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Chasing the dream in Spain. Part 2

A continuation of the original blog, telling of two 'Brits' settling down in Spain, the many trials and tribulations they come across, and the days when everything just goes right. If this blog dies too, due to 'technical issues', a copy is posted on

Bargain or not?
14 April 2012

 When is a bargain not a bargain? When it's made of concrete and called an apartment or villa, it seems. Everyone seems to be talking about the Spanish "complementary" tax, some people are getting quite worried. You can see where the Spanish government is coming from, I'm sure they used to get quite a bit of income from capital gains tax on property sales, but not anymore. With lots of places changing hands at about a third of the price they were built for five years ago, there is no capital gain. Enter the "complimentary" or "capital loss" tax. It looks like they are charging seven percent of the difference of what you paid for your property and what they "think" it's worth, plus interest of course. It looks like they are going back up to four years, and the paper trail left by the system here provides the taxman with all the information he needs with ease. If you used the little "other" room at the solicitors to take care of any "other business" when you completed your property purchase, things will obviously be worse, as the recorded price you paid will be even lower due to some cash changing hands off the record, so previous owner could cut his/her tax bill, and I hear it still happens sometimes, though I think the practice is coming to be uncommon now. Knowing someone who has received one of these tax demands, and thought he'd got a second one, gives a little insight into it. You have to sign for the letter, it proves the Correos have delivered it, and you have received it, and forget signing as Mickey Mouse, unless you have a passport or NIE to prove you are indeed said M. Mouse. I'm told there was quite a large pile of them at the Correos, so someone in an office somewhere is knocking dozens of these out every day, and you can bet they are not the only one doing it.

Picture the scene, Mr and Mrs Smith came to Spain on holiday last spring, it may have been the year before, and ether fell in love with, or got talked into by an estate agent, that dream apartment that was only two minutes walk from the beach. They paid the deposit, got their NIE's etc, and negotiated hard. They got their "bargain" place in the sun. The Smiths have enjoyed coming out twice a year since and staying in their apartment, the only problems they had were finding their way through all the websites for those cheap flights, and sifting through everything in that bulging mailbox. Here lies the problem, the mailbox. That's the sneaky part, mainly trapping unknowing non resident homeowners, you only get thirty days to appeal apparently, and the Correos only holds the letters for so long. The Smiths have not been out since last September, and did not come out again till the Easter holidays, the appeal window has long since closed, by not appealing, the have "accepted" the tax. The Spanish taxman had written to the Smiths Spanish address, as shown on their NIE's and other documents, not where they actually live, elsewhere in Europe, so they were unaware of what was happening.

My landlord out here, has already been hit for a €5K+ bill on the apartment where he and his wife live, so when I told him about the rather "official" looking bit of paper from the Correos, which was definitely not the usual we have a parcel for you, but you were out type of thing, he wasn't happy, he had guessed what it was. The strange thing was there was only one letter, there should have been two, two names on the deeds, two bills, half each. It turns out the letter was to do with the apartment where he lives, not this one, a bureaucratic oops, or a ploy? It was noticed by my landlord himself by chance, not his legal advisor, that the two amounts were identical, too much of a coincidence, and the one for where he lives is already going through the appeal process. He has had this apartment for three and a half years, so I think the next six months will a worrying time for him and his wife, they don't have the money to take a second hit. There was talk of packing up and returning to the UK, but that would cause even more problems than it solved.

While talking to some newly moved in neighbors, I asked them, if the didn't mind telling me, how much this extra tax had cost them, just in case I took the plunge. The reply was something along the lines of, "what extra tax?" I then explained to them what I had read and heard about it, and that I knew someone who had just got what looked like a second bill for this tax. When they bought the property, the brief for the estate agent was simple. They were looking for something with ease of access, i.e. ground floor, sun on it for a least some part of the day, and it must come in at a budget of €40K including all taxes and fees etc. They decided to check that everything was in order just in case, the estate agent said they had paid their taxes, but when pushed for a definite answer, he backed off and changed the subject. He's got his hefty commission from the bank, and three years plus is a long time, maybe corners were cut to come in on budget to get the sale, we shall see.

