Sunday, December 31, 2006

Out with the sheep in with the new

Woke up to the sound of sorrowful bleating and the smell of charcoal burning on street fires as the cull got underway in the Medina. The man with the sharp knife who slits the sheeps throat as is the practice will have a full agenda today and probably take the rest of the year off. Ben took off early to his Mothers house to witness his personal sheep meet its maker and was returning to pick me up for the ceremonial family lunch later. During the morning the sheepskins piled up on street corners to be sold i guess while buckets of innards were furtively scrubbed for what reason I can only hazard a guess.

Sina has left for Spain to meet up with her daughter arriving back from Berlin, I think she has had a dizzying and confusing, amusing and also very relaxing stay all things considered. Its quiet in the house as I relish being ensconced, such a lovely word, in the Menzeh room with the two cats Moulay and Idriss popping in to check out this new heated room after Bens chilly apartment. It will be no go on the workfront now for three days and no excuses either from the workers about holiday payments and sheephunting when they get back, its time to steam in as we like to say.

I would hope we can get all plastering and tadelakt in the remaining rooms done and finish off the electricity and plumbing so there should be a few working bathrooms within the next month, inshallah. Most of all I am praying for a logical work process as is so often the case here people are always going back over finished work eg electricians over plasterwork which is enough to make you cry sometimes. No matter that you have pointed out the wastefullness of it all it still happens all too frequently. So all I want for Xmas is some Logic, please Santa!

Spent a lovely afternoon at Bens with his Mother bringing out trays of Couscous, chicken, lamb and sauteed innards, no thank you, plus fresh fruit, tea and sweetcakes. Ben was scooping leftovers for the cats and would return later to take a haunch of lamb home to cook for our dinner, good boy.

So with no work for a while it could be time for one of my famous road trips and the place that beckons is definitely Chefchaouen, only a three hour drive north through Ouezzane and gorgeous Andalucian style scenery. I want to see what has progressed from my lst visit and do some more scouting around as the potential of the place is definitely on the up and up.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Little by Little

Few photos for your delectation the first is is from the Berber Fantasia that was a stunning recreation of warring Berbers just outside the old town, the others are of the fine filigree lamps every home should have one, the arches in the Menzeh room now all cleaned and da capoed and of course the newly tiled lounging pool come patio on top of the skylight, love it!

Little by little as the title says is a literal translation of the Arabic Schwaya Schwaya which is my phonetic intepretation. It generally means take your time, show some patience and everything will come good. This is important now as there are lots of smaller finishing projects underway with the plasterers working their way through the house, zellige man onto tiling the bathrooms and carpenter making new window frames whilst Mernissi bless him cleans a door a day. The electricians are threatening to finish very soon as soon as I part with some more dirhams of course but I now have hallights on a 5 minute timer throughout the house which is nice. Soon will have terrace lights in place and can light it up like a Xmas tree to rival Freds place over the way.

Sina and I have been in the Menzeh room for a few nights and it has been magical with the sunlight filtering through, the scattered wailing seeping in at odd hours and playing cool house music on the Ipod with no neighbours to annoy, parfait. She has been enjoying Fes and amazed at the effort and frustration involved daily to get the work done from point A to point B, as we all know here. then magically it all comes together before your eyes and you wonder what the fuss was all about.

So it has been Xmas, well not that you would know it here of course apart from Hotel Batha digging out their 10 feet of trimming for the ex pats and the expats themselves stuffing chooks and getting in a case or two of stubbies, thats chickens and beers to the non Aussies out there. Spent Xmas morning with Aussie Pete and Sina in the Ville Nouvelle buying sinks and toilets as we are at that stage and then carting them through the Medina of course on handcarts, always a hassle but then again you cannot get 5 toilets on a donkey, or maybe you can I havent tried it....yet.

Quiet Xmas night just chilling in the Menzeh, alcohol free and consequently woke up fresh and raring to go. It was time to take Sina out of the Medina to go exploring after leaving the workers on some sort of schedule although as we approach Aide the big holiday everyone has to take time off to buy a sheep to slaughter on 31st Dec. So you might wonder where the workers are but they are usually in a hunt for the prettiest sheep or the one with the nicest fetlocks or whatever. Sheep are now seen all over the Medina either in handcarts, on mopeds though not driving as they have no sense of direction, or being stuffed into the boot of a Fiat Uno where they probably think they are being taken on a scenic tour. Unfortunately their tour ends up in an oven after having their throat cut and blood spilled within the house for good luck. I might bypass the ritual myself and have a lovely nut roast!!

Anyway drove Sina out on the Ifrane road to yes you have guessed ..Ifrane passing through Immouzer and stopping of at the Golf club to show here the lack of complexes and apartments that normally blight the Costas but it will come of course. Had a Thai lunch in Ifrane that must have been the only thai menu that uses gravy browning so copiously so that was a costly mistake. as a finale I took here to the world famous Hotel Mischliffen, only joking, this is the ski resort that services Ifrane but it was deserted save for one bundled up guardian as the hotel inside was colder by far than outside. Sitting on the terrace staring at the empty and delapidated swimming pool and the little slopes covered by a sprinkling of snow whilst the Carpenters crooned on the hotel stereo had a strangely spooky effect causing Sina to giggle almost constantly at the absurdity of the place in off season. We couldnt even pay for our coffees as the guardian had no change at all but he waved us off cheerfully maybe hoping we would return next year to pay.

