CHAOSTOCOSMOS

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Quick and Dirty IQ Test

  • Your Logical Intelligence is Above Average
  • Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius
  • Your Mathematical Intelligence is Exceptional
  • Your General Knowledge is Exceptional

According to this, my IQ of 120 (I took the test on a bad day, clearly) means I have Very Superior Intelligence.

Actually, I'm sure it's nothing to boast about really, but I did always know that I was part genius! :-D Take the Quick and Dirty IQ Test here

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Pamela in pictures ...

mosaic9458821

Don't worry, they're not of me, so you won't need to adjust your set or replace your screen because of broken glass. They sure aren't of my life either, because I don't have one! :) Anyroadup, I just stumbled on this meme by accident, here and, since it looked like a bit of fun, thought I'd roll with it.

1. Black Cat - Pamela Anderson, 2. "What? Sushi? What is it?", 3. Bishop Wand 1, 4. rojo sobre negro (mosaico) / red on black (mosaic), 5. Orishas in Concert in Tenerife at Flypa 08, 6. Coffee made with Love, 7. Greek Cafe, 8. quesillos gourmet~~, 9. Truly Rich, 10. ~Cute Cats~, 11. Sad Friend, 12. Senecio in tenerife

If you want to do this too, here's what you do:

1. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.

2. Using only the first page of results you get, pick an image.

3. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd’s mosaic maker).

My Answers:

1. What is your first name? Pamela (and how apt that one is with the sexy black cat outfit: it's just like my Halloween costume of 1983! No, really.)

2. What is your favorite food? Just "food" would probably be the right answer, but I do especially love things like tapas, meze and sushi where you get a variety of small interesting things. I promise not to eat the hamster tho!

3. What high school did you go to? Bishop Wand (The Church of England school single-handedly responsible for making me into a staunch athiest!)

4. What is your favorite color? Toss up between red and black, so we has red on black. Mind you, it depends what for: colours I like to wear differ very greatly to colors I like to use to, say, decorate a room or a website.

5. Who is your celebrity crush? Nobody really. At 51, one tends not to do crushes (much). Anyway, I went to see Orishas live recently (the included photo is one my friend Jack took at that concert), because I'm a fan and I like what they stand for. They're all 3 nice looking lads too, it must be said.

6. Favorite drink? Coffee

7. Dream vacation? To go back to Greece again and what sums up Greece for me is the Greek Cafe, or more precicely, those wonderful Greek cafe chairs with the (absolutely not cat friendly: I know, I had a set) rafia seats. And blue.

8. Favorite dessert? Flickr didn't have any images for Galataboureko, so I tried another custardy favorite: quesillo and came up with this gourmet selection.

9. What you want to be when you grow up? Well, if I was really honest here, the answer is that I really don't want to grow up, but if I must choose something, I'd like to be rich please. That is open to many interpretations, of course.

10. What do you love most in life? My cats.

11. One word to describe you. Sad.

12. Your Flickr name. tenerife

Technorati Tags: ,,,,,

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

30 years ago ...

scan0002 Here's something I dug up during my recent moving process and lined up to be "digitized" (if not vaporized): photos of my wedding - 30 long years ago today, on June 24th, 1978 - to sometime soul DJ seen around the Galleon in Chertsey, Martin Heywood. If Martin's still alive, I imagine he'll be fat, bald and, he'll be 53 this year, but he seems better looking here than I remembered! :)

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Caturday Curiosities ...

Well, I've made a(nother) rod for my own back! (Anyone surprised?) :-)

Because the two cats (aged 7) I've brought from Tenerife have never moved house before and, because they're really quite timid former ferals, I've been giving them "familiarization walks" in the garden on a harness and lead. This should allow them to get to know the place slowly and in relative safety and, hopefully make them less liable to bolt (in the wrong direction), when they encounter unfamiliar (and here, everything is) sights, smells and sounds.

"The problem with cats is that they get the exact same look on their face whether they see a moth or an ax-murderer." - Paula Poundstone

Compared to their natural habitat: a ridge well away from a main road, in the middle of a rural valley, with no neighbours, there's a lot to startle cats here.

There's traffic noise and human noise - we're surrounded by houses and this is hover mower country - and then there's the constant screaming of seagulls overhead, as well as neighbour dogs, garden birds and new weird animals.

It seems like the natural thing to do too: after all, their "mother" was a dog.

