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Hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Our story from the Uk to Spain. How & why we´re here.

Only Fools And Horses
25 June 2011

 

Only Fools & Horses
 
We love the Spanish television. You can watch a film for over an hour with no interruptions then ping you get 10 or 15 minutes of back to back adverts. And when one programme ends you only get to read one name in the credits before the next programme has started. Very strange. Unfortunately, we don’t have a satellite dish and are currently going cold turkey with no Eastenders or Coronation Street to watch. We did find a button on our remote that we never knew we had that changes the language on the television so we can actually hear the programme in English. Some channels it works on but not all. So we can watch episodes of The Mentalist, CSI kinda stuff and the odd good movie, usually an old one though. Watched the original of The Italian Job – “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”. Classic! The Spanish seem to really love westerns and there’s one on nearly every day. So what do we do in the evenings when good old lieutenant Columbo has solved yet another murder?  Well we are gradually working our way through our entire DVD collection, which sadly isn’t vast. The Shawshank Redemption (brilliant), Armageddon (far fetched but fun), Aliens (one of my all time favs!), War of the Worlds (Tom Cruise style), Shrek one AND two (“better out than in”), Schindlers List (heavy!), 50 First Dates (chick flick but very funny!) and the entire collection of Only Fools & Horses. I bought the boxed collection for Charlie a couple of Christmas’s ago & now we’re working our way through from the very beginning.    We’ve had the dropping chandelier, the exploding coach, meeting Raquel, Uncle Albert “during the war”, the reunion with Slater, the birth of Damien, Rodney’s marriage and Triggers broom. We’ve actually nicknamed our mutt Trig coz he sometimes looks at us in that “what do you mean” kind of bemused way, we thought it fitted him perfectly. Really don’t know what we’ll do once we’ve watched all the episodes and the Christmas specials??   Start all over again maybe?! Luvvley Jubbley!


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Topless Or Not?? Part 12 of our Story
08 June 2011

 
When you’re 47 years old and have had three children it’s a big decision when you hit the beach. Do you go topless or keep everything under wraps. I’ve never really done the topless thing before. When I was about 17 or 18 I went to Tunisia with my mum and my stepdad. Now I love my stepdad and he’s a great guy but there was no way I would get my thrupenny bits out in front of him. I must have been the only person in the whole complex covered up. Even my mum dared to bare. Then in 2000 I went to Portugal with my dad & my stepmum. Again, nearly everyone on the beach was topless but it just felt too weird to go topless in front of my dad. So I didn’t! Now here in Spain, most, if not all of the ladies on the beach are topless. Jealousy, that evil green eyed monster, is one of the deadly sins I know but some of the young girls strutting their stuff on the sand are absolutely gorgeous and make me feel terribly old and unattractive. Now Charlie says he loves my body, wobbly bits n all and cant see any reason why I should keep covered up - but then he’s biased. And anyway don’t you need white bikini lines to see how you’re tan is improving?! If I could spend a few months at a gym, eat nothing but rabbit food then maybe I wouldn’t feel so self-conscious but that just ain’t gonna happen. The thought of jumping about getting hot & sweaty pumping iron fills me with dread and I DO like my grub. So there’s the dilemma. Maybe I could go topless but only if I’m lying down. That way I wouldn’t have to breath in so hard to make my stomach look smaller, whilst trying to arch my back in an attempt to make things look perkier than they actually are. Of maybe I should just let everything hang out just as nature intended and frankly not give a damn. Decisions, decisions?!


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Rain, Rain Go Away - Part 11 of Our Story
03 June 2011

One thing we really weren’t expecting when we arrived out here was the rain. Everyone we spoke to back in the UK kept telling us how glorious the weather was there, whilst we were dodging showers here. I’d even left my little fold up umbrella behind, thinking it wouldn’t be needed. Big mistake! Since we’ve been here, there has been rain, floods and an earthquake! Last Thursday in the very wee small hours of the night I was woken up by a massive clap of thunder. I lifted the shutters in our front room and stood out on the balcony in my dressing gown storm watching. It was pretty spectacular with lightning flashing across the mountains to my left and over the sea to my right. But there was no rain at that time. Then a flock of seagulls took off and headed off into the distance squawking the whole time & only then did the heavens open. It was like a scene straight out of “The Day after Tomorrow”. Eerie but fascinating. We watched the news the next day and saw one poor Spanish town trying to cope with the floods. We were jokingly calling ourselves Jonah.
We were advised to get the “tourist” bit out of the way in the first few weeks. Then we could concentrate on the hard bit – earning a living. So we spent some time being touristy. We walked the length of the beach and struggled up the hill to walk around the castle. Talk about spectacular views. We spent time sitting on our gorgeous beach congratulating ourselves on where we were. We visited Torremolinos and Benalmadena with its beautiful Paloma Park. We went out for meals in the evening with our friends and checked out a few bars. But the fun part has to come to an end and now the hard work begins. 



