Suitably girded, I set out this morning to take on Spanish bureaucracy.
First stop was the Health Centre in my barrio of Poio, where I hoped to get a Health card entitling me to free medical attention and almost-free medicines. Things started well:-
Yes, we do issue the cards here. Every day between 12 and 14.00. Except Mondays.
So. you'll have to come back tomorrow. But first talk to my colleague to make sure you know what documents to bring.
This was speedily done, as I had all the documents with me, and I was soon back outside, wondering whether to take my morning coffee in the café next door. Fearing the place would be full of people spewing germs, I opted for one of my regular wi-fi cafés.
After my coffee and a read of the papers, I took myself to Pontevedra's Catastro (Property Registry), where I wanted to contest the bill I'd received for the municipal tax on the property in the hills I sold last November. During the peak years of Spain's phoney boom, this was a frustrating place to visit. Always packed from the minute it opened, if you didn't get there within the first half-hour or so, you'd get a number which clearly wouldn't be called until the clerks clocked off for lunch. Which meant never, as the numbers went back to zero after their break. Today was utterly different; instead of a maelstrom of humanity, there were just three people in front of me. And my ticket said the average wait was fifteen minutes. In fact, it was clear I was going to beat this as my number came after less than ten. But it was just then that one of the three clerks chose to leave for somewhere outside the office. Almost certainly a nearby café. So I waited another five minutes before getting to see a woman who could not have been more helpful. She confirmed that the buyers should have changed the details and helped me fill in the relevant form requesting the removal of my name from the register. She even photocopied my documents and ID, having initially told me I'd have to go to a nearby copestería to do this myself. Perhaps it was my charm . . . Anyway, tomorrow it's off to the office – the ORAL – where the bill is actually paid. Under Spanish law, it seems, two connected offices aren't allowed to be in the same building.
Talking of the law . . . My research has confirmed it's not an offence in the UK to wear earphones while you're driving. Nor will you be fined for not having two triangles in your boot, or a complete set of bulbs, or two fluorescent jackets. Or all relevant documents. And probably several other things as well. For a country which doesn't seem to place a huge emphasis on safety, Spain goes to town when it comes to taking a car on the roads. In short, in the last decade it's gone from one extreme to the other. But maybe it's got something to do with revenue generation, rather than a real concern for safe driving. All I know right now is that having earphones on is considered as bad as using a mobile phone – yes, really! - and that I'll be losing three points from whatever is the total I have left after a couple of speeding offences in 2010. Both of which, as you will recall, were a set-up.
The Voz de Galicia asked their readers if they thought the increases in VAT(IVA) brought in this weekend would lead to growth in the 'submerged market'. Unsurprisingly, 98% of them felt it would. Especially in their houses, no doubt.
Finally . . . I've heard it said that school-kids here lug far heavier bags than elsewhere and this picture in El País seems to endorse that. In the paper edition, the full bags (cases?) are shown and are clearly only a tad smaller than airline carry-on cases. A necessity or just fashion?