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Gone in sixty seconds.
08 April 2012

 No, nothing to do with the Hollywood film about people stealing expensive cars for shipping abroad. This is about extreme recycling and people known locally as "bin surfers". We have seen this before, but not quite on this scale. The economic climate is pretty bad here, and there are apparently five families in this village where not one family member has a job and the state benefits have long ago run out, so anything going free is appreciated. Having bought a new English style mattress for the bed as ours was not to our liking, the old one was thrown over the balcony and I dragged it to the refuse point on the corner of the street, then I went across the road to pick up the free papers. On my way back a small car had pulled up and the driver jumped out to take a look at the mattress I had left there, it was in good condition. He obviously liked what he saw, he then performed one of the most amazing feats of loading a car I have ever seen. He had also had a lot of "luck" already that day as his car was full to the roof. With great determination, he managed to fold a double mattress in half and wedge it between the assorted scrap metal the chairs already in the car, amazing. A bit of a risk really, since the police having been giving fines out for people having shopping bags on the back seat of a car.

A couple of days later, some of the new owners in one of the other blocks had come out, I'm not sure if they were related, but they seemed to clearing out two apartments. Out went all the old pale blue furniture which came as a pack when the apartments were built, quite a pile was building up by the bins. At this point, a little old Spanish lady wandered past, she must have been well into her sixties. Out came the mobile phone, no doubt ringing a member of the family to bring some transport right away. She then pushed everything into one spot and sat on one of the units to stake her claim. Anyone who took an interest while walking past was left in no doubt that she was there first and seen off with a look that would kill at a hundred paces. It does not seem to matter what you put out, or whether it has seen better days, furniture, electric fans, textiles or kitchenware, it all goes. Forget the hoops you had to jump through in the UK to get rid of things, trail miles to an "authorized" recycling point, or ring the council up to take it away and wait a few months for them to turn up while whatever it is sits on your front lawn. Not here, just put it out by the bins, it'll be gone in sixty seconds!

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A Year Goes By
12 February 2012

 My apologies for not having written much lately, life has got a little hectic, by Spanish standards anyway. We have now been "over here" a year now, so I guess you could say we have settled here. There have been a few ups and downs, but thankfully more of the ups. Although we pay a very reasonable rent, we have twice come close to getting on the property ladder. Due to the banks being told to get property off their books, there are a lot of "special offers" floating about. They are now selling some places for less than the outstanding debt on them. It is now possible to pick up an apartment in some places for €40k plus fees. The CAM bank rang me just before Xmas offering me an apartment in the next block for €37k and a 90% mortgage if I could complete by the first of January. I had a look, might as well, but it wasn't quite what I was looking for. A short time with sun in the morning and a view comprising mostly of concrete. It wasn't that cheap to consider with that aspect, it would have been ok for holidays, but no good for living in. After in excess of six months living in a village you get a feel for what you want and what works, there is less of the getting swept along by things, the niggling design layouts become obvious and there are some things you can't change. One offered to me in a nearby village was five years old and had never been lived in, it was in remarkably good condition, just as the builder had left it. Automatic shutters on the windows, granite work tops in the kitchen, not even any of those hideous flowery tiles that you usually find. An asking price of €42k for a two bed apartment with an en suite bathroom to the master bedroom is good, it even had a communal pool on the roof. But the reality check said no to that one as well. I like the village and go there on a regular basis, but spending an afternoon there realised that it was not for me. I would miss the village I live in too much. There will be others I'm sure, I might even get brave and build a place. Maybe. There's bound to be the odd can of worms on that route.