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Transition Stage? - Part 10 of Our Story
01 June 2011

 

I don’t know if anybody else felt the same way when they first moved out here, but we had to keep pinching ourselves to make sure it was reality and not just a dream. On our first visit to Iceland we walked across the overpass above the main road, where there is the most amazing view up into the mountains. We just stood there, with the cars zooming underneath us, and Charlie kept saying “this is our home”, “we live here”, “we ACTUALLY live HERE!!!” Unbelievable!!
After the first few days though, I seemed to drift into a bit of a daze. I think all the big build up, selling, packing, travelling had been so full throttle that actually arriving here I suddenly had no purpose. I was very quiet and Charlie knew that something wasn’t quite right but when he asked me to explain what was going on in my head – I just couldn’t. At first I put it down to being exhausted from our journey but it wasn’t that. We had made the giant leap. Achieved the impossible. The apartment was perfect, as was the location. The beach was incredible, the sun was shining (some of the time!) but I felt totally lost. Charlie started asking if I wanted to go back to the UK but I definitely didn’t want that! It took me about a week to snap out of it. Couldn’t explain it then and still cant! Transition stage maybe?    
Our friends introduced us to the delights of coffee sombre in a glass at the local Spanish café where we can sit out on the pavement watching the rest of the world passing by. They also pointed out where the best shops were for everything that we might need. Although Iceland is great, they are a little bit pricey so we’ve found that it’s better to shop in the Spanish supermarkets. They are an Aladdin’s cave of goodies, especially the fish counters. It was a bit strange not being allowed to take your own shopping bags or trolleys around with you but rather lock them up until you’ve done your shopping. We are learning!! Slowly but surely. Still get caught out by the siesta now & then, usually when we’ve run out of teabags (cant beat a nice cuppa!) and all the shops are shut between 2.00 & 5.00 in the evening. We’ve made one beachside restaurant Casacola, our local for having a couple of beers on our way back from trips to the beach and the waiter Antonio is helping us with our Spanish. We try to learn at least one new word or phrase a day. So we should be totally fluent in about twenty year’s time! 



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Iffy MPs & The Phoenix
30 May 2011

You’ll have to forgive me for going off at a bit of a tangent now. We’ve been watching all the political campaigning going on in town over the last few weeks. Two Fridays ago it took about 8 to 10 men all day to put up a stage complete with video screen, lighting & sound system in the church square. In the evening the mayoress took to the stage for a little over a quarter of an hour, before joining the gathered flag waving crowds. We sat at a little bar in the square watching all the proceedings, and it just happened to remind me of the time we had the unfortunate opportunity to meet with our own local MP in the UK. The government had been banging on about a new initiative between themselves & the banks as they were trying to encourage banks to lend more money to small businesses. The deal was something along the lines of the government guaranteeing a percentage of the loan. It was bandied about in the media but when we contacted our bank they really didn’t seem to know anything about the details or the small print. So we decided to contact our local MP to book an appointment. We had a meeting with him in a small office in our local library where he held his morning surgery. What a smarmy ******* sitting behind the desk in his maroon House of Commons tie.  Made my skin crawl when I had to shake hands. Yuk, yuk, yuk!! Anyway we asked him about the government initiative but he was more interested in how much we already owed to the banks and our suppliers. He totted up the rough figures that we gave him on a pad. We were horrified by what he then suggested. His advice was that as the company was limited we could close the business down, write off all our currents debts, change the company name (it didn’t have to be a big change for example go from Joe Bloggs Ltd to J. Bloggs Ltd) and start again. He said that he’d recently met with another business in our area and given them the exact same advice. We weren’t surprised then when a rival garden centre closed for business only to open a few weeks later with an one extra letter in their name. One of their ex-employees came to ask us for a job and showed us the proof that our rivals had in fact closed their doors owing nearly £500,000. We also spoke to one rep that had lost all his commission on sales made to the original company but still couldn’t get the stock back because it now belonged to the new company.   It’s known as the “phoenix” effect, where one company rises from the ashes of the other. All perfectly legal - of course.
When the MP’s expenses row hit the headlines, we read that our local MP had one of the highest expenses claims in either Kent or in fact the whole country. Didn’t surprise us in the least. Apparently he just had to have a second home in London because he couldn’t possibly commute. Poor man.



