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Shall I stay or shall I go?

Here we are in soggy Tunbridge Wells, in a house we hate, but still we can't quite make the decision to leave. This is the story of why we are in this position, and hopefully how eventually we'll change life for the better. Maybe it will ring a few bells with some of you!

Well, we did it!
Saturday, January 14, 2023

To those of you who read my earlier posts from the U.K., dithering about whether to move or not, it must be good to know that we actually arrived at a decision.

The decision was prompted by a number of factors.

The first one came from a young friend of the family who texted me while I was here in our Spanish home for a couple of weeks. She said 'Hi Jo! Would you rent me your house?'


I explained that we didn't rent out our home here in Estepona, we just liked to keep it for on the impulse trips away.

'No', she said 'I mean you English home'.


We hadn't thought of that. I passed it by Himself, and we pondered, and pondered, and pondered.

Meanwhile, we we're getting older, my state pension was coming up, he was finding the heavy lifting his work involved more onerous, and the thought occurred that one day we may lie in our bed in the U.K. wondering whether we should have given it a go.

Two months more dithering, chatting to grown up Sons etc. and we decided to apply for a NLV.
We knew it took ages, so we felt quite safe and carried on as usual apart from being asked every five minutes by everyone we knew when we were moving to Spain.

It was a bit frustrating not having a passport for 4 months, but nothing monumental had changed so we pushed it to the back of our minds.

3 weeks before Christmas, 'OH MY GOD!', the visas have come.

Now we really have to step up to the plate, - best not to think it over too much.

We agreed it would be nice for our tenant to be in by Christmas, so that she and her 10 year old daughter could have a proper Christmas in their new home, so we booked for the Chunnel, the oply feasible option with a cat and a dog to transport. 

So that's what we did. Packed up, moved out in 2 weeks and drove down the length of Spain arriving 4 days & 3 nights with a howling cat arriving 2 days before Christmas Day. It was not fun.

3 weeks in, it's going okay. Different, but I think it's going to be okay! 

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I’m leaving on an airplane
Saturday, September 15, 2018

This must be the most protracted move to Spain ever.

We have completed one more small step by downsizing even further into a nice little house in perfect, as new condition, with tiny running costs, and excellent rental potential.   .....tick!

James has spent two months at the house in Spain doing maintenance and seeing whether he likes being retired. It turns out he does, BUT, doesn’t like the lack of income, and when his finished the DIY what can he do all day?

That’s a bit of a sticking point....

James brought Tilly, our  black Labrador with him, and was looking forward to long ‘yomps’ around the countryside, but in the first week in she tore her cruciate ligament and had to undergo a repair operation, which meant a 1000 Euro bill and a dog that could only hobble along the road for about 50 yards or so. Sods Law!

Still, on the plus side it would have cost £5000 in the UK.

We went dog walking for the local stray dog charity a few times, but you can’t wander off with a dog, they don’t like it!

I popped out a couple of times whilst he was in residence, but someone had to stay home with the cat and earn some  money, and it was a busy time for me, and that’s the trouble....I have a busy, reasonably sociable work life in the UK which would take me a long time to to replicate in a Spain. I love it, but all my contacts are in England, and in my trade we need a lot of good contacts.

Perhaps I should explain, I am a dealer in ladies designer and vintage clothes and accessories, and I love it! 

I know there are some dealers here and in fact I know some of them from home, but the market here is much smaller and not as far reaching. In and around London there are buyers and sellers of every style and quality and there’s the possibility to work literally every day if you want to, not that I do, but I’d miss that buzz.

The other thing of course is my Sons and my Grandchildren. I’m not a terribly maternal person, both my Sons  will tell you that, in fact my eldest told me that he likes me lot better now he’s grown up, and I told him I like him better grown up too!

However, I do like to see them every couple of weeks. Not for ages, a couple of hours is plenty, but it’s not going to happen if we live in Spain full time, and I’d feel a bit as though I was deserting them. 

