Living in Spain, warts and all

Posts tagged ‘police’

The Hills are Alive (with the Sound of Si-rens…)

I came to Spain for an easier life. Less stressed, slower, more relaxed.

At the back end of my days in the UK, running a busy accountancy and taxation practice, I suffered frequently from the dreams that have haunted me on and off all my life. The first, that I am in a familiar building but with errors – staircases with gaps in them with chasms below, doorways so narrow that I can barely squeeze through them sideways – and I am in a hurry to reach someone dear to me, but struggle to surmount the obstacles. The second, that I have to make an urgent phone call, but I can’t find the right number, I enter the number incorrectly, I can’t make the buttons respond.

I’m sure that these dreams, or at least some variation on the theme, threaten us all when our waking selves are under pressure.

Last night, I didn’t sleep well. Following our sleuthing with the guardia civíl on Thursday night, I had a visit from two different officers yesterday morning asking me to record to disk all the details we had watched from the hard drive of the camera system. So, never having had the need to do this before, John and I tackled the task, instruction booklet in hand.

When I checked the recorded disk in my computer yesterday afternoon, it scrambled my operating software. Fortunately, I keep a full system back-up, so all was soon recovered – however, I am unable to access any information on the recorded disk. In fact, it is invisible to my computer.

Furthermore, the camera system itself is set to the highest possible resolution, and so manages only to record for a couple of days before looping back on itself to over-record.

Yes – all our video footage of the felons moving up and down the camino in their car has been overwritten.

So last night I tossed and turned, dreaming fitfully of the police station full of odd traps and obstacles that I tried in vain to surmount in order to deliver a charred and warped CD to the desk, while fearing that I would be arrested for destroying vital evidence and impeding the course of justice.

My second stressy dream I actually lived in real life this morning.

As John and I were out in the parrot house feeding the birds and the dogs at around 8am, we heard the sound of a car on the camino, descending into the valley. I groaned, thinking it was the police returning to collect the dreaded disk. John peered out of the parrot house door and up to the camino, and was suddenly galvanised into action.

” It’s the Escort! Phone the police! Phone Juan-Fran!!” he yelled, and darted off to the front of the house towards our own car, opening the double gates at the top of the drive with the remote control as he ran. Jumping in the car, he started her up and then stepped hard on the accelerator, all memories of his lectures to me about allowing her warm-up time before putting her under load flying out of the window.

He burned rubber up the drive, and then left her parked in the middle of our single-track camino, effectively blocking the escape route of Juan-Fran’s thieves.

Meanwhile, I am scrolling through my mobile phone contacts list, looking for Juan-Fran’s number. To no avail. By now, I am sitting in front of the computer with a Google search running for ‘guardia civíl Bullas‘. This gives me a Murcia main desk number for the guardia civíl, which I mis-dial. My ‘stop’ button is a bit dodgy, so I can’t cut it off immediately. When I finally do, I get through to an agente who doesn’t see any need for urgency (“tranquila, chica, tranquila!”) and asks me to repeat myself slowly six times before he tells me that the Bullas cuartel (police station) is not open until 9am, but that he will get a message through to patrol.

I then tried to phone Val, a mutual friend of myself and Juan-Fran, but she doesn’t have his number. She tells me to phone Danielle, her daughter. By this time, the adrenaline rush is making my fingers shake too much to do anything useful apart from whisk eggs so I mis-dial again, fumble and drop the phone, which parts company with its battery on impact with the ground.

Putting the phone back together, switching it back on and entering the password takes an eternity, but eventually I am speaking to Juan-Fran.

“They’re trapped, your thieves – get here NOW!”

“Who….??” he replies.

Juan-Fran … Deborah .. los ladrones …. AHORA MISMO!

Two minutes later, he’s flying towards us along the camino from town, his face a curious mix of delight and seething anger.

