Wednesday, June 27, 2007

One good turn.....

.....deserves another.

The other day Shopping Partner came back from hunter-gathering, and unloaded the Land Rover Santana. Which is parked on the street outside the house.

We carefully unpacked everything and started cooking lunch.

I say we, he actually did everything, but the principle is the same.

An hour or so later the neighbours called out.

"Is that yours?"

Is what ours?....

Shopping, Cooking, Unloading Partner had only left his bag containing vehicle papers, passport, reading glasses, Swiss Army Knife, Multiplier, Georgio Armani sunglasses (that I always resented paying for) sitting outside on the bonnet for an hour or two.

Clearly the village is still pretty honest.

So the other morning when DogWalking Partner went past next door's house, he noticed the car window was wide open.

He called for Jose, who came out and promptly opened the door (unlocked) to check nothing had been stolen.

The CD player was still there and everything was obviously untouched.

Seems the younger part of the family had gone to the beach for the evening, rolled back home around 3.30 am - after a few drinks down the beach with their mates - and just fallen out of the car and staggered into the house. Obviously without securing the car.

Jose went off to berate the younger generation and Partner continued dogwalking. He doesn't usually go that way, total coincidence, and no damage had been done. But it doesn't hurt to look out for your neighbours - or anyone really.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Cutting you off

Helpful Partner went off to earn his keep. Shopping and paying the water bill. (Remember - the water bill can't be paid in the village bank.)

So while he's in the water office, the guy in front was trying to explain - not unreasonably - that he didn't want his water cut off. The account wasn't yet in his name and it seemed like the previous occupant hadn't paid up.

Apparently he had received a letter saying the water company would be cutting off the water. Mañana, muy temprano. Yes Saturday. People work on Saturdays here. A lot of our neighbours work every day.

The woman rang the Cutting Off Department, and it was agreed that if Guy In Front brought in his title deeds and provided the number of the meter - today - then the cutting off would be cancelled.

Guy In Front sent his teenage son, who had accompanied him, back home to find the deeds and meter number. On the motor bike. Son promptly left skid lid on counter and went off, leaving Guy In Front sitting patiently in the office.

Don't know what happened then because Helpful Partner paid and cleared off too. But we have some empathy with this.

When we bought GibFlat, our blond hairdressing vendor (who, according to our estate agent had suffered a disastrous encounter with a peroxide monster) didn't seem to think (us) paying over the money and signing the papers (all of us) meant that she had to move out of the flat. Well, not for a few days anyway. Just until she had got herself sorted.

Lawyers command vast sums for conveyancing in Gib, but as part of that service, it seems to include ensuring all the bills are up-to-date and there is a straightforward handover. Her lawyer asked if she had done the transfer of bills stuff. "No," she said. Actually it was "Non." She rolled her pretty eyes helplessly. Underneath the mass of blond hair.

"OK," he said patiently. And to his colleague, "Can you give her forms 123XYZ?"

"Yes. Er, no. I don't seem to have them. I'll need to get them from the office." (We were sitting in a formal boardroom sort-of-place for the Official Signing and Handover of Keys - Hah!).

As an aside, had my lawyer been asking for the last few weeks if this had been done? Yes. Had it? No.

So once we're finally in our flat and had our first night in there, the entryphone rang early the next morning.

Well obviously it was a mistake because we didn't know anyone. But I answered anyway. Couldn't hear because I had ringing in my ears so I let them in and then went down to confront Gibraltar's major criminals gaining false entry to flats. Or so my paranoid British mind ran.

It was the electricity board. They looked pretty straight. GibElec and not GibCrims. They wanted to cut off our electricity. The previous owner had given notice to stop the service - not transfer - so here they were, prompt and efficient.

I said - after a very long pause - that cutting off the electricity wasn't exactly what we had expected. And we had only bought the flat the day before.

Apparently if I ran down to the electricity office - immediately - clutching ID and some money for a deposit for the connection, this might be avoided. I went. And fast. Just as I finished averting the cut-off, the woman's parting shot was..."Have you been to the water office yet? They will cut you off too."

