Saturday, 31 January 2009

Spanish Bureaucracy

Okay, I admit it. We are stupid. We've lived in Madrid for about eighteen months now, and only just got registered with the local Health Centre. And that was only because MamaDuck needed to see a doctor. Yes, yes, we always planned to get registered before the need actually arose, but there's always something more interesting to do than dealing with Spanish bureaucracy.

We have a folder that we thought contained every document that could ever be needed for any dealings with the government, and we took it along to the Health Centre.

Here's what you need:

1) Empadronomiento. This is a document from the Census and Statistics Office, and is considered to be proof of where you live. It's important because if we lived in a different barrio they'd have sent us to the Health Centre there. We have the empadronomiento.

2) Original NIE certificate. This is your Foreigner's Identity Number, and it proves you have the right to live in Spain. I had mine. MamaDuck has lost hers. Poo.

3) Social Security Number. Yes, we both have these, but the Health Centre insists that we get a document that says what our numbers are. But here's MamaDuck's number on a payslip, and here's mine on a tax document. No good, go to the SS and request the document. Double poo.

So MamaDuck retires to bed with her cold/flu/chest infection, and I trudge off to the Social Security office in pouring rain, strong winds and freezing cold. It's on a street quite near us, but it turns out to be an insanely long street and the office is at the far end of it. I get two forms, and am called to the desk before I have a chance to fill them in. I explain I need one document for me, and one for absent wife. Oh, no, absent wife must complete the authorisation section on the back. More poo. I trudge home, wake MamaDuck from her slumber, fill in the forms, and get the Metro back to the SS office. They issue the two documents, and then I return to the Health Centre.

They do my registration, give me a temporary document that allows me to see a doctor, and eventually they'll issue a Medical Card. They absolutely refuse to process MamaDuck's application without the NIE certificate. But we know the number of the NIE, it's on her payslips, so why do they insist on this crappy bit of paper? It's the rules, that's why.

But listen, they say. Your wife can see a doctor, but you have to pay 45 Euros. If you return within five working days with the NIE certificate, we'll refund the money. I roll on the floor laughing, and explain that I don't think there's any possibility that we could get a duplicate certificate within five weeks, never mind five days.

Anyhoo, the next day MamaDuck got some photocopies of the certificate from the admin people where she works. The original is still missing. She went back to the Health Centre and they accepted the document. So she's now stoked up with antibiotics, and hopefully will be better soon, although the doc says half of Spain currently has this infection, and it can take a while to go away.

I was talking to an Irish rocket scientist (stop giggling at the back) about this. He's been in Madrid for a few months and has just got his appointment to get his NIE. In June. When I told him about the 45 Euros fee, instead of outrage, he said that in Ireland, you have to pay 50 Euros every time you need to see a doc. And it never gets refunded.

I guess we don't know we're born.

Sunday, 25 January 2009


I'm not usually one for Burn's Night, not being Scottish, an' all. In fact it usually passes me by without me noticing it at all. This year is different, of course. It's the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robbie Burns, who wrote lots of unintelligible stuff like this:

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.

Now the thing you have to have on Burn's Night is a haggis (and also bashed neeps, tatties, lots of wee drams and a piper for the dancin'). Haggii were fairly easy to come by in Dubai, believe it or not. You could get frozen Sweeney's, or you could get a canned version. But here in sunny Madrid, not a chance. I thought, fleetingly, that I might make my own, and so I looked up some recipes on the interweb. Easy! All you need is a sheep's pluck, and its stomach. Hmmm, and what's a sheep's pluck, exactly? Well, it's the heart, lungs and liver. You chop 'em all fine and mix 'em up wi' some onions, oatmeal and spices. Then you sew them intae the stomach and boil fra long time.

Bleaghhh! I don't know if I'll ever be able to eat haggis again, now that I know what goes into it.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

The Deed Is Done

We watched President Obama's (how good it feels to type that phrase!) inauguration on a combination of one TV and two laptops. The Spanish channels all insisted on translating Obama's words into Spanish, of course. But we preferred to hear the original English. It became quite comical. BBC World were webcasting it, but I think their server fell over quite early on. Never fear, MamaDuck is here, and she found a sound-only web transmission (what used to be known as a radio station). Regrettably, it had something like a 10-second time-lag. So the pictures we saw on the TV had the words delivered 10 seconds later. Quite bizarre.

