Living in Spain, warts and all

I am feeling holier-than-thou just now after indulging in a couple of hours of vigorous aerobic exercise this afternoon. Not a brisk walk in the fresh clean air under bright blue skies, breathing in the heavy scent of flowering rosemary and admiring the pink and white wash of almond blossom everywhere. Not a swift jog down to the babbling stream running through our valley, dogs by my side frolicking and panting and grinning. Not (for a change) shifting piles of weighty building materials from here to there up at the almost-ready kennels.

What, then?

Well, a little while back I agreed to house thirty-six budgerigars for a local couple who have both had the misfortune to require, simultaneously, some heavy-duty medical treatment and could therefore no longer care for them. Small birds are not my thing – for some reason, I am much happier dealing with the beefier gob-on-a-stick variety like Cookie, my umbrella cockatoo, who is big enough actually to arm-wrestle. However, having a couple of large flights empty, I was unable to refuse help in the time of need, and so the budgies were set free in one of them to live for the last few months in total anarchy therein.

Reluctant to advertise them generally, given the local propensity for stuffing birds in cages exactly the same size as said birds, I nonetheless put out a quiet word to say that they were available to good homes. I was then contacted by another fairly local couple who actually already have some two hundred small birds in very large aviaries and were more than happy to take them all off my hands as soon as their new aviary was completed. So I got an email today to say that they will collect them tomorrow morning.

Thirty-six budgies in a flight five by two by two metres, all determined to avoid the mad, bad catcher-lady with the spray bottle. I don’t like netting birds – the chance of damage is too great. I soak them with water so that their flight is impeded by waterlogged plumage and I catch them by hand – eventually. It’s good to spray them all regularly anyway, to clean their feathers and discourage mites.

The scene, kindly picture it if you will, therefore involves me jumping, spinning and cavorting like the sugar plum fairy on speed whilst flinging out droplets of enchanted water to shower each bird and guide it magically into a travel cage. The birds, meanwhile, are flinging back as many protective charms as they can remember – protego, repello, impervius, expelliarmus …. (Oh, sorry – have I been reading too many children’s books lately?)

Anyhow, it took, as I said previously, a good couple of hours to gather them all into the smaller cages. By this time, I was hot, red-faced and every bit as wet as they were. I also sported a few bloody, shredded fingers – budgies might be small, but they’re potent. Especially the females in mating mode – those whose cere (the strip of skin across the top of the beak) is dark brown and swollen – who behave as though they’re already guarding their unlaid eggs.

Job done, though, and tomorrow they will move on to pastures new.

I met up with Gill for a quick, well-earned drink afterwards. “Twenty questions, just ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers,” I said to her as I walked into the bar. “If you can guess what I’ve been doing for the last two hours, I’ll buy you your beer.”

I guess I knew I was onto a loser when the first two questions were, “Did it involve animals?” and “Did they have feathers?”

I’m clearly far too predictable.

Back, then, to the topic of my last blog post – the torturous path to a fully-licensed business here in Spain, which has provoked quite a reaction and a series of discussions.

Firstly, I forgot to say that, despite the long list of conditions that I am required to meet before they will grant me my licencia de apertura, they are in fact only granting me a provisional eight-year licence anyway.

Secondly, I was misinformed about the sound test. What they actually use is a machine that emits white noise, and then they place receivers that pick up only this noise at various strategic points and distances outside the barn. This tests the eficacia del aislante de ruido (the efficiency of the insulation) and ignores all the rest of the barking, baying, snuffling, honking and farting that goes on all night generally in the campo.

The engineers with whom I signed the contract for this test apparently had in their turn to put the facts before the Ministerio de Medio Ambiente at least twenty-four hours before the test. This makes me feel like I am a high national risk, and seems awfully over the top for a little barn out in the campo in Deliverance country. However, the test will be carried out this coming Tuesday from 8pm to 11am Wednesday morning.   Then I must wait 15 days for the informe (report) before I can submit it to the oficina técnica. Meanwhile, I continue to pay my Social Security without the opportunity to earn a bean.

On the other hand, I have this week managed to accomplish the following:   I have submitted the comunicación previa for the inscripción in the register as a small producer of dangerous waste. Fortunately, I could do this via a desk (la ventanilla única) in the ayuntamiento instead of going all the way into Murcia to the Consejería. Unfortunately, the woman at the desk has even less of a clue about what I need to do than I do. My first visit in this matter required her to print me a form to take to the bank to pay the tasas (some 38€), but her llave (key) wasn’t where it should have been in her keyboard, so I was obliged to kick my heels for an hour or so while she found it.

