I never really know whether to be jubilant or deeply suspicious when Official Government Bureaucracy works in your favour.
The fact that I was able to park immediately opposite the front door of the Social Security Office in Gava was unsettling in itself, and I actually drove past the parking space at first because, obviously, it couldn’t possibly exist – it was far, far too convenient to be true. But I backed into the space like a guilty thing and marched with a determined step towards the fray.
I didn’t even get through the door. The queue snaked out into the sunshine and a glimpse of the inside showed a serried rank of glum looking petitioners sitting waiting for a free official.
I had come to the office to find out what an inscrutable official (stamped) letter meant. It was important because it concerned my state pension – of which more anon.
To make things simpler there is a machine at the entrance to the office that takes you identity number, links it to an appointment and spews out a numbered ticket. You take it and wait, staring at an LED notice board watching for something approximating to your ticket.
The machine was surrounded by a vociferous crush of people who were treating the ticket dispenser as if it were the sort of electronics that required a PhD at least to make it work. I mean, I have to say it’s not rocket science: you press a button, type in your number, push another button and take your ticket. Old women of all possible sexes were looking at the instructions on the machine as if they were written in Glagolitic and were building themselves up into a frenzy of incomprehension.
My own situation was a trifle more complex as I had come on spec. as it were, in the vague hope that “just a little information” would not necessitate the making of an official appointment. I was, in other words, trying to short-circuit the sacrosanct procedures of a Government Office!
As the harassed woman from the information desk made her way back from trying to sort out the chaos by the number machine I waylaid her and in impeccably bad Spanish, but with an irresistibly winning smile!
What followed is, I have to admit, a refutation of the mythic stories of unhelpful officials. She explained what the document I was waving at her actually meant; she took me to a computer station; she sat me down, brought up my details and explained further; she printed out a new document for me and, most importantly, stamped it.
It seems that I am entitled to a Pension in Spain! This was completely unexpected and I could hardly contain my enthusiasm. She was delighted at my delight and told me that usually people were pissed off with how much they were going to get. As I had expected nothing, anything was a triumph.
It’s not much, a couple of hundred euros a month, but, coming in is much better than going out and even after tax, it will pay for a few lunches a week.
Like my official state pension from the UK, the actual amount is nothing to write home about, but my pleasure at receiving it is out of all proportion to how much it actually is!
I have not, you understand, got a single solitary penny of either pension yet, so I am writing in a state of pleasurable anticipation. This will last for a couple of months when something should be paid into my account. The satisfaction will last for a few months more, right up until I find out exactly how much tax will have to be paid, then black depression will descend as I see exactly how much the states (Spain and the UK) think I can live on! At least I know what to expect and so I can put aside a sum to pay the taxman in the New Year.
My state pension from the UK is tax free as I don’t live in the country, but I understand that Spain will claim the right to rake in the cash – and don’t worry about my writing this and “letting them know” the UK and Spain have already contacted each other and my status is known by both countries. No escape, in other words.
Still, a Spanish Pension! I was so delighted I wrote a poem, which I print below.
To those so young,
and dreading years ahead,
where work dictates the Moments of a Life,
or it apparently does so,
I might say
a rite of passage,
not anticipated ‘til,
it’s inadvertently revealed.
And it is this.
There will, I promise, come a time
when, out with friends, or at a meal,
you’ll chat, and when goodbyes are said
you will discover that there’s been
just one, sole, topic taking up your breath.
Some years ahead, for you, maybe,
but talked about with passion
or with pride – or fear.
A life-target that,
so long as you’re alive,
I’ve reached the age where
what was said some
is now a near enough reality.
And I observe
a process that involves
a bouncing to and fro
between two states
that claim me both.
I’ve always said I lead a double life,
as here in Spain, what is in Britain
just a letter placed between the
‘fore’ and ‘sur’ of my two names,
becomes a patronymic force and
Señor Morgan suddenly exists!
And I found out today,
(I have the printed sheet
and the official stamp)
that ageing Brit’s entitled to
a small (but welcome) sum,
paid monthly, right into his bank.
That illustrates more surely
than my bad Spanish can,
that one belongs, one is a part.
For nothing is more real
than the cement of governmental cash.
For those who are interested my latest drafts of poems can be read at http://smrnewpoems.blogspot.com.es and I will be happy to respond to any comments you might make.
Meanwhile I continue to get up early to go and have my swim, though I will have to do more if I am to lose the extra weight that the nurse demands I do. And today a good swim was not matched by a good and restrained food intake. And next week there are visitors and it will be churlish not to respond to their desire to eat well. Perhaps I can limit the “drink well” part and feel smug and justified – though the scales are impartial and glacial when it comes to their view of reality!
Work continues on the anthology “Together Apart” with discussions continuing with the printer about what, exactly we can afford. I think I see a resolution and I will have to contact my fellow poets to keep them in the loop. I hope that publication will still be towards the end of next month. I am, in spite of the darkness of some of my poetry, essentially an optimistic person.