Guests, Spanish citizenship for the car, and bottles of wine #livinginSpain

It’s been a hectic August so far, more guests than I expected, they’ve been such fun – even the Spanish couple who gave me only 3 stars, partly on location. Well, location is one thing I can’t change, eh? And hardly my fault they were in the south of Spain to visit her father, who lives on the far side of Malaga, 80 km each way.  Tchah. She spoke no English but did say at least in her review ‘the owner speaks little Spanish, but one can understand’.

She took away with her my Spanish ‘notes for guests’ and the printer decided to have a strop so I couldn’t print more, but fortunately the next guests were, although from the north of Spain, fully bilingual. In fact he’s Irish – they met in Ireland, then moved back to her beloved country some 15 years ago.

Both are teachers, and he gave me a priceless list of 1000 questions guaranteed to spark students of English into comment for those awful moments in class when one has run out of topic but there is still 10 or 15 minutes to be endured. I’m still very new to tutoring, barely a year’s experience, and although I teach online through an agency, which supplies the topic and material, sometimes the pupil is more advanced than expected, the supplied material is covered in half the time, and the tutor has to get creative . . . so I was exceedingly grateful for that.

Irish J also went to the policia local with me as I am still renting out rooms on my temporary licence and haven’t heard anything from the tourist board. I know they’re snowed under with applications, but I also think I should be keeping records of guests, and advising the authorities, but, er, how? The policia local didn’t know either, but told us to go back in an hour. We did, and the next person we spoke to said to come back Thursday afternoon when there might be someone who spoke a little English who could possibly help me. It didn’t seem to be, put it this way, something that worried them very much, so I am not worrying as much as I did. At this point all my bookings are still through the websites Airbnb and HomeAway, so they are easy to track.   If all the guests who have promised to return do return, they’ve all said they will book direct, and my record-keeping will be sorted by then, right? Right.

Spanish-Irish P and J left, and were replaced by another Spanish couple, R and J, very young, with barely a word of English between them. They carried in (for a week’s stay) very nearly as much luggage as I had carted in the camper, including a portable air-conditioner, now that’s organized!

In the meantime Danish P in the front room finally left to return to Copenhagen, with hugs and promises to return often, and was replaced by a remarkably beautiful young Vietnamese lass and her devoted Czech partner, H and K.  He’d been before, she hadn’t, but fell completely in love with Spain, which she said is very like Vietnam. They diligently updated the visitor book with recommendations for other visitors – best local breakfast churros (photo below), a nearby source for paella, the closest nudist beach.  She did catch the sun quite badly on the nudist beach, and pulled down her sundress to show me her sunburn.  I asked if I could take a photo for the blog, which I think you would have appreciated very much, but she giggled and pulled the dress up again. Note to self – restock the first aid kit with more sunburn stuff.

churros

They spoke less Spanish than I do (yes, I didn’t know that was possible either) and had me translating for them with the daily bread van as they tried nearly all his wares. The best, they decided, was a crisp sugared bread biscuit six inches across.  I have no idea what it is called. When they left, they gave me a thank-you bottle of wine, and so did the young Spanish couple in the back room when they left yesterday. Very handy, since the lovely mecanico who has been helping me with the car matriculation refused to take payment and said I could bring him a bottle of wine instead. Sorted.

I only have one guest at the moment, with a Polish name but a flawless London accent, mainly because that’s where he lives, and he’s visiting his parents, who have retired to Velez. The occasion was a family gathering and he opted to rent a room from me rather than share one with his 6-year-old nephew. Theoretically, a wise decision. In the event, he might have slept later yesterday, as some very noisy work started without warning on a house across the street. A generator chugging, an earthmover (small but noisy) moving piles of debris and Spanish workmen chatting at the tops of their voices at 6.30 in the morning is no way to wake up on holiday. Luckily the Spanish weekend is sacred so not a sound this morning, he slept until 10, and leaves tomorrow.

work across the road digger

Even more luckily, I had already closed bookings on both rooms for the rest of the month. Just as well, if there is going to be a morning racket! More to the point, it is a year since I started this Odyssey, it has been an incredibly hectic year, and I need the break. I knew August would be hot, but nobody expected the savage humidity, which is not at all typical for Spain and has topped 80% on a few hideous days. Preparing rooms single-handed again and again to paying-guest standard in 80% humidity is not a bundle of fun.

