Wednesday, 28 October 2009


For fairly easily-guessable reasons, my mobile phone bill didn't get paid this month. It's not a big deal, and I've been trying for the last few days to find out how to pay the outstanding balance. I finally managed to speak to an English-speaking agent at Orange who gave me an account number and told me I could pay it at any Banco Santander branch.

So I went to my friendly (not) local Santander branch, and tried to pay the bill. The teller laughed at me, and pointed to a sign: the one that says utilities and phone bills will only be accepted between the 10th and 20th of the month, Mondays to Thursdays, 0830-1030.

I'm not joking. These people are fecking mental.

Spoke to several people at Orange this morning. You can apparently pay via the post office, but it can take up to 14 days for them to bother to give the money to Orange (are they using PayPal, I wonder?). The only other option is to pay by credit/debit card, or do a transfer from a Spanish bank account. So I slapped some cash into my bank. Then I called Orange: gave them my card details, but they barfed at the 3-digit security code bit. Feck, double-feck, treble-feck. It fecking works for Ryanair and EasyJet! I'm just wondering if they're storing my card details in their database, rather than doing a real-time look-up (the card was replaced about six months ago - same number, but different code on the back). In which case I'm fecked.

Once again, all I'm trying to do is give the bastards money. All they're trying to do is come up with reasons why I can't. Feck, feck, feckity-feck. The modern world will be great when it's finished.

The buggers have my account details on file: why can't they just press a button and get the money? Buggered if I know. Sob.

I called them again this morning, planning to ask for their full bank details so I could do a TT. But before doing that, we had another go at doing it with my debit card, and this time it bally-well-worked. (I suspect yesterday's lady thought it was a credit card). So, the next challenge will be to get some money into my account in time for the next payment in about a week's time.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Death By Chocolate

One of the things MamaDuck got me for my millionth birthday a few days ago*, was a bar of Lindt & Sprungli 90% dark chocolate. I've been consuming dark chocolate with red wine for a few years, ever since my buddy DubaiBilly (now QatarBilly) introduced me to the concept a few years ago. But I've never had 90% chocolate before, and now I know why. The stuff is inedible. It's basically compressed cocoa. MamaDuck tried a bit and agreed with me.

'But all is not lost,' she said, 'you can make a chocolate fudge cake.'

Like hell I can. People who know me are kind enough to say they enjoy my cooking, but I almost never do a dessert, and I've certainly never baked a cake in my life. But I woke up this morning and thought 'how hard can it be?'

I trawled the interwebz a bit for recipes, and thought this one from Nigella Lawson sounded pretty good. One problem: you can't get cocoa powder in Madrid supermarkets - although you can get something called ColaCoa, basically a kiddies choc drink with built-in milk and sugar. But Madrid does have a shop called 'The Things You Miss' in Chamberí which sells nothing but Brit brands - stuff like PG Tips tea, Wall's (Some Of It's) Pork Sausages, Oxo cubes and John Smith's beer. So I went there and got me some proper cocoa powder.

When I got home I started making the cake. I'd kind of thought of just making a small one to begin with, and assumed the quantities Nigella was talking about would result in something like that. But as I mixed this huge pile of flour, sugar and cocoa, I realised this was a much more serious proposition. I checked the recipe again. 'Enough,' it said 'for 10 servings, or one if you have a broken heart.'


I ploughed on regardless and baked about two-thirds of the mixture in a ceramic dish. After the allotted time I was surprised to see it had risen like a volcano, and even more surprised when I tipped it onto a wire rack and the whole thing disintegrated. There was a soggy mass in the middle of it that was nowhere near cooked. So I piled it all back into the dish and gave it another twenty minutes.

When that was done, I put the other one-third in to bake. This half-filled a spring-sided tin, and when the cake was baked I was able to get it out of the tin without trashing it. It did disintegrate a bit when I tried to slice it in half, but here's the finished result:

And here's the one I made earlier:

* 'The Resistance' CD by Muse, 'Nation' by Terry Pratchett, and a jelly-bean dispenser, in case you're interested.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Reasons To Be Cheerful - Part Two

Well, it could be another reason to be grumpy, but it's my birthday tomorrow. I hear you asking: why grumpy, Keefie? I reply: 'cos 52 sounds like a helluva lot to me.

MamaDuck has been on several secret missions over the last few days, and this evening she made my mouse mat unusable by plonking this load of stuff on it:

Talk about temptation! I've never been good at waiting for Christmas and birthdays. She refuses to accept that these events start at 1 minute past midnight. I'm under orders to ignore it until 8am tomorrow. Meh!

Related topic - lots of my FaceBook friends have been wishing me happy birthday (in fact I was out with a client yesterday and mentioned it would be my birthday soon: 'I know', he says. 'Well how do you know?' I ask. 'It's on FaceBook, mate,' he replies). I don't recall this happening before, and, more sinisterlyly, I don't recall telling FB when my birthday is. Although I suppose I must have told them at some point, but forgot 'cos I'm so old and prolly got Altshweiner's.

Reasons To Be Grumpy

MamaDuck's cold, which has been incubating for a while, burst into its full glory this morning. So she hasn't gone to work, and needs to see a doctor. In our usual lackadaisical way, we haven't registered with the local Health Centre since we moved in April. And that's because we didn't get a new Empadronomiento* when we moved. We nearly did: we got as far as downloading the form and filling it in, but didn't actually give it to anybody. So, off we trot to the Ayuntamiento*, along with half the population of our district. When we found the building, there was a queue to get through the door (all bags and bodies were being x-rayed). Then there was a queue to get a ticket for the queue. And then there was the crowd of people waiting to be seen by about 15 officials. Our number came up after about 50 minutes, and we presented every scrap of documentation we had to the nice lady at the counter. She looked at it, tapped something into the computer, and handed us the sheet of paper she'd just printed. It was clearly not an empadronomiento. It was an appointment for tomorrow.

Ho hum. So MamaDuck got herself an appointment at our old Health Centre in Chueca, and has gone to cough and splutter all over a doctor.

*Empadronomiento =registration with the local council so they know how many binmen, schools and traffic wardens they need.

* Ayuntamiento - Town Hall.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Reasons To Be Cheerful

If you're an expat refugee from the UK (Contains NutsTM), there's two stories in today's news that should make you glad you left.

1) Mother refused wine at Morrison's in case daughter (17) drinks it

2) UK quality of life poor

Friday, 2 October 2009

I Have A Feeling...

'Tengo Una Corazonada' is the slogan for Madrid's bid for the 2016 Olympics. It means 'I have a feeling'. Today, the IOC will make its decision. I have a feeling that Madrid has no chance for the very simple reason that 2012 is in London and they never have consecutive Games on the same continent. Still, we live in hope...

Shall I venture a prediction? On the basis of almost no evidence: Rio, Madrid, Chicago, Tokyo. Let's see how wrong I can be!

5.20pm: Chicago out!

5.30pm: Tokyo eliminado!

5.45pm: We have to wait another 45 minutes. Tension is mounting. I think Madrid can do it: 70% of the infrastructure is already built (including Metro station Estadio Olimpico): this makes it a good bet in these financially-straitened times. Plus security is not the concern it might be in Rio. Fingers crossed...

I wish I'd known this was happening a bit earlier: coulda gone down to Plaza de Oriente (outside the Royal Palace) and got me a BIG HAND.

TeleMadrid is showing Plaza de Oriente and Rio side-by-side: I have to say if it depends on the size of the crowd, Rio wins.

6.55pm: Rio. Borrocks.

So I was three-quarters right with my prediction, and there's always 2020.