Grumblin’ Ole Geezer’s Volcano Lair: Part 7.1 – Introductory Bureaucracy 1

In the beginning of April we flew to Tenerife in order to sign the contract and finalise the transaction. We hoped to get the most urgent things (like electricity, water, and, of course, internet access) taken care of in about three weeks (taking into account the proverbial Canarian warp speed). Of course, that turned out to be rather optimistic and we had to stay for more than a month. I’ll break things down by individual items, as dealing with each and every one of them was abundantly “entertaining”.


The apartment deal was done in just a couple of days, which was a great start. Nocturnal Attorney (see Part 5) had already warned us that the bank would not guarantee that everything was in order with the paperwork for electricity, water, etc. – that we were buying the flat “fully aware of its condition”, even though we had just seen it very briefly and had no detailed knowledge about its past, its present state, or any of the paperwork associated with it, save for the clean cadastral records – so that was a bit of a gamble… But apparently this is the usual routine on the Canaries, especially when you’re buying bank repossessions. It’s just how the banks do it: they strictly adhere to the “take it or leave it” principle. As they have thousands upon thousands of flats to sell all over Spain, they don’t much care about any of them, save for those, perhaps, that they’re able to sell for far more impressive amounts of money than our flat. Of course, our place was nowhere near that “notable” league.

When Nocturnal Attorney told us everything was as sound as it would ever get, Jocular Banker (see Part 5) issued a hefty bank check that also incurred a very annoying 1 % fee. However, instead of charging the fee the bank offered to insure the flat for the next two years, and of course we opted for spending the fee on insurance rather than spending it on nothing whatsoever. We had intended to insure it anyway… And we also had a good laugh when we asked Jocular Banker if insurance also covered any volcano eruptions, and he said something along the lines of: “No, because if Teide erupts, we’re all screwed and none of us will live to give a damn, anyway.

Finally we met with an official at the local notary’s office and wrapped up everything. We also paid a reasonable fee for the agents to take care of the taxes and the rest of the paperwork, as we already had more than enough bureaucracy on our plates. The whole deal didn’t take more than an hour or two, which was a nice surprise. Immediately we were handed the keys to our new flat, a very sexy duplex on the roof of a three-storey building with nine apartments on the outskirts of the city, at a price of less than a third of what such a flat would have cost on the Slovenian coast, for example. With approximately 65 m2 of kitchen/living room, bathroom and bedroom on the bottom floor and a 15-m2 cabinet with two private 20-m2 terraces on the roof, we knew the flat could be turned into a truly great volcano lair with considerable though not excessive DIY home improvement efforts. And the view from one of the terraces, well…


Our first stop after we had received the keys and the contract was the local “Illustrious City Hall” (Ilustre Ayuntamiento), where we had to register as citizens. There we spent two hours conjugating random Spanish verbs (by that time Monika had taken it upon herself to start teaching me Spanish) while we waited for our turn. The registration went smoothly, involved a lot of “my dears” and “my preciouses”, and before long we were in the possession of the most crucial documents that we’d need in order to take care of everything else.


We spent far too much time trying to follow the very vague directions and locate the electricity company, so by the time we actually found the place, it had already closed. As most local shops and offices adhere very strictly to opening times that allow for a generous afternoon nap, you can only achieve so much on any given day. That’s just something you have to get used to on the Canaries: due to everyday siestas it’s not easy to complete more than a few chores at a time that involved any shops or offices. I suppose this prevents everyone from doing anything too quickly and contributes to everyone’s peace and longevity, which sounds as cute as it is annoying when you’re in a hurry. We decided to try again the next day.

A day later we got to the electricity company on time, but unfortunately their computer network was down, so they weren’t able to work. Of course, they were not exactly devastated by the news: they told us “not to worry” and to just drop by later. How much later remained to be seen, as it depended on the whims of who knows what weather phenomena (and their influence on IT guys, I suppose). So we headed for breakfast and coffee and beer and read sci-fi for a bit and chatted and waited in order to see how long we’d have to wait. An unspecified number of hours passed, as did another siesta, before we were able to sign the initial paperwork. We also had to make an appointment a week later – an appointment where we’d finally get to make an appointment with someone who might actually turn on the electricity eventually.

