How a poor, befuddled Englishman has begun to build a new life in Spain
The day-to-day existence in Spain is, I suppose, not that different from the one most of us probably had in the UK. We all have to get up in the morning, eat and drink, and try and scrape together enough money to survive. With news of the 'credit-crunch' looming large in the news, most ex-pats are feeling the squeeze. As exchange rates continue to spiral downwards, those of us with money in the UK have found its value decreased quite frighteningly in the last few months. Those of us on pensions have seen an alarming decline in monetary values. It all means we have to tighten those belts. It's difficult not to feel pessimistic at such times. We came here to Spain for a better life. I certainly did! I understood Spain to be cheaper, especially housing. And, truth be told, at first this was the case. I took a large pay-cut to be here, but I calculated that myself and my family would still be better off as the cost of living here is so much less. Well, things have begun to even out now. Life has got tougher and prices have risen. It is bad. But only really bad, I would argue, if one still has ties with Old Blighty. If one does not depend upon finances from the UK,
are things here in Spain as bad as in the UK? Well, I've got to put my neck on the line and say 'no', because I still believe that Spain is the better option!
Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with me.
Some of the people I've met here have become so stressed by the situation that they have decided to pack up and return 'home'. I often ask myself why this is the case. How can it be better back in the UK? What is it that people are returning to, I wonder? And when the situation does get better, as I'm sure it must, will those same people return to Spain for the same reasons that forced them to leave Britain in the first place? Isn't it true that things always seem worse when the days are short and the weather is foul? The weather…that most favourite of topics for the poor, besieged Brit! Well, for the poor anything Brit!
All right, there may be those of us who have not been 'crunched' but we've all been suffering from the weather recently – many of the Spanish people I've talked to can't remember a winter being so cold, or so wet! And, looking back over my previous articles, I seem to remember I mentioned that I was in shirtsleeves last December. Unbelievably, I was! I didn't put a pullover on until mid-January! It's hard to accept, as I'm sitting on my motorbike, braving hail and sleet, that during the summer it is actually too hot! I keep waking up in the morning and looking out of my window into the dark, miserable sky, wishing for a sign that it is getting warmer! No doubt, come June and July I'll be complaining about the heat! The Spanish people do! 'Mucho calor!' they declare as they move in and out of their houses with the rapidity of snails. Then again, we're like that, us Brits. All we ever do is complain about the weather! But I have to say, I do have one other, major complaint – and that is, Spanish houses!
By April of last year, we had moved in and settled into our beautifully reformed house. I have to say that the building itself was very good. And, now that it was all painted, the entire property certainly looked gleaming and homely. With the addition of some pictures on the walls, some traditional ornaments and nice, new furniture, it really was looking good. Smallish, but good. Not what you'd call a mansion, but comfortable. That was in spring. Come summer, as the temperature threatened to burst the gauge, the house was cool…except, of course at night! How I long for that time now, because Spanish houses are simply not designed for winter! Wood burners, portable gas-heaters and oil-filled radiators, or those new, slim line panel-heaters…how are you supposed to keep warm here? I have to admit, it was a problem I never thought I would have to face coming to sunny Spain! And now the rain! The damp! Huge black patches have begun to appear. It's all very worrying.
But we complain. Don't we? And I think that we secretly enjoy complaining. Perhaps it's a British trait? Read the headlines of British newspapers – the country grinds to a halt as the snow falls. And we complain, usually blaming the government. Perhaps we're never truly happy unless we actually are complaining? Well, I'll do my level best not to, because even if things are bad, they're not that bad…and Spain has much to cheer us up.
best not to, because even if things are bad, they're not that bad…and Spain has much to cheer us up.
To lighten the load, I hark back to last year, with memories still very much to the fore, and to the time of year that is about to greet us again very soon, a chance for Spanish people to celebrate White Week – or Semana Blanca. Some people, so I've been told, call it 'Blank Week', due to the fact that workers have a week off. I'm not exactly sure what it is all for, but everyone has a party so I guess it must be something worth celebrating! I've included some photographs here from last year's celebration. Riogordo, as with every village I shouldn't wonder, puts on a bit of a show during this week. Everyone goes down to the square and is treated to some wonderful sights – all the young people of the village, and some not-so-young, dress themselves in their finest flamenco-type dresses and perform some wonderful dances. This is punctuated by music, from the local brass band and some wonderful guitarists. We had a local dignitary give a speech. It seemed to be fairly well received, but the PA system wasn't that good, so most people missed the gist of what he was saying. But he didn't seem perturbed by any of this and constantly fell into great bouts of laughter at his own jokes. The highlight, however, were the dancers. Regaled in beautiful dresses, these little girls – and the big ones too – performed their wonderfully poetic dances with the utmost precision and grace. Hours, days, weeks of constant practice resulted in a performance that was extremely enjoyable. That haughtiness, the upturned chin, the precise staccato stamps, seemed to spell out Spain to us onlookers. I've included some photographs of the event, which I hope you enjoy. Soon, I'll be there again, in the Plaza, joining in with the celebrations. Last year, as you can see from the photographs, the Sun really shone…oh PLEASE make it shine again this year! When will it stop raining? Soon, I hope! Our village river really can't take anymore! Next time I'll be looking back, and reporting on the present, most famous event in the whole Rio Gordo calendar – the Passion! Keep dry until then!