Back in the throes of autumn winds and downpours we realised that if the wind blew in a certain direction, water came down the chimney into the fireplace. Evidently the construction was at fault but it was a little late to complain about that, so hubby set about designing a sort of chimney “top hat” to keep the rain out and avoid the bellows of smoke that choked into the living room every time we tried to light a fire during a particularly bad storm.
The problem was, who could we ask to make this contraption? It was to be made in zinc initially, so did we need to find a welder? Or should we look around for a builder? Or even a chimney sweep, would he have the right connections?There is this great word in Portugal for one of these multi-tasking odd job type people. They are what are ubiquitously known as a “Jornaleiro” but finding a good or even reliable one can be a daunting task.
The first one we found seemed willing enough, although the quote he gave us was unexpectedly high so we decided that, on second thoughts, it didn’t have to be made in zinc. All well and good, a price was agreed and the order was placed. In November there was a miraculous pause in the wet weather and we were hoping that Jornaleiro nr 1 would deliver. The weeks went by however and there was no sign of the chimney casing. We knew that the rain would return, so we insisted that we really needed this job doing as soon as possible. A few more weeks went by and we were into December. We decided that an ultimatum would do the trick. “It has to be ready by Christmas”, hubby told him “or we don’t want it.” We were quite proud of our clever demand.
Christmas came and with it torrential rain.
On Christmas Eve we dashed out into town amidst thunderstorms and last minute shoppers to purchase a huge piece of plastic sheeting, normally used to cover up and protect shrubs and flowering bushes in the winter. My husband struggled up onto the roof and battled against the elements to cover the chimney in a huge plastic bag, punching holes in the top circumference for the smoke to escape through. Miraculously it did the trick; we managed to have warm winter fires and a smoke free Christmas.
As soon as the festivities were over we approached Jornaleiro nr 2. He was non-committal, I´ll give him that. He also asked for a much higher price. Desperate at this point, since the weather had taken a turn for the worse and plastic can only hold up for so long, we accepted his terms and waited. During the next few weeks we went through several phone calls and received unconvincing reassurances.
Meanwhile we did, of course, seek advice from the rest of the ex pat community. Where would one find the right person to do this? How does one go about it? Eventually we were given the contact for Jornaleiro nr 3.
So far (as the plastic on the roof, an eye-sore now, yellowed and battered, raises its ugly head to greet all visitors like a piece of abandoned trash from a forgotten era) we have had one phone call from him. It was a question. Which colour would we like him to paint the contraption? “White” hubby said. We were overwhelmed at his initiative and filled with expectation. If he is at the painting stage then surely the masterpiece is almost finished? We almost took the plastic down in our euphoria.
That was 2 weeks ago
Meanwhile the rain seems to be stopping and out firewood is running out
To be continued…
Christine lives half way up a hill overlooking the historic town of Guimarães the birthplace of Portugal. Although Christine has lived in Portugal for most of her life she is still a Brit at heart.
Until recently Christine ran a trading office working with top high street fashion names like John Lewis, Henry Holland and Ted Baker (where she also managed the production in Portugal for a number years). She now works at the British Council teaching part time, works freelance as a translator and, in between, writes.
To connect with Christine via Twitter and Linked in and find links to her e book and other written work visit her "about me"".