I had a thought just before Xmas, I had not had a holiday that year. Yeah, I know, I live in Spain so life is one big holiday. That's what most people, including family members, seem to think. But since I live and work here, why should I not have one? If I had stayed in the UK I would had a few during the year. I managed to get away for a week at Xmas, I went back to the UK to see friends and family, and little Lottie, the new grandchild which I had only seen photos of. I spent the first three days nearly housebound, I picked a bug up on the plane. It was great to go back for a while, shorts not required in that weather though, it seems I have acclimatised to Spanish weather. I don't realty see enough of the grandchildren, but we can't both keep flying back and forth, the budget won't stand it, so Linda goes on her own most of the time. We also managed a weekend in Benidorm, Linda managed to find a cheap all inclusive deal on the Internet. A lot of people that live round here seem to go for Xmas, it's only just over a hour along the coast. While wandering round the streets burning off breakfast and dodging people on electric scooters, can you believe they do two seater ones now, we came across the hotel where they filmed the TV series. We had a wander round it, just being nosey, no one bothered us. The pool looks a lot bigger than it did on the TV, it's huge, no sign of Mateo at the pool bar, it must of been his day off.

I have the dubious honour of being probably the last swimmer of the year, the first of December would you believe. It wasn't  actually intentional, more like an occupational hazard. It was the day I had finally given up wearing shorts to work and got the jeans out, it was getting a little nippy in the mornings. I had just reset all the valves  on the pump and was standing up to close the lid on the pump house when I must have caught the back of my foot on the edge of the pool. Splash! I went over backwards and luckily, or unluckily, depending on your point of view, I landed in the pool rather than on the concrete at the side. After a few seconds the shock of the cold water subsided and a thought hit me hard enough to spur me on at dragging myself out of the water. Because I was wearing trousers I was carrying items I would not normally. Back pocket, wallet, complete with the required "paperwork" that one carries over here. My cheap but necessary Spanish mobile lurking in one pocket, and my now not so shiny, extremely damp, iPhone! Oops just does not go far enough. Thinking everything in my wallet will dry out later, I routed through my pockets for both phones. My Spanish phone still worked, so I rang work and told them I was taking the rest of the day off and why. The sound of people having hysterics on the other end was not being hidden, and I'm sure somebody had an "accident". With a sense of dread I fished my iPhone out of my pocket and gave the case a shake to get rid of some of the water. I opened the case and gave the home button a prod, which is apparently the worst thing you can do. The screen lit up, it was still working! After a fifteen minute drive home and a change of clothes, I rang the insurance company. They wanted me to send it back to the UK registered post, to see if they could repair it. The thought of my phone crawling it's way across Spain to the UK still full of water, by which time it probably  would be beyond saving, to be bodged back to health, possibly, then wait a couple of months for its return, didn't seem worth it for a two year old phone. I start to resign myself to purchasing a new one.

What happened next I do not recommend anyone else trying. It requires a very steady hand and an awful lot of bravery/stupidity. The first thing you are supposed to do with a wet phone is switch it off and take the battery out. Switch off, no problem, SIM card out, ok, battery??? It's buried inside the case somewhere. Laptop on, launch Google, search for how to disembowel a 3GS. YouTube had some promising results, which I watched, seems relatively straight forward to open the case, and of course totally void the warranty at the same time. One last shake of the phone and more water comes out of the slot where the SIM card used to be. Two small screws at the base of the phone by the speakers, no problem. A search through the kitchen drawers provides me with one of those cheap "precision" screwdriver sets you get at the local Chinese shop. I select the smallest one with a pozidrive head and out they come. So far, so good. Insert plastic case opening tool, available for $3.95 plus postage, I end up using another screwdriver and a light touch. Place suction cup over home button, support top of the screen, and pop it open. Being resourceful and not having a suction cup, I realised the sun shades in the car are held in with them, so used one of those. Open it did, but one of the ribbon connectors came undone but after a little fiddling about it went back home. After tipping to one side to get the last of the water out, I used Linda's hair drier on full for ten minutes drying the insides out, I might have got a little carried away, but I had nothing to lose at this point. After letting the phone cool off for a bit, I put it back together and switch on. It actually works better than before as all the dust has washed out of the speakers! The downside of this is Linda was going to buy me a new one for Xmas, which I now did not need. More socks. Perhaps I should have let it die quietly.

