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Fun with Mr Pugh

You're going to have to be old and, probably, British to get that reference. Charlie Drake was an unemployed worker and Henry McGee was the official at the local Labour Exchange who, week after week, tried to find him work.

As I only work part time Maggie thought I should go and register as a jobseeker. It seemed like a sensible move - after all there may be more part time work going locally or there may be a better full time job. Chances are slim but there was nothing to lose.

The conversation in the office was a bit surreal. I started with my pat phrase about having difficulty with the language - the woman screwed her face up in an effort to understand me. This was not a good start. I went on to explain my part time teaching job. Her computer showed me as being out of work from my dole registration in Alicante. Not good. She found a way around that, ably assisted by three colleagues who leaned gently, with their hands supporting their body weight, on the back of her chair. She, then they, explained to me that any qualifications I had were almost certainly useless to register as a teacher as they would not be "co-validated" here. Did I want to register as an Administrador (my job title in Alicante)? I explained, as best I could, that was just a device to find a title to put on my last contract and that I'd be useless in a Spanish speaking office. She knew that from our conversation so far. I asked why I couldn't register as being willing and able to work at anything that I was willing and able to do. Whoaa up there sonny, this is Spain, you can't be this today and that tomorrow. "Can I register as a translator then?" "You can but you won't find any work." Not good.

I registered as a translator anyway - "Do you want to be an interpreter too?" - well why the hell not. It took three of them to tick the appropriate box on the computerised registration about my language skills but still the system wasn't having it. "Do you think it needs you to say that the translation is between English and Spanish?" I asked. Smartypants said the looks that came back.

It took a while but I got registered. They were obviously completely nonplussed by me but they were perfectly pleasant, helpful even. It was a very Spanish experience though, an outdated way of doing things and institutionalised assumptions about the people they would be dealing with. As I walked away I glanced at my registration slip - my name today is Christopher John Tgompson. Maybe they had me down as Icelandic?


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The one time state, now private, telephone company here in Spain is called Telefonica. Its reputation is not good. People complain that the service is expensive and poor.
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