Day 98 The End?
Sunday and the Alarma is over, Lockdown is unlocked, 99 days, it started on Saturday March 14th, but actually I consider that weekend to be the two phoney days of Lockdown.
Saturday 14th March was a pretty normal day, the supermarket rammed with people taking everything off the shelves, including the toilet paper, something that the Spanish do not a use a lot of, most prefer to wash in the bidet than smear on the pan, as it were.
Sunday was equally as busy as people rushed around to be in the right place before the strict measures and fines started on Monday 16th March. Our friends Jen and Dave making a run for it to their seaside flat, Jen told me “Well it will only be for fourteen days, so we grabbed a few things from the village flat and drove early to the coast.”
As it turned out it has been 99 days and Jen only had her flip flops to wear which after week three fell to pieces and had to patched up with sticking plaster.
For us that first day felt, well felt like this:
So, 99 days, the first thing that happened was our air-conditioning failed due to a power surge that also, we discovered destroyed our faithful ten-year-old iMac computer, then the business laptop decided to join the other two in a suicide pact. That left us with one working laptop and the challenge of buying a new laptop and fixing the air conditioning in full Lockdown.
Ricardo came to the rescue for the air conditioning, finding a new unit tucked away in a warehouse, the laptop had to come all the way from China. The iMac now resides in our workshop waiting for a trip to Harry the Russian who fixes computers in town.
Chris was out of a job, Spain shut all Gyms on Saturday 14th including the one where he was working, but thanks to our Administration ladies they were able to fill in the complicated online paperwork so that Chris could receive some money from the Government.
Then there was the silence, no traffic, no planes, nothing but birdsong and the waves crashing against the shorelines. Weird but after a few weeks, quite relaxing.
Our British friends fleeing the country so that they could look after their parents back in the UK. They left so fast that they had to leave their precious dog behind. He hasn’t seen them for months now, poor love, but he is enjoying life with a family who run a local kennels. It took them two days driving pretty much non-stop through Spain and France to grab a ferry back to England. Petra says she never ever wants to go through that again.
Being really worried about our family, for a few weeks Britain just ignored the Pandemic and my elderly parents went out to a packed pub lunch on Sunday March 15th – but bless them, after that they stayed at home, I think they picked up the seriousness of the situation.
It all seems a long time ago now as we sit outside in the warm sun, the road below noisy and busy, the sounds of the motorcyclists haring round the coast road, great gaggles of cyclists shouting encouragement to each other and on Saturday evening the sea was filled with silly boys on jet skis racing each other, yachts out from Marina de Este, little fishing boats and the odd canoe, far off on the horizon a stream of container ships were heading out to the Atlantic.
Parasols decorated the beach in the distance, all perfectly socially distanced thanks to the lifeguards and the new officers of beach protection.
Chris turned to me and said, “it is if this never happened, like some kind of dream.”
The fact is, it is still happening, it has not gone away and it has not ended, probably not ended for years to come, even if a vaccine was found, it would take years to administer and there would be parts of the world, I am thinking poor parts, that will not be vaccinated.
There currently is no proper control of the virus, it looks like a particular steroid might help, but it seems to have many side effects, My LBC colleague Ken Guy took it for cancer he says on Facebook:
I see that the steroid Dexamethazone could be useful in the treatment of Covid 19. It was part of my cancer treatment back in 2009 and should still be, but I gave it the flick pass sometime back. I took six pills each Monday. It kept me awake till Wednesday and produced mood swings. Neither Gracie nor I appreciated its effect, so I’ve not taken it since.
I should point out he is an Australian. So here in Spain we might be at the end of Lockdown, but we are only at the beginning of the understanding of what this virus is and does, where it actually came from, bat?
Will it mutate? Will it return in the Autumn and cause another Lockdown? Will the effects of the virus be nothing compared to the economic havoc it has reeked across the world?
The virus is like life, full of more questions than answers, and in life you should always dare to take risks. As humankind we took a risk climbing down from the safety of the trees, learning to stand upright, our lives are all about risk.
Thank you for listening to Spanish Practices these last few months, our biggest hope is, weirdly, that we do not have to come back for another season, that dear Spain never has to go through Lockdown ever again, stay safe and well, Goodbye.
Day 97 Of mousy women and men
Saturday the weather is calm, the sun is shining, I have been doing some extreme weeding on the mountainside and managed to not fall down, the one time I did I thought it was best to relax and just let my body slide to a bit where I could cling on. Our garden in Essex did not have the same extreme challenges, unless you count the incredible numbers of snails that ate their way through most of our English garden.
I have been spending some time reflecting, yesterday about the reasons why we came to Spain, today a reflection of things past. Sometimes it is not healthy to keep reliving the past, much better to look forward to the future.
But often the future is fashioned by the past, all my mental health problems during the 1990s definitely changed me long-term as a person. I am pleased to say now I am a much more ‘mellow’ individual, although I am still capable of falling off my perch as my dear colleague Richard Dallyn used to say.
Over the years we have worked with hundreds, maybe thousands of people, some like us ordinary, some famous, some politicians’ others who might fall into the celebrity status, whatever that now means.
By 1997 I had already become an old lag at LBC and was often pressed into service to train the new young blood coming through the radio station. I remember one such day when I was training a new studio engineer, it was the two Julia’s show, Julia Sommerville the Presenter and Julia the Producer.
Julia the Producer decided that it was a bonus having me in the studio as it meant she could go sit out in the office and catch up on the paperwork that we all had to fill in to comply with the Broadcast regulations of the time.
I agreed and asked what was on the show, she said “A regular guest and some children’s author.” “Fine,” I replied, I was quite happy that there wasn’t anything complicated about the show.
First up I left my charge and went up to collect the regular guest, who was been badged up by the very efficient reception staff at ITN. Down we went to the basement, sorry, lower atrium of the large glass and steel building that is ITN studios. The guy I was training had been good, had engineered a junction into a commercial break and out again with no problems.
Then a call from reception, the next guest had arrived. I left my charge once again to travel those sick making glass lifts of ITN and back to reception for the kiddies author, she was a mousy sort of woman and clearly suffering from nerves. ‘Oh God, I thought, this one will be trouble.’ On the way down I checked her title and that she was the right guest,.. yes it does happen that you can put the wrong guest into the wrong studio.
A seem to remember an occasion when a guest for Geet Mala our Asian show wound up in a discussion about the future of railway transportation in the other studio, he gallantly discussed the advantages of off peak travel until it was discovered he had actually come to talk about a new Indian Restaurant opening in Brixton.
“I want to be called by my initials,” mousy woman piped up. “Oh” I replied. “And what are they dear?” She told me, I thought that is seriously weird, so I put my foot down. “The thing is, that nobody has ever heard of you, this is your first book,” “yes,” she replied. “So, we are going to call you by your proper name, so listeners can relate to you.”
Mousy woman agreed, but it made her shake a little bit more. I took her into the studio and Julia warmly greeted her, she said “My daughter read your book last night and loved it.”
We both had a copy of the book, whilst Mousy lady was telling us all how she was desperate and wrote the book in some café in Glasgow or Edinburgh or somewhere, I took a look at the book. It was your usual fairly dismal children’s book offering. The cover had a train on it with some spotty gormless urchin in glasses in front of it.
I flicked through the pages, it was mostly about magic, not my cup of tea at all. Well the interview was over and the show runner, the poor kid who didn’t get paid but got to enjoy the ‘media experience’, had come back from his break, so I got him to dispatch Mousy Lady upstairs.
I thanked her for coming in, “Oh I see you have a copy of my new book,” she said, “would you like me to sign it for you?”
I answered “no” but I shall look forward to reading it later, she smiled and as the runner led her away I took the book between thumb and forefinger and threw “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling,” into the bin.
So that book became a life-changing book for me. One I realised what a pratt I had been and how rude with it too. This poor woman had come to plug her book that she had worked long and hard to write and I dismissed it, without having the good grace to read the thing. I did years later, and it is a cracking children’s book, every bit as good as the classics, which it has now become.
And two I constantly try to be a kinder person, I don’t always succeed, there is something inside of me that wants to be capricious, arch and downright rude, but I work hard to control it.
Maybe I was always destined to be the hapless journalist that dissed J.K. Rowling as an author, but it did teach me a lesson .. always try to be kind.
Mangler du episoder?
Day 96 Tim Tams
Friday and the I made a terrible mistake today, I try very hard now to avoid the TV news from the UK, we have enough to occupy ourselves here with events in Spain.
I caught a picture of Headmaster Boris holding a packet of Tim Tams up, from what I understand following a new trade deal with Australia you will get tuppence off this less than delicious biscuit from Australia and the trade deal will end up adding only a gnats thingy to the UK GDP.
Worse I then wandered into the news that the New Zealand trade deal could well have a negative effect on GDP, as things like delicious but cheap New Zealand lamb will lose its trade tariff that allows British farmers to sell their lamb at competitive prices.
I scooted away as quickly as I could, off to Facebook for some friend’s kittens being naughty in his apartment in Spain. Oh no! the next post concerned the much-heralded UK tracing APP.
The story that unfolded that Apple and Google make a free tracing App but the UK Government thought they could do a better job and got one of Dominic Cummings mates to cobble something together which not only didn’t work but drained everyone’s iPhone battery and cost a 120 million British pounds.
That leads me to remembering the plans for ‘the word that must never be used,’ the UK government plan to increase the number of ferries crossing the channel by hiring a company that crucially had no ferries or experience of running a ferry company, but was a mate of somebodies.
I turned off my social media and retired quickly to the uninterrupted view we have of the Mediterranean and a moment to reflect why we are here.
It is a courageous step to leave friends, family and one’s country behind for a new life. Population emigration research by Washington University in 2018 pointed to statistics that show up to 45% of people who leave the UK for a new life in the sun of Spain, return back to Britain.
I think we were both guilty of less than complex thinking about coming to live in Spain. We almost created a mantra of “when we are in Spain this won’t happen anymore”
Train delays – I remember sitting on an overcrowded hot sweaty train, trapped once more at the, once more, broken signals at Ingatestone near Chelmsford thinking – when I am in Spain this frustrating feeling of being trapped and delayed will be a thing of the past, I can sit and just soak up the sun.
How naïve, OK so there are no delayed trains here but waiting for a licence from the Town Hall to paint your bloody house, that takes more than eight weeks, the frustration and feelings are just the same as sitting on that train outside Ingatestone.
