Hedging Our Bets

To all the Pilgrims walking by our gate early this morning who had to witness me in my pajamas, robe and slippers, all while desperately trying to communicate with the guy in charge of road assessments from the government of Lugo, you are welcome. It was a sight to behold. And not just because I am sick, coughing and sniffling. But because the lovely man kept wanting to converse with me in Gallego. I hang on to my Spanish by a thin thread. Gallego? Forget about it. But, let me backup a bit.

We have been waiting for business permission from the plethora of governmental agencies, and the like, so that we can open this year. Nevermind building anything above ground. This journey has been fraught with so many twists and turns you might be forgiven for thinking we were caught in the children’s board game Candyland, or Shoots and Ladders that we used to play as kids. There have been times I have felt stuck in the Candy Cane Forest. Or that my game piece has landed on the slide and I’m catapulted back down to where I began. Not even understanding how I got there.

Our contractor has been great. If sometimes frustratingly slow. But I know he’s trying to save us money and will slow things down so that they don’t have to do the work twice. Our water treatment plant was just such a thing. He didn’t want to install it in our old shed, knowing we are tearing it down to put up another building to house all the electrical, water treatment, laundry room, freezers, etc. But, with the solar panels going in they had to do the work. So they installed the water treatment on Friday. At last.

There are other things that have popped up. Ridiculous things. But our contractor is trying to dot his i’s and cross his t’s so that when we get the go ahead from the Patrimonio that protects the Camino we can move forward. And in doing this he learned we need a forestry study, and a road study. Seriously. The forestry study will determine whether our project will be planting trees near to another property, or near a road – within 40 metres. We are doing none of those things because we are not a tree plantation. If anything, we are taking some out. For the solar panels and some cabins. They are out there right now pulling them out of the ground. And chainsawing some others so they will not interfere with the electrical lines. But bureaucracy is a voracious beast in Spain. It must be fed it’s pound of flesh or nothing, and I mean NOTHING will get done.

So, early this morning there was a knock at the door. I would be answering it because Jeff is afraid to be confronted by a blizzard of Spanish. His sizable brain shuts down, and the only word he can utter at the top of his lungs is ‘KEELLLII!’ At which point I come running from wherever I am, offer up a hearty Buenos dias, then try to reach the button on the top shelf of my brain to shift over to español. It always takes a couple of moments, some frustrated repeating by whomever is standing at the door, and repeating, again, it in my head before I get up to the 100kph that is required to participate in a conversation. I always get there. But, Jeff likes to cut out the middleman. ‘Someone is at the door for you.’ I wondered if it was the cold meds this morning but I understood nothing of what this man was saying. I thought he was asking me if I wanted to get an estimate for a gate and a fence. We already have wildly varying estimates, none of which do me any good without the permisso of the Concello, which I can’t get until the Patrimonio approves it. (I’m rolling my eyes and shaking my head as we speak) But this guy wasn’t here for that.

He walked me out to the gate and started walking around and taking photos. The first indication that he wasn’t trying to sell me something was his car parked outside the gate. On the door was affixed the coat of arms of the city of Lugo. This was an official car. But what could he want? We went back and forth. I walked him around. He talked, I pointed. We muddled through it. By this time, Curious Jeff decided to join us, somehow trying to communicate with this man through me. ME – who speaks no Gallego. For once I was the one shushing him.

The man was there for the road study. Yes, you read that correctly. He’s studying the road outside our gate to make sure it’s safe to use now that we are a business. As if it had never existed before the moment our business license was issued in Santiago. Nevermind this gate and this road pre-date our arrival by many, many decades. We installed neither of them, and control the actual road, not at all. And I know this because if I controlled the road it would be two metres widers, have a safe trail for Pilgrims to walk upon, and wouldn’t be filled with giant potholes from the cement trucks and cranes building the new AutoVia. But none of this mattered to this man. He told me he thought we should remove our hedge.

‘I do not like this hedge. It’s restricts visibility.’

