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Banco Santander

When we first bought our small apartment in Spain, it followed a fair bit of research (mostly by Sharon) and we even tripped over to Manchester to visit a Holiday Roadshow put on by one of the various T.V. shows.  All sorts of help and advice was available and from here we made what we thought was the good decision to use English lawyers, based in Spain. With our (then) complete lack of Spanish and uncertainty of the rules, we used a company that has their Costa Del Sol branch in Marbella.

banco-santanderWe asked those lawyers to set up a bank account for us in Spain, something that the roadshow representative said was part of the package, but which they, when it came to it, had a reluctance to do. Suffice to say, they made something of a minimal effort to help us with that task and we ended up with a Banco Santander account, at an office on the Puerto Banus side of Marbella – roughly 40-50 minutes’ drive from our apartment.

The manager was ok, he spoke good English and he did what he could to help us get up and running.  However, no matter how many times we tried or what he told us could happen; getting our account transferred to our more local Los Boliches branch was impossible.  We had to trail to the far side of Marbella for all sorts of reasons, including a new debit card for Sharon which could not be posted to our apartment – (“we can only post these to your home address but cannot post them outside the country and your home address is in England”!!).

We also found the local branch in Los Boliches so unhelpful at all stages that we decided to change banks. That isn’t easy over here, there’s no real help from the banks themselves, but we were lucky enough to have Banco Sabadell recommended by the local lawyers we are gradually transferring our business to.  The manager we dealt with helped us with everything he could – which did not include closing our Santander account.  Following yet another unsuccessful visit to the Los Boliches branch (along with a Spanish speaker) we had to go to the Marbella branch (again!).

indexWe phoned first and were assured that we could (only) close the account at the branch that held the account. So off we went.

Only to be told, after they had cut up our bank cards, that they COULD NOT CLOSE the account because there was a c.€55 charge due on 8th January (to cover charges for period ending 31st December). Why couldn’t they take cash for that?  “es impossible!”. Our Spanish speaker was as perplexed as we were but, in the end, we had to leave €100 in the account to pay whatever the exact charge would be on the 8th January.

We are assured that we can then close the account at the Los Boliches branch.

Assured!

We’ll see.

Photo Credits:

https://www.bitterwallet.com/complaints/complaint-about-santander-youre-not-the-only-one-36262

https://www.trustpilot.com/review/www.santander.co.uk

 

Tomatoes

Tomato_jeWhenever I am in Spain, I always take advantage of the local produce.  There’s no point going there and stewing cabbage or boiling turnips (not that you see much of those on the Costa del Sol), when the soft Mediterranean, often very local, (fruit) vegetables are in great abundance.

The aubergines, courgettes, peppers and tomatoes all have a fabulous depth of flavour – even the knobbly, small cucumbers actually have taste, unlike the long, smooth, hot-house grown phalluses available here. Therefore, invariably, the first dish made is ratatouille.

s-l640One problem with my ratatouille in Spain is that I have less access to chopped tinned tomatoes or passata. Over there they have more tomato frito, which, although a similar consistency to passata, is quite sweet and can overpower the finished flavour.

I decided therefore, to make my own tomato sauce and to use that for all of the dishes that require such a thing.

28492528636_d730e0ea97_zThe Spanish grow some fabulously tasty tomatoes. 

Even when served under-ripe, with a little salt, oil, parsley and crushed garlic, they make a meal; accompanied by some local ‘Spanish’ bread.

For the tomato sauce, I simply chopped up a kilo of tomatoes and brought them to the boil along with a small, chopped onion, 4 peeled cloves garlic and about a tablespoon each of olive oil and tomato puree. Then, I let that lot simmer for a couple of hours, topping up with tiny bits of water now and again. I then seasoned it, blitzed it all with a hand blender and used as required (sauce for pasta, added flavour for paella, to loosen up ratatouille, slackened off as soup etc.).

I sometimes add (fresh) basil or oregano towards the end of cooking, for added flavour.

I made the same last week, with Aldi tomatoes and had to add a jar of Lloyd Grossman sauce to give it any flavour at all.