Well, I say "them", but in reality, I've only taken Kitty out a couple times because she is clearly not keen. She was trembling and just wanted to dart off, so, in the meantime, we'll concentrate on Balu, who is Lovin' It(™) and, with luck, once he's comfortable with it, his confidence might rub off on his sister.

As the nice lady says in How to Walk a Cat on a Leash, it's easier to start when they're young. Thirty years ago, I did just that with my old cat, Tom, which proved to be a great boon over the years, because I could literally take him anywhere, like a dog. I would have done it again when Balu was small, but I couldn't find a suitable harness in Tenerife and anyway, he was then one of triplets and then I had three other cats too. I couldn't walk them all.

Could have tried harnessing them all up in a team, except ...

"Cats are smarter than dogs. You can't get eight cats to pull a sled through snow." - Jeff Valdez

Nor six or seven of them, as there were on occasion, I suppose. :)

Anyway, for the first few days, Balu's performance on the lead (no photos, yet: one of us should be allowed to retain some dignity) was pretty much like the cat in the above video. He looked about as happy with the idea as this fluffball. As in all things, purrsistence (sic) pays and he now has me trained.

The curious thing is, he had been an indoor cat for a year or more in Tenerife, but more and larger windows, including patio doors (that are just like widescreen HD TV for cats) opening out onto the part of the garden where there's a bevy of birds and a surfeit of squirrels, must be tempting him outside. Hence, we've had some right tantrums and, trying everything; food, drink, litter tray cleaning, cuddles, et al, I found a short outing into the fresh air was sufficient to placate him and, ever since he's been insisting on it daily.

Morning routine has now been set by his Royal Fluffiness; ablutions, breakfast (his: mine comes later), walk in garden, coffee. In that order. By command.

Yes, the coffee is for me and I'd LIKE to have it first, before going out, but the whining kinda takes the edge off enjoying it. Balu is such a beautiful cat, until he opens his big fat gob. He has the most grating, screeching, whining and annoying meow I ever heard, which tends to encourage me to do something (anything) to shut him up, in the shortest time possible.

So, we've been going out promptly each morning and, you know how quickly they become creatures of habit. Yesterday, as soon as he'd eaten, he began moaning, came to where the lead is kept, stood there while I put his harness on, then led me to the back door. This morning, he "cut out the middle man" and just waited by the back door, letting me bring the harness to him.

He's not bloody stupid, is he? :)

Today finally, he walked, leading me, right round the perimeter of the garden. He didn't flinch at the noises going on in the pigeon shed next door (it sounded to me like they were shagging), nor was he purrturbed (sic) by the robin sitting on an archway, shouting and swearing (s/he has babies in the holly bank.)

Next week, watch us stroll down the local main street (not!)

Friday, 20 June 2008

Busman's Holiday ...

The now defunct 121 route, replaced by the X12 Prices of bus fares in this country have left me gasping for breath. Actually, I don't suppose the Wilts & Dorset Bus Company are any better or worse than any other, but there are local rumblings that fares are set especially high (it's argued that they think that folk who can afford to live here, can afford the high fares, although that is not always true) and, that those who decide what to charge, where the routes go, etc., probably go to work (or the town hall) in their Rolls Royces and, hence, have probably never caught a bus in their lives.

They should be forced to do so.

They too would be shocked by having to pay £1.70, single, just for the 1.1 mile journey into the town center, £2.70 return to the local Tesco and back (1.4 mi) and a massive £5.40 return to the nearby town of Lymington (about 6 miles).

(And, of course those prices have risen again since.)

The first of those, I could walk, weather permitting. Yeah, like how often is that? But I don't even want to know how much it costs to get to Bournemouth, or further afield, because I simply have no money for any of these fares.

What should be an incredibly simple trip to Tesco is stupidly impractical, because, on top of the cost, there's the need to hit the ground running and tear through the store at 90 mph, in order to get done in time to catch the ONLY return bus, less than an hour later. This encourages people to just grab and buy any old packet crap. Such a restriction is not practical for someone who hasn't seen the inside of a British supermarket for 16 years and doesn't know what they sell, let alone where it is. It's too far to walk back carrying any shopping. One could get a taxi, of course, but for the amount one could carry still doing that, it makes far more economic sense to bulk buy once a month and have it delivered.

Except that's a totally alien concept to some old biddies, who think the devil is lurking on the internet (where the order would, necessarily, have to be placed) and, who have empty rooms and cupboards, store other people's stuff, but suddenly claim to have no space for a month's worth of toilet rolls.

