Lateness in Spain? No pasa nada!

The other night I was waiting for a film to come on Antenna 3, one of the more popular Spanish channels. It was about 10.30pm, and the film was due to start at 10.30pm. Now this wasn’t during the Olympics, a long tennis match, or a delay on TV thanks to some stupid political debate between stupid Spanish politicians. It was just your average Sunday night.

late-in-spain

Always late, for a very important date! Photo by Laura2008

“How can the TV be late?” I asked my wife. She looked at me, sighed, and raised her eyebrows, knowing what was going to come. “It’s the TV. Surely, it’s automatic these days. When the clock clicks to 10.30, the film comes on. Or is there still a funny little chubby guy with a fat moustache loading up the reels at Antenna 3. Maybe he’s having a fag break or something, and just forgot he was supposed to be putting the Sunday night film on. Or maybe he is getting paid cash in hand for allowing a couple more adverts on, just to wind up the public.”

“What does it matter?” my wife said. “It will be on in a minute.”

“It’s just not right. It’s three minutes late. Back home people would be starting riots, burning down the TV station, and out in the streets with placards complaining that the television world has gone into crisis.”

“But this is Spain. No pasa nada,” she said, shrugging her shoulders, just as the film came on.

No pasa nada. How many times have I heard that over the years about people, events, and TV shows being late. Don’t worry, it doesn’t really matter! Well, does it, or not?

I like to think that I’m a punctual person. I hate making people wait. It’s the British way. One must not let people wait unnecessarily or there will be war. We plan ahead, base our lives around the clock, and become overly apologetic if we are late.

I’d like to imagine what would happen if the BBC put on Eastenders late by 3 minutes. I’m sure Arthur would roll in his grave. It’s just not done, not accepted, and not called for.

But in Spain it’s different.

That little conversation with my wife wasn’t the first time I complained about the TV being late, nor was it the first time I pointed out that punctuality is important.

Take my son’s school for example. He started a couple of weeks back. Fair enough, he’s only 3, so I guess the teachers are still finding the ropes with all their little monsters still running about. But what sort of image does it give if the teacher is still in her class with the door closed at 5 minutes past the hour the kids are supposed to be in. The children obviously don’t know how to tell the time, but I’m assuming most of the parents do.

I haven’t got loads of Spanish mates now (maybe because they were never on time) but quite often I’d be left waiting 10, 20, or 30 minutes with no text message or not even a sorry when they turned up late. It seems to be the norm here; make a plan to meet up, but just arrive whenever the hell you want.

I’ll mention one thing about my lovely wife. The only time she has been early for anything was on our wedding day, and decided to walk down the aisle three minutes earlier than we’d arranged, which nearly caught the priest, organ player, and myself off guard. I’m used to her punctual ways now, so when I have to tell her about anything important like a flight time, arrangement with friends or family, or even a massive football match, I give her a 30 minute leeway.

To be fair, I’m being a bit harsh.

The metro and trains are always spot on. When I first went travelling round Spain and France by train I was impressed by just how punctual the trains were. It’s the same in Sevilla. Buses are a nightmare though. Before Sevilla had a metro, I used to have to get the bus every day. With the amount of traffic on the road between 14.00 and 16.00 the buses were never on time and the timetable may just have well not existed. But I reckon that’s the same in most countries.

Also, I have to say that my students are generally on time. You always get the odd one or two who have an activity beforehand, so making it to class without interrupting the first few minutes is tricky, but I rarely have an issue with lateness from my students. That might be because of the punishments I give out if they are late though. Perhaps word has got about. I mean, take last week for example. It was my second class with a group of teenagers and when I walked in the room, no one was there. I was livid. I waited for a minute, then began to write the following ‘I will never ever be late for Barry’s class again’ for them to copy for homework. After 4 minutes I went outside and they were all just chatting outside the school, needless to say they got an earful from me, plus 50 lines to write up.

I don’t work in the Spanish business world, so I’m not sure exactly how punctual things are, but from speaking to students in the working world I get the impression that in the work place things are generally on time, but maybe you know differently?

