What’s in a name? #LivingInSpain

I carry a concertina file with every single piece of paper I may need to prove my identity and / or address every time I go near the authorities.

This is in part sensible practice, because you often have no idea what may be required (I list some of them below) and it saves an awful lot of running back and forth and standing in the same queues more than once. It is also in part because my parents generously gave me four names at birth, none of which are remotely Spanish, and the Spanish authorities must have, so far, at least seven variations on record.

My favourite variation came from Movistar, the telephone service, which has my middle names, Joanna Lamprey, as Yoanha Lanprey. My car is registered to Elizabeth Jonanna Lamprey (i.e. my actual surname doesn’t appear at all) and my new driving licence has, I think perhaps fortunately, been issued in the same name.

The main problem is that in Spain most people have at least four names including two surnames, their mother’s and their father’s.  The mother’s surname customarily comes last. Most choose to use father’s surname as main surname but you do have the choice, every Spanish form you will ever fill in asks for 1st apilledo, and most have a separate spot for 2nd apilledo.

So along comes Elegsabiff with four names and quite often the authority I am dealing with decides I am too ignorant to know that my 1st apilledo is the third name, so they correct my mistake for me. Quite often said authority is in Madrid, or Granada, or Jaen, so I’m not there at the time to correct it back.

Even the ones that get it right struggle with the spelling – hence  Elisabeth, Yoanha, Joann, Jonanna, Lanprey, etc.  Those who do add in my actual surname invariably do spell it right. Nobody can pronounce it, though, so I always have to spell it out. It includes a Y.

Y is pronounced i griega. No, no reason, just thought you’d want to know.

So, flipping through my concertina file, I have

  1. My NIE – número de identidad de extanjero – has my name perfectly, in full, but shows me as being born in Durban, United Kingdom. Oh well, we in Natal always did call ourselves the last outpost of the British Empire. You’re asked for your NIE all the time. Learn the number by heart.
  2. My Padron – Joanna was skipped as being unnecessary / too difficult to spell / not needed on voyage.
  3. My official bank certificate, for bank details – Lamprey was skipped as being confusing.
  4. My permission to run a guest house from the Turismo y Deporte – Joanna not included
  5. My registration as self-employed (autonomo/a) and a tax payer is perfect – now – but originally had me as Elisabeth Joann etc
  6. The Fremap one reversed 1st apilledo and 2nd apilledo.
  7. My escritura (deeds for my house) are, phew, perfect. That’ll make the will much easier, so long as the name is right on the will.
  8. My medical card is almost right – who needs the final A in Joann?
  9. My residency card is perfect, but took three tries and the translator I luckily took with me getting really, really emphatic.
  10. My name on the tax register had two errors and eventually I had to get an accountant to correct it.
  11. Six photocopies of my passport – which I carry on me at all times.
sigh

In every single case I had to provide either my passport or a notarized copy at the time. I really hope there won’t be tears before bedtime with all these variations, not one of which was me being ditzy.  If I lose this concertina file I suspect I will cease to exist.

I do rather wish my parents had liked the name Maria, and hadn’t bothered with the others, useful as they have proved as pen names.

moping

 

Agatha Christie was NOT dyslexic – who on earth benefits from this fabrication? No-one dyslexic!

A (rumour) can circle the earth before Truth can get its boots on – variations of that have been attributed to Winston Churchill and Mark Twain, among others, and Terry Pratchett quoted it several times in a Discworld book so I’m sure some think Pratchett was the source. How very appropriate that a quote regarding fabrications is probably wrongly attributed most of the time.

I saw a blog written by a dyslexic saying he was in good company and quoting a long list of famous dyslexics including, to my surprise, Agatha Christie. Lots of general comments, none protesting her inclusion in the list. I was even more surprised when I looked it up, the internet agreed: oh yes she was, she had to dictate all her books, even the very first Poirot.

