INTO AFRICA SKETCHES

Chapter 3

One of the first things to come under discussion, apart from 24 packets of butter, was the dog.  And when I say dog, I mean a DOG, although anyone could be excused for thinking she was a lion.  Her name was Nina and she was the biggest Great Dane I had ever clapped eyes on.

Unfortunately she had been seriously ill with tick fever and consequently was as thin as a rake, with every bone protruding under her sand-coloured coat.  One of our obligations to her owners was to try and build her back up to full size.  Full size?

We were relieved to find that none of the children were afraid of her, despite never having come across such a large dog before, let alone have to share their home with one.

F Kids with Nina

 

Chapter 4

We were shown our new house and it more than makes up for the lack of decent shopping facilities.

The house is a sort of straight zig-zag shape.  Or an elongated H with the top right arm and bottom left leg missing. This is extremely difficult to describe in words.  I’ll draw you a sketch. 

It is in Riverside, the same residential suburb as we are in at the moment, only about a mile further down the road and stands on a large corner plot bounded by a high, fancy concrete wall.  It has a big garden with trees and stuff, most of which I have yet to identify.

F 16 McFrazier Road 2

 

Chapter 5

Shortly after the exodus of women, came the labour force being driven home.

Hundreds of men crammed in the back of lorries, which came in a multitude of shapes and sizes.  But they didn’t just stand up in the trucks, they also sat on the roof of the cab, or on the rear and side panels, with their arses hanging over the edge.  The state of some of the roads in Kitwe left a lot to be desired and as the vehicles bounced in and out of the potholes it was a miracle that the passengers all stayed in, or on, at all.

One of the other great mysteries was the shape of the trucks and buses.  I came to the conclusion that they must buy them from a specialist manufacturer, as they all had the same trait – lopsided bodies and back wheels which took a different route to the front wheels. They looked like they were driving crab-wise.  No wonder so many ended up in ditches.

F Homeward Bound  3

Chapter 8

The It’s-a-Knockout competition was very well organised.  The teams were made up by employees of the various companies operating in and around Kitwe.  We wandered around to watch the various, often hilarious, events which included the usual jousting on a pole; racing – on stilts – through a maze of beer crates; walk the plank – blindfolded, and many more.  The kids were a bit puzzled by all this – they couldn’t understand why grown-ups were playing the sort of games normally associated with children, but on a bigger scale. They took some convincing that they couldn’t join in (and I wouldn’t have minded a shot at a few of them myself).  We eventually strolled back to the rondavel and got around to cooking our food at about 4:00pm.

Ziggy and I were given the privilege of using the braai first in view of the fact that we had the youngest children.  That turned out to be more fortuitous than we had anticipated, because just as we sat down to eat, the heavens opened.  Chaos ensued as everyone tried to squeeze everything, including themselves, inside the area protected by the thatched roof.

Within three minutes we had: twelve adults (I’m not sure where the extra two came from); eight chairs; five kids; a pushchair; two tables; six coolbags; two coolboxes; a beer crate and a potty – all crammed under the twelve-foot diameter roof.

F Rondavel in the Rain 3

Chapter 13

One day Brad came trotting indoors followed closely by Vicki who, being a little snitch at the time, piped up,

“Mummy, Brad’s got a lizard in his hand.”

Naturally I didn’t believe her.  Foolish me.  Next minute Brad put the lizard (actually a gecko) down on the floor and we watched it scuttling around the kitchen.  Really it was not as bad as it sounds, until its tail fell off when Coke pounced on it.    The gecko beat a hasty, stunted retreat and the severed tail continued to wriggle.  URGH.  Until Coke ate it.  DOUBLE URGH!!

On the subject of creepy-crawlies, on another occasion the kids called me to the front door to look at a ‘mosquito’.  It was five inches long.  It was not a mosquito.

We had recently purchased a book entitled Insects of Zambia and after quick reference to this discovered it was a stick insect.  Using some blue tack, I stuck a 50p coin next to it for size comparison and took some photographs.  As the name implies, it looks just like a stick.  On a tree you probably wouldn’t even notice it.  But as we didn’t normally have sticks growing out of our front door we were able to spot it quite easily.

F Stick Insect

Also Chapter 13

If Brandy wasn’t handy Coke would try to bite what/whomsoever was.  He mostly went for the ankles or calves, but in the case of Vicki he took a liking to her fat little bottom, so he tried to grab that.  I was in fits one afternoon watching him chase her up and down the garden, Vicki attempting to outrun him, but standing little chance.   But the funniest sight of all was Coke with Leon.

Leon had been playing in the paddling pool and as usual had no clothes on.  Coke was sniffing about nearby when something very tempting caught his eye, whereupon he hopped up to Leon and tried to bite his little willy.  Naturally, Leon shouted and ran off.  Coke found this a great game and ran after him.  So there was Leon running around the garden, holding onto his spab, with Coke at his side jumping up trying to bite it. Every time he almost succeeded Leon

would yell “Hey” at the top of his voice, at which Cokey would bark.  For the next few minutes all I could hear was – “pitter-patter pitter-patter, HEY, yap, yap”, “pitter-patter pitter-patter, HEY, yap, yap”, etc

Eventually Leon came running inside, shouting to the puppy right behind him,

“HEY, you shouldn’t do that to me!”

F Leon with Coke the Biter 3

Chapter 21      (The New Year’s Eve party)

I had brought Ziggy a choice of harem outfits; powder blue or emerald green.  He felt the powder blue was more his colour, saying that it matched his eyes.  When I went into the bedroom to do his makeup, I was totally overwhelmed by the sight before me.  He had already donned his baggy pants, but underneath them he wore his jock strap!

I don’t know if you’ve had any experience of jock straps.  In my opinion they are not a pretty sight at the best of times; but exposed beneath sheer, powder blue chiffon…

Well, it was just something else – the eye-catcher being the huge bulge at the front and bare arse framed by the narrow straps at the rear, you certainly didn’t need to use your imagination.

F Ziggy in the jock strap 3

 

Chapter 22

I mentioned earlier that the majority of the women always appeared to have a baby strapped to their backs with a shawl or large towel.  This lady had obviously been feeding her child when she got the exciting news about the washing powder, consequently the baby was strapped to her chest.

To put it politely, she was not a small woman.  In fact she had breasts the size of water melons and she had obviously not had time – or perhaps she just forgot, or possibly never even intended – to tuck away the current milk dispenser when she commenced her sprint.

The child, probably about six or seven months of age, was not to be deterred in its endeavours to gain sustenance and as the woman ran, her ginormous breast bounced around before her with the babe frantically trying to catch the generous nipple in its mouth every time the tit swung in his direction.  How the mite wasn’t knocked unconscious by this weighty appendage I do not know.

I’m sorry, but I laughed until I cried.  I just couldn’t help it.  Thank goodness I was hidden away in the car at the time.

F Woman with baby outside ZCBC

Chapter 26

Mfuwe Lodge consisted of several semi-detached wooden chalets surrounding the main facility, which comprised Reception/shop, a lounge/bar and dining room.  The facilities were quite basic but pleasant.