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Internet and VoIP
14 October 2011

One of the few things I have actually missed from the UK, apart from a certain brand of corned beef, sad, I know, is my old cable Internet. Yes, I know, there's free wi-fi everywhere these days, but sometimes it's just better to do things from home, and more convenient, not to mention secure. When I was having discussions with my landlord about moving in, he mentioned that they were thinking of having the Internet put in anyway. He has the same system set up where he lives, and it works well. Being a naturalised Yorkshireman, the first words out of my mouth were how much? Of course, closely followed by how fast? Ok, there was the initial installation costs, but basically, it's 8meg broadband for €10 a month. I'll have some of that! The principle behind it is quite simple, but would never work in the UK, because people lack the ability to 'share' anything. I live in apartment block which has a lift in it, which has an outside telephone line in it, for emergency use, it goes to a call/help centre somewhere, I believe. So they put broadband on it as well, a bit like you do with a traditional phone line at home. They then run this to a router/switchbox in the TV room, and from there a cable to whoever wants the service. You never actually notice that anyone else is on, unless you are unlucky enough to be sharing with someone who like to download films etc, common sense should prevail here. The beauty of the system, is that the more people sign up to it, the lower the cost to the individual, my landlord currently pays just over €3 a month for his. Bargain! It's been up and running for a couple of months now, and I am extremely pleased with the service.

He also mentioned to me that he also ran his landline telephone from it as well. He has an English telephone running on it, so anyone can ring from the UK, and it's a domestic call, and he gets 1000 minutes of free calls to UK and various other countries, landlines only though. It was very cheap to run, all I needed was a VoIP box to plug into my router and a standard type phone to plug into that. It's a UK based company, he emailed me the link to take a look. All looked fine to me, time to purchase a VoIP box. I decided to purchase this out here to do my bit for the local economy, rather than have Amazon ship one out, if the price was not too different. I chose a shop about fifteen minutes drive away for my purchase, it's near where we originally lived out here, we still go there a couple times a week to see friends and some work related bits, it's also where we got our TV from. It's a bit like PCworld, but a lot smaller, the staff are less irritating and actually have a clue what they are talking about, unlike the aforementioned outlet! The more senior, manager type person there spoke at least five different languages fluently that I could make out, so service issues would not be a problem. They sold phones so they might have a VoIP box as well. They didn't carry them in stock but their larger branch in Alicante did, they could get one for me from there, it would be here tomorrow, if that was ok. Hook, line and sinker. I ordered one, and guess what, it didn't arrive, what a surprise. A few phone calls and a a couple weeks later, it still had not arrived. I was going past, so I called in. Would it be ok to walk to Alicante and fetch it myself, or do I get someone coming out from the UK to bring me one (along with a few precious tins of my corned beef!), even Amazon to deliver it maybe. Just over three weeks after ordering it, it arrived, snails pace even by Spanish standards. So I went to pick it up and buy s phone. If they didn't have one that I liked, they could order me one, let me just think about that one. No thanks, I'll take this one off the shelf I think.