Rude and unpleasant people. Well working in London for over thirty years you learn to be a survivor, there is no time for friendliness, it is shove or be shoved, get to the front of the queue at all costs. Then witness someone who’s way you got in, turn and call you a see you next Tuesday and wish death by cancer upon you – when I am in Spain that will be a thing of the past, because everyone is so laid back there.
Naïve thought number two – it is true that the pace of life is slower here than London but tempers flare in just the same way, the swearing is in a different language and there is a deal more physicality in any dispute. But there is I would guess the same ratio of nice people and nasty people. Some of the nasty people have also been in absolute positions of power and living in a foreign country you feel a lot less empowered than living in your own native country to contradict them.
And so the naïve list goes on, the food is not better here, just different, it is a bit fresher, we have just had some delicious Mezula fish for lunch that would give British, well Icelandic, cod a run for its money, but if you fancy a Thai or good Curry, the Catholic tastes of the Spanish mean there are fewer restaurants or availability of ingredients in the supermarket than in the UK.
So, this is the long way around of explaining that we live in Spain because we accept that it is a far from perfect country, just like the UK. It has more than its fair share of absolute political twankers, if you are in doubt about what that word means look it up in an urban dictionary.
OK so I think the Spanish Prime Minister would stop short at flogging Tim Tams, but he has bloated his parliamentary departments to quite an obscene level in light of the crisis that Spain and the world finds itself in. And his Deputy seems to be channelling Napoleon in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, after a political lifetime decrying the bourgeoise lifestyles of his opponents, the moment he got into power he suffered major amnesia and moved himself into a mansion in an exclusive part of Madrid, every time I see what my friend just calls “ponytail man” I keep hearing “four legs good, two legs bad,” in the back of my mind.
So bottom line, if you are fed up of the stupid and downright crazy things the UK Government are up to right now, and you think moving into the sunshine of Spain you are somehow going to avoid the realities of life, then you are mistaken.
You will, mostly enjoy better weather and a different pace of life. Or you might find you openly hate the culture, if you listen to some of the Ex-Pat, [hate that word], drunks sitting in English bars along the Costas, you would think that the Spanish are good for nothing and that Blighty is the greatest place to live in the world.
I remember a good Spanish friend saying to me, “If they, those Engleesh drunks, think England is so great, why are they living here in Spain?”
I know why we are here, because we love the place, warts and all, the good times and the bad, just like we still love the UK, warts and Tim Tams at tuppence off an all.
Day 95 Bonfire night
Thursday and now just a few days before everything un locks, the end of the Alarma and the new normal will start on Monday, many Spanish can go back to work and get the working week off to.. er, well er, a two day start, because next Wednesday “we are having a Fiesta”
The Fiesta of San Juan to be precise, the beginning of summer and those long summer holidays, after all we have all been working so hard these last few weeks … erm!
San Juan is when hordes of Spanish all head to the beach for a party, it will last all night and bonfires are lit all along the coast on the beach, there will be a lot of food and drink, all in throwaway plastic containers, barbecues and plenty of booze, that will also come in plastic containers and tin cans.
The idea is that the bonfires of San Juan are said to purify and protect, and ward of evil spirits, also at midnight, Spanish time, you go to the water’s edge and wash your face in the sea water to bring you good luck and hope for the future.
The following morning all along the beautiful coastline it looks like there has been an illegal rave, the devastation and litter is truly appalling. The crowds must leave the beach by 10am that following day so that a massive council run cleaning operation can come along and mitigate the damage done to the eco system. By removing hundreds of tons of rubbish off the beaches.
They are often too late, and we have the pleasure of watching swathes of plastic litter pass by us on the sea. For two years running the locals decided, why bother bringing your own firewood to the beach when you can rip up the disabled wooden walkways for wheelchairs and set fire to them, at the expense of the local council and of course those who are disabled.
Ok, ok, I am painting a rather bleak picture here and there are some who bring their own bin bags and do clear up, but some don’t and as I have mentioned the Spanish do like a smoke, so hundreds and thousands of butt ends are discarded on the beach. Every cigarette has a small ring of plastic at the filter end, so they also need to be cleared up off the beach too.
At least twice a year usually at the end of summer we have beach cleaning volunteers who go along the beaches collecting cigarette ends and other summer holiday detritus left by visitors and tourists.
This year, San Juan is cancelled, no bonfires, no plastic waste out at sea, no drunken behaviour ripping up disabled boardwalks, also no income for the bars and restaurants that stay open all night.
Covid19 measures mean instead of spending money on cleaning up the beaches, the council is spending money on policing the beaches and closing them ALL across the whole of Spain next Wednesday.
I have been to a San Juan festival and enjoyed the event, but there is a great deal of young drunken behaviour, a lot of drugs and booze, not the family event we were expecting so came away soon after midnight.
I think what has happened, well at least here, is that what should be a great family festival has been hijacked by a club 18 to 30 mob who just go wild and trash the place. We have seen it happen so many times in the UK.
When we lived in Essex, we were very close to a rather attractive park with a museum, there were ornamental flower beds and lovely stretches of grass to enjoy a summers day on.
Except that summer picnics have turned into a competition to scatter as much plastic and other waste around and then leave it on the grass. I know speaking like this makes me into a bit of a Victor Meldrew. I am not.
I like a good party, I like to let my hair down, if I had any, but I can’t bear to leave a mess behind, and I don’t understand why you would want to do that?
Thursday and the economic figures are starting to emerge all over Europe detailing the cost to the economies of Lockdown. In Germany there was a 13% decline in economic activity, here in Spain a whopping 34% fall in output.
Spain is hit harder as it has a reliance on the services industry. And almost 95% of Spanish businesses are small to medium enterprises, here where we live, they are often family run.
It was another of those big culture shocks to discover so few national chains of anything other than McDonalds or Burger King, I swear the first business on the moon will be one of those two.
The Spanish Government is expecting a drop in GDP of 9.2% this year, I personally think they are way out and GDP has fallen a lot more than that.
There is to be EU money made available to help Spain but some in the EU are worried that the left-wing Government will spend the money on ideological schemes rather than re-igniting the business sector.
The conservatives in Spain believe that the money should be spent on digitising Spain, making more of the administration online and easier to work, create jobs with re-industrialisation to provide what they describe as ‘real jobs’.
The good news is neither side want cuts or austerity. The bad news is as usual left and right are both at logger heads as to how the money should be spent.
One thing is for certain though, they are not alone, the whole world is sharing in the same challenges and that getting us out of lockdown will be a far more complicated process than putting us in.
Day 94 Assassination
Wednesday and the excitement cannot be contained, I am going shopping with Chris, well to be honest he doesn’t want me in the first shop, - Mercadona, he tells me he has a routine now and that doesn’t include me putting unsuitable items in the shopping trolley.
Never mind I am going to the Post Office instead, to pick up a parcel, the Post Office is only open between 8.30am and 2.30pm, the local office is tiny and usually packed, as many Spanish still come and pay their bills and do very complicated administrative things.
I arrived to discover the entrance was hidden behind some railing and the pavement outside was in a complete mess. I followed the arrows around to the back entrance, I am guessing the temporary entrance that will take you through the sorting room/office.
Just ahead of me is curly lady, she is our local Postal worker and delivers the mail to the Estate.
But as I reach the door the sign on the door says closed at 2pm. Madre Mia I said to her waving my hands Spanish style. She explained that the Mayor had dug the road up and it meant, for some reason, they were closing early. Then she said to me the name of our Estate.
Yes, “Un a momento” she took my parcel slip and disappeared behind the door. A moment later she was back with my parcel. “Mucho gracias” I said “De nada.”
So I have my parcel and I have time to annoy Chris in Mercadona. I found him pawing the fish, “Oh” he said, “I thought you were going to the Post Office?”
Now doused in alcohol and wearing my plastic gloves to get in, I thought I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity and “helped” Chris with the shopping until he got so annoyed, he told me to go back and sit in the car.
But at least the whole shopping trip this week had a bit of normality about it.
We drove out of the town along Avienda Frederico Garcia Lorca. If you do a Google Map search you will find many roads named after Lorca, he was probably one of the greatest writers and poet of his time and is as important probably as Cervantes, Gaudí and well almost Picasso too.
He came to a rather unfortunate end.
Garcia Lorca was born in 1898 in a little town called Fuente Vaqueros, about an hour’s drive from here, his dad was making good money from the Sugar Cane growing industry. Sugar Cane was a big thing here and a lot of the plains surrounding us now were given over to growing the stuff. By our gym is the old Sugar Factory, that supplied sugar to Spain and beyond.
The factory is wreck but is slowly being restored, a couple of times the place has been used as a film location, standing in for Cuba, I believe once.
Lorca mother was a teacher, when he was eleven the family moved into Granada so that he could attend a city school. From there onto University. From the age of six he took piano lessons and became interested in Spanish folklore.
Rather like the Bloomsbury Set the bright young things of Granada met in a local Café, Café Alameda. By 1917 Lorca was writing books and Lorca’s parents were persuaded to let him attend the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid.
There he made friends with Salvador Dalí and many other creative artists that would become influential throughout Spain. Then came a play, that got laughed off the stage, it was the tale of an impossible love between a cockroach and a butterfly, but that did not deter Lorca.
In a career just a brief 19 years Frederico Garcia Lorca revitalised Spanish Poetry, helped to start the second Golden Age of Spanish Theatre and became one of the most important Spanish poet and playwright of the 20th century, and his work still influences writers and artists to this day.
Unfortunately for Lorca he was Gay, I say that because the Nationalist Forces led by Franco in1936 were not awfully keen on Gays or socialists and he was both, so he ended up being arrested and imprisoned without a trial. On the night of August 18th or maybe 19th, nobody bothered to keep a record, Lorca was driven to a remote hillside somewhere outside of Granada and shot dead.
I say somewhere because so far nobody has been able to find his remains, he might be in the mass grave in Viznar. So, Spain managed to assassinate possibly one of the greatest poets and playwrights of the age all in the name of Nationalism, deciding without a trial he was a danger to the cause. Franco never recognised that Lorca had been bumped off by his Guardia and the whole affair remained an irritation abroad until Francos death.
Those dark days are over and since the death of Franco, Spanish towns and cities have been falling over themselves to name roads, squares, museums and the like after Garcia Frederico Lorca
Day 93 Anyone for tennis?
Tuesday and we are battening down the hatches, the wind is returning again with a vengeance, so far, the summer here has not really happened. Today it is overcast and sticky humid.
Our Gym has opened, and we went last night, OK so it is not the normal evening busy, but there were people and Chris’ class was about half the normal number. What was encouraging was the queue to join the Gym, at one point ten people deep, well social distanced.
