Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Suddenly poor

As far as I can see the only good thing about work is that sometimes you get paid for it. I'm not sure what work is to you, because it can be different things to different people, but for me work is almost everything that I wouldn't choose to do if I had the choice. Some people cook because it's their family role, some because it pays the bills and some for pleasure.

Here in Spain my first job was in a furniture shop. The work had its ups and downs but, in general, as work goes, it wasn't bad. For the past several years I have worked as an English teacher usually in a sort of private language school called an Academy. In fact I've worked in five. Most of the people I have worked for have been very pleasant. Nonetheless, working practices in Spain, in my opinion, leave something to be desired. Pay is low and there are plenty of little dodges that the employers use which are to the employee's disadvantage. Contracts are designed to avoid paying for things like dead time between classes, holidays or extra work. I'm not complaining, well not too much, because that's the way it is and I've got used to it. It's probably the same in the UK now too.

Having said that I don't like work I have to say that teaching English can be perfectly pleasant, good fun even. With children it's nearly always horrible - especially with the ones who bite or who dance on the tables. They don't like me and I don't like them. Teenagers and adults generally behave well though and even if they don't give a jot for learning English but have to get an English language qualification we can, at least, have a reasonably good time along the way.

One aspect of giving English classes in academies is that there are terms, as in time periods, and that it's a seller and buyer thing. For the first term that starts mid September or early October people are keen - the learners stump up their payments relatively happily. After Christmas, for the second term, only the determined keep going though, sometimes, there is an influx of New Year's Resolvers. After Easter only the true enthusiasts or the committed qualification hunters plough on. So the last term, the summer term, can be pretty quiet and employers have been keen to lay me off, at the end of May or at the latest mid June, until they need me again in September or October. This suits me down to the ground. The only problem is that it means I don't get paid for four months.

Now I do have a bit of income from a pension and our lifestyle here is not expensive. Even then, over the summer the money in my bank accounts plummets. I'm glad when October arrives and I finally have some income. I've never earned much but it's usually enough to mean that there's slightly more coming in than going out. Well that's been the pattern for the last few years but this year, for one reason and another, it didn't work out as usual and, when I got to June 2017, I was worse off than I had been at the same time the year before. It seems to have been an expensive summer too. Some costs, like the car repairs, the fifteen fold increase in our "council tax" and the the new electric meter and tariffs are unavoidable. Others, like going on holiday to Eastern Europe are my own daft fault. Nonetheless the result was that I was a lot closer to absolutely skint than usual. Never mind, October was on the way, I'll soon be back to work and things will return to an even keel. Well that was the thought but it has suddenly all fallen apart because October is here and they haven't.

The place I teach in Pinoso offered me some work, more work than last year, up to about ten hours per week, so things started well. A nice spread of classes too. But the bigger job in Cieza hasn't materialised. When the boss finally contacted me, she'd been waiting for information from someone else, the twenty two hours of last year had reduced to just five hours per week and even that hasn't been confirmed.

Last night I stared at my bank balance for quite a while before going to bed. This morning I got up early thinking about bills, income, outgoings, taxes and the like. Like the title says.

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