Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Can't get enough

In the running for Funniest Moment of the Year in the academia is the translation into English by one of my school pupils of the word cerveza (beer, for those of you who've never had to learn the essentials of the language before a holiday to Spain, or any other Spanish speaking country for that matter). Apparently, if you're desirous of a nice cold pint, you should, upon entering any fine public house, petition the barkeep for Duff.

Homer would be proud.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Raelha buys a car

I have finally become a proud (erm, well, sort of) car owner at the grand old age of 34. Having successfully managed to avoid any automobile purchase before this point it became necessary now that I'm on my own and living halfway up another mountain. The car itself is the same one I've been driving around since I got to Asturias except now it´s officially mine. One thing I am proud of is having successfully conquered the bureaucratic process it takes to transfer car ownership. When we first got to Asturias and bought the Skoda (for yes, it is a not-quite-so-fine example of Czech engineering) the actual process of going to tráfico in Oviedo to put it into the ex´s name was possibly, no, make that definitely, the worst red tape nightmare I've gone through in Spain – though, having dealt frequently with the system, I hesitate to add that I suspect it will retain that glorious title forever. The original purchase was made from an ageing fellow, who appeared jolly enough to begin with and, after us having proffered cash for the vehicle offered to take us into Oviedo himself to guide us in the process of changing over the documentation. As recent arrivals in the country we were more than happy to have a guiding hand, though it turned out that he knew only a gnat´s breath more about it than we did. Imagine traipsing around one government office after another to get hold of all the different documents you have to fill in and hand over to be stamped only then to have to take them to another office for collection, and only after you've taken ten million photocopies of each one. This is the only time where I've actually seen Spaniards queuing up quietly to be seen to in turn, except the fellow we were with seemed oblivious of the system and insisted on pushing in each time, talking loudly at the civil servant who was trying to deal with the person who had actually waited to be seen, and not listening to a word he was told in response. Eventually I figured out what was going on and dragged him across the office floor each time to get our numbered piece of paper and wait in line. All this, of course, instigated sympathetic looks from all and sundry when they realised that we had to tackle the system with him in charge. If only we´d realised before.

Next you discover that the stamped road tax form that the seller has to present is not in his possession and he has no idea of where he last saw it, necessitating a further journey to a separate government office half-way across the city (why they don´t just group them all together is beyond me, I suspect it´s all part of one big joke to brighten up the lives of the poor souls who work in these dreary places day after day: “no, I´m very sorry sir, we don´t deal with that here. You need to go to the Office of Let Us See Just How Far We Can Push You Before You Turn Red and Steam Pours From Your Ears located in Taking The Piss Street, it´s not far away, honestly” and then time how long it takes you to get back, tomato-faced and exasperated. It quite often happens that when you do finally find your way to the second office they have no idea what you´re on about and send you down the corridor (if you´re lucky), round the corner to the next building (if you´re not so lucky), or all the way back across the city (if you´re damn unfortunate) where they realise in the original office, that oh yes, we do have that form here after all and I don´t know who you spoke to before but we can sort that out right here and now. Arghhh. And then, finally, when you´ve paid all the taxes involved and photocopied everything apart from your bumcheeks, worked off all of the last week´s meals travelling around the city and made your way back into tráfico, papers in hand, eyes gleaming with the knowledge that you´re finally on the winning track, they tell you that the ID you have is the wrong one and that even though it´s valid to buy a house you need a proper resident´s ID to buy a car, which, after a trip to the main police station, you realise takes a matter of months in itself to acquire.

So, after the hassle of buying the car the first time, and yes, all of the above really did happen, with perhaps a few name changes here and there, I was determined not to undergo such a painful struggle this time around, especially considering that, despite the lack of embarrassing seller it would involve traversing the city with the ex, who was never a very patient man. So, a week before I nipped to tráfico had a quick chat with those at the information desk and prepared all the documents I was told I´d need beforehand, plus photocopies, and communicated to the ex what he´d need to bring. Perfect, I thought, nothing can go wrong, and nothing did. It were as if someone was making up to me all that I´d had to go through the previous time. Even when it turned out, in the treasury department, that I was missing a photocopy of a form that hadn´t been mentioned on the information sheet given to me in the traffic department, the guy behind the desk, when I asked him where the nearest place to photocopy, on discovering that I was only missing the one, took the sheet from me and photocopied it himself! At no extra charge!!! Believe me this never happens. I was in a fine mood, floated all the way to tráfico where there was no queue at all, handed over all my documents and hey presto, the car was officially mine.

I even managed, after some rather persuasive talking, to get insurance from Línea Directa (yes, we have Direct Line over here too, and the little red phone with wheels on the ad) for over €100 less than the ex had been paying, despite not having any no-claims bonus whatsoever, a fine coup on my behalf.

Anyway, this all happened in October, though I’ve been waiting since then for an Internet connection at home, having also moved house. More on that later, oh and wish me luck with my very first MOT (or ITV as it’s called here) in a couple of weeks’ time.