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Donna Gee - Spain's Grumpy Old Gran


Stop the bus in Spain - I want to get off where life is fine and fair
13 December 2015 @ 00:50

Dashing up the steps of  an Alicante-bound jet at  Manchester Airport in pouring rain and a furious early-morning gale is a favourite memory of my ever-dwindling trips home to the UK.


The race across the runway to the aircraft was invariably sheer pleasure because I was about to swap the cold, miserable British weather for the Costa Blanca life I so adore.


Apart from the shivering, soggy climate, my visits to the UK continue to highlight why living in England today is more of a penance than a joy.


Yes, the beautiful countryside, unique historic buildings and ironic British sense of humour are still intact. But the breakdown of law and order and increasingly large sub-culture of yobbism, alcoholism and drug addiction is frightening.


I won’t go into the most controversial subject of all – the over-immigration which is polarising rather than uniting the country. That would be politically incorrect, even if my personal viewpoint is considerably less extreme than that of many native Brits.


One subject that really does make my blood boil is the unnecessary traffic chaos and the incompetence of the faceless bureaucrats responsible for the massive disruption on motorways and trunk roads.


Everywhere I drove, I seemed to be held up – from an enforced 30-mile motorway detour to accommodate a bridge-building exercise, to temporary traffic lights causing hold-ups on virtually every main road. The general philosophy of the transport bureaucrats seemed to be, ‘‘Cause maximum disruption to as many motorists as possible at the time the traffic is heaviest’’.


I don’t tend to drive in busy areas in Spain, but in ten years of part-time residence in the 

southern Costa Blanca, I have never seen a  traffic jam, let alone the gridlock of vehicles that snarls up UK cities almost permanently.


The Spanish attitude to traffic accidents and road maintenance seems to be the exact opposite to that of the British authorities. The priority after a pile-up is to get the traffic moving again – and to carry out repairs only when they are essential. Hence the road surface can be very iffy. 


The consolation Is that you’ll never be caught in a 10-mile queue on the M6, with two lanes blocked by a cone army and an invisible work force. In England, I rarely go out without being stuck in a queue of crawling cars.


I also had the dubious pleasure of clashing with the council jobsworths who monitor minor traffic offenders in Bury, Lancashire, where my UK home is. I lost the battle, of course, because being fair did not tally with their  mission to fill the town coffers with as much cash as possible from the softest touches of all – law-abiding motorists.


I was blissfully unaware that since the my previous visit to the UK, Bury Council had decided to prohibited one particular bus lane to other vehicles from 7am to 7pm on weekdays, rather than the normal 7-10am and 4-7pm double slot which operated for every other bus lane in Greater Manchester.


My ‘crime’ was that I went on a lunchtime shopping trip on a quiet weekday and, at 12.38pm, moved my little Kia Picanto into the empty bus lane momentarily to allow the only other car on the road to pass me. It hadn’t crossed my mind to check the hours of prohibition first – I naturally assumed the rules were the same as everywhere else.

Gotcha! The council spiders had set up a camera to trap heinous criminals like myself in their devious web. And three days later I received photographic evidence of my car tootling along in the bus lane at 25mph, plus a demand for £60 – reduced to £30 if I paid within 14 days.


How kind of them to penalise an unknowing pensioner for being courteous to another driver and clearly having no intention of using the bus lane to jump a queue or for any dubious reason.


A few days later I received a written reply from Bury’s Parking Services Manager  in which  grammar and accuracy were given low priority.   

(Sic) ‘’I have noted your comments, however, upon further investigation of your case it is apparent that full payment of the Notice has been made,’’ he wrote, as if that was a reason the fine could not be reversed.

‘‘I can confirm that there is ample signage at the entrance to the bus lane specifying the relevant start and end times. The onus is on the motorist to check the information before making the judgement to enter a bus lane.

”Thank you for your prompt payment, however, I would like to inform you that any further right to appeal is lost and the case is now closed.’’ 

That’s it, then. Guilty as charged, and no reference whatsoever to my explanation.                                                                                                   

In Spain, the Trafico has some weird regulations and if you are unlucky, you could find yourself forking out 100 euros for driving in flip-flops or carrying your shopping on the back seat.

