Category Archives: Spanishy Spanishness

All those quirky Spanish things that make no sense whatsoever to us Ex-pats

Do yourself a favour – do someone else a favour

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“As she has planted, so does she harvest; such is the field of karma.”

– Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

I’ve mentioned karma before when I was discussing what happened to me on my Easy Jet flight a few weeks ago.  After what happened at the weekend, I’m absolutely 100% convinced that it exists.

My Mum is visiting at the moment so we decided to go out for the day on Saturday.  We made our way to the beautiful village of Castril in the Province of Granada.  Though it’s (sadly) not the main focus of the post, it is so beautiful there, I had to share some pictures:

    

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Breathtaking scenery and some tapas along the way – what could be better?

Anyway, on with the story:  After our lovely walk around the village and a stop for lunch, we decided to make our way back.  Stupidly I let Mum navigate and somehow we ended up on a single track in amongst some seemingly deserted olive and almond groves.  We took it slowly and were enjoying taking in the amazing countryside.  All of a sudden, a little old spanish man can careering out of one of the said groves shouting and waving his arms around like a madman.  Our initial thought was that we were trespassing so we stopped and put our best innocent foreigner faces on.

It transpired that although it wasn’t clear whether we were trespassing or not, he was much more concerned by the flat tyre he’d just acquired.  The poor old bugger had one of those old Renault vans that seem to be de rigueur over here along with a brace and jack set that was probably older than me.  He’d obviously been struggling along on his own for some time judging by his sweating and wheezing as he told me all about the stone he’d run over in order to get the flat in the 1st place.  Add that to the sandy ground he’d parked up on and the fact the jack was sinking into the ground rather than lifting the van up and he was getting nowhere fast.  Now I know I’ve explained several times that I’m not a car person, but I can actually change a tyre and know how to use all the equipment and everything – I usually just choose not to.  In these special circumstances though I had to help.  I told him to stop using his wheel brace which wasn’t actually gripping the wheel nuts – just making a scraping noise and spinning round and set about getting mine out of the car.  I got a flat stone from round one of the trees and put it under my superior jack and set about helping him.  We had a bit of trouble with a few of the wheel nuts and inevitably ended up stamping on the brace to get them moving but we got the old and very flat tyre off in a jiffy.  I was slightly concerned by the state of the spare, but at least it would see him out of his in-the-middle-of-nowhere field and home safe and sound.  New slightly dodgy tyre on and a gap-toothed smiling Spaniard waving us off, we made our merry way back to the main road.

Feeling very pleased with myself and feeling that we needed some sort of reward for all our good deeds, I decided not to go straight home but to head into our nearest town to order a well deserved take away.  2 hours of fairly high speed driving and we arrived outside the one and only curry house in the vague vicinity.  I parked up, we got out and it was then that Mum happened to glance back at the car.  You’ll never guess… or maybe you will.. we had a flat tyre!  It must have gone just as I parked because it was flat as a pancake and there was no way on God’s earth I would have been able to drive it very far in that condition.  Bugger!  Ah well, I’d already changed one tyre today – what difference would another make?

I had to move the car since the flat was against the pavement so I drove very gingerly into a side street and set about getting the spare out of the boot.  I set up my jack and started undoing the wheel nuts.  I almost managed it, but got stuck with the last one.  Lots of huffing, puffing and swearing ensued.  I tried everything – different starting positions for the brace, kicking the brace, kicking the wheel, literally jumping on the brace to get it to move.  Still nothing.  Just when I thought I was going to have to call home and admit that I was too much of a girl to change my own tyre (I was quite secure in the knowledge that my earlier tyre changing experience would not have swayed the judgement) an old man who’d been sitting outside a tapas bar watching me shuffled over to offer his assistance.  Cue a bit more huffing and puffing.  Eventually the stubborn nut wound free and we jacked the car up further to get the new wheel on.  Phew.

Luckily the curry was also ready and since I’d ordered and the run off to change the tyre, Mum was left to pay for it!  Shame!  He he he.

So there you have it.  The moral of the story is “always do someone a favour, you never know when you’ll need one yourself.” (and you might get a free curry thrown in for good measure too!) 🙂

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The rain in Spain falls mainly….

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on my sodding house!!  Now, don’t get me wrong, I know rain is good.  It helps things grow and waters our gardens and fills our water butts and all sorts of lovely thing like that, but SERIOUSLY?  I’ve had a right nightmare today and it’s all because the rain in Spain most definitely does not fall mainly on the plain.

