Successes and Setbacks (part one)

Successes and setbacks takes a tongue in cheek look at how we have fared during our first 4 weeks in both our cave house and Spain in general.

To be honest though, we still don’t know where the last 4 weeks have gone. We are convinced that time runs at a different pace in this part of Spain.  A blink of the eye and another day has gone, maybe we need to stop taking so many siestas ?

Anyway we digress.

We were awoken to our first full day in Spain to the gentle patter of paint flakes falling from the ceiling. This was to become a familiar pattern (and still is), every morning we sweep up the previous days ‘droppings’. There has also been the odd lump of plaster fall on us at the most inconvenient of moments. A good example is that Josie cooks with lids on everything to prevent added ‘texture’ joining our meals.  It’s part of the cave settling down again after many years of being left empty, closed up and improperly aired. The good news is that a combination of heat (open fire), airing (windows and doors being opened) and general living has seen a dramatic improvement in the last 4 weeks. There is far less ‘flaking’ and we are hopeful that we can start plastering and painting within the next couple of months.

That first morning, we sat on our plastic garden chairs (our only furniture other than an old table left behind and a bed), had a good old English cup of tea and contemplated our new home. Where to start was the question that sprung to my mind ? To dry out and warm the caves was a given, but what other priorities were there ? Josie had the answer (as usual) …  to sort out the kitchen and bathroom. We decided that the following week we would go to Ikea in Murcia. Over a second cuppa an extensive list was written – well we needed everything after all !

That same morning, our neighbours Clive and Allan poked their heads in (just as ours started spinning) to say ‘bienvenidos’. They had been wonderful prior to our arrival. Regularly sweeping up the paint flakes and lighting fires to try to help dry the cave out. Their friendship and ongoing help are definitely one of our key ‘successes’.

All that thinking had exhausted us, so we had a well deserved lazy day. We caught up on laundry and internet (both at Clive and Allan’s as we had neither) and tried to warm the cave with both an open fire and oil radiators. Here we hit our first setback of sorts. Our electricity is a temperamental beast, too many appliances running at the same time trips the power. We soon learnt that running the water heater, kettle, oven and a couple of radiators was too much for our supply and had to become mindful about what we had running at the same time.

The weekend saw me undertake my first bit of electrical work – removing the light fitting in the bathroom, replacing the broken part and successfully refitting it. It’s the simple things in life, like not sitting on the toilet in the dark that make such a difference. That was a definite success and went part way to make up for my first act (and not the last) of foolishness. There was plumbing installed for a washing machine, it was however ‘plugged off’ and needed a tap fitting.

successes and setbacks No problem … if I can become an electrician in one day, then why not a plumber ? I bought a tap, found the water shutoff (can’t fool me), removed the plug and fitted the tap. So far, so good. I went outside and turned the water back on. Where was that sound of gushing water suddenly coming from ? Whilst I had fitted the tap correctly, I hadn’t checked that the new tap was in the ‘off’ position. Of course we still had bags and boxes everywhere and they were now floating in the newly created flood zone. I had to take everything outside to dry and then spent the next 20 minutes mopping the flooded floor. Josie just gave me one of her special looks when I explained why all her underwear was hanging out to dry.

Monday saw us heading to Ikea. It is at this point I should remind you we have spent 10 years on a Caribbean Island with little in the way of shopping options. We also experienced very little shopping in the 3 weeks we were in the UK. We have also never been to an Ikea and once there were a little confused and overwhelmed – Josie had to hold onto me to stop me bolting and suggested that maybe we started with a coffee (clever wife). A mere 3 hours and 600 Euros later we staggered back to the car. We now at least had the basics for both the kitchen and bathroom. It felt like another small step in the right direction.

successes and setbacks


The following day I was tasked with installing some of our new purchases – shower rail and curtain, toilet roll holder, mirror and the like.

The bathroom was taking shape.



We headed into Baza and ordered a fridge freezer and washing machine and arranged for them to be delivered the following day. This was all conducted with my basic Spanish. I am quickly coming to realise that improving our Spanish is essential in this part of Spain. So far all my conversations have gone like this …

Me: ‘Hola. ¿Puede ayudarme? Solo estoy un poco Español pero estoy aprendiendo.’  (Hello. Can you help me ? I only speak a little Spanish but I’m learning).

Them: ‘ Pues, no habla Ingles?’ (Well, I speak no English).

At this point we use a combination of my Spanish, along with pointing, drawing and sometimes mime to get ourselves understood 🙂

We soon went from successes to setbacks and in some style. I decided it was time to start airing the rental cave, which was damp and in need of attention. I walked into the kitchen and pulled open the windows to let in some air, at which point one of the windows promptly came away from the frame. Then there was a loud crash as a chunk of the plaster fell from the ceiling. I looked from the window (now in my hand) to the newly created pile of rubble on the floor … turned around and walked out the cave, locking the door behind me.

That was defiantly a mañana situation !

That evening, half way through cooking all the power went in the cave *sigh* and we couldn’t reset the trip switches. Clive called his electrician for us and arranged for him to come out the following morning. The rest of evening was spent by scented candlelight (Josie reminded me how much I had grumbled about buying those ‘unnecessary’ candles at Ikea).

The electrician arrived promptly, identified a redundant wire that was tripping the electrical system and removed it. Result … we had electricity again 🙂 The weather had turned cold during the night and was  -2C in the morning (remember the Caribbean thing). We wrapped up warmly and headed to the market. Despite the number of layers we were wearing, the cold pierced though us, even the locals were complaining about the cold. Market days though are one of my favourite experiences in Spain (regardless of the weather) and are a must for anyone visiting. I won’t harp on about, if you are interested in my thoughts on market days then it is something I have previously written about.