Oh no she wasn’t. Oh no she didn’t. Not according to her, anyway, and you’d think she’d know. Yes as her books started selling she had secretaries but not because she had dysgraphia (inability to tell a coherent story) (seriously???) or dyslexia. She may not have liked typing but she wrote a fair bit in longhand even when she had a dictaphone or secretary, while she was plotting.

Put it this way, in her autobiography she talked about the writing of one of her best books, Absent In The Spring. It’s a Mary Westmacott book, not a whodunit, and it is absolutely seamless, a book that flows without a check. She said the idea had been quietly in the back of her head for a long time and when the time came she wrote it in one sitting, 70-something hours without stopping: slept for 24 hours, read it back, and barely had to change a single word. That is quite possibly as far from dyslexia as you can get, and something that turns other writers green. It is something we all dream of. Check the autobiography.

She’s been added to a very specific list and I don’t think that’s fair. A young relative of mine had partial word-blindness, not full-blown dyslexia, and that was still a battle that was hard fought. Overcoming dyslexia, or working around it, is such a struggle and takes such perseverance that it builds formidable character. No wonder there are positive role models and success stories! Winning against a disadvantage, especially fairly early on, shapes your life.

It helps with every challenge we ever face if we know others have fought and won, that it can be done. But – how valid is the list? What possible benefit is there in adding a commercially successful writer who taught herself to read at the age of 5? Where is the role model, the success story? She apparently had a poem published when she was 11. What are we to say to our dyslexic 11 year-old who, flushed with success, has achieved a short slightly lopsided barely-rhyming poem – that’s nice, pet, but we’re not Agatha Christie yet, are we? No-one’s going to publish that, are they? Go back and try again.

Whatever we struggle with in life is tough enough without setting fake goals. Just saying.

https://www.agathachristie.com/stories/absent-in-the-spring

Should you die in Spain – there’s stuff you should know first #livinginSpain

Dying is the last thing I intend to do, but it seems where you die can make quite a big difference. Dying in Spain doesn’t only leave your British-trained friends and family with a language barrier to be surmounted, it is handled completely differently.

In the UK the process between death and farewell takes a while: apart from anything else there’s frequently a wait of a week or more for a date at the crematorium, there could even be an inquest, and it means lots of time for that assembling of the bereaved for a service somewhere along the line. So if you want that sort of delay, do try not to die in Spain.

Say you’re in Spain visiting a friend who drops dead, or falls down the stairs and breaks their neck (don’t let’s dwell but these things happen) here’s what you do and don’t do

  1. Phone the policia on 112 (the operators speak English) who will arrive pretty quickly.
  2. Normally the policia will accept the death as an unsuspicious tragedy. There is no mortuary van or private ambulance system here. They will call the nearest funeral director.
  3. He will bring a body release form. If you sign that form, you have just committed to paying all funeral expenses. He won’t take the body if you won’t. So this is definitely the point to look in your friend’s wallet for any card showing pre-planned funeral arrangements. If there is one, all is well, the funeral director will take the body and deal with the plan-holders, who will also know what arrangements were desired.
  4. The default procedure is overnight at the closest tanatorio, cremation booked for the first slot available the next day, off in a plain basic coffin to the crematorium by hearse, there’s a service for any hastily assembled friends and relatives, the funeral director may choose to add a flourish or two such as releasing a hundred white doves, and in the fullness of time an urn in handed over. All done and dusted. If you signed that body release form for your friend, and there’s no funeral plan to bail you out, that’s several thousand euros, ta very much.
  5. Autopsies are, for the main part, only required by the State for car accident victims, and while the authorities pick up that tab, they don’t pick up the tab for any storage delays. This is a hot country. Storage at a tanatorio can cost up to 1000 euros a day depending on location, time of year, demand: hence the speed, hence the expense.

Take the bloke who dropped dead on holiday in a rented cabin on a Friday night – the policia came, decided there was nothing suspicious, and called a funeral director to collect the body. The couple’s travel insurance didn’t specify what it would cover and his distracted wife couldn’t learn more, or sort out any finances, until Monday. Okay, said the funeral director, I’ll be back Monday.

And he left, leaving the bloke on the floor of the kitchen.

