Living in Spain, warts and all

The kennels are now open for business at last (YAY!!), although I still have some additional papers to submit.

One such piece of paper is a contract for cleaning. I actually have that in my grubby paw now, having exchanged it for four crisp 50€ notes. It was handed to me, along with a thick maintenance book, by a technician who at the same time placed four black mouse traps full of poison at strategic positions in the three barn zones that are not a part of the business, and in the kitchen, which is. Whether or nor I approve.

He also tells me that he has sprayed some sort of insecticide, although where, I didn’t witness.

Further, he has totally disinfected the loo. Which is brand new. And use of which I can count on one finger. He went in with a ghostbusters pack on his back, but no mask, and emerged a few minutes later instructing me to keep out for five minutes, for my own health.

No problem, I hear that from John all the time.

So – good money for extremely old rope? But at least it satisfies yet another requirement of the iltmo ayuntamiento, and leaves me just two itsy bitsy things more to sort: the plan of the fences, and the fianza (deposit). Until they up the ante again, of course.

I did hear mutterings about disabled access when the three wise men of the oficina técnica were here to inspect. They were debating the possibility of giving me grief about the step into our reception area. In this PC world, it wouldn’t surprise me at all – although I am, in all honesty, unsure quite how many people are going to drive their limited mobility vehicle into the campo with dog and wheelchair on board.

Then, of course, we would by extrapolation be asked to fill in all potholes in the camino so that the same wheelchairs can slalem down the camino to the river without upending (or at least, not until they reach the bottom).

I mentioned in passing earlier this year (Three deaths, a murder and a plethora of paper cuts) that I have a mangled thumb. This came about late October last as John and I were insulating and lining the roof of the kennels.

John was perched on a ladder guiding a sheet of plasterboard (2440 x 1220mm, if you’re interested) into place while I was stood below winding the lifter. This particular piece of machinery is one of those simple but indispensable tools without which the job would involve ten times the struggle, twenty times the sweat and a hundred times the swearing, and we were immensely grateful to have it onside.

The job required some fifty sheets of plasterboard in total. We were, typically, within striking distance of the end of it. Then, as I turned the winder for the final push to hold this particular board up to the rafters, the cable broke.

The whole platform, together with its load, came crashing down about my ears. My right hand, which had been on the winding handle, was thrown into the wheel, which spun violently in pace with the descending platform.

It took a mere two seconds, at the end of which I was bent double floundering in a sea of intense pain and nausea. John shouted at me. This, I have to say, is his usual reaction. As a firefighter, he is a qualified trauma technician and is the one who has to deal with some unspeakable injuries in the course of duty. But when it comes to any sort of damage to me, he keeps his distance and yells at me.

Always full of abject apologies after the event, he confesses that he cannot deal with injuries I might sustain and he shouts because he is scared.

That’s OK, then.

Anyhow, the thumb. I went to A&E for x-rays, but was informed that it was just tendonitis – that I had to take anti-inflammatories and wear a thumb support. I did this for several months, but nothing much seemed to be improving. My thumb is still swollen and distorted – I cannot straighten it, I cannot clench it, I cannot open jars, write, or pick anything up without dropping it again. It’s a mess, in a word.

So I then visited the GP, who sent me back to hospital to trauma, who then sent me for an MRI scan this past Tuesday.

Upon being called, I entered an antechamber, to be met by the radiologist who told me to strip off completely and don one of those see-through paper gowns with no back ties. I looked at him askance. I’ve heard bad jokes that start like this. Undress? For a poorly thumb?

Yes indeed. Unaccustomed as I am, I was unaware that my entire body would be thrust inside the huge torpedo of electromagnets and so needed to be, to all intents and purposes, naked. My hand was locked tight in a small box by my side – so small that I emerged with additional bruises, in case it wasn’t already uncomfortable enough. A pair of headphones were stuck unceremoniously on my head and I was instructed in no uncertain terms not to move. Not a muscle. Not a twitch nor a flutter.

No pressure, then. I’m lying there trying my damnedest not to breathe, but in fact I’m almost panting because I’m a tad claustrophobic and I am not enjoying the confines of the tube in the slightest. Then began the immense cacophony of noise.

Zip-zip-zip-zip-zip CRASH! rumblerumblerumble … ye gods, I can see the need now for the headphones. Twenty minutes of this (not long, he’d stated) was going to feel like an eternity.

