Life and Presidencia

Been very very quiet over the past week or two as we prepare a big new project for our Spanish site, Notes in Spanish, and Marina deals with her Presidencia (more on that in a second…) It’s been ages since Marina and I have consistently created new content, and it’s wonderful to be recording new audio again. But with only half a day to work each (we are lucky enough to each spend the other half looking after the baby), everything else – blogging, eating, sleeping – goes out the window.

…Except of course for Marina’s thrilling enjoyment of her new role as Presidenta de la comunidad [Definition: Spanish law dictates that in every block of flats some poor sod has to be nominated to spend a year chairing residents’ meetings, and being on the receiving end of every niggling neighbourly nonsense, battle and complaint.]

At the beginning of the month, November 1st, the communal, central heating got switched on in our building, and Marina, along with the administradora (person who manages the building accounts etc), get to decide how long the heating goes on for each day (with plenty of advice from the Portero, obviously).

And so, as boilers across the city kicked into action, and the air-quality plummeted in direct proportion to the number of coal trucks (still, in 2009!) refilling cellars across the city, the knocks at the door began…..

Here’s a typical exchange from yesterday:

Doorbell rings, just as baby starts siesta, of course, miraculously doesn’t wake him up, but, we open to find a smartly dressed old lady with a stern expression on her face:

Old Lady: Are you the presidenta?

Marina: Yes…


Marina: (Summoning patience of a saint) But you do have heating, it goes on from 10 am now, earlier than ever before in the history of our blessed block of flats.

Old Lady: Well my radiators are tepid to the touch, my house is freezing, and I’m using THREE electric heaters just to keep my Salon warm.

Marina: I’m sorry about that, you see the heating uses a thermostat, and seeing as it’s unseasonably warm outside…

Old Lady: Wa… Wa… WARM?! It’s barely 14º! It’s FREEZING in my flat!

Marina: Well, I think it’s actually bit warmer than that [Note: real temperature actually closer to 18º, not bad for November, no one in the streets wearing a coat!]

Old Lady: It’s COLD! And I’ll be sending YOU my electricity bill for all those heaters…

Etc… Etc…10 minutes later she left with a promise from Marina that she would try getting the temperature increased during the day, and a formal agreement from both Marina and myself that it was indeed pretty cold outside after all, muy sorry for our ignorance.

And so it goes that Marina now ducks into the kitchen whenever the doorbell rings, pleading with me to tell anyone that knocks before 5pm that the most eminent Presidenta de la Comunidad is currently engaged in the pressing matter of her afternoon siesta!

Meanwhile, outside it continues to be most unseasonably FREEZING! pleasant!

Autumn in Madrid's Retiro Park

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11 thoughts on “Life and Presidencia

  1. Chris

    I must say, in my building just the opposite happens — instead of the president hiding from the people who live in the building, it’s the people in the building who are always hiding from the president.

    You see, our “presidente” takes the powers bestowed upon him quite seriously. Of course, this is probably due to the fact that he’s about 70 years old, retired, and generally has nothing better to do with his time. In fact, our building is currently undergoing renovation and he calls “emergency meetings” for all sorts of very “pressing” matters… I think the last one was to discuss the placement of ONE light switch in the lobby (I hear there was much controversy over placing it on the right as opposed to the left hand side of the door). So, when you see him knocking on your door, it’s usually a good idea to “not be home” unless you want to feel obligated to go to a meeting.

    In any event, I guess I can kinda “sympathize” with Marina… it’s bad when you have a bunch of people knocking on your door all day long about things that aren’t exactly the most “pressing” of matters….

  2. Alan Malarkey

    Interesting slice of life guys, probably without parallel in the UK. Maybe we could identify it as part of the new democracy and brand it a centre left policy. Was she elected to this position for her apparent long suffering qualities?

  3. Graham

    I was presi for a year in our townhouse complex. The pool motor decided to flood and break don at least six times. I seriously considered the second option of paying an administrador to do the job for me. The most fun part was chairing the meetings. It was the only time in the ten years we have been here that not everyone talked at the same time because I kept shouting at everyone to shut up “por el amor de dios”. I now avoid residents’ meetings like the plague.

  4. Graham

    Oh and it was 26 degrees here in Valencia today and we had our heating on first thing this morning for the first time after installation on Sunday. I had to open the windows and turn all radiators off at 7.30am!!!

  5. Richardksa

    The surprising thing here is that while outside is pleasently warm, (I have been walking around outside without a jacket,) in my appartment, which only gets the sun for the first couple of hours in the day, it is definitely chilly. The heating doesn’t come on until sometime in the afternoon, usually when I am about to go out, and goes off around eleven pm, which on several evenings a week is before I get back. But then it’s well known I am the strange Guiri who keeps unusual hours, so even if I did complain it would do no good

  6. Mike CJ

    Can’t empathise about heating – we don’t need it here in The Canaries! But I do feel your pain about being a community president. I did it for two years, and hated it! So much so, that I vowed never to live in a community again, and we haven’t!

  7. Londoner_at_heart

    We have our “junta” tomorrow and I’m terrified I’m gonna be the next presidenta… my neighbours are truly scary. I’ll threaten with changing the crappy and very noisy front door we have (I’m the only one living in the ground flat so nobody else cares) if they elect me -hopefully that will make them think twice.

    I was presidenta in another block 6 years ago and it was a horrific experience (88 flats in 2 blocks!). I believe the definition of luxury is not having any neighbours. Lucky you, Mike…

  8. Lee

    I will bet you anything she had the radiators turned off. Next time someone complains, check it out first. (Take it from someone who called the washing machine repairman only to find out that the plug was a millimeter out of the socket and not making contact……)

  9. Gary

    In our house we feel the heat and cold differently. As a young married couple I was invariably warm and Gill was cold. In winter it was expected that I would warm her side of the bed whilst makeup was being removed. Woe betide me if I did that now. Due to a well known effect that occurs to ladies of a certain age Gill is now invariably hot. I, on the other hand, no doubt due to medication for hypertension, am frozen. 40 degrees in Madrid last summer was not uncomfortable, at leas before the humidity kicked in. Last year saw a situation where the outside temp was minus 4, the bedroom window was open. there was no heating on and we had on only a very light summer weight quilt (she says 6tog -more like 2 I reckon). Whilst I was virtually shaking myself to bits shivering and every joint was seizing up, Gil was huffing and puffing and sleeping on top of the covers….. she reckonsshes going to buy me an all in one furry Tigger suit for christmas. 🙂

  10. Stephen

    In Spain if flat-owners don’t pay their share of communal costs does the Presidenta/Presidente de la comunidad have to deal with the extremely awkward business of evicting people?

    Can people lose their property completely? It’s just that here in the UK I knew of someone who was being threatened with the legal process of Forfeiture for not paying communal bills. With Forfeiture the flat becomes the property of the freeholder who is the legal owner of the communal parts of the building.

  11. Victor

    In Spain if a flat-owner doesn’t pay the communal costs the rest of the owners can sue him/her to force the payment and if he/she doesn’t have cash to pay the debts he can have the salary or properties seized. Yes. But usually that’s not necessary. In my block we have decided to sue a neighbour who has been not paying for YEARS!!! We ended up having debts as a result of her own debts with the comunidad and had to pay her water expenses because they were about to cut our water supply!

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