Sunday, February 18, 2007

A cautionary tale....

Ah, yes I've been quiet of late haven't I?

There is a good reason... I got caught out for not having done my homework, and trusting people too much! I'd rather trust people too much than not at all...

Before I left for Andorra I knew I needed a police report, sealed in London at the FCO with an Apostile seal confirming the document to be authentic. I got this information from Jamie but what I didn't do was dig any deeper myself, so I assumed all was well. As it turns out, this wasn't the case... we gigged hard for the first 5 weeks we were here together, it was great fun. Nobody made mention of my certificate so I assumed this document needed to be produced on request, as it were, and consituted a document of character and identity. Andorra isn't a "full" EU member but it subscribes to some things (for instance, it uses the Euro) but not others. I didn't realise the EU right to roam and work was one of those things!

Before anybody panics (I'm thinking of family members here!) I should say right now that everything is fine, it's all OK - I'm just telling the story and there are no really dramatic bits!

Anyway, we were playing the Alba apres-ski gig on the 10th and it all went a bit wierd - the owner asked for jamie to come around the back and chat a bit, so Steve and I carried on regardless with a funky drum and bass thing which went down quite well. Eventually we heard we'd have to stop and made our way to the lobby where some plainclothes police were waiting to take us to Andorra La Vella for not having green cards! I was calm enough, realising my mistake in taking things as read straight away. The police guys were genial, friendly and let us pack up our stuff before we left. We spent a couple of hours in a comfortable office answering the occasional question through the owner (who spoke good catalan and could translate) and then signed a document each saying we had to stop playing and get our affairs in order within 8 days. Then we came home to a village of paranoia with all musicians having stgopped playing and all chalkboards wiped clean! As it turns out, very few musicians actually have green cards, and in fact you can only get one by being sponsored by a business (in this case, the bar). This appears to have been the status quo for many years, with no musician ever under any threat of being busted - as I pointed out to people, this is actually a good reason for the immigration guys to finally decide to do something about it!

There are other hypotheses (god knows, there's been plenty of speculation about it all!) which have to do with the owner of the Alba which I won't go into, but suffice to say it's made Soldeu a strange place, with no live music at all really for the last week save the solo acts in the hotels.

Now, back to my personal story. Since I had my certificate here, it was off to Andorra la Vella the next day with Virtu (co owner of the Aspen) who filled in all the relevant forms (and there were plenty of them) to apply for the card. My stunning wife Nic came over at the end of the week and helped out by bussing me in and out of La Vella for the small tasks necessary (which include a blood test and medical interview) and I now have a smart little green card which I can produce.

But to get back to the title of this posting, you've got to find out everything you can for yourself people. Take some stuff on trust, but watch out - if you think you need to know more, you're probably right - so go find it out! I should have twigged when nobody asked for my police certificate at any point in the first 5 weeks - why would you spend money on a certificate, then go to london to get it sealed, if nobody needed it?

A valuable lesson I won't forget in a hurry. Mind you, I had the certificate... the other guys didn't bring theirs to the UK and Nic acted as courier (a very very good coincidence!!!) when she came out this week. I can recommend the Wellness Spa by the way - we spent quite a few happy hours getting wrinkly in pools, saunas and jacuzzis!

As Virtu put it in a text when I told her I had the card - you can breathe again now :)

Chin chin

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