Back home, I get everything out of it's boxes, to have a look. It was suggested that I might need a little 'expert' help getting it up and running. I used to tinker about with my old PC at home and things like that, so with a flush of bravery (stupidity?), I start lining everything up by the only plug socket within reach. How hard can it be? On to the website, register my details, and follow the instructions for the make of VoIP box I had bought. Five minutes later, I get to the point where it tells me to make a test call with the few minutes given free to a new customer, which I did. It worked! Great, all I need to do now was select a price plan and get an 'actual' phone number. The plan I wanted took quite some finding on the website, eventually I found it after flicking through various web pages pushing me towards various 'premium' plans. I signed up for it for £5.99 a month, picked my preferred UK area prefix, and entered my debit card details, done. But not quite. It seems that due to debit card fraud, I would need to 'prove' who I was to spend such a princely sum of money!!! They wanted a copy of a utility for my UK address, I'm sure I mentioned the reason I signed up for the service was I now live abroad, and have let my UK property, so I don't have a utility bill. Ok, they would accept a bank statement, but I went paperless years ago, and they would not accept one I had printed off from the web. Brainwave! How about some 'official' paperwork from HMRC, or maybe a nice document issued by a government department, like a passport or driving licence? No? Apparently, these documents are not acceptable forms of identity, despite who issued them, and the fact that they have both my UK address on them and a slightly dodgy photo of yours truly on. And I thought Spain could be a bit mad! So, resigned to the fact that I might have to pay my bank to issue me a statement, I go back to the bedroom to sift through the foot thick pile of papers I brought out with me on the off chance of finding something. Ten minutes in I come across some bits and pieces from the Halifax, a debit card and various bit of paper thanking me for choosing them, along with some offers for me to go into debt or maybe buy some life assurance. I only got the account re-opened because it had been mentioned to me that they do free international money transfers to Halifax Españia. It must have been the only account I hadn't changed to paperless, and there was a statement, just a few days short off being three months old, problem solved.

A few hours after me sending off my scan of the statement, an email came back saying my identity check had gone through ok, and I was ok to proceed, which I did. Personal details entered, along with debit card details and an email address, which I had to confirm, and I got my UK telephone number.  It took me about ten minutes to set up the VoIP box, and about the same with the phone, mainly due the instructions being in Spanish, but I got there. There are only two drawbacks to using it really, the first being it can be hard to make calls at tea time sometimes, the other is now friends and family have realised how easy and cheap it is, it never stops ringing! As they used to say in the BT advert, it's good to talk. But not that much! I suppose it's another one of those things that could have done with sorting before we moved out. It costs nothing to register for the service, and the setup works where ever you take it, as long as you have an Internet connection, they even do a smart phone application, but thats  not free. It would have been a lot easier to 'prove' who I was, as I still had some paper bills, so it would have been less stressful. A thought has just crossed my mind. When I go back to the UK for a week at Christmas, if I am passing Tesco and need to pop in for a few bits and want to pay by debit card, will I need to have both parents and my bank manager with me, and perhaps a letter from the Pope vouching for me?

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29 August 2011

 I was asked by a friend if I could do them a 'favour', and being an idiot, and too polite to say no, I of course said yes. In fact, I hadn't even asked what the 'favour' was before saying yes, therefore proving myself to be a complete idiot, and demonstrating my total willingness to be mug for anyone who cared to ask anything of me. I am now considering having the word 'mug' tattooed on my forehead, but apparently, it's like the kings golden clothes thing, it's already there! I obviously can't see it when I look in the bathroom mirror in the morning, further insurmountable proof that I am an idiot! I digress, back to the favour in question. I seems I had 'volunteered' myself for getting out of bed at half past five on a Sunday morning to run a Market stall! My friend needed a few days back in the UK to see his wife, I didn't push for a reason, it's not uncommon for couples out here to develop 'issues' in their relationship. Lack of trust, idle gossip, too much time on ones hands and a combination of the heat and too much cheap alcohol. It can get a bit like a cross between Jeremy Kyle and Coronation Street on steroids and LSD. So, off I go at an ungodly time on a Sunday morning, armed with a set of van keys, some vague directions and a very rough sketch of how to set the stall up. I set off early because I don't like to be late and if you are late they give your stall to someone else, even if you have already paid for it. I arrived on site about twenty minutes earlier than my friend would have done, mistake number one. Its a bit like a giant jigsaw puzzle, all the pieces go in a set order, I was early and so the pieces that should have gone in before me were not there, total chaos broke out. Frantic phone calls went out to missing pieces of the jigsaw checking if they were on their way, and I was now blocking other pieces from slotting in due to the fact I had just dumped the van waiting my turn. The pieces turned up and I shoehorned the van into my spot, no windows in the back to see out of and the wing mirrors had to be folded in to fit the gap, so I got a little help from one of the other stallholders, I waited for the crunch before they shouted stop, but it didn't come to that. But it would later.

