Saturday 22 May 2021

Strange people

 I suppose every city has its league of drop-outs, beggars and people who are not quite right in the head.. or people who are just plain stupid (like me many times). And Arrecife has a few. No more than any city I am sure but, because the city is not very big, I get to recognise each one.

But something on the beach upset me this afternoon and it prompted me to write this post.

I went earlier than normal so I spent some time under one of the palm trees at the back of the beach because the sun was very strong. There was a guy nearby just standing, wearing street clothes. And he just stood there, or wandered around. It made me feel uncomfortable although, of course, I was not under any threat. I was a short distance from the street. Later he left, so that was OK.

Then I moved down the beach into the sun, I went swimming. At low tide, there is only one entry point into the sea, free of rocks which was about 20m to my right (I am sure it has been carved out like that). When I came back, I was relaxing on my towel on my back when I heard a kind of sniffing sound. One of the two guys who I had seen earlier in the sea walked right past me, barely 1m away. And this was on a half-empty beach where my nearest neighbour was about 20m away. And he had no reason to walk past me, he would have had to make a huge detour from the sea to where he and his friend were based. Ridiculous as it sounds, I could not come to any other conclusion than that he had come to look at me. It left me feeling very unsettled. The two guys were about 40, slightly overweight. I don't even know what nationality they were. Maybe he was just plain stupid with no idea of distance, Covid or no-Covid. The fact that I am vaccinated doesn't make much difference to how I feel - I am still very careful.

Who next? Outside my local supermarket there is always the same guy with his cup which he rattles in front of people entering and leaving. He also accosts people passing in the street (Actually it is a pedestrian zone, called Calle Real. But in fact it is an extension of my street, Calle León y Castillo). He is always there. And he always approaches me despite my having ignored him for about 5 months. But the Spanish are more generous that us Brits and some people chat with him and give him money. Obviously this guy does not have mental defects, this is the only easy way he can see to make money.

Up to about a month ago there was a guy, large but not fat, about 50 I guess, who seemed to live in Calle Real but he wasn't begging. He had a kindly face. He slept in the entrance to a bank and spent the day sitting on a bench. I often used to wonder about how he had arrived in such a state. Unlike the guy outside the supermarket, who was younger, I felt sympathy for him. And then one day, he was lying on the pavement with his wrist bleeding surrounded by a number of people. One woman was getting very aggresive which is unusual in Spain. It was obvious that it was not life-threatening and I passed by. Next day I saw two people from social services talking with him. A couple of weeks later, he was no longer there. I hope that they are taking good care of him.

I met a woman at the pension where I was staying and she tended to chat with almost anyone whereas I am far more reserved. One day I was passing la Charca and she introduced me to a black guy who she said was a musician. I regretted that meeting because he now holds court on a couple of benches close to where I walk up to my flat. I don't know where he lives, maybe under a bridge somewhere but he is almost always there with a small crowd of acolytes. He used to address me with a loud, "Good afternoon" but I now ignore him. He begged for money a couple of times so that was my excuse. His English was very good - maybe he is English.

There is a very skinny woman about 50, I was sure she has sisters because I would see her so often in shop entrances. She begs, but not agressively. There is another girl, almost like a younger version, and she zooms around bars asking for money. Actually she is quite sweet... but she is still begging. Both have short hair in a classical lesbian style.

There is a very sad guy about 60, again in Calle Real, who shakes a plastic cup but wthout much hope. Another middle-aged woman seems to be a friend of the black guy. She looks like any other middle aged woman but the back-pack is a clue to the fact that she is probably homeless. And the fact that sometimes she is seated on the pavement outside shops, talking loudly. Yes, I guess that is a clue too.

Other people in Arrecife...

There is a man, middle-aged, who always rides an old blue bike and he is always topless. Another man is extremely tall and rides a bike with lots of bulging paniers which I guess is his life. I imagine that he lives under a rock somewhere. I suppose one can do that here because the nights are not as cold as in the rest of Europe. One man I often see looks like a sea-captain. He has one leg and one prosthetic metal leg.

Maybe people consider me a little strange. I don't see many guys with long hair. I don't see any guys with long hair! When I get my courage up, I want to be more feminine when I go out. Next time I come back, I will bring more of my girly clothes. That will shock my neighbours! When I was on holiday in Fuerteventura last year, I went out wearing a dress. One of the first things I want to do when I get back to Catalunya is to paint my nails. I didn't bring the UV lamp or the varnishes with me this time. The colour will be my favourite, swimming pool blue!

Something that I knew some time ago, the singing voice is not the same as the spoken voice. I sometimes stop to listen to a young Spanish guy singing with his guitar outside the bars in el Charco and I drop 50 centimos in his guitar case (only 50 cents you say!) But when he introduces his songs, it is evident that he has a terrible stammer. His songs are all in Spanish unlike one guy who appeared in Calle Real a few weeks ago. He had a horrible rasping voice and he sang all the corny old 70s favourites, such as Running Like the Wind, to his guitar. No 50 centimos for you, sorry.

I feel fortunate to have income from the UK so in no way am I being critical of these people. It makes me feel lucky because at times in my life, I could have gone up or down. Maybe not living on the street but not far off it. 

Things that annoy me. Well not much. Spitting is so disgusting and dirty, I hesitate to mention it here. I normally say something. Guys spit here... and also in Celrà, so it is not unique to Lanzarote. It is unhealthy also but more so during the pandemic.