A large area overlooked the Mfuwe Lagoon, which was home to some creatures and watering-hole to many more.  Immediately in front of the lodge grounds the lagoon water butted against a dam-type façade, presumably to prevent the various animals from walking straight out of the water to enjoy the human company.  Otherwise the lagoon was mostly surrounded by trees and bushes.

In the water we could see hippos, well their ears at least, as the rest of the head and body was completely submerged.  I privately wondered if hippos could breathe through their ears.  Every so often one would raise its head out of the water and yawn expansively, exposing massive tusks and a cavernous mouth large enough to swallow a small car.  These visual displays were interspersed by a strange hippo communication which sounded like a very stout old-English gentleman slowly laughing “haw, haw, haw, haw, haw” at a modest witticism. There were also lots of birds, many heard but not seen and vice versa, which at future times we became quite interested in spotting and identifying.

F Mfuwe Lodge

Chapter 31

Continuation of letter to my parents…

The kids are fine.  In fact the Terrible Trio have latched onto a new game.  They pile into the wheelbarrow – sometimes complete with Cokey – and persuade Jackman the gardener to push them all over the garden, which he does, at GREAT speed.  He has them screaming with delight as he winds his way around the trees at a precarious angle.  How the dog stays in without being able to hold on is quite beyond me.  It is hilarious to watch.

F Wheelbarrow rompF Wheelbarrow romp

 

Chapter 33

Then we heard sounds of movement in a bush nearby, but before we could reach it the thieving bastard managed to run off into the vlei.  However, there we were lucky enough to discover the cassette player, one of the large Onyo speakers and my wicker basket – stuffed full with a variety of goodies.

The next move was to get the car, so Ziggy fetched the car keys and tore off down McFrazier Road whilst I stood over the recovered loot wielding my axe.

It was only at this moment that I looked down, to see that my attire for this venture was not entirely appropriate – or fitting to be more precise.

Wearing only the corduroy overalls, my tits were sticking out either side of the bib like a pair of puppies peeking out from behind a pillar.  Thank goodness the thieves had been running in the opposite direction. The mind boggles at what a sight my far from petite, bouncing boobs presented as I tore down the drive screaming like a banshee and waving my axe.

F Axewoman & Knifeman

Chapter 36

This was our first experience of school Races – other than our own half a lifetime ago. I had forgotten how much fun kiddies races were and while still taken quite seriously by some budding athletes, our three weren’t exactly in that league.

Leon was very inventive in the sack race.  Instead of jumping awkwardly along like the other kids, resembling constipated kangaroos, he stuck a foot in each corner of the sack and proceeded to walk, very slowly, up the track.  The level of concentration on his face whilst doing this was classical.  When he reached the finishing line he just stood and waited there, wearing a big fat grin, for someone to come along and remove him from his sack.

Vicki on the other hand simply stood rooted to the ground at the starting line, with her face turned sideways and refused to go anywhere.

F A Day at the Races 5

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Flat Water

Well what fun that was.

If I ever tell you that I’m going to go to the cinema, please ask me if I have sufficiently researched the film I’m going to see.  And if I say “Oh, yes, it’s won lots of Oscars”, just ask me “what is the shape of water?”.  That’ll bring me back down to earth and ensure I don’t make the same bloody mistake again.

What a load of CRAP.

The storyline has a mute falling in love with a sea-god and which, had I done any research at all, would have warned me off right from the very start.   As it turned out the movie covered just about every PC issue known to the Law Society, the Commission for Human Rights and the RSPCA put together.  And there were more holes in the storyline than my best colander and had more corn than Kelloggs!

To give you a clue:

  • The leading lady was unattractive
  • She was a mute
  • and her best friend at work was black and
  • They worked as cleaners, who were implied as unimportant workers
  • at a government establishment which carried out top secret work
  • yet they had unsupervised access to a highly sensitive area.

I haven’t decided who classified as the lead actor as there were three vying for that position –

  • Leading male 1 was a Merman (male mermaid) (good guy).
  • Leading male 2 was a male chauvinist pig (bad guy).
  • Leading male 3 was a balding, unemployed homosexual artist (wow a 4-in-1!) and was another good guy. He was also the l-lady’s other best friend and neighbour.
  • Supporting Actor was a Russian agent (very topical at the time of going to press).
  • The black cleaner and No.3 both had an excellent understanding of sign language.
  • 2 could be done for animal cruelty at the drop of a hat as he chained up No.1 in a pool and poked him with a taser rod, though he was able to reach over the open sided edge of this watery prison, which seemed a bit at-odds.
  • 2 was also partial to a bit of sexual harassment at work and at home
  • We didn’t have to wait long for the leading lady to indulge in nudity
  • and No.2 having the gratuitous sexual intercourse with his wife was quite athletic.
  • Then the owner of a café showed serious racial discrimination by refusing to serve a black couple who happened to walk into his empty bar
  • before he was sort of propositioned by No.3 which didn’t go down too well.
  • Then the Russian agent, who was actually quite a good guy offered to help the leading lady to set free the very scaly hunk, No.1
  • who it transpired had the most amazing healing hands (albeit big and scaly).
  • Unfortunately he also had a penchant for eating cat, which No.3 was amazingly tolerant of, given it was his
  • Everything had been going well with a dollop of bestiality for good measure between the leading lady and No.1 before his release into the wild
  • when we witnessed a spot of torture inflicted on the nice Russian by No.2 (he really is a nasty oke).
  • Then the chauvinistic, skiviing husband of the black cleaner grassed on the leading lady to No.2
  • He of course tracked down the unlikely lovers just as they were saying gesticulating their tearful goodbyes and shot the pair of ‘em. But of course Mr Hunky Healing Hands brought himself back to life and wiped out the bad guy
  • before jumping with his leading lady into his watery world where it appeared she also came back to life, and transformed into a watery wench, before fading into the credits.

So there you have it.  No need to cough up £15 for a cinema ticket in the UK now, though we were lucky as our cinema only charged €5.50 each for the privilege of having our intelligence insulted.

Now if Mel Brooks had directed the film, it would have been a whole different kettle of fish!

I wonder what’s showing next week…?

Bamboo Poles and Lollypop Sticks

I’m sure most people reading this have experienced one of those days when things just don’t go right. Well it galls me to admit this, but I had an entire Christmas like that.

It started off fairly innocuously with my first faux pas (Number One) when I realised a few days before Christmas that I hadn’t actually bought any presents for one of my ‘kids’. I had sent out an email to all relevant parties in good time before Christmas recommending that in view of the (sad) financial status of the majority of players, the purchase of presents this year should be kept to an absolute minimum.  However that did not mean that one person should not get anything at all from his mother.

We have always been keen on getting surprises, but I figured no-presents wasn’t the sort of surprise Leon would be too happy about, so I hastened to purchase something.

