Tuesday, 19 February 2013


A year or so ago, I used to get at least 15 spam mails a day encouraging me to use their products to enlarge my (non-existent) penis.  They all guaranteed ecstatic success with women.  As a woman who was once in a long-term relationship with a man with an exceptionally large penis, I can confirm that, in my case at least, this was no guarantee of success and more a guarantee of having to be very careful.  So I didn’t pay much attention, although one day I did get annoyed and redirected all of that day’s spam back to one of the senders*.

Perhaps this was related, but I was surprised later by an abrupt halt in the ginormous penis mails and the equally sudden inundation of lose weight without trying mails.  Since I already have two foolproof diet regimes, the LYB (lose your boyfriend) or the EL (eat less) diets, I’ve never actually opened any of these mails promising me miraculous, effortless weight loss.

But I’m curious now.  What will be next? Seeing as we’ve covered man’s deepest insecurity (penis size) and woman’s deepest insecurity (body shape), what’s left? 

In case the field is open for suggestions, senders of spam mail please note that I would be really interested in hearing about products that would enable me to clean my house from the sofa or to increase the size of my bank balance simply by smiling at the bank manager.  Failing that, a remote control for removing irritating neighbours to a desert island far away would come in handy, as would a device that prevented my dog from producing liquid stools (it’s the excitement) when on city streets.

*Many years ago, when junk mail used to come through my door, as opposed to digitally, a favourite past-time for a rainy day was to place rubbish from my bin in one of the pre-paid envelopes, together with a note saying “Thanks for the rubbish – have some of mine!”.   I miss not being able to do this any more.

Monday, 18 February 2013


Seeing as my last post was about finally getting my papers in order, I thought I’d post this video, which is one of my favourites ever*.  A taste of Spanish officialdom.  I have come across public employees like this in my time in Spain.

Notice how, at the end, the vanquished public servant screws up her paperwork and chucks it away...

I think it’s no coincidence that when the Government cut the wages of all public servants twice last year, nary a protest was heard from anyone outside public employ.  In fact, I think there was quite a lot of schadenfreude going around...

*036 is the number of the form you have to fill in to be registered as self-employed here.  I have been through this procedure, and believe me, it is every bit as tedious as it is portrayed here.

Thursday, 14 February 2013


Aeons ago, when I was studying for a teacher’s certificate before moving to Spain, one of us asked the teacher why she had left Italy to come back to the UK (incomprehensible, right?).  Her maybe less than frank reply was that she got fed up of the bureaucracy of living abroad.  I personally thought this was a very weak answer.  I had never tried to live abroad at that stage.

Older and wiser, I am happy to announce that although it’s taken over four years, my papers are finally in order.

It all started in September 2007.  For the previous 15 years, the Spanish government had kindly issued me with a nice resident’s card every 5 years, similar to a Spanish person’s national identity card.  Then the govt decided that for EU citizens, their own national identity cards would be sufficient proof of identity.  The problem being that the UK does not issue ID cards.

When my Spanish resident’s card ran out in September 2007, I carried on using it for a few years, and nobody noticed that it was out of date. It was necessary every time I used a debit card, declared my tax, went to the doctor, etc., but I had no problems.  Until...I became self-employed.  Part of the paperwork entailed having the new version for EU citizens who do not have an ID card.  This turned out to be an entirely useless piece of A4 paper stating that in itself, it was not proof of my identity, but if I was able to provide such proof (i.e., a passport), then it testified to the fact that I was a permanent resident in Spain.  Imagine bringing all that out every time you want to pay by plastic.

I duly obtained the piece of paper, and then promptly lost it as soon as the paperwork was finished.*

A few more years passed, during which I continued to use my by now way out of date resident’s card.

Horror of horrors, my passport ran out.  I admit that I am almost phobic about filling in forms.  I had the photos taken, and sat on them for months.  Because my passport ran out, my health service card (which you need to present any time you go to the doctor’s) ran out too.

By last summer, I had no passport, no silly piece of paper from the Spanish govt, no health card and an out of date resident’s card.  All I had left that was actually valid was a Spanish driving licence.  I got by on this for several months.

It couldn’t go on.  The background music to the past eight months has been applying for a new passport; reporting to the police the loss of my silly piece of paper and then applying for a new one, police statement in hand; and waiting for these to arrive before being able to apply for a health card.  I got so into the swing of things that I’ve even applied for a European health card.

Today, I took the car for its biannual MOT, which it was passed.  As I drove away, it suddenly occurred to me that all my papers were in order for the first time in over 4 years.

Well, not quite.  There is still debate in the village over whether I live in number 28 or number 40, and the electricity is still in the previous owner’s name.  Oh, and my garage is registered at the land registry as belonging to another neighbour, my dog is probably due for his vaccinations, my educational qualifications aren’t recognised here in Spain unless I subject myself to a very long bureaucratic process (it would actually be quicker, easier and cheaper to take a another degree here), and my butane gas contract for hot water is with a company that went out of existence in the 80’s...

But the important stuff has been done.  The rest, apart from the dog’s vaccinations, can rot in hell.  Today is cause for a small celebration.

*As an aside, I also struggled with my tax returns as a self-employed person for 4 years until finally handing it all over, defeated, to an accountant, who sighed heavily upon seeing that I had been interpreting inter-community income/outgoings as being between the autonomous communities of Spain (provinces, more or less) as opposed to EU communities (countries to you and I). Fingers crossed I never come to the attention of the authorities.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

The sofa wars

Life used to be so peaceful.

The cat had his sofa:

And the dog had his:

Which he sometimes deigned to share with me: 

But the sofas were a horrible colour and had become scruffy and uncomfortable enough for me to consider replacing them.

I’ve always made do with garden furniture or cheap sofa beds in the past, which wore out really quickly, so this time I decided to buy myself some really nice sofas.  Not fabric, since that only seems to encourage the cat to sharpen his claws indoors, but leather, and sprung.  Chesterfields in fact, though not the kind with buttons since life is too short to spend time cleaning a hundred belly buttons on the furniture.

I did worry that the cat might still scratch, but my concern was needless.  He hates his new sofa, won’t go near it.  This is good news for guests, who will no longer leave my house with a behind covered in cat fur.  It has not been such good news for the dog though.

It’s been a bit like Goldilocks trying the three bears’ porridge.  At first, the cat couldn’t settle.  He sat on the loudspeakers, on the corner cabinet, on the table, in the wood basket, on the floor, in the bookshelves among the books, on the stairs and on the windowsill.

Then he tried sleeping on the dog’s sofa.  This had never happened before, and the dog was bewildered.  He knows he’s not allowed on the cat’s sofa, and he’s rightly scared of the cat so couldn’t oust him.  He had no alternative than to sit in his bed on the floor like a second class citizen, casting me pitiful glances.

But the cat didn’t like the dog’s sofa any more than his own, so then he tried sitting in the dog’s bed.  Now, the dog likes sitting with me on the sofa, but he also likes his bed – it is his after all.   So I had to buy another bed, so that they could have one each.  At the moment, the cat can’t make up his mind which one he prefers, so tries to occupy them both.  And things have escalated.  The cat has realised that he has found a fool-proof way to make the dog miserable.  When I came into my office this morning, he was occupying the dog’s bed there, too.

How complicated new furniture can be.