Friday, 24 April 2009

It's official - I hate technology

I knew my excitement at picking my laptop up from repair this morning would be short-lived. Off I trotted as early as I could, collected it with its new hard drive installed, brought it home and went to reinstall Windows XP. Oh no, not that simple. It followed the same routine it had before I admitted it was dead, gave me the same error message (including the suggestion that I remove any recently installed hard drives - yeah, right, I was going to do that!) and wouldn't play.

So 20 minutes later I was back off to the repair centre, clutching the laptop (having decided throwing it out the window may not be the best thing to do), every bit of paperwork that came with it, and the XP disk. The woman behind the desk looked a bit surprised (and somewhat disappointed) to see me back so soon. One of the technicians came down to play with it and after 10 minutes of changing the settings in the boot menu (let's face it, not something I was likely to have been able to do) pronounced it ready for XP to be reinstalled. Not that I didn't believe him - well, maybe just a little - but I insisted on staying there while it was reinstalled. Fine. All done. So back home with it.

Transferred a few things from my external hard drive over to it, sorted out the appearance settings etc, then decided the time had come to flick the switch and try to get online.

Wireless switch flicked. Nothing. No icon for wireless network or anything even similar. Off to Control Panel with me. Searched for my internal modem which I know is in there! Nope. Machine insists I don't have a modem of any kind, internal, external or anything else. Oh yes, I do, I shouted at it, pointlessly.

None of the paperwork that came from the shop with it is of any use at all. I don't have software for the modem, I don't even know what it is so I can't search for any info on the net using Eve's laptop. And even if I could, it's not like I could download the driver etc for it to my laptop because......I can't get on the net.....because apparently I don't have a modem!

I'm going round in circles. At the rate I'm going, I will have to lug it back to the UK, take it back to where I bought it and get them to sort that out. Meaning until my trip, I'll still have to rely on Eve's laptop for all net stuff.

Also, without the net, I can't download any of the programs I need to actually use the thing for anything useful. I want Picasa, various spyware/anti virus stuff, Live Messenger etc etc. I don't have a WP prog of any kind cos I left the Word disk in the UK but I can't download Open Office as a back-up.

Back to a quill pen and a bottle of ink I reckon!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Officially not unemployed now!

Well, OK, that may not be entirely the case as far as the Social Security and tax people here are concerned but....! I "worked" for the first time since February 4th today. I gave a 1hr 30min English lesson to the lovely Begona (really must find a way to add that twiddly thing that goes over the n). The time absolutely flew past. Mind you, I hope all my future students are like her. She came to the lesson clutching a bundle of papers she needs to understand and pronounce for work. She wanted to read them out, one paragraph at a time and then have me correct the pronunciation. No problem. Then she asked if she could alter the paragraphs and try to write them in simpler English. Also no problem. Then.....she came up with her own homework! More of that, I say! But I really enjoyed it - I hope she did. Good 25 minute walk to her office which is good exercise now, but in the height of summer may not be quite so enjoyable!

2 other students are semi panning out. One has decided to postpone until June for reasons I didn't quite understand, but then she wants an hour every day for the whole of June and July! Or at least I'm hoping Monday to Friday. Intensive, but fine by me. And Jose, who was going to recommend me to people at his office, said it would only work out if I can provide invoices with my NIE. Hah! See previous blog.

On that note, however, I do appear to have at last found out the correct (and current) procedure for sorting that out. Not that that makes it any easier of course. It appears I now have to call for an appointment at an office actually quite near here - the appointments currently being dished out are for ........ AUGUST!!!!! Still, it would appear that once I have an appointment, as long as I bring the right completed form, a receipt for an obligatory payment via a bank, and 23 other things, I should get a "Certificate of Residency as an EU National" which will contain the NIE. I'm not holding my breath!

Good news on the technology front too. My laptop is apparently fixed!!! In as much as they removed my old hard drive, sent it back to Toshiba and replaced it with a new one. I have to pick it up tomorrow, then I'll have to reinstall XP and see how it goes. Got stacks of software to reinstall, most of which is back in the UK so it'll be a while til that's all sorted. But I'll still have my laptop back - YAAAY! Let's hope this hard drive lasts longer than the first one. I fully expect to continue to receive helpful messages along the lines of "Should have got a Mac" from several nameless people! ;-)

"Las obras" (public works) continue to follow me round Madrid. Not content with digging up the roads and pavements near my old place the whole time I was there, I was thrilled to discover that they are now replacing the gas pipes in pretty much every street round my new place too! Stacks of pneumatic drills, diggers and large groups of men in hi-vis vests staring into holes in the ground - some things are clearly the same the world over!

Today was La Diada de Sant Jordi, or El Dia de la Rosa, or even El Dia del Libre (St George's Day, Day of the Rose and Day of the Book respectively). It's not just the UK that claims 23 April as its own - St George is one of the patron saints of Catalunya, Aragon and Valencia. Events take place all over Spain, though mainly in Barcelona and other towns in those three regions. The basic idea is that it's a little like our Valentine's Day, except the guys buy the girls a red rose, and the girls buy the guys a book in return. Apparently it all started in 1923 when a bookseller decided to celebrate the allegedly simultaneous deaths of Cervantes and Shakespeare on April 23, 1616. Despite having read that the Parque del Retiro would join in by having some book stalls on what is now also World Book Day, there was no sign of it this afternoon. Instead, I spent a happy hour lolling on the steps by the lake, watching energetic people row their rented boats around, stopping briefly to drench eachother with oar-loads of refreshing (though slightly scummy) lake water.