They also claim to have no money to pay for deliveries or taxis, baulk at the price of healthy foods, such as dried fruit and nuts, but I notice they seem to have plenty of money for packets of cakes, biscuits and sweets.

Her answer: she will shop, daily if necessary, using her free bus pass, while I remain imprisoned in Camp Conservative 24/7/365, with no means of escape.

I'd hoped and intended to get out and be a tourist in this strange place, but at these prices, it simply isn't going to be possible very often and, being stuck up the end of a cul-de-sac, where ALL (yes, every single one) of the residents are of the silver haired variety - bar the bloke next door, who sports the Kojak look (and don't tell me that's a dated cultural reference, because, for here, it might actually be a bit too modern), I'm getting decidedly stir-crazy already.

The rest all have cars or have free OAP bus passes, of course.

What happened to all the friends and car driving helpers who covered shopping trips, etc: the very reason given for clinging onto this familiar, but outdated lifestyle in this ripoff country? This is what I would like to know, because unless they're invisible, I reckon they must be the figment of someone's imagination.

Cycling, or walking outside the town, just isn't possible either, because of roads with no pavements and the weight and speed of traffic. I've already watched as one cyclist had to jump off his bike, grab it and dive into the roadside to avoid death as the bus I was on made no allowance for him.

Yesterday, one of the neighbours joked that I only had 10 years to wait for my bus pass. Actually, it's only 9, but this is still incredibly small comfort: being stuck here for 9 (or so) days, let alone 9 years, has seemed far too long.

Back on the buses: The route to Lymington, so I'm told, was changed recently and the bus we caught went along a country route, which (illogically) has fewer stops, urban areas or opportunities to pick up paying customers than on other local roads. You know, it strikes me that if they went along a route where there actually were customers for it, they might be able to create enough demand to reduce prices, but who the hell am I to suggest logic as an option? :)

And people in Tenerife complain about the buses. They have no right to do so.

OK, I will concede that there probably aren't enough buses if you're in a hurry (I don't think anyone in Tenerife ever is), have appointments (not that anyone there is ever on time for them), or need to get to work, but a dozen buses a day passing through one of the island's most remote villages, sure beats the one or two only that come to this part of this over 20,000 inhabitant town.

In Tenerife, with a BONO ticket giving a 40% discount, the 3 km trip to the local town cost just 85 cents (around 65p with the now crap exchange rate) and 50 miles, right across the north of the island, cost only a couple of quid.

(If you ever go to Tenerife on holiday, you really should try their buses.)

The most striking difference in the "service" (not the most apt word) here, apart from the exorbitant, ripoff fares, is the lack of thought and organization.

In Tenerife, every conceivable change in buses (well, most anyway) has been synchronized so that passengers can change and carry on their journeys with the minimum of discomfort and waiting. The buses wait for each other to make it possible and, if there's a better way to do something (like catching a direct bus), the friendly staff will point this out to you (you don't even need to ask.)

Here, by complete contrast, you have no such considerations and inconvenient waits exist between one bus and the next. Even worse, particularly in an area full of wrinklies, in a country where the weather is consistently crap, is that shelters, or even seats at bus stops are conspicuous by their total absence.

Adding serious insult to age and infirmity, locals tell me that the bus company have also just changed the route the bus takes to Bournemouth hospital: a monotonously regular port of call for folk around here. Previously, the bus pulled in to the hospital grounds. Now, apparently, it stops some distance away and leaves people (imagine the over 80's with hip replacements and a multitude of other reasons why they can't move too well) to cross a 5 lane highway!

Obviously, for most, this now precludes the use of the bus for hospital trips.

These things are sinful and inhumane, especially considering the demographics of the local clientele (I will concede them one point for having buses with low footplates to provide easy access), but the fact that taxis are not much more expensive than bus fares and that the inconveniences are forcing people to use cars or get lifts, also makes this a serious crime against the environment.

If Britain wants to meet climate targets, here's an area that really needs looking at and is ripe for improvement, which would be to everyone's benefit.

The other thing, which as an expat, I knew and half explains the massive exodus (but you can't get through to the most resistant & hard headed), is that one is undoubtedly better off abroad, even in the "third world", because, even if services are almost nonexistent, they can't be much less frequent and, at least you aren't expected to pay a bloody fortune for so little value.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Fatty Fortress Britain ...

