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Spanish Secrets: Patience Is A Virtue

Craig Briggs tells of the frustrations of getting electricity connected to an old farmhouse in Galicia.

For more of Craig’s engaging accounts of life in rural Spain please click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.

The morning post brought some eagerly awaited news. Although it was only six six weeks since we’d requested connection to the National Grid, it seemed like much longer. The business-style envelope carried the familiar logo of Union Fenosa, Spain’s national electricity supplier. Could this be the estimate for connecting the supply?

Hurriedly I tugged at the perforated flap, ripping along its length and pulled out the neatly folded letter. Carefully, I unfolded it and began deciphering its contents.

After the initial opening paragraph there followed a list of items each marked with a quantity and price. At last! We finally had the estimate for supplying the electric.

Fenosa’s role is clearly defined in these matters. It is their responsibility to provide a supply to the outside of the property and our responsibility to bring that supply from there into the house. The only area of ambiguity is the installation of an 8 metre high concrete post on which to attach the incoming cable.

We already had a quote for the concrete post and the internal installation from Miguel, the cheesy contracts manager from Raul’s Electrical. His quote for the post turned out to be significantly less than that of Fenosa. The decision was easy. Without wasting any more time we sped off to Monfotre to speak with Miguel.

We entered the shop, marched up to the counter and asked to speak with him. Having seen us through the glass fronted office at the back of the store; he opened his office door and with a beaming smile, called to us to enter.

However hard he tried, he couldn’t quite live up to his own macho image. He had the smile and the swagger; the compulsory designer-stubble and that, fresh off the sun-bed, deep-olive tan. But in his efforts to impress the ladies, it didn’t quite work. His hair style didn’t quite match his designer-stubble and his lack of fashion sense and shoulder-strapped handbag didn’t do him any favours. He finished up looking more like a caricature of a ladies-man with his bright ivory smile and heavy set eyebrows.

We showed him the estimate we’d received from Fenosa. Studiously he gave it his full attention running down the list of items with his finger. When he reached the concrete post he stopped. Once again a smug, I-told-you-so-smile, filled his face. The office lights bounced off his teeth like a TV toothpaste commercial.

“Look!” he said “I told you that Fenosa’s post would be more expensive.”

He went on to explain that we would have to go to the Fenosa office and tell them that we didn’t want the post included in the estimate. We would then have to pay them the full estimated amount before they would start the work. We thanked Miguel for his advice and left.

The Fenosa office is a short walk down the street from Raul’s. It’s not really an office as such. It’s simply a small counter situated within an electrical goods store. It has very short opening hours which are strictly enforced by a less than convivial young lady. With the hour approaching one, we upped our pace in a desperate attempt to beat the clock.

The shop bell rang as we pushed open the door and entered. The young lady glanced up at the clock as we rushed to the counter. We’d made it with a minute to spare.

We handed her the estimate and informed her that, with the exception of the concrete post, we wished to pay the total and instruct Fenosa to connect the electricity supply.

“You can’t do that.” She declared brusquely. “Fenosa will need to send you a new quote, excluding the post.”

We’ve learnt through experience that trying to argue against Spanish bureaucracy is a waste of time, effort and breath. Procedures must be followed and the administrative-wheels oiled. This meant we would undoubtedly have to wait another six weeks before we could instruct Fenosa to begin the work. A delay we could really do without.

I strongly suspect that our cheesy contracts manager Miguel, knew this would happen. All that remained for us to do was to go home and wait – again!

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