I have a need to talk today about the flirtatious but casual relationship that the Spanish conduct with the clock.
Coming from a culture as I do of strict time slots, an unhealthy obsession with timeliness and an intimate acquaintance with deadlines, I still, nine years on, struggle with the laissez-faire (¿dejad pasar in Spanish, perhaps?) attitude to all things remotely associated with time-keeping.
Oh, appointments may be made – I have been presented with enough of them recently to last me a life-time, thanks very much. But whether they actually mean anything much is a hugely questionable matter.
I have never – that’s never – managed to see anyone here at a designated time. And this holds across all manner of appointments, whether it involves me sitting in my car waiting for the appearance of a passenger, waiting in a bar for a friend to take coffee, waiting in a medical establishment for a precise appointment (lunes el 01 octubre a 08:47 – what’s that about?), waiting to see an official of el iltmo. Ayuntamiento, or my asesor, or a dog-owner.
The latter has exceeded all records to date for belatedness.
If I’ve been informed on booking-in that a dog will be collected on departure day in the morning, you can bet your life I won’t see a soul until 7pm. I have even waited until 8pm for an owner to appear for a mid-day pick-up , finally to concede defeat and call him, only to establish that he had been delayed and would be there the following morning. And then still have had to ‘phone him the next afternoon after his non-appearance. The approach to punctuality is so laid-back as to be horizontal.
I have also experienced a different aspect of this temporal disregard several times to date.
I have fed and watered the guests at the kennels with their evening repast. I have cleaned up after them, sung to them and tucked them up for the night. I have closed their garden doors, so that I comply with the curfews regarding noise imposed upon me in my licence. Then I have returned to the house, to tackle the matter of my sustenance in all this and to pursue that most of elusive of all grails, an evening of relaxation.
Only to be rudely interrupted by the orchestral background of a car engine playing on the camino above the house accompanied by a strong solo on the horn.
This is, without fail, the music of an extended Spanish family who have decided to take a drive out into the campo to demand, unannounced, an inspection tour of the new kennels.
So I am obliged to drag myself back up the hill, to unlock all that I have only just locked, disturbing the recently-settled hounds who subsequently decide that, since I’ve mentioned it, it is high time for choir practice.
I then have to walk the crowd of sightseers around, pointing out in raised tones all the (multitudinous) luxury features of the accommodation while concurrently being deafened, and then hang around discussing the wondrous characters of their own pooches, before compiling a precise quote for a potential, provisional and unspecified stay for Lula or Macu or Nemo or Niko or Nuca.
Now I am at this point compelled to mention the guy who turned up last night in exactly this fashion, except that he had managed to deter the wife and kids and mother-in-law and next-door neighbour from coming along for the ride and was therefore solo apart from his dog.
“How much would it cost me to leave Rocky here for a week?” I was asked. Medium-sized dog rate, less discount for a stay of seven days or more – I calculated quickly and gave him his answer.
At which he promptly handed me the lead, with Rocky attached.
“See you next Friday, then”
Okayyyy. Don’t mind me, I live and breathe my work.
Dogs, on the other paw completely, are obsessive sticklers for time. They know exactly to the nanosecond when it is time for breakfast or supper, and will shout out to remind me of the fact with pinpoint accuracy.
I am convinced that all these smart-arsed animal behaviour experts and veterinarians who think that they know all there is to know about the dog have missed a fundamental evolutionary development in the species. Every dog, I have come to realise, is born with a miniature atomic pocket time-piece cunningly concealed about his anatomy – and he’s not afraid to use it.