He is followed by five guardia civíl patrol cars. By this time, Pedro and all our other neighbours are craning their necks over the fences above us to see what the devil is going on at la casa de los ingleses below them.

The three men in the Escort claimed that they were looking for the footpath so that they could go for a walk. When Juan-Fran challenged them about the number of ‘walks’ they have taken in the last week, they denied having been anywhere near here before; but faced with the fact that they had been seen on cameras which were clearly in view, they subsided. In the boot of the Escort, the police found a little bit of steel, a large knife and a hand axe. The driver’s paperwork was in order but that of his two allies was wildly adrift, so they were carted off in separate patrol cars.

Juan-Fran gave us a huge thumbs-up and drove off after the convoy.

It has taken John until now to flush the adrenaline from his system and actually shut up about it.


The Farce, The Ostrich and Cops and Robbers

It has been levelled at me by those who do not strut the stage of my life alongside me that I spin my exaggerated stories from the imagination of a mind with a tenuous grip on reality.

You don’t share it. Those who do, know otherwise.

Since I last ranted wrote in these hallowed pages five days ago, a couple more Scenes have been added to the current Act as follow. Believe them or not, as you will.

The Farce:

Pursuant to the abortion of the sound tests last week, which occurred because the ayuntamiento had set me a circular problem of cause and effect, I spoke to Salvador, my ingeniero agrónomo. I have the greatest respect for Salvador, even though I should by now own him body and soul, given the teetering stack of crisp notes I have handed him throughout the two years of our acquaintance.

Salvador told me to submit all documentation in my possession immediately, disregarding the absence of the test results. I obeyed.

To cut a long story short, the farce proceeded thus:

To oficina técnica to deliver papers (PUT YOUR LEFT LEG IN); back to ayuntamiento main desk to get papers stamped (YOUR LEFT LEG OUT); back to oficina técnica to lodge papers (IN, OUT, IN, OUT); back to ayuntamiento with justificante for payment of fianza (bond) to reclaim it (and SHAKE IT ALL ABOUT). Upstairs to see an official who needed to hand-write a claim for repayment of fianza (DO THE HOKEY-COKEY); back to reception to lodge claim (and TURN AROUND). Back to oficina técnica to deliver handwritten and stamped claim form for their consideration (and THAT’S WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT!)

In through one door, out through another on a different level. Pure farce. Although had there also been the dropping of trousers, I ‘d have been on the next plane out.

Another mini-farce screening concurrently: yesterday I received a quote from a company for the contract for removal of  poisonous waste from the kennels, which came in at 198€ per annum. I telephoned to speak to the guy in charge to protest the fact that I wouldn’t actually have any poisonous waste to remove.

“Ah, but you will!” he said. “We will need to collect, every six months, all your empty plastic containers that contained dangerous liquids.”

“Like what?” I asked.

“Like cleaning fluids,” he replied.

So the stuff I use for cleaning in the kennels, like floor wash, disinfectant, washing-up liquid and so on, becomes a dangerous waste purely because it is used in a business environment, even though I may use a veritable mountain of the same products in my house and dispose of the containers via the recycling depositories.

Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? And this, from a country that allows supermarkets to stock agua fuerte (literally “strong water”, but in reality hydrochloric acid to you and I) which is clearly marked for authorised use only, and, further more, to stock it on the lowest shelves available just to facilitate its collection by the smallest of mobile infants.

The Ostrich:

I had a phone call two days ago (Wednesday) from Inma, the technician from the authorised sound-testers. She told me that she would be running the tests for acoustic contamination Thursday (yesterday). I therefore scrambled to borrow some noise-makers from kind friends who had taken pity on me and offered up the services of their beloved canines. A big thank you on that score to both Gill and Rosanna.

Inma was very happy that I was able to provide her with nine dogs to test. Despite the fact that the ayuntamiento had assured her that she could test with my own four dogs and extrapolate, she was concerned that these instructions were verbal only and could, of course be later denied.