If you are really unlucky, you might even be fined for speeding in Barcelona when you have never been within 300 kilometres of the place. Fortunately, the photo accompanying the ticket showed a different make of  car – albeit with what appeared to be the registration number of my Kia Picanto.

A quick call to the Trafico sorted that one out. They cancelled the ticket even more rapidly than Bury council’s greed machine scoffed my credit- card payment.

Like 0


Fartharder said:
13 December 2015 @ 20:07

'But there is another, happier, side to me as this blog hopefully shows'
So far so bad on that front!
Is this the same blog you posted the other day? If so, thanks for changing the format. I only read two lines of the other one before my eyes got tired and confused.
I don't want to appear rude but this blog has all the signs of someone who either hasn't been in Spain long or just hasn't got round to opening their eyes yet to look at what goes on around them.
You've moved from Bury which is part of a large conurbation to a part of Spain where Alicante is the only city, which isn't particularly big so you're not making a fair comparision. You could have moved just thirty miles away from Bury and changed everything except for the weather. Try driving from Gandia down to Benissa on the N332 at any time of any day and that'll show you what gridlock traffic is like. Valencia, Barcelona and Madrid all have congestion and Valencia in particular has a very poor road network and terrible traffic problems.
I've started so I'll continue, Spain has a lot of immigration too, in fact, many Spanish think it's over-immigration. Don't assume that being English and not Muslim means that every Spaniard is happy to have you here because many are not, and many are very resentful towards the English for not integrating or learning the language. Yobbism may not be a problem but alcoholism is and Spain is widely regarded as the crack-head capital of Europe. There's a shocking amount of drug takers here, much more than in the UK. I live in Valencia where the smell of cannabis fills the air and the smog is green! As for bureaucratic incompetence and stupid laws, well Spain rules the world in that department, it's just that they can't always be bothered enforcing them.
You're in a great part of Spain where the quality of life is good, the weather is fine and traffic is less. Don't make a direct comparison between where you were and where you are now because the two places are incomparable.

Rob said:
19 December 2015 @ 10:14

Tend to agree with FH.

The immigration point is probably controversial, as I am an immigrant myself, but I think you have made the point yourself; you're talking about immigration into the UK, and at the same time, you have done the same into Spain...

From my point of view, we're building near Benahavis (Malaga), and I cant wait to move there. I've used the A7/AP7/N340 many times, and I have to say, traffic is usually quite good. No real complaints. UK traffic is appalling though, and seems to be getting worse. That's one point where I wholeheartedly agree with you.

Then theres the whole cost of living discussion. Its been done to death, but Spain is cheaper by far, in my experience.

marelison said:
19 December 2015 @ 10:45

That's true as FH says upon us here, Spain and UK are incomparable, Spain has it, UK not...and getting worse.

m4martini said:
20 December 2015 @ 18:07

Carrying your shopping on the back seat? That's a new one to me. I don't have back seats but carry my shopping on the passenger seat. Something wrong with that too?? Do they make it up as they go along?

DJF said:
21 December 2015 @ 08:17

There is a good reason for not putting shopping on the back seat. The same as you wouldn't put children on the back seat, or adults for that matter, without using seat belts.
Sudden hard braking will mean anything loose in the back will come flying forward causing possible injury to yourself or front seat passenger and smashing your windscreen which will render you "blind" to anything in front of you and disable your ability to take any other avoiding action.
As for the two seater with shopping on the front seat, same reasons apply, put it in the foot well instead, simples.

m4martini said:
21 December 2015 @ 09:56

Is it actually against the law in Spain?

Kim Binks said:
21 December 2015 @ 10:54

The traffic issue in the UK cannot be compared to Spain. The UK is smaller with a higher population, so you are going to get more traffic. And Donna, I am sure you will have experienced the N332 in August, through Torrevieja.......

DJF said:
24 December 2015 @ 18:10

I think it is law in some areas but not others.
Almeria doesn't allow it, nor the Canary Islands.
Having said that it still makes good sense to put goods in the boot or on the floor at the back seats

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