Gatwick_Airport_North_Terminal_bridge Gatwick airport may have just celebrated it's 50th Birthday, but the airports authority should spend the next 50 years getting the place consolidated: it's now so sprawling and disjointed, I felt like I'd walked to the UK from Tenerife. Then there was the interminable wait to be sneered at by the grumpy staff in passport control. We were, for all intents and purposes, a bog standard tourist flight full of (previously) happy holidaymakers; I was apparently returning to my own country even ... And yet we were lined up, told where to stand, eyed suspiciously and checked out like a bunch of criminals or illegal aliens. Welcome to Fucking Fortress Britain, I thought.

Gatwicksouthterminal Mrs Crumpton displayed impeccable timing however. She rang to say that she was waiting at that very barrier at the exact moment I'd reached out to grab my (relatively slim) suitcase off the carousel.

A coffee break ensued and I realized then immediately why the rate of obesity has quadrupled in the UK during the last 25 years. Just take the size of the coffee portions these days. What used to be served in cups, or even mugs (and those were probably overlarge), is now served in sodding great buckets.

It narks me, because there's no earthly way anyone needs coffee (or portions of anything) that size and, with millions starving, rising food prices, global food shortages, etc., it strikes me as criminally wasteful and gluttonous.

Please understand that I'm not dissing the coffee. Britain has, at least, learned to serve something half reasonable since I was last here, but the caffeine overload is a very worrying and they know how to charge for it too. We certainly weren't surprised about the latter point, mind you. Subsequent observations of the Americanized "bottomless" this and "neverending" that everywhere and it's no wonder that around one in four men and one in three women in the UK are overweight, according to government statistics.

Well, hell, you don't need government statistics, you just need to look around. Perhaps you hardly notice things - like kids growing, etc. - when it's happening around you on an everyday basis, so maybe, if you've been living in the UK during the last decade and a half, you won't have noticed how people have expanded, but after such a long absence, to me, it was shockingly obvious.

People are noticeably larger in the UK now and noticing people that large was something I'd not done since Disney World in Florida, back in 1980. And it was at Cypress Gardens in Florida that I'd first seen bucket sized soft drink servings.

There has to be a connection between these things, you know.

Forget grumpy passport control. Just put the cafes before the entry point and make the doorways narrower. That should keep a lot of people out. :)

Actually, it's a wonder the obese don't die of heart attacks on the walkways!

On the other hand, remember the immense amount of paperwork I had to generate (with apologies to the entire forest of trees); another example of a "queue-creating, time-wasting, job-justifying madness" - this time on the part of the British - just to import two (quite portly) tabbies into the country ...

Well, we got lost, in the dark, trying to find Animal Aircare (somewhere in the arse end of the cargo sheds.) It's been moved to a new location. We asked and were told that, it's 30 yards this way, then someone else told us it's 50 yards that way and, finally after walking back and forth among and along the cargo bays, balancing on ledges, a nice man took us to the right place. Well, I was still looking for the paperwork (release note), but we were taken straight to where the cats were and, were promptly handed them.

After all the performance and red tape, the animal control bloke said that he hadn't even taken the cats out of the box, but that they "look alright". Indeed.

Because, he said, "The little one's hissing at me." Is it any wonder?

Dunno about Kitty, but I felt like hissing at this point! :)

And then he gave me a "delivery note" for "TWO LIVE CATS".

(Actually, I had specified tabbies and he said that was what I was going to get, 'coz that's all he had. Good to see that humour hasn't changed here!)

Personally, I still reckon I should sue 'em under the Trade Descriptions Act. Since it's so bloody cold in this country, all the cats have done since they arrived is hide and curl up tightly under the bed covers. Were it not for the occasional snoring sound emanating from the corpulent one (that would be Balu), I'd say that LIVE was a most inappropriate term and a bit of a gross exaggeration!

Garfield (famously fat and lazy and whose 30th birthday is tomorrow) is more active than this pair have been in the last few days. Garfield is still fatter than Balu at the moment, but at this rate, for how much longer, I wonder?

At least cat food cans here are still the same and not supersize!

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Caturday technician ...

cat Can't get the staff at weekends, you know! Moar cat pictures.

Looks to me like the technician is trying to work out where the gremlin is who makes the paper jams. Or maybe this is the gremlin who makes paper jams? It made me laugh, because our printer has mainly served as a cat bed. Despite appearing useful, really, the strong point and best feature of that all-purpose HP scanner, copier, printer and cat bed, was indeed teh latter function.

