humour

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.

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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!

The Pain of Paperless

A paperless society is fast taking over in many spheres of life, but especially in the world of Insurance.  No forms in an envelope delivered in the post.  No filling them in, taking copies then posting the originals back – in another envelope, with a stamp.  I’m all for saving trees and our planet but living in a paperless society comes at a price.  – – – – SANITY.   In this regard I do hope you will excuse the somewhat sarcastic tone which developed.

This wondrous conversation took place just before we decided to leave South Africa to live in Spain.

“Good morning.  Telcare Claims Centre, Mbali speaking, how may I assist you?”

“Good morning Mbali, I would like to make a claim against my policy, for damage to my car.”

“May I have your policy number please?”

“Yes, it’s AG718718712.”

“I now have all your personal and policy details on my screen.  What is the nature of your claim, Mrs Patras?”

“Someone scraped my car when I was parked at the international airport.”

“I need to advise you Mrs Patras, that we do not issue written claim forms, all information is taken from you telephonically.  This conversation is being recorded and you are reminded that any false information given may invalidate your claim.”

“Yes, I understand that. No problem.”

“I will need to take some particulars of the accident.  Can you tell me what happened?”

“I was parked in the short term parking lot at the airport and someone scratched my offside rear door whilst I was inside the terminal building waiting for my passenger.  I only noticed the damage after I arrived home.”

“Were you able to drive the car after the accident?”

(????)  “Yes.  That is how I got home.”

“Where did the accident happen?”

“I told you, at the international airport.   O R Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg.”

“What street it that on?”

“Given the size of the place, quite a few I would imagine.  But I don’t know offhand.  Would you like me to look it up for you in my road atlas?”

“No, I’m sure our office will have the details.  When did this occur Mrs Patras?”

“On Monday 22nd November some time between 05:25 and 07:55am.”

“But you don’t know exactly what time this happened?”

“No, I was inside the airport building.”

“What was the lighting like?”

“Fluorescent I would imagine, like in most big buildings.  It was quite nice actually.  They’ve done a really good job of improving the new International Arrivals Hall.”

“I meant outside where the accident happened Mrs Patras.”

“Well, normal daylight.  You know, like you get on a summer’s morning.”

“Was it raining?”

“No.”

“Did you brake?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Did you brake when the collision occurred?”

“I told you, the car was parked.”

“Were you using indicators?”

“I wasn’t even inside the car.”

“Were there any witnesses?”

“I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t there.”

“You weren’t there?  Where were you?”

“In the International Arrivals Hall, you know, the new one with the nice lighting!”

“Was anyone injured?”

“I bloody well hope so.  I hope the bastard who scraped my car split his bloody head open on impact!”

“This conversation is being recorded.”

“Good, otherwise I doubt anyone would believe this.  I really hope someone gets to listen to it.”

“Did you report the accident to the police?”

“Why the hell should I waste my time doing that?”

“It is a requirement if anyone is injured.”

“But no-one was  injured – to the best of my knowledge.”

“But you said someone had split their head open.”

“No,  I said “I wished they had”.  And as there weren’t any half-dead people lying around when I got back to my car – and more’s the pity – I can only assume the offending party left unscathed.”

“Did you get the name of the other party?”

“No, it must have slipped his – or her – mind to leave me a nice little note with name and insurance details on it after they’d stuffed-up my car.”

“So there was more than one car involved in the accident?”

“Yes.  Mine and someone else’s.”

“But did two cars hit your car Mrs Patras?”

“I wouldn’t have thought so.  What makes you ask that?”

“Well, you said ‘they’ Mrs Patras.”

“It was a figure of speech Mbali.  I was merely referring to ‘the person’ who stuffed-up my car.”

“Do you have any other information about the accident?”

“Yes.  It was a blue vehicle that caused the damage.”

“What make was it?”

“Now let me think.   Which manufacturer makes blue cars?  Well I guess that could be just about any make – apart from possibly a Ferrari.  It wasn’t hit by a Ferrari.”

“How do you know that?”

“Well I can’t say I’ve ever seen a blue Ferrari.  Anyway, the scratch is too high up on the door.”

“But how do you know it was a blue car Mrs Patras.  You said you weren’t there.”

“Because my silver Audi didn’t have a long blue scratch on the offside rear door before I parked it.”

“Will you be making a claim from the other party?”

“Are you sure this conversation is being recorded?”

“Yes.”

“And could you please spell your name?”

“M-B-A-L-I.  Why Mrs Patras?”

