Friday, April 27, 2012

Adeu, Pep

I’m in the middle of rearranging my life, moving soon into temporary quarters and waiting for the signing of papers at the notary to finalize the sale.  But I can wait to talk about that next week.  This week I have Pep on my mind.

Josep (Pep) Guardiola, the best soccer coach in the world, the coach of Barcelona Futbol Club (BFC) which is the best soccer team in the world, resigned today as of the end of this season.

One of the reasons I like Barça so much is that not only do they play beautifully (the fact is I don’t really appreciate soccer enough to know that – people tell me that).  Sometimes teams don’t play beautifully but they win.  Barça does both and that is to their credit.  And one of the things that is beautiful about the way they play is that they engage in a lot of teamwork, often setting each other up for a good shot, rather than trying to keep the ball for themselves to make the goal.  They also don’t act like vulgar celebrities.  Leo Messi, their most applauded player, is incredibly modest and humble for someone who everyone says is the best player in the world.

I think that Pep has a lot to do with all of that.  Since becoming the coach, Pep hasn’t been interested in using players who, although they may be good, are prima donnas.  He prefers to use and encourages players who are team players.  He has led the team to win tons of titles in the four years he has been coach and has won UEFA’s recognition as best trainer this year, but he remains as modest and humble as Messi.  In the face of allegations and insults (when they come, which is rare), he is always a gentleman.  At the press conference before a match even with one of the weakest teams in the Spanish League, inevitably Pep will give that team credit and say that the upcoming match will be a challenge.  I have never heard the man say a disrespectful word to or about anyone.

Pep, Messi, Xavi, and several of the other players are from Barça.  That is to say, they grew up with the team, being trained at the Masia, the BFC boarding school where youngsters, in addition to regular school work, learn to play good soccer and learn the age-old qualities of sportsmanship.  Pep, Messi and the others learned their lessons well.  It’s easy to be proud of this team.

I cried through the news story of Pep’s resignation this afternoon.  He says he is tired, spent, and needs to rest and recharge.  His second in charge, Tito Vilanova, will become the new coach.  Tito is also a product of Barça’s Masia and is on the same wave length as Pep.  But there is only one Pep: He’s talented, he’s honorable, he’s smart, and he’s cute.  Very cute.  There is already talk that he may be back again as coach, or maybe as President of Barça.  Until then, I know there are many like me who are going to miss him.  Adeu, Pep, fins aviat!

Thanks to Roxanne, Cule Extraordinaire, for providing the photo

Friday, April 20, 2012

Sold! Almost

The villa is just about sold.  I have had an offer, there is a contract with no contingencies, and most important, the buyers have sent their deposit.  The final sale will take place in June when we will all go to the notary, sign the critical papers, and pay (they’ll pay me and I’ll pay my bank).

I lowered the price significantly towards the end of February and since then the villa was shown more than 20 times by numerous agents.  I kept a list so I could follow up with the agents, but in the end there were so many people coming in the same day with offers flying left and right, that I gave up trying to keep track of it all.

I would describe the system here of selling real estate except that I don’t consider it a system.  It is a method of invoking chaos and rattling nerves.

There is no multiple listing service.  If you list with only one agent, only the buying clients of that agent will see your property.  Some agents cooperate with other agents, but it still means that your property will reach a very limited buying public.

If you are a buyer, you are likely to have to work with several agents in order to see a good portion of the local market.  Agents will only tell buyers about properties that they have listed unless they are collaborating with another agency.  This also means that all agents end up representing both the buyer and the seller.

So you list with more than one agency.  You list with two, or three, or four, or more.  I ended up with 14.  Too many, you say?  Oh, I don’t know.  Frankly, there was nothing else I could do to get the house sold but to list with a variety of agents who would have a variety of clients, and to lower the price.  A few agents were local and a few others were from further away.  And in fact, the one who was the furthest away sent three clients, one of whom made a kind-of offer.  A kind-of offer is one that has nothing written and no cash with it.  They made their offer to the agent who told me and I accepted.  Then they disappeared for a couple of days – didn’t answer the agent’s phone calls or her emails.  Today I received a note in my mailbox, dated two days ago (mail is only delivered every few days so I don’t check the box daily) that they didn’t understand my attitude.  I don’t know what they expected.

During the last two weeks there was a lot of talk but few meaningful actions.  How could someone think a seller would block the sale of their property for a verbal offer from a person who disappears?  But this was not the only such person.  One of the others forked over 300 euros before avoiding phone calls and disappearing.  At least I got to keep that money. 

But to tell you the truth, for all the stress of people offering to buy, some offering full price and some offering less, you thinking you’ve got a sale, thinking you can tell the others the house is taken, but you don’t because until money it put down, there is no obligation to buy, the 300 euros wasn’t worth it.

I lost the first offer partly because the people disappeared and I thought they weren’t serious and partly because my main agent (that is, the one who showed the property the most and who did finally sell it) thought she had someone who was a sure bet and they were willing to pay full asking price and sign an offer immediately.  In the end they disappeared too but not before causing me some grief and disappointment.

At this point, I’m just glad it’s all over and really happy that the villa is being sold.  I’ll have to do extra meditations to get my nerves calmed down.  It was something I’ve wanted for a long time and it’s finally happened.  My next step will be to find a new place to live.

Unfortunately what should have been a very happy day for me has been greatly saddened by two friends of mine, wonderful women, who told me they have cancer: Trini, here in the village and Shellie in Pittsburgh, a good friend of mine since the age of 12.  GET WELL!!!!  

