The joy of Campo living

We are the proud owners of a house in Spain. I know, it’s tough, but someone has to stand up and say Brexit might be Brexit but some of us still believe in Europe. But this is not meant to be a political post, so no more of that nonsense. Please… no more of that nonsense.

Us with the delightful Laura Hamilton filming for A Place in the Sun

My wife and I appeared on the UK television show A Place in the Sun in February 2017. More about that experience in another post, but it is enough to say we made an offer on the second property we saw. It was accepted, and within three weeks we flew out to take possession. Which is when our education in all things Spain started.

Our house sits on a hillside in a small hamlet that is unknown to Google maps. That should have been a warning, but not one we took any notice of. Not then.

Our house is also classified as “rural”. Which means it’s Campo.

What is Campo?

Look carefully – the little blue dot is our water meter!

Campo is anywhere that is not connected to the grid, likely has no paved road to it, no telephone service, and no postal service. Usually water is supplied from a well or a tank on your roof. It’s more than rural. And often times the house you think you bought is not shown on any official plan.

We were lucky.

When you try to buy anything or get anything delivered you will invariably get asked “Are you Campo? Even something as simple as your post. We take some things for granted in the UK and most of the rest of Europe, like a telephone line, the internet, water, electricity and so on. Except we are lucky. We have both water and electric. But no phone. And we have internet, but again that’s a long story.

Anyway – when we arrived our land was thigh high in weeds so I drove into our closest large town, Velez Malaga, to buy a strimmer. There was a Stihl shop. I had been told Stihl was the best petrol driven strimmer to buy. I’m not stupid. I went into the shop.

First question from the lovely lady behind the counter:

“Are you Campo?” Except it was in Spanish. But I had my phone and I had Google translate.

“Semi-campo,” I said.

She smiled indulgently.

I asked how much the strimmers were.

She extracted a thick catalogue. It contained no prices. But she went through four pages and wrote in the prices for me while I took sharp intakes of breath.

Then she smiled and crossed them all out and wrote their special prices.

Another smile. Another crossing out. By now she had taken 30% off the price if I came in on Tuesday or Thursday. Apparently if you buy equipment on those days, between certain hours, you don’t pay any VAT (IVT in Spanish). I don’t know if this is official government policy or not but it seems to apply to all agricultural and machinery shops we come across.

So, it being a Tuesday, I pointed. I’d like that one, please.

She smiled.

It will have to come from Madrid. Three weeks. Everything has to come from Madrid, and it always takes three weeks. It’s a good first estimate.

No – our weeds are thigh high, I said, I need something today.

Ah. You can have this one. It is a little more, but we have it in stock.

Yes, I said.

She then proceeded to take 20 minutes dismantling the strimmer in the showroom and re-assembling it for me. All the while there was a queue of other customers, but this being Spain they managed to amuse themselves while openly staring at the strange Englishman.

I got my strimmer.

It works very well. It’s a Stihl, see.

And then we went to find furniture in Ikea in Malaga.

We asked for it to be delivered.

Are you Campo?

It was becoming a familiar litany.

Next we went to the local post office to see if we could get our mail.

Are you Campo?

Yes, we are bloody Campo!

We don’t deliver to Campo. You can have a post box, but for that you need form XY-double-de-dub from the Town Hall.

The Town Hall don’t know anything about the form, but they do ask if we are Campo.

There are not many Town Halls with a view like this

We are so Campo that after an hour in the Town Hall offices we discover our house is not actually the house on the town plans, but that’s fine, this is Spain, they will correct that for us right there and then. It often happens, they say, houses are sold and sold again but nobody bothers to tell them about it. We will have to wait several months before it is official. Where should they send the paperwork?

But it all worked out in the end, and then as we were about to leave the very nice lady asked if we wanted to vote in the European elections. We could, because we owned a house in Spain, she said. It might not be the house shown on their plans, but we looked like nice people, so we now have authorised forms allowing us to vote in the next Euro elections.

Coming to Spain from the UK is a strange experience, one you need time to adjust to. In a few weeks I will try to explain the joys of shopping in Spain, and next time I’ll wax lyrical over the history of illegal construction.

And yes, if you’re Campo you need to be careful about that. We, it turned out, were lucky.