Busy Summer

The busy summer continues …

img_0329For the first few weeks since returning from Spain at the very end of June, life was a bit hectic. The first event of no small note was the birth of Betony (and Josh)’s baby – Chester Jax. He was born on July 3rd (and weighed just 5lbs – such a tiny thing). Chester is my step-Grandson (??), although I guess I will be Grandad to him or abuelo, if Josh speaks Spanish to/with him.

During July and early August, I had several nice long (and hot) walks. Tony and I went up above Rotcher as far as The Rose and Crown and then along Bradshaw Lane and Laund Road before descending back into Slaithwaite via Moor Side Lane and Meal Hill.  John R, Mark S and I followed much the same route but extended it along Crimea Lane, Slaithwaite Gate and the Golcar Lily Ginnel Trail as far as the canal – then back to Slaithwaite.

David T and I walked along the cycle track to Bradley and back along the canal – a route John R and I often follow on Tuesdays when we meet.  This is part of the Calder Valley Greenway, which meanders through pleasant countryside all the way through to Dewsbury, although we rarely walk beyond Mirfield (where a tasty lunch can be had at Café Nosh).

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Alone, I’ve walked to Huddersfield several times and to Marsden several more. I even walked to Marsden and back on the canal with Carol one day; it’s a nicer experience when there’s someone to talk with.

Now though, the weather has turned a little cooler and I’m not as inclined to bother (although I really should).  So, I’m looking forward to my return to Spain in September, where and when my ambulatory activities can recommence.

We’ve also had a variety of people come and visit us to see our new home and/or to wish Sharon a happy birthday.  It’s been lovely to see Chris and Paul, Karen, Karen and Darren, Carol, David and Gail, Emma, Ann, and Tony and Gill.

I’m writing this en-route to London, where I will undertake some training with City and Guilds. Down there, I will meet Alison (with whom I have visited India several times), Karen, and Sue.  This time it will be a new work venture – something to occupy my semi-retired time?

IKEA

It’s been a busy month!

On Monday 30th July, we moved into our new home. That being said, it’s taken until now to get halfway settled. Our new home is a new-build, and for us a downsize 😀.

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So, besides having to chuck a load of stuff away, we’ve also had to buy furniture that has lots of ‘hidden’ storage. Yea for IKEA. I’m sure that others might have said that it was bound to happen but – we had some issues with IKEA’s delivery service. Because the new apartment’s postcode cannot be found on large company databases we had to visit the store in Leeds to make and pay for our order. That was Monday.  They, the delivery area folks at IKEA said it would be delivered “tomorrow’ – Tuesday, “between 10:00am and 16:00pm”.  Whoo-oo.

We’d given the project manager’s postcode (she lives just up the same road) and off we went looking forward to a day building stuff.

19:00pm came before we were finally told that the delivery would now come “tomorrow’ – Wednesday, “between 10:00am and 16:00pm”.  And so, it did, mid-afternoon with no more than two minutes warning (which is 58 mins short of that promised). They also delivered a few other things addressed to other people in Halifax and in Huddersfield. As we were going out later to spend the evening with friends being entertained by Robbie Hunter-Paul at Elland golf club, we only managed to complete half of the delivery, which was itself ONLY HALF of the order we’d delivered. Sharon phoned IKEA on Thursday and asked whether/if/when our order might be completed.

Someone eventually phoned back and said that Leeds IKEA had now run out of stock (of the main item missing) and that they had re-ordered it via the Ashton-under-Lyne branch.  It would be delivered on Friday between 07:00am and 19:00pm.  We received another phone call on late on Thursday to say this wasn’t now going to happen as Leeds had found the missing half of our order. We eventually had the final items from our order delivered on Saturday. We’d told IKEA about the extra items (Halifax and Huddersfield) but the delivery guys were not interested. Charity shop then?

Whoo-oo, we have storage.

Shoddy Service

Once again, I need to have another moan about my experience of customer service in this country.

Friends and family often don’t notice the same issues as me and that itself is indicative of what has become accepted here as customer service.  Being served in this sense, comes in many guises:

  • we queue to pay for groceries and the like at supermarkets,
  • we ask to be served in a wide variety of other shops (grocers, butchers, car parts etc.)
  • we stand at bars and coffee shops asking to be served drink or to order food,
  • we queue to buy take away food,
  • we sit at restaurant tables and wait to be served with all manner of comestibles.