Or the chappie who was on holiday in another part of the country. He was covered for death expenses, had his card with all the contact numbers, and the hotel phoned the funeral planners and his next-of-kin. Quite a shock for his son, but after two days he got his head together enough to phone the funeral company to ask what happens next, when should the funeral be . . . there was an awkward pause. Um. Your dad was cremated yesterday.

This is no criticism of the Spanish system, which is sensible, efficient, and the accepted way of life death – but it isn’t something you want to learn the hard way, especially if you fall in with an unscrupulous or overly sentimental funeral director and the costs spiral higher than those doves.

The lesson here for the future customer is if you want to make specific arrangements, make them in advance, and make them easy to find. The policia  routinely notify your banco, which will freeze your account(s) instantly, so it also makes sense for any couple with a joint bank account to have separate emergency funds. If nothing else, that will also pay for the rather nice Spanish tradition, in some areas, of a street party open to all in memory of the friend gone before.

A surprisingly large number of people plan to leave their bodies to medical research – unless you have a very unusual condition, that is no longer usually an option (anywhere – supply has exceeded demand) and even when it is you will still be expected to pay those tanatorio rates.

Although I’m not planning any imminent demise I don’t want to leave my daughter, who speaks no Spanish and lives a thousand miles away, tangling with technicalities: it seemed a good idea to get that useful card from English-speaking professionals tucked into my wallet, with a copy in my car documents. Too awkward to otherwise have some hapless guest here faced with the choice of either having to sign for my lavish arrangements, or stepping over my crumpled body at the bottom of the stairs for a few days, eh? So I am now sorted.

No doves.

Ever researching on your behalf,

Elegsabiff

fuller brothers funeral home

(from internet – copyright Fuller Brothers funeral home) 

If you smoked while you watched the moon-landing, and you’re still smoking now – #smoke/vape/quit

 

(I can talk for Africa: scroll towards the end if you want what I considered the 6 potent pros and cons re vaping generally, distilled from a dozen websites.)

howsafeisvap

copyright Medical Xpress 

Must be said that not a lot of people who watched the moon landing in 1969, or were grooving at Woodstock, are still smoking. Some are gone from us, for a variety of reasons which would include passage of time, moons, raves, smoking, etc. Many have quit in the intervening years. Hands up, though, if you started as a teenager, whenever that was, and a few decades have gone by, and you still smoke now.

No disapproving eyebrow from me. I was too young to be smoking in 1969  but I started as soon as I could – at 13 behind the biking shed (as one did) and coughed my lungs up (as one did) and persisted (as, unfortunately, one did). In the seventies smoking was something you could do indoors and out, in public as well as in private, and without breaking the budget. Times have changed a bit and yet some of us still defiantly smoke and still enjoy it but the pressure never stops quit-quit-quit-quit-while-you-can

In my case I had a stammer and was overjoyed by smoking.  The standard therapist advice for overcoming a stammer is to pause before tackling a difficult word. That looked so geeky: but to suck in smoke before tackling a difficult word? Once you get over the choking stage, it looks entirely natural. So a few random decades have flowed under the bridge and apart from a 3 year break (which I didn’t enjoy)  I am smoking still and I no longer stammer at all.  But my best buddy in Spain, who has been smoking even longer than I have, has been ill and didn’t enjoy being ill and has now as part of his new and improved lifestyle invested in some pretty fancy vaping kit. I have an uneasy feeling in a week or two he is going to be very superior and patronising. Time to look up some facts and I looked at a dozen websites and cherry-picked what worked for me. Lots and lots of overlap on my 6 pros and 6 cons, try it for yourself.

I found, as you probably have, that vaping doesn’t get the best press. In fact there is growing terror that those pesky teenagers who started smoking at 13 (tut) are instead now vaping at 13 and that is generating some fantastic warning bells from, well, everyone. JUST QUIT AND STOP BEING A BAD INFLUENCE is the word on the street, and many add crossly that it isn’t the best way to quit and can lead to swapping one addiction for another.