There were a lot of arrows and nowhere to sit, most of the members were totally ignoring the arrows, years of travelling on the tube and I can’t help following arrows on the stairs and corridors.
Alcohol cleaner dispensers were everywhere, the same ones they use in hospitals and we had to clean equipment before and after, but twice a day they have one of those fog cleaning machines you now see on trains and aircraft.
The changing rooms were open, but you are, currently encouraged not to use them. And more importantly you could shower, a decision has been made that it is probably more unsanitary to keep the showers closed than open.
Obviously, the difference in Spain is that everyone wears a mask, and everybody was, with only one exception. Once you found your place in the class and put your equipment out you could take off your mask and, frankly it was like a normal BodyPump class just a bit shorter.
Out on the tennis courts people were playing tennis and at the back where the Padel courts were, they were also enjoying that game.
Padel is a cross between tennis, with a thicker racket come shovel and slightly softer ball, with a splash of squash thrown in as it is played in an enclosed court, the ones at our gym being glass. They are about half the size of a tennis court.
It was a Mexican by the name of Enrique Corcuera who in 1969 decided to adapt his Squash court at his home in Acapulco and he took some ideas from Platform Tennis which had been developed back in 1912 in New York as an all-weather way of playing tennis, but on a much smaller court, a third the size of a tennis court.
Enrique created "Paddle Corcuera". So he is the first person to create the “Padel” game.
But it was Enrique's Spanish friend Alfonso who loved the game and brought it back to mainland Spain, he decided to create the first two Padel courts in a Tennis club in Marbella in 1974.
Now more than ten million people play Padel, it is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and of course we have outdoor state of the art courts at our gym. I have to say I struggled with tennis, the court for me is a bit large, I am tempted to give Padel a go, it is a very, very popular in this part of Spain.
So last night felt a bit more normal, we met up with Carmen who joined the class, I have to say we were all huffing and puffing a lot more than usual, particularly me as the evil god Bacchus has been playing havoc with my weight.
It does occur to me that the massive financial downturn and job losses created by the virus is a very different financial crisis than before. In the previous crisis I felt helpless, the decisions to bring the economy back was being made by the banks, you could only look on as a bystander.
Now here today I realise that if I took courage, went to the gym, or went shopping as the Brits did yesterday, took a holiday abroad, put up with even more misery at the airport,.. it would be my little bit to help bring the economies back along with the jobs that have been lost.
There is no denying that the world will be a different place, but how different it is actually is up to you and there is a better chance of a faster recovery than in previous times, unless you believe that the economic model the world runs on is broken for good.
My Client and friend Tony Wrighton how presents the brilliant Zestology Podcast has started making his own yoghurt and is thinking of going camping in the UK as a summer holiday this year! I wonder how many other people are discovering The Good Life and change their whole way of thinking.
Here in Spain and certainly in this area, there are many Spanish families that have a small holding, a larger allotment, or grow fruit and vegetables in their garden. It is quite normal to be inundated with produce. Last night Carmen brought us eggs, which she described as “Fresh from the arse of the chicken,” and lemons that were twisted and deformed, compared to those perfect lemons in the Supermarket but taste delicious. My favourite fruits are the pomelos, what the Spanish call grapefruit, they are soft juicy and have that proper tangy grapefruit flavour, we get about a month of glut in the Autumn with those.
I am thinking of growing herbs and tomatoes, I tried to grow Mediterranean int in the UK but the first sign of frost it fell into a deadly swoon and died, you would think I would be able to grow it here, down below us the neighbours are turning their back garden into a grow your own with fruit trees and raised beds for veggies, I have to say I am looking forward to their harvest glut.
Tuesday and the day ends with the removal of Charlie the cockroach from Chris' bathroom, last night we had a swarm of flying red ants in the house, the sticky night and our house lights attracting them. So maybe the Spanish summer will return proper next week, when Lockdown ends.
Day 92 Dance off
Monday has come, I usually dread Monday as it always brings administration stuff which I really don’t care for.
By the way if you want to catch all 92 episodes with transcripts of Spanish Practices head over to THE secret spain dot com.
Today the administration was our Spanish Tax return, I say our, as we are married it has been done jointly, I get the classification of Woman, the form does not seem to have a code for Partner.
The Spanish Tax year runs from January to December, unlike the UK tax year that runs April to April, it means that, certainly for a Brit you have to get your shite together straight after a major holiday of feasting and excess.
The Spanish celebrate Christmas differently, it outwardly seems a much more serious affair, Midnight Mass at the Church is a rather dreary occasion, I have heard carol singing from the children in the main town. Carols are sung in Latin which makes them sound beautiful if a little inaccessible.
We still haven’t got our Christmas quite right, it is fairly difficult to have a traditional Christmas here, several attempts at cooking a turkey has led us to give up and go for a chicken. The main Spanish meal and celebration is on Christmas Eve, like it is in many other Catholic countries.
One year our friend Maggie got us organised enough to make a Christmas cake, she brought dried fruit over from the UK, it is quite hard to find here, even though a lot of it comes from nearby Morocco,
There is more than a physical divide between Spain and Morocco, it extends to a cultural one as well. When the Moors were driven out of Spain by the Christians, the ones that remained were forced to convert to Christianity and as a kind of obvious test, a lot of local Christian dishes were pork based. Many of the exotic spices were now more difficult to obtain and were not used in the new Christian cuisine of the conquered area.
It does mean that the local pork here is quite delicious, but for our friends who are Jewish who asked me did I think there was anywhere Kosher to eat, the answer here is no.
The cake we made came out very well, Maggie told me to feed it regularly with Brandy. So I fed it every day, turns out that it only needed a feed once a week, but I have to say it was far more delicious Brandy soaked.
But it does not put you in the mood to fill a tax form in, January is bleak enough without that. There are personal allowances here, but less generous than the UK, there is also little incentive to save, no ISAs or as far as I can see opportunity to easily buy shares, up to now cash is king, it allows the Spanish to ‘protect’ there money from the onerous tax system.
I mentioned to Carmen that winning the lottery is probably the only way the ordinary Spanish can hope to amass a fortune. She told me “you are joking, they tax you if you win at 33%!” So good luck can turn into bad luck when the tax man comes knocking to take a share of your good fortune.
In the UK, I believe the tax is taken at source when you buy a ticket, in the long run the taxman makes more money taxing everyone than just the winners, but it doesn’t work like that here.
Speaking of Christmas, one year in the little village of Velez the whole village, well everyone who was in the syndicate won the major Christmas lottery – The Gordo. Every person walked away with one hundred thousand Euros, many bought flashy cars and others improved their houses, for one-year Velez was a very lucky little village.
Monday and today the Alhambra has announced how it will welcome visitors back to the palaces. No more tickets but a system that links your entry back to your Passport number or DNI number and I guess our NIE number.
The attraction will run at just fifty percent so a lot fewer visitors milling around could actually make the Alhambra a nicer place to visit.
Some clarification on tourists yesterday and it looks like the British will also be allowed to come to Spain along with the rest of the European Gang, although not a member of the Schengen area or an affiliate, I think, if I understand right, UK is still technically in Europe so tourists are allowed.
There is the complication that the UK has, finally, introduced a quarantine period, just at the time the whole of Europe drops their quarantine period. I was looking on a Spanish site that has the UK Government quarantine advert in Spanish on. I have to say the Spanish were very unimpressed by the less than warm welcome they might receive in London, so I imagine if you stay at home in the UK this year, London will also be a great place to see as there will be fewer tourists willing to spend 14 days banged up in a Travelodge waiting for their holiday of a lifetime to start.
Oh, and if you are thinking of going on a clubbing holiday to Ibiza this year, it looks very much like you will not be doing much dancing. Clubs that have areas for dancing will be prohibited from opening them. The dance floor must be laid out for sedentary use. Tables and chairs with social distancing measures. I think the Spanish Government has identified clubs with a lot of people up close and personal as a viral hotspot.
To discover more episodes of this Podcast Spanish Practices head along to the secret spain dot com where you can find all the episodes and transcripts.
This evening we are off to the gym, Chris has a class to teach, I am not sure that there will be many people there, it is after all the first day of Gym’s being able to open, tomorrow I will report back on just how that went.
Sunday and Uncle Pedro has been doing his weekly Zoom meeting, he likes to surprise the regional Governments, just to remind them all he is the one in charge.
So he has brought forward the date when Spain will open its borders to everyone except Portugal, so on Monday 22nd June the Lockdown will be over, for now and so will this Podcast, I still have the story to tell about one of the stupidest things I did some years ago. I will keep that for later in the week.
But you can’t have a Podcast about Spain without mentioning the Spanish Royal family and in particular the former King of Spain, Juan Carlos de Borbón.
It must be remembered that Juan Carlos although swore allegiance to Franco as soon as Franco had popped off, Carlos started the transition to democracy back in 1975, which, with one or two hiccups along the way, seems to have served Spain well, although there are some who would wish that Franco was still in charge.
My Aunty Isobel who had a large portrait of Franco in her sitting room in Luton, She eulogised the man. She used to say things like, “when you come to Spain you will find no crime, because the General has eradicated it,”
My late father used to describe Aunty Isobel’s rantings about how great Spain is under Franco’s rule as, bollocks, - he was very fond of that word, as are the Spanish, I often hear the word cojones used in everyday Spanish slang.
Where we would say I couldn’t give a toss, the Spanish say they couldn’t give tres cojones, we might say I swear on my mother’s grave, the Spanish say Me corto los cojones, - I would cut my own balls off. Finally we say you will die laughing, the Spanish say descojonada , laugh your balls off.
Sadly, King Juan Carlos hoping that he might be remembered as the great architect of Spain’s transition to democracy is overwhelmed by his terrible reputation as a corrupt old philanderer.
He had been accused by an old German socialite – Fräulein Sayn-Wittgenstein of not only giving her a good old philander but of using her to squirrel away money in secret overseas assets.
He also took the Fräulein on his secret trip in 2012 to Botswana to hunt elephants, most people are going to find it hard to like a man, let alone a King who in this modern age would think that was an OK thing to do.
I have to say our own Royal Family quite like killing animals for sport as well, but I think Prince Philip would stop short at bagging an elephant, .. I think?
He didn’t do very well with his trip to Botswana and managed to break his hip, which is how the scandal came about. But on previous occasions he had managed to kill one of these magnificent beasts and there is a picture of him standing next to a dead Elephant.
At the time in 2012 he was the Honorary President of the World Wildlife Fund, I mean you couldn’t make this kind of thing up.
