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Spanish Secrets: You're Late!

Do you long for a calm, relaxing life? In this tale of a well and a water supply Craig Briggs suggessts that one way to achieve calmness is to live in a society which does not acknowledge the words "You're late''.

For many people a water well conjures up romantic, even mystical images. A pretty tiled roof is suspended on two pillars, beneath which a circular stone wall guards a dark chasm. Running horizontally through the pillars is an axel bound with damp rope. Hanging centrally from this, is an old wooden pail swinging in the breeze.

This picture-book image is a far cry from our new well. A more accurate description would be a bore-hole.

For the past month, two ugly grey-plastic pipes have protruded from the front garden. The larger of the two is a foot in diameter and extends out of the ground by roughly double that length. Located inside that is the other one, slightly smaller in diameter but extending a further 2 feet above ground.

These cylindrical eyesores are the most obvious visible sign of our new well. The reason for this disagreeable outlook is entirely due to the Spanish calendar.

Unlike England and other parts of the world, time here is a variable factor. Even days of the week can change their name, even their order in the weekly sequence. After living here for three-and-a-half years, I’ve concluded that this unique Latino almanac has no explanation. The only reliable constants in the Spanish calendar are the 2 hour lunch breaks and the dates of fiestas.

The drilling and capping of our new water source clearly illustrates this very Spanish phenomenon.

After making enquiries at the drilling office, the secretary explained that Roberto, the head honcho, would ring later in the day to arrange a site visit. Three days later we returned to the office. After explaining that Roberto hadn’t rung, an apologetic secretary assured us that we would hear from him.

Later that day he arrived unannounced at the house. After completing some highly dubious dowsing and agreeing a price for the work, he left. The drilling would start a week on Wednesday, in 10 days time. Twenty days later, on a Tuesday, he and his crew finally turned up.

With the drilling complete it was time for capping.

Besides connecting the water into the house, we also wanted an automatic garden irrigation system to be installed. For these tasks we’d employ the specialist plumbing skills of Antonio Roca.

After the almost customary second enquiry for a quote, he arrived at the house for a site inspection. Having haphazardly paced out measurements and given us detailed explanations of water pressure, zonal irrigation, and other such incomprehensible technicalities, he departed. Preparing the quote would take him two days, at which point he’d return.

Six days later he returned with the quote.

Happy with the price and wanting to keep things moving along, we asked him how soon he could start the work.

“Ten or eleven days” was his reply. He would ring a couple of days before hand to confirm.

Aware that this would be a Spanish version of ten or eleven days, it came as no surprise when he turned up at the house one Monday evening, nineteen days later.

“I’ll be starting work tomorrow, 8.00am” he stated confidently.

The following day, Tuesday, came and went with neither sight-nor-sound of him.

Wednesday morning at 9.20am he pulled up outside the house in his pick-up truck. He and his labourer unloaded the truck. Within minutes of their arrival the heavens opened. An hour later with the rain still falling he called a halt to proceedings.

For some inexplicable reason he couldn’t start work again until the following Monday. Then he remembered that there was a fiesta on Monday so it would have to be Tuesday. He would however send his labourer to start work on Saturday.

Saturday came and went, but unfortunately his labourer didn’t.

These events are typical of the Spanish attitude to time keeping and permeate through the whole society in both work and play. It’s a fundamental and essential adjustment to make for anyone considering a move here.

Once mentally adjusted, removing the statement – YOU’RE LATE! – from a language and culture, is very calming and relaxing.

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