Thursday, 29 April 2010

Getting laid

So there was I, thinking that all the work had been done and that we would now be able to lie back, enjoy the Spanish summer that's already begun with a vengeance (at least in this part of Spain) and perhaps snooze away a few siestas.

Some hope.

She Who Must Be Obeyed had clearly been hatching other plans and, after the work to put up the trellising had been completed, revealed these to me: a major tiling job, extending our already quite reasonable collection of outside floor tiles to unheard of dimensions. Yesterday her favourite tile-laying-arranger was called. Alex is a very personable young man of Russian origin. He spent three years in India, studying, and has now been working in Spain with his own odd-jobs company for several years. We have made use of his services before and have been very pleased with his correctness and quality of work.

Alex arrived at about eight o'clock that same evening and everything was explained to him: here a corner, this extended, that a quarter circle, this a right-angle, and so on. He took all the measurements, made his calculations and came up with a price that, though staggering in its enormity, was, all things considered, quite reasonable. The deal was sealed and this morning Alex and his team number eight arrived at close to nine o'clock to start the work: from preliminary measurements to start of work in just 12 hours! Alex is off to arrange for new jobs: he seems to be doing well and deserves it, too. Team number eight, Watsis and Igor are hard at it already.

We, of course, had to be up at the crack of dawn (well, that's what it seemed like me) in order to move the cacti, succulents, and other plants and objects away from the areas that are to be tiled.

Today is initial preparation (removing the layer of gravel now in place, levelling the playing field, and so on) and perhaps some initial laying of reinforced concrete, a job that will be completed tomorrow. Then a couple of days rest to allow the bases to set well, before the actual laying of the tiles. Hopefully, the work will be completed by the end of next week.

Perhaps then the lying back can begin.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010


The work of removing the aldelfas/oleanders and putting in their place trellising with climbing plants was completed earlier today. The plants chosen are Trachelospermum jasminoides, otherwise known as Chinese ivy, Chinese jasmine, Star jasmine, Jasmin rhynchospermum, and Jasmin rhyncospermum (and, I suspect several other names, as well). Hopefully, these plants will be able to support the hot summers here; they should certainly not have any difficulties with the mild winters. If all goes well, the trellis should soon be covered in largish glossy green leaves, accompanied by several months of star-shaped white flowers which should provide a citrus-like perfume. Some very good photos of the plant can be found here.

Where does "jealousy" come into the equation? Well, the Spanish word for a trellis is celosía and this made me think of the word celoso, which means "jealous." Checking the etimology of the word, I was delighted to find that celosía is, indeed, associated with jealousy. This is even more obvious in the French word for a trellis or lattice window, jalousie, of course. The book, Etimolgía de las pasiones, provides plenty of interesting material regarding celoso, celosía, and even the English zealous.

Where a simple trellis can lead you!

Monday, 5 April 2010

Adiós Adelfa—Oleander olé

The four Adelfas (Nerium oleander) at the front of the garden. They have been fairly unhappy for some time now, with browning leaves and few flowers. I have sought the advice of gardening professionals and have been told that the plants are suffering from:

too much water
not enough water
insect infestation
fungus attack

(This reminds me of the story of the blind wise men and the elephant: each touches a different part of the elephant and comes to a different conclusion about the whole, none of them being correct.)

After some research of my own, I decided that the most probable cause was a fungal attack and that, other than spraying the plants with all sorts of rubbish, the only course of action was to cut them right back and hope that they will grow again in a rather more healthy state. Another option, of course, would be to remove the plants completely, but that seems a tad drastic just now, so today the old secateurs and pruning saw were retrieved and the plants were cut back to the ground. It's just as well that the weather is cooler today, thanks to a light cloud cover; had I tried to do the job yesterday, I 'd probably have died from heat exhaustion in a very short time.

Now it's wait and see.

Incidentally, oleanders might be very pleasant to look at, at least when they're healthy, but take care with them, as they are highly toxic. It seems that old Napoleon lost several hundred men during his Spanish campaign, simply because they prepared their evening meal using oleander sticks. A few leaves is sufficient to kill a horse, so I've read.

Fortunately, I don't own a horse…