Episode 48: Grantusthee Island

“I said to bring the folder didn’t I! But no, you know best, and now we’ve got to trail all the way home and stand in line again with half the cast of ‘Lost’. Do you know where Reuben’s birth certificate is? I hope reverend Elvis was kosher in Vegas or we’ll be buggered if that paper with your name change on isn’t legit!” Slamming the car door behind him, my eternally optimistic husband fires up the reluctant engine and off we roar back down the A7 to Fuengirola to collect the missing paperwork to hopefully complete our TIE application.
“Why didn’t you bring it then if you thought we needed it?” I mumble to the tense form grinding his teeth beside me but silence is his only reply so I stare out the window at the immobile cable cars above me swinging in the breeze.

A teenage voice from the rear drags me out of my reverie “We can still get breakfast right? I mean I don’t HAVE to go to school today. Dad…did you call the driving school about me taking my moped test when you take your bike one? I can do it this summer so I’m ready at 16 to get out on the road! I want gears though, not an old lady pizza moto like mums.

I shudder at the prospect of my teenage son being let loose on the roads in Spain. Visions of him manoeuvring through chaotic roundabouts alongside articulated lorries makes my heart lurch in fear for his split second decisions.

I close my eyes and try to blot out the visions that arrive uninvited into my overactive imagination. My own mother age 82 still reminds me to carry an inhaler in my handbag every time I leave my home, so I’m fully aware this fear for my own offsprings safety is mirrored across the globe when apron strings are finally severed.

Two hours later we are back at the police station clutching our added extras and trying to catch the eye of the young office worker who requested this small addition to our application.
“He’s there Marcus, behind the pot plant, wave at him,” I whisper pleadingly to my husband but he ignores my request and we end up standing in line behind the other immigrants and their assortment of life stories, and do what the Brits do best… queue.

Eventually it’s our turn, we hand over all the new paperwork and are called in one by one to place our fingers on a scanner and to recite our address to whoever resides behind the counter. Forms are stamped and photos verified. I’m handed a piece of paper and told to return in 45 days, and that’s it. All 3 of us are on the way to getting the ID card that will enable us to pass through passport control without being rugby tackled through duty free or having to carry our life stories in our hand luggage.

“Well that was easy!” Sighs my husband cheerily who, for some reason, always acts like he’s on MI5’s most wanted list whenever we approach a Spanish government building.
My son suddenly bellows unceremoniously into my ear “can we get some lunch now? I’m
starving! Also, can I have the day off school if I promise to do loads of revision when I get home?” I catch my husbands eye and nod my head. What the hell, life is for living and celebratory tapas are not to be rushed.

As we go to exit the station a very British voice can be overheard speaking in a ‘If I shout loudly and slowly enough in English, Johnny foreigner will understand me’ type of way and I crouch down to tie my shoelace so I can earwig the full conversation.
A pensioner has made the fatal mistake of asking the Spanish policeman on the door if he speaks English. The copper listens, nods, then smiles and calmly asks the silver haired chap how long he has lived in Andalucia
“20 years I’ve been here” proudly exclaims the elderly interloper. The officer stands back to let us pass and then in perfect English looks him directly in the eye and loudly states “then it’s about time you learnt the Spanish language isn’t it!”

Leaving the gawping crowd to eavesdrop the forthcoming lecture from the unimpressed officer we amble up the stone steps, happy in our pursuit of albondigas, chorizo and our new life in the sun.


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Episode 47: T.I.E. – Totally Inept Expats? Tourists In Exile? Todays Immigrant English?

I’m the first to admit when it comes down to learning any new language I’m incredibly thick. At school I worked my way quite steadily into the bottom set of French and spent most of my days gluing pictures of the Eiffel Tower into a text book with a well licked pritt-stick.
I can ramble on for hours to whoever will listen about an assortment of subjects in my native tongue but when it comes to absorbing Spanish I turn into a mute potato with hearing problems.

But now the time has finally come to accept our non E.U. status and exchange the small, green, dog eared Spanish residency card and replace it with a shiny all singing all dancing TIE. My heart starts to palpitate at the prospect. I hate dealing with this kind of stuff but needs must and the bullet will have to be bitten.
Several well informed friends have pointed me the direction of the online appointment site but as it’s all in Spanish I get as far as the ‘Brexit’ toolbar before a sudden and urgent desire comes across me to become Anthea Turner and scrub the grimy skirting boards until they gleam like Simon Cowells teeth.

