Problems with the neighbours – with the comunidad de propietarios, or in more colloquial terms, the escalera de vecinos. The owners’ association or ‘staircase of neighbours’ never fails to elicit groans and horror stories from everyone who has ever lived in a block of flats in Spain here (and not only in Spain).
The escalera de vecinos has been immortalised in the immensely popular and hilarious Spanish TV comedy series, originally aired on Antena 3, ‘Aquí no hay quien viva‘, which translates absolutely literally as ‘here there is no one who can live’. Obviously, no way does that evoke the torment of life on a staircase of systematically warring neighbours. The expression is really an interjection, a complaint, a supplication, a cri de coeur: living in this place is a fate worse than death!
I won’t go into details here, but the episode in my building was bad enough for me to call in mis abogados, which made me feel safe and protected. The neighbours should know better than to mess with me because my late husband was un abogado – a lawyer – and we still have close contact with his bufete (law firm). I knew that ‘the neighbours’ – a vague term which in fact only represented a few of them – legally didn’t have a leg to stand on in their accusations, but I just kept getting shouted down and insulted. All attempts to explain things reasonably failed, as did all attempts at verbal self defense. Fortunately our lawyer has a very loud voice, as well as the law in her hand, and her eyes give off sparks. She went to the neighbours meeting (den of lions) and put them in their place. I’m still kicking myself though, because in all my arguments with the neighbours, not once did I remember to use one of my favourite Catalan expressions, which I picked up from the TV3 soap opera. It would have been perfect. ‘No em busquis, que em trobaràs.’ Literally: don’t look for me, ‘cos you’ll find me. In a word: Don’t mess with me.