I’m taking a teaching holiday, too – it may only be 3 hours a day, 6 days a week, but my predominantly Chinese students are also in a very hot summer and are tired, scratchy and listless by their evening which – the time difference – is when classes start. Being bouncy, upbeat, energetic and encouraging for 3 hours is exhausting.

The last book in my series – 19 20 My Plate Is Empty – has been stop-starting throughout this erratic  year and I’m still not happy with it, much of the break will be spent on that. I’ve loved the series, which has made some good friends along the way, and there’s no way I will finish with a potboiler. Already Scotland seems so distant that when I re-read some bits I’m taken aback and abruptly reminded of life there, so it has to be finished soon.

There’s one other good reason for the break, too – matriculating my car, which has been delayed so often I am now frighteningly illegal, as the MOT runs out.  With no classes and no guests I can focus completely on that (and have time to travel around on the coach system until it is sorted). The process started with Antonio the mecanico, but he’s having to close his garage and move as the city wants to widen the road. He called in the tecnico Manolo, who said all the car lights would have to be changed, but Sanchez the electrico just laughed at me for wanting to do such a thing in August. It is fiesta!  Come back on the 22nd, I will see then when I can do it.

Er, no can’t wait. The lights were sourced, ordered, and fitted by the priceless and irreplaceable Nick and I’ve spoken to Chris who will handle the re-registration (it’s what he does, deal with Spanish bureaucracy, and he is English, so there is no need for my pitiful Spanglish+mime skills, phew) and scanned to him all my documentation – passport, NIE, padron, and of course the car’s V5 logbook. He will set up the ITV appointment, arrange with Manolo to meet me there to issue the tecnico clearance, and then I can put the car in for its roadworthy test. It had its last annual MOT in August when I left the UK so – tick tock. Eek. There’ll be a blog on the matriculation, since that’s a whole story in itself, once I have the final facts, figures, and my new registration plates. What a mission!

Today’s temperature is a rather fab 28 degrees, slight breeze, will reach 31 Celsius by late afternoon, and the humidity a not so fab but bearable 63%. We do seem to be escaping the rather terrifying storms and flash-floods up Benidorm way, my barometer is holding serenely steady.

And – breathe.

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Excentrico guests – Anglo-Saffer J et al #livinginSpain

I’ve got a current couple in Cameron who could be rated perfect  – she doesn’t speak any English, he has just enough to get us by, they’re up at 10 and out for the day, return around midnight, we smile a great deal and say a little in Spanglish, and so long as they’re smiling, I’m happy!

The previous guest in Cameron was my Anglo-Saffer buddy, come to see what the Elefante Blanco has turned into, and that was huge fun.  She’s a runner with a club we can call Narnia, and likes to run early in the morning. I’m not an early bird in any way (or a runner, perish the thought) but armed her with the necessary pidgin Spanish to ask her way back to somewhere familiar if she got lost (effectively, dónde Iglesia, where church?)

As it turned out she slept later than her usual 4 am (probably due to much tinto de verano (summer wine) and blethering the night before, she also credits the bed, ta very much) and only donned her running clobber, emblazoned with the club’s name, around 7.30. The streets were already coming to life and she was greeted with friendly interest by those she passed, and the old men sitting under the pergolas. From the second morning there were calls of ‘Hola, Narnia!’ as she sped by, waving, and by the end of her week she probably knows more people in town than I do. She loves Spain and Spain, or certainly Velez, loves her.

When under linguistic pressure she switched to Afrikaans and said it was miraculous, the person who could only talk Spanish a minute earlier suddenly managed to disinter some English from the recesses of their memories. Of course as an Anglo-saffer she’d have had problems if they’d been fluent in Afrikaans as she isn’t exactly vlot herself. But ‘twas enough, it sufficed.