“You’ve never cleaned those since we moved in!!” snorts my husband from the comfort of the second hand saggy sofa. I ignore his wisecrack and innocently nudge his beer can with my feather duster so the contents froth over his paint laden jeans. He looks at me and shakes his head, frothy or not, nothing comes between him and Jeremy Clarkson. The jeans will remain moist until the hour is up.

But in all honesty he’s right. I hate housework with every fibre of my ample being but as much as I detest Mr Sheen, I loathe dealing with Spanish bureaucracy even more.

24 hours later I am sitting with helmet in hand, loitering at my friends dining table staring blankly at her while she explains the steps I have to take to ensure I’m up to date with the government requirements to be able to exchange one card for another.

“Right Paula, are you listening?” I nod my head, dragging my eyes away from her assortment of expensive champagnes nestling on a freshly polished sideboard.
“I’ve been on the TIE website and have booked 3 appointments for you in Torremolinos for the day after tomorrow. There’s nothing coming up in the Fuengirola area so take your residency card, passport and empadron with you. Make copies, you’ll be refused without them.
I nod enthusiastically, child’s play so far. My mind wanders again… is 10am too early for fizz? My eyes stray back to the tantalising liquids within arms reach.

“You also have to get some small photos done and take these papers I’m holding to Sabadell bank to pay the admin fees. Don’t get them mixed up with these papers as they have your appointments on, oh and these papers here are to give to the police. Now off you pop, I’ve got a house to paint”

I grasp the several acres of rain forest to my chest and head back outside to climb onto my trusty moto. Which paperwork went where and to whom? What am I paying for? Something to do with the bank? Is it time for lunch yet? Ooh look at that pretty butterfly…

Shaking my head I drag myself back into reality and drive directly into Fuengirola town centre. Parking up outside the bank i join the external queue who are in various states of apathy loitering with resignation next to the recycling bins. I have over 30 pieces of paper gripped in my hand and I stand nervously behind the last man in the line up that appears to be talking animatedly to a can of Cruz Campo. We all shuffle forward as one customer is released from the financial compound. It’s like the worlds shittest game of ‘Mr Wolf’. Finally it’s my turn to enter and I step forward through the door to greet the teller, thrusting all my paperwork onto the counter whilst smiling inanely and yelling “TIE por Favor” just in case she was in any doubt of my intentions, or my fluency in her native tongue.

The process was, for once, amazingly simple.

€12 is deducted per person from our account and the papers stamped and one set handed back. I’m reversing out the door into the sunlight before I had chance to mutter ‘yo hablo solo un poco de espanol’ to anyone with almond eyes.
Relief floods through me and I head home. Buoyed by my financial bravery I pick up a celebratory pastry and Diet Coke and share them with Brian on the shaded balcony of our Spanish home (not the Coke obviously, he prefers Sprite).

48 hours later we are loitering outside the Torremolinos police station with every piece of paper we have ever owned. I can feel myself getting anxious, even though (in theory) i’m purely exchanging one card for another and not handing myself in for 3rd degree murder.

“I think it’s downstairs,” I whisper to my husband. “Why are you whispering?” He whispers back “why are you whispering as to why I’m whispering” I reply whisperingly.

“Will you two grow up and get in the queue, I’ve not had breakfast yet!!” Yells my ‘not able to whisper’ son.

So that’s what we do. We stand in line as the Brits love to do and wait until a stern faced policeman takes our paperwork, mutters something incomprehensible and waves us over to sit down on the outside seating area while he darts inside the office with our life story.

“Good job its not raining” I whisper to no one in particular as I place my buttocks on what looks like a used 747’s middle aisle.

10 minutes later a young man comes out of the office, shielding his eyes from the sun. He’s holding a stack of paperwork. The policeman looks at him, then at the contents of his hand and then points at us. The smartly attired worker strides over and we all sit completely still awaiting his verdict. With a frown on his face he hands us all our paperwork back including our passports and gently whispers “lo siento, no puedo completar esto”

To be continued


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