The Barn

When we bought this place up in the mountains of central Portugal, I was barely aware of the old stone building standing in the garden. A big untended grape vine grew from one side and covered much of the front while nature had done the rest. Tall concrete posts rose twelve feet high and supported long thin eucalyptus trunks, which also hid the building from view. The lower level had been divided into stalls using concrete and brick and used for housing domestic animals. The family would have lived on the top floor, with the heat from the animals rising to help keep them warm in the winter. Scorched stone showed where there had been an open fire in one corner. The wooden floor separating the two stories was largely rotten, although the thick supporting oak beams were as strong as ever, despite being over a hundred years old. The terracotta roof tiles had caved in at places and rain water had caused the floor planks to rot. When I actually noticed the presence of this wonderful old stone two-floor building, I immediately understood that here was the place for me to set up a writing-room. What I didn’t understand was just how much work that would take.

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