Recently tho, I've had to scan, copy and above all print an absolute heap of documents (mostly to do with transporting moggies to Britain, I would add.) Our printer seems to have two settings (what Ben Elton would have described as having been designed on an Arts' Council grant.) The first is "The printer is out of paper" - it isn't, it's just that the stupid thing fails to sense its presence, unless you put a bit of pressure behind the paper stack. The other setting, if you apply just a mere kilojoule too much of energy for that is, "Paper Jam".

Silly me, I should have sent the cat in after the gremlin, shouldn't I? By the way, how does "Two Fat Tabbies go to Blighty" sound for a book title? Given a kinda updated, irreverent, Enid Blyton type adventure, with fur on! That is, they hopefully go to Blighty: at time of writing we haven't done it yet (we will have  once you're reading this) and I can still only hope that the 3 million pedantic checks / injections / tests / and stupid pieces of paper will be enough to persuade the authorities that they're not two rabid tigers in disguise.

Friday, 6 June 2008

The Longest Day ...

image Well, damn, I knew there was something significant about today's date and was thinking, thank goodness we didn't do this a couple of years ago (on 6/6/6), 'coz that really would have been a beastly, devil of a day.

Finally, the penny dropped when Rockin’ Canarias blog reminded me that, it was on the 6th June 1944 that the allied troops had disembarked in Normandy. Duh!

So, what will I be doing 64 years later on 6th June 2008?

(* I was not alive 64 years earlier, I would underline)

As you read this, I'll be "storming" Britain!

... along with two fat tabbies, who have to be checked in at 12:20 mid-day and, who will not clear the other end until 2 hours after our ETA of 19:45 hours. Add a couple of hours travel to and from the airports at both ends and you just could not find anything more apt than the description of The Longest Day ...

And, Britain has no idea what's about to hit it, does it? :-)

The Longest Day, Normandy Landings, Invasion of Normandy, D-Day

Monday, 2 June 2008

How landlords treat tenants in Tenerife ...

This problem is about to get sorted, but, since I received an unpleasant, menacing phone call this morning, this is here "just for the record." Recent problems I've had to deal with; floods, every part of the plumbing breaking and the fact that I had to effect all the repairs (mostly through my insurance) and pay for them, is well documented already on this blog.

Terminal Damp 

This is in the bedroom, behind the bed where I sleep. Could it be Stachybotrys chartarum a.k.a. Black Mold?

It was one of many places in the house with similar damage and, even though pointed out, was never tackled.

Tenants have to inform landlords when there is something to repair, which I always have, yet sometimes, I've had to plead for 4 years to get action.

Landlords have a responsibility to maintain and provide basic minimum services, so my legal advisors tell me. It's what tenants pay rent for, apparently! And there was me thinking it's just for the sheer fun of it!

The water people, you may recall, told me that the recent problems are not theirs (naturally) and that it's because the landlords should maintain things (which they should). The fact that I just had to have the new regulator fitted, that was the landlords' responsibility, proves they're failing in this duty.

The two-faced water people (we are not surprised) are apparently telling the landlady that the problem is not theirs (naturally) and that it's my fault, because - she claims - I hadn't told her that the toilet needed fixing.

In fact I had told her that the toilet cistern was faulty and needed fixing, around 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years ago, which earlier she had agreed with and, that I remember clearly, because it was while my mother was here for Christmas and I was concerned that it would cause additional inconvenience (pun intended) if there were two of us caught short without a working loo, during a holiday period. What got done about it? Absolutely sod all, of course.

Now, the landlady is selectively forgetting and trying to twist the blame round to me.

Apart from the recent problems, which had me mopping and waiting around for repair men for almost all of the month of April (and, I'll just mention that the plumber, eventually sent by the landlady, who is meant to be fixing the water heater, still hasn't come back and we are now in June), I've had a list floods, roofs leaking and things that didn't work during the 9 years I've lived here.

Just as an example, when the roof in the hallway began leaking (at the beginning it was just a drip: eventually, I needed to keep three bowls under various places whenever it rained), every month, I advised the landlords that it needed to be fixed. I did this for 18 months until ... it caved in.

