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Monday, July 06, 2009

It does strike twice


There is a play by Gogol called ‘The Lower Depths’ which I know I have read some time back in my even more pretentious youth, probably set in a Silesian Salt Mine – the play I mean, not my youth. The title somehow dredged itself out of my memory (or should that be evaporated from the saline of my recollection) when I was confronted with something today.

Moving, as I am sure my more experienced reader will know, haemorrhages money at a degree which makes a slashed aorta look like a minor scratched knee. It was while I was paying by card for another tranche of money in excess of a thousand Euros payable to IKEA that I was informed that the amount had been refused by my bank.

As you know my bank is BBVA – the worst bank in the world – and I have taken every opportunity to rail against its stupidity, cupidity, mendacity, rapacity and other adjectives too vitriolic to commit to type. I has sent me, like some latter day dweller in biblical times to return to the place of the issuing of the aval to get my money back; it has charged me hugely for services which defy ironic condemnation; it has changed opening hours to ensure that I can never get to it; it has security doors which limit egress to one person at a time through a secure corridor – in short it is the sort of financial institution which was dreamed up by one of the ice locked traitors in the frozen lake in the lower circles of hell as envisaged by Dante.

Today was The Buying of the Electrical Domestics. These three essentials come to what my parents would have described as ‘a tidy sum’ and so; being prudent I decided to confirm that my use of my bank card would ensure a worry free purchase.

After the usual inordinate wait while the single cashier (do you know the profits that BBVA made last year!) slowly made her way through the increasingly frustrated line of BBVA clients (or ‘worthless scum’ as they are know my customer services in that worthy bank) until it came to my turn.

Of course, I was in the ‘wrong’ queue and had another hatred inducing wait for the single customer representative to be free.

When she was free she was all smiles and reassurance. This was partly because she vividly remembered by response when she told me that I would have to return to Terrassa to get my aval sorted out – even though it was in a branch of BBVA and the money was to be paid to me, a customer of BBVA etc etc. There was, I was told, no limit to the amount which I could use on my card as long as there were funds to cover the amount I wanted to spend.

I think that there more intelligent of you will have worked out where this little tale is heading.

It didn’t bloody work.

After waiting (again) for the insane amount of paperwork to be completed in the shop for the purchase of the three kitchen machines and after having shown an amount of paperwork which would have got Hitler into Heaven my card was refused as the bank (BBVA in case the name of the evil bastards’ organization had slipped from your memory) denied my request.

It just so happened that I had withdrawn 600€ in hard cash for little things like curtain rods when I left the bank so I was able to put in cash and then pay the rest by card. As ‘the rest’ was just under a thousand Euros it didn’t take a mathematic genius to work out that my limit (which doesn’t exist) was 1000€.

I have to return to that institution (which is to banking what David Beckam is to particle physics) to get the full account of my aval and to ask, ever so gently, why I was lied to today.

I relish the future conflict.

I am going to write to whatever consumer organizations exist in Spain to denounce this travesty of financial rectitude and have already ‘opened a file’ so that the list of misdemeanours can be correctly itemized and flung in their corporate face.

During a day in which, in spite of everything, we have done quite a lot there has been little time for contemplation. Dinner this evening was, however one of those times.

We went back to our favourite restaurant and had a meal of sea-food tapas and for the first time in the day we were able to relax a little. The television was building up to event of the week: The Presentation to the People. This is a time honoured subject in biblical painting which involves Jesus and usually has the Latin title of ‘Ecce Homo’ – Behold the Man! The gory representations of Jesus were given a more modern and positive turn in the television presentation as this was the occasion when Cristiano Ronaldo was paraded before the baying hordes of Real Madrid fans.

Amid the suited dignitaries and disinterred past players the slim figure of Ronaldo dressed in the white strip of Madrid looked strangely incongruous and somewhat vulnerable. There was no visible panty line, but was rather homely to see the end of the shirt showing through the sheer white of his shorts, I was reminded of the Roman custom of having someone behind a successful general as the Great Man acknowledged the plaudits of the crowd on his Victory Parade repeating in the general’s ear, ‘Remember man that thou art mortal!’ I hope that there is someone for Cristiano because the idolization he is currently being given would turn the head of most people let alone an arrogant show off like him!

But such things did not concern me. Let it pass! What did occupy my thoughts was an observation that I realize that I have been making unconsciously for a long time.

People rarely look happy as they come from the beach.

It’s true. They trudge away looking as though they have completed an onerous task, as though some duty has been ticked off.

It is not hard to see why. The beach is an almost absurdly inconvenient place. The one that I am talking about is full of people who have shrieking children and/or noisy dogs. If they have neither of these requisites then they can compensate by playing radios tuned to hideous ‘music’ stations at levels which separate sand grains and see their music systems turned into a sort of sonic drill.

Drink rapidly becomes luke-warm and food attracts sand so that eating becomes a grinding experience. The sea, needless to say is too cold, too full of jelly fish, too crossed by currents, too dirty to be enjoyed. The wind picks up and sandpapers those tender areas when hands have failed to put lotion.

Waves of beach vendors sweep across the sands like the barbaric hordes from history and quiet is constantly shattered by announcements in Spanish, Catalan, execrable English and funny French.

The shrine of Saint James in Compostella is notable for the number of pilgrims who deliberately take the most arduous way to the Cathedral. Some complete the last stages of the Camino on their knees leaving a trail of blood behind them. Perhaps the Spanish share with the British the quiet satisfaction of turning pleasure into hard work when it comes to the enjoyment of the coastline!

We have been working so hard that we have forgotten what the beach looks like.

Just as a spur to our efforts, Toni’s sister and all members of the family have decided to hold said sister’s birthday in our extensive demesne.

So two days to get it all together.

God help!
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