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Time to move to Spain

Medically retired at short notice our plans to move to Spain are brought forward by a few years. With little time to spare, this is our story.

In perspective - life in spain
19 November 2015

In perspective - Life in Spain

If you have kept up with my blog over the last couple of months you will probably realise that I'm writing a few weeks behind. I've kept my own diary of our new life here and am slowly but surely bringing it up to date. We are now up to the end of August into early September. However as I write this week, I write in the aftermath of the tragic events that have unfolded in Paris last Friday. Like everybody else, my thoughts are with those affected by the events in France - The world is undoubtably a very unstable place for a lot of people at the moment. 

One of the recurring news stories that has come out of the bombings and shootings in Paris is that of immigration. As it stands I have decided to live in a country different to the one I was born in which is in common with millions of people worldwide, which makes me an immigrant. I continue my blog as before but remain forever grateful that I have this opportunity to do what I'm doing in this wonderful country. 

Having received our belongings we continue to enjoy our new life in Spain. We still rely on public transport, namely buses which are cheap, pretty reliable but we find it difficult to decipher their routes. They seem to travel in a loop which can sometimes means on a return journey, you cannot always get,off at the same place you get on. One event in particular stands out and was in fact pretty scary. Sue was out late one night at one of the urbanisations and had to get the last bus home. This bus usually stops short of where you get it from on the journey out, but it stops at the harbour so the walk home is along the front where it's very busy. As she was sitting on the bus it suddenly went off the usual route and as it was sometime around midnight, difficult to see any landmarks. As she was sitting behind the driver, he could not see her. Sue became concerned and approached the driver who nearly jumped out of his seat! In the resultant panic, Sue had to get off the bus into a place she didn't know, her phone had run out of credit and it was after midnight. Luckily she was near a garage and was able to hail a taxi. She managed to get home but it made us both realise the fine line between possible danger and safety when you don't fully know your surroundings. 

What do you do when you haven't got British TV or Internet? Talk to each other? What an unusual concept, but we do, not that we've ever had a problem in that direction anyway. I start to play my guitar. I took lessons many years ago and became ok but like others before me, as soon as I got to 'F' I became disillusioned and it drifted off. I'm trying again so hopefully it will stick this time. We take up the local customs of dominoes and cards. To be honest, I got a bit bored with these yet every day, scores of spaniards take to the streets to play those games. I play my music a lot more. My iPod has become more of a friend however iTunes has taken upon itself to rearrange my music library and duplicate and triplicate my music for no reason whatsoever. What I've found is that when we are on the balcony late at night listening to music my taste suffers and I start to listen to guilty pleasures more. There's only so much Liverpool Express and David Soul you can listen to however. It does go dark about 10pm and there's always plenty of people in the sea as it goes dark but Sue won't swim in the dark, you can't see what's coming for you apparently! 

Torrevieja - people swimming at 10pm

People on the beach at 10pm, probably playing cards! 

One night we go to see an AC/DC tribute band at Munroes in Torrevieja. It's the first time we've been in there and it's a heavy rock bar with a clientele to match. We go for Bacardi and Coke and are handed a pint! Yes, a pint of Bacardi and Coke! Five euros has rarely been better spent! It's an event in itself as the band sing all the songs in Spanish except for the chorus line. It's a strange mix:

El ir abajo (goin down)
Tiempo del partido (party time)
Mis amigos van a estar alli tambien... (My friends are gonna be there too)
I'm on the highway to hell! (I'm in the highway to hell! ) 

As tribute bands go, let's just say I'm glad we had the bacardis. On the poster outside, future tribute bands include Tina turner, Muse and Ramones. We mentally add this venue to our list as one of the things we have found out about our part of Torrevieja is that there is precious little live entertainment. The bars are all for eating and drinking in with tv showing Spanish football at some. There's a lovely theatre and some street entertainers but not much else near to the coastline.

We have to go to one of the urbanisations on the edge of town for some entertainment. St James' gate is an Irish pub on la Torretas ii. It's about 30 minutes walk from where we are on the coast. Sunday night offers karaoke outside. I'm tempted but for now, Spain can wait for my versions of 'I fought the law' and 'cigarettes & alcohol). Inside offers Stevie Spit, a drag artist with an acid tongue. It's standard drag fare, occasionally going back into some 70s style humour, but it is entertaining and funny. Stevie picks on the audience and people of a nervous disposition should stay away from the stage. The act is on for well over two hours with a break in between. That coupled with cheap drinks and a friendly crowd makes for as good night. 

We end this week by attempting to open a Spanish bank account. We want to make this as painless as possible so we try Santander, who we are familiar with. There is one member of staff apparently allocated to deal with English speaking people. Some other staff speak some English bit we wait for the safe option. After what seems like an age, but is probably only about an hour, we meet Angela. She is very helpful and advises us we need to get authorisation from head office for us to be accepted. We can't open any of the higher interest or specialist accounts like the 1,2,3 account, just your average normal account as we are not resident in Spain. The banks are open from 9am - 2pm. We are asked to come back in an hour, just before closing. We return but no answer from head office, an appointment is made for us the next morning. Hurrah, we have an account, a bank book like we all had years ago and another link to Spain. 

