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Spanish Shilling

Some stories and experiences after a lifetime spent in Spain

Monday, March 6, 2023 @ 7:43 PM

We have all laughed, or shuddered anyway, at the mention of Spanish paperwork. What happens is that a veritable legion of functionaries (now, there's a word) spend their entire adult lives - it's a protected job in Spain - filling out forms.

The forms will be in triplicate, need additional supporting documents (which, in turn, will need other bits of paper) and so on.

We used to have to drive into The City, now and again, to hand in, collect, or refile various formularios for sundry purposes. I remember that one would often need a poliza, a twenty-five peseta stamp, to add to the document. These useful and decorative items would be sold in an estanco, a cigarette shop. The nearest one to the Government office invariably being half a mile away. A bit like - and maybe you have noticed - the nearest pharmacy to the hospital or medical centre is invariably located on the other side of town.

Anyway, walking calms the soul (or maybe the sole: I shall have to look it up).

My father-in-law used to be pleased if he got one or more of his three bits of paper stamped or archived as appropriate on his rare trips to Officialdom. He claimed that it brought an interesting sense of drama to his otherwise quiet existence.

We often used - and indeed we still do - the services of a gestoría, an office whose single purpose is to help you get through the various jumps which an immense army of bureaucrats must create to justify their existence. For a modest sum, the gestor will sort you out splendidly - and may, if he has other business to take care of, even accompany you to see the pen-pusher in question.

They all know each other, naturally enough - 'Hola Paco, I've got another one here, he says he wants to import a fire engine'. 'You'll need to fill out this form, and that one and bring along those two from industria, and a P834 from the police. How's your uncle doing, has he had his gall-bladder removed yet?'

You can see why you need a gestor. Buy him a drink afterwards.

Getting a residencia in the old and dark days of the Late Sixties would often revolve around a small gratuity to the nice policeman at the jefatura. I remember being deeply impressed as our gestor swept around the cop's desk and deposited a plastic bag containing a carton of Marlboro and a bottle of Johnny Walker next to the officer's lower extremities.

Everything went smoothly after that.

But, as legions of people pass in front of the armies of bureaucrats, the paperwork begins to mount up. Not just the shelves and the cupboards but the tables and chairs and even the floor are eventually full of piled up documents, and archives, and cardboard folders crammed with photocopies, and binders with abandoned forms and memos, and packets with double-spaced applications and folios in triplicate, bristling with staples and paper clips and Post-its and perhaps even some sealing wax...

and as Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout eventually discovered...

The garbage rolled on down the hall,
It raised the roof, it broke the wall...

When such a moment arrives, the chief pen-pusher will call upstairs to the junior political appointee, impatient to be noticed and moved to higher office, perhaps in the motor division, and inform him of the problem. Maybe fill out a few forms just for the appearence of the thing.

It is now that we meet a new department, the Junta de Expurgo. Their job is haul all the paperwork away, under supervision from a magistrate since it could be sensitive - this is when they might find that empty carton of Marlboro for instance - and to go through it in search of those treasures which must be saved for future researchers as patrimonio histórico.  The rest of it is then destroyed in a special oven along with those inflamable things confiscated by the cops such as - well, perhaps it's better not to ask.

And then, the whole wonderful process begins anew.



Like 4


Stinkey said:
Sunday, March 12, 2023 @ 8:18 AM

Another interesting story, and certainly seems true here in Spain, its only taken 3 years to get registered on the health system (finally?) My wife and I tend to treat the paperwork issues has a possible day out, with maybe a coffee/lunch in a different town? Because invariably it involves a drive to Valencia/ somewhere?
We never stress and look upon it has an adventure and maybe we can get a chance to use our bad Spanish

anthomo16 said:
Sunday, March 12, 2023 @ 11:10 AM

so very true - in the beginning you get frustrated by it but a few years down the line you just accept it and enjoy your day out

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