After several hours doing not a lot apart from wilting in the heat and drinking countless bottles of water, it came time to pack up and go home. The easy bit, just get everything back in the van, didn't matter how , just get it back in, it was miller time. An hour to set up, but less than five minutes to put away. There was a gap in the exiting vans and the throngs of people had gone, I took the gap and off I went home, biggest mistake of the day. What can possibly go wrong on a ten minute drive home? Quite a lot actually. Half way home I had to take the second exit off a roundabout, I wasn't going to get that far. I stayed in the outside lane because I wasn't going that far round it, got to the first exit, then it happened. Bang! A Scandinavian guy had just got off the motorway and was travelling round the roundabout at somewhere near the speed of light, and decided to take the exit I was just going past, he thought I was going that way too, not my intention, but I was now. Time stood still and everything went into slow motion. He hit the drivers side of the van hard enough to take me off the roundabout and round the corner with him. I don't know how, but because I wasn't travelling that fast I somehow kept the van off the crash barriers. I started coming to a stop and watched in horror as he tried to hold his Audi in the other lane and failed. No barriers on the central reservation here, only the customary very high kerbs that you get here in Spain. He hit the kerb, and the passenger side of the car lifted of the road, all that stood between him and the oncoming traffic was ten feet of grass and couple of scrawny bushes, I thought he was dead. His car had now gone ninety degrees and was running along the kerb on the drivers side doors, then ground to a stop, and amazingly dropped the right way up on what was left of it's wheels. I drifted slowly past him and stopped. Okay, get a grip I told myself. Handbrake on, hazard lights on, get out before someone runs into you. Hi-viz jacket, I need to put one on before I get out, a frantic rummage through all the junk behind the seats and I found one, put it on and got out. A rather polite Spanish man stopped to check if I was okay and expressed his opinion of the other driver verbally along with a few internationally accepted hand gestures, then drove off into the distance before I could say much else, there goes my witness. The other driver had managed to coax his car to the side of the road on the two still functioning alloy wheels that used be part of a very expensive set. He got out and strolled over as cool as a cucumber and asked if I was okay. It didn't seems to bother him that both he, and his passenger, had come within a gnats whisker of pushing up daisies! Here we go I thought, but no protest was forthcoming, it was his fault and he knew it. Meanwhile his wife had turned up and was giving him a tongue lashing in whichever Scandinavian language it was, not sure if was for driving like an idiot or wanting to know who the leggy blonde was in the car with him, guess I'll never know, and don't really want to go there anyway. It turns out the guy is a purveyor of second hand high performance vehicles, so his card said, hence the big Audi. It did cross my mind that the reason he didn't seem fazed by the affair was probably this happens to him often, a bit like scratching a wheel trim to anyone else, and he would just get another car off the forecourt anyway. Both realising that a lack of Spanish was going to be a problem, he suggested we started filling out the accident form and he would ring his mechanic who would organise the Grua to tow the vehicles. Neither of us could find an accident form in our respective vehicles, I had no chance in the umpteen folders of assorted paper in the van, luckily his mechanic had now turned up and had one, that's when things started going downhill for me. One of the eccentricities of Spanish law is you are required to carry all your documents in the vehicle, unlike the UK. Great for car and identity thieves alike. If you get stopped by the authorities, it's fine unless you have already reported it stolen. Is this you car sir? No, it's a friends, I'm just borrowing it. And you have all the documents you need, log book, ITV, insurance (as long as you are over 26), along with all the receipts you'll ever need and probably a copy of the owners driving licence. So, off you go through France to eastern Europe, or maybe a ferry to north Africa and jackpot, sell it the first person with the required currency.