We ventured through to Granada for a day, and found it experiencing bone-melting temperatures but thanks be, there is a hop-on hop-off bus-tram. We fell onto that with glowing relief and were rattled briskly around all the scenic bits of fabulously scenic Granada. There are over a dozen places to hop off, very few of which tempted any of the steaming passengers, and the route includes the perimeter  / outer gardens of the Alhambra Palace.

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We did get off to check out the cathedral and square,

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DSC_0936and again for lunch in a beckoning plaza, where huge umbrellas over the tables puffed out misty spray at regular intervals. We sipped lazily at iced summer wine and enviously watched a dog plunge into the fountain and swim around until he felt braced enough to get out.

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The return to Velez felt positively cool, but even here it was 34 degrees. Wow.  Not even August yet . . .  Danish J is still in Oliver, the front room, and has extended his stay another two weeks, and I’m considering blocking off the rest of August on both rooms and taking the month off. It will be my first August, and I have no idea what to expect, but as I don’t have air-conditioning, I’m really not sure the big fans in the rooms will be enough.  I know what last September was like – I will have been here a year, then.  That’s flown!

 

Payhip for dummies, writers and readers #iamwriting

Payhip for writers wanting to sell books is pretty simple.  I want to load my books on this website  (under the Shop tab) (haven’t done it yet, gies a break) so I could keep all that lovely filthy lucre to myself (apart from the chunk Paypal takes) but also to eventually have all sorts of other interesting options.

Payhip is linked to Paypal for sales of anything that can be downloaded. It records sales, keeps track of tax, and other useful things, and there are dozens of blogs and vlogs and experts out there to tell you in tortuous detail why you should use it and how to use it. The only thing you really need to remember is that your Paypal account shows your writing or publishing name, not your non-writer name. Link a business option to your existing account, if necessary, because you do want your writer name to show on the purchase.

That sorted, go into Payhip, and link your account to the writer version of your Paypal account. Follow screen directions. I have all my books in mobi format. Some enthusiasts are very thorough and load the books in mobi, epub, pdf, and who knows what all else. Many formats are accepted.

Load your first book and then you should probably buy it to check all is well. You’ll pay for it on your private Paypal, not the one you just linked to Payhip.

If all goes well, there will be a positive flurry of emails on your respectively linked email accounts congratulating you on both buying and selling a book. You can download the book from Payhip itself, or from the email confirming your purchase.

Payhip for readers who bought a book and want to read it on a Kindle. This is the entire reason for this blog, because I refuse to believe I am the only person left in the world who uses a desktop computer rather than a neat little device small enough to be tucked into an evening handbag. Unless you want to read on your computer, rather than tucked up comfortably somewhere in the best place to read a good book, you need to get it to your Kindle. Do you know your Kindle address? It is listed on the Kindle, under Settings, and will usually be your name @kindle.com.

Create a new email to send to your Kindle, go find your Payhip download (in Downloads) and attach it. Send. The book will download into your Kindle.

Promise.

 

 

Excentrico guests – Dutch P – #livinginSpain

Dutch P couldn’t really be more unlike Danish J. Wiry, quick-moving, mid-fifties and fit as a butcher’s dog, he drove here from The Hague with one overnight stop in Bordeaux (2200 km), stacked all his wind-surfing kit in the hall (that’s a lot of kit, by the way) and we had a midnight beer on the terrace while he brought me up to speed.

His wife, although not Spanish, is from a Spanish-speaking country and has been pining for some of the sun Spanish-speaking countries have in such generous quantities. She has a sister in Motril – and a job, an ideal job, came up in Malaga. Only problem – could he start Monday? Of course he could. He’s obviously a very can-do sort of man. It was the work of a moment for him to book in the Cameron for 4 days, drive a couple of thousand kilometres, and start apartment-hunting.

NEW 4

He was on the terrace with coffee and his first cigar of the day at 7.30 on Thursday morning and gone by 9, to return at midnight for another beer and update on the terrace. Success! Sister-in-law had set up 4 places to view, he’d signed the lease on the 3rd, been given the keys, and could now relax and have a holiday.

