I woke up yesterday to hear angry voices and the sound of a tractor as three irate gentlement searched for the wood they had cut. I did wonder about the wisdom of going out to talk to them, but decided discretion is not me, so got dressed, took my crutch ( a signal that I am elderly and frail, but also a weapon if needed) and marched out to confront them.
To my relief, they turned out to include a father and son I know, and when I explained my position they apologised and offered me the same deal I had with the last wood-cutter: half for me and half for them. Well, we shall see if it works this time.
They were there again this morning with chain-saw, sledge-hammer and bolsters and seemed happy to pose for this picture of their activities. There was no sign of the tractor or other transport . They explained that they hope to cut the wood every morning and bring the tractor and trailer next Saturday to take alternate loads for me and for them.
They then suggested that the surviving olive trees would also benefit from pruning, which would provide another source of logs to season for next year. Quite true. I have thought myself that it is criminal to allow everything to succumb to neglect, when I could keep it in order until I am able to purchase the land which has been untended for at least the last eight years.
But there is one huge snag. The land is almost worthless, sand and gravel with no irrigation, overgrown with weeds, bamboo and wild liquorice, with crumbling infrastructures that form potential death-traps. I have offered 20,000 euros. The owners want 65,000. Not because it has been valued at that, but simply because there are three of them and they want at least 20,000 each !
Prices here are now incredibly variable, with a fully-furnished 2-bed house in excellent condition on offer at 75,000 for a quick sale and an adjacent ruin which has been for sale at 85,000 for many years. Some prices have halved in the last three years. Others have stayed the same and the unsold properties are slowly falling into decay. A finca of 9 hectares with producing olives, almonds, carob and stone pines is offered for 18,000 whilst the one I want, less than a hectare with nothing but a river view (the bank actually belongs to the Water Board) is stubbornly kept at over three times its value whilst it loses what little it has left.
The attitude is reflected in much of the local commerce where it is argued that they cannot reduce prices in order to increase sales, because there is a crisis and they must retain the value of the stock for which there will never be a market at the prices they ask.
I was once a full corporate member of the British Management Association and so I tried, gently, last week, to explain the Woolworth’s logic (pile it high and sell it cheap), to the manageress of a moribund garden centre close by. But she could not see any virtue in decreasing potential profit on individual units to increase actual sales, even though she is currently selling almost nothing and the units sold would increase turnover and therefore real profit.
But, hey, I’m retired and it isn’t my problem any more.