My problem was I could find the owners insurance, and I was starting to get 'looks' due not finding it, their faces said it all, here we go, uninsured. There was just about anything else you could want, an entire life history going back years, along with some large chunks of other people's too, but no certificate of insurance that wasn't years out of date. A desperate phone call to the owner in UK later, getting assured that what I was seeking was there, what I actually needed was the certificate that I had already found and the receipt to prove it was paid for this year. Apparently, if you renew a policy, you don't get a new certificate, just a receipt to prove you have continued paying for another year. The search continued, but this time I had a lots of help, eventually the receipt was found, relief just does not cover it, not even close. The tow trucks arrive, and both vehicles are taken away for assessment by the insurance companies, but not on Monday, it's a 'red' day, the Spanish equivalent of a bank holiday, but more so. On Tuesday the insurance asked me to 'pop in' half an hours drive away to show my documents, which they didn't actually want anyway. My friend asked for a loan car since the other side were paying. Sure, he could have one, come back Monday, so he declined, thinking his van would be back on the road by then. Wrong. This is Spain, it's August, just about everything is shut, and what is open works very slowly indeed. He could not see the come back in September look on their faces, I could, I've seen it before. The wait continues.

A point to note. The police were called at the time of the accident, and after getting across that no-one was hurt, therefore no ambulance was required, and that we had cleared the road and were not holding up the traffic, do you think anyone turned up? I'll give you a clue, it was Sunday and siesta time, guess. I have since found out what all those check boxes mean on the Spanish universal accident form that everyone is supposed to have, so will be better informed if it ever happens again, and will know what to do with it. I have learned, that if you go through a broker for you insurance, as my friend did, things taken a long time to sort, even by Spanish standards, that means forever. I now know of someone who had to pay for his own bumper replacing, then wait in excess of nine months to get the money back! I have learned that you only keep what you really need to in that little folder in the glove box, not your life history, maybe my friend (he's still speaking to me) has got that one too. It will save you a lot of stress at a time when you don't really need any more if you are in a similar situation. I have learned that not all men in their forties have outgrown the boy racer stage in their life. I still go round that roundabout several times a day, and I'm a little wary of cars on the inside lane, I've been carved up before there, but the last time was a little too close for comfort. And finally I have learned o can waffle on a bit sometimes, my apologies.


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A Bit Of Something To Do
20 August 2011

Although I hate to admit it, after a while you can get fed up with sunbathing! Sure, dog walking is fine, if a bit mad in the heat this time of year, and housework takes up a few hours, and I have run out of books. What I needed was a bit of something to do, a little job maybe. I did find a little bit of part time work, but all it really did was get me out of the house for a few hours and cover the diesel, and it wasn't exactly expanding my circle of friends much either, I needed more. Then one day it appeared, like a mirage, the holy grail of new ex-pats, the hardest thing to find in this climate, but it turned out to be real! A legal, on the books, paid, full time job!! It seems that all those phone calls I made and emails I sent finally paid off, I was taken aback when the phone rang and the guy on the other end asked if I was still looking for work, I wasn't letting this chance pass by, I ripped his hand off, so to speak. Okay, I'm not earning £100k a year working for Sir Allan Sugar, but then the job interview involved a lot of coffee and I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and my future employer did bring his friends along to pull my life to pieces in public either. So, I am now a pool cleaner. I know, I've heard all the jokes now, and some people still think it means spending my day on a sun bed sipping cocktails, afraid not. It's actually harder work than you might think and involves a very early start to get finished before it gets too hot, putting up with community presidents who like to show you who's boss and mess with things, one even wasted quite a lot of water because she thought there wasn't enough water in 'her' pool and left it filling for a few hours, most of which went down the overflow into the drains, never mind, I'm sure 'her' community will appreciate 'her' water bill. One president insisted on telling me how 'his' pool should be kept, I explained that I liked 'my' pools not to have a crust on due to sun cream because 'he' didn't make 'his' community members take a shower before swimming. Neither of them bother me much now, we'll see how it goes. I have now lost a few pounds and gained a few euros, along with a better tan and pool cleaners knees.