She commenced testing at 5:30 pm, while the dogs were still at large in the outside garden runs. Despite the various bits of misinformation I have been given by different authorities on the subject, including Salvador, the testing itself was to be fairly minimal. Inma wandered around with a large microphone that bore a huge busby-style hat, attached to a small sound meter. She was to take readings at various points south of the barn, from one end to the other, at around 6pm, and then again at 8pm and 11pm.

So she commenced with the first set of readings. It took her a while, as she dropped down into the scrubland below the kennels to make the sweep, but still it amounted to very little in the way of readings (maybe five or six only, from what I could see). And of course, her passing to and fro in direct view of the dogs caused them to bark where they weren’t doing so before her passage.

Upon her return, she asked if I would take her to the house of my vecino (nemesis neighbour), since she had an appointment (made  by the oficina técnica with the neighbour and then also confirmed by Inma) at 6:30 pm to enter his land, the field directly behind the barn, so she could take readings there. It had to be then, apparently, because he says he never sleeps at the house but returns to his town house. Which will be why he has insisted on sound tests, then.    !*!!**!

This necessitated a car ride, since to reach his place I need to go back towards town and then out along a different camino, despite the fact that I can (should I ever find myself with the overwhelming need so to do) touch his land through the fence at our rear boundary.

As I dropped her off, she was met by el vecino’s daughter, who is a lawyer. Inma asked if I could pick her up again in an hour’s time, and I left her there.

Half an hour later, she reappeared at my door, having walked back on her own.

“??” I said.

“They have denied me access,” she announced.


Apparently the daughter had proclaimed that they were not allowing her to make the tests, because should they turn out to be favourable, we would be granted our licence. And they don’t want that.

Yeah, I said what you have just said, too.

Now, everyone is saying things to me along the lines of “….shooting themselves in the foot”, “…no credibility”, blah-di-blah-di-woof.

But I have a niggling worry about this. It’s the course of action you might expect from a brainless idiot – if I don’t let it happen, they can’t continue. The ostrich syndrome, really. However, this woman is a lawyer and therefore (I’m guessing) not in reality a brainless idiot. So does she know something that we don’t about the stupidity of rules here? If they prevent us from carrying out the tests that they have forced upon us in the first place, can the test in fact be deemed void?

By all that’s just, I’m sure we would all be appalled by such a ridiculous imposition. But hey! this is Spain. I’ll let you know.

and The Cops and Robbers:

As if I didn’t have enough on my plate yesterday, I also got a phone call from a different neighbour, called Juan-Fran. He informed me that a good quantity of steel had been stolen recently from his property, which is the delapidated Mill in the Middle for which our land is named, located between the river and our bottom-most boundary on the western edge of our finca. He asked if I had seen or heard any vehicular movement on the camino, which is the only route down to or up from the mill.

Normally I only hear the comings and goings of cars belonging to my four neighbours up at the top at the entrance to our land, but it just so happened that on Wednesday, as I was feeding the parrots telephone directories to shred (a relatively long-lived toy, for any parrot owners out there!) I heard the passage of a noisy engine dropping into the valley. Because it is fairly unusual, I actually took note of the time. I confessed this to Juan-Fran.

He knows that we have,  in and around the house, video surveillance running in four-day looped recording mode. This is because I detest and refuse to have grilles at our windows and doors, on the basis that I don’t need to feel as though I am imprisoned – possibly an echo from a previous life?

So he asked if we could look back through the recordings. I explained that John was due to arrive here yesterday evening and until he did, I would have no idea about how to set about replaying recorded stuff.

John arrived here around 8:30pm, delivered into my tender care by dear friends Avril and Iain, who had heroically volunteered to do the airport run in my stead given that I was otherwise engaged with the sound engineer. About half an hour later, as we were finishing a coffee, a knock on the door heralded the arrival of Juan-Fran. Without preamble, he asked if we could examine the video footage captured by the camera at our entrance gates that points directly up the camino – and then promptly led in two officers of the Guardia Civíl.