“Oh, I just want to make sure the person listening to this recording has ALL the information here.”

“I need to advise you Mrs Patras that your excess on this claim will be R3000.”

“Why R3000?  My policy says R2500.”

“Yes, but there is an additional R500 excess if you claim against the policy within the first year of it being issued.  And you will also lose your no-claims-bonus status.”

“Right.  I see.”

“You will need to take your car to one of our Assessors for damage authentication.”

‘Where is the nearest Assessor to Fourways?’

“Let me see.  Ah, there is one in Benoni.”

“Do you know where Benoni is in relation to Fourways Mbali?”

“No, I don’t drive.”

“Ah, I rather thought you wouldn’t.  Well Mbali, for future reference with your clients, I can tell you that Benoni is about as far away from Fourways as you could ever possibly get without leaving the vast boundaries of Johannesburg.  Do you have anywhere a little closer?  New York, Sydney, San Francisco, or Randburg perhaps?”

“I can get you an appointment in Randburg at 7:30am tomorrow.”

“That’s most kind of you.  I just love being in rush-hour traffic.  Do you possibly have any time a little later?”

“11:30?”

“Thank you, that would be far more preferable.”

“Thank you for calling Telsure Mrs Patras, I will now process your claim.   Is there anything else at all that I can help you with today?”

“The actual physical address of the Assessor would be useful.”

“Oh, it’s 2112 Braam Fischer Avenue Mrs Patras.  Would you like me to give you directions?”

“Oh, I don’t think so Mbali.  I REALLY don’t think so.”

“Thank you Mrs Patras.  I hope you enjoy the rest of your day.”

“Thank you Mbali, I will try, but I’m sure it won’t be anywhere near as entertaining as it has been so far.  Goodbye.”

“Goodbye Mrs Patras.”

The Most Expensive Dishwasher in Spain

Thanks to this book writing business I have just acquired the most expensive dishwasher in Spain.

It is my husband’s fault, of course.

After the release of my first book I received precise and very bossy instructions from my publisher to “get stuck straight into writing the sequel”.

The previous couple of months had been spent editing and proofing, and drawing silly illustrations for Into Africa, so I was somewhat out of the groove with the actual writing bit.  I needed to concentrate, with no unnecessary distractions.

Washing dishes was a distraction.

That is not strictly true.  It was the non-washing of dishes which was the distraction.

You see Ziggy – the husband – had said,

“Don’t you worry about the washing-up, dear author-wife of mine, I’ll make that my job.”

The trouble was there being only the two of us we didn’t dirty all that many dishes, especially in summer, so not much washing-up was needed.

“Easy for him then,” you would think.  But then you wouldn’t be thinking like Ziggy.

He didn’t like to ‘waste water’, so he accumulated enough dirty dishes until it was ‘worth filling the bowl’ which, of course, took a few days.  The fact that we had a 50 gallon tank of solar powered piping-hot water sitting unused on the roof seemed to have escaped his attention.

The sight of this molehill of crockery gradually growing into a mountain every time I ventured into the kitchen became such an irritation that I couldn’t concentrate on writing at all.

So I decided to buy a dishwasher.

First of all I had to figure out where I was going to put it, as our kitchen wasn’t exactly large.

After much mumbling and measuring I decided that between the cooker and the sink would be a good idea.  Unfortunately that space housed a cupboard filled with our variety of saucepans and fry-pans.  But I figured I could transfer those to the cupboard which, up until that point, stored the jugs, sieves, colanders and other culinary equipment.  All I needed to do was find another place for those.

Simple.  I would buy a new cupboard to mount on the wall, which could easily accommodate such lightweight items as sieves, etc.  Then I thought if I purchased three units to fill the entire space available I would also be able to spread out the load of other kitchen essentials which was currently crammed into cupboards tighter than passengers in a Ryanair 737 jet.

Before the new cupboards could be installed, however, it would be necessary to remove some water pipes from the walls which had become superfluous to requirements when we had removed the inefficient back-up electric water heater (for when there was no solar heated water after a couple of cloudy days).  I warned the plumber I would be requiring his services soon.

I measured the space which would be available after the removal of the saucepans cupboard and with my trusty tape-measure in hand, I trawled all the white-goods stores within a 20km radius of our casa to acquire the cheapest, half decent dishwasher I could find.

It transpired that the available space could only accommodate a slimline version, but that would be more than adequate for the amount of washing up we generated.  I got a good price – after I haggled – and arranged for its (free) delivery the following week.