I had organised a gammon and a big chicken for Christmas day.  We don’t do turkey as apart from the fact that we don’t much care for the darker meat, we’d probably find ourselves eating it for a fortnight afterwards. I finished off my main grocery shop on the Friday in order to avoid the last minute rush of Saturday.

On Christmas eve afternoon the second omission reared its ugly head.  As everyone knows, it is essential to have Brussels sprouts as part of the Christmas feast. And before you jump to conclusions, No, I hadn’t  forgotten to buy them.   We do know that lots of people do not like Brussels sprouts, but I had a nice recipe which made them more interesting for the less enthusiastic sprout eater.  They would be par-boiled then baked with fresh cream, blue cheese and walnuts.  Number Two.  I had forgotten to buy the blue cheese.

There being no Christmas eve shopping here in Spain on the Sunday, I was contemplating leaving out a slab of cheddar overnight in the hopes that it might go mouldy when Ziggy, in a rare fit of brilliance, said “Why don’t you try the BP Service Station shop, they sell all sorts of random things?”.

So when Leon tootled off in my Kangoo to collect Brad, Donė and Choco the dog who live ten minutes away, he called at the BP shop.  And sure as cheese is blue, this saved the day.

They had been invited to join us for some langoustines which Ziggy was cooking up. Well not the dog.  I mean he was invited, but not to eat langoustines; that would be ridiculous.

As Ziggy was about to cook them someone asked what I was serving with them.  What? Number Three!  It had never occurred to me that they needed something “with them”.  My thought (I won’t say plan, because that is not a word I am very familiar with) was that we would just place this huge platter of enormous prawns in the centre of the table and “tuck in”.

When I’d told my guests that we were having these on Christmas eve it never occurred to me that they would think this was a full on meal.  I didn’t even have the makings of a bloody salad (apart from a head of lettuce and small avocado pear I planned to use with a starter on Christmas day).

The best I could do was to throw two small half-baked French bread sticks in the oven and slice them up.  This was adequate and the langoustines were delicious.

Christmas day arrived and I’m delighted to report that this year I had remembered to bake the traditional shortbread the previous week and that it was actually my best batch ever. So we spent a leisurely couple of hours eating shortbread and unwrapping presents.  What happened to the “minimum presents” I had stipulated?

1 Tree and Prezzies 2017

Just a few presents

I had suggested that we might have our ‘Christmas dinner’ at about 7pm but given that I only put the bird in the oven at about five o’clock that clearly wasn’t going to happen, perhaps nearer to eight.  When the chicken was ready it had to sit down and rest for half an hour on Brad’s instructions (he’d been watching Jamie Oliver on tv) so I only put the potatoes in to roast when that came out.  The plan intention had been to have a prawn cocktail starter but as time drew close I figured that by the time we’d eaten that and ‘let it go down’ the bloody chicken would be stone cold, so suggested that we perhaps have it as a later instead of a starter.

This was agreed upon wholeheartedly and after much farting around with sliced green beans, broccoli and the infamous brussels sprouts in blue cheese sauce and Brad had made the gravy, we eventually sat down to our main Christmas repast at nine o’clock! The good news is that the chicken was NOT cold and everyone enjoyed their meal.  The bad news Number Four is that I had forgotten to buy Christmas Crackers so there were no flying keyrings /thimbles/puzzles, no wearing of silly hats nor reading pathetic cracker jokes.

We waited for another hour or so before having dessert which, rather than Christmas pudding which not everyone enjoys, consisted of homemade baklava.  I figured this was quite fitting as it is a Greek pastry and our surname is Greek (even though we’re not!).

During the course of the day we’d played assorted board games of varying levels of interest which, to my horror, included Monopoly which Vicki had brought with her.  We played until all the properties had been purchased then tallied up our gains before the game became tedious.  My favourite Christmas only game has to be the new one I found last year, Pass the Parcel with a difference.  It is played with pears pairs.  A pair of dice and a pair of oven gloves.

In case you’ve not yet come across this you really must try it, it’s hilarious.  A multi-wrapped gift of your choice is to be opened wearing oven gloves.  But instead of unwrapping when music stops, as in the kiddies’ game, a pair of dice is thrown and when a double shows up the unwrapper must stop IMMEDIATELY and pass the oven gloves to the next in line.  In the meantime the pair of dice is being passed around the table and tossed by each other player in turn until a double is thrown again and the unwrapper changes.  Sometimes you barely have time to get the gloves on before someone chucks a double and you have to pass them on to the next player.  I think Leon had four abortive turns before he even got to touch the parcel, never mind remove a layer of paper.

By the end of all this frivolity no-one was up for the prawn cocktail so we decided to all get together again on Boxing Day and have it for lunch. Well that was the plan but courtesy Vicki we got stuck into baked camembert and pickles first so it got delayed until dinner time.

I had already thawed out one pack of peeled prawns but realising that it would be a bit meagre for a complete lunch I had nipped into town to Mercadona (our main supermarket) and bought another pack.  Yes, they were open on Boxing Day, which the Spanish don’t recognise as a holiday.  Suitably thawed I threw them all into a bowl and smothered them with some special mayonnaise I’d made before sharing them out evenly over shredded lettuce and suitable accoutrements.

Brad was the first to take a bite.

“Mother, did you cook these?” he politely asked.

Number Five.  “Er, no.  I assumed they were already cooked,” I replied.

“Well they’re not.  And while I enjoy sushi as much as the next man, I’d rather not eat raw prawn salad.  But for ****s sake, mother, they don’t even look cooked!”

He was right of course.

I couldn’t believe I’d done that, I really couldn’t.  What a bloody dope!

Well that’s one way to get your name in the headlines “Author kills entire family by feeding them uncooked prawns at Christmas”.

Anyway someone said “Don’t worry, it can be salvaged, just take the prawns off the lettuce,  rinse them under the tap then cook ‘em.”

I’d used up about all the lettuce the first time so didn’t have much choice in the matter.  I carefully scooped the prawns off and into a colander and tossed them thoroughly under the cold water tap.  Once completely drained I was able to cook them quickly in some butter.  Of course I then had to wait a while for them to cool down before piling them back onto the lettuce.  There’s nothing worse than warm lettuce.  (Well there probably is but let’s not get pedantic.)

I returned all the plates to my patiently waiting diners and as they were passed around the table was asked,

“Did you use up all the mayo on the first batch as well then?”

No I hadn’t.  Number Six.  I had simply forgotten to put it on.

So the plates all got returned again to the kitchen where I tried to toss the prawns in the evenly distributed remaining half-jar of my delicious homemade mayonnaise without disturbing the lettuce.  It wasn’t easy.

At last we were able to eat. It’s a pity we didn’t have more crusty bread to accompany them but much of it had been consumed with the cheese earlier.  Number Seven?

Fortunately everyone eventually really enjoyed their meal and the evening advanced to another session of fun and games, though thankfully not Monopoly this time.

Before going to bed I actually remembered to load and switch on the dishwasher.  When Ziggy got up in the morning he started to unload it.  He hadn’t got far when I walked into the kitchen.