Guess what? We had a storm, unbelievably heavy rain, the false ceiling filled with about a ton of water, bowed down like a giant saggy hammock, finally gave in and broke all over the floor, flooding the house, ruining another load of my possessions. The repairs took 11 months to complete and, during that time, someone would turn up whenever they felt like it and do a bit more, which meant I was often disturbed, which hindered any attempts I made at getting back on track. The law is quite clear that where repairs take over 21 days, the tenant is allowed to deduct a proportion from the rent for the room(s) that are not available for use. I never did deduct anything for this, despite the entitlement. (See 5)

There's also the fact that my original contract had called for me to paint the interior of the house on leaving. Painting after a repair such as this was not my responsibility, but the mean landlady decided to use the interpretation that all "painting" was my province, full stop and, this was left to me. Well, actually, my mother painted it. Gotta wear out the old 'uns first! :)

When you see the extent of the damp here, it becomes obvious that the landlords must have already known about it; that it didn't suddenly become damp overnight and that, pretty obviously, it has been painted over before. They act in total denial whenever I mention damp, however.

To comply with the terms of the previous contract (the later, current, one does not include this requirement for painting), "someone" (clue, not the tenant) would have to prepare the walls for the said painting. At the very least this would require removing a lot of plaster and renewing it. To be honest, the only way you'd completely deal with this damp would be to demolish the house!

By coincidence, on the same day as the storm / flood, my then webhost screwed up with my then main site that had used to earn me around $2,000 a month. What do you do, sit in a puddle, working away at a computer (that's plugged into the electricity) to fix the website, or mop up and deal with the flood? Yes, obviously, in retrospect, I should have chosen the former, but I didn't and I've never been able to get back to that point in terms of traffic, earnings, etc., for a whole list of reasons, but the basic truth is, that if the landlords had fixed that roof when I began telling them, then this probably would not have happened and I probably would not have lost my main source of income overnight.

Let's be generous and say that was 5 years ago (it's more like 7) and that, maybe I'd have maintained half of that income (allowing for economic and other factors: and giving myself no credit for any improvement I might have made.) My calculations make that 5 x 12 x $1,000 = $60,000 (€38,664.) Pretty much the same story can be repeated for this last set of plumbing breakages that could have been prevented by some simple maintenance that they are "legally required", but obviously not morally inclined to carry out.

The only difference this time was that I had very little left to lose!

On top of that, I have a yellowed scrap of paper here (that should tell you how long ago it was done), with calculations I'd made at the time, listing my financial losses and expenses due to floods, humidity, facilities not working, etc. These are, in euros, roughly: 1. Clothing, shoes, furniture, other possessions, paperwork, etc. €6,000 2. Loss of income from outside jobs. €7,500 3. Purchase of a dehumidifier. €450 4. Additional electricity for above. €600 5. Deduction for repairs. €264 Those 5 items come to a total of €14,814.

A more minor case of damp damage can be seen on this cabinet (pictured right), which had belonged to me. This was caused merely through it having been kept in the damp house. You should have smelled it though!

Shoes previously kept in that cabinet turned green and had to be thrown away.

The figures for losses are exceedingly generous in the landlords' favour (undervaluing my costs and losses) and, were based on reasonable numbers (trust me, I'm an accountant) at the time. The clothing, furniture, etc., was based on purchase prices. Back in the day, I used to compere karaoke once a week, but owing to the lack of hot water (I've confirmed with the legal advisor that hot water is a basic requirement that landlords have a duty to provide), meant I could not prepare and present myself adequately to do this job (on stage, in public) and had to turn down bookings, which eventually dried up, because I was not reliably available.

Bang went my second source of income.

Shortly after moving here, I'd lost the main work I used to do for one of the newspapers here.

The cost of the dehumidifier can be demonstrated by the receipt.

The electricity to run the dehumidifier was measured by the difference between the previous and next bill at that time and is a generous estimate, because I have merely multiplied that by the number of months for 5 years (again, it's probably 7) and, have not increased that with rises in electricity prices.

The deduction for repairs (for the fact that rooms were not available to me for 11 months, while the said repairs were carried out) is based on the legally allowed formula. It only counts one room too, while another was also used to store materials for the work and, whatever way you look at it, the figure is pathetically inadequate to compensate for the inconvenience it caused.

It actually took the landlords 4 years to install a water heater that consistently worked here and, then only after a neighbour had told them that the one that was previously installed was of a type that would never work here. Which is what I'd said. They tried to tell me that it worked fine, while they could obviously see and feel a mere trickle of tepid water that any fool would be able to work out was not going to provide a shower. And that was on a good day. On the 364 days that the wind blows here, it wouldn't even light, because it's outside!

Then they also tried to tell me that it's "normal" to hang your clothes outdoors; like everyone does this, on some regular basis or, put the other way round, if you keep clothes in a wardrobe then they always go mouldy. News, isn't it?

They also tried to tell me that I must have bought the stuff with me damp.

