Left In Charge!

Hubs father was ill so he had to return to UK and would be gone for a week. Meanwhile, I would be left in charge of son, home and business. First two I was ok with but I had many doubts about the business. Although I kept the accounts I had no idea of the carpentry side. There were two quite important jobs coming up that week and Hub wanted me to be there to give our lads encouragement and also give good impression to our customers.

Having got Jamie off to school, Monday morning had waiting somewhat nervously for Carlos, who was to take me to the large holiday resort on the coast where the first job was being undertaken. Although he was his usual friendly self, I got the impression that he wasn?t too keen on having a "woman" along, to be in charge!

We arrived at the complex to find Joao and Calado already unloading the truck of materials and wood that were piling up precariously at the front of the reception offices. Carlos rushed over to supervise, leaving me to wonder what on earth I was doing there and feeling completely superfluous to the whole project!

Carlos had already built the main display cabinet back at the workshop; it had been beautifully made so he was very anxious that Joao and Calado handled it with due care and attention. He hovered and fussed, giving orders left, right and centre. The two lads, knowing how particular he was, joked and tormented him, pretending to nearly drop it or knock it, till he almost lost his temper. Then they would laugh which had him nearly explode with anger! Both he and myself breathed a sigh of relief as they finally lowered the cabinet safely into place. They then started to build the surroundings, which were to incase the enlarged photos of the resort and so make a wonderful display for visitors to view.

I wandered over to the reception desk and started flicking through the holiday brochures.
"Can I help you?" The growled question startled me as I turned to see a tall stern-faced bearded man looking down at me. Remembering Hubs words, I held out my hand, saying "I?m here with the boys, as Hub had to go to England. I?m Ellie, Hubs wife". He took my hand, rather reluctantly I thought.
"Ah yes. Well. Nice to meet you. How are you?"
I felt the greeting was rather forced, but I muttered the appropriate reply, then stared sheepishly past at the lads who were starting to make quite a noise with all the banging and hammering. His gaze followed mine and he was looking none too pleased.
But his next sentence surprised me somewhat.
"Well. They seem to know what they are doing. Would you like to have some coffee while you wait?"

I nodded my agreement then followed him out of reception to a small cafe nearby. We had quite a nice conversation. My host was German. Said he?d been in Algarve for some years. He asked how we were getting on and wished us happiness and success. In the middle of this however, a young dark-haired Portuguese girl came in and up to our table. She fired off a sentence in rapid Portuguese. The Germans face became thunderous. He pushed back his chair, stood up and looking at me and said "We have to go. Something is wrong". He hurried out with me on his heels.

It was absolute chaos and as we stepped into reception there was already an inch of water across the floor! I looked on in horror at a gaping hole in the far wall. Water was pouring from it in torrents! Calado stood there, vainly trying to catch the gushing overflow in a small plastic bucket. But it was hopeless. The girl returned with mops and I went to give a hand. My face burning with embarrassment as I looked at the German who looked as though he was about to have apoplexy!

"I will go to see where the water is turned off and call a plumber". His words were cold and hard but I didn?t blame him. I was mortified that such a thing could happen and on my very first day of being left in charge!

Eventually, the water stopped and we were able to mop and clear up the deluge. Carlos brought some order to everything and within two hours the job was completed and we all went to stand outside and admire the finished results. Despite the catastrophe it was wonderful! The four large pictures were in place, floodlit from behind and set off to perfection by Carlos' marvellous carpentry work. I felt very proud of our workforce and gave Carlos a big pat on the back and a "well done!" I said the same to the lads.

But I noticed Carlos was very cold towards Joao and not speaking to him. On the car journey home, I asked what was wrong. Carlos hesitantly told me that it was Joao that had made the hole in the wall, striking a main water pipe. He was very angry with him and was worried what Hub would have to say. I reassured him that it would be okay and that I wouldn?t say a word. Not sure if he believed me. But I managed to tell him, through wife Maria,? Alls well, that ends well!"

The following morning as I was about to leave for my gardening job, the phone went. I suppressed a gulp as I recognised the growl of our German client.
"I would just like to say, how pleased I am with the display. It is very good, much better than I expected. Please convey my thanks to your husband and I will contact him when I need some more work done". I was over the moon and I knew Hub would be too. We did indeed get a lot more work from the resort and better still our German friend recommended us to other businesses, which really put us on the map!

It was Thursday. I?d had lunch in the park and I was due to meet Carlos and the lads for the job in Lagoa?s high street. I saw the truck parked outside the building and went inside. They were hard at work hanging two doors in the small offices. I?d been told by Hub and Carlos, that this is one of the hardest carpentry jobs to do. But they seemed to be coping very well indeed. The job was for an English builder friend, who was setting up a headquarters for himself and I prayed that it would go well.

The boys were in the middle of hanging the second door, with Carlos dancing around, giving orders and making absolutely sure everything was correct, when there was a sudden loud banging on the back door. I went to open it and as I did so, I came face to face with two, swarthy-looking men, whose shoulders seemed to fill the whole doorway! Their faces were grim and shades hid their eyes from me and they each wore a black leather jacket that hung casually from their shoulders. One of them fired off rapid Portuguese to me, none of which I understood. I shrugged my shoulders and said "Desculpe! (Sorry) and then went inside to fetch Joao, to translate for me. But I wasn?t alone. The two men followed me inside and as the boys saw them my attention was drawn to Carlos, who looked horror struck and frozen to the spot! Calado and Joao looked very worried too as one of the men fired off sentences again. But worried as I was, I admired Joao?s quiet replies to the mans questions. He then addressed me.

"Madam, these are men from the Camara, the local authorities and want to know what we are doing here. They are saying we have no permission to do this work!"
Oh God I thought! First a burst water pipe and now trouble with the Camara! I had to think quickly and told Joao that I would go to try and find my friend and fetch him back. I looked at Carlos again. He hadn?t moved but just stood staring at these "men in black" fear written all over his face. I told Joao to reassure him and that I wouldn?t be long.

I was lucky! My friend was at his Lagoa apartment and we hurried back to try to sort the problem. After a lengthy discussion and a perusal of his papers, the Camara men grudgingly admitted that it was all-okay. My friend and I shook hands with them and they departed. The lads completed the job to my friends satisfaction and afterwards I went back to Carlos and Maria?s for an afternoon coffee.

But Carlos wasn?t his usual smiling self. He was noticeably pale and very quiet. I related what happened to Maria and a look of fear crossed her face. She didn?t say much except that she didn?t like the men of the Camara and I left them that way. I was none the wiser and have never found out to this day, the reason for their fears.

Hub returned on the Saturday evening and said he was very pleased how I had handled things. I smiled and said I "enjoyed" it. Everything was fine! Little did he know, until I told all to him years later!