In his younger days Juan Carlos loved nothing better than riding his Harley Davidson motorbike around Spain on his one King mission to philander as many eligible Spanish girls as he possibly could.
He loved to ride along the hairpin bends, as they were then of the old coastal road that passes by the bottom of our estate here near Salobreńa, indeed some of the Kings friends from Almuńecar are still alive today and remember him travelling the coast on his own and without any security, well it was a different time.
Now according to our friend Carmen he would pull up outside our estate and take the Canada, goat road down to the tiny secluded beach below us, park up his motorbike there and give some poor local girl he had met a good philandering.
Then after jumping her he would jump back on his motorbike and disappear back to Madrid.
The popularity of the King, amid the accusations of corruption and playboy lifestyle, tarnished the monarchy in Spain and made them quite unpopular.
But suddenly, as things often happen in Spain, the King decided to abdicate in 2014 and was replaced by his son King Felipe the sixth of Spain. He is married to Letizia a former news journalist and a very glamorous Queen in the mode of Princess Diana.
In dramatic contrast Felipe has set an example of a modern monarch, he is married to a former TV news journalist, they lead an understated life.
A couple of months ago in a massive snub to his father Juan Carlos, he renounced his personal inheritance from his father, worth millions of Euros but coming from a secret offshore fund with ties to Saudi Arabia.
Felipe has said he wants to renounce his inheritance along with any asset or financial structure who character is not in accordance with the law.
A modern Monarchy for a new modern era, something that Spain badly needs in a time of the new normal and the exit from the Lockdown.
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Day 90 holiday from hell
Saturday your Sunday and the Spanish Government has started to talk about how they envisage foreign visitors coming to the country, the first lot will turn up on Monday, they are Germans coming to the Balearic Islands.
Interestingly about 35,000 people travelled to Spain in May, whilst not holidaymakers, they were mainly people returning back to Spain for work or back to their residency.
From all those who travelled, 104 people were detected to have Corona Virus.
But in a couple of weeks the onslaught will begin, instead of personnel there will be automatic heat detector cameras, inline health declarations, this will only apply to people arriving by sea and air. If you drive into the country, there will be no health checks.
But as we know people lie on health declarations, they do it all the time with travel insurance, and how do you track and trace hundreds of thousands of visitors into the country?
I am not sure that will be possible. For us we are probably going to stay away from the beaches and bars, at least for the moment.
For the all-important tourist industry, the spring was a disaster, a complete standstill, nobody went anywhere, saw anything and it is highly likely that, that will continue into the summer.
Only half of the hotels in Spain will open and most of them will only be at 25% capacity. As I have mentioned in previous Podcasts, tourism represents more than 12% of Spain’s GDP.
The Industry want some kind official map of safe areas to travel in Europe that will allow travel corridors, I am not sure that any area is really safe. Also, you are going to have to ask yourself can I trust the airline. How safe will the hotel be? If there is a virus outbreak, will I end up being trapped in Spain unable to return home? Airports are fairly unpleasant places not, what will they be like with all the virus prevention measures?
Personally, I have no plans to travel at the moment, we are discouraging friends and relatives from travelling this year too.
It is not all bleak news, there will be intrepid folk who will see this as an opportunity. An opportunity to explore and see tourist sites normally rammed with coach parties and other tourists.
The Spanish themselves will probably come to the coast, so far, fingers crossed, the social distancing on the beach is working well, helped by the Lifeguards and security staff employed by the Local Government to ensure beach safety.
The new normal is embracing face masks, alcohol cleaner and reducing surfaces and objects that get touched a lot. All the restaurants here are using chalk board menus or telling you is on offer. No sticky menus and special of the day cards.
Our Gym also opens on Monday, there are a raft of health measures and social distancing happening. Studios are marked out for distance, entry is strictly by booking a class, use of masks and alcohol cleaner at the point of entry to the class is obligatory. But you don’t need to wear your mask when you are in position in your marked square.
Exercise equipment has been re-spaced to reflect the 1.5 metre rule for distancing and cleaner is to be used on all equipment. The use of a towel is also obligatory, it was before. I am not a fan of grubby towels; I prefer disposable tissues and cleaner before and after I use an exercise machine.
Towels don’t kill bacteria or viruses but do mop up the sweat. We will go on Monday, Chris is teaching a class, it will be interesting to see how many turn up and what the overall experience will be like.
Saturday afternoon and Carmen is coming, or rather we are going to pick her up from Alcampo after I collect my glasses, hoping there will be no dramas collecting them, I have waited patiently for nearly three months for them. Currently I am writing this with a pair of one Euro reading specs from the pound shop, which is far from perfect.
I do worry that we all bang on about the new normal, but that it doesn’t actually exists and that the virus is still out there waiting. I don’t even know if I have the virus and was asymptomatic, I bet you don’t either.
New glasses but no fitting service, they were just inched over a sanitised mat and I was given a card to read from, in Spanish of course. We were early so shopped in Alcampo, no gloves just alcohol dispensed from an automatic machine.
The shelves were looking healthier, no police tape sealing off the things you could not buy, I am still wondering who made a list that you could buy a TV but not a book.
We saw Carmen and we drove her back home to hand over the car. Some refreshments and a bowl of Tyrrells Crisps, “Oh my god, I forgotten how good British salt and vinegar crisps taste,” She said. The Spanish supermarkets are not very adventurous in the crisp flavours. I notice that quite a few Spanish like Pipa’s – they are just sunflower seeds that they eat spiting the husks out into a nearby handy ashtray.
The day ended with Carmen disappearing into the distance with our old car. Tomorrow as story of the Playboy King of Spain and why a little beach below the estate got Royal Approval.
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Day 89 Fag End
Friday and we are off to the Administrator to sell our old car to Carmen, what could possibly go wrong, find out later in this episode.
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Today I have been thinking about Satan’s smoke. A great many people in Spain seem to smoke, I remember we had to pick up a parcel from a UPS pick up point that turned out to be a rather sad looking Travel Agents, I guess even sadder now we are in the Covid19 world.
It was a pain to get to, Chris had to negotiate the one-way system of Motril and park the car in a tiny space in an equally tiny square. We got out the car and looked around, finally seeing the little shop and a sad and very tiny sticker saying UPS pick up.
We went inside, a very disinterested lady was sat, chuffing on a ciggy above her was a large sign “No Fumar” to her right were some rusty carousels with actual travel brochures - Viaje inglés with your usual pictures of a pleased with himself beefeater, Stone Henge and William Shakespeare.
Behind her a shabby shelf filled with a disorganised pile of parcels, one of which would be ours.
I said in Spanish ‘I have to collect my parcel’. I placed the UPS note on the counter. She took one last drag of her cigarette, blew the smoke out in both our directions and stubbed it out on the counter.
She picked the delivery note up with a great deal of disinterest. Turned to the bulging shelves let out a “mmmm” then “Dinee” The DNI is the Spanish Identity card, I don’t have that I have a Knee an NIE card, I gave her that, she replied “No good, ..passporte!”
Well I don’t actually carry my British passport around, it stays in the safe, so I said “No passporte” she replied “No paquette”
Then I had an idea, I wonder if she would accept my, then, British Driving Licence. I got that out and pointed to the EU flag thing on the pink plastic card.
Another “mmm” she turned around and started to poke at the parcels on the back shelf, one fell off with a slight tinkly smash sound, eventually she found our parcel.
“Sin, sin aqui” I signed my name and she pushed the parcel across the counter. “Gracias,” I cheerily said, she gave us a withering look and reached over for her cigarette packet and drew out another smoke, lighting it with one of the Chinese shop lighters that threw an enormous flame up, momentarily lighting up the dingy shop for a moment. We left.
As Chris tried to reverse out of the impossibly small square, she came to the door to watch us suffer, scowling and flicking cigarette ash up in the air in a theatrical way.
So, smoking in Spain, wherever you are seems to be a thing, I can almost imagine a Hospital Operating Theatre with a surgeon he is in the depths of some complicated surgery, the patient laying on the table. He stops, pulls out a cigarette packet and lights up, then carrying on with the operation fag ash falling gently into the patients open body.
It was Rodrigo de Jerez who in 1492 first saw ‘natives’ smoking and brought the dried leaves back to Spain.
This did not go down well with the Church, The Spanish Inquisition stated that ‘only Satan can give to a man the ability to expel smoke through his mouth.’
So they locked up poor old Rodrigo for ten years, he was released after seven and the habit got picked up in Seville, but still the Church was having none of it.
In 1624 the Inquisition posted a tile that said you blow smoke out of any of your orifices and we will severely punish you, and that stayed the Church’s outlook until the 18th century.
By then the state had started to take an interest and saw an opportunity for tax and of course control.
The first tobacco factory in the world was in Seville which started production in 1758 they made snuff and cigars, but the quality was a bit shite, mainly due to the men working in the factory not turning up to work and when they were at work having a half arse attitude to the manufacture of the cigars. The solution was to hire female workers to do the job, by 1829 all cigar making was done by women, there were more than six thousand women working in the factory by 1868 with their good wages made them ladies independent economically and a really important part of the economy of Seville.
Thursday and our trip to the Administrator his hit a little bump in the road, the DGT, the Government office she must visit has shut down the internet appointment system as “too many people are using it,” so she will have to doorstep the office in Granada to get the paperwork done.. sigh!
It is enough to make you want to take up smoking! All over Spain you see Estancos, little Tobacconist shops are where you buy you ciggies from, stamps and since 2014 a few other bits and bobs like crisps and the like. Estancos are Government controlled and have been for over 400 years ago they were traditionally awarded to War Widows, if you want to sell cigarettes you have to buy them from the Estanco, it is no good looking in the supermarket, along with paracetamol, cigarettes are also not sold there.
The weekend comes, it has already arrived for you, and as usual the wind will accompany our Saturday howling and whistling along the coast of Spain.
Thursday and the wind is blowing and driving us mad, a new Spanish law on plastic waste might change the way we use single use plastic and three good legs cat gets a scare, oh and something in Spain that has taken longer to build than the pyramids and still isn't finished.
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Day 88 Plastic not fantastic - uncorrected transcript
Thursday and we spent the morning gathering the paperwork for the car sale, a mind-boggling pile of every single transaction and certificate, we are missing the MOT, as the MOT centre has only just re-opened and there is long complicated waiting list to get your car MOT’d.
The Government has given an extension to the end of the year to sort that out, but Covid19 rules currently mean that for a lot of the centres it is you that run through the car, checking the lights and brakes etc,the MOT engineer shouting instructions in Spanish through a walkie talkie at you.
