Here in Spain there is plenty of red tape. You virtually have to supply your national identity number to use a public toilet. However I have to say it’s a kind of soft silky red tape. Rules can be bent; if they like you they can almost be disregarded altogether on occasions. Over the last 7 years I have got used to this. So when I had to help my newly enrolled son sort out his finance for University the UK version of red tape came as a bit of a shock. There is nothing soft and silky going on there; it would prove a challenge for the most committed 50 Shades enthusiast. In fact I started to feel I could have taken the lead in a porno bondage movie by the time I left such was my experience with being bound up.
It’s a set up
I had three days on UK soil in which to bid him farewell and sort out with him all the essentials for his life there. A mobile had to be bought, bank account opened, winter clothes purchased, Pot Noodles and baked beans stocked up on and the nearest pub located. The pub as it turned out, being for me, not him, once I’d finished with the bureaucracy in that goddamn place. I did consider taking over the license at one point I’d used it so often. My next book is due out soon. “Pubs of Huddersfield, an intensive users guide”
We had been told months before that we had to supply our tax returns in order to assess what he may be entitled to. Would that be ok as they were in Spanish I’d asked? Yes I was assured. Three days before we left we were informed that actually we needed an official translation done at the cost of about 300 Euros for each of the twenty pages. I spat out my tapas in disbelief and demanded to speak to a manager. Eventually they agreed I could use a short summary and translate it myself. So off we went.
Destination Tethers End
Once there I spent each of the three nights pouring over Spanish fiscal translation sites whilst simultaneously pouring expensive English bought wine into a B&B plastic tooth mug. Class. Another 50 hours on the telephone later and still nothing resolved. Each operative it seemed had their own unique version of the rules. They had now decided they were once again moving the goalposts and wanted an NI number he didn’t have. By this point it would have been cheaper to fund the lad myself. Time to call in the big guns. I called the local MP who took up the case. I then called to ask could they register that he may call and that they had my permission to speak to him about my finances. She took his name. Then she asked “What is his date of birth. We can’t make a note without it?” Whaaaattttt???? , came my strangled reply. “How in the hell do I know, he’s an MP not my bloody brother? Do you know David Cameron’s date of birth?” I asked, incredulous. Ok, out came Google while I stalled her. Sure enough, good old Wikipedia, there it was. I duly supplied the information “And would you like to know the name of his wife and children?” I asked for good measure. I think by this point she was sensing a little hostility from my side. Anyway we finished up the conversation with me still choking on my Chablis at which point I’m sorry but I couldn’t resist. “Well thank you I said and for my records could I take your name?” She gave it to me. “And your date of birth?”I asked pleasantly. ”Er no I can’t give you that “she laughed nervously, “You have mine, my husbands, my son’s and not’s let forget my MP’s now too. So why not?” I enquired. She wouldn’t be swayed so I bade her farewell and hurled the phone at the wall.
A not so fond farewell
By the time it came to my snot and tear soaked farewell to my boy (my snot and tears I might add not his) I realised how badly they had screwed up our last few days together. The nearest we had got to spending any quality time together was about two minutes in the queue at Tesco’s discussing the phenomenally high UK alcohol prices.
By the time my friend picked me up from the train station accompanied by yet another bottle of overpriced plonk I was in such a state I actually tried to get in the driver’s side of her car. Given that I’ve never actually learned to drive and was a whole laundries worth of sheets to the wind it’s a good thing that was only because I’m used to left hand drives now.
Having been forced to take up recreational alcoholism for three days at my wits end I now fully understand the binge drinking culture in the UK. It must be populated by ex students and the parents thereof and anyone else who has to deal with UK civil servants. Alcoholics anonymous must be overrun. Then again they probably want your date of birth before you can join and by that point you’re probably so stressed and pissed you have no idea what it is.
Reasons number 348- 350 why I’m so glad to be out of there!! Viva Espana and its soft silky red tape.
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