But then, given my current inability to satisfy my need for nightly rest, I must have drifted into sleep.

Only to be startled back to the present by another sudden particularly loud and intrusive explosion of noise. Now I don’t know about you, but one of the parts most likely to move when I am rudely awoken is my hand. Then the headphones crackled into life. “Deborah!!” I heard his voice, tinny yet undeniably furious, “You must stay completely still. It’s ruined – we’ll have to run it again!”

So my twenty minutes stretched to forty-odd, and I lay there desperately trying to stay alert this time but unable even to pinch myself.

At least I fared a  little better than Marcos, though.

Marcos is our Podenco/Irish Wolfhound/bull mammoth/donkey cross, named for the saint on whose day he came to be mine four years ago. At the outset, he was a large and fluffy puppy. As he’s grown, he has become more and more hirsute, and his shaggy coat has become pretty disreputable with knots and snags and various embedded pieces of tree.

So I decided it was high time for a trim. I have in the past attempted to carry out this operation myself, but after the total ruination of several sets of John’s hair clippers, I have come to the conclusion that they are not man enough for this particular job, so I booked him into the veterinary clinic for professional grooming.

“A good trim,” quoth I, “To remove all the tangles and make him look tidier.”

OMG.

MARCOS BEFORE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARCOS AFTER

Pobrecito!

Thank the gods it’ll grow again …

Much to my own great surprise, I loved this book. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

When I started reading, I took an instant dislike to Sarah, the main character. Her introduction portrays a woman suffering from a degree of immobility and pain resulting from an old accident – petulant and irascible in turns, and clingy and manipulative with her long-suffering daughter, she is exactly the sort of character for which I have little time and much scorn. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to stick with it.

The acuity of Jae´s writing pulled me in, however. Her style is exceptionally clear, well-constructed and honest.  And as I became more involved with the slowly-building picture of Sarah’s past, and her arrival in the ‘now’, my attitude changed, just as I feel it was meant to do.

As her journey of self-discovery continues, so does Sarah’s analysis of her relationships with those around her. This analysis is insightful, clear and sometimes brutally honest, but beautifully written throughout. I particularly liked many of the short, sharp philosophies that were expressed, and found myself nodding in accord with many of them.

A fairly surprising journey to Spain by Sarah brought me to my home ground, and I read with delight the masterful descriptions of places and atmosphere that flowed from Jae’s pen.

The finale was just as it should be, because I like to close a book feeling content with the outcome.

Impressed as I was, I have bought this book a number of times over to gift away. An exceptional first novel.

Jo Parfitt is mistress of the pen and of the word. With 27 non-fiction books to her name, including cookbooks, guides for career management, coaching for creative writers, even computer handbooks, she has inspired many budding authors by “sharing what I know to help others grow” and with her ‘brainwave to bookshelf’ tutorials.

Sunshine Soup is her first novel. It is, by her own admission, the book that has scared her the most to write. God! There’s no hope for the rest of us mere mortals, then!

The book is most definitely an expat book, though the narrative flows around fictional characters rather than the more usual memoirs. So rumour has it, anyway – it is very hard not to suspect that there is a large piece of Jo in Maya, the main character, with her in-depth knowledge of Dubai, her abiding love of her therapeutic kitchen and her propensity to encourage people around her to flourish.

I started the book knowing nothing of Dubai. The visuals drummed up by Jo’s compelling descriptions brought it to life for me, and give a very solid background setting for the very real characters that are splashed across the canvas.

The issues of being an expat wife, trailing spouse, or whatever label is currently fashionable, are very clearly stated. With Maya, it is the wrench of leaving behind a business partnership into which she had poured energy and devotion, and the subsequent realisation that she will not be allowed to work in her new life. The coming to terms with the lack of direction, even in her own home, where she feels guilty about the undertaking of any task to which the housemaid lays prior claim. The loneliness of being a freshly arrived alien, whose kids go off to school to sink or swim without her assistance.

With Barb, it is the self-created trap of the furious filling to the brim of  her time, just to avoid her own company and empty moments that would give room for reflection on sad events and on her fulfilling partner-role. Her heavy-handed involvement in and organisation of just about all things available for input makes her the dependable one, the one who is always there, always strong – quite a formidable character, but everyone has secrets, and their own Achilles heel, and she is no exception.