By the way I’ve always thought the fastest way to stop teenagers thinking smoking is cool would be to force wrinkly wheezers back out from behind the bins where society has dumped us, and make us smoke in public, but that’s not the point.

The point – he wants to use vaping to cut down dramatically, with the intention of quitting altogether. I’m assuming you’re reading the blog because you’re considering that too.

The success rate is – meh.  Alternating smoking and vaping has the lowest success rate of all. Having a gasper which can deliver a selectable low or high nicotine hit, and sticking to it, has a high success rate – but there’s that  possibility of getting addicted instead to the gasper.

The cons are tricky:

  1. long-term studies aren’t available yet, because the trend hasn’t really been going long enough. However, lab studies on non-human subjects are fairly firm on the subject – this isn’t much better for you.
  2. In fact with words like ‘popcorn lung’ and ‘increased risk of heart attack’, not to mention faulty vaping kits and / or rechargeable batteries exploding, it carries some significant risks of its own.
  3. Reducing the risk of explosive kits, and getting real benefit, means forking out a hefty start-up price for something safe, adjustable, and which won’t run out of puff just when you want it most. Costs can start around the price of a carton of cigarettes (in Spain, where they are relatively affordable), and run really high, up to 1000€. This is not the time to economise. Buy the best you can afford.
  4. Once you have the kit, there are so many variations, flavours, mixtures and options for blowing a cloud that finding one you like could take a discouraging while. Some have stopped trying.
  5. Oh, and re those variations – this whole fad has blown up so quickly, and is moving so fast, that it is effectively unmonitored. There are options on offer which have never been tested on anybody or anything and you will be one of the guinea pigs finding out how bad the side-effects could be.
  6. You still need to smoke outside unless everyone else is vaping too.

That’s the bad news. The pros are potent too.

  1. Ongoing cost is minimal. Vaping vs smoking will save you LOADS. (I know, you’re using it to give up so you don’t need to know that but I’m mentioning it anyway.)
  2. Your breath, clothes and hair won’t smell, or you can choose a vape option which makes you smell like a rose garden, or a beach at sunset, or a chocolate milkshake.
  3. Your fingers and teeth won’t be stained (your teeth may rot faster, but hey, that’s only if you become a vape addict and probably the least of your problems if you do)
  4. You can have a low-setting puff or two when you want (no having to finish, or stub out and waste, a cigarette when you only needed a puff)
  5. You can dial up a high-setting puff when you need a jolt – cravings are stopped in their tracks to reel away, gasping.
  6. The mere fact of making, and carrying through, the decision to change your life, is proving you’re statistically far likelier to bring in other life-enhancing improvements.

I tried his new toy and triggered the kind of coughing fit I haven’t had since I was 13. Then I dialled it back and tried more cautiously and it was – okay. If he cracks this, I’m going to have to follow suit, or give up the friendship, or face a social future of being patronised and smirked at every time I light a cigarette.

Maybe it’s time. (And century-old words like ‘gasper’ and ‘blowing a cloud’ definitely appeal to me)

Ever researching on your behalf

Elegsabiff

Only the lonely – end of an era, and a thank you. #CS

CS – a website connecting singles to other singles – is close to unique in having a lively blogging and forums facility.  At the time I joined, around five years ago, it was international, multi-cultural and interdenominational, and the majority of the members were fairly careful not to step too heavily on the toes of others of different cultures and beliefs in the lively interaction.

conversing

At its best the CS blogs were a kind of Cheers, where everyone knew your name, long term members knew  which blogs would be fun to banter on and which should be avoided (a few nutters grumbled about cliques) and people occasionally met up – I met around a dozen different members, over the five years, and enjoyed online friendships with people I would never meet, would never have met in any other way.

Joining CS changed my life. I said in a lifestyle interview that I got belatedly brave. When I joined I had become a recluse living behind my computer in Scotland, writing books and hoping if I left the real world alone it would return the favour. I only joined to ask single people questions because I needed answers for my books:  the thought of going out and asking real people was unthinkable.