Friday, April 13, 2012

Felix the Cat

I adopted Felix at the end of March 2010 after he had been shot and wounded by one of my neighbors.  At the time, he was part of the colony of homeless cats that Johanna, an animal-loving Dutch woman, was feeding and taking care of.  She doesn’t just feed the cats.  When a new cat shows up, Johanna carts it off to Marcel the vet to get it neutered.  She pays for their food and she pays the vet bills, albeit, Marcel gives her a discount.

Felix had been with us (Minnie and me) a few months when late one night I was woken up by something crashing and banging in the house.  I thought someone had broken in and was petrified.  Minnie was with me in the bedroom and she was also petrified.   Once the noise had stopped, I hesitantly made my way downstairs to find Felix lying on his side in a small pool of pee and looking dazed. 

About three or four months later there was the same banging and crashing, but this time I realized immediately that no one was breaking into the house.  By the time I got downstairs, Felix was lying on the floor and there was pee around him.  I looked up seizures in cats and found the description for feline epilepsy.  It seemed to fit.  I took him to the vet who diagnosed epilepsy.  Felix’s seizures continued, but occurred only once every few months and so didn’t warrant medication.

Epilepsy is more common in dogs than in cats, so Felix is one of the chosen few unfortunates.  It can be caused by any number of physical problems.  If the physical cause is remedied, the seizures will stop.  If no cause is found, they just call it epilepsy.  If the seizures are severe enough or if they happen frequently, then medication is called for.  Medication is Phenobarbital.

Felix’s seizures were infrequent enough not to warrant medication.  But since autumn, they increased in frequency to the point where the vet said it was unhealthy for him to suffer them so often as each seizure causes physical damage to the brain. 

We only did two tests: a blood test that would indicate problems with any of the organs (pancreas, liver, etc.), and an x-ray that would show if there was a brain tumor.  These would be the most likely culprits and the least intrusive tests to perform.

Everything showed negative except the very high sugar content of his blood.  Felix is diabetic and this was likely to be the cause of the seizures.  So Felix now eats special vet prescribed food for cats with diabetes.  Since Minnie always prefers to eat whatever is in Felix’s bowl to her own (I’ve always given them the same food), she now eats it too.  The vet says it won’t hurt her and the little butterball may even lose a bit of weight.

But only three weeks on and Felix had another seizure.  I was so disappointed and worried that I might have to put him down.  I believe in giving my cats a good life and helping them to stay as healthy as possible.  But I don’t believe in going too far and making the animal suffer because I want to keep it alive.  Felix is a very joyful cat who loves to run and to play.  I was worried that the Phenobarbital would turn him into a zombie.  Would that be helping him? Or just keeping him alive for my own pleasure?

The vet assured me that Felix wouldn’t necessarily turn into a zombie and that we would begin with the minimum dosage and see how it went.  Felix began taking Phenobarbital less than two weeks ago and perhaps he plays a little less, but overall he seems normal.  The medication has to be administered very regularly at twelve hour intervals.  Changing the schedule or stopping the medicine would be dangerous.  It is likely that I will have to give him these pills for the rest of his life.  Thankfully he is such a sweet and cooperative cat that it isn’t difficult.  When I don’t get the pill in just right, he does his best to swallow it anyway.  Not like Minnie who will always do her best to spit a pill out.  It’s too early to tell if this dosage will control the seizures, but so far, so good.  I’ve got my fingers crossed for the little guy.  

Friday, April 6, 2012

Kvetch, Kvetch, Kvetch

This is holy week but I am not writing about it.  To be honest, I’ve had it to here with holy week -- with drums, with costumes that remind me of the Ku Klux Klan, with processions.  Kvetch, kvetch, kvetch.

Today’s mid-day news told another of those inexplicable stories about thieves in Barcelona.  This was a band of thieves who worked the metro, targeting people as they were getting on and off.  Some of those arrested had been arrested hundreds of times in the past.  And some that had been arrested were let go on their own recognizance.  It wasn’t made clear whether those were the same ones who had been arrested hundreds of times.  Maybe some day I will get used to news stories like these and no longer feel the need to write about them.

Another news story was from earlier in the week.  In the nearby seaside resort town of Salou, several thousand young Brits are here for what private promoters call SalouFest.  This week-long event includes sports during the day and partying at night.  In the past there has been considerable street disturbance during the SalouFest.  The young Brits put all their know-how into getting well soused and go up and down the streets of Salou naked, dancing and shouting, and destroying the street furniture.  When one young thing was interviewed for the news she said “Noise?  But they all knew we were coming, right?” never thinking that perhaps the citizens of Salou were not asked if they wanted to invite her and her friends and if they were, perhaps they thought these people would know how to be civil.  Is this how young Brits behave at home?

Most days I watch reruns of Flog It on the BBC.  It’s not a great program, but not a bad one either and it’s a reasonable way to pass some time late in the boring late afternoon.  On Flog It, people bring in their antiques and collectibles to find out how much they are worth and put them up for auction.  It is several steps down from the Antiques Roadshow, but the auctions are sometimes exciting to watch.  What I’ve noticed is how many people bring in family heirlooms -- toys that were passed down from one or more generation and that they themselves might have played with or admired when they were little.  Now they are selling them because they have children or grandchildren and they have to keep the toys stored away to prevent them from surely being broken.   What happened that children nowadays can’t be trusted with the same toys their parents and grandparents played with?