With other characters, Jo delivers further insights into the various and myriad difficulties that come hand-in-hand with the life of the expat wife.

There were  two aspects of the book that I especially liked. The first is its ability to encompass the viewpoint of the working spouse, too – Maya’s husband, Rich, as the shaker and mover in the expatriation, also has a tale to tell of his own problems in his new environment.

The second is the glimpse we are allowed into a couple of Arab relationships, as their unfolding stories intertwine with the expat narratives.

All in all, a colourful, honest, and sensitive while informative book that I enjoyed thoroughly.

Oh,  and by the way – as a bonus, Jo generously shares with us the mouth-watering recipes served up through the narrative. Love it!

‘Just imagine the absurdity of two openly gay, recently married, middle-aged, middle class men escaping the liberal sanctuary of anonymous London to relocate to a Muslim country’.

Thus opens Jack’s book and blog, both of the same name and both of which tell of the ecstasies and the agonies of his expatriation with hubby Liam.

The relocation, purely and simply a total kick-back against the chafing demands of predictable office life (and, in Liam’s case, against the personification of furry handcuffs in the form of his boss), was, after some consideration, to Türkiye.

The choice was heavily influenced by Budget, who accompanied them at the negotiating table whenever and wherever. It was Budget who insisted that Turkey would allow Jack and Liam a better chance of fiscal survival than, say, Spain – even though Spain would probably have been the more sensible choice over a Muslim country, albeit a moderate one, for gay men with a propensity to shout, “I am what I am!”

Actually, many of Jack’s challenges did not, in the end, come from Turkish attitudes, although a homophobic murder and the snatching of a small child are of course immensely challenging. No – his biggest source of problems were to be found amongst the expat community. Here, Jack has excelled – he has compiled a whole new lexicon of terms for the various shades of expat. I won’t spoil the fun by naming them, but Jack’s somewhat scary caricatures of expat types are both undeniably spot-on and hilarious.

In fact, most of Jack’s writing is very funny, apart from the few areas of pathos. He observes people pithily, taking no prisoners. But he also writes descriptive passages with mastery, painting landscapes and creating moods excellently.

I thoroughly enjoyed Perking the Pansies – it is one of those books that I was sorry to have finished, and I look forward with immense anticipation to the follow-up.

Nice one, Jack!

 

Apple Gidley has written a book that made my jaw drop.

I thought that our move to Spain, the cultural differences we encountered, the struggles we’ve had with legal issues, the problems of living lives as part-time partners – well, I thought them momentous, and I have probably been more than a little self-congratulatory in our ability to come through it all.

Apple puts me to such shame that I might never be able to write again!

Born in 1958, the same year as myself, to an english father and an australian mother, her expat wanderings began at the tender age of one month. Pretty good, huh, for someone who couldn’t even crawl yet? (Well, I assume not, but I could be persuaded otherwise, having read of all her other amazing achievements).

Apple has gone on to move 26 times  and has lived in 12 different countries (from Africa to Australasia and Melanesia, Europe to the Caribbean and America). She talks from a wealth of experience about being an expat child, an expat wife, an expat mother and now an expat grandmother.

The depth of subjects covered has left me astounded, awed, maybe jealous and certainly full of admiration. Apple speaks of the joy and heartache of loving and leaving (or losing) pets, including her pet monkey, Munnings. Of the problems faced by a nomadic child who must constantly make new friends in different places, different manners, with different religions, different languages. Of finding a constant in her boarding school but then encountering difficulties in going home to ever-changing locations for school holidays. Of living a single life, even within a partnership, and then frequently being a single mother. Of the need to maintain familial relationships, to fulfil familial obligations, deal with familial problems, over great distances. Of change, change and more change.

Apple’s book is written with deep insight and some immensely evocative descriptions, but still remains light enough to feel that it is not an instructional piece, which in reality it is, very much. My interest was retained excellently by clever movements back and forward through time as each slice of wisdom demanded, and the whole picture became filled like a colour-by-numbers scene, with all hues, painted individually, finally melding together to make one gloriously colourful masterpiece.

Highly recommended.

Apple, I salute you!

 

 

I have reached that age at which I am sprouting.

Not a luxuriant moustache. Not a navel carpet. Not even hairy legs.
No. My eruptions are one layer removed from my body, in that they are occurring in my pockets.