It’s been launching it down since last night and at around 9am this morning we started having intermittent power outages.  It’s alright though, because we’re super organised and have lots of back battery packs in the form of UPSs (uninterrupted power supply) and they tide us over nicely when someone is playing silly buggers with the lecky supply.  (I work for home so this is a complete must.  Also they act as surge protectors for all our precious electrical gadgets).  The only problem is that they are only meant to be used as a temporary back up.  They are not designed to power my hive of office activity for any significant length of time.  Inevitably at around 11.30 ish the power monitor on the unit was screaming at me that is was about to run out of juice.

What now?  I thought.  Tim to beg borrow and steal some power and internet supply from my friendly ex-pat neighbours; who, I might add, never seem to have as many electrical problems as we do.

So, that was how I found myself cosying up with my laptop in my 70 year old neighbour’s bedroom for a few hours. If he wasn’t gay, I’m sure he would have thought it was marvelous!  Needless to say I spent my morning be offered endless cups of tea and listening to enquiries as to whether I was warm enough.  Thank God for the older generation – I was lovely and toasty!

This being me, it could only get worse.  When I made it home, I discovered more disasters awaited me.  In my rush to continue working, I’d managed to leave the front door open so our 2 biggest dogs (the smallest is a Mummy’s girl and had come with me to work) had been out on a nice little, puddle hopping adventure.  The floor, sofa and both dogs were soaked.  Great!   Also, our chimney had leaked.  The water had run down the flu pipe, into the log burner – which hadn’t been cleaned after yesterday’s fire – and on to the floor.  There was a lovely big puddle of brownish-greyish water in the middle of the living room floor. Just brilliant.  Add to that – I was no longer lovely and toasty and I was starting to really regret offering to do overtime at work meaning I’ve given up my Friday afternoon’s off for the next two months.

Ah well.  At least it’s Friday.  It’ll soon be Ceveza-o’clock.  I hope.

I can’t juggle

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Anyone who’s spent even the smallest amount of time in Spain will know that the floors are very unforgiving.  Carpets are unheard of and everything is beautifully tiled.  It looks great, but isn’t so wonderful if you are a complete butter-fingers like me.  I have lost count of the amount of crockery and glasses I’ve smashed to smithereens just by being mal-coordinated.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that we celebrate when I drop something and find that it bounces!

Now, dropping things in your own home will probably earn you disapproval or (usually in my case) laughter from those nearest and dearest to you. Stupidity and awkwardness are things that we Brits find hilarious.  If you are injured or humiliated in such instances, then quite frankly it only adds to people’s amusement.  It’s slapstick on it’s most basic level and we just love it.  The Spanish?  Not so much.

Case in point; an ordinary Saturday morning trip to Mercadona (Spanish supermarket) with my friend.  I know!  How exciting and cosmopolitan are we?  It gets better.

After a nice morning of traipsing round haberdashery and todo shops, Mrs B and I brave the madness that is Mercadona on a Saturday.  (We are not completely insane – we don’t normally food shop on a Saturday, but we were in town so….)  As is to be expected, it is completely rammed.  Not with shoppers it seems, but with locals who think nothing of congregating in the aisles to chat and generally using the supermarket as a social club.  After a half hour supermarket-challenge-esque run round the shop we make it to the checkout with our overflowing trolley. We’re in luck and find a queue with only one (obviously English) chap and his mammoth booze purchase in front of us.

When the alky in front of us has got his off licence packed up, I start loading the conveyor belt with my goodies.  On goes the beer, bottles of pop and other heavy things.  I am just putting the last bottle of coke on the belt, when “oh my god,” I realize I haven’t picked it up as securely as I thought I had.  The bottle starts heading towards that ominous looking tiled floor so I make a grab for it.  For what seems like an eternity I look like some sort of circus performer.  There I am touching the bottle and bouncing it around between by hands but never quite managing to get a decent hold on it.  Inevitably, I fail miserably in my juggling/catching attempt and the bottle plummets to the floor.

I have enough time to glance over at Mrs B, who is waiting patiently behind me with her basket and think to myself, “I’ll have to remember not to open that for a few days,” before moving to pick the bottle up.  In the split second it takes me to think about bending down THE BOTTLE EXPLODED!  I kid you not.  It’s like a bomb had gone off.  It made a huge bang and splatteed coke literally everywhere.  Mrs B and I both gasp and then fall about laughing.

Whilst still giggling to ourselves and trying to cover my chagrin I realise that apart from the fact I dropped the coke and it exploded everywhere, something else is very wrong with this situation.

