1 November: Renfe plans; Spanish bureaucracy; Protected species; The Spanish horario; & other stuff.

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops
Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable
– Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain’

Cosas de España/Galiza 

Those Renfe plans . . . Eurostar’s boss has dismissed the threat of Spain running services through the Channel Tunnel, claiming red tape means it will take years for a rival rail operator to get up and running. Has the ring of truth about it.

Talking of red tape/bureaucracy . . . Below is an all-too-believable account of a Spanish calvario which is my daughter’s experience with her driving licence exchange writ very large:- A bid for Spanish nationality leads to a Kafka-esque scenario involving inaccessible authorities and missing documents of an undefined nature.

On that theme, here’s an enjoyable video of a rare success.

Bulls and dogs are – or soon will be – protected in Spain, but as this video shows, not all humans. Particularly stupid ones.

Kids also are to receive new protections.

Thanks to Franco, Spain is in the wrong time zone. As Madrid is in line with London and Lisbon, we should be – and, indeed, used to be – on GMT. Like next-door Portugal. And the (Spanish) Canary Islands. Instead, we’re on CET – something which experts believe has had a negative impact on Spanish work culture and society. Spaniards, it’s said, sleep almost an hour less than the European average, leading to increased stress, concentration problems, and workplace accidents. The question as to whether Spain will return to GMT is complicated by EU plans to scrap the daylight savings custom we’ve just experienced. If this happens, Spain will have to decide whether it wants to remain permanently on summer time or revert back to GMT. Will Spaniards ever return to having their meals at 1pm and 7pm, rather than 3pm and 9pm? If so, will I live to see it?

The UK 

Who’d believe it 1?: British charcuterie is on the rise, competing with continental names such as prosciutto, chorizo and salami.   

Who’d believe it 2?: Thanks to a shortage of computer chips and supply chain disruption in the wake of the pandemic, Britain’s cheapest car now costs £1,900 more used than it does new.

Finally  . . . 

Kids again . . .  A little girl was watching her parents dress for a party. When she saw her dad donning his DJ, she warned, “Daddy, you shouldn’t wear that suit.” “And why not, darling?” “You know that it always gives you a headache the next morning.”

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A bid for Spanish nationality leads to a Kafka-esque scenario involving inaccessible authorities and missing documents of an undefined nature: Heather Galloway, The Olive Press

I changed my UK driving license and Spanish residence permit relatively painlessly towards the end of 2020 in the thick of Covid. Then came the hardest nut to crack: acquiring Spanish nationality for my oldest daughter, Janie, to allow her access to an EU university outside of Spain on manageable fees.

We hold our breath and take the plunge. Spanish nationality has to be got. How hard can it be? Having triumphed with the other paperwork, I am tentatively optimistic. But that is only because I have yet to become acquainted with the mossback that is the Ministry of Justice.

I hand the necessary documents over to my nearest civil registry which happens to be the local town hall. Time is of the essence but the first appointment is November 11, 2020. I say I am worried that Janie’s UK passport will be close to its expiry date by then, but am told it will be no problem as long as it is valid when submitted.

I go home with the receipt and the sense of a job well done.

The months pass and no word. In May, 2021, I decide to investigate online and am asked for a number I don’t have. An R number. I scour the receipt then I phone the Ministry of Justice. Finally I get through to a woman whose customer service skills were acquired in the Franco era.

“You can’t know the status of your application without the R number,” she barks.

I say I don’t have one.

“Well, I can’t do anything without it.”

I go back to the receipt and search again to no avail. I call the ministry again.

“How do I get the R number?” I ask the woman on the other end of the line when I finally get through. To my surprise, she reels it off. Aha, I say, feeling as though I have been thrown a bone.

I enter the R number online and Janie’s file comes up. Missing a paper, it says, with no further clues.

I get back on the phone and provide the R number and Janie’s details to the gentleman on the other end.

“You’re missing a paper,” he tells me.

“I know. Which one?”

“I can’t say.”

“Why not?”

“Look, Señora, it says a paper is missing. That’s all.”

“So, how do I find out?”

“Listen! Listen to me! You have to go to your daughter’s citizen’s file.”

I call off. My head is about to explode. Vital weeks are passing. Every phone call is a morning’s work.

We go through the laborious process of getting Janie a Clave Pin and finally get into her citizen’s file. The missing paper is the passport, but it is now too late to submit it as we have missed the three-month window. This, it says, will result in the application being annulled.

Okay, I think. Calm down. Never mind. We will start afresh. I get the papers together again and hand them over to the local registry with copies of a passport with 10 years on it. I get my receipt and go home.

In September, almost a year after the first application, I phone the Ministry to get the R number for the new application. A woman answers. She says no application for 2021 has been registered but the first application is still active and missing a paper.

“But it said that application would be annulled if I didn’t provide the missing paper in time, which I didn’t,” I say through gritted teeth.

“If you don’t annul the first application,” she shoots back, “both applications will be annulled.”

“How do I do that?”

“Write a letter.”

“To who?”

“The department of nationality.”

I write a letter. Dear Madam/ Sir. To whom it may concern. And send it by registered post. I might as well have written to Santa Claus.

A few weeks pass. Janie’s citizen’s file is now empty. There is no word of a missing paper anymore. No word of anything. But the ministry still says she’s missing a paper. I decide to send a copy of her passport on the off chance, linked to the ghost application.

Now the submission of the passport registers in the citizen’s file but the application continues to say it is missing a paper.

My daughter goes down in person to plead and beg for answers.

“What do you expect me to do?” the woman deadpans from the other side of the desk.

Janie doesn’t know. “Isn’t there a number I can ring?”

“No,” says the woman, categorically not. Nor can the woman be expected to get in touch with the department of nationality, which is buried somewhere in the same building.

“Doesn’t the department have a phone?” Janie cries.

“Write them a letter,” she says.

She gives Janie two sheets of paper so she can make two handwritten copies, as though the photocopier or scanner were too futuristic to be at home in this environment.

Fighting an urge to sob, Janie writes two identical letters, hands over one and leaves.

A month later, no news. Janie’s future is uncertain. The adventure has been so ludicrous as to verge on exhilarating. We hate the Ministry of Justice but most of all we hate Brexit for forcing us to deal with it.