Over the years I’ve become a bit more relaxed with lateness. You have to or it will grind you down. It’s like learning to put up with noise, idiots not stopping at zebra crossings, or people leaving dog poo where they feel like it. It just ain’t gonna change.

These days I take a more relaxed view on time (although my wife would probably disagree) and go for the no pasa nada attitude, unless I’m at work, meeting up with British family or mates, or waiting for a film to come on, especially Antenna 3. I can see the benefits of not being ruled by the clock, especially now with two kids where getting out of the house on time can be impossible at times.

So what are your views on lateness in Spain? Are you working in the Spanish sector and get made to wait a lot, or have you become more passive about punctuality?

No more heat, no more sweat, no more wasps

My body and mind were up to breaking point about a week ago. A dreadfully long summer is finally over. Not a day in July and August did the scorching heat go below 38 degrees. Every day and night hot heat blew in my face. I had to sleep with a fan on full, sometimes waking at four in the morning in pools of sweat. One day I even had 5 showers, just to keep my brain sane.

wasps-in-spain

Wasps have gone…almost… Photo by Pasukaru

The mornings were fine. We could normally keep busy doing something or entertain the kids in someway, although the park was often out of bounds by about 11.30am because the slides were hot enough to turn my son’s legs onto little barbecued sausages.

The afternoons were a killer though. Fortunately I’ve been able to battle through the heat after lunch, with the help of a gale force fan in my lounge, and managed to bash through about 5 chapters worth of editing in July and August, so I’m over the moon on that front.

But afternoons with the kids was hard work at times. They were often groggy and irritable after their naps, so keeping them entertained in the house until about seven was often tricky. Add the fact that one started walking as the other was potty training, made for some fun afternoons in the 40 degree heat. After lunch strolls through the countryside while the kids dozed in their prams, trips down to the local café to have some churros, and even spending the afternoon in the centre were all ruled out thanks to the microwave style heating system provided in this horrible oven.

And to top things off, the afternoons when we were able to venture out a little after about seven, we were greeted by some vicious wasps. If you’ve read my blog about the cockroaches, then you’ll know we’ve already had a handful of bother from bugs this year, so finding we had about three wasps’ nests, and that our neighbour had four, caused a bit of a stir.

I loved sitting out in the patio last year after lunch, dipping in our plastic dunking pool, and doing some writing, but these wasps were desperate for water and on a mission to attack any unwanted predators. We even called up Roberto again, asking what he could do. He turned up one afternoon, just because he was passing, and said we’d have to get rid of the nests (no shit Sherlock), but we were unable to get in contact with him through the whole of August, so we decided to pop in on the neighbour with the other wasps nests to see if he had a better idea.

We only went round for a quick chat, but we were asked in, with the kids (remembering that one was quite forgetful he wasn’t wearing a nappy), and shown round the house while we chatted about the remedies for the wasps nests.

“I could just come round and burn them down,” said the man of the house. I laughed, but he was deadly serious.

“Yeah, he did that last year,” said his wife, not sure if she believed her own words, “and they went soon enough.”

“I can pop round tomorrow night if you want,” he added.

“Sure, sure,” I said, wondering if there was a way I could get another number for Roberto.

We continued for another day with the pesky wasps, and it was about eleven at night, I’m sure we were watching the Olympics or something, when round came My Pyro!

“Oh, you’re here,” I said, opening the door in just my boxers.

“Yep, come to do some burning.”

“Right. Give us a sec.”

I told my wife as I grabbed a T-shirt and we went outside to see exactly what he had in mind. He was standing outside with a huge pole, like the one you use to attach a net to when you clean an Olympic swimming pool, plus an extra-long wooden pole fitted on where the net should have been. Instead of a net he had tied some rags.

In his other hand he had a can of flammable liquid.

“Where the nest?” he asked.

“Up there,” I said, pointing to the top corner of our house. “Why? What are you gonna do?”

“Just watch.”

Before I’d even had the chance to fling myself on the pole and knock it from his hands, he’d already lit the blighter and was raising it up to the wasp nest buried in the corner of the roof.

I watched with baited breath as he began to burn the corner of our house. He was determined to burn it down, which he did, as part of it fell down, along with a few very black and crispy wasps.