There sems to be a number of sad guys who feel the need to feed pigeons around el Charco in spite of notices which say, "Don't feed the pigeons" in three languages. They tend to bring an entire loaf of bread and scatter it around the part just above the water. I was greatly amused a few days ago to see a guy on a racing bike stop close to the bar where I was having a beer. He was wearing cleats, the serious cycling shoes. And I looked up to see that he was nursing a pigeon in his hands. Stroking its tail, its wings. Much love. I exchanged quizzical looks with another couple in the bar who had also seen this chap. He fed it water from his bottle. Finally he rode away with his pigeon in his hand. I joked with the couple that maybe it was now a pet (mascota in Spanish). I think they were German so maybe they didn't understand my Spanish. However, we enjoyed the joke!

sorry, reverse angle!
my lounge/kitchen is on the left

Noise tends to be a problem wherever one lives in Spain.... or maybe in the world. This is a narrow street for neighbours only (there is a sign to say so) next to my lounge which is on the left. These two cars are not permitted to park as they don't have a permit. The 4x4 nearer to the camera is not even a neighbour and this guy really takes the mickey, he parks there almost all the time. I went and reported him to the local police but, guess what, nothing happened. I wrote an email to the local police and nothing happened. I spoke to an English guy who lives just down this street and he said that the police do issue parking tickets...... once a year!

The problem for me is the state of the paving stones next to the wall on the left. They are broken and loose (they are for pedestrians, not cars), and they rock during the night when a car attempts to pass the parked cars. So it tends to wake me up. And it is annoying during the day too. I wrote an email to the Works department in the Town Hall, nothing happened. I wrote two more times - no reply. I spoke to a guy in one of the trucks of the Works department and he promised that he would look at it, but nothing new so far. He said words to the effect, "Huh, don't waste your time with the Town Hall, nothing happens"! They have a warehouse up by Ikea which is about a 30 minute walk (which I know well!) If the same state of affairs is still here when I return, I will do a Denuncia with the local police. Then they and the Works department have to do something.

But this is one small thing among many great advantages of living here, so I have no complaints really. I certainly landed on my feet here (at the second attempt at buying a flat!)

Thursday 20 May 2021

More about money claims

My last post about buying flats ended with my planned meeting at the Colegio de Abogados. That was on 5th May and, having provided the missing document, there was a long pause as the woman read through her sheaf of documents. "What is your income?" she asked. Well, she knew that from day one because it was one of the first things I had to provide. She looked at the figure, she seemed confused. She wrote a euro sign after the amount to add to my euro sign before the amount as if to make it clearer.

"This is too much, it is over our limit for free assistance."

Well, the upshot of this was that she gave me another form to add to the one that I had received earlier confirming the acceptance of the offer. This new form said that my claim had been "provisionally" rejected!

"So I have wasted my time?" I said (but very politely because previously I had pulled her leg about being impatient with me. So I had decided to be on my best behaviour.)

"Well, no, in 2 months time the application will be reviewed, the rejection is only provisional."

So I was back to square one. I contacted a new lawyer to ask his advice. Alfonso. He looked through all my documents, and generously said that my claim was "viable". But he did not fill me with optimism.

Then there was a new unwelcome development. Out of the blue, about a week ago, I received a phone call from the lawyer of the estate agent. You may remember from my previous post that, according to the contract of the option to buy (the first apartment), there was a sum of €2,500 to be paid to the estate agent by the person (Pablo or me) who had defaulted on the contract. I had hoped that there was a third way (in the tradition of Tony Blair) in which neither of us was at default, the contract could be annulled. Having heard nothing for 5 months, I assumed that the estate agent and Pablo had come to some kind of agreement, after all, they did business together.

The lawyer saw things in black and white, he saw no third way. I will call him Sergio. He was very amicable and clearly thought that I had not defaulted on the contract. He wanted to speak to my lawyer.

"Give me his name and phone number, and I will call him." Haha.. no way. I said that I would give Alfonso his number and maybe he will reply.

Alfonso had no interest in talking to Sergio, he simply wanted to carry on with my claim. So I spoke to Sergio instead. And it soon became clear what his motive was. He could not decide whether to sue me or Pablo for the €2,500. So he wanted to hitch a ride on my claim against Pablo. If I won, he would claim the €2,500 from Pablo and vice-versa. I refused that immediately. He said that Pablo was not returning his calls. I suggested he went to Pablo's office in Arrecife. It was only then that I discovered that he was in Tenerife.

So his response was that he would take both me and Pablo to court and whoever lost would have to pay the €2,500. But courts don't work like that. It is not a beauty contest, "Who is the fairer of the two? Pablo or Steve"!

So that is how things are at the moment. Instead of Sergio hitching a ride on my case, which to me was unacceptable, I will see what is the outcome of his futile attempt to take two people to court at the same time for the same claim. Maybe the Colegio de Abogados will change their mind (actually I think it is the Cabildo, the government of Lanzarote, that makes the decision). I am not worried. I told Sergio that I had a huge folder of documents (un montón de documentos) which clearly shows that I was justified in withdrawing from the contract, even if he does manage to take me to court.

I am going back to Catalunya on Tuesday - I am looking forward to that! Much as I love Arrecife, there are things that I miss in Celrà. My balcony, my bike, my friends. And maybe soon we won't have to wear masks in the open air. I have enough trouble remembering faces under normal conditions, to remember eyes is quite a challenge for me. Partly for that reason, I have only the two girls who work at the pension as friends here. Maybe I will come back here during the summer for a few days, I don't know but I will definitely come back in October to stay for the winter. The flights are very cheap because I get a huge discount for being a resident of the islands (Well they are cheap anyway these days. My ticket is €30 but that includes choice of seat and checked baggage. 10.30am flight to BCN with Vueling, perfect. Walk up to the bus station, 15 mins, bus at 8am.) I guess that, if a flight is €30 for all people, I get a very small discount if any, I don't get 70% off €30.