The wind has returned with a vengeance as is whistling and blowing around the house, the result of the Azores high spinning up north due to ocean temperatures, so summer is so far cancelled, which is probably a good thing as Brits are not welcome abroad just yet.
Thursday and we patiently wait for the completion of our awnings, there is just one small piece missing, they might turn up tomorrow or Monday to fix.
Patience is something you will need in sack fulls if you are thinking of living in Spain, take the mighty Sagrada Familia the Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, they began building that in 1882.
Designed by Gaudí when he died in 1926, only a quarter of the basilica was completed.
They hope to complete it in 2026 it didn’t actually get a licence for construction until a few years ago either. In the end the Sagrada Familia will have taken longer than the Egyptian pyramids to build, and only 50 years less than the Great Wall of China.
A few years ago, we visited the Cathedral, early in the morning we arrived just before it opened. That meant we beat the coach tours. The place is truly amazing, one to put on your bucket list when you are allowed to travel again.
Thursday and the paperwork has been sent to the Administrator, not the one that couldn’t find our car but a new one that has decided that the thing on the drive with four wheels and an engine actually exists. So we will see tomorrow how that pans out.
Days here follow a weather pattern, the morning is quite calm and then the wind builds up at lunchtime, white horses fill the ocean and it is hard to stand up against the incredible strength of the wind.
It makes me think that Global Warming is slowly screwing the whole of the world, with terrible fires in Australia killing millions of wild animals, freak weather popping up all over the world, a plague in the form of Covid19, all we seem to be missing is a river of blood.
Tonight, we are going to have fish for dinner, that might very well contain microplastics, 8 million bits of plastic get chucked into the ocean 100% of baby sea turtles have plastic in their stomachs. We really have done a pretty poor job looking after the planet.
Every day I take down a plastic bag full of what mainly amounts to packaging. Supermarkets seem to shroud everything you buy in the stuff. Slowly slowly that is changing but it would be nice to see the legacy of this pandemic is that we all stop and take a bit more notice of how we are turning the place into a human shite hole.
On Tuesday the Spanish Cabinet approved a draft law that introduces a new tax on plastic waste. According to El Pais Newspaper “The indirect levy will tax the manufacture, import or acquisition of non-reusable plastic packaging from other European Union countries for use in the Spanish market, according to the Spanish Ministry for Ecological Transition.”
So slowly some Governments are waking up to the fact we must change our ways.
Ok that’s enough, I shall be knitting my own muesli next and wearing a kaftan. Chris believes that the Azores High will move down slightly in the week to come and the weather here might settle down.
An almighty crash, the piece of wood the cat was hiding under has come crashing down, and frightened one of the lives out of the three good legs cat. I heard mewing at the side door to be let in, he is not amused at all.
Our biggest worry is we have put up the sail now as it is summer. It is a large canvas thing that gives us shade, currently it is blowing around like a, well like a sail and in danger of ripping its mooring out from the garden wall.
Our challenges tomorrow include a trip to the big town for Chris to be trained in Covid19 sanitation for his job as a Gym Instructor, followed by a trip to the Administrator with our friend Carmen, oh and there is yet more wind.
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Today the embarrassment of explaining Fawlty Towers to my Spanish friends, an internet outage, and the end of central Government control in Spain
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Day 87 Fake Spanish Waiters uncorrected transcript
Wednesday and the Spanish Parliament has approved the Royal Decree for “new normality”. It starts in a very good place with central control being released and the regional Governments can go back to being in charge.
Well I say Wednesday, it is actually Thursday we had an Internet moment last night, every couple of months the internet falls over, we have a peculiar Internet system here, it uses a line of sight dish that sends and receives the internet from a transmitter and receiver site, last night it decided to be naughty and not work.
We found out after returning from our Covid19 shopping experience, now that we can both travel in the car we split the shopping so I get to enjoy the rubber glove, mask, steamed up glasses experience too.
Our client Ryan emailed to say he had not received the audio I sent him at midday. He was right it still had not synced into the cloud even after 5 hours.
Then we could not turn the lights on through Alexa, she did that red spinning thing saying she couldn’t connect to the internet. This is our fault for bringing northern European technology down to southern Spain and expecting it to work as well as it did in the UK.
Spain, does have good high speed internet in many of the cities, but out here on the coast it is not particularly fast or reliable. Why am I banging on about the internet? Because right now as many people as possible who can work from home should, that is the Spanish Government advice.
But it is going to require massive infrastructure improvements, more fibre optic availability and a much quicker and better way of being connected. I remember when we first used to come to Spain twenty or so years ago, the electric grid network was equally unreliable, now there seems to be fewer power outages even in the big storm we had 18 months ago, the electricity stayed on. So, Spain has come a long way in 20 years with the quality of the power network, now I think they need to think about the internet network in the same way.
A phone call from the Opticians about my glasses, in Spanish I picked out most of the words, but there I was having trouble with a word that sounded like mountains, she kept saying the mountains are wrong, or at least that is what is sounded like.
For the last 12 weeks I have been wearing a pair of specs that are held together with insulation tape, it makes me look a bit special needs, if I dare say that in this Little Britain p.c. world.
It turns out that the mountains, is the word Monturas, - the frames, so the bloody frames of my new glasses are broken on arrival, so the new glasses have been sent back to the factory… sigh!
Back to Little Britain and whilst I am not going to comment on the ‘black face’ characters of that show and ‘Come Fly with Me’ – I leave that up to my black friends, it really is their call, though I find characters like Precious Little funny, but uncomfortable watching all at the same time. She is what comedy writers would call a grotesque, a bit like Judy in Punch and Judy.
A few years ago when we were learning Spanish and helping our friends with their English the subject of comedy came up and what our favourite comedies were about. I spoke to Maria about “Fawlty Towers” “Tell me,” she said “What is funny about an hotel,”
I said, “Well there is this character called Manuel, he is from Barcelona and is portrayed as a stupid idiot because he never understands what anyone is saying.”
“So, who is the Spanish actor who plays this Manuel,” she asked. “Well he isn’t Spanish he is English and he, er well puts make-up on and a silly Spanish moustache and walks around with a vacant expression on his face.”
Suddenly she recognised the show, “This is cannot be right, we had this show many years ago and the waiter was a stupid Italian from Naples, not Spanish, ha you know how stupid Italians are,” she laughed.
Turns out she was right, when Fawlty Towers was shown on La Una, they dubbed all the characters into Spanish and made Manuel a waiter from Naples in Italy. He was still Andrew Sachs an English Caucasian actor playing a Latino with a false moustache and fake suntan skin.
Finally yesterday, Wednesday we are sorting out selling our car, in Britain you fill in the little slip at the bottom of the V5 and exchange some money and job done.
It would appear in Spain it is a long complicated process which involves a trip to the main Trafico DGT office in the city of Granada, a great deal of form filing and there is TAX to pay on the sale, based on how new the car is. There is an official list of the tax payable. The Administrator who will be receiving a large fee for doing all this work has already said “Your car does not exist.”
I do feel that a car selling drama might be on the horizon, keep listening and subscribe to the Spanish Practices Podcast, in a few days’ time I will tell you the story of an event that I shall always regret for the rest of my life.
Today a story of a TV set and an inconvenient death, and speaking of inconvenience, how dare you ask to transfer money at a Spanish bank without an appointment.
find out more at https://www.thesecretspain.com
Day 86 Inconvenient Death uncorrected transcript
Tuesday and the wind has dropped for the moment so we spent a jolly hour or so cleaning up the mess. We have learned to take a completely different approach to cleaning here.
In the UK washing down, spraying paths with the garden hose and brushing with a broom was our normal procedure for a tidy up. Here it starts with a broom and dustpan and brush, the secret is to keep everything as dry as possible. Most of the dirt here is like sand, fine and if you wash a terrace down it turns into a brown slurry, the best thing is to remove as much as possible.
After a broom and dustpan, we have a vacuum cleaner that is now used for outside, it is a fairly knackered Dyson held together by Sellotape, but it does a good job of sucking up the remaining dust from outside.
Only then do we go in with a mop and bucket, or a Karcher. It can be a miserable job to do as the wind might return tomorrow and blow more mess around. I am convinced it is why the Spanish have a fondness for the colour Brown, it hides all that dust, oh and the terracotta Andalucian tiles never show the mess either.
Tuesday and we very sadly hear of a death in our old village, a 52 year old man who had been dead for some ten days, it was his sister who discovered him according to the Seaside Gazette.
A few years ago when we were in the village there was a similar sad occurrence. The husband of a couple who had bought one of the flats in the complex where we were living had decided to come out and buy a new TV set for the apartment.
It would seem he and his wife were not getting on particularly well, so it was also a little break from each other. Our friends Jen and Dave met him in the street a few times, he seemed nice enough if a little distant.
The couple had the flat in the same block as Jen and Dave in fact the apartment was above theirs.
For some reason, I can’t remember why, I had to go and visit Jen, to collect a key or something. As I arrived at their block, I couldn’t help noticing the drains were smelling particularly bad that day.
I mentioned it to Dave, he said “I wonder where it is coming from?” We noticed the window open in the flat above theirs, and it seemed to be coming from there.
Dave said to me “I haven’t seen that bloke for a few days?” I said “You told me he seemed to be a bit down.”
“I know I will get the ladder and climb up and have a look, we tried knocking this morning and nobody answered.”
Later that afternoon he told me he climbed up to the window. “The smell was terrible, he said and he peered into to see a swarm of flies around something purple, then he realised it was a human arm, nearly falling off the building he called the ambulance and police.
They arrived and broke the door down to discover the poor man had slashed his wrists, covered the whole flat in blood and died. Dave said he seemed to have deliberately sprayed the walls up and down with his blood.
Some other locals had seen him staggering around drunk a couple of days before. The Pharmacy said that he had come in and shown them a UK prescription for Valium which they agreed to dispense for him. Later the pathology report showed that he had taken the lot.
The Police called his wife, “Oh my God she said, did he get any blood on the new TV?” The policeman said “No”. “Thank god for that,” she said.
They asked her if she would fly over to identify the body. She told them “Fly over now, do you know how much short notice flights, cost, I will let you know when I can find a cheaper flight.”
In the end it was over a week before his wife found a flight cheap enough to take and come and identify his body. Jen and Dave in the meantime asked her what she wanted to do with the flat, she asked them to clean it up as she would be staying there when she came over.
Dave explained that there was a great deal of blood up the walls and on the floor the forensic team had left quite a mess, so he didn’t think they could do it but suggested that he contact a professional cleaning company.