So, at present I’m sitting here in Estepona by myself looking at a television with the sound muted, while James is in the UK.,  trying to make a life here, without losing my life at home by whizzing back and forth as often as possible, and hoping it will all come together.

I suppose it would help if I wasn’t an introverted teetotaller as well. 

Time for another cup of tea!



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We’re almost there.
Saturday, April 7, 2018

June 2017

Well it's happened.

We've both been back in the UK now for a couple of weeks, and James is really struggling to re-acclimatise and has told me he doesn't want to be here any more, and I almost agree.The problem is that we can't afford to retire......

April 2018

The above paragraph was written last year as you can see, but a lot has happened since then.  

Number 2 Son has moved out to a house share, Number 1 Son has declared that he and his Japanese wife and 3 kids are going to live in Japan for 3 years, and James and I find that apart from earning a living, there is little to keep us in Blighty all year.

So....... we have sold our house and we move into an even smaller one next week, and hopefully will be really able to live in both countries. The house we have bought is perfect for letting out if we decide to move permanently to Spain, which will give us a small but regular income. 

I still can’t quite bring myself to leave my life in the UK permanently, but the ties are loosening. 

I’m currently sitting in our bungalow in Estepona next to the gas fire in APRIL! So I’m not delusional, about life here, I know it can be blooming cold and boring, but that applies, wherever you are really.

James comes down here on a one way ticket via ferry with dog early next month, and will stay until he gets too bored or broke, I’ll come and go, but the clincher is where the cat lives!

You can move a dog back and forwards, but cats are territorial, and they hate change, especially mine who had a hard kittenhood.

The day the cat comes to Spain is the day we become resident, simples! 

p.s. I buy and sell designer and vintage fashion for a living, have done for 30years, would like to continue, but I don’t really want to do outdoor markets, (been there, done that), any advice on how to continue with my hobby/ trade would be  very welcome. I do a bit online, but mainly supply other dealers nowadays.


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Leaving on a jet plane
Friday, June 9, 2017

I'm starting this post on Saturday evening prior to flying out tomorrow to join my Husband at our new little home in Spain. As I feared he has gone completely feral. We spoke last night and he has really got into the Spanish life and does not want to come home. I pointed out that we had a mortgage to attend to and he reluctantly agreed to start looking at booking a ferry home. The dog is happy too after being rather put out at first, and really likes her new home and the long beach walks, despite the large number of ticks she has aquired over the last 4 weeks. I have been keeping the home fires burning here, but I must admit I am really looking forward to my 16 days away. There is one thing I hate about going away though, and it's the thought that I'll be missing out on my life here. It's a bit like feeling that you have died, there is a gap where life goes on without you, and quite frankly I feel as though everything should be put on hold until I get back and can take up the reins again. I'll continue this post when I've been in Estepona for a few days and see how I feel then.........

.......I am writing this part of the blog on my iPad overlooking the pool. I won't be able to upload until until I'm back in Blighty because we don't have wi-fi here yet. This is a good thing on the whole because there is no temptation to check emails and therefore 'just do a bit of work', and no TV either.

I am at the beginning of my second week, and James is in his fifth week. He has been very happy bumbling around with the dog doing the renovation work, but I can already see the tension creeping up on him as he nears the end of his stay.

I have also been very happy and unstressed, but in the last few days I have begun to feel I need a bit more to do. I'm quite surprised because I really am excellent at doing nothing at all, and I've read a lot of books, but perhaps I'm not quite ready to retire fully yet.

...Well I'm back in Tunbridge Wells again, it's cold and wet and windy, - God, I miss Spain!!


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We are Sailing
Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Phew! It's been a rather fraught couple of weeks here in deepest Kent.

My Husband James has just left on a ferry to Santander in a van full to bursting with furniture and household goods, all his trade tools, and a black laborador. He forgot to pack the sunloungers, and packed the curtains destined for his office here, but never mind.

Getting everything done and making sure all our customers are reasonably satisfied before he left, made him so stressed he was almost climbing the walls, which in turn had an effect on myself and the dog who was very worried. She knew something was going on and has spent most of the last week in the garden looking aprehensive. The dog is currently 10 decks down in a cage on the ferry, she'll probably need councelling when she gets home in six weeks.