Now I live in Spain, still writing books in between teaching English as a second language and opening my very quirky old house up to paying guests, interacting with others every day, and all of that can be directly traced back to joining the website five years ago.

So CS was pretty special to me, and it was fun. Most of the bloggers were comfortable being single, sometimes drifting in and out of relationships while they waited without anxiety for The One, or sitting shiva for the One who had been lost, or enjoying the banter because for whatever reason real life couldn’t offer the same kind of sociability. There weren’t that many of us, a few hundred at most, some popping by regularly, some intermittently, and blog subjects ranged between being single, topical events, being single, old jokes shaken out for new readers, being single, the occasional attempt to save souls by offering various religions, being single, and every now and then some politics to spice things up.  The being single thing, some blogs were happy about it, some furious and hurting, some philosophical, some raunchy, some advising. It was relevant to the site, after all. One other thing that made it unique – it was like a petrie dish of life itself,  a tiny cross-section of international viewpoints from all ages on all subjects, often fascinatingly alien.

love

A couple of years ago disaster struck. Another blogging website for singles finally closed when it had become so toxic that it had only a handful of members left. The best of them had already come across and fitted right in but unfortunately when it closed its zombies  lurched across and joined CS – for the most part the kind of Christians who would tar and feather Christ for not being American, or at least wearing a MAGA cap.  They blogged relentlessly on their convictions, never joining any of the existing chats, ignoring what CS was as they determinedly changed it to what they had known (and destroyed), lost in their own obsession and speaking only to each other.

roll eyes 

It was like exploding a hate bomb in Cheers. Politics and singles don’t mix.  People obsessed with bigotry certainly don’t mix. Existing members tried to jolly them into chilling, or tried ignoring them, or disinterred unsuspected hates and prejudices to leap into the fray, exploding cyber friendships in the process.  Many withdrew altogether, bored or disgusted or chased on their way by hostility and anger. So much anger, and so much of it illiterate into the bargain.

scold

It reached a point where the minutiae of American politics accounted for the majority of the blogs – an occasional offering from a Normal always attracted comments and chat but Normals were becoming thin on the ground.  (Okay, “Normals” is a loose term, we long-term singles aren’t, but some are more normal than others.)

laugh

Bigmouth launched a protest and a blog asking that politics be confined to a sub-section of the website and although many of the original members joined the protest saying yes yes YES my profile was promptly deleted by the site moderators.

doh 

End of an era. But when I say that one of the no no NO comments was “Bullshite Elegsabutt! (sic) You have a stick so far stuck up your arse you would always find something and someone to complain about,” you can see how far the change has gone. It is definitely time to go.

Please charge your glasses and join me in a toast to a singles website which changed the lives of many besides me. Thank you. No regrets – I knew when I lit the match that I was probably going to be burning my boats, but they were no longer seaworthy as they were. How nice it would have been if instead it had worked and the hate had burned instead. Que sera, sera.

wine

And to the zombies – a pox on your houses.

tongue

The relevance to you, dear Reader, for patiently getting this far? Don’t let politics destroy your friendships and relationships. People can hold different views, despite professional and social media’s frantic attempts to set us all at each other’s throats. If you find yourself hating, it is time to re-examine your position – it may be time to walk away. When the self-obsessed media storm is over, we will still be left with each other – don’t have destroyed that.

 

Officially amazing, haha – and legal #livinginSpain

I was thrilled to be featured in January as an Amazing Over Fifty on the LovingTheFiftySomething website – all too often when I’ve idly searched online for ‘over fifty‘ the links that come up show groups of impressively-preserved people demurely sipping tea and talking about how nice it is to be in the still waters following the white-water rapids of life. The women have abundant silvery hair in perfect chignons and the men are smiling to show their remarkable teeth and you’d be proud, honestly, to have them as grandparents but they didn’t seem people who would like or welcome scatty disorganized erratic types like me.  LovingTheFiftySomething features – well, not necessarily erratic types! – but those still riding the rapids and refusing to be relegated to the sidelines. YES.