These are just a few examples of what calls itself a service industry.

customer-service

In many ways, I accept the dour faces and lack of communication from folks who have to sit by a cash register all day, monotonously scanning goods and asking if you’re paying by card or cash. I know that there are many examples of cheerier till operatives, but they are not the norm.

What does grip my gall are the girls and boys who decide that working in a bar or pretending to be a waiter/waitress is the easiest way of earning a few extra pounds. They don’t want to be there, the just want the money that comes their way after completing their shift.

16864721353_dc47ce9c27_zThere are very few places in this country where we find food/drink service personnel who see their work as a career.  In other countries, being a camarero, serveur or Cameriere is seen as a career and something one needs to work at. I’ve mostly found food/drink service to be unobtrusive and polite (if not always prompt) in other European countries but not here.  Furthermore, where I have found good food/drink service in the UK it has been invariably presented by people from elsewhere in Europe, often Eastern Europe.

My current gripe was with being served gin and tonic the other night.  My simple request for a “Strawberry Gin and slimline tonic please, without ice” was not simple enough:

which gin is it?” [server]

I don’t know – the last one I ordered was simply served to me, I wasn’t aware you had more than one.” [me]

it’s usually Gordon’s” [manager – who happened to be passing – to server]

ok, single or double?” [server]

single, please.” [me]

And off the server went.

ice-cubes

She returned from the other end of the bar with a goldfish bowl (i.e. large bulbous drinking glass) full of ice with a strawberry gin in it.

did you say slimline tonic?” [server]

yes, I also said ‘no ice’!” [me]

At this the server looked completely blank; first of all at me, and then her manager, who simply walked away without offering a solution other than “use the tongs”.  I was then stunned to see the server walk to a sink and lift out all of the ice with tongs.  When she returned her face was like thunder.  She completed pulling the pint we’d also ordered and plonked that down with such force that I thought the base might crack.  She turned her sour face to me and said what it all came to (££) …

can I now have that extra shot in there please?” [me]

you can if you pay for it!” [server]

I have no objection to paying, but as you’ve now thrown half the gin down the sink, I’d better take it back to the table with SOME flavour in it” [me – now not being as pleasant as I prefer to be]

And again, she stormed off with the glass and when she returned, she banged that down too.

I found her attitude completely irrational as she’d made the mistake in the first place.

The manager should have stepped in at the outset, but she too would probably not have been trained properly either.

Some previous grumps:

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/margate/

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/city-centre-food/

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/city-centre-food-cont/

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/wetherspoons/

https://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/2018/04/01/curmudgeon/

Image Credits:

http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/handwriting/c/customer-service.html

https://www.flickr.com/photos/96223380@N02/

https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=15694&picture=ice-cubes

 

Blunt Knives

What has happened to table knives? 

When did they begin to lose their function?

blades

Function

The purpose of a knife is to cut, slice and chop – surely?  Yet, I’m not sure that table knives are designed to do that anymore.

Several times recently, especially in restaurants, I have been frustrated by having to use the knife provided, to ‘tear’ at the meat (etc.) on my plate, instead of actually cutting it.  I occasionally have had to retrieve a more robust vegetable, such as new potato, from wherever it has landed on the table after trying to cut it with my knife.

2knivesI’d be better off using a spoon!  

And, don’t even try to cut the nicely cooked almost al dente broccoli stem! Even Yorkshire Puddings fight back.

Design

Modern tableware is blunt.

It no longer serves its purpose and it’s probably down to some caring soul somewhere, thinking that we might cut ourselves. I do have sharp knives and the ones I use at the table, whilst not AS sharp, can at least cut whatever is placed in front of them.  However, not everyone has such knives anymore.

Some folks also (however), have ‘handed’ knives.

These are designed to make cutting easier for right-handed people.  Because there is a chamfer on one side of the blade, it allows the knife to have a sharper edge, but not one (apparently) that will allow the right-handed person to cut themselves.  However, unless this type of knife is specially designed for left-handed folks – they become impossible to use when in the hands of such southpaws.

See also Fish Knives why?.

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Canyoning

I recently spent an exciting, adventurous and exhilarating day, canyoning with Ultimate Rock Adventures.