The idea of this trip is twofold. There is quite a lot of work to be done on our little bungalow, and it's the first time we have spent any more than a couple of weeks in Spain. We have engaged a talented Polish builder called Julian to do the heavy work, but Husband is going to try his hand at tiling amongst other things. We tried to get our friend Graham who is a professional tiler to come out for a few days, but no go!
I say 'we', but of course I mean himself as I'm still here.

I'm going for 5 days next week, but someone has to earn a living and feed the cat, so I shall be mainly sending instruction from here, although I hope to go at the end of May when our Son, his wife and 2.5 kids are going to rent a villa along the road with her Brother, his wife, and his FIVE kids. I'm so glad we don't have the room to accomodate them all!

The downside of self-employment is that James will not be earning anything for 6 weeks, so it will take at least about 3 months to get our finances back to anything like normal, it's a foolish thing to do, and the stress it adds to our life is immense but we only have one life and we have to live it even if it means doing foolish things sometimes.

I'm sort of half hoping he'll love it so much he wants to stay and decides to throw the towel in here. Half hoping, half scared in case he does. 

I think women generally finding moving more difficult than men. We have our local support network, the familiar everyday people and places we go to that we don't really value until we are presented with the threat of losing them and then it gets scary.

I have an unexiting, but full life here. I see people in the street I have known by sight since I was a girl. I feel very comfortable when I go to a market and chat with the same people each week both buyers and other traders. I'd miss that life.

I don't want to have to make a choice.............

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Like a circle in a spiral..............
Sunday, March 26, 2017

I had spent so long working, right up until I left for the airport that I wasn't really looking forward to my break.  

On the way to the airport I was thinking that it was a stupid waste of time and money which could be better used.

Even when I had landed and collected my hire car, all the way to Chez Nous, I wasn't feeling exited or even particularly happy.


As soon as I had entered our Spanish home, and made that first cup of tea, I found that I was almost euphoric. All the tension around my neck and shoulders disappeared, and I felt relaxed almost to the point of horizontal.

I wandered around opening everything up, making sure all my bits and pieces were where I wanted them and relaxed onto the sofa with a good book. I was in heaven.

Knowing that I was going to wake up to a bright sunny day, with no-one and nothing to attend to I slept better than I have for ages, without any sleeping tablets.

Writing this down it becomes clear to me that we really should up sticks and move out, - but then all the doubts crowd in.

How will we live with very little income?

I'm quite shy, I can seem a bit offhand and it takes me a long time to make friends, although when I do they are friends for life. I'm not a joiner of clubs, and I don't drink alcohol and want to party. I like to read, I like buy and sell quality clothes and other 'girlie' stuff, these are quite lonesome activities, basically I'm an introvert.

Will I feel very cut off from the life I have always known? I've lived in the Tunbridge Wells area all my life. I see people who I recognise (not necessarily friends) everywhere I go and it makes me feel secure.

Then there are my Sons, one not yet quite standing on his own feet, the other married with 2.5 grandchildren who I won't see as often if we move to Spain.

These are the things I can't quite leave...yet.................even though all the time I'm in the UK I want to.

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Life in the fast lane
Sunday, March 26, 2017

I have spent the last week or so working my socks off to allow me to be able to afford a few days in our little house in Estepona this weekend.

My Husband, I'll call him James from now on to save being so formal, went out for a few days the week before last, but my passport was being renewed with an even worse picture than the previous one, so I wasn't able to go with him. Anyway, we have a cat and a dog here, and someone has to feed them.

He arrived with some trepidation in case some other mishap had occurred whilst we were away, but apart from the damp musty smell from the floods, all was well. Our gardener Ancelmo has been keeping the place in good order and the pool man has finished repairs to the pool, so hopefully it's all Happy Days!

In fact, apart from slightly disappointing weather, which is not unusual at this time of year he looked forward to a nice time bumbling around looking in DIY stores for the things that we'll need when we go out in summer to start more serious renovations. 