“I found this in the bottom shelf when I opened up,” he said, handing me a virgin dishwasher tablet.  WTF?  I know that when the machine has finished washing is flips open the tablet container.  I inspected the item curiously then lifted the boxful of them out of the cupboard.  Inside were loads more tablets just like it, all wrapped in cellophane.  Double WTF.    All dishwasher tablets I had bought previously came wrapped in plastic, which should be left on as it melted away when being used.  Number Eight.  It would seem not to be the case with this brand.

“I thought it hadn’t done a very good job of washing the plates,”  Ziggy said as he began returning the dishes to the machine.  The white, blue and red tablet was reinserted in its receptacle in the door, sans cellophane!

So that was our Christmas.  Let us just say that it was not the most successful I have ever conducted unless you allow the amount of laughter it generated to override the stuff-ups.

2 Family Xmas 2017

Ziggy, Brad, Done, Leon, Vicki and yours truly.

 

What?  What about the bamboo poles and lollypop sticks? Oh yes, I forgot about those.

After Christmas I was returning home after a stock-up session at Mercadona and noticed to my disgust that a recent batch of extremely strong winds had managed to dislodge the shade-cloth fastened to the wire fence bordering our garden.

3 Flapping Fence

Flapping in the wind

Something a little sturdier than twists of wire was obviously needed to prevent this from happening again.  Ziggy found some mangy bamboo poles on our plot (of land which contains our fruit trees and Ziggy’s attempts at cabbages and potatoes) so Leon and I set about a repair.  There weren’t enough bamboo canes so we used them in what we considered to be the most effective way and for the rest – well wire twists were reinforced with lollypop sticks. Simple as a pimple.

4 Fixed fence

One fixed fence

5 Fence fastenings

Bamboo pole and lollypop sticks!

And, No, I didn’t eat all the lollypops, Ziggy did!  (I prefer my ice-cream in a bowl.)

And that pretty much rounded off 2017.  It was not too bad a year, all things considered.

TELL YOUR FRIENDS

** TELL YOUR FRIENDS ** TELL YOUR FRIENDS ** TELL YOUR FRIENDS **

If they haven’t yet bought INTO AFRICA with 3 kids, 13 crates and a husband, the kindle version is still on SALE at a bargain price until 13 December.

OR  think about this.  You could even buy it for someone as a gift!  If you’ve never done this before, it’s dead easy, just follow the instructions on Amazon – Help: Purchase a Kindle Book as a Gift.

 

Irregular Black Friday (or How to Empty a Septic Tank)

So yesterday wasn’t a regular Black Friday for me, it was more of a Frenetic Phone-call Friday.  I received more calls that morning than I normally get in a week!

It started at 08:25 when Brad phoned me, though I suppose I’d better give you a bit of background first.

Our septic tank needed emptying.  Now I bet that encourages you to read on, eh?  Just bear with me, it’s not as grim as it sounds, but listen carefully because I’ll be asking questions later.

A friend of ours, Rod, who is a supposed-to-be-retired builder is good for repairs and solving property related problems.  I’d asked him to check out an unpleasant smell which intermittently invades our casita (guest annex).  He arrived on Monday.  His investigations established nothing of great significance but he needed to check ‘from the other end’ if anything (roots or suchlike) was blocking the pipes exporting waste from the casita bathroom into the septic tank.  In order to do this he needed to feed his aquatic telescope through the septic tank but it was pretty full and his telescopic eye could not see its way through all the crap (if you’ll pardon the rather graphic pun) to find where the pipe from the casita emerged.  The crux of it is that we needed to have the tank emptied so that he could complete his quest.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find the invoice from the last time we’d had the tank emptied.  Now there’s a story in its own right. Let me tell you about it.

The guest toilet in our house, which is the one we use most, wasn’t flushing as well as it should.   Despite gallons of bleach and drain cleaner being poured down its throat any clearance was short-lived.  So I phoned a friend.  Not the same one as the one who was helping me now, I hasten to add, but another one who had done some building work for us.

My friend, who for the sake of anonymity we shall call Albert, came along and established that he first needed to find the arqueta.  Okay, okay.  It’s Spanish.

Now don’t quote me on this ‘cos I’m no expert, but my understanding is that an arqueta is like a junction box in plumbing, into which the waste from the bath, shower, basin and toilet all feeds before exiting via a single sewage pipe into a septic tank, or wherever.

After much investigation and gnashing of teeth Albert eventually established that the arqueta was under our shower.  So he dug up the mosaic floor tiles until he’d exposed enough of a gap to make a hole in the floor and lo and behold, there was the arqueta.  But then he needed to find out where all the waste went from there.  Using his trusty tape measure he worked out where a pipe should appear on the outside of the house.

There he took up more floor tiles and started to dig a hole. Once the hole was three feet square and almost as deep he concluded that perhaps the pipe did not in fact lead this way. However he did  find the location of a water pipe leading into the house, with his pick, so we then had to call out the plumber to repair that.

When I look back on this little episode I cannot figure out what he was trying to achieve by digging that hole.  It rather reminds me of a song, Hole in the Ground  by Bernard Cribbins.

Perhaps he was trying to find the septic tank.  Not having found it he filled in the hole and I went off in search of tiles that now had to be replaced.  Have you ever tried matching 10 year old tiles?

I had already been in touch with the previous owner, who’d had the property for nine years,  and asked him if he could tell us where exactly the septic tank was.  He said he didn’t have a clue as he’d never had it emptied!

We eventually had to call in a drain expert who unblocked the pipe which was at the seat of the trouble and also found the septic tank within minutes of shoving his camera round the bends.  The tank lay under the tiled area between the house and the casita. He even pinpointed the exact spot where the access point was – hidden under a single tile.  He kindly replaced the tile with a lid which would allow easy access to the tank in future.

Sewage tanker people were contacted and they duly came along and emptied the tank.  All that was two years ago.

So now (we’re back to the original story – this reminds me of Ronnie Corbett relating his tales from his armchair!)  I was looking for their invoice to give them a call.  Naturally it was nowhere to be found.  Dear husband said he’d seen a company we had passed many times which did septic tank emptying and described their location.  I zapped off in my Renault Kangoo, duly found the place and spoke to a lovely lady who in turn phoned her boss to ask when he could do it.  He was working on a job out of town and promised to come around to our place before noon on Wednesday to check out our layout and give me a price, with a view to carrying out the job later that day or the next.  I also asked the receptionist roughly how much I might expect it to cost.  She said +/- €200.  I went home and related this to Ziggy,

“Bloody hell, that’s a bit steep,” he said, “the last time it only cost us €130!

In the event the bossman didn’t pitch, so Ziggy said,

“Why don’t you call the drain expert and ask him the name of the company he put us onto last time?”

I wasn’t hopeful.   I had tried to phone this guy before I’d called Rod in but there was no answer from any of his numbers.  I figured he’d closed shop.  But I said I’d give it a try and this time was answered after two rings!  I duly got the phone number.

