I guess it was all my fault because there was nothing really wrong with our toilet seat. It was just old, and I wanted a new one. Joe agreed. We’d had it for nine years, since we’d first built the bathroom back in 2004 when we moved to Spain.
Next time we went down the mountain, we visited our local Leroy Merlin, one of a huge chain of DIY stores. We headed straight for the bathroom section and gazed with awe at the dazzling display of toilet seats fixed to the wall. Such choice! Transparent ones, coloured ones, ones with seashells, zebra-print ones…even one that glowed in the dark.
“Just a plain one, I think,” I said at last.
Joe agreed, and we picked out a handsome, black, wooden seat and carried it to the checkout. It cost 35 euros, which seemed rather a lot, but it was a good quality seat, heavy and polished.“Are you sure it’ll fit?” I asked Joe.
“Of course it will! Toilet seats have universal fixings. I’ll fit it as soon as we get home.”
True to his word, he removed the old toilet seat and fixed on the new one. He was right, the fixings were correct. At first sight, the seat looked good. It wasn’t exactly the right size, but only an obsessive toilet inspector would have noticed. Joe hurled the old seat, plus the packaging of the new one, into the village dumpster.
It was only after Joe had tested it that we discovered a fault. The seat and lid had the habit of slamming down without warning, especially during mid-flow, which he found most disconcerting. He put up with it for a few days, but after a few near-misses, he decided it had to go. The seat was threatening to inflict permanent anatomical damage.
“I’m going down the mountain to get another one,” he said, “and this time I’m going to get the right shape.”
“Don’t you want to take some measurements?”
“No, I know now that we need a D-shaped one. Don’t worry, I’ll recognise the right thing when I see it.”
He came back with a plain white one, even more expensive than the first. In case we needed to take it back, we unwrapped it carefully, tearing open the plastic wrappings but keeping the box intact. Joe tried it for size. Perfect. He removed the black one, then howled with dismay. The new, white seat was the right size, but the fittings were completely wrong.
Luckily, we’d kept the receipt and the box, so Joe repacked it and went back down the mountain. When he came back, he was empty-handed and shaking his head.
“It all went wrong,” he said. “They wouldn’t give me my money back because it was missing the inside plastic bags. I just left it there, it’s no good to us. And they didn’t have any others that would fit our toilet, so we’re stuck with the evil black one.”
All in all, our faulty new toilet seat had cost us nearly 100 euros, if you add the price of petrol and the useless second purchase. Even worse, the seat still has a sadistic streak, viciously snapping shut before Joe has completed his mission.
There are times when I’m very glad I’m female.
This is one of our favourite tapas dishes that goes well with a cold beer, or as a supper snack. It combines some beautiful, authentic Spanish flavours, like prawns from the Mediterranean, Fino sherry from Jerez, and smoked paprika. It’s a combination that can be enjoyed at any time and is particularly delicious eaten outdoors.
1 kg (2.2lbs) prawns
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
Olive oil Black pepper
1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
Splash of Fino sherry
Thoroughly wash the prawns.
Peel, leaving the tails on.
Heat a generous slug of olive oil in a large terracotta cazuela or pan.
Add garlic, paprika and sherry, and fry for 2 minutes to infuse the olive oil.
Add prawns, season with black pepper and fry, turning regularly for 4 minutes, or until cooked through.
Serve on a bed of salad accompanied by fresh, crusty bread.
“a charming and funny expat tale” The Telegraph (UK)
“Weeks later you will be doing the dishes and recall some fleeting scene with chickens or mules or two old fools and laugh out loud all over again.” The Catalunya Chronicle
Read Victoria's other Expat Focus articles here.