So another year is taking shape as we begin to escape the cold and tricky winter months here in Spain. We will still have our share of rain and storms before the summer arrives but January and February have already provided some wonderful weather as a taste of what lies ahead. Working outside in just a pair of shorts seems odd so early in the year, especially when, as soon as the sun sinks to the horizon, you’re obliged to don five or six layers in preparation for the evening.
The temperatures weren’t considered when we arranged to have the bathroom renovated in January. It was long overdue, and in hindsight it would have made more sense to have had it done when we had the rest of the interior modernised, but I had deluded ideas of doing the work myself. If I had dared to tackle the job myself it still wouldn’t be finished, so instead we had three weeks in January that were surrendered to more noise, dust and inconvenience as the builders did their thing. Fortunately we have some very kind friends living nearby that offered the use of their log cabin during the process, so we had access to a hot shower, and Selena and Lizzy slept there while we had no bathroom or hot water of our own.
Thirty or more sacks of rubble and debris, along with the old bath and furniture, were thrown outside the back door as the workers created a blank slate to begin the overhaul. On one Friday the workman told me that he had arranged for somebody to come and remove the rubbish so he duly carried everything to the street and sure enough it was collected as promised. The next morning we headed off in the car as a family and within less than a mile from home I slammed on the breaks and gasped, “There’s our bathroom!!” I couldn’t believe my eyes. A few feet from the side of the road lay all of the sacks of rubble and bathroom furniture from our house. It had literally been dumped by the roadside. We were fuming and incredulous. Fly tipping is a common problem here but to think that anybody could be that blatant and disrespectful is unbelievable. The workman made a call on the Monday morning and sure enough it was all removed, but where it ended up is anybody’s guess. After a few minor hiccups the work was completed and we returned to living under the same roof again with another important job crossed off the list.
It’s not only builders that have had to be negotiated or argued with. The last few months have been a litany of phone calls and emails with banks and businesses in order to try and recover money. For a brief visit to the UK at New Year we had to purchase PCR Day Two tests, which didn’t actually work, so much of that week was spent trying to explain the problem and determine culpability. Neither the manufacturer or suppliers were willing to consider a refund but eventually our bank (in the UK) was able to refund the money.
Our bank in Spain hasn’t been as efficient (both are Santander). Despite giving our car insurance company advance warning that we didn’t want to renew the policy for another year they still took full payment. In Spain it’s not uncommon to demand one or two month’s written notice that you don’t wish to proceed with whatever policy you have. After several weeks of pestering the company for an acknowledgement that they had received and implemented my request to cancel the renewal, I finally received a reply indicating that it would not be renewed. Of course the next course of action is to pay for a new policy with somebody else, only to find, days later, that the original policy had been renewed and the money taken from the bank account. Great. So we now had two car insurance policies paid in full. I cannot begin to explain how frustrating and painstaking the process of trying to recover that money has been. From leaning over our balcony on the terrace to obtain a slither of phone signal, only to be told that the policy cannot be found and doesn’t exist, to calling the bank in the same way to try and make a claim (and getting cut off after being on the phone for twenty minutes), to visiting the bank in person to find out the progress of said claim and being told not to worry these things take time (even though there has been no acknowledgement whatsoever that there is a claim in place). I was going around in circles for weeks. Eventually a friend was able to speak to somebody sensible at the insurance company, armed with my copious notes of evidence and, after some subsequent to-ing and fro-ing by email, a full refund was obtained.
The knock on effect of all of this was that the bank had cancelled my card to prevent the insurance company from being able to take the money again. With that came the inevitable notifications from other sources declaring that they were unable to take payment for gas, water, electricity, internet etc whilst I waited in vain for a replacement bank card to be delivered by the dreadful postal service. I was told that the bank card could not be delivered to the branch for collection, it had to come to my home address, despite my attempts to explain that I rarely receive any mail, not least without difficulties. Sure enough, as predicted, the replacement card never materialized so more time was spent waiting. Finally another card was ordered that actually arrived safely so at last a line could now be drawn under this particular drama.
As a side note, quite often these days payment is required to collect any mail that arrives from the UK. I recently had to go to the local post office to collect a small parcel and a card. In fact it was a Christmas card that had arrived more than a month late. I had to pay over six euros to be given the card, and over eight for the parcel. Cash only. If I had known it was a late Christmas card I would have refused to accept it!
So here’s to looking ahead and hoping for a period of stress free, comfortable living! We all managed to catch Covid a few weeks ago, Lizzy having brought it home from school. I’m struggling to recover from a torn meniscus ligament in my knee and various niggling family health issues are lingering among us so, as with many others, we’ll be glad to move forward into brighter days.
The good news is that we finally have a house, bathroom and swimming pool ready to welcome family and friends so hopefully we can all enjoy that together.