Saturday, October 31, 2009

A 6,000€ fine isn't funny

My friends in Franceses thought they'd done all the paperwork necessary to register their house purchase when we dropped the papers off at the Land Registry months ago.

But on Thursday they got a letter in Spanish legalese, saying something about missing documents and "a fine of between 60 and 6000 Euros".

This was not good for their blood pressure.

So they scanned it and emailed it to me. And I couldn't really understand it either, but one of the missing documents seemed to be something to do with inheritance. Well, the man they bought the house from had had trouble sorting out the paperwork to prove that he'd inherited the house, and that therefore it was his to sell. And we had ten working days to sort this out. That's not long, given the working pace of most offices here.

My husband had the great idea of consulting his brother. Yup, it was the paper to prove the seller really had inherited the house. This left me wondering why on earth my friends were being threatened with a fine. Surely if the house sale wasn't legal, they were the victims? But the important point was that the notary ought to have a copy.

So we arranged to meet in Los Llanos next morning, to see the notary.

I could see no real reason why we'd have a problem, but I've always found that getting snotty works best if you look the part, so I dressed far more formally than normal, just in case snottiness should be required. I was aiming to look like a lawyer, but when I checked myself in the mirror, I looked more like a waitress. Oh well, better than looking like a slob.

For once, we didn't have to queue when we got to the notary. And yes, that was the paperwork we needed, and yes, we could have a copy. "I'll just find out the price for you."

I started to protest. Why should my friends have to pay, when clearly this wasn't their responsibility?

Well, it wasn't the notary's responsibility either. It was the seller's, and he wasn't here. Nine euros, please.

Nine euros wasn't worth a row. We paid up and got the magic piece of paper, and took it to the Land Registry in Santa Cruz, who said it all looked fine, "...for the moment."

So we really hope that the next letter they get will say that it's all sorted, but we're not opening the champagne yet.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

John T Unger makes gorgeous firebowls. Since each one is hand made, they're not cheap, but I can well understand why people lash out on one.

I first came across John and his work via this article (which I heartily recommend for anyone facing any kind of crisis, and especially for any kind of artist.

But now John has another serious problem to overcome. Someone else is making remarkably similar firebowls, and - get this - is suing John to overturn his copyright in order to carry on. John says, "By suing me first, Wittrig has created a situation where a default judgment will be entered in his favor unless I am able to finance a full defense in court."

And as John says, "These issues affect artists, bloggers, journalists, freelancers, designers and pretty much everyone who makes their living through creative, original work." So John's having a sale of his art work to finance his defense. So if you fancy a bargin, check out . Prices start at $1.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lynch Mobs

Nick Griffin, the head of the near-Nazi BNP, plans to complain to the BBC that he faced a "lynch mob" on the programme "Question Time."

Certainly the audience were hostile. One told him, "You want me to leave this country. Where do you expect me to go? I was born here and I love this country. I bet if we had a whip round, we'd have no trouble getting your airfare out of the country. Why don't you go to the South pole? You'll like it there: it's all white."

In my opinion, Nick Griffin was rude first. He told the immigrants to get out before the audience member told him to get out.

Far more to the point, What Nick Griffin faced was purely verbal. Nick Griffin supports the KKK. Which means he supports lynch mobs. Real ones. Ones that murder on the flimsiest of evidence, and set light to the victim, often before he´s dead. People who do this

to a 14-year-old, just for whistling at a white girl in a shop.

He was called Emmett Till.

Nick Griffin faced a crowd of people disagreeing strenuously with him. NOT a lynch mob.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Loony Scumbags and Free Speech

For anyone who's managed not to hear, the British National Party) got two seats in the European parliament. This means, under pre-existing BBC rules, that their leader got to be on the popular political debate programme, "Question Time."

This has caused quite a row. The BNP are extremely unpopular with most people because they're as near as dammit, the Nazi party. They don't allow non-white members, and they want to encourage all non-whites to leave the country, even if they were born in the UK.