yay

Anyway, in my scatty disorganized erratic way I’ve been taking lots and lots of advice on this whole living-in-Spain thing. It really doesn’t help that the 3 professionals I’ve spoken to had strong opinions on my only sensible route, but were touting 3 separate routes. Chris, who had sorted the car out, said firmly my best option was to become autonoma – self employed.  I would file an annual tax return, I would go instantly onto the Social so be covered by the Health service, and residency would be guaranteed trouble-free, and rubber-stamped by the local policia without a murmur.  However, he was away when it came time to do my end-of-year tax payment as a home-owner, and sent me to Ana, in a town about 40 miles away, who specializes in all things tax and legal generally. Ana was absolutely wonderful, drew up my tax document promptly and patiently answered lots of questions, but she felt autonoma was an expensive option for me. The problem was that I would have to pay all my taxes in Spain, on my international income, and while in the UK tax only applies after the first 12K, or thereabouts, in Spain the tax-free window is not only 6K, but once you cross that, you pay tax on the entire amount. Plus the Social, although for new registrations is only 50 euros a month, goes up steadily over 2 years until you are paying the whole 275 euros a month, and that’s a lot of money for someone like me who will never reap the long-term benefits of a Spanish pension –  you have to have been paying in for 15 years. Better, she said, to go for Residency. I would need to prove a stable monthly income sufficient to support me, and take out a comprehensive medical aid, and then – Bob’s your uncle.

Comprehensive medical aids are surprisingly expensive once you are no longer in the first flush of youth. At a party I asked some friends what they did, and who they used, and they recommended Nina, right here in Motril. Since I knew I had to pay tax on my rental income from the house by the end of January, I went to Nina instead of trekking the 40 miles back to Ana.  She said firmly that until we know exactly what is happening with Brexit (anyone else sick of that word?) I should remain a non-resident home-owner, pay my taxes (19%) on my rental income 4 times a year, and if Brexit brings in visa requirements which mean I have to leave the country 2 or 4 times a year, well, then we look at other options.  So I have paid my taxes and have bought a little time to think through my options.

A surprising number of ex-pats are still unregistered, some scrambling a bit nervously now to become official residents, others waiting to see what will happen.

cool

My Spanish vocabulario grows by the day – I am busy on a book with the working title Pidgin Spanish (based on a family called Pidgin who moved to Spain) which includes all the TEFL tricks of learning a second language, mini situational stories with handy dialogue, numbers for counting / telephones / the date / making appointments:  the Spanish alphabet for spelling out your name and address: the rudimentary basics for linguistically-challenged types (ie me) to get by.  I’m truly rubbish at languages – I spent 12 years in school in South Africa without ever mastering Afrikaans, which back then was the country’s second official language – but little by little the Spanish I need is being nailed into place. I can read documents, make myself understood with less wild mime, and every encounter navigated successfully is a joyful little oooh. It may never be published – how many others are there who simply can’t conjugate verbs efficiently, after all? – but it’s helping me no end.  Roll on 2019, I’m braced for impact.

laugh

The Ambition Tradition

Maybe, just maybe, growing up is knowing when you’ve reached your comfort zone?  I come from a family of strivers, raised with the stern mantra that winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. There are black sheep in every herd but generally it was try try try again, be the best you can be, put in the hours, burn the midnight oil, get out there and succeed!

hole

Oh well. Done my time in the business rat race – rush rush RUSH impossible deadlines which got met, crazy high targets which were somehow achieved and of course the prize for winning is tighter deadlines and higher targets – annnnnnnnnnnnd . . . dropped out

Breathe

Again. Deeeeeeeeeeeep breath. Nice, huh?

So – the modified ambition tradition. These promises I made to myself, and this promise to my restless ancestors – I will be the best I can be, at the various things I do, but I will not beat myself up because I’m not publicly winning at doing the various things I do.

I’ll stop every now and then, too, to smell the roses bougainvillea

dsc_0845

And tomorrow, after some unavoidable delays,  I start the fairly complicated road to formal residency.  Fingers crossed

cool