The plumber duly arrived and cleared away all the unsightly pipage and installed a connection for the dishwasher.  I also managed to get Ziggy to contribute to the project by removing the hideous never-used-because-it-achieved-bugger-all cooker hood.  I, in turn, climbed into the sink and removed the blind fitted above the window so that it could be washed.

I climbed down, stood back and surveyed the scene.  What a bloody mess!

There were gaps in the wall tiling where the old water heater had been, as well as a row of tiles missing from where the cooker hood was removed.  What tiles were left appeared to have been installed by a one-armed blind man.

“Ziggy,” I announced, “this wall needs to be re-tiled!”  To which he agreed wholeheartedly.

So I contacted a friend, who had a friend who did building stuff and arranged for him to come and assess the job.  He was a Spanish gentleman who came highly recommended by my friend who said he worked for €80 a day, which I thought was quite reasonable.  He was free to commence the work, which he estimated would take him two days, so I hastened to buy wall tiles, adhesive and grouting mix.

We were quite impressed with the enthusiastic gusto with which he applied himself to the job, starting with removal of the old tiles using a pneumatic chisel.  Wearing a face mask and steel toecap boots, he disappeared into a cloud of brick dust which eventually settled on every surface, flat or otherwise, in the entire house.  At the end of the first day he left us with a partially tiled wall and without the use of the kitchen sink, which he’d had to remove to allow him access to the walls.  Nor could we operate the cooker which he’d temporarily relocated to almost block access into the lounge because, although plugged in, it didn’t want to work.   We assumed it had been switched off someplace we were unaware of.

Work continued fairly smoothly the following day.

He returned on the third day to finish off the grouting and I mentioned the inefficacy of the cooker.  This baffled him somewhat but after much chiselling, fiddling with wires and swearing in Spanish, after several hours he eventually got the cooker working.  As daylight began to fade he repositioned the sink and cupboards, some of which had been waiting patiently in the dining room, back to their designated spots.  He also installed the dishwasher which had been delivered during his activities.

Payment for his work was then due and I was quite surprised to find that his charges had increased by 25% to €100 a day but I accepted this, given the unexpected call on his plumbing and electrical skills.  Nonetheless, a jump from the estimated €160 to €300 did hit the wallet somewhat.

After he departed I turned to re-fill the saucepan cupboard, much of the contents of which he had stacked on the sink draining board and counter.  I had noticed a rather strong smell of cooking oil was permeating the area and soon discovered why.  I would appear that when he had moved the cupboard into the dining room he hadn’t emptied it, and on dragging it he must have caused the large chip pan, which had recently been filled with oil, to tip over.  Virtually every item that had been in the cupboard was now smeared or swamped in cooking oil.

After cleaning all the pans and re-stacking them in the cupboard – quicker to write than to do – I surveyed the remaining scene.  Despite having given him a number of old towels to protect the surfaces, he had managed to chip two holes in the counter top, but more worryingly he had irrepairably damaged two small areas where the counter met the wall when he had wrenched away an edging strip.  The counter top was going to have to be replaced!

Fortunately the company who had fitted the more recent of my kitchen cupboards was able to supply and fit the wall units I required, together with a new counter.

The washed blind was returned to the window and my new kitchen makeover looked spot on.  Furthermore, the dishwasher works like a dream.  But at what cost?

After I had cleared up the kitchen I had asked Ziggy to take the old towels, now on the floor, and put them in the washing machine in the laundry.  After they were washed I loaded the machine with some normal laundry.  On going to peg out both loads of washing on the line to dry I noticed a distinct smell of oil.  The towels all felt tacky and reeked of oil, as did one casual dress, three t-shirts, two pairs of shorts, a sweater and assorted underwear!  Unbeknown to me, the bloody builder must have used the towels to wipe the floor of all evidence of his oil spillage.

I threw the towels away but a second washing made little difference to the clothes and I soon realised that the inside of our washing machine must be coated in a thick layer of oil.  Running it three times on empty, with lots of soap on the hottest possible setting eventually cleared the oil slick.  The clothes, alas, were a lost cause.

So let us now tally up the damage.

Dishwasher                                        €235.00

Plumber                                              €  70.00

Materials for tiling                           €187.58

Labour for tiling                               €300.00

Cupboards and new counter         €434.00

Wrecked clothes, approx                €130.00

 

So the total cost of getting a dishwasher was –  €1,356.58

I think I’d better get stuck into writing that sequel.   PLEASE will you buy a copy – I need the money!