Pieces of paper work their way from every niche in my clothing and float to the floor wherever I am. I have been taken over by listmania.

If it ain’t written down, it’s not getting done.

As an aside, I will also confess to you this: I realised recently that I am also beginning to suffer with that terrible affliction of advancing years – namus forgettimus. This manifested itself suddenly and without warning when I went to summon my poor hubby for coffee recently and he was bewildered to find himself addressed as “Cookie .. Marcos .. Ben .. Jack … JOHN!”

So – the lists.

In my defence, I really do have a plethora of things to do on a daily basis – some of them are quick (or should be, were we not in Spain), others are a little more lengthy and require a hefty time slot of attention.

Yesterday I went forth with a list of seventeen items. These ranged in difficulty from calling at the post office, paying bills and talking to suppliers for the kennels, trying to communicate with the mayor and local television to arm-wrestle them into having a presence at our up-coming open day on 22 April, and going to hospital to book an MRI appointment for my poor mangled thumb, to answering in-depth interview questions for a new book by Debs Jenkins, to be called Secrets of Successful Expats.

Talking of books (and expats), I have also been promising for a while to read and review a few books in the expat genre, since it is transparently close to my heart. Obviously, this sort of undertaking consumes a lot more time than, say, going to the bank sending an internet order for dog bowls; and the task of writing reviews has been a permanent fixture on my brought-forward lists for a few weeks now.

Silly, really – I love to read and do not get a fraction of the opportunity that I would like. Then why have I been dancing round a pile of four scrummy-looking books, studiously looking the other way?

The problem is that when I get into a good book, I cannot piece-read – I devour it until it is all gone, like a giant slab of chocolate. Which means that I generally spend a few days after finishing an absorbing literary offering looking like a pugilistic panda, having read until la madrugada alba (daybreak). It also means that all the piddly little things on my manifold lists get ignored totally, which has not been an option lately, with the multitudinous demands made of me by my revered friends in Town Planning.

Anyhow – the lists (again).

Yesterday my halo was shining brighter than the north star.

I managed to tick off thirteen items from my to-do sheet, including the interview and the entire reading list. Today I feel five kilos lighter.
Now all I have to do is write the reviews …

As far as anything can be considered conclusive in Spain, I have to say that this week has indeed been a week of endings.

On Wednesday I called at the caja (cashpoint) to draw some cash from our personal bank account, in the knowledge that the balance was getting perilously close to the edge. To my surprise, I was greeted with a balance reading some 3,500€ greater than expected. On investigation, I find that I have received my refund of IVA for the December quarter with more rapidity than expected.

My first item of consternation, though, is that the deposit has been made into my personal account. At the outset, I was instructed quite clearly by my assessor to open a dedicated business bank account, details of which he holds in relation to all business transactions. He has never had my personal account details. So how did that happen, then?

On Thursday I had a call from the oficina técnica to say that their inspectors would be calling on Friday to check that all works had been carried out in accordance with the submitted project documents. I therefore called the office of the engineers who carried out the sound tests, because their report was the only outstanding item from the “condiciones” list that details all necessary items for submission before the licencia de apertura can be issued. So Thursday evening (blimey! what efficiency!) this report was couriered to me. And I am pleased to report that we passed at every point and at every time of measurement. Result!

On Friday morning, when the three técnicos arrived from the ayuntamiento, I had all papers ready to submit.

One técnico (the oldest and clearly the most senior) hit us immediately with the complaint that we had not submitted plans to put up fencing or to put gravel down on the land within its perimeter. We pointed out that the fencing merely replaced old and rusty fencing that already existed in front of the kennels on the terrace edge. Also that gravel was required given that in wet weather the land would otherwise become nothing more than primaeval soup – as witnessed quite graphically by the state of his previously pristine quality leather shoes.

But he was having none of it. Apparently our ingeniero should have included in the project a detailed plan of the whole terrace area, rather than just the barn and the new runs in front of it. So we now have to submit further plans. Salvador, the ingeniero, thinks they are trying to expand the scope of the project so that they can hit us with extra licence fees …

The youngest of the técnicos scurried about with a camera, taking more pictures than even the most self-respecting wedding photographer – presumably so they have a full visual record and can therefore easily check at any point that we don’t sneak an extra brick into the finished product.

