23 October 2013

olive bowls and chicken wire

In our local town of Huércal-Overa, if you need to buy something that is small enough to fit in your house, but not edible, alive or booze related, then you go to “Tapia”. An Almerían institution, “Ferretería Tapia”. No, they don’t sell ferrets, as they’re generally classed as “alive”. Hence, no ferrets, sorry. I suppose we’d call it an “ironmonger’s”, not that I’ve ever said, “Oh, I’m just off to the ironmonger’s, back in a minute”. And in these computer-dominated days, it somehow feels wrong calling it a hardware shop. In any case, “Tapia” in Huércal-Overa has everything you need, everything you didn’t know you needed and more.

I do love to browse in shops, especially foreign shops (Asda and WHSmiths fall neatly in to this category for me nowadays), but browsing in Tapia could literally take up your whole day. From floor to ceiling, from wall to wall, the place is crammed with things. I say things in italics as half of the things for sale, I have no idea what they are, which strangely makes me want to look at them, maybe even buy one. But no, I don’t need a plough head, or its accompanying connector (although I am tempted), as I don’t have a plough. Maybe I should get one.

Tapia is never empty of people either. Normally, there are at least four or so sunburnt expat couples looking confused in its aisles, pondering over a brown ceramic olive bowl or two. They always look quite nervous, avoiding eye contact in case one of the five shop assistants invites them to divulge what they really came in for. And they don’t even know the name of it in English, let alone Spanish. It’s a thing for …. (hand gestures).

It always amazes me why they have five people working the shop floor (and rarely by the till!). Talk about full employment! But then when you consider how disorganised the place is, you realise you probably do need their help. The last time I ventured to Tapia, and I’ve pondered over many an olive bowl in my time, I was first greeted by one of the people working there, in a very friendly, “hi, how are you doing, mate” way, which was very endearing, considering I hadn’t actually been there for about a year. I was then politely asked if I needed help. I thanked the young man and said, “I’m just looking around to start with (mate)”. Up and down each aisle I went. Plough heads next to mouse traps next to olive bowls next to insecticide next to coffee machines next to paella dishes next to screws next to garden spades. You get the idea. I love to browse, but it was getting the better of me. Where are the hoover bags? They must have them. They have everything. I gave in and asked. Off he went, skidding round the corner to the hoover bag selection. Of course, of course, next to the chicken wire. Silly me. I love Tapia. I love its random non-Germanic ordered chaos. Juan knows exactly where everything is. He put it there.

I then thought I’d catch him out. “Great, thanks, and I also need a new wheel for a wheelbarrow”. Two aisles down next to the light bulbs, and in a spin of a wheel we were there. “Aaah, no, not those wheels, I need a hard wheel, not an inflatable one”. Too many spikey things out in the desert. And before you could say, “ferretería”, he said, “ven conmigo” and we were heading right for the curtain material and… hard, non-inflatable wheels for wheelbarrows. I let out a chuckle. I think he understood. “OK, I admit, I do need your help”. Only because you’ve hidden everything like an obsessive-compulsive ironmonger. No idea why they weren’t stored or displayed next to, or dare I say, with the other wheelbarrow wheels. That would be madness and, lets face it, if it were that easy, he might be without a job and we wouldn’t have had that personal customer moment that is slightly more fulfilling than “thank you, have a nice day” at Lidl. I thanked him, paid and left, passing Joan and Fred by the olive bowls. There are so many to choose from, it’s true.

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