The policeman was great – he handled the situation well, saying helpful things like ‘Senor, simpatico’, with his hand on his chest, as if it wasn’t his fault. But the message was loud and clear, albeit in Spanish via a form he filled out.
He gave it to me indicating I would have to take to the Town Hall. Godzilla went inside, still giving it up to anyone who would listen, but the grandstand melted away and I went back inside to further more serious Spanish Inquisitions inside, English-style.
I tidied up the partially-built patio Bill had started, and we soon returned to the UK after our eventful holiday. I never actually saw Godzilla again, although Manuel, her other half often came for long holidays from Madrid over the next few years.
I tried, with limited success to make friends with him, but Spanglishing about the weather was about as far as we ever got. I did get to spend a lot of time at the Town Hall, where I learnt a lot, and quietly finished the patio eventually when no-one was looking – where it remains to this day.
Back in the UK post-holiday however I soon had some ‘afters’ with that merchant banker of an agent, the tit-head who sold me the house – involving the ‘planning permission’ paperwork he had so generously supplied me with. We had a few blistering phone conversations during which I threatened to sue him – believe me I had every intention of doing so at the time.
He insisted I should have checked it all, it was my fault, not his. When I asked him if he spoke and read Spanish he said ‘No, not really.’ I pointed out that this could be a serious handicap when selling Spanish property – I told him that he was at best incompetent, and at worst a crook.
He then threatened me with defamation of character, and as it began to get nasty. I phoned an English lawyer who specialised in such Spanish matters. He advised me that I would need to sue the useless idiot in a Spanish court – which could be costly – and very time-consuming and hard work. I might even win, he said, but would I get my costs back?
The lawyer gently suggested that up to that point, it had not cost me a lot financially, although emotionally was a different story. It could then cost me a great deal more, including major stress and time as well as money. I took his advice, and put it down to experience – or lack of it…
Some months later I was working ‘oop in Yorkshire. I knew the previous owner’s name and his address was in a small village just outside Leeds. One morning I knocked at his door, and a short, older man came to the door in his vest (and trousers). I introduced myself and asked him his version of what had really happened in Spain. He told me he and his wife, via MASA, bought and loved the house seven years previously: they had improved it greatly and enjoyed several family holidays for the next few years.
They had both retired, and had children and grandchildren who also enjoyed their new house in the Spanish sunshine.
Initially everyone got on famously neighbourly-wise it seemed as England met Spain. Godzilla and Manuel were very human apparently, the families even exchanging gifts. But the entente cordial didn’t last. Eventually the English construction of a new raised patio at the back, which butted onto the original Spanish front one, did not go down well next door.
Mutual noise became an issue from both sides. Rowdy English grandchildren and loud Spanish TV and music did not mix well and tempers began to fray. Walls and gates were climbed over for aggressive arguing – apparently a no-no with people’s property in Spain.
Matters then became so bad that shortly after the English family had gone home after their Spanish holiday, the Yorkshireman received a call from a neighbour in Spain, saying his new patio had been smashed down. He immediately came out to Spain but acrimony rained.
Ultimately Godzilla and Manuel were sued in court, someone testified they saw the ageing Spaniard in action with his sledgehammer – and our Yorkshireman won his case. But later, on appeal, this was reversed in favour of Madrid, so all was lost and any original permission was revoked.
But Mrs Yorkshire, who had initially dearly loved her Spanish casa, was so upset by it all she went into a nursing home to convalesce with her nerves, resolving never again to set foot in Spain. She insisted her husband sell the house, in doing so picking the world’s worst estate agent to sell it for him – cue John… I think I was the first and only buyer to actually see it in over a year.
The rest of the house was brilliant, and I got my little patio eventually. I have had many happy family memories persoally, and financially it has proved the best housing investment of my life. I love it, and I can actually laugh now about the patio incident and the planning permission – or lack of it!
PS: I got divorced several years later and needed legal help to get my ex off the Spanish books for the house. So I contacted the English notary – named Mr Julian – who I had used to buy the casa several years previously.
I phoned him up and asked if he recalled our meeting on Bedford Station and meeting my wife? ’Ah yes, how is the dear lady?’ he asked politely. When I told him I was seeking a divorce he replied ‘Ah, now – there’s a surprise…’ with wonderful understatement. You can’t buy class, can you?