Saturday, 22 March 2014


We are back to Wales in a week and sadly I think that will be until October. We have a house to sell in Birmingham which will stop us returning in May, perhaps the best month for Morocco. I am not looking forward to it as although the 30C+ heatwave has ended, it is still high 20s here, but there is snow forecast for the Welsh hills and Pennines. Anyway we are being good citizens and doing our outstanding business. 
Today we managed to pay the rates. This has caused us some trouble this year. No demands are sent, you just have to know you have to pay them and where. They are only payable upon dwellings in the town limits, people in the villages are rate free, but then they don't get their rubbish collected, whereas we have a collection every day except Sunday and Bank Holidays. New houses are exempt from rates for the first five years if the right forms are completed and when we didn't get a demand we didn't worry. It was only this year when we had had the house five years that we made enquiries only to find we should have been paying it all along. The level of payment is dependent on the size of the property and there is a 50% reduction for a second home. Asking other ex-pats we expected to pay about £200pa . Sadly a foreign property only counts as a first home if you are from France, Germany, Italy, Spain or some other country with a reciprocal tax agreement with Morocco, and not the UK, so our rates are more like £400pa. As we had not paid for 5 years there was a 50% penalty for late payment for each year. We had to send to our British bank.
We did not want to pay a penalty for 2014 so we begged to be allowed to pay there and then, to the incredulity of the staff who were unused to people saying "please, please, take our money", but were told we had to pay in April or May. That was problematical as we will not be in the country then. Unlike the Electricity Board they do not seem to do direct debits. Eventually we were told we may be able to pay at the end of March. We went today.
Initially we were told we must pay in April.We explained that we would be in Britain then. We were told we needed a piece of paper. We explained we hadn't got it. All this was in "French", although the person speaking to me was the second person in that office to tell me that they didn't speak English and I must speak french when I was. Cowley Grammar School for Girls obviously didn't do much for my accent. Beloved has an excellent accent (his direct grant school had a language lab),  just little French (although dealings with french bureaucrats is rapidly improving it) so we ended up in a trianglular conversation and at last determined that if we went to a separate building down the road we could obtain the necessary piece of paper. We got the official to write down exactly what we wanted in arabic so there could be no mistake.
We went to the other building. There is no proper queuing system so we just pulled colonialism and approached the first free official with the paper. It worked! He got out the form, carefully filled it in and stamped it carefully with different stamps in two places. We took the form and were about to leave when he said something to us. Seeing we did not understand he summoned a minion and indicated we should follow him. We were taken further down the corridor to another official who applied a further two stamps. The minion then indicated we should go downstairs and give the paper to "la femme". There was no woman downstairs but and empty desk with a screen  such as you may pay money to a cashier. We were quite heartened thinking we would not have to back to the first office to pay but after a while waiting and looking at the empty desk we thought we may as well go and pay there. Fortunately a man arrived and went behind the desk. We handed him the paper and got out the chequebook , but it wasn't needed. He took the paper logged into the computer and then applied another  stamp to it and gave it back.
However when we got back to the first office it was fine. They actually agreed to take money off us!
It is said that when the French left Morocco in 1956 they took with them more administrators than the British had when they left India in 1948  With systems like this I begin to see why.
Anyway we had a drive round the other side of town where the landscaping has been progressing and the planting round the sculpture park has grown up and is looking good, so here's some pictures.

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