Now I should mention that this ‘expert’ on his last visit (about the problem we are having now) had told us he didn’t believe the waste from the casita was going into the same septic tank as the house, and that to establish where it did go would need the casita shower digging up.  (Not another one! I thought.)   Even he said it would be cheaper for us to get a builder in to do this.  Instead he simply applied some evilly strong chemicals (licence required) to the drains and hoped that did the trick.  Clearly it did not, well not long term anyway.

Fortunately before ripping the shower to bits builder Rod had the insight to apply a high pressure hose down the casita toilet while his assistant, with the aid of a torch, watched for any movement in the contents of the septic tank.  Movement there was so it did, in fact, drain into there.

Where was I?

Oh yes, so having got this original septic tank emptier’s phone number I called them.    This is where my lack of Spanish reared its ugly head.  The guy who answered the phone spoke no English.  I did manage to explain that I would get my son to call him.

So I phoned Brad whose is able to converse in Spanish up to a point and asked him to call them to see if they could empty our tank again for the same price as before.   Apparently the bloke he spoke to said something about a vacation and gave him another number and said something about mañana.  Brad wasn’t sure if he was supposed to call the guy today to have the work done the next day (mañana) or to only phone the next day.  We left it.

On Thursday I went back to the offices I’d visited on Monday (like an idiot I hadn’t taken their phone number) to find out when, or if, the boss was planning to grace us with his presence.  Another phone call by the receptionist established he would be at our house between 10 and 14:00 on Friday. I also established that he expected his price to be €175.  I agreed to await his arrival but this time I picked up one of their business cards bearing a phone number.

Discussing this back home we still weren’t happy about the price, so Ziggy said he’d take the dogs for a work early that day so that he could go to our local town hall (before they closed at 14:00 for the day) to see if they provided a septic tank emptying service. (He lives in a dream-world sometimes!)

They didn’t.  But they did give him the name of a man who did.  The man had the same surname as the company I had been visiting but Ziggy said that on giving him the number the girl at the town hall had mentioned a company name that sounded familiar, possibly the one who’d emptied our tank before.  I conceded that the Spanish are very frugal in their variation of names, be it first or last names, so it was quite possible there was more than one Septic Tank Cleaner-outer with the same name.

[I wonder if there’s a special name for a person or company which empties septic tanks?  I can think of one myself but wouldn’t write it down in here!]

Once siesta time was over (14:00 – 17:00, come rain or shine, summer or winter) I phoned Brad again and asked him to call the number Ziggy had obtained.  Ten minutes later Brad happily reported that a sewage tanker would be at our property between 10 and 14:00 the next day (Friday) and that the cost would be €130!

I duly phoned the first company and cancelled their appointment, citing the cheaper price elsewhere.

If you’re on the ball you will realise that this has now brought us up to Frenetic Phoning Friday.  You remember, I mentioned it about 30 pages back…

Brad called me at 08:25.  I’ll be honest with you now, I was still in bed, sipping my mug of tea which Ziggy brings me religiously each morning.  He (Brad not Ziggy) had received a call asking for confirmation of our address, but wasn’t sure it was from the people he phoned first or second, and didn’t want two tanks pulling up at our gates.  We chatted about it for a while but it got us nowhere.

Half an hour later he called me again saying the bloke in his tanker was querying the address (the name of our lane is not recognised by Google Maps).  He said it might be a good idea if I drove up the lane to meet him nearer the main road.  No sooner had I finished this conversation and was climbing into my car than my phone rang again.

This time it was a friend (who I’d not met before – don’t ask) confirming our meeting for that lunchtime.  Just then the house phone rang.  As I tried to cut my friend’s call short Ziggy amazingly went and answered the other one and walking out with that phone and as I was reversing out (if I could get off the phone to drive) I could hear him trying to direct someone to our lane.  As he was chatting away he looked up the lane and saw the man he was talking to was about ten metres away walking towards him.

Turned out he was the man with the tanker, except without the tanker.  He’d left it at the top of the lane as he wasn’t sure how good the access was.  (Bloody hell we’d had removals vans, pneumatic trucks delivering one-ton sacks of wood and cement wagons down this lane, so it could easily handle a piddly-arsed little tanker!)

So I abandoned my car, still trying to finish the call, so that I could go and move some of our outside furniture to give access to a large suction pipe.

Seconds after finishing that chat I got another call, this time from a friend who was supposed to be joining me and my new friend, then the truck arrived…

Peace reigned, though not much quiet, for a while as the man who does shoved his pipe into our septic tank and slurped all the shit emptied it.  Once he’d finished, stashed his hose and put the lid back on our tank he produced two invoiced books and asked me whether or not I wanted to pay tax. Ah now, that’s a tough one, let me think…

So I received a plain receipt for the sum of €135 (I wasn’t going to argue over the fiver) and we both ended up happier for the experience.

Less than half an hour later I got a phone call from a man about our septic tank.  We had a strange conversation because his English was on a par with my Spanish.

He seemed to be asking me how long the guy had taken to do the job.  I told him “hora medio” which in my Spanish meant ‘about half an hour’ but which I just checked and found means ‘average hour’.  Seems I should have written “medio hora”. No wonder he’d been a tad confused by my answer.

He tried to confirm our address, which wasn’t easy, but I did the best I could.

Then he asked, “was ours the house with the two dogs?” I told him it was.  Being the ferocious guard dogs they are, they had totally ignored the man and his big pipe who had just left, but he had clearly seen our two dogs.

Now you must understand that up until this point I thought he was checking up on the guy who’d done the job.  Then he went on to say “tres perros” which I do know means three dogs.  It dawned on me when he’d talked about two dogs earlier, what he had actually been saying was “tu perros” which means ‘your dogs’.   So where is he now getting three dogs from?

As our convoluted conversation continued I began to realise that he was actually nothing to do with the guy who’d been, he was a guy who was coming.  So who the  hell was he???

Now I had to try and stop him from pitching up with his tanker.

“No, el septico tank es empty (I didn’t know the Spanish word for empty).  Es terminado.”

He was battling to understand me. (Can’t imagine why!)

“Es complete, no necesito para tu.”  ‘It’s all done, I don’t need you’ is what I thought I was saying.

He said something else which sounded like he understood I no longer required his services.

“Si, gracias, adios.”  I said, and prayed to dog that he comprende’d.

Then I wondered if in fact this had been the bloke who’d quoted the €130, and if so, who the hell had I just paid €135 to for emptying our tank?

I have yet to phone Rod to tell him the septic tank it now ready for his inspection.  I’ve had rather enough of the subject to be honest.

 

But might I suggest, if you should ever be tempted to move to Spain based on the wondrous stories you’ve heard from me, that when you buy a house make sure it is on the mains sewage route.

Sausage Rolls and Scourers

I have no explanation why I am still using our outside table to write on my laptop other than I am really trying to put off the realisation that winter is now creeping into Spain.  But as I sat shivering in my cotton top and cardigan I decided to heat up a sausage roll or two for a light lunch.

So I headed to the kitchen and placed them in a warm oven.