A week later we came back and were told that someone might actually turn on the electricity within five working days. That meant another week, because “within five working days” meant, of course, that an electrician would drop by on the sixth or maybe the eighth day. More than a week later – there was a weekend and some sort of a holiday in between – we received a text message, claiming that the electricity had just been turned on. Overjoyed, we went to check it out only to find out that we had no electricity. After a phone conversation with a relatively disgruntled electrician, who claimed that he had done everything correctly – and yes, we had realised that we’d had to turn on the breakers in the flat, for crying out loud – Monika managed to persuade the guy to come back tomorrow. He actually did, and after he’d checked everything he claimed that everything was good on his end, and that it wasn’t his problem if the flat was still dark. Great. Fortunately one of our friends, otherwise an engineer, was able to figure out that the previous owner of the flat must have switched the wires and started siphoning community electricity after he’d stopped paying his bills and had thus been disconnected. The friend swapped some wires around and – let there be light.


Hmm, now that’s a pretty neat wall of text already. With all the entertainment going on here I suppose I’ll break this “leg of the relocation project” into two parts… Next time: internet access, the car, and the Kafkaesque water problem.

Video by Orazio Ferrari & Giuseppe Guarrera

I’ve recently had the pleasure of doing a field audio recording for the video of Orazio Ferrari (double bass) and Giuseppe Guarrera (piano), performing “Le Cygne” by Camille Saint-Saëns. Even though we kept complications to the minimum (the duet was only recorded with two overhead mics), I’m very happy with the result. The video was directed, shot and edited by Giulio Tarantino.

Grumblin’ Ole Geezer’s Volcano Lair: Part 6 – Winter Hibernation

One of my least favourite things about Berlin is the unavoidable hibernation over the winter. Come springtime, everyone explodes from their lairs, and during the summer you just about manage to fool yourself into thinking that life is not really so miserable: you start hanging out with people, sitting outside, enjoying prolonged barbecue sessions in one of Berlin’s many parks… But then September or October gradually but unavoidably enshroud the city in drizzling darkness and most people seek refuge indoors, where they remain until the end of April or thereabout. So you once again confine yourself to your quarters only to lose contact with everybody and emerge seven months later a cabin-fever-riddled hermit with atrophied muscles, pale, sunken-eyed, vitamin deficient, disillusioned, dazed and confused.

On the other hand I’ve recently come up with a working theory that the seven-month annual hibernation is what keeps this city together and preserves its remarkably easy-going, tolerant attitude: because during the short five months when the general population is actually able to emerge from their holes and people can even spend some free time in physical proximity to each other are not enough for everyone to start getting on each other’s nerves badly enough for armed conflicts to break out. I suspect that, as far as Berlin is concerned, any further climate change may result in riots and bloodshed.

Winter hibernation it was for us, then. After we’d returned to Berlin in the beginning of February, we promptly collected all the paperwork we had to send to Tenerife, got it officially translated into Spanish, proofread, numbered, dated, collated, initialled, stamped, signed, sealed, bound, and dispatched. Then we waited, but the winter of 2017 was one of the dreariest we’d experienced in Berlin. Our attempts at spending the time relatively productively were made extremely hard due to our constant fretting over how everything would, or would not, turn out. Going over all the details of the intricate plan and its various stages repeatedly only made everything worse, as we were unable to do anything at all until the paperwork went through. I had planned to make use of the downtime and finish my next novel and upcoming Cynicism Management album, but soon established that I had zero inspiration and subzero energy for either, so I caved in and simply postponed both of these (suddenly comparatively trivial) endeavours until further notice, rather than keep obsessing over my inability to get my ass in gear. I figured that finishing both the novel and the album by the end of this year would have to be good enough (not that anyone but myself is eagerly waiting for either), but I have yet to see whether I’ll actually manage that.

It took the mail three weeks to get to Tenerife, probably by a combination of horse, carriage, and single-masted sloop. By that time we had got seriously nervous, as the online tracking only registered the mail as “dispatched from Slovenia”, and then nothing at all for several weeks. Finally we received confirmation that the forest-murdering heap of documents reached the real estate agent’s office in Santa Cruz, only to be forwarded to the bank’s real estate department’s head office in Madrid. Back to the horse-drawn mail coach and rowboat it was, then. At this point one may be tempted to ask why we hadn’t sent the paperwork to Madrid in the first place… Well, actually we had proposed this, but had been told that the mail had to go through the Canary Islands office, for whatever arcane reason.

It took another two months or so for Madrid to digest the information. Then they demanded that we sign yet another form, but at this point they reconciled themselves with scanners and PDF files rather than resort to stamped, sealed and bound parchment scrolls, so it only took them about a week to analyse and scrutinise the e-mail.

When everything was confirmed, we were finally able to give the required three-month notice to the owner of our apartment in Berlin and book plane tickets to Tenerife yet again.