So some people feel very strongly that they shouldn't be allowed in national TV, because it legitimises them.

I disagree.

Firstly, the freedom to make non-controversial comments doesn't amount to much. Free speech isn't free unless it includes the right to be moronic, offensive and loony. There's no practical way to shut up the Nazis without also gagging the visionaries.

I used to be an extremist, you know. I said long and loud that women should be allowed to do any job they were capable of doing, and get paid the same as a man doing the same job. Back in the 1970s, this made me unpopular.

Secondly, banning things makes them attractive. I've seen at least two films just because someone in authority tried to stop me. ("The Life of Brian" and "The War Game".) I'd never have bothered otherwise.

Thirdly, and most importantly, I think we need to hear what he has to say. I'm 99.9% certain that he's a loony scumbag. After all, this is a man who thinks you can judge a person's worth by the shape of their toe-nails - sorry, the colour of their skin. It's the same amount of DNA either way. So that's what he'll look like on TV - a loony scumbag. That should lose him far more votes that banning him.

And if by some amazing chance he isn't as bad as I think, we need to know that, too. I've been known to be wrong before.

So stick him on TV, and let's see what he's made of.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Too much housework

Dismantling the old sofas, with the new ones in the background.

I spent Monday morning feeling tired and seasick. I'm not sure how much was down to having fun so much fun on El Hierro, how much was trying to work on the computer on the boat (it's like reading in a car - big mistake) and how much was a mild lurgy. But I didn't get much done, even though it was obvious that the boys hadn't exactly spent the weekend cleaning the house. In fact we went backwards, because the dishwasher broke. Lucky me, my husband managed to fix it. But by the time I realised that it had covered all the dishes in dirty, soapy water, they were mixed in with the other things in the cupboard, so the only sensible thing was to wash the whole lot again. I got one load done on Monday evening.

I was having sofas delivered on Tuesday morning. So I tidied up the living room and pulled the old sofas to one side to make space. Of course it was only common sense to mop at least the free bit of floor while it was free.

I had to move some of the junk out of the hallway so there'd be space to move the sofas in. Of course it was only common sense to mop that bit of floor, too.

Meanwhile, I was running the dishwasher pretty much continuously. It took another three loads to get everything clean. And naturally, it was only common sense to clean each shelf and drawer while it was empty.

Plus two loads of laundry.

Plus, I was going to teach, so I had to clean the kitchen. That included mopping the floor because it was embarrassing.

My friends from Franceses came for lunch, and managed to get the wooden frames from the old sofas into the van, once they'd taken the feet off. The wood will probably be reincarnated as kitchen doors.

Then I taught for two hours.

As you might imagine, I was well knackered after that lot. Which is when I made the wonderful discovery that one of the new sofas is long enough to lie down on and stretch out.


Loading the old sofa frames into the van.

Monday, October 12, 2009

El Hierro again

Panchita, my friend's neighbour

My trip to El Hierro was great. I didn't feel a bit sick on the way there. Lugging my stuff around Gomera coming and going was hard work, but San Sebastian is a nice little town, and I got quite a bit of work done on my laptop. More importantly, once I got to El Hierro, I had a great time with my friend.

It was too brief of course, but we talked, and went shoping in Valverde, and talked, and went to a charming little seaside place called Pozo de las Calcosas, and talked, and ate bacon sarnies, and talked, and met a local kitten and her humans, and talked, and drank a bit too much and talked, and found a viewpoint called "La Fuente" and talked, and didn't sleep quite enough.

It seemed like about five minutes before I was back in the port, catching the ferry to La Gomera again. I tried out the Wi-fi on the boat, and it was pretty good - it glitched once or twice, but what do you expect, floating in the middle of nowhere? But I had to stop pretty fast, because it was like reading a book in a moving car - I felt sick pretty fast, pills or no pills.
Ah well.