The third técnico sat down in the kennels office with me to go through the list of papers.

But his list bore absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to the one I received with my consent papers.

When I queried this, he blithely replied that these were all additional requirements. Oh! Forgive me! I have been so busy, what with the damned project and the chasing up of all things necessary according to the first list, that I have been sadly remiss in attending my bloody TELEPATHY LESSONS.

So I have to chase even more papers! The most ridiculous and potentially expensive of which is that I am now obliged to have a contract for cleaning with an authorised DDD business (desratizaciones, desinsectaciones, desinfecciones). This, on top of the contract for removal of poisonous residues, and the contract for removal of cadavers. I want to know if every other commercial dog kennels in this country have to fulfil this list too, or is it just me?

The general opinion amongst my friends (of all nationalities) is that the powers-that-be haven’t got the foggiest idea what is in fact required, given that nobody has ever before asked el iltmo ayuntamiento de Bullas for such a licence before, and so they are making it up as they go along, and are throwing everything possible at me just to cover their own backs.

Sounds highly plausible to me.

Anyway, I managed to get together the rest of the second list quite quickly- apart from the new plan from Salvador and the DDD contract, and a further fianza (deposit) that I have to lodge for the duration of the business (quite why, nobody can really explain to me). So I went back to the oficina técnica before close of play on Friday.

There, they also made me sign a document that stated the following:

The existing building does not respect the distance from boundaries required by (… relevant law) even though it  is considered out of ordenance (because it is older than the legislation). In these circumstances, I can only be granted a  provisional licence (eight years, they’ve given me).
For all this I pledge to stop using or to demolish the works and installations when the ayuntamiento requires it, explicitly renouncing any right to compensation.

Not particularly reassuring, is it?

As I was on the point of being dismissed, I lost my cool a little. I said that I really had no resources left to pay for more plans, or more contracts, or another fianza – that I need to begin to trade. I was, at this point, frustrated to the verge of tears.
Probably, therefore, because they really didn’t want to have to deal with a major hissy fit on my part in their offices so close to lunch time, I was at last given a document that stated that I could begin to trade immediately as long as I undertook to present the outstanding documents within one month.

HALLELUJAH!!

Two years and one month after I was first granted the right, in principle, to pursue this undertaking, I am finally
OPEN FOR BUSINESS.

I went into the police station (policía local) on Saturday morning, to ask if I needed a licence (or at least permission) to hold an open day for a new business on Sunday 22nd April.

The police officer on the desk, whom I have never seen before (he certainly wasn’t involved in the Mucky, Sticky and Loopy episode) looked me in the eye and said, “Oh, for the residencia canina de lujo?”
“Er, yes,” I replied tentatively, wondering how the hell he would know that.
“Very nice,” he continued, chattily. “Will you be running it on your own?”
I looked at him quizzically.
“I mean, with your husband being a fireman in the UK,” he explained.

OK, now I’m really afraid.

How White is my Valley

In the last few days the temperature here has held out at a beneficent 26-28ºC.

As we have been working outside the barn on the landscaping that we’d planned to do once the kennels were open, John has been wearing shorts and nothing more. He is currently carrying off a fine impersonation of a certain crustacean after its proteins have been denatured. Personally, I allow myself neither that degree of exposure to the sun’s rays nor to potential small predators with lots of legs (a spider bite too far), so I’m still a normal flesh colour.

During the whole of last night I tossed and turned, able to sleep only fitfully due to the thrum of heavy rainfall and the intermittent blasts of gusting wind. This morning I arose to snow. A thick and crisp layer underfoot, fat flakes falling densely, temperatures stuck firmly at 0ºC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The two youngest dogs, Saphi and Suki, are having a ball – they have never seen snow before but are lovin’ it. They are racing up and down the 50m length of their garden, diving head-first into the drifts and coming up shaking, biting at the falling crystals, their tails wagging furiously and grinning from ear to ear. Qivi, who as a husky should also revel in such weather (you’d think), has retreated to his bed in their large corridor-kennel and is packed full of disinterest. Marcos, being half elephant, half beached whale and half something doggy, only ever moves for food and found out within moments that snow isn’t much fun on the palate.