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The View We Cant Afford To Lose - Part 9 Of Our Story
30 May 2011

 

We had seen pictures of inside the apartment, which looked lovely. When we finally pulled into the only available parking space in the street we were just so relieved to have made it at last. We were sooooo tired, having been awake for nearly 48 hours solid, with aching backs and legs after sitting in the van but this was also our first meeting with the couple from the Internet. We were totally punch-drunk and not at our most chatty, so we probably didn’t make a very good first impression. They showed us around the apartment, explaining where everything was but it was all we could do to keep our eyes open. We took the bare basics out of the van and then collapsed into bed for some much-needed sleep.
We didn’t wake up until late Thursday afternoon!
 
We had looked on Google earth at the layout of the town and it did look very crowded. I suppose being the dreamers we are, we imagined life in Spain being in a villa with a private pool, but who were we kidding on our budget. Or should I say - lack of budget!!  But to be honest, being in the centre of town has turned out to be a massive advantage. We walk absolutely everywhere, because parking here is a total nightmare. Our van hasn’t moved since we arrived. Apparently, the parking situation only gets worse when the tourists start arriving. (Sounds kinda weird saying that because I still feel a bit like a tourist myself). Anyway that’s why so many people ride scooters, because you can park them practically anywhere & most locals do exactly that! But the walking is fun! Not only is it keeping us fit but almost every street has a new little treasure to discover. We have found so many little shops, restaurants, bar & cafes along our travels. But the most amazing thing I will remember from when we first arrived – something that I will never ever forget - was walking down to the beach and seeing the Beautiful, Blue, Gleaming Med. It was like looking at a postcard. This is probably going to sound really strange, seeing as how Charlie and I decided to move here, but neither of us had ever visited Spain before. So standing there, gazing out at the beach was a totally jaw dropping moment for us both. We knew then that whatever happened, we had to try & make things work for us out here, so we would never ever lose sight of that view.



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Square Peg Round Hole - Part 8 of Our Story
25 May 2011

 

Packing is a nightmare! Talk about square peg round hole! We had to fit everything we now still owned into the back of a van, along with the dog and ourselves. We purchased vacuum bags to squish all our clothes and bedding into. They are a marvel and I would highly recommend them! Box after box, bag after bag, we loaded the van until you couldn’t have fitted another thing inside apart from a postage stamp. We said all our goodbyes and had farewell meals with friends. Talk about tug at your heartstrings.  Anyway, the original plan had been to get the ferry to Santander and then drive the rest of the way down to Feungirola, but although there was room for us & the van on the ferry, they didn’t have any kennel space for the dog. So we had to resort to Plan B & drive all the way down through France and Spain. We purchased our Euros and made sure we had enough change for all the tolls along the way. Sitting on the ferry at Dover, waiting to head across to France, we could hardly believe it. This was it! We were on our way! However, the adrenaline and enthusiasm started to wan on the long drive through the hours of the night. At about 7 o’clock the next morning, nearly at the Pyranees we found a large parking lot with toilets and washrooms where we attempted to get some much needed sleep after being awake for over 24 hours. It really wasn’t comfortable with the three of us squashed together but we managed to doze intermittently for about an hour or so.
It was only when we got out to stretch our legs and use the facilities that we realised we had a puncture.
It was another hindsight moment for us as we had considered getting new tyres for the long journey but thought “no” we’d rather save the money. Oops! We couldn’t believe our luck or rather our lack of it. It took over two hours, lots of cursing, swearing and sweating to change that tyre. After recovering from that disaster we carried on our journey with the drive taking us through the mountains, which were breathtaking. We finally crossed over the Spanish border not long after lunchtime and found somewhere to stop & eat and practice our language skills. Not very good unfortunately. The language skills – not the food I hasten to add. We had several more stops along the journey to buy fuel, massage our numb bums & let the dog out to stretch his legs, which added a lot to the journeys time scale. The last part of the journey driving in the dark through the mountains was hair raising to say the least - but we finally pulled up in Fuengirola sometime after midnight.