One strange anomaly exists however. When we came to Spain we changed our address with all our banks as they insisted - makes sense! We open this bank account, give our Spanish address and they asked for our UK address. Luckily we still have one, so we give it. What we didn't know was that they send all our correspondence to the UK address while our UK banks send all our correspondence to Spain work that one out! Interestingly we are informed by a local that we should not trust Spanish banks as they are very unpredictable. One local we spoke to, who lived in England for a period of time still uses his English bank account more than his Spanish one! No doubt someone will have some advice for us on reading this. It all adds to the experience. 

Dad and sister duly arrive for a two week visit, just in time to go to the pub...

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At last! Our belongings arrive.
11 November 2015

At last! Our belongings arrive.

Well I didn't expect that! I go for my morning run and on my return. See numerous packages outside our apartment block. On closer inspection I quickly realise that it's our shipment from the UK. No warning, just 'they should be with you soon'. Some of it has been thrown around a bit but all the boxes are there. We took great care in packing our belongings before we left. Newspaper and bubble wrap was everywhere! I stand and look at the pallet outside our block, numerous boxes in varying degrees of disrepair.

We have a caretaker of sorts looking after the building on behalf of the residents, paid for by the community charge. She waves me over and tries to explain to me something... Between us, with the use of her Spanish and both our attempts at sign language  I work out that I'm not to take more than three boxes at a time up in the lift. I try to call the lift but it's not responding. I see its on our floor so assume sue is unloading. Then I hear her shout my name, what's happened? Sue has taken the first few packages up in the lift and promptly broken it. It turns out she was told by the caretaker to take no more than three packages, so took two large suitcases. They proved too much and the lift conked out on arrival at our apartment. 
Despite maintenance being on their way, I'm getting impatient and decide to bring my belongings up without the lift. I didn't account for the 40 degree heat though...
I try and bring some stuff up the five flights of stairs but it near kills me. My legs will not thank me tomorrow. It's takes a bit of time, some of the boxes have completely split open but eventually I get the boxes home. I gain about two hours on the lift as its fixed sometime in late afternoon and unbelievably we get most of our stuff away by 5pm. Most of our stuff is intact thanks to cautious packing however notable casualties include two pizza stones and a tapas dish. I'm not sure whether it's the quality of our boxes or the removals company that's at fault here but I'm pretty pleased our belongings are here despite taking just short of five weeks to arrive. 

One positive is that we now have our TV back. Ok, Spanish TV but a couple of American channels which seem to satisfy Sues itch for English speaking TV and some audio channels. We have a smart TV and Sue volunteers to programme it. It did seem unusually difficult to programme until Sue realised that she had been scanning cable. I indicated surprise that she thought we had cable TV but Sue said she'd thought it was because there was a cable going into the TV. I had to remind her that we don't have cable TV as yet. The meerkats have all arrived safely, our photos are up and our DVDs have arrived. We don't have UK TV yet so we will be recommencing 'Breaking Bad' which we are about halfway through at the moment. We celebrate our belongings arriving by going out for a few Mojitos and go back home to watch Breaking bad! 

Meerkats, safely arrived in Spain.

Something else happens this week that changes our routine completely. Every other day or so, we go to the harbour for a swim instead of the sea. It's calmer and clearer which mean we can swim without mouthfuls of salt water. It's Sunday and as I plunge into the sea a Spanish couple come over to me and start to talk. 'No hablo espanol, que hablo Ingles' I explain but they are adamant and keep speaking to me. Even sign language this time wouldn't help. Whatever it is they're saying it can't be all that important, can't? I give up and begin my usual swim out. About halfway out I suddenly see a round orangey brown thing in front of me, then another. I suddenly realise I'm surrounded by jellyfish and also realise what the Spanish couple were saying to me. I'm not the best sea swimmer when it comes to sea creatures, in fact I'm a bit of a wimp, probably going back to seeing Jaws in the ABC cinema in Liverpool back in 1975. It may seem like exaggeration but I feel it's akin to being in the middle of a minefield. Whichever way I go, there's danger! It did take a bit of time, and it must have looked hilarious to anyone looking on the way I zig zagged back to the shore. I manage to get myself back and relax a little safe in the knowledge that the worst is behind me. We stay within the relative safety of the 'shallow end' for a while then get out. No it isn't! We go up onto the walkway above the sea to see the extent of the jellyfish. Not only do we see them, but actually, feet from where we were standing in the safe area, there are more of them. Needless to say it's put me completely off swimming there ever again. I'm not the most extensive of travellers but have been numerous times to the usual holiday resorts of the Canaries, Balearics, Turkey, Egypt etc but have only ever been stung by a jellyfish in Tunisia and that was a few times 28 years apart. How we managed to avoid them this time is beyond me. There were hundreds. It's safe to say, it will be quite some time before we will go swimming in the harbour again. 

scene of the Jellyfish incident! 

It's amazing what a few personal belongings can do to a home. A few kitchen gadgets, photos, clothes, my Sex Pistols mug can make to your life. It turns what is essentially a holiday apartment into more of a home. We have our routine and spend so much more time outdoors than we did in England. We walk more, swim more, eat later and for some reason get the mid afternoon dip in energy that prompts a siesta. Is it the heat? Lifestyle? The fact we are going to bed later? Poor sleep due to the heat? Whatever it is, by mid afternoon we seem to run out of energy. as neither of us work there are no deadlines to adhere to. The first five weeks certainly have been a steep learning curve for us but at the moment we are happy. 

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