Whining and dining


At last! – I’ve got my dining room back! That doesn’t mean to say that it’s been out on permanent loan and only just been returned, nothing quite so metaphysical as that, no, what I mean is that I’ve finally got the use of my dining room again after complaining for ages that I didn’t have anywhere decent to eat in. Not that it got much use in the first place, living on my own as I do and eating mainly at my desk or at the rickety table on the terrace, although I live in high hopes of laying the full china service and linen napkins out for a delectable piece of totty one fine day, should that fine day ever arrive – and the totty, of course.

The reason I’ve got it back, or at least the use of it, is because I’d finally got around to giving my flat a thorough clean. During the clean up process I decided it was time to sort out the metaphorical wheat from the chaff and dump anything that hadn’t seen the light of day for a while and wasn’t likely to next year either.

I am an inveterate hoarder, emptier of skips, and collector of those odd little bits and pieces that will only take a bit of glue or a dab of paint to put right. It has been a life-long obsession and the area around my flat in Valencia is providing a lot of rich pickings, given the amount of refurbishment going on.

Being a skip rat was all fine and dandy when I was just picking up the odd lamp or bit of furniture to restore for my flat, but taking on a small village house as a refurbishment project has opened the flood gates – hence no dining room!

I rent a four-bedroom apartment in Valencia, so you would think there’d be plenty of storage space. Take away one large room as an office, another for an ironing room/wardrobe (that sounds terribly extravagant but it’s so small it’s twisting the truth to call it a bedroom in the first place), a single bedroom for the rare visitor and, of course, somewhere to lay my bones at night, and suddenly the only place left to store my finds is the dining room.

The original intention was to move everything to the village house asap but at about the time I bought the house my car, a Citroen Xantia with a roof rack that was big enough to carry most things, died on me. Having just shelled out what little folding stuff I had as a deposit on the house, there was nothing left to buy another set of wheels so for the last few months I’ve had to hire a car to get to the house to work on it. A three-door Opel Clio barely carries me, never mind a load of architectural cast-offs. Fortunately, my friend Michael, who lives near the village house, has a van, and in exchange for an overnight stay in Valencia delivers my latest gatherings to the house every couple of months.

Every time a load left Valencia the dining room was tidied up and an oath taken that it wouldn’t be filled again (although that didn’t include using it as a workshop to make a dining table from old wooden bed slats). Recently, though, the skips have been especially rewarding, with some of the best stuff I’ve found so far. Apart from the gems I take from my roadside shops, I’ve been buying the odd decorative item and they are kept in boxes in the guest-less guest bedroom. Apart from Michael and a couple of friends from Alicante, no-one but me has graced the beds in my house for almost a year so it seemed a pointless gesture keeping a room all nice and in readiness for Mr No-body to pay a sneak visit, especially as I’d bought a brand-new bed-settee earlier this year that was infinitely more comfortable than the single, sagging mattress in the guest suite. So a few weeks ago I rearranged my home, my ‘stock’ and my sleeping arrangements by eliminating yet another bedroom and shunting everything awaiting transportation to the country estate from my dining room to the now re-designated ‘storeroom’.

It was quite the ‘voyage of discovery’. I found things I’d completely forgotten I had, which, in some cases, was probably for the best, as they’d never get a look-in on the restoration list until well past retirement age. But it also gave me the opportunity to catalogue what was there, which I did by way of taking digital photos. I now know how many wooden doors, lengths of panelling, chandeliers, curtain rails, chests of draws, window frames etc I have in Valencia and, given an energetic day, will do the same with the three van loads of stuff in store in Michael’s garage (although then I will also measure the doors etc because the day after I did the move at the flat I needed to know the size of some shutters but they were stacked at the back of the pile and my aching bones said ‘no’ at the thought of dragging everything out again).

When everything was finally moved, stacked and stored, the dining room dusted, washed and polished I stood back and imagined sitting around the table with friends once again, although the number of people who actually dine at my flat are even less than the number of those who sleep there, but at least I’d have a proper table to sit at when I served my Marks and Spencer Christmas pudding for one when the big day finally came around.

Huh! Like they say, the best laid plans of mice and men…..!

Just around the corner from my flat a gymnasium has been gutted and for almost a week I’d walked past two tall sets of climbing bars made of beautifully grained pine. The reason they’d stayed on the street for so long was that there was nowhere for me to put them – but now there was, so home they came. Apart from making a beautiful plank tabletop I couldn’t see any use for them, but now I have, as the steps up to a sleeping platform I’ll eventually put in one of the bedrooms which has a tall sloping roof.

Meanwhile, I now have half a dining room. The wall bars and two large window frames, complete with windows, are covered over with a length of cloth to at least provide a semblance of tidiness. I just pray that nothing big turns up before Michael can get here with his van. I was so looking forward to eating my Christmas pudding for one at a proper table.

If you would like to know more about Spain, visit my web site, www.derekworkman-journalist.com , and Spain Uncovered.


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