James, the proprietor, has been a friend for many years and this is his second year of business.  The activities and services he offers are steadily gaining the kudos they deserve and despite my fears (e.g. I’ve never abseiled before – but I trusted James implicitly), I secured this opportunity to join a group going down the river one Saturday in June.12D6108E-4ECC-4700-BE55-CBDC3B7E1589

Based in Gibraltar, the adventure activities can take place pretty much anywhere, but mainly in Spain. The group I joined, completed the beginner’s route at Rio Guadalmina, close to Benahavis.

We met at the Gibraltar-Spain border and set off towards Benahavis at 08:00am. We stopped for breakfast on the way and began to mingle.  The group consisted of Keith and Lorraine, with their two children, aged nine and twelve; James’ nephew Daniel with his friend Denzil, myself and James. So, three generations really, with myself as abuelo. Lol.

We parked close to what would be the end of our journey downriver, on a site that holds the Sunday Market there (no parking on Sundays!).  Here, we were kitted out and given our first instructions.  We were provided with complete wet-suits, harness’ and helmets. We were shown how to attach the carabiner required for abseiling and what the emergency procedures were, should there be an accident.

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We began then by walking up the road a short way and crossing the river via a wooden footbridge.  This took us across country for a short way, before we clambered up and into an ancient aqueduct. This would now lead us directly to the start of our canyoning experience.

James chooses to use this particular route because it is shaded and the water is particularly cooling – which is of great benefit when kitted out in full wet-suits and helmet, in the blazing summer sun of southern Spain.  Along the way he told us something of the history of the aqueduct (now used mainly for watering the golf courses down closer to Marbella) and about some of the flora we were encountering. [Link to video]

Rio_Guadalmina_Benahavis_Acequia_del_Guadalmina

We eventually came to a fairly tall rock on our left and climbed out of the aqueduct and up on to the rock.  This is where it got really scary for me.  By the time I had got to the top, James was already over the top of it, fastening safety ropes etc. to the rock itself.  

This would be our first abseil.  Seeing him there, on a slight ledge just over the pointed top of the rock and looking over the precipitous drop into the river (the drop was much, much deeper than the height we’d climbed from the aqueduct) made me feel ill.  I was terrified.  There really was no way I would be able to accomplish this!

However, I didn’t fancy trying to climb back down to the aqueduct and didn’t want to wimp out at this first obstacle. Only Daniel had done anything like this before, so he went first to demonstrate what James was telling us.  He made it look so easy!  Therefore, I let nearly everyone else go before me, so that I could watch their various techniques and listen to James more closely (and repeatedly).  I came to realise that the tools being used, as well as the science behind them (levers, pulleys etc.) were to be trusted and that my only real fear was climbing up and then slightly down, to where James waited with the safety ropes and equipment. Link to video

I’d already enough spent time looking down and thinking ‘oh heck’ (or words to that effect), so I didn’t do that, I simply lowered myself to the (tiny!) platform of rock and looked inland as James fastened me up and gave me my instructions.  I’d seen that an angle of around 45o would be the correct stance and then James told confirmed that by saying:

– “it’s pretty much the same angle you would be in if sat on a public toilet, where there wasn’t a lock on the door…” –

So, I was ‘off’ with a laugh and felt really quite confident now.  Feeding the rope from one hand to another seemed to come naturally, as the rope took all of my weight and the way it had been fastened by James allowed it to become a brake too.

With a few small mis-steps and splash at the end I was down! Link to video (same as the one above)

If they read this, I must thank everyone in the team again, for the confidence they gave me by being so brave themselves. Thank you all.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0350.JPG

We then did a variety of jumps, high and low, as we meandered down the river.  Even the high jumps did not look bad from water level, but sometimes, once you were up on the ledge, they looked enormous.  I only wimped out on one, mainly because the way up looked difficult (via a pull rope) but also because everyone looked terrified when they got up onto the ledge.

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We had one final abseil close to the end, much smaller than the previous and, again after Daniel, I was first to go.  Abseiling? Sorted!

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I think that it has been a good job that I’ve been able to top up my fitness by completing a number of walks [see other blog] and scoots over the two weeks prior to the canyoning, because I was completely drained that night and I ached all over the day after.  I developed cramp in the hamstrings of both legs towards then end of our trip and overnight they made me wince. However, I wouldn’t have missed the day for anything.

Thank you everyone for your help.

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Picture Credit

Aqueduct: By Tanja Freibott [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons