Less than a month ago I said that I didn’t want to see my mechanic Mario any time soon. You can guess what has happened since then. The disconcerting clunking noise that has plagued the car since day one came back gradually so I had to revisit my greasy friend and arrange another appointment. I was expecting to have the work done within a few hours but it turned into being three days without transport. That wasn’t an issue for me but it meant relying on the goodwill of friends to provide lifts for Selena and Lizzy each morning and the use of trains for them to get home. Admittedly, in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a huge problem but we have been tested to the limit in the past few weeks.
So I collected Lizzy from the train station at the other end of town to take her for a haircut appointment. The train was late so we had to make haste to arrive at the hairdressers on time. Needless to say arriving hot and bothered, fifteen minutes late, apologizing in Spanish (but in true English style), we were quickly reminded that we need not worry. “Tranquilo, tranquilo” it was really no problem and to prove the point, whilst Lizzy was sitting in the chair, the hairdresser wandered off and spent ten minutes talking to her friend at the door.
Meanwhile Mario had called me to tell me that the car was finally ready so once Lizzy had finished having her hair cut we wandered up the road to the garage. I had been advised by Mario that he had discovered another problem with the car whilst fixing the ongoing noise problem so the hefty bill wasn’t a complete surprise and I was relieved to be getting the car back. It was now nearly seven o’clock in the evening and Lizzy was still in her school uniform and needed feeding and showering so I just wanted to pay and go home.
We had just changed bank accounts to facilitate our mortgage for the imminent house purchase but my brand new glitzy gold Santander bank card was rejected. Embarrassing to say the least. I then proceeded to try each and every bank and credit card in my wallet without success and, despite having funds available, was unable to pay the bill. I then had to resort to calling Santander in the UK to try and resolve the problem whilst Mario entertained Lizzy by providing pens and paper for her to scribble on. You can imagine how impressed I was when the Santander representative asked me “can you give me digits 2,4 and 8 of your telephone banking password?” Are you serious??!!! By this time I was sweating through stress, embarrassment and aggravation, whilst Lizzy was playing with spanners behind me and Mario wanted to lock up and go home!
“Yes Mr. Davey it’s an eight digit password that could be made up of capital letters, lower case letters and numbers” “No that’s incorrect you have one more attempt available”.
By this point I was in serious melt down and could barely remember my own name. “Why don’t you ask me the town where I was born, or my favourite colour, or my mother’s maiden name, or my father’s middle name????!!!” Security questions that I can actually relate to and remember!!
Ultimately, after several telephone conversations with the bank, and attempted cash withdrawals, I had to leave the car at the garage for another night and Selena had to arrange another early morning lift to school. The following morning cash was successfully obtained and Freddy the Fiat Doblo was finally released from captivity.
Here we are three weeks later and the dreaded knocking noise has returned……… I take deep breaths each day.
On the same day that Lizzy had her hair cut and we tried to collect the Fiat from the garage, Selena and I had an appointment at the bank. We have been trying to close the account and move all of the direct debits and a couple of insurance policies that we took out when we opened the account with La Caixa to our new account with Santander. The problem has been that the bank only opens in the morning so Selena has had to take time out of work and get cover for her lessons every time they need us to attend. To make matters worse you can’t just ‘pop in’ to this bank. There is literally one desk open and the queues go on forever. Having been frustrated by various conversations previously we were given an appointment at 10.35am.
An hour and a half later and we were still sitting in the foyer waiting to be seen!! I have had better days than that one that’s for sure. Eventually we were attended to by the lady from the front desk who helped as much as she could but told us that we would have to telephone on the following Monday morning. Needless to say that didn’t go as planned either and after three further visits we managed to close the account.
If you can imagine the repeated calls and visits to the bank, alongside the ongoing car problems and visits to Mario’s workshop, with the additional aggravation of bank card issues, you might think that we would be getting somewhat frustrated. If you were to add to that mix the issues of trying to buy a house here, arranging the collection and transportation of our belongings in England, negotiating the termination of our rental contract at our current house, Selena taking on a ‘head of year’ role at work, then you would be fairly accurate if you were to predict a similar state of mind as Michael Douglas in the movie ‘Falling Down’.
Having said that, if you wanted to gun down a whole population, it would probably go unnoticed here in El Puig for some time! Noise is a way of life. On a daily basis it changes from perfect peace and tranquility to full blown Baghdad. Lizzy recently ran to the front door because she heard some fireworks only to open the door as they exploded in the narrow street outside. She ran back inside holding her ears and crying like a scene from Vietnam. Often I have heard a commotion outside which would, without doubt, if it had happened in England, resulted in a call to the Police as ‘a disturbance’ but in reality it has just been a perfectly normal conversation between friends.
Anyway, the good news is that we are getting closer to completing on the house purchase.
The rules and regulations here are very different to that of the UK of course.
We are currently working hard to ensure that our current home, which we have rented since arriving last year, is handed back in perfect condition. We rent our house in England to tenants via an agency but we are responsible, as the landlords, for any repairs or maintenance that is required. Here in Spain however we are responsible, as the tenants, for ensuring that all maintenance and repairs are completed, so we are being squeezed from both sides.
We are due to hand back the keys at the end of this month and hope to complete on the purchase of our own house on Monday 25th (three days from now), so the pressure and excitement is building.
The house purchase process has been a surreal experience and until we have the keys in hand I’m not convinced it will happen. Monday’s meeting will be interesting as the following people have to appear to sign and transfer money and documents:
Selena and I as purchasers.
The vendor, who is due to fly in from the north of Spain.
Estate agent (who is due to collect an obscene amount of money. 50% payable by us and 50% payable by the vendor).
Santander representative who is providing our mortgage and will write cheques for the outstanding fees and payments.
The ‘notaria’ who oversees the transactions and ensures everything is done legally.
Our friend acting as translator!
If our last meeting at the notaria’s office is anything to go by it should be great fun!
Legislation here dictates that once you have signed up for a mortgage you have to attend the office of a notaria to ensure that you have understood the implications and responsibilities of such a contract. Once you have signed with the notaria there must be allowed ten days minimum for you to reconsider before completing on the house purchase (a cooling off period).
We attended the notaria’s office with our friend Cathy to translate. Our appointment was just after 5pm so we had Lizzy with us straight from school and she had been to a fancy dress day so she was dressed in full princess outfit. We were invited in to an office and asked to hand over our papers in Gestapo style by the most unfriendly and scary man I have ever met. Cathy introduced herself as translator and he just stared imperiously without any hint of human personality. As he typed in our personal details from our identity documents Lizzy fed herself fruit and sweets whilst colouring with the pens and books we had packed in her bag. By now she was very well versed in waiting patiently and occupying herself whilst the grown-ups did the boring things that they need to do.
Hitler’s disciple ushered us into a meeting room where we sat patiently without knowing what to expect next. Despite Cathy’s best efforts we were not being afforded any kind of common courtesy so we sat like nervous children awaiting a reprimand. We had been told that there would be a test and sure enough we were given exam papers and pens. There followed a test to verify that we had understood the obligations of the mortgage contract. Thankfully the test was invigilated by a friendly lady who actually helped us with the answers!
Now we have our fingers and crooked toes crossed for a successful meeting on Monday.