If ever I needed the calming influence of Zen, I need it now. I have had an extended brush with Spanish bureaucracy and my head is both bloody (with the rush of the red stuff to the brain during my more trying moments) and bowed (with the realization that this is as good as it gets) and I am having, if not the consolations of ancient Chinese philosophy, at least the more tangible and liquid benefits of a good cup of PG Tips.
I had forgotten (which was unforgiveable) the necessity of lots of pieces of paper with which the ever-gaping maw of officialdom needs to be stuffed. It is not enough to produce a passport; it must be the passport and a photocopy of the passport so that the bureaucrats can feast their eyes on such an inspiring document where the original is no longer there! I had also forgotten (how could I!) that the photocopy has to be made by you, not the people who say they need one.
I should have recalled the haughty dismissal of my plaintive questioning of the medical staff in our local centre about why they could not use the photocopier (in plain sight) to make any copy that they needed – “Because we are not a copy shop!” – and realized that you should never go under-papered when dealing with the officials who helped make Spain the thrusting, efficient and debt-free country that it is today.
And talking of money, there was the usual traipse over town finding a bank to pay money into so that I could take the receipt back to the police who were issuing a document. The simplicity of paying into the same office in which one is dealing with the documentation is apparently beyond the imagination of a mere police force.
And the banks! Spanish banks are a standing joke. They have no money. The bespectacled leader of this benighted country is trying to work out a way in which he is not seen to go cap-in-hand (if I am allowed to resurrect the smear that was thrown around in the UK when we had to get cash from the IMF) and beg for the umpteen billions that he hasn’t got to give to the criminally reckless Spanish banks to “save” them and keep the country out of apocalyptic meltdown.
My first choice of bank was crowded and as I was in the bank at the time when the older generation comes to the bank to look at its money and to have a little chat with the tellers, I had no desire to sit and wait in precious time stolen from the timetable.
The next bank I went to was fortuitously empty but our presence was completely unremarked by the girl one the phone behind the only staffed position in the open plan office. There was another woman working behind some moveable screens who also studiously ignored us. I went to sit down and let the rude ladies carry on with their obviously more-important-than-customers work.
While sitting there yet another lady came into the bank, gave a cheery greeting and went straight into the manager’s office. So, three workers in the bank and all of them ignoring the customer.
Eventually, when Toni left to get a photocopy of my passport there was an indication that the girl at the counter was ready to deal with me but when I went up to the counter she started dealing with papers, sorting them and stapling them together and again completely ignored me. For a bank that is completely broke (and I mean completely) their arrogance in mistreating customers is perhaps an indication of the reasons for their complete failure!
When the bill was paid I barely had the breath left to mutter a version of gracias and she said nothing. I couldn’t stay inside the place and waited for Toni outside.
Returning to the horror of officialdom there was then, as there always is, a problem with my name. My middle name is the problem; in Spain it is the surname of the father, while in the UK it is just another forename. As with the fact that we change our passport number with a new passport so with the names – all is difficult and will not fit into the systems that the Spanish have devised.
However the issue of the name was resolved (or not) only time and the next official letter will tell, but I do now have a pseudo-identity card which is a little more manageable than the tattered sheet of A4 which was my previous claim to a digital identity in this country.
Saturday was the day of Julie’s party and I was duly picked up by Tina and her husband and taken to the wonderful house that she has – not forgetting the elegant swimming pool at the bottom of the garden.
I ate and drank (particularly) far too much but a good time was hand by all – at least in the parts that I remember!
I still have to find my mobile phone and to check it I remembered to bring the chairs back!
I have managed to cope with daylight, I must now attempt the great outdoors!