I guess I was just subconsciously looking for a reason not to go straight back outside when it occurred to me there was a little job I could complete in our bathroom while I waited for my fodder.  The shower tap had become a bit discoloured so I thought I would take advantage of a few loose minutes, as one does, and armed with my bottle of de-calcifier and a mild scourer I headed off towards the bathroom.

Standing inside the shower cubicle I scrubbed and sprayed and sprayed and scrubbed with my scourer and, to be honest, really didn’t think I was achieving very much.  At that point I must have become a bit over zealous because as I gripped the tap to get better oomph into my efforts my hand slipped off and in trying to grab it back I unfortunately pulled it towards me.

Yeah, you’ve guessed it.  I was suddenly blasted with a jet of cold water which drenched my hair, my cardigan and my top.

Oh, I turned it off immediately, but not before I’d got pretty damn wet.

I squelched out of the bathroom into my boudoir and rummaged through my wardrobe for suitably warm replacement clothes.  Of course most of my attire still consisted of summer-wear so I ended up donning one of hubby’s more enclosed t-shirts and a dry cardigan.  I’m guessing it’s now time to stash my summer gear away and get my jeans and jumpers out of storage.

As for the sausage rolls.  Well, they weren’t too burnt.

Well-done ssausage rolls

Unexpected Visitors

A couple of days ago I was kicked out of my slumbers at 05:45 by dogs barking. Constantly.  I could hear them going crazy at a distance (obviously the front gate) then after a gap (while they raced down the garden path) closer-by at the rear/side fence.  Clearly something or someone was on the prowl.

Whatever it is will soon go past I told myself, and turned over to resume my sleep. And turned, and turned, but the racket continued.  I am not the sort of person who can pull a pillow over my head to block out the sound – I’d suffocate – which is rather extreme.

One dog in particular was giving it great ferver, I thought that sounded like Marti, our mastin (Spanish mastiff).  Of course next door’s dog was joining in.  Thankfully the five yappy dogs which used to live across the lane from us had, with their owner, recently moved out, otherwise the entire neighbour-hood would have been awake by now.  It was no good, I could see I would have to get out of bed and give my two a bollocking to shut them up.

I threw on the nearest t-shirt (it is still quite warm at nights and I hadn’t yet fished out my sleepware from my winter wardrobe) and slid into my slippers then quietly slipped out of the bedroom.  This might seem like a contradiction given the cacophony going on outside, but Ziggy was still sleeping.  Having said that, he can sleep through anything.

It was still dark so I groped my way past the dining chairs, through the kitchen and into the lounge, where I could look through the window facing the front gate.

The answer to this disturbance stood right before me, in the form of a dark brown donkey which had its nose poked up against the bars of the gate.  I wondered if she was expecting to be let in.  She was clearly a bold donkey as she seemed totally unperturbed by the dogs.  And I was surprised to see that it was JD, our small black Labrador, who was making all the noise, not Marti.  As I watched, a grey horse appeared behind the donkey.  Actually it was a white horse (no I don’t mean a bottle of scotch!) but you should never call a white horse white, you know.  I decided this needed more thorough investigation and headed back to the bedroom to don shorts and sandals.

By the time I returned to the lounge both animals had wandered a little further up the lane.  As I let myself outside through the patio door the dogs greeted me with approval before disappearing back up the garden path, presumably to try and see the animals through the fence.

As I walked up to the gate I could see the equine pair several metres away.  At my appearance the grey took fright and trotted past me, back down the lane.  The donkey decided to come up to the gate and say hello.  As she neared I slowly put my arm through the gate and tentatively extended my fist for her to smell.  (I wasn’t going to risk my fingers in case she was a biter) but she was very good and as I moved my hand up her head she accepted a stroke between her ears.  By this time the grey had walked back into view and was now watching the proceedings.

The dogs reappeared, JD giving a bark to let me know she was there, while Marti just stood quietly.  I must have stood there in the quiet pre-dawn for a good fifteen minutes, with the donkey siding up to the gate where I was able to stroke her back.  She looked to me like she was pregnant.  From where it was I couldn’t make out whether the grey was a mare or a gelding but it stood quietly, turning every now and then to grab a wisp of grass from the verge.

I was wondering if I should put my dogs in the house and let these two into my yard rather than risk them wandering up the lane and onto the road.  (Our lane was a ‘dead end’, servicing only 12 properties.)  Someone would come looking for them during the morning I was sure.

It was then that I heard footsteps.  Whoever it was, they were walking very strangely, I thought.  Then I heard thunkle, thunkle thunkle.  Like, not the tinkle of a bell, but the thunkle of a cow-bell, or a goat-bell.  As a little face appeared followed by a thick body, it transpired it must be a sheep-bell.  Along with the donkey and the horse came sixteen sheep.  I wasn’t going to bring that lot into my yard!

The dogs had become completely still by now, obviously realising that I was happy with the situation.  And the presence of the sheep could explain why Marti hadn’t barked, but when Marti saw the sheep her interest was definitely piqued.  The sole purpose of her breed is for livestock protection (from wolves) but to the best of my knowledge this was the first time she had actually seen sheep.

Oh this reminds me of an incident I simply must tell you about.

One warm spring night a couple of years ago I was sitting at my outside table checking my emails.  A friend had sent me a link to a video about the return of wolves to the Yellowstone National Park.  At the time JD was lying in her bed outside and Marti was snoozing on the floor in the dining room, the door of which opens onto the area where I was.

I clicked on the link to the video which instantly started with howling wolves.  In a flash Marti came flying outside, hackles raised all down her back, and after glancing at me raced to the front gate. Even on the move her whole shape was that of a dog (or even lion) waiting to pounce, but she didn’t stay still for a second.  Seeing nothing at the gate she tore back and forth along the length of the hedge at the front of our yard.  Finding that clear of wolves she turned and raced back in my direction, careened past the table and headed off down the garden path.  Even forty metres away, with a wall and plant-life between us I could hear her threatening growls as she scoured the fence/hedge looking for wolves.  After a couple more sallies back and forth she eventually lowered her hackles and returned to sit at my side, but was clearly quite distressed by this affair.

As soon as she had reacted to the wolf howls I had turned off the video and sat, open-mouthed in awe at nature’s amazing display of inbred reaction.  Having got her as a six-week old rescue dog I knew that she had never come across a wolf in her life before, but she knew exactly what it was and what to do.  I continued watching this amazing video, but used headphones so as not to distress Marti any further.

I still get goosebumps just recalling it, but it does explain why there are no wolves around here! J

Here’s the link to the video if you’d like to watch it (highly recommended!).

www.youtube.com/embed/ysa5OBhXz-Q?feature=player_embedded

Anyway, where was I.  Went off at a bit of a tangent there…

Oh yes, the arrival of the sheep.

I stayed at the gate, motionless, for ages just watching the animals.  The grey strolled a few metres up the lane and was slowly followed by the sheep.  I have seen loads of sheep-dogs in my life, but a sheep-horse???