Well, the good thing about living in central Gib is that everything is near. So, next stop, water office. I don't like lifts, climbed the millions of stairs, and dutifully waited. Only to find I needed my title deeds (in the Land Registry), or at the least, a photocopy with a signed letter on headed paper from my lawyer. Oh, and the cut-off was scheduled. She didn't know if she could avoid it. But she would try.

Next stop the lawyer's office. Only three flights of stairs. Letter and photocopy in hand I again climbed the millions of stairs to the water office. I tried to avoid the chairs which are nastily positioned near horrible floor-length glass windows on this far-too-high floor.

My turn. The same efficient woman took my papers. Photocopied everything. Keyed in the details. Rang the Cutting Off Department. Yes, it could be cancelled. I nearly kissed her feet. Except they were under the desk and I couldn't see them. I was a bit hot and sweaty too from the hike up the stairs so I don't think it would have helped.

I did nothing for the rest of the day. Why are people such shitheads that they make life difficult when you buy their property? So we felt for the guy in town today in the water office today. Because we have been there too.

And you can see why my legs are in great shape after a few days in Gib.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Paying bills - Spanish style

Here in Spain you pay the bills at the bank.

Well, that would make sense, wouldn't it, as they deal in money.

So whether it's personal tax, council tax, electricity, or telephone, off you go to the bank. Apart from the water bills that you can pay at the office. The bank is easier to be honest.

Just to confuse matters the water bills come every three months, telephone and electricity - every two.

Sadly, now that I have ADSL, the telephone bill is monthly. I think that's so us Internet addicts don't all die from shock when we get two months' worth of line rental, ADSL rental, a few calls, plus 16% tax.

But you can't pay your bills at the bank at just any old time.

Some stipulate only between the 10th and 20th of the month. Others say only on a Monday if it's the week of a full moon. My local village bank is Tuesdays and Thursdays between 8.30-10.30am.

I checked I had enough to pay and off I went. Purse in hand.

The bank office is currently being revamped, so it's service-as-usual out of a portable office in a bus. Don't know what happens if you use a wheelchair or crutches though, as the only way in is up steps.

Actually I've never seen a wheelchair in the village. And if any of the older people have problems walking, their family just grab hold of them, and drag them out for the enforced ritual constitutional. Same would go for the bank I guess - the family would go for you. Who needs independence when you have family?

I digress. The bank man was on his own. Pili (the manager) was in town signing stuff, and Antonio was on his holidays. Every time someone came in, he repeated the story.

There were three people in front of me. Each time he started to deal with someone the 'phone rang. Then he had to go into Pili's office and rummage around. Then had to do something on the computer. Multiply this by three.

What would normally take a few minutes was taking a seriously long time. Anyway, no rush here. So we sat chatting about next week's feria (fair), how people didn't want to leave the village and live two kilometres away because all their friends and family were here, and how you could just put one of those nice pre-fabs up on your terrace for your kids when they wanted their own place so they didn't have to leave. Has to be said I didn't take a very active part in that last bit.

And then it was my turn. "Hola, buenos," I said. He started keying in the bill details. I opened the purse to pay. It was the sterling purse that I use for Gib. Not a Euro in sight.

So when I'd checked the purse earlier it was the Euro purse. And it was still sitting on the computer desk. And then I'd absent-mindedly picked up the Gib purse.

"Aaaaaah," I said. He looked up attentively. "No tengo el dinero." I didn't want a conversation about the two purses going round the whole village within an hour. And it was true. I didn't have the money.

"Qué hora es?" I asked, naively thinking I might be able to rush home and get the right purse. "Ya es 10.30."

Ah well. Back on Thursday morning for another half an hour's chat about the feria or whatever.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Listening to the neighbours (2)

After we'd spent the best part of last Saturday at the car boot sale, our neighbour waited a few days but then couldn't contain herself.

"Where've you been? We've hardly seen you," she said.

"We've been getting rid of some stuff at car boot sales," said Entrepreneurial Partner. (NB note to all dog lovers - this did not include selling the dog in the above photo.)

