I think I’ve written before about the curious nature of the Spanish postal system. The British concept of tailored post codes for small, specific areas doesn’t apply here. Instead, the main towns have just one post code each. Our province of Malaga is divided into 72 postal areas and Alfarnate, say, is 29194. If you live within the curtilage of a town or village it’s likely you could get your mail delivered from a real live postman. But for those of us that only have a house name but no number or street name then the mail is routed to the relevant post office.
However, as you can see, with this set-up it would be far too complicated for the rural outlying areas to get a door to door postal delivery. If they did, properties like ours in the sticks would need to quote either the GPS coordinates or full directions like: “third turning left after the last right hand bend out of the village. Up the zig-zag hill, left fork, sharp right after Casa Mirabela, left after the next 2 fincas, left at the algarrobo trees, past the rubbish bins, down the hill, turn right at T junction where concrete road ends…”, etc. You get the picture.
My ‘official’ address tied me in to using the post office of our nearest village, the address that would always be used by the powers-that-be. I once had a Junta (government) letter (about nothing in particular) sellotaped to the front gate by some well-meaning soul. Someone told me that if an Important Communication is sent but not collected then it’s sent back to the relevant Junta department who then make sure the recipient is notified by other means. The town hall have always had my phone and email address so I’m pretty sure that nothing Important came my way. I didn’t even have a courtesy letter after ‘they’ unilaterally took ownership of about two-thirds of our land back in 2008.
The post office occupied a small room adjoining the mayoral/town hall offices. The whole ‘going to collect the mail visitor experience’ proved too much of a pain for me because there appeared to be something like a two hour window when the post person was likely to appear, if at all. There was nowhere to wait/sit outside.
People would drift in and out on important town hall affairs, with no apparent queue system, and I would lurk outside trying not to look as though I was eavesdropping but as the Spanish typically converse in shrill, loud voices and the door was usually left open, I moved as far away from the door as possible. For a period of time, the road was being dug up for ‘major improvements’ and I became more and more disillusioned with the dust, noise and inconvenience of it all. There had to be a better solution, I told myself.
In 2009 I defected to the next-nearest village and began to quote its post code. But things weren’t a lot different there either, except that I was usually in the company of one or two Brits, as confused as me as to how such a haphazard service could exist in a modern, progressive country. None of us really knew when the shadowy post person would turn up but if you were expecting something from the UK, for instance, they wouldn’t bat an eyelid about returning the package to sender if you weren’t actually in attendance on the day it arrived! I did try to rent one of their post boxes, but I was told they had none to spare.
Hallelulah! Things have been much easier since we found out about and started using a post box system operated by an English couple in our nearest big town. They, for a modest annual fee, take in letters and parcels, even signing for them on your behalf. Emboldened by such professionalism, I decided to change the Nissan car tax details to the new address.
I decided to ask the Asesoria (company who handle legal paperwork) who dealt with the purchase of the Nissan to handle this reasonably simple task for me. She emailed back to say she would need my driving licence, passport, my NIE number and registration, a copy of the car’s latest ITV (MoT), plus 21 euro – a small price to pay considering.
“Bureaucracies are inherently antidemocratic. Bureaucrats derive their power from their position in the structure, not from their relations with the people they are supposed to serve. The people are not masters of the bureaucracy, but its clients.” Alan Keyes
Buying a car in Spain – or doing anything involving bureaucracy in Spain – is not for the faint-hearted, the impatient, or those who optimistically think they can communicate efficiently and get a satisfactory outcome. The cover-all nature of the form she attached gave me the shudders and I thought, if I fill it in fully, then they will know a heck of a lot more about me than I would wish to tell them.
Anyhow, I fished out the ITV and found that it ran out in two days’ time. The Nissan shouldn’t now officially be on the road until 2nd March when we sneak it across to Honest John at his auto centre, some 20km away. Fingers crossed for an optimistic outcome – we’ve only been back in Spain for a month and already shelled out 950 euro on repairs! But I suppose Mr Nissan does have a hard life.
“People to whom nothing has ever happened cannot understand the unimportance of events.” T S Eliot
Hopefully after 2nd March I can finally start the ball rolling for the momentous address change event! As you can probably gather, we have as little exposure to the authorities as possible.
I actually found it difficult to write this post, but bureaucracy is all part of life here. As we go into our 9th year, I’m much happier observing and recording nature’s wonder as spring once again breathes life into the trees and bushes and we begin to see the emergence of buds, shoots and the early yellow plants that are so characteristic of this time of year.
Flowers like the Oxalis Bermuda Buttercup that grows like a weed in Andalucia, the Hawkweed, the Spanish Gorse and the Euphorbia all herald the beginning of the warmer weather. Which is, after all, one of the major reasons that we Brits come in droves to holiday or settle here.