March 02, 2010 by
As promised in my very short update last week, here follows a big update as to the eventful recent happenings of our Portuguese “dream.”
Regular readers will know about the ongoing battles we have had with damp and mould, in the traditional Algarve townhouse we spent many months dreaming about before our arrival. Just like the rest of the world, Portugal has experienced freak weather this winter. The Algarve has had so much rain this year that the area, which experiences frequent summer droughts, now reportedly has enough water in the reservoirs to last for the next three years.
New mouldy discoveries
About ten days ago, my wife had a closer look in some corners of the house and discovered whole new areas of mould we had not previously noticed. She also noticed more of our possessions had been destroyed, including irreplaceable items from our wedding. We decided enough was enough, and set off to the letting agency in an attempt to get moved somewhere else. We had already planned to move in May anyway to a lovely modern apartment which, frustratingly, we knew was dry and free of mould, having been to look around in the midst of the December rain.
The letting agency was not as helpful as we had hoped. It seems that all year they have been faced with a constant procession of owners and tenants, all with similar problems, some with collapsed ceilings etc. Initially, all they offered to do was send in the cleaners yet again. This proved to be to our benefit, as the cleaners took one look at the place and declared it to be uninhabitable.
Feeling newly empowered, we set off back to the letting agency armed with this information. Underestimating our new ability to understand a little Portuguese, the boss proceeded to dress down the cleaner over the phone for daring to tell a client their property was uninhabitable. At least that was how we understood it. We made clear our desire to move somewhere else as soon as possible, but were not met with a lot of helpful suggestions. We left downhearted, just being told that the best they could do was see if they could persuade the owner of our new property to stay elsewhere when he visits, therefore enabling us to move into our new property straight away.
Fired up and slightly angry, we got in touch with someone we had met, and by the end of the same day were being shown around another property in town – a beautiful luxury home which we liked a lot, however, it just didn’t seem to feel right. The place was supposed to be empty, but it had tenants in there when we got there, and it was frustratingly difficult to work out exactly when the place was going to become available. The place was better than any we had seen, but our instincts told us to steer clear. We also saw the beginnings of some mould in one of the rooms….not what we were looking for…
Fortunately our evening of feeling dejected was turned around by an email from our agency confirming that the owner of the place we were due to move to in May had agreed to let us move in straight away, very kindly making different arrangements for his own accommodation for his next visit.
First thing the next morning, we picked up the keys and excitedly started to move the first of our things to our new apartment – relishing the prospect of having our first mould-spore free night in several months. We moved the bare essentials, and a friend came and joined us for an impromptu barbeque on the terrace. Everything was just marvellous and we kept saying over and over that the place “just feels right.”
Guess what? It didn’t completely last. When our friend left we noticed we had no external lights at the front of the apartment building. We also noticed our video entry phone wasn’t working. Exploring more, we found the building lift didn’t work, nor did our doorbell. After a while compiling these details it became clear that although everything in our own apartment was fully-functional, nothing in the condominium itself was working. It was all dead. We checked the fuse-box and everything looked right. We decided the following morning that we would go to the agency and see what had to be done, confident that it would just be a case of someone, somewhere, switching something on.
At this point the story takes on a distinct air of “only in Portugal….” It transpired that the reason the condominium power was off was due to someone, somewhere, not paying the electricity bill. This was quite easily sorted (it has apparently now been paid, we are just waiting for the power in the communal parts of the building to be restored.) It is worth mentioning at this point that the Portuguese utility companies are truly draconian in their approach to disconnections. Unlike in the UK where utility companies are obliged to give plenty of chances to pay and offer prepayment meters it is not that way in Portugal. If you don’t pay, off it goes. It’s just the way it is.
The problem of the power sorted, I received a knock on the door from an employee of the agency. The language barrier was a problem here as I wasn’t expecting the visit and didn’t know its purpose. After a lot of arm waving I established that she wished to photograph one of our sofas. I hadn’t noticed up to this point the arse-shaped mark on one of the cushions, looking as if someone had been for a swim and sat down before being fully dry. I was unconcerned but did ask about it when in the agency office.
“We were going to mention that…” here we go…..It turns out that in the last two weeks, while the place had been empty, someone had let themselves in to the apartment, and left again, leaving just a used beach towel and the aforementioned arse-shaped mark on the sofa. “You couldn’t make it up,” became our phrase of the day.
As it turned out, a locksmith was swiftly dispatched to fit a new lock, the electric bill paid, and over the weekend, we moved into our new modern, dry, mould-free apartment. We love it. Something about being here feels a lot more like we expected arriving in Portugal to feel like. In the four months we lived in the “mould zone” we did have some wonderful times, but looking back, something didn’t feel right. Perhaps it was waking up with sore throats from breathing in mildew and spending every spare moment spraying diluted bleach around?
NEXT POST: Carnival...
Now we are here, it feels like our Portuguese dream can truly begin….take two…there’s a rumour the weather can get quite nice around these parts, I wonder if it’s true.
Carnival report coming soon….