So, a responsible and sobering speech from the new Pres, and Bush leaving with dignity, and some considerable relief, I imagine.

Monday, 19 January 2009

No, He Can't. Yes, We Can

I am so looking forward to Tuesday, the inauguration of President Obama. And the dismissal of Dubya, the worst leader the US has had since...forever. A total and utter pillock. A self-obsessed, ignorant, grrrr, fucking moron. Who had the bare-faced cheek to speak to the world and say he didn't believe his regime had damaged America's standing in the world. For fuck's sake, he destroyed it totally.

I know Obama has to start governing from the lowest possible point because of the stupidity of his predecessor. It will not be easy for him to restore the US to its former glory. But I have every faith in him. I have never, in my adult life, seen an American President who was so inspirational, intelligent and just, well, real. He knows his stuff. He listens and learns. He delivers speeches faultlessly. I believe he knows a bit about the world. He cares about the little people. He is, possibly, too good for the thankless task he has brought upon himself. But he wanted it, the American people wanted it, and right-thinking people throughout the world wanted it.

The world is in crisis right now, mostly because of Dubya's idiocy. It's in deep, deep recession. There are two unwinnable wars going on. There has been a serious erosion of civil rights in the West in the name of 'national security'. The 'war on terror' was always specious, but now the ideology of 'if you're not with us, you're against us' has been exposed for the rhetorical nonsense bafflegab that it is.

George Wanker Walker Bush. Goodbye, and good fucking riddance, you are a disgrace to humanity, and it saddens me that you cannot even recognise it. You did more damage to your country and to the world it is located in than all previous American presidents put together. If you had one iota of decency, you would apologise to the people of the US and to the people of the world. But you won't. You're off to your Texas ranch. I hope I never see your smug, smirking, empty-headed face again. You arse.


Friday, 16 January 2009

Heads Up

MamaDuck was up all night, hammering away on her laptop. She was writing a fantastic blog post called For What It's Worth.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Snow Things

We just had to go to the park on the day it snowed in Madrid. It was really beautiful. But I really did not expect to see snowmen.

Or a snow Modhesh.*

Or a snow willy.

*The much-hated mascot of Dubai Summer Surprises.

Monday, 12 January 2009


I don't think I've mentioned it much on this blog, but since Jan 1st we've been enjoying the pleasure of our son's company, his rapier wit (got it from his dad, who has none left), and learned quite a bit about Locke and Hobbs. He's been writing an essay for his Uni course, which they wanted to be handed in today. And it would have been, if they lived in the real world and accepted submissions by email, or kept the office open until midnight. It turned out not to be possible for him to get the damn thing to them, because it has to be accompanied by a signed declaration that it has not been plagiarised, and a digital version on a CD (digital version via email? No). It's all a bit unhelpful of them, considering that the next term doesn't officially start until 19th Jan. And they dropped a bombshell on him by not bothering to tell him he has an exam on the 14th. He only found out about this by accident. His original return flight had been booked for that day, so I then had to pay EasyJet an extra 24 Euros for the higher fare that applies to today, plus a fine (I can think of no other word) of 30 Euros for the privilege of having their computer change the booking.

Anyway, he is one of a very small number of people who can say 'I went to Madrid and built a snowman' - perhaps a t-shirt would be in order.

I took him to the airport this afternoon. We got there five minutes before the check-in was due to open, and joined a queue of maybe twenty people. Of course, we had chosen the wrong queue. The other seven lines were moving fairly smartly, while ours was stalled by a tall guy in a very silly hat. We speculated that he was reshaping the metal hand baggage size-testing basket so that it would accommodate his skis and/or double bass. Whatever it was, he was at the counter for about fifteen minutes.

Finally, he was gone, and the queue moved. The lady in front of us had been puffing and panting and moaning about the slowness of the process. When it came to her turn, she argued for ten minutes with the checker-inner, presumably because her two very heavy-looking items of hold baggage were going to cost about a gazillion Euros in excess baggage charges.

And, can somebody explain to me why people have their cases wrapped in cling-film? We think it may have something to do with preventing the escape of live chickens. Ideas, anyone?

Friday, 9 January 2009

Let It Snow...

Last night was pretty cold: so cold that I went out and bought another heater. It's pretty cold this morning too, there's white stuff falling out of the sky and settling all around. I love it!

Of course, this does mean there is complete and utter chaos on the roads, lots of motorways around Madrid are closed, and people are stranded.