Unfortunately...the hot water went off. On inspection, there was a strong smell of gas and the pilot light wouldn't.

He called in Julian. Julian is a Polish tri-lingual builder recommended to us by our estate agent Victoria. He and his team can do anything. Julians' man had a look at the boiler, fiddled a bit, and said it was okay,- but it wasn't. The next day it went out again and so it was decided that it would be best to spend 400 euros on a new one.

I suppose that's another thing we can cross off our 'to do' list!

So I'm looking forward to a few days in the warmth with nothing to do.

Here's hoping!

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Home from Home with two floods.
Saturday, March 4, 2017

We are really pleased with our little two bedroom bungalow, but we knew when we bought it that we would have to spend some money on it. The previous owners had owned it for a very long time but had never really spent any money on maintenance so everything is held together with blutack and sellotape!

On our exiting first visit after the sale, I quickly removed all the horrid ornaments and rugs, and set about cleaning the place from top to bottom and adding some bits and pieces of our own. It looked a little better, but we soon discovered that we didn't have the proper tools to do any serious work on the place, so we just sat back and enjoyed it.

It didn't matter, we had our own private detached house with a real pool, and it was warm and sunny, what else could we want? As we soon discovered, new drains would have been nice.

Without going into too much detail, we were forced to call out a drains expert to remove a blockage, which had been caused mainly by tree roots compromising the old drains. The expert manged to clear the blockage, but explained that we would have to build completely new drains very soon.

Oh well!

The pool is fabulous, a good size and there's a dolphin motif at the bottom and at first glace looks lovely and blue. However, there was a fine layer of dust, presumably from the roadworks which however much we tried to clean and filter out stubbornly refused to budge. We called in another expert, he did something or other and it improved slightly until the gardener tried to move a lever on the mechanism only for it to come off in his hands!

Oh well!

So far, so pretty much as expected, so we shrugged our shoulders, tried not to count how little money we had left and flew back to England in a good frame of mind, but aware that we would have to buckle down to get some cash for proper maintenance.

We both popped out for a couple of long weekends, but it wasn't until we went in January that the main event occurred. My Husband went out the day before me because I will NOT get up in the middle of the night to catch a plane, I feel ill all day, so I will only get on an afternoon or evening flight, and nothing will persuade me otherwise.  

I did the right thing. As he walked down the steps to the front door, he looked through the kitchen window, and fancied he saw a shimmer on the terracotta tiles, which seemed not quite right. As he opened the door he was presented with an inch of water all over the main living area. Wading through, the entered the bedroom to find that although no longer under water that too had been soaked, including our lovely new mattress which had been lain on the floor because we hadn't yet bought the bed base.

Luckily it was lovely and sunny, so he opened all the doors and windows, dragged the rugs and mattress outside and set about restoring some kind or normality before I arrived the following evening.

On investigation he discovered that we had had two floods!! The water softener on the dishwasher had broken and the living room had been flooded with clean mains water for weeks, and the terrible rains had entered the bedroom which had virtually no guttering, and is built into the hillside at the back. It took a lot of work to get the place habitable again, and it still smells a bit musty, but hopefully after the summer sun it will be okay. The terracotta tiles are covered in salt stain, the bedroom has brown watermarks on the walls, and we have a new bill to re-build the drains and install new guttering, and repairing the front tiled area of over 6,000 Euros.

We STILL love it!



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I used to be indecisive, but now I'm not so sure.
Saturday, February 25, 2017

When I left you last week we were still at the grindstone here in the UK and in the happy position of owning a spacious one bed flat on the seafront in Estepona. The flat had a parking space and storeroom and it was perfect for a quick break, or to let for holiday makers but it wasn't suitable for longer periods of residence, especially for both my Husband and myself as one of us would probably end up being thrown over the balcony!

 We were finding it increasingly frustrating only being able to go when there were no tenants, and with the new letting rules last June, we decided to put it on the market. We assumed that it would take about a year to sell and that we would have plenty more holidays there, but it sold within a week!


