WHEN the opportunity arose to come back to my native Spain after eight years in the UK, I didn’t think twice.
While I loved my time at university in London and Edinburgh, it was always going to be a lovely homecoming to the warmth and welcome of the motherland. Particularly with my two young daughters, who would benefit from being immersed in a new language.
But then, of course, I hadn’t factored in the challenges of being a born-and-bred Madrileña settling in Andalucia.
The first issue arose when I needed to register as a resident on the Costa del Sol.
It pained me to change my status from Madrileña to Andalusian but it was that or a seven-hour commute every day to take my kids to a school in Madrid.
So there I was, bright and early at the town hall with my three-year-old twins – who have an English father – armed with every piece of paperwork I had been able to gather, dating from since we were all born.
I even took my second year school grades certificate, just in case, to avoid the scenario of lacking that one super-important document and having to queue up all over again.
After waiting half an hour while the gathered staff finished swapping what they did at the weekend stories, I was asked to come in and sit down.
As I explained my seemingly straight-forward situation to the grumpy-looking woman, handing her my fat folder of paperwork, I knew, from that moment that becoming Andalusian was not going to be easy.
The first issue was the kids who also had to get registered.
This, in theory, shouldn’t have been a problem. But in Andalucia, unless you are prepared to travel 100 miles through the Gobi desert to bring back a hair of a Mongolian dragon, it’s not going to happen.
“I’m confused,” she said. “Are your kids English or Spanish?”
“They are both English and Spanish”, I replied, explaining they were born to an English father and expecting her to take it in her stride.
But no. Such a weighty issue involved… coffee (for her, not me) and a mumbled ‘come back tomorrow morning’.
I decided to ring a friend who happened to know someone ‘quite important’ in the town hall. Doesn’t everyone?
She offered to speak to ‘her friend’ who ran the admin department and come back with me the next day to confront the over-paid bigwig.
After the usual pleasantries and chat about the weekend (he had taken a shine to my friend some years before, it emerged), my friend explained the situation and, lo and behold, his reaction was blunt and to the point. “Sorry, but no, there is nothing I can do.”
Luckily, my tenacious friend was not prepared to give up. Having lived in Andalucia for over two decades, she knew all the tricks.
“Would you change your mind if I agreed to go out to dinner with you?” she asked with a gushing smile, thrusting forward her breasts.
To this, he smiled, gave me back my 30-years-worth of paperwork and left in a flurry.
I wasn’t sure what to expect next.
Precisely five minutes later, he turned up with the paperwork stamped for both me and the twins. Everything registered. Job done!
It was an interesting initiation into life in what must be the most idiosyncratic place in Europe.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, my fantastic friend got away with a 15-minute glass of wine and tapas a few days later, before making her excuses and leaving!