Apart from our inane giggling, the entire shop (and possibly the world) is in complete silence.  No sniggering, no tutting, no outrage, not even mild amusement.  Total silence and complete non reactions on the faces of customers and staff a like.  It is possibly the most surreal thing I’ve ever seen.  I apologise to the check-out girl and she doesn’t even acknowledge that I’ve spoken.

Meanwhile coke was still dripping from the walls, the side of the check-out, my trolley plus the rest of my shopping,  the impulse buy products around the till and the fresh bread oh so beautifully displayed at the end of the aisle.  We check ourselves and discover that I’m soaked from the knees down and Mrs B looks like she’s had a fight with a water pistol.  The cleaner arrives with a mop, takes one look at the devastation and leaves.  We presume she’s decided a mop just won’t cut it.  We stifle more laughs.

I have never packed shopping so quickly.  In fact, the speed I’m going, you would have sworn I’ve stolen it.  Mrs B and I make a dash for the lift.  We load in our soggy trolley in and glance back at the shop as the door is closing.  The shop is still in silence and for some reason, despite how busy the shop is, no one is queuing at our checkout.

The doors close and we hoot with laughter again.

Note to self:  you can’t juggle coke bottles and slapstick comedy doesn’t go down well over here.

ITV is NOT a television station

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  Well – at least it’s not in Espana!  It’s the Spanish version of an MOT and having just gone through the torture I can tell you it bears no resemblance to what we think of as an MOT.  Remember how in the UK you take your precious motor down to your trusty mechanic and wave him off as he “sorts it out?”  No such thing in Spain.  Oh no!  Here, you take your car to the test centre yourself.  Not only that, but you stay with your car during the whole process.  Now my Spanish is ok, I’m not a confident speaker, but I can get the gist.   My hearing?  That’s just rubbish.  I can’t hear at the best of times.  My husband calls it selective hearing.   Imagine me, sitting in my car, surrounded by grease monkeys shouting instructions from behind some piece of equipment.   Not my idea of fun.

First of all I drive in and am told to switch the lights on and off, indicate left and right and brake.  This is ok I think.  Next I have to pop the hood – thank god for Spanish speaking friends, because I have no idea what he was talking about.  A nerve racking couple of minutes whilst we watch him check the oil – silently praying to God to forgive us for not actually checking it ourselves before we went.  We presume all is in order as he replaces the dipstick and closes the bonnet.

Next comes some sort of brake test.  I drive my car so my front two tyres drop  into two sort of drums that act as a rolling road.   Then as the chap gesticulates at a digital dial display the wheels start turning and I’m supposed to press the brake pedal.  Not only that but keep it between two makers on the digital display.  This would have been absolutely fine, if a) I understood what all the gesticulating was about and b) I could hear a bloody word he was saying.  Thankfully I have Spanish Speaking Steve of Supersonic hearing with me.  Once I get the gist of what I’m supposed to be doing I’m told to slam on the brakes and as I do the car jolts out of the rolling road and shoots backwards.  I am a nervous reck.  Then I have to repeat the whole process with the rear tyres.  I think I’m probably going to fail the ITV on stupidity alone.

Once the drama of the rolling road is out of the way we drive forward over what can only be described as hole in the floor.  The chap jumps down underneath and starts bouncing the car around.  Meanwhile a great big truck pulls up in the lane next to us.  I cannot hear a thing.  Supersonic Steve is looking just as confused as I am which doesn’t  fill me with confidence.  Suddenly the mechanic is back by the side of the car leaning through the window and turning the wheel from side to side.  I apparently have to continue this whilst he disappears again.  He adds some banging noises to the bouncing of the car, and I am still none the wiser but am following my instructions and am still turning the wheel fr0m side to side.  Finally he emerges and tells me to drive on and wait outside.

So we wait.  And we wait.  And we wait.  Supersonic Steve starts making unhelpful comments like “when they start typing loads into the computer it means you’ve failed.”  We turn to see our mechanic writing War and Peace.  Steve adds “he should be getting us a sticker by now.”   (The sticker is proof of ITV and is displayed in your windsheild).  We look again and our chap is still at the computer.  So we wait.

Obviously not wanting to deal with the silly English girl anymore, Steve is called back into the office.  He’s in there for what seems an eternity.  He comes out looking glum.  We failed.  I ask whether it’s because I’m stupid and deaf, but apparently its to do with something called a ball joint and two rear tyres.  Damn it.

So we make our way home.  Steve makes a sarcastic comment about how my driving speed hasn’t decreased at all, even though I know the car is officially crap.  I tell him to eff off.

It’s an MOT Jim, but not as we know it.