The buyers were extremely reasonable about our already booked flights in August, and agreed that we could put our personal stuff in the storeroom until we found our 'Forever home'.

We flew to Gibraltar at the end of August feeling very unsettled, and set about viewing properties with a vengance. We met some very good estate agents and some that frankly were useless. None of them however really listened to what we were looking for, and we spent a lot of time being dragged to places we weren't interested in buying.

We wanted a small detached place in Estepona with a pool and a garden and we really only had about 180,000 Euros. A tall order, but that was what we wanted!

We saw lovely off grid places up in the mountains, but too far from civilisation for me, we saw tiny little modern boxes on ghastly urbanisations which had no soul, we saw houses that we loved but which needed far more work than we could afford to do, and then our agent, Victoria from Future Homes in Estepona took us to Valle Romano.

We had been warned about Valle Romano, it has the nickname 'slippy valley' apparently, because there is so much subsidence there and this rather put us off the place, but it wasn't far to go, so we agreed to have a look.

It was pretty well perfect, 2 beds, detached, swimming pool, garden, and a bit rough and ready around the edges, but habitable. We fell in love, BUT it was 205,000 Euros. Now,I have never taken money seriously, whilst my Husband frets and worries about it,- but in the end we both knew that we would buy it. So we borrowed some more and it's been ours now since last October, and so far apart from one or two incidents, like having two floods, the constant dogs barking, and noise and dust and inconvenience of the roadworks it's been great. We love it.

Now we have to decide whether or not to move there permanently.

If we do decide to do that then when, now or in 5 years time?

Do we sell up completely here and close our businesses or do we try to run two lives?

Do we keep this house and let it for income, or do we sell up completely? 

What about No. 2 Son, where will he live?

Will I miss my life here too much? 

Will I miss my Grandchildren too much? 

Will we have enough to live on, with no income and no pensions?

Will I be able to make new friends in Spain?

Will I be able to learn to speak Spanish properly instead of the pidgin Spanish I currently speak?

Will we get bored with no work or structure to our lives?

Sooner or later we have to make a decision, we have a real Spanish home now, no excuses, and I ask again shall I stay or shall I go?





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Stuck in the middle with you....
Saturday, February 18, 2017

...So here's the thing........... I'm 60 years old, though, I'm told I look and behave younger, (about 59!), married for 30 years with two grown-up Sons.

We live in a house we hate, having 'downsized' from our large family home of 30 years last year.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, - sensible, but we hate semi-detached suburbia. It's not us at all.

There's Me & Husband here, & our youngest Son (24). - Elder Son is married with 2.5 kids, soon to be 3, and lives in nearby Sevenoaks.

We are very lucky, and I do count my blessings, but the everyday pressure of trying to earn money and live in the cold and damp when we are acutely aware that today we are the youngest we will ever be again, is really eating away at our contentment.

My Husband and I are both self-employed, always have been, both completely unemployable. He repairs and installs garage doors, (thrilling eh?) and I am a dealer in ladies fashions and accessories ancient and modern. Our youngest Son has just returned home from Australia like a prodigal, and now has to start his life all over again.

The thing is.... Since I was 9 years old when I went to my Sister's new apartment in Estepona fifty years ago I have loved the place. My parents loved it too and eventually they bought a flat right on the seafront which we went to a couple of times a year.

After a long time away in my early 20's, I bought a holiday on the credit card for my family to Nerja and made my Husband drive me the two hours plus to visit Estepona. It felt like coming home, and I manged to persuade and cajol him into buying our own place there. Just a one bed apartment, in the port but it was bliss!

This is the story of what happened next, and what we'd like to happen next, and whether or not we'll ever do it.

I'm sure there are loads of us out there trying to work up the courage and the wherewithall to move to Spain. People, who like me devour all the 'escape to the sun' programmes, and all the ex-pat books and blogs. Living the life through their experiences without actually changing anything.

I hope I'll do it, but it's scary, watch this space.

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