He called a company that came in after scene of crimes to clear up and they quoted three thousand Euros to remove all the blood and evidence that someone had died in the flat.
The wife flatly refused to pay that amount, so Dave managed to negotiate a deal for two thousand Euro, which she reluctantly agreed to pay. So, what a sad and tragic end to a life and an astonishing reaction from his wife to boot.
To be fair none of us no the back story of this guy, but I would hope that my nearest and dearest would care about me more than a new TV set.
Carmen is buying our car; she went to the bank to transfer the money. “It is not possible,” what do you mean it is not possible, she said, you’re a bank, that’s what you do. “only by appointment,” since when she asked, “since yesterday.”
The Banks here are mostly annoyed by the inconvenience of having to have customers, some only allow you to pay bills on certain days and times of the week, they all used to shut at 3pm, just like the banks did in the UK in the 1970s, but some are now changing.
It does seem a little odd that we are in the middle of Spain’s most serious financial crisis in modern history, following a pandemic that is not over yet and the Banks still cling on to their belligerent, obfuscated way of behaviour.
Monday and we are off to buy our new car in the Covid19 world of car showrooms, no coffee, no handshake, just masks and security tape. Has the glamour of car buying come to an end?
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Day 85 Testing Times uncorrected transcript
Monday morning, normally I do the hateful administration work but this morning we are off to the car showroom to collect our new car. Yesterday we did a test run, found the dealer and the car looking rather dusty sitting in the disabled parking space.
We arrived just before ten a few moments in front of our Bank Manager who accompanied us to translate the paperwork. Car showrooms in our part of Spain are exactly the same as anywhere else.
So Chris, Laura and I entered the showroom, the interior done out in Germanic grey tiles and fairly stark furniture, that was taped off, yellow and white tape marked out where we could stand and the cars all had a security tape on the doors, to stop you casually opening them without a salesman, welcome to the Covid19 car buying experience.
Our new car was in the showroom facing a large glass door that led to outside.
Suddenly a thin man with kind brown eyes appeared. He might have had a beard, who knows, he might have smiled, who knows. He addressed Chris in very fast Spanish. Laura interrupted with the “he is English but understands some Spanish.”
“Come to the desk, please have a seat.” He said arranging three seats at two metre intervals, he sat behind the desk, behind a plastic screen with a little hole to pass documents through.
“Pasporte please or your Residence card.” Chris produced his little green card. This unimpressive bit of green card, that you need to keep safely behind a plastic wallet, or the ink and print wear off. Is our identity that allows to stay here in Spain during the Alarma. Now in a perfect world it would have a photograph, but the British Government objected to the Spanish Government keeping photographic records of its citizens. Never mind that a scan of your Passport at Passport Control here, brings up your UK photo, your address and pretty much everything else about you!
Luckily we now both have Spanish Driving Licences and they have our photograph on, Spanish style. In the UK you go to a Photo-Me booth, here you go to a photography studio and a woman with a camera tells you to look ahead, “no smiling.”
Then you sit in the window of the shop waiting for her to print out the pictures and take a pair of scissors to cut each photo by hand. That bit was easy. The next not so.
Our Lawyer – Paco took us to Trafico in Granada, a building in amongst a large housing estate, driving through Granada is bewildering, traffic coming at you from all angles and directions. Paco weaved his way in traditional style, missing the exit for a roundabout so swinging the car back on itself and the traffic to exit. I found myself gripping my seat as he ignored the red light ahead and turned into a side street where the Government office was.
We were early and had the strongest coffee I had ever drunk in a small bar nearby that looked over a piece of derelict land where people clearly took their dogs to do their business.
The austere Trafico building had an equally austere inside, Paco had to punch a great deal of information into a touch screen to produce a ticket, “come” he said “we must go upa the stairs.” We followed him upa the stairs. “Sit” we sat down in those chairs that had not only been joined together but bolted together onto the floor.
In front of us stretched a row of desks and behind the desks some very serious Functionarios were processing paperwork, that when completed was filed behind them in acres of filing cabinets stretching back into the distance.
To amuse us while we waited there were four TV screens hanging from the ceiling all showing the same thing. They were driving safety films, various hapless drivers crashing into each other, mangled wreckage and bodies and blood, not the cheeriest introduction into our future as Spanish Licence holding Brits.
The was a loud BUZZ and it was our turn. A very serious man sat behind a tower of papers, Paco did the talking, the man said nothing, looked at all our paperwork.
He then moved his chair back a few inches and took in a large breath. This is always the point when you know things are going to go badly wrong.
“Now,” he said in Spanish “I can under the European law give you a new licence, but it will end when you do the Brexit, so maybe a few months, maybe a few years,” he laughed.
There then followed an intense conversation with Paco. Paco turned to us and said, he thinks you are better to make the exam and then come back.
It took me 23 years to pass my driving test, and I only passed because the examiner knew a friend of mine really well so we just took a gentle trip into the country where I did some parallel parking and we came back to the test centre, I botched up reversing into a parking space, but he said, take another go at it, I did and he said I am pleased to say you have passed.
But no, not that sort of an exam a medical one. We were told to go over to the building across the road where they did the exam. The first part involved you grasping two bath taps and a very old computer in front of you showed a game of pong that you had to steer with the two taps. When I played this game there was a lot of buzzing sounds and at the end it came up 40%
The lady in a white coat sitting at the desk looked at me, sighed, looked at my score, sighed again and said “you pass, got to the lady of bloods.” “It is OK,” said Paco, they just want to pressurise you.”
In the next office another woman in another white coat wrapped a blood pressure monitor around my arm. There was a lot of peeping, she sighed, “You are very pressurised, you bloods are too high.” She said. Paco interjected, “He has just had a cup of strong coffee,” “Oh,” she said “That is OK you pass, go to the room for your eyes.”
Another room another lady in a white coat. “You wear the gafas when you drive?” Truthfully I didn’t when I was in the UK so answered “no”
“Take them off,” I took my glasses off, “you see the shapes ahead, tell me which way they are up?” I actually couldn’t see the chart, let alone the shapes. “Put your glasses on.” I put them on, she got a large wooden stick and whacked the stick against each line, “Read,”
“Si, this is a Spanish test.” I told her which way up the shapes were but sometimes I got my “sube” mixed up with my “baja”
She put the stick down and sighed “You must always wear your gafas when you conduct,” she said, “will you?”
“Yes I promise,” I said – “Good you pass that will be thirty eight Euros.”
So we both have a driving licence with our photos on and I do wear my glasses to drive.
The process of buying the car was very professional, Ruben the Salesman tried very hard to speak English, showing Chris the whips of rain, the spear of oil and the lights of always on. The paperwork done he handed Chris the keys. You may take your car. Chris looked at the impossible turn out of the showroom, there was a large wall directly in front of the exit. Ruben said, “Do not worry I take the car out for you,” and that was that, a very pleasant experience, no touching, no coffee, no smiles no handshake but everybody was trying their best to be as new normal as they could.
It is Sunday and I have been driving our existing car for the first time, we are buying a new one tomorrow, as in Phase 3 we can go to a car showroom. Can I say that the gear box stick is in quite the wrong place and while we are at it, so is the steering wheel.
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Day 84 Car Share
Sunday the start of a new week, Monday brings us phase 3, we have jumped a week, the Alarma itself finishes June 21st, the central Government hands over its central control to the Juntas – the Regional Government. So only 14 more of these special Podcasts left and I am saving my best story to last, one clue, it was major misjudgement on my behalf that I will pay for the rest of my life.
First we should get a Royal Decree, a Bill that will detail everything that will happen after the Alarma, Lockdown ends, then that will be interpreted by the Regional Governments who in turn will make their own rules about the de-escalation of Lockdown.. complicated isn’t it.
And all the while the rules change and alter. Tomorrow we pick up a new car, not sure what the sales service will be like, guessing, a bit average by British standards.
There is a lot of paperwork to fill in, all written in complex Spanish, the stuff that doesn’t not translate with any proper meaning. Laura our Bank Manager is coming along to help Chris through the process.
Banks here are more, I guess old fashioned, you get a named Manager, she is principally employed as a salesperson, up selling insurance, TV sets sometimes, yes the Bank here will flog you a TV or a mobile phone.
We did a test run to discover where the dealer was located, a Google map put them about 300 metres away in a different road, that turned out to be a Mercedes dealer. Driving around what is known locally as Gasoline Alley, we found the dealer and we found our new car, sitting looking rather dustily in the disabled parking space.
Chris collects the car at 10am, so hopefully they might give it a clean and stick the matriculation plate on.
A few months ago, we looked at buying a new car from the local Fiat dealer, as we currently have a Fiat. We were with our dear friend Maria, she went up to the salesman who was on the way out to the back for a ciggy.
“This hombre is interested in buying a new car.” The salesman looked at her wearily, let out a long sigh and slumped himself back down into his chair and started jabbing at the computer screen.
“Marca?” Chris replied Fiat, 500, sports. “Mmm Desportes.” He said, his eyes narrowing, thinking here is an English with some money. The next thing he said was too quick for us to catch. Monica said, “He is asking if you need finance.” Chris told him we didn’t, we would pay cash, but trade in the old car.
Then came the Spanish moment, he said “But your car is only three years old, why do you want to buy a new one?”
To be fair he has a point, but it is not something you would ever hear come from the mouth of a British Salesman. He jabbed the keys of his computer some more and showed us an Abarth with an eye watering price.
“No no” said Chris “a sports trim Fiat 500 not an Abarth.” “But this is very nice car, go very fast.” I asked, “Are there any deals on at the moment?” Monica translated – the Salesman looked at us puzzled – so no deals then, if ever.
In an earlier Podcast I told about our friend who bought a very expensive Range Rover, in excess of 38 thousand Euros and the Salesman whispered in her ear after the sale, “I have left you a little present on the back seat, for being such a good customer.”
When she opened the rear door of the car, there laying forlornly was a single sachet of Turtle Wax polish.
So we found the Dealer and found the car, now it was my turn to drive our current car home, as I will need to do this tomorrow. I drove in the UK, often having to pick up Chris from the Railway Station or wherever the Railway Company was giving up running a service, which was usually a small village called Shenfield.
So I am a very average driver, but could get myself around our local town fairly well, hardly any scrapes or misjudgements.
But driving in Spain is a whole new ball game, and to save Chris screams and shouting, did you see that car, can you see the cyclist and so on and so on, I have refrained from driving.