After about two minutes the pole became too much for him to hold, which was just as well because I didn’t fancy burning down my daughter’s bedroom, so he stopped, luckily, and we inspected the nest, which looked black enough to assume they had been destroyed, or at least scared enough to inflict any pain on my children, or us.

I thanked Mr Pyro and promised him some beers, which I still owe him, and to be fair the wasps were much better behaved after that. The nest is still there, and we’ll call Roberto round we can hunt him down. But at least Mr Pyro’s attempt did provide us with a chance to play with the kids in the afternoons.

Now that summer has gone, and the wasps, the scorching heat, sweaty bedsheets, and I don’t have to use my fan to sleep, I’m quite happy, even if I do have to go back to work. I’m not sure how many more summers we can take here in Sevilla, but if anyone else has got a better idea, then just let me know.

How did you find this summer? Have you got any tips for ridding wasps, or becoming immune to the heat?

Adios Cockroaches…

I’ve never been that bothered by cockroaches, unlike my wife, whose scream sets our dogs off every time she sees one. They don’t scare me, make me feel sick, or even put me off my cornflakes, but after seeing what I saw this summer, I’ve been marked by the blighters.

cockroaches-spain

Adios indeedy…great truck for Roberto, legend! Photo by dimitri_66

It all started back in June, when an increasing amount of cockroaches began to creep out each night for a midnight feast. They knew exactly what they were doing. Once we’d prepared the dinner, got the kids to bed, and were in the lounge eating, they would scuttle out into the kitchen looking for scraps of food.

Every night when I went back in for my yogurt, or a top up of wine, I’d catch one, or two, or even five cockroaches playing rounders with bread crumbs. They’d shift round the edge of the kitchen floor, hoping to score a rounder, while the others watched and clapped. My wife kept going on at me, saying we must have had a nest somewhere. At the start I told her they would get bored and go away, but when they started to crawl into the lounge, we called in Roberto.

Roberto could have easily been a flamenco dancer, if he had been carrying a guitar, wore slightly cleaner, and more polished shoes, and wasn’t covered in dead skin from various animals. He was so up for finding our cockroaches and getting rid of them that I thought he was going to pay me for doing it, not the other way round.

When he first turned up he came in the house, leaving traces of dust and dirt on the floor as he hunted out the cockroach nests. It didn’t take him long. After my wife explained just how many startles she’d had, plus the noises in the ceiling and walls she’d been hearing, then he somehow figured out that we had quite a few of the buggers hiding in the drains.

Out in the patio we have three drains, all mysteriously sealed up with cement.

“This just isn’t right,” Roberto said, as he was staring around the floor, looking for a way to open the drains. “I’m going to have to bash them open.”

“If it means I can have a meal without worrying that a crunchy creature might fly into my sandwich, then do whatever you want, mate,” I said, in my own Spanish way.

As Roberto started smashing his way into the cracks of the drains, it became clear exactly why we were having two or three visits during the night. When he lifted the first one I was nearly sick. A huge ball of cucarachas were scuttling about in the corner, gasping for darkness and dirt. Once the light hit, they tried to escape, heading up and out onto the patio floor. Roberto slammed down the drain.

“There they are,” he said, as if he’d been hunting all night for a shoal of great white sharks.

“Perhaps we need a bigger boat,” I said, but the joke was lost.

I’d been expecting maybe ten or twenty to be sitting about, checking their What’sApp messages, but no word of a lie, there must have been over a forty, in each of the four different nests.

When my wife popped her head out the door and saw me nearly gagging, she guessed that we’d found the problem.

“How many were there?”

“You don’t want to know.”

Vale.

Roberto was loving it though. His face lit up when he discovered the nests, as if his long quest had finally come to an end.

“I’ll be back,” he said, in true Arnie style as he whizzed off to his van and came back with a huge canister with a squirty pipe thing attached to it.

“What are you going to do?” I said, worried for my baby daughter in the other room, and son when he got back from nursery.

“Don’t worry, this is harmless,” he said, holding the pipe up to his face. For a moment I thought he was going to squirt some in his mouth and swirl it round like mouthwash, just to show us how undeadly it was. Then he ordered us to cover over all the sink plug holes downstairs, and he went up and put some of the gas / liquid / poison, down the plug holes upstairs.