"Well did you make anything?" she asked nosily.

"About 40€ on Saturday in the local town" he said. Not one to let the facts get in the way of the story, although we did make more than 30€.

So fast forward to another of the family-next-door's lunchtime conversations.......(following on from Listening to the neighbours back in May).

"Oooooh, we haven't got any money," said the (40+year-old) daughter as usual.

"We can't afford to go anywhere, we can't buy our whisky and cigarettes," she moaned.

Her (80-year-old, walks three miles a day) father was just waiting for this. He'd obviously been brought up to speed by his wife.

"That couple next door have been to the market. He made 60€." (Also not one to let the facts get in the way of the story).

"They aren't even Spanish.

"Why don't you do that?" he blasted.

"It's my only day off." (She cleans for three or four mornings a week).

"He probably sold to foreigners anyway," she said.

"No he didn't, all except for three of his customers were Spanish," he replied.

"He's not just sitting around and moaning. Why don't you do it?" he persisted.

"Can't get the stuff in the car," said the son-in-law grumpily on one of his rare forays into these father-daughter arguments.

"Make two trips," snapped back his wife's father (well on form).

"Don't want. We've got better things to do on Saturday.

"I should be able to get work in my village," was his parting shot, as he sulked off in a huff....

...To go and watch the TV in their small house, built by him and his father-in-law, on his father-in-law's ground. The ownership of the property has recently been transferred from the father to his daughter. The son-in-law is not on the deeds.

There is no mortgage on the property. Never has been. And for all the time he has been working, do they have any savings? No. What are they living on? Mostly the old couple's pension that stretches to feed and pay bills for six, plus the cleaning money earned by the daughter.

Oh, and his car, which he doesn't use too much at the moment, had no local road tax earlier in the year (we heard the tax officer coming round to hassle him about it), and he didn't bother replacing the MOT/roadworthy certificate & sticker when it expired last year.

Back to the conversation. The son who-fell-off-the-pushbike and still isn't back in school piped up.

"Only foreigners who don't have any respect for themselves would be prepared to do that on a Saturday morning," he said arrogantly.

"I've told you before, stop disrespecting the neighbours," his mother shouted at him.

"I've heard enough. Get out of the way."

So the two teenage sons limped off the ten yards to their house with their tails between their legs, to join their equally out-of-favour father.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Good results

Two good reports.

First - the Royal Gibraltar Police Traffic Control Department.

Well, I said they had responded mega-fast to my request for No Parking signs.

And the signs were up there, on the spot, well in advance, to ask people not to park there during the day on Wednesday.

Thanks very much, RGP, superb service.

Hey, note the police signs, just by the bin?

And secondly, the removal firm was great too. MoveIt. The only firm I have ever - I mean ever - used twice. And that included storage too.

All their packing of delicate goods and furniture has been as good as, or better than anyone else.

The guys turned up at the frontier - early - but so was I. Off round to the Spanish side to tell the Guardia Civil who I was, and then off to the Gib side to import a load of old furniture.

Officer in Gib customs asked me how old the stuff was - "Well, as old as me, more or less" - so that seemed to dull his interest, and I got the all-important slip of paper to import the furniture with a resale value of zilch pounds.

And then we all drove up to GibFlat, parked outside, and the cool guys unloaded the furniture. Polite, efficient, hard-working, and courteous. Thanks guys.

Monday, June 04, 2007


And their Land Rovers. Actually our Land Rovers.

So Eat,Drink,Breathe,Sleep,Talk,SurfInternet,Land Rovers Partner decided to take off the roof yesterday and put on the hood sticks and the rag top.

Cool idea, especially being in Spain.

Well, yes, but we were meant to be going somewhere today. (No not shopping, that is his job too - not that he did much of it today.)

So when the roof is out on the street, along with the Lintrans dog kennel, he asks if we are going on the pre-arranged trip.

When? Midnight?

So he finishes off the hood sticks and rag top. Very nice it looked too.

And then can't get the roof back in the corral.
Good one, mate.