So the first thing I notice about sitting in the driving seat of our current car is the gear stick is in quite the wrong place and while we are at it, so is the steering wheel. Chris also sits up very erect and he has the driving seat set to, upright, electric chair, which I find quite uncomfortable. I prefer the setting comfortable Lloyd Loom wickerchair, further back but not as far back as out friend who practically drives looking up at the roof of his car.
Driving off, and after driving small urban cars in the UK, if feels like I am driving one of those enormous American Jeeps. Chris points out that this is a Jeep but in Fiat clothing. So that would explain that.
Changing gear is problematic, one, I am not used to the gear box and two, force of habit makes my left arm move to change the gear, and in correcting myself I seem to swerve across the road, well that’s my excuse.
I just wish Chris would stop screaming, he is a very bad passenger, and there was nothing coming the other way, so I am not sure what his problem is?
The Fiat 500X is a very nice car if you have a family and need enough boot space to hold a baby elephant, but we have both found it too big for our needs, I shall be driving it very carefully tomorrow as it has a new home to go to, someone who actually does have a family for the family car.
I am sure everything will go smoothly tomorrow, we might be pleasantly surprised, I might find I will actually find fifth gear on the way back home, subscribe to the Podcast and find out tomorrow, if you go to the secret spain dot com you can find every episode and full transcripts too.
Bad news is good news for us find out why in this episode, also a reflection on the last few months as Andalusia moves into phase three of the Alarma.
Find out more: https://www.thesecretspain.com
Day 83 Hey Ya! (uncorrected transcript)
Saturday, your Sunday and I thought I would take a few moments to reflect, the new normal is becoming normal and throughout the world the death toll from this virus continues to rise, but we are all getting used to it.
I wonder if it was like that during the world war. To begin with everyone was in a state of hysteria worries about bombs dropping on their house, a few years in people become blasé about the whole situation.
“Ere our Tony did you hear that your Aunty Doreen copped it last night, ruddy great Doodlebug fell on her house.”
“Oh, our Ethel that’s terrible, now what’s for tea me love?”
I don’t like wearing a mask, but I am kinda getting used to it. I know surgical masks are in short supply in the UK and the Government have asked you to make your own, rather like the dig for victory campaign in the war.
Here surgical disposable masks can be bought from the chemist at a fixed price of 96 cents and about half the people wear those. Spain bought medical supplies from China so that the masks would not run out in the hospital. To begin with they did, and medical staff were left using bin bags for PPE gowns, but there seems to be adequate supplies now.
So how are we doing, well I am still talking to God, and certainly chatting to my late sister in law, her picture hangs on the wall, she liked the sea, so we put the picture in a place where she gets a lovely view of the Mediterranean.
We get a definite feeling that our neighbours and ourselves are trying to be kinder people, with one or two exceptions. Life will never be the same again, all those big questions you ask yourself like will there ever be a vaccine?
I wonder if there will be, if not will we have to live with controlling the virus, how that will work I am not really sure, I am not a scientist but maybe drugs will control the virus, you get it but the chance of you dying is much less than it is now and the symptoms are supressed.
Who knows? The biggest casualty after the terrible death rate, will be the world economy and how it functions and how we get our head around the massive amount of debt that every country will be racking up to support the economy.
I had a chat with my brother in law a few weeks ago, online of course and we have decided let’s all move the decimal point. You know when countries get into terrible problems with inflation, they just move the decimal point, and everything seems much better.
I guess that is a far too simplistic approach if the whole world just moved all currencies a decimal point.
Our own financial future rather relies on an unsettled world, this is because of the perverse way our pension pot continues to be filled.
We are both ITN pensioners, the UK TV news provider for three major channels in Britain, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. Bad news is usually good news for ITN as more people will watch the TV news shows and the TV companies can sell higher rates of advertising.
For the last few years all the profits of ITN have been ploughed into the hole in the staff pension scheme, they were not required to do this but frankly they are a bloody decent company and it was a pleasure to work for them for seven years.
This year it is different and there is a major downturn in advertising at the moment and that means less money, the company has asked if they can arrest the payment this year. I believe they plan to put the profit money into making more programmes. ITN Productions has produced some very fine shows including “For Sama” or “Ed Sheeran in his own words.” .. not bad for a little TV news organisation that started off in a small corner of Rediffusion London ITV.
So how complicated life is, here we are in Spain, relying on a TV company in the UK to report bad news so that they get a increased audience and keep paying our pension.. but it gets even weirder.
Some years ago after ITN we were employed by Chrysalis who took over the running of the radio station – LBC. One year they enjoyed incredible profits through selling seven notes of a back-catalogue piece of music they owned. The seven notes were used on a platinum number one for the group Outkast and the song was called Hey Ya!
Now they could have squirreled the money away to Panama or someplace similar, Jersey also comes to mind for some reason or another. But again, they were a bloody decent company and put the money into a pension scheme.
Each month I receive a small amount of money from:
So will Chris when he retires fully in a few years’ time.
In reflection the last few months for the whole world have been incredibly hard, full of frustration and fear, full of love and kindness. I truly hope that the outcome of all of this, is that the world will be at least a kinder place.
Today a story from the past about two crazy American guys called Ben and Jerry and their weird ice cream, a trip to Leroy Merlin a French owned Spanish run DIY chain.
find out more here: https://www.thesecretspain.com
Uncorrected transcript here:
Day 82 Dough Boys
Friday and another week ahead in phase 2, but no, suddenly we are moving to phase three, some changes, restaurants can fill to 50 per cent capacity, shops too, but more importantly this should include inter province travel, living on the edge of two provinces this has caused quite a few people to miss out on friends and going to main towns where they can shop, have their hair done.
Everything gets written in details in the Boletín Oficial del Estado, the B.O.E. if you visit the website you will see just how many rules and regulations there are here in Spain.
The weather remains ‘iffy’ wind, sunshine and cloud with rain coming on Sunday, once we hit 25 degrees I declare ‘ice cream’ temperatures, which means we go and buy ‘Maxi Bon’ ice cream, a kind of vanilla ice cream with chocolate covering one end and a biscuit covering the other.
That means you can hold the biscuit end without the ice cream melting. Actually they seem to put something in ice cream now that stops it melting so fast.
That got me thinking back to our food show we produced for LBC, both Chris and I worked on the same show. I can’t tell you how much fun it was, the world was literally our oyster. We had restaurants, food manufacturers and even oyster growers in as guests on the proviso they fed us.
I know, that does sound a bit wrong, but at the weekend in Hammersmith where we were based there was hardly anywhere open to get food.
I set up a couple of guests from America who were producing a new range of ice cream. Their Press Officer told me that they had a new ice cream that contained raw cookie dough. How disgusting, we both thought.
Saturday afternoon came along and two very harassed guys called Ben and Jerry came to the studio with their Press Officer. She told us, they are in a bit of a state, ‘you see their ice cream which they have shipped over to the UK from the states is the wrong size.’ Seems an American pint is not the same as an English one so the metric conversion label is wrong, and they will have to change every one.
They were two very nice guys and crazy enthusiastic for their ice cream, and of course brought along samples for us to try. I had never seen an ice cream in a tub before so that was unusual. We left the raw one too last.
Chris opened it and said he thought he might give it a go as he always liked to lick the bowl clean when his mother made cakes. He took a scoop. “My God, it’s bloody delicious.” He plonked a serving out onto a paper plate for me.
What a revelation, who would have thought raw cookie dough would taste so well with vanilla ice cream. Looking back, I guess we were the first two Brits in London to try Ben and Jerry’s Raw Cookie Dough Ice Cream.
The Name of Ben and Jerry is now owned by Unilever but the ice cream is still good even though the two funny guys from America don’t run it anymore.
Friday and the afternoon brings a trip to our local D.I.Y. store Leroy Merlin, a French chain that is here in Spain and Portugal. Think Homebase before the crazy Australians too it over and tried to sell barbecues all year round.
The local store is quite high tec with lots of flat screens that you could use to look at products, a bright place with soft furnishings, bathrooms, lighting and the like.
Under Covid19 rules it is a much less pleasant place to be. No touching the touch screens anymore and masks, alcohol wash and gloves are obligatory at the door.
The prices are expensive there is a lot less of pile it high, sell it cheap here in Spain. The DIY culture is relatively new, before Juan the handyman, not the builder or the gardener or the estate agent would pop round and fix or make whatever you needed.
That is changing and everyday Spanish are trying their hands at projects. Particularly laminated floor. We saw many properties that had original white marble flooring covered over with laminated fake wood effect floor.
Much like the destruction of anything Victorian during the 1960s in Britain, I remember my dad ripping out a cast iron Victorian fireplace with caustic handmade tiles, throwing it in the skip and then covering the gaping hole in a piece of hardboard.
The Spanish are doing much the same with laminated floors at the moment, I guess they will realise their error too late twenty or so years down the line.
The weekend is coming along with the rain and probably more wind, I have topped up on DIY essentials so I have a number of jobs that will need doing around the place, none of which involve any hardboard, you will be pleased to know.
Thursday and the bloomin wind is driving us potty, along with administration, WhatsApp spats about a community pool and we have a guide to consumer law here in Spain.
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Thursday and a bit of a low day, hard to put your finger on it, but the weather is not helping, once again the wind is blowing, the high pressure that makes summer calm and hot has gone north and giving the UK a really great few months.
A fitful night’s sleep as once again we are awash with paperwork that has to be done for our Spanish administrators, paying tax is a pain, but dealing with it in two countries along with running two businesses takes a lot of time away from actually running the businesses, add that to that the process of slowly putting our retirement into place, some days gets you a bit down.
Onward and forward, oh last night there was a WhatsApp spat with the neighbours over opening our Estate Pool, some want to open it within the Alarma, which means a complicated process and the hiring of staff.
We try not to get involved but I couldn’t help myself, saying that if we had liability insurance if something went wrong with following the complicated instructions to operate a community pool under lockdown, we could end up being sued.
Of course, forgetting that such a thing doesn’t occur in Spain, so I confused my neighbours, who wrote things like “How absurd that you might be able to sue somebody.”
I sometimes find the Spanish a bit insular, they have never thought that there might be other ways of doing things, like the plumber still using the same technique from 100 years ago.
They are not adventurous with their food, sticking to Spanish staples, which are delicious, but there is more to food than paella and grilled fish.
I think the British were the same, slowly as people from different countries came to the UK we adopted some of their food as our own. Curry is one example. Food shows in the UK are not afraid to take dishes from all over the world.
It is happening slowly here and “Master Chef” is on La una and if you got into a high-end Spanish restaurant you will eat some of the finest food in the world.
And special mention must be made of Dani Garcia who has elevated Andalusian cuisine to a whole new level and is one of the few chefs in the whole world to have been awarded three Michelin stars.