John, now fully togged in several layers of thick clothing topped off with a North Face jacket and heavy-duty hiking boots, is in and out as I type, cursing purpose-bought snow chains that are fighting back as he attempts to fit them to the car tyres. Without some assistance, we are unable to drive the car from its parking spot at house level up the steep drive and further on up the camino to the rim of the valley. But we need to get out – today was planned as a food shopping day and we need most essentials.

…………….. Apologies for a long pause, but our electricity supply kicked off at that point and has been absent, along with our internet connection, pretty much all day. We did manage to make it into town for some shopping, but found that the whole of Bullas was also suffering electrical outage, and so our supermarket was peopled only by staff lurking inside closed doors, unable to serve as tills were down. The snow continued to fall until mid-afternoon, and temperatures stayed supine at freezing point, so we still have a thick white cover outside.

Clara managed to trudge through it all from Juan-Fran’s house to ours, bearing a large apple cake for us. I am beginning to fear for my waistline as a direct result of our apprehension of her thieves! Speaking of which, Clara informs us that they were not imprisoned. Apparently, on the day of our road block, they had come away from her mill empty-handed, since Juan-Fran had moved all remaining steel to safety before-hand. They were not, therefore, caught red-handed, as it were.

She tells us that they were, in the end, fined 90€ each for carrying false documents.

Next time, this’ll be us:

Lost and ignored

Here’s the thing.

I swore that this weekend I was going to put aside all the irritations that have dogged me throughout the course of the creation of esPerro, our residencia canina de lujo, whose job it is to change our lives this year and bring John to live here permanently so that I no longer have to be a Part-Time Wife.

I planned to write a fluffy little post about new-born lambs, spring blossoms, the industry of bees and the next fiesta.

Then I went to the oficina técnica this morning.

The reason for the trip is that, although I went in on the second of March and submitted the large sheaf of papers required to request the inspection of works so that we can perhaps sidle a little closer to the issuing of the licencia de apertura, I have heard nothing more from them in the intervening two weeks.

I turned up at reception at just shy of nine o’clock of the morning, my reasoning being that at that time surely no-one would yet be at their almuerzo (mid-morning breakfast, usually a half-hour time slot somewhere between ten and half-eleven, and always chosen to coincide with my need to speak to the breakfaster). No-one was in sight, even though the receptionist’s coat and bag were slung over the back of her chair.

So I made myself comfortable in the waiting area … and waited.

Around half an hour later the receptionist emerged from a room half-way down one of the corridors off the reception area. She flopped into her chair, dropping a thick sheaf of papers onto her desk and sighed. Then she drew her mobile phone from a pocket in her cardigan and began to compose a text message, oblivious to my presence.

I cleared my throat loudly and she nearly went through the roof. Registering  that it was me, she grabbed her desk phone and punched a number. “Deborah is here,” she pronounced, as though my visit was anticipated and, furthermore, with dread.

“Please wait just a moment,” she then passed the message to me.

A further thirty minutes later, I was beckoned into an office to face an official gazing at me across his desk over steepled fingers. “Yes?” he asked, in the tone of a man who had spent the last half hour in a meeting at which a tiresome task was allocated by the pulling of straws.

I told him I wanted a progress update – that I am now about to complete my third month of paying my social security contribution without yet being able to earn a penny.

He sighed loudly, as if I was trying his patience. “Deborah, you need to submit your fin de obras (end of works) certificate before we can inspect and consider issuing your licence.”

“Señor,” I replied scathingly, “That was submitted two weeks ago. Here is my copy of the solicitud, captured at the ayuntamiento desk on second March at 09:15 hours.” (You smug bastard).

He sat up then. “Show me!” he exclaimed. “But I haven’t seen this!” He started rifling ineffectively through the stacks of files on his desk. “No,” he proclaimed. “It is certainly not here!”

Then he jumped up and hurried from the room with my proof, muttering about taking a copy.

When he returned, he told me graciously that he would try to arrange a final inspection within a week, hopefully to coincide with the report regarding the sound tests.

I asked why the licence could not be issued now, in line with the new government initiative being piloted in the Murcia region this month that allows the opening of a business to be expedited, with paperwork to follow. I was informed loftily that it wasn’t applicable to Bullas. An autonomous region within an autonomous region, huh? More likely that they haven’t found the piece of paper informing them of this initiative amongst the piles of pending files on their desk, since they appear unable to find their arse with both hands.

