The Day dawned bright and brilliant, the sky the deepest shade of blue, like any typical summer’s day in Spain. Except this wasn’t summer – it was Christmas morning. The previous night a wonderful and magical Christmas Eve was highlighted by a visit to the local church. Here Spanish guitars mingled with the choir to produce a mystical hour of celebration unlike any I’d experienced before. There was something hauntingly beautiful about that unusual Spanish way of singing that lent the whole evening an air of real wonder.
As we made our way back home, the sense of expectation and excitement for the day to follow filled the air. People had told me that the Christmas of 2006 had been a glorious one, with the Sun beating down, this was to be its equal by any measure of what is considered a beautiful day! All of my Christmases have been in the UK and I was always a little concerned as to how everything would pan out. I needn’t have worried. In many ways, it was the same as always – my children excitedly ripping open their presents, lots to eat and drink, the Queen’s speech, settling down to watch the TV in the afternoon feeling a little bloated, but content. I’d even put the usual Christmas carols on the CD player. The only real difference was in the early evening because during this particular feast, we sat out on the terrace, enjoying the sunshine and feeling a million miles away from the greyness of Old Blighty! But, it’s always sobering to remember that it’s not where you have your Yuletide celebration that is important, it’s the reasons why we have the celebration in the first place! Peace on Earth and goodwill to all…and with whom you spend it – these are the important things.
Throughout the holiday period, the boyfriend had been here. Quiet and polite, as I’ve already mentioned, he was, however, becoming increasingly…strange. It all began in the dead of night, with the smashing of glasses and the raising of voices. A bleary eyed Dad would stagger down the stairs to find the pair of them tucking into great piles of savoury mince and ‘Super Noodles’, a nightly occurrence that was beginning to make huge inroads into my already overburdened wallet. But the atmosphere was beginning to change. Through the mess of tomatoes and green peppers, fried into charcoal and smeared across plates and then allowed to dry rock-hard, my daughter confessed that things were ‘not too good’. Now, being the all-wise and knowing parent, perhaps I should have raised my eyebrows, shook my head, and gave her the benefit of my vast experience by declaring, ‘I told you this would happen’, but I didn’t. I let it run its course.
So, the days went by and we slowly made in-roads upon the mounds of mince-pies, piles of dates, heaps of glacier-fruits, until, at last, the day came for him to return to the bosom of his family in the UK. Yes, there were tears, but there was also relief. We had our house back, the midnight feasts and ensuing early-morning debris that would greet me every day…it was over! A memory. Gone.
Oh that it were so.
The wonders of technology are here to benefit us, making miles meaningless. MSN, that great purveyor of conversations across the information highway, is a marvellous boon to all of us who wish to remain in touch with our friends. And, it doesn’t cost anything – apart, of course, from the monthly Internet charges. However, depending upon your service, it is relatively cheap. Far cheaper than the phone, of course. It’s one drawback is that you don’t actually hear the person you’re contacting. But this too can be over-come. There are now any number of ways to actually speak to those close to us without the need for telephones. But many of us are either reluctant to go down this route, or we simply don’t know how to. I am now investigating all possible alternatives because…well, let me set the scene. Imagine my waking at three in the morning to hear my daughter crying. I knew it had only been a few days since the boyfriend had gone and, no matter how painful it was to hear her suffering so, there was little I could do. However, this was happening most nights, accompanied by frantic, whispered conversations. It all began to slowly dawn upon me. She was ‘phoning him. Every night. For hours.
Now, she didn’t do this during the day. It was when we were all asleep. Or, at least, that is what she thought! When I discovered what was happening, I confronted her. We’ve all been here, I suppose; most of us – I would hazard a guess – have done similar things ourselves! I remember my own Dad going absolutely ballistic at me for over-using the ‘phone…to the tune of fifteen pounds. This should have prepared me, I suppose, for the bill. But when it came, it was more like a visit to the local Urgencia that was required. The bill for December came to…fifteen hundred euros.
This is hard to believe, I know. Sometimes, when I look back, (as I am as I write these words) a cold chill runs down my spine. The panic begins to well up inside me and I become short-tempered, irrational, gripped by a desire to run away to a distant place where nobody knows me. Fifteen hundred euros. If you say it quickly, it doesn’t sound quite so much. Anyway, after the first waves of panic had washed over me, I took her to one side and went into a long discourse about the need to not use the phone quite so much. Indeed, not to use it at all! She didn’t look convinced and became positively hostile. I was forced to first hide the handset and then the cables, but she still managed to find them. When I was out at work, she would ‘phone him. Nothing was going to break the chain. The weeks went by, the conversations continued even though I felt sure I had done everything I could to at least curtail them somewhat. I appealed to her better nature, suggesting that she ‘phone him once a week, for a prolonged chat. Then, perhaps he could do the same. That was manageable and, I believed, more than reasonable.
The bill for January came in. It was twelve hundred euros!
This couldn’t be real. There must have been something wrong with the ‘phone! I requested itemised bills and there it all was, the evidence in front of me – hour after hour of calls to the same mobile!
We had a family conference, letters were sent, arrangements made. It was apparent to all of us that the situation was becoming increasingly desperate. Something had to change.
By the end of January, my lovely eldest daughter who had never settled in this country, preferring to sit in her room rather than make the effort to communicate with the locals, was back in the UK. She was to live with her auntie and uncle in Wales. -So many people had offered advice, support, even offers of some form of employment. Colleagues at work had said that she could help out at my school, or that she could come in on a part-time basis and study for an ‘A’ level. But it was all for nothing. When love rules ones heart, there is nothing that matters except being with the one you care for.
The move to Spain had supposed to provide us with a new start, a chance to rebuild our lives in a country that was much less stressful and recognised that people had a right to live their lives without having to worry about every single penny. Well, lessons had been learnt the hard way. As I took my daughter to the airport and hugged her before she walked off towards the departure lounge, my heart was breaking. Now the stresses were to be different ones and now every day was to be filled with worry and anxiety. What would she do, how would she fend for herself, how would she make ends meet? It was all becoming too much. On the drive home I began to question the reasons why we came here, and also the reasons why we should stay.
Perhaps the ‘dream’ was about to come to an end?