San Sebastian was nice enough on the way back. I had a muddle in the pension where I ate. I asked to see the menu, but then dishes started appearing. They thought I meant the day's set menu! Actually I did very well: starter salad, paella, a beer and a coffee, all for 8€. Nothing pretentious and everything tasty. If I have another stopover on Gomera, I'll go back. I just wish I could remember the name of the place to recommend it to you.

The sea was a bit rougher for the last leg, and I stupidly tried to use the computer again. I felt dreadful for most of the way home. And I've gone all feeling mildly seasick all morning, plus very tired.

But my goodness, I'm glad I went.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Hard travel

I've been wanting to visit my friend on El Hierro for a while. Now that my son's recovered from his fight with the pavement and there's a long weekend coming up, I thought it was a good time to go. My friend has Friday's free, so I hoped to fly out on Friday morning, come back Monday afternoon.

So on Monday, my husband asked for Friday off.

They finally said, "Yes" on Thursday morning, by which time the flights to El Hierro were pretty much full. The earliest I could arrive was Saturday afternoon, and latest I could leave was Sunday morning at 8:30. Not worth going.

So now I'm booked on the ferry. I leave 6 am Friday (ouch!) for La Gomera. I've got a five hour stopover (with all my luggage) and I get to Estaca on El Hierro at 3 pm. At least I get to stay until 3pm on Sunday. There's another 3 hour stopover in La Gomera again, and I'll finally get back to La Palma around 11pm. It's not ideal, but I get to see my friend for 48 hours.

I must go and buy travel sickness pills.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

General Franco

I've been doing a little research into the Franco years, as background for a possible novel.

It was worse than I expected.

I knew divorce was forbidden under Franco, and that a woman who ran away from a violent husband would be brought back by the police, who, like as not, would tell the husband to give her a good hiding to teach her not to run off again. I wasn't a bit surprised to hear that abortion was illegal, but so were contraceptives. And you had no right to refuse sex.

"Women could not become judges, or testify in trial. They could not become university professors. Their affairs and economy had to be managed by their father or by their husbands. Until the 1970s a woman could not have a bank account without a co-sign by her father or husband."

You know what? Women were arguably better off under Saddam Hussein! At least women were legally people in Iraq. It's even possible (but not likely) that Franco killed more civilians.

Franco and his party killed 150,000-200,000 civilians and PoWs during the war, and maybe 200,000 were killed after the war. (The red side --the elected government-- killed "38,000 to 110,000, with most estimates closer to the former.") Saddam Hussein killed between 300,000 civilians in his repression, and about 1.4 million in his wars.

Of course it doesn't really matter who was worse: they were both revolting people. I'm so very, very glad I live in a western democracy.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Fun busy

I've been rushed off my feet and enjoying it.

Yesterday I had some rubbish to take to the recycle point in Puntallana, so I visited a local museum while I was there. Casa Lujan is an 18th century house, restored to show how well-to-do people lived between about 1920 and 1960, and it's very good. My husband burst out layghing when he saw this photo, because I used to have similar hair and glasses. In fact, I also used to have a reconditioned, treadle sewing machine much like this. Between taking lots of photos, and chatting with the staff (including a local artist called Rosa Vidal) the morning zipped past. It was already noon when I got home, and I had to produce lunch and scrub the kitchen ready for a visit that afternoon. Then I took my son to the riding stables, only to find that the kids' activity was cancelled for the day. Then it was yoga, which was a real killer, followed by dinner and collapsing in a heap.

This morning I took the cat to the vet, updated the La Palma blog (with an entry about Casa Lujan), scrubbed the fly shit off the kitchen light fitting, filed my complaint with eBay, updated the Ruido website, cooked lunch, taught a friend English for an hour, and edited the photos of the Ruido fiesta.

I think I've earned a cup of tea, don't you? And then it'll be time to do some of my own writing.