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It may only be a piece of paper but it’s necessary, isn’t it? 

A wery look at bureaucracy, both here and in the UK.

At 50 metres long, Olympic size, the municipal pool in Puerto must be one of the best places in town for serious-minded swimmers, those looking to put in at least ten lengths, rather than those just looking for a quick paddle.

The nearby beach often flies the red flag or at best the yellow (safe to swim with caution, even then I suggest only for confident, strong swimmers as the Atlantic tides show no mercy).

The pool then, a safe haven, almost certainly, but is it tourist friendly? I always thought so, it was free to enter when I last wrote about it, but since then that has all changed, and rightly so.

Ok, so now you have to pay, fair enough.What do you do, pay a couple of euros at the gate and then go to enjoy you swim? If only it were that simple, this is Puerto don’t forget.

You have to pay monthly 20 euros in advance and you have to prove you are a resident. Not looking good for the tourist then, only here for a couple of weeks, just wanting to enjoy a swim. Still cheap for residents though and at least they are contributing to its upkeep; there might be water in the other pool yet. Regular swimmers turn up, say on the first of the month, grudgingly hand over their hard-earned 20 euros on entry, are issued with a ticket, which is good for a month. If only.

No, to get your ticket, a ‘piece of paper’ to be more exact, you have first to visit the swimming pool office, which, I am sure those following my train of thought will already have gathered, is not actually at the pool, it is 500 metres up the road at the pavilion, home of basketball in the town.

So go to the office grasping your Certificado de Empadronamiento, I would go in the morning, just to be on the safe side, nothing much works here in the afternoon. Now you have your ‘piece of paper’ it is straight back to the pool to swim. Hang on a mo, you may have your ‘piece of paper’, but you obviously haven’t realised you didn’t hand over any cash. Of course, the office isn’t trusted to collect money on behalf of the Ayuntamiento.

You have to go to the bank, pay over your 20 euros and get your ‘piece of paper’ validated, in other words, get it rubberstamped. By now you are probably thinking, did I really want to swim, but then you think, there is a bank quite close to the pool, it surely won’t take long. Who said you could use any bank! Oh no, you need to go to Banco la Caixa. It is the one near the fishing harbour, you must know it, the one, which only ever seems to have one cashier on duty and always has queues stretching out of the door.

You return to the pool, the proud owner of a permit to swim, keenly waving your ‘bit of paper’ in the air, only to find, no one is in the slightest bit interested, you can enter unchallenged. Now fast forward, you have swum for a month and still no one has asked to see your permit, are you going to go through the same procedure again, of course not, I wonder how many do?

So in conclusion, the pool which used to be free, no longer is, officially, but most probably is for the vast majority of its regular users. It is for residents only, so unfortunately not tourist friendly, unless you are confident enough to just walk in looking as if you belong.

As far as paperwork issues go, this must surely be a worst case scenario, at least one would hope so, but I have learnt to expect the worst that way you are never disappointed. However, credit when credit is due, I recently needed to visit the town hall, always a sobering thought, this time due to a change of address, so a new Empadronamiento was necessary.

With memories of having to wait ten working days, for the forms to be processed last time, I was prepared for the long haul. I had collected the necessary form previously, and when I say form I mean a photocopy of a photocopy, for which, I am sure there must have originally been an original. No interactive website with online downloads here, what do you expect. I presented said form, duly completed and tentatively enquired as to how long it would take to process. I’ll do it now, came back the reply and true to her word in the time it took me to pick myself back up from the floor, the amendments had been completed. Whilst still reeling from the shock, I thought what the heck; I’ll push my luck, so asked when I would be able to get a printed copy from the office downstairs.

Mindful that her computer would need to talk to the one downstairs, which in itself might require an end of day, or end of week even, depending on whatever antiquated system they are using. I quite expected her to say a week, would have been over the moon had she said a couple of days, however, what I was not prepared for was her reply. ‘You can get one now. Just tell them I have updated the file, as it might take them a while to find it’.

I held very tightly to the handrail as I descended the stairs, to find there wasn’t even a queue, can it get any better. Five minutes later I was back out in the sunshine with my new Empadronamiento in hand .Don’t you think it is such a ridiculous word, I do, which is why I put it in italics. What is the UK equivalent? Being on the Electoral Roll, I suppose, which is really not much better. Anyway I was impressed by the level of service I had received , if not by the document itself, a somewhat scruffy piece of A4 with far too faint printing on it, the printer obviously in need of a new cartridge, about a week ago. No wonder forgeries keep cropping up, some tippex and a colour photocopier and you could live almost anywhere.

Buoyed on by this success, there was one more challenge, perhaps the ultimate, Trafico in Santa Cruz. I am a veteran of the place, this will be my fourth visit, everything will be fine as long as I take plenty of food and water and a good book to pass the time, something like War and Peace.

Yes, sometimes you have to wait a while, or at least you always did, but not anymore, now you have to make an appointment online, can chose your own time right down to a ten minute slot. Just present yourself at the reception beforehand where you are given the necessary forms to fill out, or should that be fill in, I never know?

I was called to a counter almost immediately, and out the door, job done, just a couple of minutes later. My only criticism and now I am being petty, is that I was asked to fill out exactly the same form twice, full name, D.O.B, N.I.E, address, on both. The only difference being, on one I ticked the box for change of driving licence details, while on the other I ticked the change of details for vehicle and added my registration number. Still they do like to have something to file away.

You will probably have gathered I quite enjoy taking the rise (I’ll keep it clean) out of local bureaucracy, but are things any different in the UK.Well, I used to think so, that was before my bank in the UK refused to change the address on my account, simply because my signature doesn’t match, however, they were more than happy to write to my new address to tell me so.

There is some irony in there somewhere. This is not new to me, it has happened before, the last time was a long drawn out affair, which only resolved itself when I presented myself in person at my branch, during an annual visit to my family. The highlight, for me, of that particular exchange was being told by someone in customer services that I didn’t need to visit my branch, any branch would do if another was more convenient. Of course I thanked her most profusely , but suggested that the branch nearest to Gatwick airport was not really any more convenient than my own a hundred miles further on when first you have to fly from Tenerife to get there . She still didn’t really understand, bless her.