Friday morning found him in shorts on the terrace after a long lie-in (8.30) and then he was gone again, back to Motril. The new place has a pool in the apartment block and temperatures here now are over 30 degrees, so on Saturday, a day early, he repacked the car, hugged me goodbye like an old friend, and was gone.

I don’t know how much of his early departure was to do with the pool and wanting to get settled in the furnished apartment, or with the fact there was briefly no hot water on Saturday morning – eep.

I was, oh so luckily, up earlier than usual, and when I tried to shower there was no fwoop from the gas cylinder outside. CRAP. I have several gas cylinders and it was the work of but a moment to switch cylinders – even as the cap clicked into place, water started through the anti-scale filter and the heater said fwoop. Fortuitous timing, or had P been trying for a while? When I asked over coffee later, he insisted there had been no problem.

The replacement cylinder was from my winter heater and I had no idea how much gas it still had, so there  was a hasty dash down the road to the garage to get a full one.

By the way, and I mention this only in passing, the new guy at the garage looks like Jeff Goldblum.  I mean exactly like Jeff Goldblum, around his Jurassic Park period. Doesn’t speak a word of English. I really must start those Spanish lessons.

Back home, heaved the new cylinder out of the car and inside the front door, then drove off to find parking – when I returned, two minutes later, the cylinder was gone. P had spotted it, carried it through and then helpfully switched the cylinders for me, you have to admit that’s a handy guest to have! He was even dressed to match the house, in vivid green, and laughingly posed for a photograph before we packed the windsurfing kit into his Alfa-Romeo and he shot on his way.

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The neighbours are definitely intrigued by the variety of men through my door. My next guest is not only a woman but an old friend and entirely in keeping with the casa’s ambience, so the penny should drop soon but I’m enjoying my shady reputation while I can.

wink

Excentrico guests  – Danish J – #livinginSpain

1st of July and although at one stage it looked like we’d never get here, the Casa Excentrico is in business, the G suite is up and running, and there be guests!

Oliver, the front room overlooking the street, has J, a Danish writer / translator, who has been in for a week and is booked for four. We occasionally put the world to rights over summer wine (tinto de verano) on the terrace, since between us we cover most demographics (he’s male, mid-thirties, and being Danish, EEA rather than EU).  Now to get the governments of the world to listen to our brilliant solutions, eh?

NEW 1

He’s keen on politics, but his passion is football, and the World Cup is on at the moment. He has become the house’s roving reporter, advising which pavement cafes have TV and, importantly, their allegiances (Barcelona or Real Madrid), as that affects which international game they will be showing.  Of course every Spanish game is shown at them all, and then the place to be is the Futball Café.

As it happened I was there with local friends W and E on the night of the kick-off between Spain and Portugal. We’d gone because TripAdvisor gives the place great reviews for its tapas and its fish dishes, just the 3 of us as our mutual friend Nick doesn’t care for fish and doesn’t live in Velez anyway. As they aren’t footie types either, we were a little puzzled when TV screens started appearing on the plaza next to the café, and stacks of chairs were carried out, followed by scores of tables. The gathering buzz, as the extra tables were briskly set up, and equally briskly claimed, was palpable. We ordered a third round of drinks, received a third included-in-the-price plate of tapas (the first had been mushrooms in a delectable dressing, the other two fish-based) and can report that the quality, despite the excitement, held up nicely. It’s sunny on the plaza until about 9 p.m., it was a good game, and the atmosphere was absolutely brilliant.

Back to guest #1, J, he’s definitely one of the most laidback guests any host could ever want. He doesn’t mind being woken by the dawn chorus as every bird choir in Spain gathers outside the window to sing the sun into the sky:  he goes straight back to sleep and doesn’t even hear the bread van when it stops at the door and hoots around ten a.m.  He’s usually first spotted around noon, coffee in hand, as he heads up to the sun patio. If he hadn’t seen me the evening before to give me the football results, he will stick his head in the study window to update me gravely on the state of play. The guest living-room fridge is crammed with interesting food-stuffs and summer wine and he says he’s loving the place, and finding it beautifully cool after Granada, where he was staying before.

