Sunday, July 27, 2008

Why are some people so abusive?

It's very warm here. Too warm to rush anywhere.

I ambled into the bus station at La Linea. There was a Spanish guy wanting to go to Málaga.

First he went to the ticket office for the wrong company. Then when he got to the ticket office for the correct one, it had a closed sign. He looked impatiently at his watch. It was 3.30pm.

I - helpfully or interferingly depending on your point of view - said that the bus to Málaga didn't go until 5.45pm and the ticket office would probably open half an hour before that.

Then I read the notice, it said it would reopen at 3.30pm. And this guy was looking so annoyed. Like, this is Spain. Back at 3.30pm does not mean back at 3.30pm, it means back sometime after 3.30pm when I feel like it.

Suddenly the ticket office opened, a mere two minutes late. The Spanish guy asked something, I didn't hear what but he looked disappointed. He probably asked when the next bus was as he didn't believe the silly foreigner.

So then I told him he could get the direct bus from Algeciras and he would arrive in Málaga sooner. He looked terrifed. How far away is Algeciras? How do I get there?.

Er, about 25 kilometers, and you walk about ten yards from the ticket offices towards the buses, get on the bus at 4pm, and pay two euros. Hardly difficult.

Well how long will it take? About 40 minutes. And then you can get the direct bus at 5pm or 5.45pm.

He eventually processed all this and decided he would ask at the ticket office "just to make sure". Ie you are foreign and don't know what you are talking about.

So he asked. Well actually he was about to go to the wrong company yet again so I pointed him towards the right one. Unsurprisingly they told him exactly what I had said.

He explained to me that he was totally lost with buses as he hadn't been on one since he got a car eight years ago but sadly his car was broken down so he had to brave the world of public transport. Wow. What a protected and naive species you are.

I saw him again in Algeciras. Obviously we were in the same queue.

In front of me was someone who also wanted to go to Málaga. He wanted to get the 5pm bus. It was full (completo). He was not happy with this and told the ticket cashier and complained at her as though it was personally her fault.

She patiently explained that she had rung up for another bus, and if there was one available, then he could get on that, but she couldn't issue a ticket yet because she didn't know if it was coming. He would have to wait and risk it, or get a ticket for the 5.45pm.

Now what I don't understand is - these people are Spanish. Buses are often well used and if you really want to get a particular bus, why not buy your ticket in advance? You can all speak the language far better than me - one of you doesn't know how to buy a ticket and the other one abuses a ticket cashier because a bus is full. Dear me.

I made sympathetic noises to the cashier and booked a seat on the 5.45pm. When it arrived, I looked round for Señor Abusive and Señor Clueless. Neither of them were there. Obviously the extra bus did turn up after all. Must remember that for next time.

Not that 45 minutes made any difference to me. I got into Málaga, and the next bus according to my timetable was at 8.30pm. But there was one on the noticeboard to my nearby town at 8pm.

I wandered over to the bus on the off-chance. No point asking at the ticket office as there was a queue.

Hola, says me. Are you the directo? As you do in Spain because the driver and the bus are synonymous. No, he said. Oh very good, do you stop at my pueblo? Si. So I got me a ticket for my pueblo from the driver and got home half an hour earlier than planned which meant I also arrived in time for the supermarket.

A good journey. Always best to ask the right people the right questions. And no need to show disrespect for other people because you haven't planned your journey.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Just as a helpful tip.

To avoid trouble for yourself.

When you put up your really nice Spanish postbox, don't add your name and address to it.

All you are doing is giving someone ammunition to denuncio you for anything because you are providing your name and address.

This is not a good idea. All someone needs to denuncio you is your name and address.

Whoever delivers your post shouldn't need to see your name and address on the post-box anyway. They should know who you are and where you live.

Would you put your name and address on a post-box in the UK?

No. Because you just have a letter-box in the door and a house name/number.

Take care if you buy a house in Spain. I am writing this because someone British we know, who lives in Spain, has received a denuncia and doesn't even know why.

He needs to appear in a Spanish police station and answer the charge that he doesn't understand.

