Readers of Pippa’s blog will know that last weekend we were stopped at customs by the Guardia Civil who looked inside our vehicle.
I don’t just mean they looked through the window, which they’ve done once before. We actually had to pull over and open the vehicle up so they could see what was in the back.
I was shaking like a leaf for absolutely no reason at all given that we had no cigarettes (we don’t smoke and wouldn’t even consider taking any out for friends), we rarely drink spirits, and beer and wine are cheaper in Spain anyway. So there was no way we were exceeding our allowances because there wasn’t a single duty-free purchase in the vehicle.
But the whole idea of being stopped by the police just leaves me cold. The first thing I wonder is – do I look like a criminal? Whatever a criminal looks like. Or have I done something wrong that I’m not even aware of? Ignorance is no excuse. Basically, I don’t break the law so I leave the police alone and expect them to leave me alone. Logically, I know they are doing a job and they have to stop people for random checks. And the guy was polite and actually quite pleasant – not something for which the Guardia Civil are normally noted.
As it is the first time in the 18 months or so that we have been travelling backwards and forwards that we have been searched, I can hardly say I am suffering from a persecution complex. But I did wonder when we were over the border and on the road again, whether or not they have a clever strategy. Let you go backwards and forwards for ages, lulling you into a false sense of security that you won’t get stopped so you merrily smuggle stuff – usually cigarettes – across the border. And then one day, bang, they’ve got you. Loaded up with your illicit purchases.
Anyway, that’s totally hypothetical. What is not hypothetical though is the amount of smuggling that does go on. By people who do not need to do it. By people who are in full-time jobs – both Spaniards and British. They just want that extra buck or two.
We’ve met pensioners in Spain who go on the cheap day trips to Gib, or drive down themselves, and promptly fill their shopping trollies or their boot with cigarettes. I suppose it tops up their pension. But if people live in Spain with all the advantages that brings with it – virtually everything is cheaper in Spain apart from cigarettes, spirits and telefonica – what is the need to buy goods smuggled from Gibraltar? If cigarettes and spirits are dearer in Spain than they are in Gib, they are a damn site cheaper than they are in the UK. But no, greedy grasping human nature always wants the cheapest possible deal – even if it involves breaking the law.
Some years ago, friends from the UK came to stay with us in Spain and included a trip to Gibraltar as part of their holiday. They all gaily came back from their brief stay on the Rock loaded up to the eyeballs with cigarettes – including their two daughters who were both under 17 (there is no duty-free allowance for children). None of the family smoked.
The two girls planned to sell the cigarettes to their friends at school. Their parents – both civil servants – were obviously going to flog them in the office. Did any of them need that extra money from their smuggling activities? No. Especially as they had a week’s free accommodation in peak holiday season courtesy of us. To me, it is sad the lengths people will go to just for a few extra quid.
Greed is so depressing.