Note to self – avoid Granada for the summer, since the temps here are nudging 32 degrees most days. ‘Beautifully cool’ is the very last description I would have used.

Cameron, the room overlooking the atrium, has had its first guest too, and is gearing up for the next on Wednesday. I’m not sure I’d be doing blogs for every guest, just the more excentrico ones, but P does qualify and his blog follows shortly.

The Firma Digital (electronic signature) #livinginSpain #FirmasForDummies

These procedures seem to change minute to minute but I have added a Citizens Advice Spain link at the end which I found useful, and my grateful thanks to them. The process had already changed slightly but not so much that it was impossible to follow.

Why, you may ask, a digital signature at all? I’d never heard of such a beast before I came here, but perhaps they are spreading everywhere. Certainly Spain has a lot of bureaucracy, and a great many forms to complete, and luckily many of these forms can be completed online rather than trekking through blazing sunshine to queue in a hot building for a chance to practice your Spanish (or lack thereof) with burócrata.  However, such forms have to be signed – hence the firma digital. It is a certified form which downloads to your computer and can be attached to official applications as it proves that you are who you say you are. It’s a bit of a fiddle to get but saves endless amounts of time (and queuing to apply for things) once you have it.

In effect you apply via, say, CERES. If you follow the instructions properly (see the CAB Spain link at the end of this blog), you will be given a reference number.

You then find the closest official representative and present yourself with suitable proofs of identity. The official representative verifies you are who you say you are, confirms to the website that reference 8283838etc is indeed human and in existence,  the website emails you a certificado which will download deep into the bowels of your computer, and Bob’s your uncle.

Dead easy, right?

Right.

Okay, my additional pointers to the CAB link are firstly you can’t apply via Google Chrome. It comes up as an unsafe site, every time. The choices are Internet Explorer (which doesn’t like me, and it is mutual) or Firefox, and after some fruitless faffing around on IE I downloaded Firefox and zoomed through the application.

(I like Firefox but it isn’t very good at translating and while it obligingly said WELCOME and my headings were in English, the text stayed stubbornly in Spanish so there was much hopping to the tab with the Spanish-to-English translator. Anyway.)

Done, and I had my reference number.

Now to be verified by an official – The closest official firma digital representative was, yay, the local council office, the ayuntamiento.  Except that it wasn’t, anymore (this is oddly Spanish, information can be quite profoundly out of date, why bother to change the website?) The kind senora behind the desk explained it had now been farmed out to the local Casa de la Cultura.  I rather wish it hadn’t, to be honest, since the official who handles it there works two evenings, and one morning, a week, and isn’t always there.

Still, on my third attempt I struck paydirt, presented my padron (see my previous blog), my NIE, my deeds and my passport (rule of thumb – take every piece of paper you own, you never know what you will be asked for) and by the time I walked home the email was already in my mailbox to download my certificado direct onto my computer.  One two three done, your certificate is downloaded.

Um – where?

And this is where the other useful piece of advice comes in. If you, like me, used Firefox, click on the Firefox menu, top right hand corner. Click on Options. Search for certificates and when presented with a bewilderingly long list, select the ‘your certificates’ tab. It will be there. If not, download again.

I have also, under Options, switched Firefox to asking me where to file downloads but I’m not sure this would have helped  – the firma hides out of sight and talks only to appropriately authorised websites. Human beings aren’t really welcomed into the equation at all.  Our role is to haul documents around in street temperatures topping 30 degrees C until our task is complete and we can drop exhausted by the wayside.

Here’s that helpful link –

https://www.citizensadvice.org.es/wp-content/uploads/HOW-TO-OBTAIN-A-DIGITAL-CERTIFICATE-FOR-YOUR-COMPUTER.pdf?18f76b

And of course now that I have my firma digital I can complete my application to offer accommodation, since I am already accepting bookings on my temporary licence. Another blog looms. Thanks for bearing with me here, guys. I need all the moral support I can get.