Yeah, from the desert south of the island, on a day that was so hot you could hardly bear it ...

You could clearly see the damaged roof above the area where the wardrobe is, in Google Earth. This was since painted in 2003. Only painted. Otherwise, that roof just acts as a sponge.

A damp and damaged corner of the bathroom ceiling, above the toilet.

The roof in the bathroom (right), leaks to provide a free cold shower while using the potty in heavy rain.

The landlady has seen this ceiling on many occasions during the 9 years, but only painted the roof outside. She can't say she hasn't been aware of the problem. I've drawn attention to it, several times and I've stressed that I get wet when I sit on the loo when it rains. Still hasn't been fixed.

While the painters were working on that in November 2003, it rained, which provoked another flood: this time with red roof paint everywhere over a predominantly white / cream tiled bathroom. It looked just like a pig-lizard had turned inside out and exploded. This, naturally, I was left to clean this up.

When it came to paying for the additional repairs that the painters couldn't avoid having to do to attempt to seal the roof to take the paint, the landlords had tried to wriggle out of paying. I know this, because the painter told me. He also said that they are "muy mala gente" (very nasty people.)

The corrugated roof on the Jerry-built slum of an outhouse at the back of the house, leaked from day one. This was once fixed and a bodge made to fill (with some sort of foam in a can) the leaking gap between the top of the wall and the roof.

That worked for, oh, all of five minutes, relatively. The photo here was taken, ironically, on June 2, 2004. Four years ago today, to the day. The workman is doing some work to the house next door, for them, but, without consultation, is standing on the roof of the outhouse to this house to do so. The weight of the man created a whole load of new leaks, where the roof was damaged or was pulled away from the wall (which took a couple of years of pleading and two more winters constantly mopping up floods to be repaired).

It also had the effect of squashing the foam in a tube stuff, so that the gap opened between the wall and the roof, which has still not been fixed, despite my constant requests and their constant promises that it will be "in summer."

Depending on the wind direction or the strength of the rain, this leaks and forms an indoor lake. There are three steps down from that outhouse into the house proper, so when it floods, I have no option but to stay there mopping to avoid it coming indoors and causing greater damage. I have spent days and nights doing so in really bad weather, when the lake was refilling and I could fill a bucket every 15 minutes.

Nobody came to help, despite the emergency nature.

And we still haven't taken into account the amount I've spent (wisely, I think) on a household insurance policy (circa. €200 p.a.); on other small repairs and parts that I've just got on and dealt with (even if they had been the landlords' job); my time spent dealing with it all and constantly mopping, etc.

In October last year, I had to replace my washing machine (another €389), because it was old, but also because it was finished off by a previous surge in water pressure, that again, could not have happened if the landlords had correctly maintained the regulator. (This is something I could not have informed them about as a regulator does not show signs when it no longer works, is some distance away from and outside the property and, in any case is a responsibility of property owners who have the contract for the water supply.)

Then there's the fact that the rental came with a washing machine provided, listed in the inventory. The landlady took hers away, because I had my own, however, she made no allowance in the rental price for this.

Same deal with the fridge / freezer, which again is mine.

I've also replaced both a double and a single mattress (€450).

Then there's the potentially, mildly venomous damp loving bugs. A previous tenant (happens to be my next door neighbour and the landlady's sister-in-law), tells me that this house has always attracted more of them. Yes, because it's more damp than other places, which again proves it was before my time and suggests something that the landlady could not have been unaware of.

Whilst breakages and misuse would be the tenants problem, wear and tear never is. The problem here is that, for these landlords, wear and tear does not exist. Nothing is ever their responsibility. It's always someone else's. They will even try to foist wear and tear, damp, age, etc., on me, saying I caused it somehow.

What would you dare plug in here with all that damp?

There's also the fact that, the electrical wiring in this house (fitted, I am told by a son who is an electrician), is, at best dangerous.

There are shorts; the power often trips off for no apparent reason; light fittings that have burnt out, blow bulbs on a very regular basis, short when it rains and, to top it all, the contract they signed up for with electricity company, UNELCO, is for the lowest rate they offer. This is for small appliances only and is not rated for a washing machine, so potentially, this is illegal. Apart from the fact that I can only use the washing machine on cold (if I want the electricity to stay on) and, can use only one major appliance at a time.

There's also the fact that there are vines in the backyard, which someone comes to maintain, which interferes with my right to privacy and "quiet enjoyment." Chemicals are used regularly, which mean that I am unable to let my cats out.

