I attended a meeting of my Community tonight.
I wasn't sure what time to arrive as the notice had said there were to be two convocatorias, the first at 7pm and the second at 7.30. None of the Spanish friends I asked could explain what this meant but they all added that notices of community meetings always took this form.
I had planned to go for 7 but in the end – after a long lunch and a late siesta – I got there for a little after 7.35. To find things well under way.
The meeting took place around two plastic tables on the terrace of the little house down near the pool and, apart from the two(sic) women from the offices of the administrator, there were nine owners there. Which is about 25% (ie a quarter) of the total of thirty seven. I was interested to note that, in the master list of owners, twenty-nine of them only had a male name as the proprietor. One of whom – divorced – has long since gone, having given the house to his (unnamed) wife.
The backcloth to the meeting was a magnificent sunset over Pontevedra below us and the noisy to-ing and fro-ing of a yellow plane dumping water on a fire in the hills behind the city. But since everyone shouts, this didn't interfere with the proceedings in any way.
After a few minutes of desultory chat – dominated by the demonstrative ex president – the meeting was called to order and the Minutes of the last meeting were read out, followed by a brief report from the current president, my neighbour, Manolo. I intervened briefly during the first of these to ask that they be read out at less than a hundred miles an hour. As ever, this resulted in a reduction to around 95.
The meat of the meeting was quickly established as the question of whether we all contribute to the cost of repairing/replacing malfunctioning drains in some of the houses. The ex president was again the most vocal in rejecting this idea. Which struck me as ironic as we'd all contributed handsomely to expensive improvements in the facilities near his house when he'd been president.
It wasn't much of a problem to follow the proceedings when only one person was speaking – or even two - but when things broke up into numerous simultaneous side discussions – particularly when seven of the nine owners were speaking at the same time – things became rather more difficult. Needless to say, this happened on numerous occasions. My main difficulty was with the unfamiliar word arqueta. So, I asked Manolo what this was and was told it was where all the waste water and sewage ended up. But how this differed from a pozo negro or a fosa septica I couldn't determine.
As I say, the ex president dominated the rather fractious proceedings. Clearly a man who likes the sound of his own voice. Coincidentally, I know his son from the English Speaking Society in Pontevedra and he's certainly a chip off the old block. And both are fond of the word coño.
At 8.30, a tenth owner arrived and immediately entered the discussion/argument, despite knowing nothing of what had happened in the previous hour.
At 8.40 we moved from the discussions of the drains to a review of the accounts for 2010. One owner probably spoke for all when he expressed astonishment that everyone was up to date with their monthly payments and that there was a (small) balance in the end-year accounts. I imagine there always is. But perhaps there's sometimes a loss.
At 8.50, an eleventh owner arrived and, a minute later, the guy who'd arrived at 8.40 departed. Leaving himself exposed to election as the next president. Which then happened.
At 8.55 the meeting broke up, leaving me without the slightest idea of what had been decided. But I'll check with Manolo tomorrow. The last meeting I attended – more than ten years ago in November 2000 – went on for three hours and ended with the sole decision that all decisions would be postponed until a second meeting in two weeks time. Which never took place.
I live in fear that one day they'll round on me and tell me it's my turn to be president. Especially if I don't forfeit hours and hours of my life by attending all the future meetings. Que pena.
Postscript: I bumped into my neighbours Amparo and Manolo after the meeting. I asked them what had been decided and they just smiled wryly. Nothing it seems. I told Manolo of the first (and last) meeting I'd attended but he easily topped this. At the first meeting he'd attended there'd almost been a fist fight and the question had arisen of law suits. Anyway, he congratulated me on avoiding the presidency for another year. I replied that I couldn't be president as I didn't speak Spanish.