By the way, my proof of submission, along with all other communication from the town hall, comes with a big banner headline that says Iltmo. Ayuntamiento de Bullas

Iltmo. is apparently an abbreviation of ilustrísimo  (illustrious). I regret that the word that sprang to my mind, and, I feel, probably always will, was iligítimo.

OK, I’ll try to be fluffy next time …

So we arrived at the courthouse this morning at 09:30, as (forcefully) instructed.

It is a new, large and faceless construction of brick and glass on the outskirts of Mula with (thank the gods) parking spaces. Right inside the large glass entrance doors is a body scanner, the like of which it is necessary to pass through semi-naked at any airport in order to avoid the embarrassment of an alarm. Only in this case, it was necessary merely to place my handbag on a tray beside the portal before passing through to retrieve it unchecked on the inside.

We can only be grateful that it is impossible to hide a gun or a knife in a handbag, then.

We were led upstairs to the first floor, to be seated on a hard and unforgiving bench in a long and bland corridor alongside Juan-Fran and his mother, Clara.

Despite the fact that this building is less than a year old, it is very poorly appointed. The loos on the first floor were locked and accessible only to staff with keys. We mere mortals waiting interminably to say our piece were obliged to take a lift down to the basement to a couple of basic, cold and frankly rank toilets.

Upon asking if there was a cafetería or at the very least a vending machine so that we could purchase water, we were informed that we would have to leave the building, cross the dual carriageway and use the bar on the opposite side.

And so we waited, fidgeting, bored and thirsty.

At around 11:00am, our drama magnet kicked into action when a large family of spaniards arrived in the foyer below making more noise than should be humanly possible. The most senior member of the group, a small but pugnacious elderly man, snarling and shouting and trying to throw punches, was man-handled back outside by security. The rest ascended to our floor and continued their deafening discourse there.

Suddenly there arose a wailing from their midst as the senior female decided to have an anxiety attack and fell to the floor, chest heaving and eyes rolling.  Doors up and down the corridor opened like a choreographed piece and heads popped out in unabashed  synchronised nosiness, as the group around the prostrate woman swelled both in number and in volume. Other female members of the family group took up the wailing as backing vocals to their lead singer, and kept it up without faltering until ambulance staff appeared and whisked away the offending woman on an office chair.

Apparently it was all to do with an inheritance. Figures. Where there’s a will, there’s a family.

Anyhow, it broke the monotony for a wee while.

John was losing the plot rapidly. He doesn’t sit still for very long at the best of times, and this wasn’t one of them. Already angry that he had been obliged to give up the whole morning yesterday in the guardia civíl station, he was pacing up and down the corridor like an expectant though reluctant father. At one point he announced that there were 484 tiles on the floor, which caused some mirth. He was also threatening to walk out and come back only in esposas (handcuffs …. or wives, for some reason).

At one point he bundled up his coat and lay full length on one of the benches further along the corridor. By this time, there was no-one else around but us. Oh, and a security guard, who wasted no time in approaching John and telling him to sit up. John, of course, did not understand so the guy repeated himself angrily and gestured for John to get up from the bench. I interjected quickly although I felt it unneccessary for the guard to be so heavy-handed. Give a man a uniform, eh?

We were finally called in one by one to give our testimony in front of the judge at around midday. All bar John, that is, who doesn’t speak spanish. He was asked if he had brought an interpreter with him and he indicated that I would do it. Of course, this is not acceptable since I was also a witness, and so they had to call in an interpreter for him.

It probably won’t surprise anyone to know that the interpreter finally arrived from Cartagena (some 80km away) at around 2:45pm. Obviously there is not an interpreter to be had in Murcia, the capital city of the region, just 25km away from the courthouse. Who’d have thought?

Finally, we were shown out of the courthouse by a back door, to avoid the large group of bulgaros (obviously related to the three accused) who were waiting for us at the front door.

The parting shot from the court scribe was that we are to keep our mobiles open on Wednesday in case we are called again. And you can bet your life they won’t have an interpreter ready if we are. Though John will almost certainly be elsewhere anyway.

We got home just before 4pm, another whole day wasted in our new guise as ‘good citizens’.

 

Clara, by the way, has just this minute arrived at our gate with a huge bag of cakes and pastries for John – ‘to replace the energy he used in pacing this morning’.  Bless.

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