It also happens to our Spanish neighbours. Our neighbour out the back received a denuncia for her goats and chickens. Apparently she didn't have finca papers.

Our Spanish neighbours don't publish their names and some of them still get victimised. Keep your name to yourself.

Edited to add that a denuncia is a formal complaint to the local police which has to be investigated. I suppose the nearest English equivalent word is to denounce someone, but it doesn't really carry the same weight in English so everyone just tends to use the Spanish words.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mad dogs and Englishwomen........

I needed to go into town to pay the irritating water bill. The only utility bill that needs to be paid at the water office and that I can't pay in a bank or a post office.

It being warm (30 plus degrees) and sunny, and me having to cart back a few things to Gib for Partner including his spray gun - but fortunately not the compressor, I decided to get the bus from the village.

But as the bus time drew nearer, I went off that idea. I was feeling particularly chilled and rushing for a bus didn't seem so appealing. What would be nice would be a leisurely wander down the dusty track, enjoying the countryside.

So off I went. Down the river bed which amazingly even had a trickle of water in it. Left onto the old railway line track. Past Greedy One. The big black horse with the fearsome teeth.

I like Greedy One because he is not a hypocrite. He does not come up for strokes or slop like that. He comes for food and if there is no food he is not interested. He was eating hay or whatever horses eat. He glanced up briefly, saw me, saw the total absence of carrots or apples and dismissed me with a flick of his ears. Back to the hay.

It was hot down the track. Sun blazing out of totally clear blue sky. But at least there was a breeze. My bag seemed to be getting heavier. The water office shuts at one, so because I'd not set off till noon, the leisurely wander wasn't quite so leisurely. More like a fast march. I began to think the bus might have been a better idea after all.

Anyway, the fast march worked well. Into water office, pay bill, and wait for the bus to Málaga. I sat there absolutely dripping sweat. I am surprised there wasn't a pool of water at my feet. I licked my lips. I tasted very salty. I should probably have gone and bought a bottle of water at this point but I really didn't feel like water swilling around in my empty stomach.

The bus arrived early. Not only did it arrive early, it left early. Unprecedented. Arrived in Málaga with enough time to go for a sandwich and a drink. Salad sandwich I thought, without yucky mayonnaise.

The good thing about Spain is that bars are usually just so flexible. If they have the ingredients and you want something they will make it. You need to know this though, and you also need to know what you can reasonably ask for.

So, although the bar had a load of sandwiches piled up, there was no salad one (with or without mayo). Maybe because salad ones would go soggy anyway. Or maybe not many people eat salad sandwiches - with or without tuna, chicken, ham. Anyway, it's on the menu, as are various salads so I asked if he could make me one.

Big smile. Of course he could. I don't want the mayo, but do you have anything else you could add like cucumber or onion? He looked very apologetic and said no, but then asked if I would like some green pepper as well. This sounded a fine sandwich. I went down the counter to get my drink. I decided some olives would be nice. I was starving. Gets a small bowl of olives.

Paid the bill. Normally if you ask for something to be excluded you don't get anything off the price, but sometimes they add extra stuff onto the sandwich. Asking for something different like peppers is borderline, depends on the bar and the staff. No extra charge for the green peppers. No charge for the olives. What a fine and very reasonably priced lunch.

The rest of the journey was uneventful but relaxing. I snoozed and gazed at the Mediterranean. Arrived at the flat about 7pm to find the two Sleeping Beauties (Partner and Dog happily snoring away together).

The next day I woke up feeling slightly groggy. No, it wasn't the sandwich. I hadn't got food poisoning. It wasn't the pasta and pesto that Partner had cooked on my arrival.

Eventually I twigged. It had been ages since I felt like that so it took a while to work it out. Too much sun in the heat of the day. No hat. No water on the walk. I should really know better. Maybe next time I will take the bus from the village.

Moral of story: Never, but never, disrespect the sun and the heat. Always take a hat and a small bottle of water.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A bottle of water

Went to the local shop the other day. Wanted some soft drinks. Fought my way into the shop past some very strong and warlike Scandinavians who had descended from a cruise ship.

