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Showing posts from May, 2013

Sacking the skips

Hard times Mr Gradgrind.

On the surface Spain looks fine. I hear all the time about unemployment, I know lots and lots of people without jobs. There are loads of empty shops, I see the evictions on the telly but I also see the crowds of people out for the fiestas, I go in bars bursting at the seams with people eating their way through mounds of tapas and, even if the sales figures are dire, the cars on the road look new enough.

It's difficult to tell. One thing though. A few months ago I started to see a couple of blokes collecting the cardboard boxes that the shops leave outside for the dustbin lorries every night. Armed with a Stanley knife they cut the boxes down and piled them neatly onto a trailer that they had built to tow behind a bike. They were able to get a prodigious amount of card on the little trailer and I supposed that they would go to weigh it in somewhere. I rather admired their grim determination to keep going.

A couple of weeks ago there was an old Transit type…

Proving you're nice

Once upon a time in a land far, far away nasty men applied for jobs working with little girls and boys. Their intentions were not good. So Police checks became common and employers, such as schools, started asking the police to provide them with reports on the criminal past of people about to be employed. In time the system became more widespread and the checks came to be known as CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks. Now, apparently, the name has changed and they are DBS or Disclosure and Barring Service checks.

Now Maggie has worked in three schools whilst we've been here in Spain together. I may be wrong but I don't think that any of them has ever asked to see any form of Police check. I remember she did fill in a form (that we got from a tobacconist) when she first started with the bilingual project but it was the British element of the project that was worried about the check. The local headteacher in Ciudad Rodrigo quietly slipped the form in a drawer and mumbled someth…

Under the weather

I've not felt so well over the last week or so. Mostly the regular aches and pains that come from late season sniffles and colds but  this time there was something new on top. So, for only the second time since we first arrived here I feel the need to talk to a doctor.

Despite a recent wave of cost cutting there's a good, generally free, state medical system in Spain. Dentistry, for adults, isn't included and there are prescription charges but it's basically free. Oh, there must be charges for prostheses too because there was a recent news story about some lad who had his modern splint replaced by a plaster cast when he couldn't pay the charge. Lots of Spaniards seem to choose to take out relatively inexpensive private health cover as well but mainly for queue jumping rather than quality reasons. Parallels with the British National Health System are pretty obvious.

Anyway I'm registered with the health service in my home community - la Communidad Valenciana - …

Stressing over paperwork

It has recently become necessary for foreigners to declare any overseas holdings in cash, property or goods with a value of over 50,000€. This has caused a bit of a stir amongst some of our compatriots. I was checking to make sure that there wasn't any small print which affected Maggie or me. The stories of problems of interpretation, using the form etc. were legion.

Recently I completed my annual tax return. I was happy to do so because this year I got a rebate. Whilst I was in financial mode I sifted through a few of the expat websites to check that my Teachers Pension, a government pension, as distinct from the state pension, was not eligible for Spanish tax as it has to be taxed at source in the UK. No problem. I seem to be perfectly legal.

As I read I realised that lots of Britons who are living on their UK state pension here in Spain want to be squeaky clean and declare their pensions to the Spanish tax people. As the amounts they get are covered by the Spanish tax allowanc…

Oil and garlic

Spaniards love their food. They are convinced that it is the best in the world. The Spanish talk about food a lot.

There is a movement in Catalunya for independence from Spain which does not sit well with most non Catalans. As a result lots of Catalan achievements are disparaged by other Spaniards but nobody had a bad word to say about those nice Roca brothers when their restaurant in Girona was recently chosen as the best in the world.

One of the traditional dishes from Cartagena and the Mar Menor area is caldero which is basically a slushy rice and fish stock dish. Three of us were talking, in a gruff voiced, manly, sort of way about caldero. I asked whether the alioili or al-i-oli usually served alongside the rice is a vital ingredient or not. Just for the moment think of alioli as garlic mayonnaise. The atmosphere stiffened when one said yes and the other no. My father and I used to have a similar discussion about the pros and cons of lamb with or without mint sauce

I hadn't …

Round and round

I've thought of a wizard wheeze to keep the number of posts up.

It was Cruces de mayo over the weekend. May Crosses - shrines I suppose dominated by a cross and with an Andalucian theme. Obviously this is blog material even down to the brightly coloured photos. The trouble is I've done it before.

We also went to a sort of Mediaeval re-enactment up in the Castillo de la Concepción but that smacks a bit too much of the "dear diary" sort of blog.

One problem for your average ethno-sociological commentator is the unflinching cyclicity of Spanish life.The same things keep coming around. I've complained before about the posters for circuses and other shows which say "in the usual place" The fact is that, as a circus operator, you can save a bundle of advertising costs by printing just the one size fits all poster. The circus will be in the same place as it was last year and the year before that and so on. It's only the occasional outsider who will have t…