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.

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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

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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?

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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!

 

The end of the beginning – aka, el final del principio

Last Saturday, 5/5,  I had a small party – I’ve been invited to several since I got here, so it was a chance to return hospitality, but more importantly it marked the end of the beginning, a target date to have things ready, all the rubble cleared. I moved in on 3rd October and I was carrying the last bags of debris to the town bins at 2 in the morning six months later.  It was a long slog!

I’m no cook, and my renovations have provided a kitchen smaller than either my home office or my bathroom. The catering was the simplest – a picnic  theme, an assortment of help-yourself fillings and a range of fresh breads from the bread van. I pre-warned him on Friday in my best Spanish – every day I buy two 8 inch rolls (at 90c for both,  the easiest and cheapest way to do lunches for myself and buddy / builder Nick) and on Friday I said fluently “mañana cinco y rosca y baguette” (tomorrow five, and 8 inch bagels, and everyone knows baguette, right?)

I didn’t add ‘por favor’ because I have a complex about that, we Brits are known as por favors because we say it too often, the Spanish find it hilarious.  My Spanish is still terrible, in part because the local dialect cuts the ends off words so learning ‘proper’  Spanish  doesn’t help much. Even something as simple as buenos dias, here, is pronounced ‘born-dia’

So that was the base catering, the dozen guests brought tapas-type items and quiche and dips, and in the end it was quite a spread, and a lot of fun.  The grass matting was still being laid until 9 pm the night before, and I was still frantically tidying the last bits when they arrived promptly at 2, help, they live here and they don’t keep Spanish time??

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It was only when they left that I could, for the first time in six months, savour the sheer pleasure of looking at the atrium. It’s a long narrow house with a long narrow atrium / terrace and when that’s empty, it catches the heart and the imagination – well, it caught mine.  On the 3rd of October I unpacked the camper van into it and around a week later my furniture and boxes arrived and near-filled it and ever since it has been the heart of the building operations and has looked absolutely horrible for six months.  Some day (phase three) it will be tiled properly again but in the meantime I’m loving the grass!

terry pic atrium

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In a way the terrace photos below illustrate the six months best, but perhaps that’s only because it was the last job finished. The terrace was a series of long shallow steps (the first photo is at their worst, from the top looking down). Now there is a levelled section big enough to hold a table and chairs for sundowners, with the ‘welcoming arms’ curved retaining wall a nostalgic flashback to my childhood.  The plumbing to the laundry is well old so we carefully built in new piping so that if or when the original pipes spring a leak, connecting a new supply won’t mean digging the whole thing up again.

So now I’m basically ready for guests. The trick is sourcing the writers, walkers, cyclists, hikers, poke-around-exploring travellers who want accommodation in a typical Spanish town near the beaches of the Costa Tropical and Granada and the Sierra Nevada in a slightly quirky house. No problem, eh?

Velez without powerlines