The rent here is cheap, but compared to what's being asked for other properties available for rent in this valley, it's the normal rate for a property in good and working order in this area and the price certainly does not allow a discount for "putting up with" something like this. They didn't mention that the vines even existed in advance. Indeed, in the first year or so, they appeared abandoned, but nothing was said, when they began to maintain them.

There's also the fact that there are cables on the kitchen roof that had been ordered to be removed (by the town hall, I'm told) before I had even moved in here (yes, I have my informants too).

A couple of years ago, they changed these from uninsulated cables that carried the electrical supply to the entire valley to insulated cables with just the supply for three houses.

The landlady keeps telling me that those cables are about to be removed.

It keeps not happening, of course.

Meanwhile, I have no idea if now, or particularly before, these cables could have had any effect on my health. Experts can't agree on the effects from exposure to the magnetic fields around electrical cables, I have no idea what voltage they were, but there are those who allege problems, such as "A University of Bristol (U.K.) study involving experiments on 2,000 pylons concluded that electric cables are responsible for tripling the effect of cancer-carrying pollutants in the air. "

My father died of liver cancer, my mother has leukaemia and I've already had microcalcifications found on a mammogram, which were declared to be of concern. Therefore, naturally, this concerns me too.

Severe headaches, nausea, exhaustion and other symptoms that I'd suffered, suddenly and notably became less severe when the cables were changed.

By law, calor gas installations must be checked once every five years. I've been living here for 9 years. There has never been an inspection.

An old friend (since passed on, sadly) told me he had friends who lived in this house previously. He also told me that it was "uninhabitable", officially.

Finally, I have contracts and receipts, but I know that the rental is not registered officially and that no tax is being paid on the income from it.

At this point in time, after you deduct the parts (for which I have receipts) from the water bill that has so far been presented to the landlady (in her name and, for which I actually have no liability), then there is a difference she considers I should pay of around €20. And I owe her €200 in rent. A total of €220. (Not forgetting that she has my deposit to cover that.)

Even discounting most of the above that she would be sure to dispute (for those not keeping score, it came to a laughable grand total of €55,317 (£43,738), still doesn't cover anything - least of all my loss of sanity - and that she wouldn't even be able to cover even if she gave me the property) ...

She damn well knows I've done her far more than €220 worth of "favours" in 9 years. So phoning me this morning, shouting, arguing and demanding money; telling me I can leave, really redefines the meaning of "cutting off your nose to spite your face", doesn't it? Exactly the idiotic reaction I expected, mind you.

She also redefines meanness and taking money on false pretences, if you ask me, but at the end of the day, she should count herself very fortunate indeed that I have paid up and shut up (to keep a heavily leaking roof over my head for 9 years) and not, for example, responded to the electricity people who have queried my usage level and wanted the contract upgraded.

Or pressed the issue with her over the cables on the kitchen roof.

Or organized a gas inspection.

Nor spoken to lawyers, doctors, the housing department or the tax office ...

She needn't worry: everything will be sorted by the end of the week.

In case you didn't spot it in a previous post: these are BEST landlords I've found on this island, by the way. Most treat their fellow Canarians no better, but I do wonder if immigrants and "defenseless" single women get "special treatment". It certainly makes it specially stressful.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Synchronized Sunday ...

At Artsy Catsy they do Synchronized Sunday Sleeping, quite elegantly. What do they do in my house? About 1 1/2 seconds after I'd filled it with clean litter, Fluffy bum, I mean Balu found it necessary to use the feline bathroom facilities, which is one of those fairly common hooded litter trays, with a small opening and with, generally, only room for one adult cat to use it at a time.

Ooops, pardon me, I farted!Long ago, in fact 7 years ago in 2001, when these little munchkins were pittens, I learned that they do pretty much everything together. Sleep, shit, eat, wash, play, sleep ...

Rinse, repeat.

Meal times and ablution rituals were carried out in a manner not unlike working on an assembly line on the factory floor. Squirt milk in one end, hold kitten up for dog to lick clean at the other, next ...

We lost the third one, Khan, in 2006, which just leaves the two fat tabbies, Balu and Kitty (who is jammed in between the two boys in the image above.)

Anyway, so this afternoon, while Balu was in the poop box, Digging for Victory, along comes his sister Kitty, attracted by the sound. Walked straight towards the box and, before I could say, "You're not going to go in there too?", she did. Seven years and they still have to do absolutely everything together.

You could say that we get Synchronized Sunday Shitting!

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