For the record – it does not and I know this because I drive through it daily. I told him I love my hedge and it’s going nowhere. My hedge is grandfathered in. I have read the law. He said he thought it wasn’t four metres from the road way. I told him to measure it. It was four metres away. Exactly. Then he said our gate was not four meters and is encroaching into the road. I, again, invited him to pull out his measuring tape and measure. Unless his eyeballs are digital lasers, it feels like something invented by the Egyptians could be repurposed in 2023 to give us accurate information, rather than some dude holding up his thumb and squinting. He reluctantly complied. It’s four metres. And I already knew this because I had measured it myself when reading the regulations. But, as all bureaucrats in Spain are seemingly taught in their Masters in The Olympics of Bureaucracy course, they gotta find something.

The Easter Bunny of Finding Fault

Whenever we sold a house in the US, Jeff would leave the inspector easy Easter eggs. Relatively inexpensive stuff to repair, but obvious. Things that required almost no effort to find because people are lazy, but that the inspector could add to the buyer report to look like they had done their job and justify their fee. These things would be given to the buyer and they would come back and ask for money off the price, or for us to repair them before closing. That’s how it works in the US. Not in Spain, or they would never sell a house here. Nothing is up to US building codes. I challenge anyone here to find a wall with a real right angle. A window that is plum. Here, everything is a one-off. Today, was like that. Except ridiculous.

The guy did a lot of hand waving and talking. I didn’t get large swaths of it. But what I did get is that we must have a second gate as required by the Concello. But that this guy says we can only have one gate because our property is one solid piece of land. But we can’t have the approval of the business without a second gate. What? A double bind. He shrugged as if it was not his doing, except it was. It took a bunch of back and forth before he finally understood that our property is four parcels of land. I can have four gates, if I want them. Just for fun! I’ve read up on it and I interpreted all this for Jeff, who was frustrated with me because I was challenging this guy. I think he thought I was going to blow the whole thing. But right is right. And I am sick, and on my last nerve with this bureaucracy thing. Beaten thus far, the guy played his last card.

<in Gallego> ‘Your gate needs to be moved two metres into your property. For safety on this blind curve. There is limited visibility due to your hedge.’

Blind curve?! There is, at most, an oh so gentle bend. The fucker played the ‘safety’ card. That trumps the regulations. I know this already. It’s the bureaucrats ace in the hole. We are replacing the gate and putting up secure fencing, so I don’t care, but I needed him to think he won so he would go away, write up his report, and well, Fuck Off! I was not feeling well. You can tell I’m still not feeling well. I was tired of being stared at and wished Buen Camino while standing in the road as the hoards passed by me while in my pajamas, slippers and robe. Really, Pilgrims. Read the room! I shook my head.

‘Veridad?’ I asked, incredulous.

The dude just smiled – the man with the mighty power of The Road – ‘Sí’

Whatever. I coughed, almost on him. On cue, he retreated and took his leave in his government car. But I take this as a good sign. Something, no matter how small, is happening. It took three months for this guy to show up. And we are still awaiting the anointing of the Patrimonio. All this as Pilgrims have nowhere to sleep on the Camino. So many people are walking that some are abandoning their Caminos after sleeping rough. I want to put a sign out near the road- This dangerously curved and terrible road is brought to you by the province of Lugo. I’d be open and serving you smoothies and avocado toast with a cafe con leche vegetal, but the road department is making me move my gate back two meters. Here is their number and email address so you can complain. But, I probably won’t. They’d fine me for an illegal sign on a road I am seemingly responsible for but have zero control over. And it’s no surprise. Apparently, I don’t control my own freaking gate, either. All because this guy took an instant dislike to my hedge.

6 thoughts on “Hedging Our Bets

  • I’ve been following you since you lived in Valencia. I was very hopeful about your business in Gallicia, which I visited a couple of times when I lived in Bilbao, but it really sounds like an anti-foreigner bias. I now live in Estonia, or “e-Estonia” as it’s called here, which sucks in outside talent and deploys it quickly. Such obstacles are unthinkable here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know what you mean. It’s unthinkable in the US. If Spain could cut the bureaucracy in half it would catapult the economy. But I don’t think the culture could transform quickly enough. Change here is measured in decades, not months or years. We will get there but it is a deterrent for outside investment- for sure.


  • So frustrating for you. The bureaucracy in Spain is just unbelievable, there are no rules, it just depends on the individual on the day. Fingers crossed for an early resolution.
    Everyone here has a cold too, it’s obviously nationwide. I hope you feel better soon 🥰🥰

    Liked by 1 person

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