I'm enjoying exploring my new local area. It's a proper Spanish residential area, with stacks of proper little local businesses in the surrounding streets - bakers, butchers (no candlestick makers yet!) etc. It's nice to wander around and just see the locals out doing what they do! I can see why some of the people I know want to live right in the centre - damn sight easier for going out socialising for a start - but it's so touristy! If I'm going to live here, I want to LIVE here! Still, that means my Spanish needs to improve a lot! I've been pretty good at doing about an hour's study a day recently, but there's nothing to match actually speaking it. I think some kind of proper language exchange is in my future - there are plenty of ads for Spaniards looking to spend half an hour practicing their English in return for listening to foreigners massacring Spanish!

Actually, doing more study might make me turn the TV off. It's been a bit of a novelty having a TV here, having not had one for a month so I've probably wasted more time than I should in front of it. When the weather was rubbish, it didn't seem so bad but now it's sunny and 26 degrees, I really should be out doing stuff. Mind you, the Monte Carlo and Barcelona tennis tournaments have been keeping me occupied, which I don't mind at all. However, the fact that I'm starting to enjoy The OC and Smallville (in Spanish) is a bit worrying! As the old TV theme went, why don't I just turn off the TV and go and do something more interesting instead?

Sid tracked down a company that do really cheap phone calls abroad so she tested it out on me this evening. Had a good hour's chat with her, catching up on news etc. Was nice to have a proper chat instead of emails and texts though obviously the technological methods are much more practical as it doesn't matter who's home and when.

OK, so my vegetable soup is pretty much boiled to death, my frozen baguette has thawed nicely on the balcony in about half an hour, and there are several San Miguels chilling nicely in the fridge, so adios, buenos noches, hasta luego etc!

Monday, 20 April 2009

I came, I saw, I drooled.

This evening I discovered that my landlady wasn't fibbing about the firemen. After nearly a week here, I finally took a walk to the local park for an evening stroll in the sun. Halfway down the road from the flat, I was met with the sight of about 15 rather sweaty, very fit firemen jogging towards me. At least half of them had decided that clothing on their top half was simply unnecessary. What a shame!

I tried to look cool and unimpressed, I really did. But I'm almost certain I failed!

The park was lovely though - a combination of paths for walking, sports facilities (yes, more young Spanish men running around being athletic), benches, open spaces, shady glades and the obligatory million small dogs.

I'm promising myself an hour's walk every day there. That, combined with the damned stairs in this building, might just help me walk off the vast quantities of beer, bread, cheese and potatoes that seem to make up my staple diet.

I heard from Mirjana this afternoon, having completed her first morning of Vaughan teacher training. She sounded just a little stressed! There are only 3 trainees on this course so I'll be intrigued to see if the normal dropout/kicking-off rate of 50-75% holds true. I certainly wish her all the best with it.

As for me, I received an email from Dade (thank you ;-) ) this morning, with a contact in Madrid who is looking for one-to-one conversation teachers. Sounds ideal. I've emailed the woman in question and am keeping my fingers crossed on a response. I'm hoping Begona decides to go ahead with the classes she asked me about. As Eve said, maybe students will be like buses - I've waited for ages and hopefully now they'll all come at once!

Broccoli and beer are calling (well, OK, one of them is calling louder than the other!) so that'll do for today!

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Pain and paracetamol!

Not expecting any sympathy for my spectacular Sunday hangover - entirely deserved. A quick drink with Hannah at 6 last night ended with me stumbling up the 4 flights to my flat at 3am, desperately trying not to wake Eve. As tends to happen, one beer became 2, then a different bar for 5 Desperados and 2 very large neat Amarettos. With no food. You'd think I'd have learnt by now, but apparently not.

So sunny Sunday has so far consisted of me gingerly crawling out of bed at 12, to an empty flat as the ever-energetic Eve has gone hashing (no, not the illegal kind, the running kind) with a weekly group. Good for her! As for me, I barely made it to the kitchen for hangover-helping bread and tea before I had to sit down again! Pathetic, quite honestly.

As anyone who's on Facebook will have seen, all I've managed since then is hours of FB rubbish, finding my vampire name etc etc. How old am I?!

I'm desperately trying to work out if the Monte Carlo tennis final is on a TV channel I can actually get here. Watching the live scores on the net just isn't the same as watching a sweaty Nadal massacre Djokovic. Match starts in 15 minutes so fingers crossed one of the main channels will have the sense to show it.

There was a very unexpected and unlikely group of British guys in the bar we started in last night. For the life of us, we couldn't work out what they were doing in such an odd part of Madrid. There were 6 or 7 of them, loud, drunk (OK, so I can't really talk!) and generally resembled the worst examples of British football hooligans! I'd spotted them sitting outside a little earlier and could tell they were Brits from about 500 yards away - never a good sign! They wouldn't have warranted a second glance in a bar in the centre of town, but up here in the sticks, they stuck out like the proverbial. They made me feel Spanish!!!

So, it's back to the orange juice, pain killers and hopefully some tennis. I need to recover for later cos I'm meeting up with Mirjana somewhere in town at about 10pm. She arrives this evening and starts the Vaughan teacher training tomorrow! I sincerely hope she takes to it better than I did!