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A Foot in Two Campos

Thoughts from a brand new home-owner in the Axarquía region of Málaga. I hope there might be some information and experiences of use to other new purchasers, plus the occasional line to provoke thought or discussion.

177 - Forty Days
Sunday, February 17, 2019 @ 12:15 PM

Forty-four days.

I go for my morning walk, my feet heading automatically to the Enchanted Place.  The almond blossom is just finishing, and the grass smells fresh.  The view is clear, across to the rocky outcrop that so dominates the village, across to our big mountain, with just a touch of snow on its peak, down to the neighbouring village, and back through the frame of the almond trees to the village that I call home.  I shake off the worries, the cloud that hangs over, and turn back, retracing my steps and round to the bakery where Gloria puts my bread roll in a bag as I enter, without waiting for me to ask.


Forty-three days.

February.  The skies are blue but indoors it is chilly.  I light the fire after lunch and settle down to some Spanish homework.  No more exams for me, but I keep going to classes and there’s always more to learn.  Suddenly in the Spanish article I’m reading the word referéndum appears and at the same moment a log slips and I jump.  I glance out of the window and it seems greyer.  The flames flicker but there’s a chill.


Forty-two days.

On Facebook I click on a group I belong to, of Spanish people living in the UK.  At first I joined to help me get used to casual badly-written Spanish, and in case I could help with advice.  Now I stay to understand the processes they face, in case we will face something similar here.  It seems inhuman, excessively-demanding, and every day on the group there are awful stories of people with 25 years or more in the UK being refused “Settled Status” because they can’t PROVE they have lived there (including someone who has worked consistently for a Local Authority).  A few weeks ago the Prime Minister lifted the £65 charge.  As so often, she missed the point.  The point is that they, like me, moved because they had the right so to do.  As long as we met the fairly basic requirements (of working or being self-sufficient) we had the RIGHT to live elsewhere.  What the EU citizens in the UK are currently having to do is ASK permission.  Permission which can be … and is being … refused, apparently randomly.  This small Facebook group of 5,400 Spaniards log on each morning to share their happiness at a successful application, their distress at a refusal, their confusion because applications must be made through an App but it only works on Android phones.  The UK’s Home Office trips them up at every turn, and they turn to the group for advice and for solace.

Here in Spain we do the same.  Following parliamentary votes, party divisions, British Consulate press releases and online updates.  Following them slavishly, following the advice and support groups that exist for British people in each of the EU countries.   We all have friends who haven’t quite got all the required paperwork in place, and we worry for them.  Those of us with official residency here will have to do what the Spanish in the UK are doing, we will have to ask permission to stay.  Can they refuse?  Yes, though we obviously hope our adopted host nation continues to be more welcoming to us than the UK is to the Spanish nurses, architects and bar-workers whose right to live there has changed to requesting permission.


Forty-one days.

I’m out with Pilar and Ana in Málaga.  A coffee, a film, drinks and a few tapas.  Gossiping, relaxing.  They avoid the subject, though they are following it closely too, worried for me.

A couple of weeks ago it was announced that pensioners living in EU countries would only get the normal inflationary uplift one year more, then their pensions would be frozen at that level.  Last week it was announced that pensioners living in EU countries were no longer entitled to NHS care if they visited the UK.  There is now clarity about the restrictions on people without official residency.  All those second-home owners, part-timers, the winter “swallows”, many of them elderly, who sank their savings into their much-loved Spanish holiday-home.  90 days in 180 days, but that’s for the whole Schengen area, not just Spain, so those who liked to take a week or two to drive down, exploring France on the way, will have to start spreadsheets, counting, rationing their days.  Their right to spend time in their own home is suddenly restricted, suddenly diminished.


Forty days.

I come out of the oldies’ gym in the village, waving goodbye to the women and jumping in my car to head down the autovía.  In Málaga the city is gearing up for Carnaval.  The lights are up, large and small stages pop up in the squares and side-streets.  The cycle of another year is underway.  After Carnaval it’ll be Semana Santa, then feria, and so it goes on.  After six years here I still love each of those events.  I’d miss them.


It’s not that I won’t be able to stay.  I will hand in my little green residency card, that I was so proud of in 2013 when I got it from the police station, and I will ask permission to stay.  I have no doubt it will be granted.  But I still have to ask permission.  They will grant it, I’m sure, but it is not a right any more.  So it feels different.  It ever so slightly changes everything.