Thursday and the wind is still howling around the house and blowing the contents of the mountain onto the terraces.
Back to how the Spanish deal with civil matters like noise, problem neighbours well they go to the police. Sounds an odd thing to do but the police play a pivotal role in sorting out disputes. The process is called denouncing. So, you make a statement to the police and denounce your neighbour for making too much noise, or building a wall on your property etc.
There is something akin to a small claims court here for claims under six thousand Euros, a verbal procedure that is called a juicio verbal (hoo-eesee oh verbal )
And there is also the complaints book, when you are very annoyed with the half arse service you got in a shop you can fill in their official complaints book, the local consumer office will look at your complaint, you send of your copy of the complaint along with supporting evidence, photos and the like, so it is a bit like saying “I will report you to trading standards.” But a more formal process.
In fact just threatening to fill in the book can bring you a refund on that broken kettle you bought. Speaking of kettles our friends Dave and Colin returned a broken one back to the shop. There was a whole ceremony involving the security guard who wrapped the thing in shrink wrap and then a new kettle was brought to the table and the old one placed into the box of the new one and then that was presented minus box to Dave, who later thought it must have something to do with not trusting the staff at the shop with refunds.
Saying all that, consumer law generally falls below what you might expect at home, I have already mentioned our famous tin of tuna where the key broke off, our money refunded but the offending tin was put back on the shelf only for Chris to pick it up again and nearly put it in our basket, thus repeating the whole process.
We usually buy from Amazon and mostly we have had no problem and indeed I have returned things via the Spanish Postal Service and we have got our money back.
Some furniture that we bought that was minus instructions, nuts and bolts, from a large store via mail order, we thought would be a pain to return, it was, but thanks to our friend Carmen the furniture was collected and we got a refund to our UK credit card the next day. In that time the British pound had fallen off a cliff, again and we were actually £30 up on the deal, you can see why hedge funds are so popular now in Britain.
A windy Thursday has come to an end, three good legs cat is propping himself up against some furniture, he is a very good boy really considering he suffers pain in his bad leg. Hopefully we will be able to get an operation sorted out for him when the vet can do routine work again.
Finally back to our friends Dave and Colin who have been in Palm Springs, during lockdown, yesterday they got flights home, via a very torturous route back to the UK, hopefully by now they are back in Blighty, they will be back here in a few weeks’ time, but first they will have to quarantine, yet another horse bolted, stable door, idea from the British Government.
Day 80, a day of confusion when we were told our house didn't exist, also we talk a little bit about Spanish Income Tax, and explore some caves in Nerja.
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Day 80 Caves and Confusion
Wednesday and the day begins in Spanish confusion as the man that is coming to service Petra and Justin’s pool and will first collect the key from our house has rung to say our house number does not exist.
I had one of those surreal conversations with him in my very average Spanish. The trouble is those language courses do not actually prepare for the way and how the Spanish actually speak.
We can probably all remember poor old Manuel the waiter from Fawlty Towers who you to say “I speak Engleesh, I learned it from a book.”
The character spent much of his time confused by what everyone was saying.
To prove that our house and house number do exist I have sent the pool man a WhatsApp with the GPS, this is usually the easiest way to solve the problem of not having a post code. Well we do have a post code but it covers one town, a village, four Estates and a hotel.
Petra can speak very good Spanish, she has a University Degree, but even she gets confused and here the local accent is quite thick, think of the English Cornwall accent and imagine somebody Spanish speaking with that kind of dialect.
Wednesday and it looks like some tourist attractions will be opening soon, including our local Aqua Park, the large water slide, which I can see from here has had a coat of paint and the sea water normally used in the park is going to be chlorinated, something I thought happened anyway. – I still don’t quite know how a social distancing water park full of children will actually work – but good luck to them.
Another tourist attraction about twenty minutes down the motorway is the Caves of Nerja, caverns that stretch for three miles just above Maro next to Nerja.
They were discovered in recent times in 1959 by five kids who slipped down through a sink hole and made their amazing discovery – the place was opened up to tourists, sixty years ago in 1960.
I can’t say I usually enjoy caves, we have been to the Glow Worm Caves in New Zealand, where you lay face up in a boat and travel through the caves on water, above you are what look like stars, but are actually glow worms.
We expected the Nerja caves to be a disappointment, they are not, they are quite spectacular caverns with an enormous stalactite, or is mite.. oh yes tights come down don’t they.
We went probably 20 years ago now; we had the caves to ourselves and it cost about 4 Euro to get in then. Now things are very different, and the Caves have become a major tourist attraction, entry is about 14 Euro now.
For that you get a headset in your language that will take you on the tour.
Until recently concerts were held down in the caves as they formed a natural amphitheatre.
So how did the Nerja Caves form? About five million years ago water got into the marble rock and dissolved it, forming the caverns.
Evidence of human occupation were discovered along with skeletons dating back 25 thousand years, there are also cave paintings, but public entry is restricted to the paintings. In 2012 some more remains of painting were found, depicting seals, dated from 45 thousand years ago, possibly the oldest paintings of humanity.
This is fascinating place to live, mankind has made this area his home for maybe more than 45 thousand years.
Wednesday brings the weekly shopping trip, I get Chris’ mask ready, we tie it so that the mouth area forms a cup that seals and allows him to breathe better and I put a drop of Lavender oil on it so it is a more pleasant experience.
I have to say our trip to Almunecar and there were a sizable minority that have discarded their masks, one old man just held a filthy looking mask in his hand, a couple the worse for wear staggered into the local shop I was outside, proceeded to kiss passionately, they obviously haven’t heard of the British rule about not having sex with strangers, although the law will allow you to invite a professional lady into your house. You can tell this was a law created by an old Etonian can’t you!
Wednesday and a busy day is over, I have produced four Podcasts today, excluding this one, made a commercial for ACAST and spent a horrible time trying to get my tax information sorted for the Spanish Tax Authority – Hacienda
I can’t say I am looking forward to being a Spanish Tax payer, the tax payer has to prove to the tax man that he does not owe money, not the other way round as it is in the UK, it means that they can freeze your bank account and or help themselves to any money in the account, the onus is on you to prove you do not owe money.
As a result the most familiar thing you hear from anyone Spanish who comes to work for you is. “Please pay me in cash.”
Day 79 and slowly things are returning, restaurants are opening and the Government is giving away free money and claiming nobody died of Covid19.. although the regional Governments dispute this.
Find out more: https://www.thesecretspain.com
Day 79 Free Money
Tuesday, and yesterday no deaths were reported due to the virus, but the regional Governments have disputed this. Our local hospital has only had a couple of cases last week and this week none.
The local beach has opened with a great many rules. They believe that the beach will hold 19 thousand people. Well even in the height of summer the local beach does not get that busy.
But the Spanish love to congregate together so now they are going to have to walk far from their favourite chiringuito bar to fulfil the rules of social distancing.
Speaking of social the local Socialist Mayor has been congratulating the Government on its plan for a minimum income for all citizens of Spain. I am not sure how the money will be awarded, or on how they will means test people, but I was amused by the cultural response from at least one person replying to the Mayors Facebook Post, who said in Spanish, “This is a good thing because people deserve a little rest from work.”
Spain has a reputation for a land of feckless idlers who would rather be sitting in a shady bar than a busy office or building new relationships than new buildings.
Anecdotally I agree that the pace of life is slower here, appointments get moved or forgotten and you can wait an age for something that might take a few days to do in the UK.
But the Spanish we have come across work hard. None more so than our construction team, they were here every day from 8 in the morning to 6.30 at night. Our work started last July in the blaze of the summer sun.
It is a very complicated thing to build on sides of mountains, the first thing that the construction company did was to launch a digger down the side of the mountain. I say launch because the driver just tipped the machine over the edge than crawled with at a great angle with equally great skill down to the bottom by carving his own road out as he went.
At the bottom he turned around, somehow, and started digging great chunks out from the mountain, all day every day, for at least two weeks. The dust, noise and general mess was almost unbearable.
Then Jesus the Grua would come with his crane and haul the earth into waiting lorries, some of which dumped their soil onto the lower part of the Estate, where we have created a new community entrance with planting, other lorries disappeared to who knows where to dump the spoil.
I do know that we had to pay a licence for removing the soil, the waste and so on.
Micro-piling was another very noisy operation. A thing that looked like the screw from Thunderbirds drilled down into the ground seven metres and a great rod of metal was then hammered deep into the mountain and then filled with grout.
We had to have fourteen of these to form the foundation. Then came the foundations themselves, cement lorries turned up in unison whilst the long elephant arm hung over our house pumping concrete into shuttered troughs.
It was a privilege to see it all so close at hand. They all worked very hard indeed.
The columns that formed the terrace were attached to the piles and grew like spindles up the side of the mountain, they were shuttered and joined together then the whole lot filled with more concrete.
It took almost the rest of the year to finish the job, everyday at least two people would be working, Juanee the tiler, then the bad tempered old electrician, the plumber who has put in by the drains something the Spanish rarely use and that is a U Bend.
I don’t really know why the u bend didn’t catch on in Spain, I mean the toilets have them, sometimes the bathroom will share one in the middle of the floor that will be covered in a little round tin top with a screw in the middle.
If you have ever stayed in a Spanish hotel that is often the thing that catches your foot in the night. If you open them up, we had to once to discover what was causing a blockage, there are a larger version of the thing you find under a British sink.
But frankly and I know this is the second Podcast in a row when I have mentioned plumbing, the Spanish plumbing is not as robust as its British counterpart.
They like to weld water pipes together with a weird press like thing, rather than use compression joints. In the flats it led to disaster when after five years the Town Hall got around to fixing the water supply and as a result of the increased and much welcomed pressure, every singly pipe in one block of flats utility point split open and flooded the whole place.
Hot water tanks also come with a relief valve that hangs off the bottom end of the tank and either drips or sometimes will relief itself and empty the contents of the tank onto the floor or kitchen worktop, as the Spanish like to stick a hot water tank in the middle of the kitchen rather like we plonk a central heating boiler in a kitchen cupboard.
Off to the Administrators our Gestors, these are the ladies that look after our tax and Chris’ self-employment paperwork. An hour of administration work, lots of copies of bills and the like. It is not easy to be self-employed in Spain.
I promise you that I will mention plumbing no more, but it is one of the cultural differences that you will notice if you come here to stay for any amount of time. Oh and ignore the old British saying of “If you must use any strange loos, put plenty of paper down first,” never do that as that will definitely block the Spanish pipes and come back to haunt you.