Came back after to find the house cleared; it almost felt like a home with doors and windows in situ although needing the Da Capo ladies treatment, who incidentally came round for their Aide bonus even though they have only worked 3 days, Ahh Morocco bless her. Sina and I took a stroll through the Medina finally finding the guy who makes the fine filigree lamps I have been seeing all over as in photo also in the search for at least 7 doors for the house and some beautiful reclaimed ones around but at silly prices must look harder. Met one antique dealer who sells to Europeans some gorgeous pieces who not only knew the Mernissi house but had played in there as a boy with the family so he was very taken with me buying and restoring it to its former glory.

After all this activity we settled in front of the fire at Hotel Batha for a relaxing Vodka and tonic ahhh alcohol admiring the 10 feet of trimmings.

So after all this action in the festive season were we finally infected with the Xmas spirit at long no.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The thick of it

So three weeks away and what had i missed, well a lot of hard work and graft by the looks of it. The new work team consisting of young chantier Moaniss who is foreman and translator had been overseeing the red hot plastering team who were working their sweet way through the house plus new carpenter and zellige specialist and Mernissi, how apt, the clean up man.

The octagonal skylight roof is now fully tiled on the top with all the representative zellige colours of Morocco and though shallow, when filled with water in summer it might just cover your naughty bits if you lie on your back. Always wanted a dip pool but this is more of lounging puddle oh well at least you can get wet!

The terrace bedroom is all done with new plaster, stripped wood doors and shutters and oh deep joy electricity so I consequently rushed over to Adels house with Ben and moved my various Moroccan belongings over in about an hour flat. Managed to barter a gas heater from Adel as the nights are getting chilly and so with incense stick lit, Ipod on shuffle and Keith Richards autobiography at hand i awaited Bens delivery of a double mattress. And so there I was at home on the terrace menzeh with views out to the starry Medina, the odd howling dog and lounging with Silk cut in hand on the leopardskin throw. At that point I could not have been happier but it was not to last.

Woken up at 8am to the sounds of ALL the workers with Mernissi scraping the grime from the terrace windows coloured glass outside to its previous glory, while the plastering team set up right outside my door and the electrician banging on it to come and finish the electricity hook up in the room. A rude awakening to say the least and it got worse. Driss the old builder who had laid the new ceramic tiles in the apartment and first floor bedroom had come looking for cash. although his work was not bad it was not up to a great standard and we all told him so. Also whilst laying the tiles and hosing it all done as they do, water had leaked to the shop below and caused the shopowner to close for a few days.

Of course You must not annoy the neighbours is rule number one so off we went to settle the problem. This scenario is so typical Morocco as shopowner demanded recompense I told Driss he must pay out of his wages which I was docking anyway and so as a starting point we haggled away. The store owner got some of which he felt was owed, Driss got half of what he wanted and situation solved with me growing a few more grey hairs, bearing in mind this was my first morning back I cant say I was too happy. Strolling round the house I was generally impressed the main salon now looks stunning just need to get a decent fireplace builder in finish where the space shuttle fireplace stood before being ceremoniously demolished hurrah.

Spent a nice afternoon with Aussie Peter and Karen after the mornings debacle looking at Jacob Delafon baths and toilets ended up with two baths for 60 euros each must have been a missprint, but the toilets were only 85 euros each as well for stylish modern design will come back for five of those I think. I realise this is truly scintillating stuff and you must be feeling my rapture so lets call a halt before we all wet ourselves en masse.

Hopefully get some photos up soon to show the progress inshallah.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hop Skip Jump

The title tells you everything about my progress over the last few weeks, hopping over to Spain first to establish a signing date for the house sale there and squeezed in a fantastic birthday with Sina and friends. First she took me into the campo to the bottom of a dingley dell garden and there was a special birhtday treat of a swedish sauna that had been fired up for me, lovely, then onto a new Japanese and Thai restaurant in Chiclana where she had assembled a motley batch of old friends, the food was incredible with dumplings to die for.

It was then a skip over to England which wasnt too much fun consisting of one drunken night with two days to recover; looking out for a wayward brother and putting my dear old Gran in a care home; well she is 98 bless her.

So then it was jum^ping back over to Spain to deal with the hassle of house clearing. Spent a considerable amount of time stressing over the house sale in Spain as they are so laid back about the actual date whilst hitting you with all manner of new charges. For instance i hadnt paid my Basura or rubbish collection fee for two years because it was in the old owners name so was suddenly hit for 300 euros. This is just one of many odd fees to pay that you were not aware of till you come to sell as anyone will tell you you cannot sell with an outstanding debt on the house.
Anyway a date was set and two days frantic moving of furniture and records ensued with all the choice pieces ending up in Sinas apartment so it almost felt like a home from home which I guess was the general idea.

The day of signing was fraught with confusion for all concerned, the young Madrid couple who were buying their first house, the agent with all his figures wrong plus the bank rep with a cheque for the wrong amount and slack paperwork. I was convinced at any moment the whole deal would fall flat on its face which would have been a shame as I had already spent the deposit in Fes, whoops!!

Miraculously it all came together and I found myself mortgage free with a nice bundle leftover and we all know where that is going to be spent , dont we children yes in the good old Medina. After a few days thumbtwiddling in Vejer as to all intents and purposes I dont have a home there although my old home has been magically transported to Sinas as a Vejer base it was time to get my head around popping back to Africa.

At this stage my brain was full of scenarios including having my car turned back at customs, irate builders waiting for money and wondering how I would feel seeing the old house again. Breezed through Tangiers after a two hour wait, how unusual, and then the 5 hour drive to Fes with my brain on numb mode for most of the time.

Soon i was back on familiar noisy, bustling turf and straight into the house with my bundles of Vejer leftover lights, furnishings, a Buddha and pots and pans for the future kitchen. My first impressions were Wow but thats all for now as the footie has started.