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Do We Stay or Do We Go? - Part 7 of Our Story
24 May 2011

 

So just how did we turn the dream into a reality? It makes me giggle when I read some of the comments on the Eye on Spain site about people who want to come over here but they’re worried because they’ve only got £5,000 or £10,000. Wow, if only?! We would be surviving on a wing and a prayer. We sold everything we could, including our car. We gave away anything else that wasn’t of any monetary value. We packed boxes up of things we wanted to keep but wouldn’t be able to take with us and stored them with friends & family. We read every bit of information we could about Spain. We borrowed CD’s from the library to try and learn Spanish. I have to say that we are still struggling with the language but we do try and we are getting pretty adept at sign language. We started the long & expensive process of getting our dog his very own doggy passport. Our poor mutt hates the vets, so he wasn’t very impressed. We even gave him a really short hair cut because friends had said how hot it gets for dogs. He lost his beautiful long coat and instead of a beautiful Border Collie he now looks like a Pitbull. We squirreled away as much money as we could and started looking at travel costs to get out to Spain. In the meantime, we had gotten chatting, via Eye on Spain, to a British couple who were living out here. We sent emails to start with and then discovered the wonders of Skype. We would chat to them for hours, again gleaning every snippet of information we could about the lifestyle. They were in the process of moving apartments, going from a two-bedroom place to a three-bedroom. People’s generosity can be amazing some time. Restores your faith in humanity. The couple, who we hardly knew, apart from Skying, offered to put us up while they were going through their moving process. We were blown away by their offer. We then had to make a proper decision. Do we stay or do we go? We sat and wrote out a list of pro’s and cons - reasons to stay in the UK or reasons to head off on an adventure to Spain. Guess what? Spain won hands down!!



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The Dreaded Knock at the Door - Part 6 of Our Story
23 May 2011

 

I’ve been wondering whether to give out all the gory, gritty details of our experiences in the UK or whether to sugar coat everything? But I thought that if anybody is reading this in the UK and is going through the same misery that we went through I might just be able to give a few nuggets of advice. We had no income and lots of expenditure! We did all the sensible phone calls to the banks and credit card companies that we owed money to and tried to negotiate lower payments. Most of them were really helpful with the one exception being Santander. They wouldn’t budge over payments .So if anyone out there is dreading the postman’s visits and those lovely “Your Payment is Overdue” letters as we did for months, then my first bit of advice would be to contact the Consumer Credit Counselling Service or C.C.C.S. They are on the Internet and they are a totally FREE advice service. Everyone on the other end of the phone is completely understanding and non-judgmental. They helped me out a lot, providing me with template letters & Income & Expenditure details that could be forwarded to any creditors. I was advised to offer my creditors a very small monthly amount and even if they complained that it wasn’t enough I was told to ignore their pleas for more money and just keep on paying regardless. Priority bills have to be mortgage/rent, council tax and then utilities. A credit card company cannot get you evicted from your home, whereas a mortgage company, landlord or the council can.
 My second snippet of advice is to try and avoid debt management companies, if you can. Obviously I don’t want to tar everyone with the same brush but we knew someone who used to work for a debt management company. They would set up a payment scheme between you and your creditors but pocket a large chunk of your money instead of paying your debt. So do your research and be wary.
Now the really nasty one – debt collectors or bailiffs. We had one debt with a certain company, that despite being told we had closed the company and that the company had no assets kept pursuing us. For your information if a bailiff knocks on your door YOU DO NOT have to let him in. They cannot force their way in. And beware if they ask to use your toilet or use your phone to make a call, its one of their sneak tactics to get inside. Even if they arrive with police assistance, the police are there purely to keep the peace and cannot force you to let the bailiff in. DO KEEP YOUR DOORS & WINDOWS LOCKED if you leave the house though because bailiffs DO have the right to enter your house through any open door or window, even if they have to climb into your back garden to do it. However, they CANNOT list anything they see though windows. Again, if you find yourselves in the unfortunate position of having people knocking on your door, check out the Internet for details and know what your rights are!



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Discovering Eye On Spain - Part 5 of our Story
23 May 2011

 

When we first started looking at properties to rent in Spain it was really only a fantasy. New details would come through on the Internet and we would gaze longingly at them but we thought, “never gonna happen”. So we carried on doing the sensible thing, looking for UK rental property. But it was SO disappointing! No garden, no dog’s allowed and tiny rooms, where any furniture bigger than an armchair, would fill the whole space. We were running out of options and fast. Then, purely by chance, Charlie bumped into an old acquaintance of ours that was living in Spain but had returned for a couple of weeks to visit her friends and family. We arranged to meet up for a drink and a chat. We were fascinated about her life in Spain. She didn’t have one bad thing to say about her experience out there. She had been living in Spain for just over two years so we bombarded her with questions about the weather, the culture, the language, anything & everything we could think of. We were so curious about it all. It sounded idyllic. Maybe, just maybe, we could turn the fantasy into reality, so we started looking at ex-pat sites and that was when we discovered Eye on Spain & got chatting to a couple who could potentially change our lives?!


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