So having collected the payment form, I trotted off to the bank to pay it. I then had to take the justificante (proof) back to the same woman to add to the papers to be submitted. I asked her what would happen next, since I also need to pay for authorisation (another 200€) following the inscription.

She looked at me blankly. “I haven’t a clue,” she said. “I don’t understand these things.”   Talk about the non-sighted leading the visually-challenged!

This fact was placed in italics, in bold, underlined and highlighted when I went in a couple of days later with the block of paperwork to submit to the Confederación Hidrográfica regarding the depuradora (sewage treatment plant). This block included the (gazillionth) copy of my residencia, the form of solicitud, the catastro map of location, the memoria técnica of the depuradora and the certificado de puesta en marcha (certificate of installation/activation).   If there really exists such a thing as a paper-free office, it certainly isn’t in Spain.

Anyway, I took this little lot in to the same woman. This time, she was away at her desayuno (elevenses) and here only the one person is capable of doing any given job. If they’re away from their desk / sick / dead, the job doesn’t get done. Full stop. But at least this time I only had to kick my heels for half an hour.   As I presented her with the papers, she looked at me with something approaching awe.

“How do you know what is needed?” she asked me. “It confuses even the people who have always lived here.”

“Aah,” I replied. “I think that was the whole idea. But they didn’t reckon on la inglesa estúpida being such a tenacious little bugger, did they?”

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Comments on: "Sodden budgies and sodding paperwork" (8)

  1. Tenacious, diligent, resolute and committed (or should be). That’s you, my girl. The stuff of legend, the batty, bird Brit who locals grudgingly admire.

  2. I think the papers for my committal are already prepared and sitting in a pending tray – all 637 sheets (including, of course, a copy of my residencia).
    It’ll probably take three years from submission, however.

  3. ‘HMS Resolute – Gawd blesser ‘n’ all ooh sailiner’ Blimey! You are a real asset the whole of the rest of humanity – you make us realise how lucky we are!

  4. If I ever wore a hat I´d be taking it off to you Debbie. You´re amazing, particularly since you only kick your heels and not the utterly useless funcionarios you have to deal with. Obviously you´re gaining the huge respect you deserve through sheer tenacity, as you say, and downright smartness and you´re also doing your wee bit to drag this 19th century bureacracy into the 20th century (the 21st is just too much to hope for). In the meantime you´re providing a much-needed service which the whole of Spain, apart from animal lovers, is trying to prevent. I often ask myself if the powers that be are aware of how awful the bueacracy is but can´t be bothered to do anything about it, or if they´re just too dumb to even realise it, despite junkets to Europe and appeals to innocent students et al to be careful with the “image” of Spain they project. Set your pregnant budgies on them, I say, to peck out their Torrente-watching eyes!

    • Thanks, Mo. It helps to be a natural-born obstinate mule.

      I’m just reading an article in a recent newspaper regarding a statement by Junior Minister Jaime García Legaz (commerce). He’s saying that new legislation, applicable from June, will allow small businesses to commence trading before permits are obtained. He recognises that formalities can last between ‘6 – 18 months’ (dream on, mate!) and thousands of euros can be wasted on rents while awaiting the licence.

      New businesses will still have to provide professional evidence that necessary requirements have been met; also to obtain a document quaranteeing that the trader fulfils all conditions required for opening; and finally to pay all necessary dues and taxes.

      Too early, wasn’t I?

      Although it remains to be seen whether or not this actually proves to be an improvement. What if these three conditions cannot be met and the business is already up and running? Big fines, what’s the betting?

  5. Love love love the visuals of you cavorting around the bird flight, spray bottle in hand. Can you imagine what the poor budgies must think of you?? As for your ongoing battle with Spanish paperwork, the upside is that it not only provides excellent fodder for this blog but also ensures multiple volumes in your continuing saga!

    • Parrots belie the generally-held misconception of a bird-brain. They will often just sit and look at me, head on one side, wise to the core – probably thinking something along the lines of:
      “We also have the equivalent of an opposable thumb – and we can use it with dexterity. Be afraid.”

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