Hotter in Hartlepool than it is in Spain

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HERE is the second in our new series of monthly columns from an exiled Poolie.

Polly, as she prefers to be known, has retired to Spain from Hartlepool with her husband.

Today she somehow manages to put any problems we face over here with gas companies into a positive context.

In 2006 we were green about the lifestyle we had brought upon ourselves and to be honest we still are.

But the journey through time to get us to where we are now has proved to be an eye-opening adventure.

It all started with the butano man …. .

The man came and went without leaving us a gas bottle.

He had shouted some words and he had pointed here and there.

I made a guess at what he had said and received some kind of a response.

We gave him some money but we were not sure why.

Our neighbour-warrior appeared from nowhere and the battle of tongues near the gasman’s van left us worried and confused.

Carmen then returned to her own home.

Within minutes, she arrived at our house and attached one of her own gas bottles to our hob connection and then tried to make us a little wiser about what the gasman had said.

“Agujero” and “aire”. Ok – hole and air. “Contrato” seemed pretty obvious – something to do with a contract.

“Venti”...20? No...venti...bentti...right...ventilation.

Right. We couldn’t have a contract for a gas supply, as there was no ventilation safety hole.

“Me entiendes?”

After only five days of our new life in Galicia, northern Spain, we had heard this phrase often enough to understand that Carmen was checking our understanding.

Life here was going to be like starting again.

“Muchas gracias” was all that came out of my mouth.

My archived Spanish spluttered that simple “thank you” but nothing else followed. Our saviour disappeared as fast as she had arrived.

We wondered how we would get a hole through a metre-thick stone wall and, more so, why hadn’t a hole been ready for this purpose?

We hadn’t a list of local work contacts like we had built up in Hartlepool so we were momentarily stumped.

With barely enough time for us to apportion the blame, Carmen returned with something that resembled a pick.

With gestures and some unrecognisable phrases, she began to swing the tool.

We stood back in disbelief. Egg-sized chunks broke away from the chosen boulder and the task became clear.

Hubby took over on the job and within three hours icy air was flowing into the kitchen.

Visions of our feet freezing to the floor tiles in the winter cold became a frightening thought.

The ground-level hole was quickly stuffed with plastic bags to retain heat.

The gas was lit and we had our first hot meal at home. The fried eggs were five-star quality.

A week later, the gasman returned and seemed impressed with our work. After removing the plastic bags, he attached a six-by-eight inch metal grid to the hole both inside and out.

His gestures told us that we would be in trouble if we covered them up. Understood?

He supplied us with two gas bottles and left. Within minutes, Carmen arrived and covered the new grids with tin foil.

Our quizzical looks encouraged a response of “no pasa nada (no pass a what?)” and that the gasman wouldn’t be back for five years so what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.

Today there are still no gas pipes in this village so I can forget the flick of the switch from British Gas to give me instant heat.

It’s never going to be. Still, we were sure that things would get better, once we knew what we were doing.

Hartlepool crept into my mind.

Galicia 0 Hartlepool 1.

One problem might have been tackled but there were so many more to come and the big one would prove to be our trying to connect with the outside world via services that English people simply take for granted.

Yes, I’m talking about telephones and the internet and, in this aspect, Galicia would prove to be singing from a very different hymn sheet.

l HAVE you or someone you know moved abroad?

What do you miss most about life back in Hartlepool?

Why not let us know by emailing gavin.ledwith@northeast-press.co.uk?