The head honcho sheep, the one wearing the bell who had, up until now, remained in the centre of the flock, appeared to be intrigued by the donkey standing so close to the gate and also came closer.  I must have moved a fraction because the sheep lifted its head and, seeing me, instantly spun around (I didn’t think I looked that scarey!).  At this the flock moved as one in copying their leader and shot off down the lane, its greyness (the horse) joining in the stampede.

Donkey had just stayed where she was.  Then after looking up at me she slowly ambled off down the lane after her buddies.  I trust they all found their way home safely.

I know I found my way safely back to bed to try and catch a few zzzzz before it was time to be woken for a cup of tea in bed, which is brought to me daily by slumbernut, who at this point was still gently snoring on his side of the bed.

I dozed off while wondering what the rest of the day would bring.

Alas, nothing compared to the start of the day.

2 Vicious gate guarders

Marti and JD ‘on guard’ at the front gate. This was taken in 2013, before Marti ‘filled out’.

My Annual Pilgrimage

So April is ITV time.  No I’m not talking about the British television stations, I’m talking vehicles.  Specifically my vehicle, which was due for its annual roadworthy test, which in Spain is called an ITV or Inspección Técnica de Vehículos if you really want to know. So begins the annual pilgrimage.

The procedure is that first you go online (or telephone if your Spanish is good enough, which mine isn’t) and obtain a cita, that’s an appointment.  Then you take your vehicle along to their test station at the appropriate time where it undergoes the rigors of inspection of all the important components like brakes, lights, steering, tyres, wipers and the general condition of said vehicle.  Inside the seatbelts are checked to make sure they all function, together with door handles and windows. Easy peasy!

Anyway as the third month of the year marched on (pun intended) I realised that I had better get my arse into gear, never mind my car, and organise a pre-ITV service of my Renault Kangoo with my very accommodating do-it-at-your-home mechanic, Dave.  Alas, Dave had become quite involved with motor bike repairs within his business and was extremely busy.  It was the end of the month before he could get to me.

A new ITV station had recently opened up in Fuengirola, our nearest coastal town, and I knew exactly where it was, which was closer than the ones I’d been to in the past at San Pedro and last year in Malaga.  So I had waited to ask Dave how ‘accommodating’ he’d found the new place.  Having established they were OK I set-to booking a cita there on the internet before my current ITV expired.  Oh dear.

Searching through my car papers I found it was due by the 8th April and we were already at the 2nd.

The ITV website is quite jacked up.  It simply asks for your vehicle registration number, and for further validation, the date it was first registered, then knows everything about you, right down to your shoe size.  It could clearly see that I needed to be given the first available appointment – which was on Friday 28th April.  OUCH!

I printed off the cita slip and put it in the car with its other papers in the hope that should I get stopped by the police, I could avoid a hefty fine by showing them I was actually getting it done, if a little late.

At least it would give me time to organise the fitment of new seals on my cv joints, which Dave advised me were needed but which he didn’t have time to do himself due to his overload of bike repairs.  He recommended a friend who’s garage just happened to be three doors away from the little bar which we go to when walking the dogs.  The garage owner’s name is Cristobal”, Dave told me.

A lady mechanic? I thought. Novel.

Of course Cristobal turned out to be a very nice Spanish gentleman who even spoke pretty good English and we got on great, especially when I opened the back door of my car and our dogs JD and Marti jumped out (they were to keep me company on the walk home), as Cristobal turned out to be a big a dog lover.

When I had first spoken to him I had asked him where he would recommend me to go to for new tyres and he replied that he could sort that for me too if I told him what I wanted.  I described the amount and type of driving I did on average and said I’d go on his recommendation so long as they weren’t re-treads.  He was quite appalled by that notion so I felt safe in leaving it up to him.  He gave me a rough idea of prices, together with a quote for the CV seals, and the car was all sorted three days later.

But let’s get back to the ITV appointment.   That got worse.  This cita was in Malaga, a place where I always get lost.  When I’d made the appointment I could not find anywhere on their website the option of going to the new place in Fuengirola.

Actually the previous year when I went to this Malaga ITV station for the first time I  found it relatively easily, within a 25 minute drive.  Unfortunately I got hopelessly lost when I came out of the place and it took me almost an hour to get home!

So I made sure I printed off maps from Google to get me there, and bring me back.

And before you ask the obvious, NO, I don’t have satnav.  Whenever I’ve used it on my own I’ve always taken a wrong turn and finished up in someone’s driveway. Anyway that was out of the question now as my (not so smart) phone was out of action after it went for a dip in the swimming pool the day before.  But that’s another story.

Anyway if the Malaga location wasn’t bad enough, what really made it such a shit appointment was that it was for 06:50, in the morning!  What the …? It would mean leaving home at 06:00 to allow time for getting lost. I’d have to get up almost before I’d gone to bed the night before!  (I stay up late.)

We had been having some lovely sunny weather in our area for the past few weeks, but were promised rain for three days, starting on Thursday.  In the event it stayed beautiful on Thursday, until twilight when the dark clouds started rolling in.  Within hours the rain was hurtling down.

I don’t think it stopped all night (what was left of mine) and when my alarm jolted me out of my slumbers it was lashing down outside.

To get off to a good start, I enjoyed my early morning tea out of my “Queen of  ******* Everything” mug my daughter bought for me.  Then I gathered up my paperwork, iPad and my laptop (I figured I would be so early getting to the ITV station I might have time to write a chapter or two of my next book while sitting in the car waiting for them to open) before heading out.  Ziggy kindly handed me our large umbrella and small coolbox containing a couple of beers (0.00% alcohol) and opened the gates for me as I reversed out into the dark and murky morning.

It was 06:05 when I set off up our lane.  I can’t say that I was surprised at the lack of traffic in Alhaurin at that time of day, but I was surprised at how bloody dark it was.  I’d not been up and about so early since the clocks went forward so had been expecting to see a semblance of dawn when I drove off.  Nothing!  Nothing but darkness and a few street lights.  It was only as I was about to filter onto the fast road to Malaga that I decided I should first double check my map for the exit I needed to take off.

Exit 63.  No problem, I could picture it from my last visit.  The only difference was that my last visit had been in broad daylight.  Now I could barely see further than 10 meters in front of my car because of darkness, rain and mist thrown up by other traffic, which by now was slightly more in evidence.

I soon found that trying to overtake slower moving traffic wasn’t such a good idea because of all the spray.  Also, the rain was obscuring the faded white lines on the centre and side of the road so I figured I’d rather stick behind something whose lights I could follow.  I eventually settled myself several car lengths behind a cement truck (didn’t want any cement hurtling out onto my bonnet).

But not only was this bloody weather obscuring white lines, it also had quite an impact on the visibility of road signs.  When I eventually took an exit which I thought must surely be mine, I was horrified to find that it was the one after the one I should have taken.  I had no bloody idea where I was now.

At the earliest opportunity I pulled over to study the map.  Joke.  Even with interior lights and my reading glasses on I couldn’t make out an alternative route in the feint printout.   As I began to create a build-up of traffic behind me I moved off in the general direction I thought I should be in until I could stop at a safer spot.