The recording device is in our walk-in wardrobe. The computer screen is on the work desk in our bedroom. We couldn’t immediately put our hands to the remote control for the recorder, so John is up a ladder inside the wardrobe trying to control manually the time, direction of play and speed. Juan-Fran, two cops and myself are in my most personal space huddled around the screen looking for the movement of a vehicle.

Fortunately, because I had made a note of the approximate time that I had heard the engine noise the day before, we didn’t have to trawl too much. However, John was replaying at 64x and at that speed it is virtually impossible to pick up the passage of a vehicle across the camera field. But we had an eagle-eyed cop with us who managed to spot a blip that the rest of us could not. So with John trying desperately to fine-control the thing with four different people shouting “There! Stop! Back a bit! Slowly! Forward a little!” and so on, we finely managed to freeze the offending vehicle mid-frame.

From this, we managed to read all but the last letter of the matriculation plate (about an hour after we’d started) and everyone patted backs and congratulated each other. The police were profusely grateful (it can’t be a bad thing, I suppose) and Juan-Fran was ecstatic.

As they filed out, John turned to me and said, “I’ve only just arrived and they didn’t even give me time to draw breath!”

Welcome to my world, hun. And I have witnesses.




A quick mid-week post, if I may.

Or rant, rather. I do apologise if I’m becoming a crashing bore about the subject of opening a business in Spain and the impossibilities thereof, but I feel the world should know. Besides which, if I don’t hammer this into my keyboard to relieve the tension then my head will surely explode.

Today was the day of the sound testing in the new kennels. This, you may recall, is one of the absurd conditions that I am obliged to fulfil before the ayuntamiento will grant me my licencia de apertura.

So yesterday the firm I have paid to carry out the tests duly notified the Medioambiente (environment) powers-that-be 24 hours in advance, as required, and at 16:30 today I went to meet the engineer at the motorway exit to guide them in.

As we parked up at the barns and exchanged greetings and pleasantries, Inma (the engineer) commented that it was really quiet, and that she couldn’t actually hear any dogs.

“Errrr,” I said, trying to realign the cogs in my fast-fading brain. “That’ll be because it’s not open yet.”

She looked at me all cock-eyed. “But I spoke to the oficina técnica in Bullas last week to ascertain exactly what tests they require me to carry out. They said I was to test the noise of dogs you have in there!”

“But I can’t have dogs in there until I have the licence to open, and I can’t get that without the tests!!”

She looked perplexed. After some consideration, she then suggested that we could do one of two things. We could put my four dogs in the kennels for the night, measure their noise levels and extrapolate. Or she could go away and speak to the oficina técnica again tomorrow to enquire how exactly they wanted to test a business not yet open.

If we opt for the former, it would expedite matters but there is a possibility that they won’t be content with it and may ask for a second test (another 700€ cost to me!).  If we follow the second course of action, I will have to pay around 50€ for the extra journey undertaken by the engineer and the process will take longer. Of course, I should be able to look to the ayuntamiento to foot that, shouldn’t I?. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA JAJAJAJAJAJAJA (manic laughter in both english and spanish).

I asked if the instruction she had been given by the oficina técnica were verbal or written.

“Oh, verbal only,” she laughed. “Nobody in Spain writes things down if they can avoid it.”

It’s a no-brainer, then. I’ll pay the extra 50€ and she can challenge the oficina técnica tomorrow about their specific requirements. In writing. To be fair, bless her, she did say she’d accelerate the reporting to compensate for the delay.

About five minutes after she’d left, the policía local arrived to oversee the test (high national risk again, obviously) so I had to send them packing, too.

So the ayuntamiento have set me a circular problem. No licence, no dogs – no dogs, no test – no test, no licence.

They either have the brain of an amoeba or they are fiendishly clever. What do you reckon?

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