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Frustrating Weekend August 2006

John Wright


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In July 2006 I had bought the farm house, 30 miles inland from the Costa Daurada just south of Barcelona. I also had an apartment on the coast in Sitges. The purchase which had taken a year to negotiate had gone well. Then the ex owner had the electricity switched off.


I went out to rectify. Most people in the country speak Catalan, which I can read but not write. I speak poor castillian and read that better than Catalan.


It really was a flying visit. Out Thursday evening back Monday morning. I was chasing the apartment agent and the Central heating and Air conditioning engineers, plus electrician and telephone guy. Among other things!


I’m paranoid about being late and missing things, so it was not a good start for Euro Manx to be an hour late leaving IOM. I nearly missed check in for easyJet at Liverpool. It is now a 30 minute check in, I had ensured I should have had an hour and a half, and there I was running.


I was last to check in, seat 138 on a 150 seater.


Then easyJet was late. No worries as I was staying in a hotel near the airport that night.


Friday am caught train to Sitges where the apartments are. I was to stay in one for two nights, and in the other for one, only to find guests not checking out until 17.00 so I couldn’t load up the car with stuff to take to the farm. However they were having a flood so I mopped up. The central heating engineer had moved the washing machine whilst replacing the boiler and cross threaded the tap connector when reconnecting.


Checked inventory and found six mugs, 8 large and 10 small glasses missing since February, no T towels and three bedside lights missing. What do guests do? Quick trip to IKEA called for and done.


Then off to farm to meet translator, electrician and telephone man. All well except telephone man did not appear. Apparently he had turned up a day early. During visit note that whilst there are lots of plates, knives and forks there are no pans, sharp knives or cooking utensils. No kettle. The last owners ran it as a restaurant for Christs sake!


Back to Sitges and try to get keys copied. Usual place said too busy. Next place closed. Most places shut for 2 weeks in August. Went back to choice number one;. begged as best my pidgin Catalan allows, he agreed, could I call back at 20.00, I suggested the following morning, but no, that was the first day of his fortnights break. At 20.00 he hadn’t started so I waited, good naturedly until 20.45 until he finished. It was obliging of him and I was having 4 sets of 8 keys per set cut. Big bill!


Saturday; finalised inventory check and checked everything working. Sorted out computer connections and did a bit of work. Found one loo in apartment was running all the time. Tried plumber, on holiday, I should have known! Found out that the new Central Heating boiler has a complicated electronic timer and thermostat. Oh woe! If guests play they will wreck it. What is more there are no instructions for the boiler or timer/thermostat, not even in Spanish or Catalan, let alone English. Played with it; couldn’t work it out. Can’t operate the video, me. No chance!


Pack spare sheets, duvets, throws and odds and ends. Re visit IKEA and raid the kitchenware department. Get basic kettle. Visit Farm, unload. Also go to local town hall and sign up for waste collection.


Town hall only opens on Tuesday and Saturdays. 08.00 to 13.00. Village has one bar and as far as I can see no shops. It does have a 10th century church and ruined hilltop castle. Maybe 30 houses.


Lovely lady who speaks pidgin English to my pidgin Spanish. We understood each other fully. She tries to send me down stairs to sign up for local property tax. Explain property used to belong to town hall until plot divided in two about three years ago. Property owned by a local authority is exempt rates so it did not have a valor catastral or rateable value because town hall and the people they had sold to forgot to go to the regional assessment office. No rateable value, no tax. Impossible sir, I am assured. I dig out my copia simple deed in which it is recited that this is in fact the case and that the local authority will forgive the ex owners and me all local taxes until they do sort it all out. She smiles, shouts to her colleague, the town hall architect, he shouts back, more smiles. Yes he remembers the letter. So it is me who has bought, good luck. They are happy to see me. I am the second English person, they say, to buy in their rural area. I say how much I like the rural tranquillity.


As I am about to leave she asks where I come from. I tell her the Isle of Man. As I start the description as an island in the middle of the Irish Sea between England and Ireland she says she knows about it and its motorbike races and tax free status. She has a friend who lives there, in Douglas. Small world.


Rush back to farm, The building next door is the Junta de Compensation. It deals with water rates. It opens Saturday and Sunday 12.00 to 14.00. It is built on the remainder of the plot originally and still owned by the Town hall. There I have to sign up for water. No one speaks English. They don’t try to understand my pidgin Spanish. They resolutely speak Catalan. They do write something down and give me a form. Its only 10 Euros per month. Water comes from a well and is not metered. I fill in the form, they read it and refuse it. I haven’t specified the plot number. I point next door, 10 yards away. It’s that plot. What is the number, surely they know? Map on wall has plots with numbers on. Cannot see my plot! Huge shoulder shrugs. I retire defeated. I will get the plot number from my Spanish lawyer, but it is August she is away on a fortnights holiday, so is her partner and both secretaries and the office is closed.


Go back to farm to try my satellite computer access. Damn. I have brought wrong cables and left the instructions. Read copia simple. It’s plot H1. Rush to office next door. It is gone 14.15 and they are gone.


Go back to Sitges, move into other apartment. Check inventory. Wonder how two balcony chairs are broken and realise with a sigh that in spite of me telling the Air conditioning man of the problems on 27th July the air conditioning is still not fully functioning. Go to his office. Closed. Holidays. Pardon us for the inconvenience the sign translates literally!


Sunday. Check computer on apartment 2 broadband. Yes most of it works. Gather all cables. Go to Farm. Cannot get satellite system to work. Spend 4 hours playing. Batteries go flat. Without electricity supply cannot recharge. Retire defeated to Sitges but not before trying to sort out water during opening hours. No-one turns up. I go and read the notices carefully. There is a new one on the door. It must have been there Saturday at 14.15. Sunday is a local fiesta. Closed!


Coming back Monday I knew guests were to check in at 11.00. The cleaner arrived 07.30. I got to Airport at 08.30 for an 11.15 plane. I get ticket 1.


So there we are, that was my weekend. How was yours?


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