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Spanish Secrets: For Whom The Bells Toll

...When we moved to Spain, 11 years ago, Pedro was one of the first people we met. His manner and attitude brought reassurance that our decision to settle in Galicia was the right one...

Craig Briggs mourns the passing of a good friend.

Today, the bells toll for Pedro (Don Pedro Vázquez Rodriguez).

The sound is hollow and empty – a dull toneless clang followed seconds later by an equally dispirited dong. These equidistant chimes repeat, over and over again: a monotonous repetition that groans on, seemingly forever.

But Pedro will never hear this sombre dissonance.

Today the bells announce Pedro’s quietus – a medieval ritual calling on others to pray for his passing soul: a death knell.

Within this auditory sensation echoes a haunting reminder of our own fragile mortality and the priceless value of life.

When we moved to Spain, 11 years ago, Pedro was one of the first people we met. His manner and attitude brought reassurance that our decision to settle in Galicia was the right one.

Pedro was manager of the Banesto bank where, with the help of our neighbour Antoniño, we opened our first Spanish bank account. Until this point, I had a very low opinion of banks and their managers but Pedro changed all that.

He went out of his way to make us feel welcome and wanted. He took an active interest in our financial safety and ensured that our dealings with his bank went as smoothly as possible – a bit too smoothly on one particular occasion.

Not long after buying our house a neighbour called. He introduced himself as Miguel; the rest of his narrative fell on bewildered ears, with one exception: the word Banesto.

My suspicions were immediately raised. Who was this stranger from the village and why was he asking about my Banking arrangements? I appeased my inquisitor by telling him that I would call into the bank tomorrow.

It transpired that Miguel is Pedro’s brother. Pedro had asked Miguel to ask us to call into the bank at our earliest convenience. Two weeks earlier we’d withdrawn the money to pay for the house. In Pedro’s eagerness to facilitate a smooth and speedy withdrawal, he’d failed to secure our signature on the relevant form.

I often wonder what might have happened if we’d refused to sign.

Unbeknown to us, on another occasion Pedro had left the bank and driven out to Canabal to see for himself the progress on our house remodelling. He’d become concerned about the size and regularity of our withdrawals and wanted to make sure that we were spending our money wisely. He left the site reassured but never mentioned his inspection visit to us.

Pedro was a man of distinction, friendly, courteous and generous. Whenever we saw him out and about he never failed to say hello and always asked after our wellbeing, and should we bump into him in a café or bar he would always buy us a drink.

Don Pedro Vázquez Rodriguez will live in my memory forever: a banker of honesty, integrity and style, characteristics his contemporaries would do well to learn.

It was a privilege to have met him and an honour to call him my friend.

Craig has written a book, Journey To A Dream, a vivid and entertaining account of how he and his wife Melanie came to live in Spain.

It is available from Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/Journey-To-Dream-discovery-industrial/dp/1480254932/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374567185&sr=8-1&keywords=craig+briggs

Do visit Craig's Web site


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