Former Huddersfield gymnast and pub landlord Brian Hayhurst and his wife Elaine are ex-pats who have lived just outside Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol for 20 years. He writes every week for Huddersfield Hub.
Ex-pats face a new pain in Spain as the police here are landing heavily on UK-registered cars.
British owners must now display UK on their car plates and have them converted to Spanish plates within six months of being here.
One man who fell foul of the latest crackdown by Spanish police is Lawrence Whiteley, whose car was seized despite no offence having been committed.
Lawrence and his wife Linda are from Huddersfield and have spent the last 10 years at the same apartment, as non-residents, in the beautiful long-established resort of Miraflores.
The police made a big mistake – but wouldn’t apologise.
On September 29 Lawrence went down to his private parking spot to find his almost new British car missing!
The only evidence that it was officialdom and not theft was the customary yellow triangle stuck on the adjacent pavement bearing a police phone number.
With limited Spanish he was told to go to a local police station to pay the fine and would be informed where is car was impounded.
A most helpful neighbour took Lawrence down, clutching all his documents. It did not start well as Lawrence was told his car wasn’t insured.
That was simply ridiculous as he’d frequently driven across Europe to get here and been driving decades!
Lawrence had to wait over two hours for an officer to come out and explain. The officer said: “There has been a mistake, you can go and collect your car. There will be no fine.”
The officer curtly handed back his documents but there was no apology.
This week Elaine and I met up with Lawrence, a former plumber who lived in Salendine Nook for 65 years. He was with his fellow Huddersfield mate Frank Lane, ex-landlord of The Swan, Kirkburton, a pub he ran with his wife Sylvia. Frank was LVA president for several years.
Lawrence went on to tell us: “When I went to collect my impounded car with the release document I was told I could take the car after paying the €83.49 towing charge (cash only).
“After a lengthy argument I was told to go to the Consumer Office and claim the money back. The response from the stroppy clerk was: ‘No chance, you will have to go to court to get it!’”
The court told Lawrence as there was no offence committed they could not act upon it. After miles of searching for the offices, multiple forms filled and hours of waiting Lawrence has still not got the tow charge money back.
The authorities are, we hope, processing his claim and he may yet be refunded before heading home.
I suppose Lawrence was relatively fortunate. We have often seen families coming off the beach carrying deck chairs etc with mum holding a child as they peer down bewildered at the triangle, wondering what to do next.
Who knows, there could be something vitally important in the missing vehicle such as medication?
In other matters, property is always a talking point here. It is difficult deciding how the property sales figures are performing on the Costa del Sol at the moment.
Some agents are rejoicing with record sales, others paint a dull picture. Without doubt the 90-day max stay in Spain is affecting many.
This is especially the case for pensioners who would normally be here for over six months each winter.
They are reputedly “selling their holiday homes and leaving in droves.” This 90-day restriction must surely be reviewed?
These properties are being snapped up by wealthy Spaniards from cities like Seville and Madrid and the continued influx of thousands of Scandinavian holidaymakers and buyers is most evident, as the coastline continues to blossom.
Let’s face it, the cost of living here is minimal compared to their countries.
As was reported in the British papers, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was on holiday this week at a villa in Marbella.
I didn’t manage to bump into him but I hope he took something back home with him. We have no shortages and plenty of everything here!