 

Got my #padron, waiting for the policia to call – #livingInSpain

Sooner or later you have to tell the Spanish authorities that you have moved in, and the NIE*, although fairly vital to everyday life, doesn’t cut it.  You have around six months grace – time enough to know whether you will be sticking around or not – but after that it’s not only polite to register, it is required.  It is free, and adds you to the population of the town or city where you spend the most time.  I have the stamped copy on my desk, and at some point the policia will knock on the door and ask to see my passport or NIE to confirm I am me. Sorted.

The Padron – short for empadronamiento – if you live more than 180 days a year in Spain, you are legally required to register on the Padrón Municipal de Habitantes. It’s not unlike getting yourself on the electoral roll in the UK, but has more benefits and is a vital step towards eventually applying for permanent residency.

So – this is how you get it. Well, how I got it. Call in at the local town office, which rejoices in the name of Ayumtamiento (saying ayoomta me ento will get you pointed in the right direction) and ask for the form. (Necessito padron, if you speak pidgin Spanish as I do, I still sound like a 2 year old). Requirements can change, apparently, but they asked me to complete the form and bring it back with a copy of my NIE and my escritura (deeds) or lease.

Tiny problem there as I don’t have my deeds yet – this is an old house, and the seller’s grandfather’s death certificate was destroyed during WW2 and that’s delaying things, but presenting the first page of the formal document I signed in front of the notary when I bought the house was acceptable.

Completing the form was, even with the aid of my online translator, a bit tricky, and I finally hauled in a Spanish teacher I’ve met socially and paid for a couple of hours of her time (there were other forms we tackled as well). For example, I use two surnames, unhyphenated, as a matter of course, and the form asks for 1st Apellido and 2nd Apellido. I was advised, though, to put Elizabeth Lamprey as my nombre, and my surname as 1st Apellido, as this is the way my name appears on my passport.

(In Spain it is common to include the surnames of both parents in a name, the 1st being mother’s maiden name and the 2nd being father’s, and you more or less have the choice of which to use as your own surname, but should stick thereafter with the one you chose.  Hence 1st and 2nd apellido. Confused yet? I did borrow this ambiguity for my book The Money Honey and have no idea how it doesn’t cause more confusion, but everyone seems to understand it without any problems)

Back to the form – I had to then enter my most recent previous residence (Edimburgo, Reino Unido) and my date and place of birth (which, according to my NIE, is Durban, Natal, Reino Unido, there you go, Natal always did say it was the last outpost of the British Empire), my NIE and that was pretty much Bob’s your uncle.

The only other pause for thought was my estudios terminados – level, you could say, of education – and on the advice of my helper I chose 43 from the list on the back of the form – i.e. some studies after completing school, or the equivalent of a BA.

Presented, accepted, stamped, copy issued, and waiting only for the knock on the door.

yay

*The NIE,  more than the UK NI, is part tax certificate,  part ID number, essential to prove existence, and comes as pretty much part of the deal when you buy property anyway.  NIE stands for Número de identidad de extranjero and you will be asked for your number constantly, even when accepting a delivery at your door. Passport number is accepted if you are an obvious outsider, but the NIE is preferred.  I know it takes a while to obtain – up to a month – but as mine was sorted by my Spanish lawyer while I was still in the UK I can’t report on the process.

I mentioned we were tackling other forms – the digital signature, which is proving a bit of a mission, and my licence to offer rooms to let as a rural property owner, watch out for future exciting blogs.  So far I have a reference number for my digital signature but must present myself at a suitably authorised authority for verification (closest may be  Motril but may be Granada) after which I will get my confirmed virtual document on their website which I can download and send with every online application for anything.

I also have my temporary CTC reference to advertise my rooms to let, but need to confirm that in full within the month, more bureaucracy, oh joy. I am joyful that as I live in a town of under 20K residents I am considered a rural location and didn’t need to jump through the draconian requirements of letting rooms in a big city, where you have to offer full hotel standard with all the health and safety requirements of same. Yikes!