Tag Archives: Montejaque

Bring the Money Now



Dring-dring, Dring-dring . . . or the digital equivalent . . . ‘The house is yours. You can buy it. But you have to come fast to the office now. . . RIGHT NOW’ and the agent, or I presume it was the agent, hangs up. I’m still studying my phone when she rings back: ‘And bring the money’. Or the Spanish equivalent.

Unfortunately I was in the middle of a feature on Google Glass and neurodata. But the next day the house was miraculously still available. What’s more we had the opportunity to see inside it, which seemed like a wise idea  – not upstairs, because there are no stairs anymore. It was a bit of a mess. Cosmetic, apparently. Presumably the previous buyer had taken a look inside and backed out – literally – but they hadn’t shown up with the deposit, hence the house was up for grabs again. The views are spectacular, at least. Herded along, still slightly ambivalent, we  paid a small wad of euros to Unicaja, the bank that owns it in order to take the property off the market while we checked the paperwork, got Manolo – a builder on the side – to give it a once over, appointed a lawyer, set up a foreign exchange account, guessed the costs of putting in new doors, windows, and a kitchen, and decided whether we really, really, wanted this displaced Greek fisherman’s cottage, given that it’s smaller than we need, has no garden, and is in the wrong place. Our furniture and possessions have been in boxes now for 18 months, and I really want my books. So on balance we thought we did.

The day after giving the bank a yes, a message arrived from Molino via Manolo to say the owners of the Perfect Farm would be open to discussing an offer.

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A Quite Interesting House

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Many months ago a German drew level with us on the mountain road out of a nearby village, Montejaque – quite a feat. He kept up for several bends, and seemed to be saying something so eventually I wound down the window. Turns out one of our rear wheels was coming off. This was the start of a long, ongoing, car care program at Jose Miguel’s workshop on one of the village’s upper streets. The various jobs – adjusting the headlights to point right, not left, scraping off rust, making it go – have an interval for lunch, and, during one, Dave ambled to the far end of a dead end lane leading up from the main square and then dropping down and, on the final crag, spotted a house with a Se Vende sign.
He came back very animated, and so I went with him to take a look from the outside. It looks almost Greek with its Aegean blue doors and windows, and stands on a rocky base looking out over the valley. Immediately below the terrace there are prickly pears, a small-holding and a braying donkey, and above it, a rocky hill. The fig beams of the terrace had rotted, as had one of the doors, but it still looked interesting and ergo, unaffordable.
We called the agent in Ronda who told us it was a bank repossession, being sold for €35,000, which was confusing news. A bank repossession, a house that someone else had lost? But €35,000? A village house . . . but on its own facing nothing but national parkland? Montejaque . . . but near Zahara. Smallish . . . but big enough.
I listed the factors for and against on my whiteboard and got on with other stuff. The idea of a house, any house, even the wrong house in the long term took root, and so with a mix of relief and resignation we toasted our decision, planned where we’d put the furniture, and decided to stick with a blue, but maybe go for a more Nordic, cooler shade, and called the agent to arrange a viewing.
‘Sorry,’ she said, ‘It’s sold.’

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montj prada

The idea of building a simple, rectangular home either from a flatpack or by customising shipping containers sounds alright. I’ve long been interested in pods, partly because of the start-from-scratchiness of it, partly because – done the right way – the completed house would not really be a house per se, but a temporary ‘moveable’ structure, and therefore something that could be perched on sites where other houses can not go.

Driving across the USA was in large part an excuse for meeting pioneers of the small house movement, and people who had for a broad spectrum of reasons decided to buck the trend and take it upon themselves to build the house they wanted, in the way they wanted, and where they wanted. Some of these to my mind looked like gingerbread houses with a suffocating surplus of trimming designed to slot in between normal houses on a normal street. But others were modern, modular, efficient spaces; platforms for a different way of living, and designed to be a more interactive part of the site on which they stood – whether just by orientation and views, or through a much more indoor-outdoor flow as well as a harnessing of what was locally available as in sun, rock and rain with solar panels, natural landscaping and rainwater collection. The houses were fresh and the people building them were as interested in the psychology of societies and impact of environment as in plumbing and wiring. Meeting people doing this stuff was exciting and inspiring. Among the people met, interviewed, featured and filmed in the USA roadtrip were Brad Kittel, exuberant founder of Tiny Texas Houses; Tracen Gardner and Eric Bricker at Reclaimed Space; Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed, and of course, the ever-curious, pivotal figure that is Lloyd Kahn of Shelter

Aside from the finished thing, another part of the appeal of a modular or flatpack construction was the potential to control the design, and to end up with something that suited your taste, lifestyle and budget. I have bought dozens of books (ranging from coffee table pod porn to practical handbooks for the conversion of shipping containers) and I’ve drawn up plans. The notion that I could feasibly create my dream house refuses to go away. However, by virtue of the fact it is quite literally my dream house, I probably won’t do it.

Anyway, that ever present just below the surface interest was piqued by the sight of a glass-sided module in the spectacular setting of Montejaque. Could we buy land and build our own modern home in a cost-effective way? Well, the short answer to that is no. At least, maybe in Ohio but no, not in this neck of the woods. But this thing which I think is an abandoned sales office for a construction project down the hill now on hold until the end of the ‘crisis’, while slightly on the small side, did look quite a bit better than several of the houses we’d so far traipsed around. It triggered a chain of wild thought which eventually concluded with a firm resolve not to travel too far from my own notion of somewheresville.

The abandoned container itself is reminiscent of Prada Marfa. If it was anywhere else people would drive for miles to see it, and read into a message about the topsy turvy world of economics or some such thing.



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