a mistake packing the warmer pyjamas, then I realised the radiators were pumping out the heat. It had switched itself on, unbidden, in the middle of the night.
We did wonder, as we drove down to Garrucha this morning to buy a new kettle, whether these flaws and frustrations, the things that go wrong, much as they’re annoying are somehow endearing at the same time. They’re part of the character of the place, partly why we like it and keep coming back to discover what new problems it will have for us to solve. Home from home.