Monday, November 27, 2006

Aquí no hay quien viva

One of the best of the Spanish situation comedy television offerings is Aquí no hay quien viva a show about a group of residents sharing an apartment block in Spain’s capital Madrid. The bizarre situations that arise allow some common themes to carry over from one episode to the next. The programme is a showcase for some very talented actors.

Try and translate the title in any automatic translation and you end up with a rather unfortunate ‘Here there are not some who lives’. I believe the spirit of the meaning is that everybody is represented here, everybody being Spanish characters.

On entering the building you may expect to meet Emilio Delgado the buildings caretaker, though he is always difficult to find. Emilio is often used to link the stories that are unfolding in different parts of the communal building. His attempt to better himself by attending university resulted in an affair with his professor and surprisingly at least to him low grades.

Mariano is Emilio’s father he comes from the University of Life and is contemptuous of those who do not. Describing them as, ‘ignorante de la vida’. He is a schemer and always willing to try anything for easy money, he is dishonest and untrustworthy in a quite comic way; and always fails.

Emilio’s former girlfriend is Belén López she and Emilio often rekindle their relationship despite both pursuing other partners. Belén’s lurches from one job to the next just as she does in her relationships.

Belen’s friend of whom she is quite envious is Lucía Álvarez, a glamorous blonde from a rich background who is always being perused by male admirers.

Joining this community means that you will have to deal with the community president Juan Cuesta.

As ‘El Presidente’ Juan is the residents focus for all things to do with the administration of the building. He is a school teacher. Being the president of a community is an honorary position, and Juan feels proud and even ennobled by his election; despite being continually derided by his fellow occupants. Juan’s nobility does not preclude him from becoming involved in the dodgy dealings that take place daily in the building. He does however fear the consequences of being found out by the authorities, and his nerve will often fail him.

Isabel a nurse and former hippy is Juans live in girlfriend, when stressed she smokes a water pipe. The other residents call Isabel the herb-girl or grass, Las Hierbas. The children of the combined families are a constant worry for thier parents.

At the video store Paco is the store and bar keeper he is a film buff and fool and is often in the company of the wasters from the community including José Miguel son of the president, he is known as Josemi.

One of the funniest characters is Mauricio Hidalgo always called Mauri. A gay man who is living with his lesbian flat mate Bea, and their child Ezequiel who was conceived by artificial insemination. Mauri’s boyfriend is the community lawyer Fernando. Mauri often finds himself under the watchful gaze of Las Jubiladas a group of three retired women with nothing to do but meddle.

The jubiladas are, Concha always in arrears with her community taxes but always the first to make demands on the president. She constantly refers to him as a thief, shouting ¡chorizo! At him as he skulks away.

Concha’s sidekicks are Marísa and her sister Vicenta. Now into their seventies the sisters are like chalk and cheese; whilst Marisa has remained a wild child, drug using and hard drinking, Vincenta is genial and still a quite naïve virgin who is saving herself and still hopes to find a husband.

There are two men who constantly compete for the affections of Lucia, they are now flatmates and thus able to keep an eye on each other. They are the Architect Roberto and a would be businessman Carlos.

Carlos now owns the video shop and once tried his hand at being community president.

Friday, November 24, 2006


The city of Girona is only 35 minutes away from Figueres though parking your car in the city can take twice as long. There are no free parking places in Girona’s centre and all in all you are far better to let the train take the strain.

Parking at Figueres station is 1€ for the day. The trains are frequent and plentiful, and also clean and comfortable. If travelling to the airport at Girona you can expect to pay13€ for a direct bus but less than half that for the train and connecting bus. The short wait at the train station in Girona (the bus station is right outside) will give you the opportunity to sample the hot chocolate drink at the station bar. This is a chocolate drink so thick you could walk on it! It tastes as good as it looks.

If you are intent on sight seeing a day visit is more than enough for Girona. The old quarter around the Basilica is well served by helpful tourist information office staff that has a wealth of maps and advice to dispense. This is a stark contrast to the Figueres office where some of the staff are a little reticent in offering their services.

Shopping in Girona like many cities is slowly gravitating away from the old town to the rather lack lustre shopping malls on the edge of the city. The industrial areas around them look shabby and degraded and in need of a bulldozer.

Gonna get myself connected

Sometime soon WiFi could solve our Internet connection problems. Ah! Mañana the Spanish equivalent of never never land.

Life in a small village on the edge of a city sharpens your perspective on the divide between town and country dwelling. Those everyday things the norms of modern living are often denied you, utilities like gas, electricity and water supplies can not be taken for granted in rural Spain. The telephone too can remain out of reach. Read the forum pages of any expat web site and they are full of people trying to work around the problems they encounter obtaining a supply of any of those services.

Our own experiences in this area. We waited over eighteen months for someone to move an electric meter twenty yards the cable was already in place, and as usual everybody was waiting for somebody and nobody did it! Still, at least the meter has been moved it took less than half an hour to complete the task; and everybody, somebody and nobody had the good grace to be more than a little embarrassed over the fiasco.

It does get cold here, although according to the local people the winter lasts only three weeks. Heating your home with gas is almost laughable. A Romanian guy delivered my gas bottles; yes that’s right bottled gas in 2006. He could not believe that in this day and age cities like Figueres had no piped gas supply, back in Romania piped gas was the norm in even small towns. Here the pipes are going to be installed in 2007, here in Figueres that is, not in the villages of course not even sometime soon.

The telephone was an essential requirement for Carol, when we bought the house we asked specifically about the phone connection, the working phone was demonstrated for us. On purchase of the property we found that La Señora had taken not only the telephone but also the telephone line, a set of radiators and steps for the swimming pool.

Always intending to buy our own telephone apparatus the telephone equipment was not an immediate concern, the line however was. The village telephone installation was over subscribed and until the system was replaced there was no possibility of having a phone. We could see that our house was wired to the system but we could not be allocated a number. Still a brand new telephone system would surely mean up to date facilities whenever the work was completed.

After several months the work was completed on the new telephone exchange we could in theory obtain a number. Work on the house was continuing, (You can see the photographs of the stages we went through by following link to Spain Villa on this page) and it was at this stage we had the windows and doors replaced.

During the installation of one of those doors the telephone line was severed at the point it entered the house. The line had previously been inserted into a hole in the old wooden door frame and then glued into position, so when the frame was then removed the line was severed. The new fittings were aluminium this meant that the telephone cable would have to be fed through a 9" thick concrete wall, and then joined.

Telefonica’s new exchange is not so new after all. We can not have an ADSL line at the moment not even sometime soon. What was mid twentieth technology is still state of the art in much of rural Spain.

We had to pay for the installation as if it was new connection, Telefonica staff should wear masks! The connection was bodged by drilling through the corner of the masonry and the cable glued to the wall. This of course means that only the paintwork is holding it up.

On the edge of the village is a large factory which will supply paper products to the hotel and catering industry it is a business dependent upon fast communication with its clients and prospective customers. The factory will bring employment to the area and is a welcome development. They can not have their required internet connection.

The mayor has made unsuccessful representations to the telephone company about this absurd situation. The one remaining hope is WiFi (I say YFI they say wee fee)

The cluster of four small villages in our vicinity may one day become a WiFi zone. Ah! Mañana.