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Donna Gee - Spain's Grumpy Old Gran


Why aging expats swap Spain for the rain
16 December 2012



I’VE always been mystified when elderly expats, who clearly love the Spanish life, up sticks and return to the rain and pollution of over-populated Britain.

I know at least half a dozen couples who have turned their backs on the Iberian sunshine, always reluctantly, citing fears of deteriorating health and/or losing their partner.

“Why worry about healthcare?”, I’d ask. “The Spanish system is generally regarded as superior to the NHS in Britain. And as for being on your own, the expat community is awash with widows, widowers and never-weds all in the same boat.’’

I certainly don’t mind being on my own. It’s been fun going solo for the last couple of years and I couldn’t be happier. Apart, that is, from the fact I’m too old to dismiss my ever-growing waistline as a ready-to-drop papoose.

I certainly have more friends in Spain than I ever had in the UK, many of them, like myself, without partners. And I am never lost for something to do on the odd occasion my eyes aren’t glued to a computer screen.

However, during my current visit to spend Christmas with my family in Manchester, I’ve begun to see the idea of repatriation in a different light…or darkness even.

Yes, I am beginning to question how I would manage on my own in Spain if, as I fear, I become wheelchair bound and reliant on the assistance of carers.

Regular readers of my column (if there are any) will know that humour is the weapon I use to fight adversity. I dismiss the intermittent trembling of my left hand by admitting I have Parkinson’s Disease and adding: ‘If the shaking gets any worse, they’re giving me my own chat show.’’

As for my blocked cardiac arteries, I joke about my visits to the stentist, an Irish lady called Angie O’Plasty.

No one wants to hear this, but I have so many health problems that I’ll soon have an entry of my own in the official medical dictionary. I can see it now.

Donnagitis: A multitude of different complaints. A person who craves the invention of oral stental floss. (Give me a break from those damned angioplasties!)

But seriously, my mobility has deteriorated alarmingly this last few months and I know my problems will become progressively worse. Here in Manchester I have an amazing team of carers who are, quite simply, the best.

With two daughters and six grandkids here among the flatcaps and ferrets, I am beginning to ask questions of myself. I already struggle to get up from armchairs and sofas and get out of cars – so I’ve no hope of coping in Spain when I perpetually need winching up. The price of hiring a crane is outrageous as it is.

I never believed I would say this, but I am slowly resigning myself the fact I will one day return to the land of my birth. Still breathing, too..

Returning to the UK sounds so unlikely when I tell you I love every minute of living in Spain.

I live the dream – waking each morning to the accompaniment of bright sunshine and that indescribable atmosphere of ‘foreignness’. Just as I did 30 years ago, when family holidays in Spain were the highlight of my year.

I’d wake on the final morning of our stay and think to myself, ‘Hell, it’s so wonderful here and I’ve got to head back to England and work. I don’t want to go!’

This past couple of years I’ve been waking every morning and bursting (very badly) into song – my favourite being ‘’Every day’s a holiday in my house’’ (to no particular tune). It was going to be my anthem until that weird morning when I wake up dead.

Now I’m beginning to think I’d quite like to spend my final days ferreting for flat caps, if you get my drift (yes, even in the snow).

If I freeze to death, I’ve got to go sometime anyway. But at least my daughters will be there to wrap me up warm, look after me, and earn that inheritance they think I'm going to leave them...

Published in The Courier ( December 14, 2012


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