The day continued to improve … first power, then food and now the washing machine and fridge/freezer arrived.

That evening white stuff stared to fall from the skies. We hadn’t even been here a week and it decided to snow in our area for the first time in 10 years (so we were told).

We awoke to a transformed landscape, despite the cold you really did have to admire its beauty. Wrapping up even warmer we headed to Baza for our first free Spanish lessons at the adult learning centre. These lessons are offered twice a week (2 hours each lesson) and run by the Ayuntamiento. There really is no excuse not to learn the lingo ! It was a little daunting as it is run as an immersion and we were arriving halfway through the academic year. We were made very welcome and persevered as best we could. In addition to us, there are our neighbours Clive and Allan, another Brit, some Moroccans and a couple of Russians. It is defiantly something I plan to keep attending and makes for a nice social event during the week.

successes and setbacks

Me, Josie, Allan and Clive

After the lesson we had an impromptu snowball fight (initially the Moroccans really weren’t sure what was going on, but soon got into the swing of it), then walked through a snowy Baza to relax over a café con leche. Whilst in town we went to the Repsol shop to buy a gas heater and register for gas bottles. Whilst electricity is very expensive here, gas is price regulated and so inexpensive, about 13 Euros for a bottle. The eventual plan is to change both our hob and water heater to gas to save money. Our immediate aim though was to keep warm – a fire is great but takes time to get going and most of the heat is lost up the chimney, whilst the radiators are expensive to run.



The alternative was a gas heater to quickly and inexpensively heat up the room first thing, so that’s what we did 🙂 We now had instant warmth to huddle around during those chilly mornings.

And so ended our first very eventful week in Spain. The next installment of ‘successes and setbacks’ should hopefully bring you up to date with our first month in Spain.


So … Who are one foot in the cave ?

We (Danny and Josie) have spent the last 10 years living and working in the Caribbean. In 2015 we decided we wanted to move closer to family and friends so bought a cave house in the Granada region of Andalucia, Spain. We moved there full time in January 2017. Now we write about our experiences of cave living and how we are adapting to life in Spain.
We also have a Facebook page full of pictures, experiences and information that we have found useful along the way. If its your thing, you can also follow us on Instagram 🙂

5 words related to this blog entry …

Fire – Fuego.

Welcome – Bienvenidos.

Electrician – Electricista.

Snow – Nieve.

Town Hall – Ayuntamiento.



14 thoughts on “Successes and Setbacks (part one)

  1. Sarah

    Love that Ikea and Josie saved the evening with the very useful scented candles, it’s almost like she knew without realising…

  2. Chris

    Thanks for the update Danny, I like your humourous writing style!

    Is solar an option for you? I know it’s not cheap to install, but if you are putting down roots for a few years, I’m sure it would pay for itself eventually.

    It sounds a great place to live and I await your next instalment.


    1. Danny Post author

      It is something we will be looking into. To make it viable you need to come completely off the grid as you cannot ‘put’ excess electricity back into the grid like in the UK/elsewhere. This means still paying the monthly fees for connection which is quite costly in itself. Realistically, we would also need to get a gas fridge/freezer (which are expensive), as the power usage of such electrical goods still appears to be a stumbling block. Its early days though and something that needs further investigation.

  3. Bernie Jardine

    Wow, you’re managing to sound cheerful despite the setbacks. Well done and sounds like you have great neighbours. Looking forward to next instalment x

  4. Su

    Hi Danny and Josie
    Just returned yesterday from our Cueva in Baza (via Sevilla – son at Uni there). Yes the cueva was very cold when we arrived at 3am from Malaga but getting the wood burner going and a bottle of red wine helped before heading to bed. Talking to some Spanish friends, it’s been one of coldest winters in a little while but at least you have sunshine unlike here in Yorkshire. Your trip to IKEA reminded me of when we bought our cueva 10 years ago.

    Crumbling cave walls and electricity are one of the joys of rustic living. The screams of frustration that used to emit from our sons rooms when they were in middle of a computer game and the power tripped was hilarious – oops.

    Anyway good luck and have fun


  5. Iccy

    Ahhh….. I like this very much…. (Not the miss haps) Just the finding your feet in a new place bit.

    I’ve done lots of attempting to learn Spanish here in the UK but it all seems totally wasted when I arrive in the Altiplano except for the odd word, It makes me think there isa lot more to dialect and accent than I thought… (I find broad Scottish accents hard too).

    Good to know you have a “Clive” in your life too, Clive’s are very important in my opinion


    1. Danny Post author

      I couldn’t agree more. I found that learning Spanish prior to coming here sets you up with an understanding of grammar and vocabularly, however, it is only by being here that you really learn the lingo. The dialect here seems quite unique and they have a tendancy to drop the endings of words and miss out consonants ! Also a ‘Clive’ is huegly important 🙂

  6. david & Elizabeth

    Enough about you guys and the cave . Inquiring minds want to know ….
    How are the dogs ???

    Serious, wonderful story and so happy for you both ! Can’t wait to visit.

    D & E

  7. Duncan


    My wife and I are about seven months ahead of you – ie we did Ikea in the summer, dried out our cave, swept up the flaking, fitted the kitchen, replaced the bath light, survived the winter by installing a wood burner and live in Peunte Arriba, near Baza – happy to share tips!



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