Then came the fun bit.

“Your wife better stay in for this part,” he said, to which I nodded for her to close the front door.

“What are we going to do?”

“I’m going to spray this on the nests, the cockroaches will try to come out, so get ready to stamp on them. They like the shade, so will run to the corners. Then in a couple of days they’ll all be dead.”

“Sure thing,” I said, grabbing my cheap, plastic, blue fly squatter.

So I watched him open the drains again and spray the liquid over the little munchkins. We both proceeded to stamp on and squash any which survived the lethal dosage.

“Oh my God,” my wife cried as she finally opened the front door.

“Yeah, that was quite gross,” I said, grimacing as I scoured the floor for any sign of a living cockroach, there were about a hundred scrunched dead into the floor.

“Did you kill them all?” she asked.

“Of course,” said Roberto, pleased with his mornings work (can you imagine being set up on a blind date with him? Hi, My name’s Roberto and in the morning I kill cockroaches). I was dubious, from the amount I’d seen though. I was expecting them to just run into the house somewhere and set up base in our bedroom or something, but, as Roberto had said, within 48 hours there was no sign of another one.

The next morning there were a few dead ones outside, and we did hear funny noises in the ceilings and walls now and then, but when he came back and opened the drains, there was nothing in sight. Well worth the 100 euros we paid him, and I haven’t seen one all summer.

I did actually see one a couple of hours ago though. It crawlled down the hall into the kitchen. I just hope it got lost from his tribe and there isn’t another nest out there forming. I didn’t tell my wife either, so this is a test to see if she does actually read all my blogs. Have you ever had a rendezvous with a group of cockroaches?

A Novel Spain is nothing without a novel…

Hence the reason I stopped blogging properly for about a year. I’ve been busy, not only bringing up two kids and updating my other blog Baztefl.com, but also bashing out my first contemporary romance fiction novel, Falling for Flamenco, which should be ready to publish at the start of 2017.

I’ve just finished a 2nd draft and sent it to a few family members and colleagues to have a read. Then I plan to get it professionally edited, get a cover designed, and then self-publish it.

Falling for flamenco

Jardines de murillo, Sevilla, where I first started to get ideas for writing my novel. Photo by agvnono

What’s Falling for Flamenco about?

It starts off in the eyes of Charlie, a genius guitarist, who desperately needs to close a deal in his crappy sales job in order to get enough of a bonus to move out and impress Cass, his potential girlfriend. But after everything, and I mean everything, goes wrong, he stumbles across a flamenco joint in Camden and decides it’s time to start a new life in Sevilla, where he can focus on learning the flamenco guitar (and not get distracted by any gorgeous Spanish flamenco dancers) .

Meanwhile, in Sevilla, Mercedes, a shy, but passionate flamenco dancer, has had enough of the ridiculous Sevillano Mummy’s boys she’s been dating recently. She needs to find someone more special, less macho, and who can make his own decision without consulting his bloody Mama.

Luckily, her best mate, Lola, who recently saved her from embarrassment after she fell during her first live flamenco show thanks to some harsh comments from a couple of sleazy guys in the audience, makes her consider that maybe foreign lads are the way to go.

As luck would have it, Charlie, who at the time is being accompanied by her new Sevillano guitar teacher, sees Mercedes in a performance. Their eyes meet, is it love at first sight? Niether of them are really sure, but something inside both of them are what keeps them fighting against family and cultural differences to find out if they are actually made to perform, and be, together.

So, if you like reading light hearted romance stories set in Spain, with a few humorous scenes to have a laugh on the way, then keep your eyes out for Falling for Flamenco, due out early 2017. This is the first book of three, and the following two will take you through their lives together while actually getting to know each other and becoming the ultimate Spanglish couple.

What about A Novel Spain?

Well, there’s a slight change in focus, but I’ll be blogging once a week, probably on a Wednesday about the following.