Then fought my way to the fridge past two of the younger Viking warriors who were taking an inordinate amount of time to get a bottle of water.

Went to the till which involved weaving around eight of these fearsome people. Like I am tall with broad shoulders but I felt a tiny little wimp in the midst of these SuperPeople.

Hola, says me to shopkeeper.

Hi how are you? he responds.

Fine, thanks. You?

It takes the whole fucking family to buy one bottle of water, he said quietly. And rolled his eyes.

Que pases un buen día, says me, and walked out laughing. Well, when I had fought my way past the tribe of warriors.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A tale of two travellers

Summer is well and truly here now. The temperatures in Spain are well into the thirties and the beaches are packed with holidaymakers - Spaniards and foreigners alike.

Anyway because of the heat it is easier travelling in the late afternoon, and arriving in Spain/Gib in the evening.

So, I left Algeciras on the 17.45 bus. Estimated journey time, according to the timetable booklet, is 1hr 45 mins. I don't think it has ever done it in that time, it is nearer 1 hr 50 or 55. Anyway five or ten minutes doesn't make much difference to me.

The bus set off five minutes late and it didn't seem to be going quite as fast as they usually do. We got to Marbella after about an hour.

Just opposite me were a couple of English-speaking travellers. They had been chomping on their apples and chattering away all the way up.

When the bus stopped in the bus station, they asked someone getting off if we were in Málaga. He hesitated for a split second. He was Spanish but I don't think he had any trouble understanding. I think, a bit like me, he was more surprised that they had no idea where they were.

"No, Marbella," he answered. And got off the bus.

Maybe they didn't have any idea how long the journey was going to take. Maybe they didn't have a map and didn't know that Marbella was approximately half-way. Or that a bus would have to be seriously flying to travel the 140kms from Algeciras to Málaga in an hour.

They had clearly also missed the large lettering over the bus station that said ESTACION AUTOBUSES MARBELLA and CIUDAD DE MARBELLA. Always helpful to keep an eye on your surroundings I find.

As we set off again they leaned over to speak to me. Did I know where the train station was in Málaga, and was it near the bus station? Could they walk to the train station?

Yes, I did, and they were right next door to each other. Of course they could walk, it would probably be faster than taking a taxi. And cheaper obviously. I told them Málaga was the next stop and we would be there in about 50 minutes or so. I said I would point out the train station and show them where to go.

As we came into Málaga, one of them leaned over again, pointed at a shopping centre and asked if it was the train station. I suppose these days shopping centres and train stations can look similar, but in Spain, train stations (like bus stations) usually have the word ESTACION in fairly prominent letters somewhere on the outside. A useful word to learn when travelling around Spain and not too difficult or dissimilar to station.

"No, we're nearly there, I'll show you where it is," says me. "Oh, what time is your train?'

"Eight o'clock." Well, hahahahaha, how I did not laugh there and then I do not know. (It was now 7.50pm).

I tried very hard to think of a polite and not too upsetting way to tell them they weren't going to catch their train.

One of them said "She's going to tell us we're not going to catch our train."

I think I need to practise not displaying what I am thinking quite so obviously.

Turned out they were going to Madrid and missing this train would screw up all their connections.

"Have you got your ticket?"

Well, they had their EuroRail pass or whatever it is called, but they needed to go and get their reservation.

A couple of weeks ago, I was busy closing down the computer prior to leaving for the bus when an email came in, so I foolishly read it. And because of that, I nearly missed the bus.

The sender of the culpable email later patronisingly sent me a Top Tip - always expect the worst and leave sufficient time for unforeseen delays!

It sprung to mind immediately with the two travellers. And I thought about adding my own Top Tip. Always arrive at a bus/train station in Spain with at least half an hour to spare (assuming you haven't bought your ticket/reservation in advance), and if you don't know where you are going, make it an hour to spare.

I hope they got their train although the truth is, I would be very surprised if they did.

Travelling is not what it was. More people are doing it and there are so many delays for whatever reason. Best to enjoy it and not stress yourself out by setting an impossible itinerary.