The past couple of weeks have been quite interesting here on the island. I have been going back-and-forth with a local architect/builder over some plans I put together several months and submitted after moving into La Antigua (which was, as you may recall, a bit over two years ago now. The correct word here is 'aaaaaargh'). Obtaining permission from the local authorities in the village to make a change to the house has been challenging to say the least. But it appears that progress has been made and hopefully (hopefully being the key word here), within a few weeks I will be able to update you on what I am doing to make La Antigua a bit more comfortable.
Then there was the birthday party. Whilst living in Barcelona onboard Angelina five years ago, I was extremely fortunate to have met several very special people. One of them was Addy. And whilst most of us (the marina group of friends that sort of came together into a life-long friendship) have left our nautical ways, Addy and his partner Gilly still do have a boat in the harbour there, but also have a home in Andorra (yes, this is the part of the letter where you stop reading and open Google to find out where Andorra is if you don’t already know). It was a very special birthday for Addy last weekend and they decided to have a little party to celebrate. When I received my invitation, I thought instead of going out and buying a present or a nice card, I would make something for him. Well, my little project took on a life of its own and I ended up making quite a few birthday greetings. Not your usual ‘Happy Birthday Addy’ cards; I decided to do something a bit more creative. With the magical assistance of my computer, I took magazine covers and movie posters (and even had to make some fictitious ones) and inserted Addy’s photo in them, and then, as you might have imagined, wrote new (and terribly cheesy) text to accompany them. My initial plan was to make one per week and send them to him via email, but, as the adverts on telly in America used to say, ‘A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste’ – I ended up making 44 of these little buggers. The party itself was fab. I flew to Barcelona and then drove to Andorra with friends for a very relaxing weekend in the mountains.
When I returned, I thought I should take care of some soon-to-be-pressing business here on the island. Like most countries, Spain has a programme of inspecting automobiles every couple of years to ensure that they comply with all the safety and anti-pollution laws that seem to make life more complicated that it might need to be. When I purchased Amelia (two years ago this month), I had made sure that the inspection process had been updated so I wouldn’t have to worry about it until June 2007… which it is now. Buggers, it was time to have Amelia re-inspected.
I asked my friend Barry (who has lived on the island since before recorded time) if he would go with me to the local ITV station (ITV is the equivalent of the UK’s MOT programme). Barry, being a good friend who apparently needed a break from his ongoing house saga, said he would; which was very good for me as I didn’t even know where the ITV locations were, not to mention I had no clue how the re-inspection process went. Yesterday, we drove to an ITV location in Palma and after rotting in the queue for a while, found out that I didn’t have the correct paperwork with me. Brilliant. It seems that the missing bit was the actual registration title that shows that I own the car. I professed that the paperwork I had with me was all that I was given when I bought Amelia, but the woman at the counter explained that what I had was a photocopy of the title. Right. Even I could see that it was a photocopy, but that is all that I had received I said to her. Unless I could produce the original, I would be stuffed; which, with the current inspection sticker expiring at the end of this month, could be problematic.
My options at this point seemed to be: 1) go home and pout. Whilst this option was highly intriguing to me, it really didn’t seem to be too bright; 2) go to a gestoria (hiss-tor-ee-a, noun, a type of solicitor who sorts out legal documentation for a fee) and have them get on the case for a duplicate. Another intriguing idea, but it seemed like it could be both costly and time consuming; and 3) go back to the dealer who sold me the car and whinge a lot. I went for option 3, largely because when I bought Amelia, the owner of the dealership spoke a bit of English, and his daughter was highly fluent in my native tongue. I reasoned that they at very minimum would be able to steer me in a direction to get this whole looming mess resolved. I left Barry and drove to the car dealership only to find that the owner and his daughter were both not there, leaving only a salesman who spoke Mallorquin. Right. As I don’t speak Mallorquin, I attempted to dazzle him with my Spanish, explaining what had occurred at the ITV office. He replied that, yes, the photocopy I had that stated that I actually did own Amelia was given to me when I bought the car and that the actual document was sent to me a couple weeks later. Fine. I replied that I never received it and asked what could be done (as well as asking when the owner or his daughter would return). He mumbled something and then opened a file cabinet drawer that contained a pile of car titles.
Just about the time he was flicking through them one at a time, a customer walked into his office (we really don’t stand on too many formalities here, like waiting for you turn) and began to complain about the warranty he received when he bought his car. This caused my man to stop his exploration process and counter with what warranties came with a used car. This little ‘conversation’ went on for quite a while, and whilst they were talking in Mallorquin, I realised that I was picking up quite a bit of the back-and-forth banter. It was pretty clear that the customer was not a happy camper, and the salesman was adamant – used cars do not come with ten-year warranties and if the guy had a problem with the car he bought years earlier, maybe he should have said something sooner. Really.
Whilst it was great fun to overhear all the arguments on both sides, all I wanted was for the owner or his daughter to get back from wherever they were so I could get my problem sorted. Just as the salesman was telling the customer to piss-off, or so it seemed, I noticed that on the top of the remaining pile of yet-to-be-checked auto titles was one that had my name on it. Now I interrupted and, with a sense of glee on my face, announced that there it was. I never did receive the original title to Amelia (which of course meant that for the past two years, I had been driving semi-illegally. Nice.
I was back in business, so-to-speak. I said thank you for finding my original title (I always do try to be polite, and besides, I wasn’t sure how to call him a wanker for not sending it to me two years ago), and then asked him (kindly) if he would phone the ITV location to make an appointment for me to return. He asked me which one I had gone to previously and then told me that if I went to a different one, and arrived at no later than 08:00, I wouldn’t even need an appointment. Fair enough. As by now it was almost 11:00, I decided to go home and do some proper client work.
This morning, I was up before 07:00 (dead knackered, but awake) and by 08:00 was at the ITV location half-way to the other side of the island. There only were a few cars in the queue ahead of me, so I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing. But when it was my turn, I was told that I needed to go to the office first to ‘sign-in’. Scheisse. I manoeuvred Amelia out of the now growing queue and walked into the office with all my paperwork, including the original title to the car. This only took a few minutes and I was back in the queue again (but at the end of it). I sat patiently, wondering if Amelia would pass the emissions part of the test. Last year I had the engine oil changed by a local mechanic and at the time, mentioned that there was a rattle coming from the exhaust system area, or so I thought. He told me at the time that my catalytic converter was buggered, but he couldn’t find the right one to replace it with; and then I had forgotten all about it. I was beginning to whisk through all the potential scenarios that I might be facing if there was a problem. Would they tell me it had to be replaced? Would they confiscate my car? Would they force me to watch Fox News? I was beginning to become more than a bit concerned when the ITV mechanic/inspector person motioned me forward. Ten minutes later I was through the entire process, and was told to take my inspection report and go to the little booth to get my certificate. Right. I did exactly what I had been told, only to find that my certificate said that my car would not be approved for driving until I had something fixed on it. Catalytic converter? No, that must have been fine. I needed to have my head-lights adjusted. My flippin’ headlights. Madre de Dios.
Am home again now, after going to the Seat garage in Palma and having them tweak the head-lamps, followed by a return to the ITV station to receive a sticker for the wind-screen that says I don’t have to go through this again for another two years. Now if I could only get my architect to get his bum into gear.
the semi-mandatory courtyard photo
Addy, departing wisdom on JBR
cheesy birthday greeting sample number 1
cheesy birthday greeting sample number 2
cheesy birthday greeting sample number 3
in the queue at this morning's challenging ITV experience
looking relaxed after the party, but before the ITV visit
copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, James B. Rieley