That didn’t make much difference.  I followed some easy-to-see road signs for a parque industrial (industrial park – see Spanish is easy) because I knew the ITV centre was on one.  Alas there is more than one parque industrial this side of Malaga.  After a couple of dead ends I spotted an illuminated guardhouse of a large establishment and decided to try for help there.

Parking up outside the gate I ran through the deluge to the door of the guardhouse which was thankfully opened for me by a very confused looking, uniformed Spanish gentleman.

“Hola Senor, ayuda por favour!”  which was my best Spanish for “Help, please!”, as I thrust my map in his direction, pointing to the location of the ITV place.

He muttered, ‘Mama mia’ and other words to that effect, which didn’t bode well.

Then after standing with one of those puzzled looks on his face like you see in cartoons (with a ? over the head)  he found a scrap of paper and started to draw a map.  When he’d done he indicated through the guardhouse window which road represented the starting point on his map then gave verbal directions as he guided me through his squiggles.  I thought I understood.

I bade him many graciases and left him to deal with a truck which was waiting patiently to enter his yard.  Then I set off,  hopefully on my final leg.

Well, the this leg also took a few donkey detours until I finished up back at the guardhouse, where I started again from scratch, this time avoiding the wrong turns I’d taken the before.  Eventually I found myself in familiar territory.  Then I spotted the street on which I knew the ITV to be and only took two more wrong turns before I conquered the one-way system which led to it.

YES!  I was here!  And only about 20 minutes late.

I was quite surprised by the car park.  It was packed.  For goodness sakes, it wasn’t yet half past seven in the morning.  I figured most of the cars must belong to employees.

I gathered all my necessary papers, including the road maps with which I hoped to explain to the ITV people that I’d got lost, then grabbed the umbrella.  It’s a big one.  So I opened the door and poked  my brolly in the air before pressing the button to spring it open. Vwoof.  Then I looked down to step out of the car, where there seemed to be rather a lot of water.  Testing it with the toe of my shoe, it must have been over an inch deep and I was only wearing a pair of trainers/takkies/sneakers or whatever you like to call them, with fabric uppers.  I closed the umbrella and brought it dripping across me to the passenger side.  I’d noticed the guy in the car next to me was leaving and thought maybe the puddle might not be so deep on his side.  I moved the Kangoo.

Repeat the performance, umbrella re-opened I swung my legs out and stepped down – into water which went clear over my shoes!  Fan-bloody-tastic!  I quickly locked the car and hopped & skipped forward to try and get out of the water before it penetrated.  Yeah, right!  As I dashed between three rows of cars I soon found that the ‘puddle’ was spread over half the car park.

I lowered my umbrella as I sloshed in through the automatic doorway and walked up to the cita registration machine.  I looked at the registration numbers displayed on this pedestal for mine but it was devoid of anything familiar.  I scrolled forward, nothing.  I tried to scroll backwards to see how far back I’d been listed but it wouldn’t let me.

Then I squelched the length of the waiting room to the counter at the front, occupied by a woman and a man.  I asked the Senora if she spoke English.

“No”.  (No is the same in Spanish you know, but sounds slightly different.)

So I once more tested my linguistic skills by explaining that I had a cita for 6:50 and then waved a finger over my map indicating that I’d got lost.  As her blank face gave off an air of disinterest the Senor to her left said,

“Ann Patras?”

“Yes,” I chirped, giving him my best smile.  He intimated that I should hand him my papers which he looked at, kept two and said I should take a seat and wait.  I asked him how long.  I might as well have asked “how long’s a piece of string?” because he shrugged and said “one minute, five minutes, twenty minutes?” (who knows).

“Would it be better if I went home and made another cita online?” I asked.

“No, just wait there,” he said, indicating a nearby plastic chair.

As I turned to the chair only then did I take in the hoards already seated, waiting.  There must have been over thirty people.  I had been told by Dave that if I wanted to try and get the ITV earlier than the date I’d been given I could take a chance and just pitch up at the centre in Fuengirola, and hope to fit in on a cancellation.

“First thing in the morning, or at lunch time is good,” he said.

I figured this rent-a-crowd must have been a bunch of early morning chancers and hoped I wasn’t going to have to wait behind that lot!  I was just lamenting the fact that I’d stupidly left my iPad the car so didn’t have any comforting distractions when the Senor called my name again.

At the counter he passed back my vehicle registration paper, asked me for €47.36c then handed me more papers and told me to go and wait in my car and watch for my number being displayed on the big exterior screen.

YES!  I was IN!  I couldn’t believe my luck.  What a nice man.  I wanted to kiss him, but thought better of it (anyway he wasn’t that good looking!).

Back outside I cheerfully splashed my way through the ankle-high water before climbing into my car and turning on the windscreen demister and my wipers so I could see the illuminated display on the ITV building’s wall more easily.  I prepared for a wait.

I’d hardly had chance to put a new disc into the cd player when my registration was flashing red before my eyes.  I made my way to Lane 6 in the huge warehouse before they had time to change their minds.

It was a doddle.  The ‘man who does’ was happy to speak his not-so-bad English and we easily went through all the procedures necessary for him to test my systems.  (!!! I’m still talking car here!)    At the end of all the little tests he handed me my up-to-date car sticker which should keep me out of trouble for the next 12 months, pointing out that I needed to replace one of the light bulbs over the rear number plate. I thanked him for his help and off I went.

I only took two, easily rectifiable, wrong turns on the way back to the motorway and was home safe and sound, if still very wet, by 8:35, my pilgrimage complete.

As I recounted my experience to Ziggy he looked very sceptical when I told him how much water I’d sloshed through and how sopping wet my feet were – until I took my socks off and squoze out the equivalent of half a tumbler of water from each one.

He should know better by now than to question me!  Am I not the Queen of  ******* Everything”?

 

ADDENDUM

Over a year has passed since that event so when I went to renew my ITV this year I took no chances.  I got my son to assist me in getting directions to the place using Google Maps satnav on my phone.

I allowed plenty of time and arrived at the ITV Test Station with twenty minutes to spare, the only trouble was it was a different test station.  Still in Malaga it was the ‘old’ station not the ‘new’ one.  The kind man at the desk there gave me instructions on how to get to the other one.  “Turn left here,” he said, pointing to the window.

‘Here’ clearly wasn’t where I started from (after I’d gone round several corners after exiting the station at the rear), so surprise! surprise! I got lost.

Being a Saturday morning there weren’t many places open on the industrial estate to whom I could go to for help.

“Ah” I hear you say “why didn’t you tell your phone to take you to the ‘new’ one?”   I did and it told me it couldn’t find the place either.  See, it’s not just me!

After obtaining the assistance of a man on a bike walking (riding?) a dog,  gave me directions to the new place (in Spanish) which, as I drove around in circles, I clearly hadn’t adequately understood.  Finding myself close to the airport  I then sought help from a taxi driver who was a little more intelligible.

I eventually found it.

By which time it was closed!