It began with a polite knock on the door. Joe answered it and found two smiling men in uniform waiting on the doorstep.
“Good morning,” said the one with the clipboard, “we are sorry for disturbing you, we’ve come to check your gas fittings.”
“Really? I don’t think we’ve ever had them checked before,” said Joe, suspicious.
“It’s just routine. Please check our IDs.”
Joe checked them and took note of their company. Everything seemed in order so he let them in.We only use gas for the hob in the kitchen and the men peered into the cupboard housing the gas bottle.
“Your tube and fittings need replacing,” said one. “It won’t take long.”
They spread out their tools and set to work. The date on our tube was stamped 2009 and they replaced that and the fitting with new ones. Then they tightened the clips attaching the tube to the cooker.
The gas men were a pleasant, friendly pair. One sat on the floor doing the manual stuff, while the other filled in all the relevant forms at our kitchen table. There was a great deal of paperwork. An hour later the job was done.
“Finished,” said the worker. “I’ve checked that it’s all safe. That’ll be good for five years now.”
“If you would sign here, please,” said the other man, “and here, and here.”
“Everything seems to be in triplicate,” said Joe, scribbling his signature over and over again.
“Yes,” agreed the gas man, taking a calculator out of his briefcase and tapping away. “A lot of paperwork. The final bill is…”
Joe and I exchanged glances.
“It comes to 350 euros, ” he said.
Joe and I stared at him.
“What?” said Joe, mouth hanging open.
“We don’t have that sort of money in the house,” I said.
The man looked apologetic. “Don’t worry, we have a card reader with us.” He produced one from his bag.
Reluctantly, we paid, received our receipts plus a cardboard folder of tips about bottled gas maintenance, then saw the men to the door.
“I think we’ve just been mugged,” I said. “I’m going to check all this paperwork on the Internet.
The company turned out to be perfectly legal, as was the service they provided. Apparently, they were just one of a host of companies who will knock on doors to check your gas.
For a price.
Expat forums are full of advice on the subject, warning that these unsolicited companies will charge a fortune and may replace stuff that probably doesn’t need replacing.
Too late. We silly old fools had fallen for it and our bank balance was relieved of 350 euros. Be warned, don’t let it happen to you.
This month’s Spanish recipe
A very satisfying omelette often eaten as a light lunch or supper. However, when served slightly cooled and cut into small pieces it is the perfect spring tapas dish.
You will need:
2 medium potatoes
1 medium onion
A good sized bunch of fresh spinach
4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons water
Salt and pepper
1. Peel the garlic, onion and potatoes and then slice as finely as you can. Wash the spinach under running water to remove loose dirt, and drain.
2. Heat about 300ml of extra virgin olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Then add the onion, potatoes and the garlic. Lower the heat and cook for 20 minutes or so until tender.
3. Meanwhile, cook the spinach in fast boiling water for a few minutes until just wilted, and drain well. Set aside.
4. Beat the eggs together with the water in a large mixing bowl, season and then add the cooked spinach. Mix again.
5. When the potatoes are cooked and soft, carefully drain away the majority of the olive oil, leaving just enough to finish the omelette.
6. Add the egg mixture to the pan, stir once and then leave to cook on a low heat for a further 15 minutes until cooked through – finishing off under the grill if necessary.
7. Remove from the pan and allow to cool slightly, then serve in bite-sized chunks on small pieces of bread and drizzle with olive oil.
by Victoria Twead.
Victoria is a New York Times bestselling author. In 2004 she nagged poor, long-suffering Joe into leaving Britain and relocating to a tiny, remote mountain village in Andalucía, where they became reluctant chicken farmers and owned the most dangerous cockerel in Spain. Village life inspired Victoria’s first book, Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools, and was quickly followed by two more in the Old Fools series, all of which fast became Amazon bestsellers.
Victoria and Joe continue to enjoy life keeping chickens, writing, sampling the local wine and living alongside their colourful neighbours.
Read Victoria's other Expat Focus articles here or click the button below to view her own blog…