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Musings about Spain and Spanish life by Paul Whitelock, hispanophile of 40 years and now resident of Ronda in Andalucía .

The “Accidental Spaniard” – Part Three
03 May 2021 @ 08:09

Pablo de Ronda is an honorary Spaniard. He has lived and worked in the Serranía de Ronda for more than 12 years. Yet it was all an accident.

In Part One of his story he explained how he came to study Spanish at university.

In Part Two he told us how his life developed over the course of his degree, and how he ended up in hospital in Germany.

In this third and final part of his trilogy he relates how, with a degree in Spanish and German, he ended up living in Spain and married to a German.

He insists it was totally unplanned, and that that too was an accident.

After I recovered from my appendectomy I saw out the rest of my six months at Daimler-Benz AG and returned to Salford for the third term of my third year.

I’d earned good money at the luxury car manufacturer’s and bought myself a little car, a Hillman Imp. Not many students had cars in those days, so I was in a fortunate position, I guess.

I rented a grotty flat in Cheetham Hill, Manchester with my Northern Irish pal Mel. Mel could play guitar and sing and my voice wasn’t too bad either. Out of the blue we got offered the “job” of resident folk singers on Thursday nights at the Star Inn, Salford.


The one-armed landlord thought it was amusing to call us Hobson’s Choice.

There was a bunch of first-year female modern languages students who used to come every Thursday, and one, a blonde, called Jeryl, caught my eye. It wasn’t long before we were “stepping out”.

She had a licence so shared the driving whenever we went out. I drove there and she drove back. An ideal arrangement. Drink driving was just starting to become “taboo”.

Jeryl and I became an “item”. We stayed together through my final year, and her year abroad, spent in the Soviet Union and in southern France.

I graduated in 1973, did a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in Sheffield and became a modern languages teacher in Northwich, Cheshire.

By this time Jeryl and I were “living in sin” in a tower block in Salford Shopping Centre, while she finished off her degree.

Under pressure from parents to marry (living together out of wedlock was still a bit “iffy” in the early 1970s, we “jumped the broom” in January 1975. Then we bought our first house in Walkden, Greater Manchester. We paid £11,000 and had a mortgage with an interest rate of 16%!

Fast forward to the year 2000, our Silver Wedding Anniversary.

In  the intervening years I’d become Head of Spanish at a Boys’ Grammar School in Middleton, near Rochdale and then Head of Modern Languages and later Senior Teacher at a mixed comprehensive school in Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside.

Then I left the classroom and became a schools adviser for St Helens Council. Later I was a Senior General Adviser for Sefton Council for 10 years.

After graduation Jeryl had done a MA and then PhD in International Marketing and gone into industry working for textile giant Courtaulds. She quite quickly became export manager for a company within the group.

We moved to Thelwall, near Warrington, Cheshire. That house cost an eye-watering £37,500, with a mortgage rate still around 16%. We stayed in that house, extending it twice, for 25 years.

We had two kids, Amy and Tom, and we went to Spain on holiday or with work every year. Jeryl was also a real hispanophile by this time and had made the effort to do evening classes in Spanish. She soon became nearly as good as me at castellano!

In fact, our Spanish bank manager once said her accent was better than mine!

Tired of the slog of export management, Jeryl switched to academia. Firstly at the University of Salford, where she became Professor of International Marketing and later at the University of Bradford Business School as Professor of International Marketing and Head of Department.

To celebrate 25 years of marriage, in August 2000 we arranged a little tour of Andalucía, staying in paradores for a week. Two nights in Ronda, two in Arcos de la Frontera, one in Cádiz, one in Córdoba and one in Málaga Gibralfaro.

We loved it, especially Ronda and the pueblos blancos of the Serranía de Ronda.

The following year we bought a little apartment in the Barrio San Francisco in Ronda. We named it Piso Blanco. Two years later we also bought a little house to do up, Casa Blanca, also in the Barrio.

Then in 2005 I had my annus horribilis. A nervous breakdown, divorce and redundancy. Wow! A triple whammy if ever there was one!

Two failed relationships later, one with the former object of my desires as an undergraduate, Jac,  who was a widow when we finally got together (her husband Danny had committed suicide many years before), I was at a loose end.

I found myself in Ronda at the beginning of September 2008 for La Feria de Pedro Romero, the annual bullfighting festival.



That was where I met the lovely Rita, whom I naturally nicknamed the Meter Maid. A German, resident in Montejaque for two years at that time, she didn’t have a clue what I was on about with her nickname, having more classical musical interests than the Beatles.

Anyway, we fell in love, I moved in with her at the end of 2008, we married in 2010 and the rest is history.

That is how this “accidental Spaniard”, who’d studied Spanish by chance, ended up living in Spain with a German, using both languages every single day. Not many languages graduates can make that claim!

But it was not planned at all. It was all an accident!


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