My husband kneels down on the sandy path with his phone camera, squinting at the ground. A long line of caterpillars, several feet long, crawls along the path nose to tail and we watch, fascinated. Beyond the trees we can hear a woodpecker. I put my foot up on a tree stump full of termite holes to watch a small, yellow butterfly fluttering from the pine forest. I study the tree stump. I can spot terrmite holes now a mile off. Our builder pointed them out to us just before he ripped up all the floor boards and I spent 300 euros on chemicals to make the new wood termite proof. I can sit in friend’s houses and recognise the sounds of termites shuffling around eerily in the silence of a hallway. Termite spotting. It could become a hobby. Useful when we are househunting though.
When is the best time to go house hunting? In the rain, under grey skies, when it’s cold and damp, and so the last few weeks have been a gift. The unusual weeks of rain we’ve had in central Portugal is of course a good thing, for the ground and rivers and for house hunters because there’s nothing like rain to find out what state the roof is really in.
Our current 100 year old house was bought last spring after a dry winter. It cost less than our car so we expected it to need some attention. After the wet winter the entire back of the house upstairs is now soaked and we can’t finish the electricity off in that part of the house until the roof is mended which the builder can’t do until the rain has stopped.
Now, thanks to the recent damp weather we wade through water in empty houses and shake our heads. We don’t need a builder or surveyor to tell us that the roof needs attention, or need to go up a ladder, or poke around in the attic space. We will of course, finally, employ a surveyor but not before we’ve gone to the trouble of putting in an offer on a house. At least then we will not be paying several hundred euros to be told what we already know, that the roof leaks and the house has termites and there’s a crack in the wall which may mean structural damage or a smaller crack which may just be ‘movement’. Movement? What does that mean? Yikes.