  • Book reviews: either about Spain, travel, or contemporary romance, or all three if I can find any like that.
  • Culture shock: personal anecdotes about my experiences living in Spain.
  • Travel: Not that I’m doing loads at the moment, but still, I’m a huge travel fan.
  • Expat world: this will include articles, resources, advice, and inspiration about becoming an expat in Spain.
  • Writing: as I’m sure most people following my blog will write, I’ll be writing about my novels, the highs and lows, where I get my ideas from and the characters.
  • Humour: I guess the main reason I write is to try to entertain people, so if nothing more then maybe you can get a giggle or two from one of my blabbering posts.

That’s about it, for now, but we all know things can change in the blogging world. So, if you’d like to follow me then just click on the social buttons at the top of the page or subscribe to my blog for constant updates of life in Spain, plus any news on my novels.

Thanks for getting this far, even if you only read the words in bold.

Thieving Scumbags of Sevilla

We thought we were safe, we thought we were very safe. But it turns out that living in a reasonably quiet residential area on the outskirts of Sevilla is on par with the level of safety in the Latin Kings district in Madrid.

Bike stolen

Where is the other wheel? Photo by Nella2010

The only sign of violence or bad feeling in our first year here has been the sparrows fighting in the nispero tree. So I’m still a bit miffed about what happened last weekend in the early hours of Saturday morning.

So there I was, dribbling on my pillow with one leg hanging out the duvet thanks to the sudden rise in temperature, when I heard my wife shouting.

“Babe, babe, tu bici.

It took me far longer than it should have done to register what bici meant. Then when I realised my wife was talking about my bike, while holding our daughter in her arms, I freaked out.

“What do you mean? My bici.

“Your bike, it’s gone.”

Continue reading

Frustrations of learning Spanish

“Can you pass me some of that nice, juicy cock, please?” was my first ever innocent Spanish mistake. To some people this would have seemed funny, but, unfortunately for her, and me, I was speaking to my mother-in-law.

learning spanish

I spy with my little eye, something beginning with ‘C’… But which is it? Photo by blue_quartz

“I think you mean chicken,” she said, politely; pointing out that chicken – pollo, was a tad different to cock – polla. I haven’t asked for cock at the dinner table since (or anywhere else for that matter). But, even now if there is chicken on the table, especially a big juicy plate of it, then I get bead of sweat dripping down my forehead as I focus on the correct ending of the word. I also always make sure when my in-laws come for lunch we opt for pork, or fish, but never chicken.

It’s been a long hard battle to get up to my level of Spanish (which is not fluent, nor accurate most of the time), and just recently I’ve begun to wonder whether I should get back to studying it again. I mean, after 10 years of living in Sevilla you would have thought that people would stop saying ‘you’re not from round here, are you?’ after listening to me speak more than a few lines. And I’m not just talking about grammar problems, silly accents, or rude innuendo mistakes.

Continue reading

Send my kid to nursery in Spain? I must be mad!

I’d like to think that no parent in the world actually wants to send their child to nursery. I don’t mean that no parent thinks it’s a good idea for their kid to interact with other kids, learn how to paint using their finger, and pick up useful fighting techniques before they start the big school, but actually would chose playing with their own kids rather than having to send them into a class of snotty, uncontrollable, and future martial art masters.

Okay, I’m exaggerating slightly, but even though my son started nursery last week and he’s slowly getting used to it, I’d still rather have him at home making noise, picking my flowers out their pot, and trying to find every dangerous object in the house to see what he can do with it. Trouble is, I’m all for a good education and I know I have to let go.

Luckily my wife is off work so we’ve been able to put off sending our son to nursery for a couple of years. That dreaded moment came last week when we finally handed him over to a woman he’d never seen before (bad organisation) into a class of screaming, freaked out, petrified kids who were all wondering where their Mamas and Papas had gone.

Cars

Does everyone have a car like this? Photo by Valerie Everett

Of course I had to hold back the tears and show a brave face and all that for my wife. It was only an hour anyway. He went in crying, holding on to us, and reaching back, but when we picked him up he was happily playing on a giant plastic car. Happy days, I thought.

But as the week went on and the hours increased he began to realise he hadn’t just been sent off randomly to play for an hour. For the first three mornings he didn’t want to go in. Leaving him became worse, especially as I knew where I was taking him, but he still hadn’t cottoned on he’d be going back there, not until we got to the door anyway.

Continue reading