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Fiesta Time
23 July 2011

Last weekend there was a bit of a party atmosphere in Algorfa, where Linda and I now live. The highlight of the weekends celebrations was the parading of the Virgin Del Carmen through the streets of the village in the evening on Saturday. The twelve men carrying her looked to be struggling with the weight in the heat, they paused often, I am not sure if they were having a breather or it was part of the ritual. All the church bells were ringing at regular intervals, they had to take the doors off the church in the square to get the Virgin out before the procession started.  Both sides of the street were lined with people carrying huge lit candles, everyone in the village must of been there. All through the day, firecrackers were being set off, they were absolutely huge. We walked into a street were one was being set off and were guided a safe distance away, the street was then blocked both ends. Then what must have been a fifty foot long monster was then lit. The noise was absolutely deafening, you could feel the shockwaves and see the shop windows bowing from the explosions. You would get locked up in the UK for being in possession of fireworks like these, they would think you were a terrorist or going to hold up the local post office. While the parade was working it's way round the streets, we managed to find a small eatery with an empty table on the street, so we sat down for a bite to eat and a couple of beers. What looked to be the cheap seats in the house turned out to be some of the best. We were not sure which streets the parade was going down, as most of the streets had been blocked off, I suppose we just got lucky.  As our refreshments were served, the procession came round the corner onto the street where we were sitting, bargain. They crawled past us back into the town square, taking the Virgin Del Carmen back into the church. Then the main firework display started. How, in a place with just over 3,500 people living in, can they afford to spend that much on fireworks? The display was awesome, no other word seems to sum it up, they do their firework displays here in style, to hell with the national debt. There were no 'damp squibs' here, it must have cost well into six figure money, and would have put most displays in the UK to shame, even the millennium ones. What does it get like if they get really carried away? I guess we'll have to wait for the football season to start to find out!

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Own four wheels
21 July 2011

It may not be fast, it may not be new, but it's all ours and paid for. We are now the proud owners of an eight year old diesel fiesta. It's dent free, so we will have to get our own 'badge of honour', which probably won't take long, first trip to Torrevieja ought to sort that one! The insurance was cheaper than it would be back home, and it's any driver twenty six and over, handy when family visit. It came with a two year ITV, so we won't get the usual annual performance that you get back home when they always 'find' something that needs 'fixing'. We have gone 'native' and thrown some Hi-Viz vests over the backs of the front seats, and we'll see how things go. We will have to wait a while for the paperwork to turn up, the shear amount of random 'red' days, fiestas and the like, means everything 'official' is grinding to halt, and Spain seems to shut completely in August, so might looking at September. And now for the best bit, from empty to a full tank of diesel, change from €45! I asked the attendant (anyone remember when British garages used to have those?) to put €50 in and it wouldn't go! At home £50 of petrol for our old Seat Ibiza or Corolla wouldn't have touched the sides, this might be the start of some cheap motoring, we shall see.

A point to note, the police here must be wanting some bonus for the August holidays. It was mentioned in the local papers that someone had been 'done' for having a couple bags of shopping on the back seat on the N-332, a snip at €130! You can see the safety point of view, it should have been in the boot, but most people would think it's a little harsh for a first offence, maybe a talking to might have been better for public relations. We've all done it at home, we will have to learn not to, another quirk of driving in Spain.

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Thank You
21 July 2011

 As of the end of June, I have broken the 10,000 page views mark for first part of this blog, despite ‘technical issues’. So, thanks to all who have read my scribbles. When I first started, I could never have expected it to be read by so many people. I hope I have given you a few laughs along the way. If I have offended anyone, it was not my intention, it can be easy to get the wrong end of the stick, so to speak, what passes for humour varies greatly from person to person. I will continue to write, but I'm sure there must come a point where there is nothing new to say, we will see. Once again, a big thank you to all.

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