I’m unutterably sad.  I know I’m lucky, I know I’m protected from the worst impact.  Some of my rights are protected by dint of already being here (though the protections become far fewer if there is no deal, and here we are at forty days and we still don’t know).  Others cannot follow us, not so easily, not by right.  Back there in the UK the impact will be much greater.  I know that.  We all do.  But right now, as I take a mug of tea up onto the terrace and gaze across the village rooftops, as the countdown clicks down to under forty days, the selfish part of me surfaces.  I think about the Home Office refusing permission to Spanish people.  I think about a friend here worried about not having residency papers.  And another friend whose healthcare needs may cut short his Spanish dream.  And I think about needing to ask permission to stay, and about the forthcoming general election here in Spain and I worry about what that might mean for my adopted country but also what it might mean for us third-country immigrants who no longer have rights but must ask permission to stay.   Permission to stay at home.

©  Tamara  Essex  2019                                 

Like 2


eos_ian said:
Sunday, February 17, 2019 @ 12:48 PM

Welcome back Tamara. A great read as always. I am hopeful all UK/Spanish citizens in respective countries will be given permanent residence...but you are right, asking permission is not the same as a right. Let's cross our fingers that they who decide, are sensible and fair in their final agreement. I am optimistic eventhough they are taking their time.

And...Thank you! :-)

lyratooting said:
Sunday, February 17, 2019 @ 1:35 PM

Thank you Tamara for an enlightening article. Although I only visit my house in Almeria two or three times a year I will always consider Spain my home as they are more welcoming than the Brits back home.

moonbeam said:
Sunday, February 17, 2019 @ 3:18 PM

Welcome back Tamara -we have missed your blogs!

As you say, being stripped of EU citizenship could cause difficulties for many English pensioners and workers, and is a cause of great concern for many.

To obtain a Non-UE Resident Card (non-working) an individual has to demonstrate proof of income of 2130 euros per month and full private health insurance cover. Private health insurance has its drawbacks as medication is not covered, and pre-existing conditions can mean extortionate premiums.

If there is the terrible outcome ofa no deal UK citizens automatically overnight become Third Country residents. The responsible Spanish Minister was on TV the other day and said that of course British Residents would still have some rights if a no deal happened (but did not specify what they would be) but did advise that they would not have automatic continued access to Public Health Care as that would depend on a bi-lateral agreement being brokered. It was also said that even if we leave with a deal that if minimum salaries for UK working visas of 30,000 pounds were demanded that Spain would reciprocate with the same demand for Spanish working visas here.

All very sad, and very worrying.

anthomo16 said:
Saturday, February 23, 2019 @ 8:49 AM

Always a good read, thank you Tamara. I am one of those stupid people who thought that I might sell my apartment easily as it is a good price and that when I moved further inland and to a different part ofthe country that I would wait and get my residency there as I had been told if i got it here in Nueva Andalucia, I would have to get it again when I moved - 15 months on and I still haven't sold ! whilst my brain is active my body tells me my age. I love Spain, I love the spanish people, I am used to the manana attitude and do not want to contemplate returning to a cold and uneasy country.
My whole time is consumed with trying to sell to the extent that my learning of Spanish has fallen by the wayside. I so want to stay in this beautiful country there are so many places I want to visit.
Back in England Ihave spanish, french, greek cypriot and italian neighbours who have all lived, brought up their children and worked long hours in the UK - all own their own houses and are so worried that this might be taken away from them.
As already said I know I have been stupid and should have got my residency 15 months ago but isnt hindsight great?
Missed your blogs and looking forward to your next one.

Dave11 said:
Saturday, February 23, 2019 @ 1:13 PM

This Brexit - what a total mess for all of Europe in every way. And now those who voted to leave the EU are starting to lose their jobs in the UK because of it. So very sad....

altor10 said:
Saturday, February 23, 2019 @ 2:21 PM

This whole debarkle really saddens me on so many different levels. I am British with a Spanish husband and we have resided in both countries over the years. We are in the UK at the moment for our children to finish secondary schooling and the plan was then to spend time in both countries... for that. like so many families, is what we are - a mix of nationality, cultures, DNA.
Unless you are a direct descendant of an indigenous people with absolutely no interlopers we are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants somewhere, it merely depends on when you choose to start the clock.

crostrad said:
Saturday, February 23, 2019 @ 7:52 PM

Hi Tamara, good to see that you're back.Missed reading your Blog--hope we see more of you. As ever it's an interesting read.Food for thought.

EErica said:
Sunday, February 24, 2019 @ 9:16 PM

Hi Tamara. Interesting to read your thoughts and "analysis"of the ongoing situation. Many of those things you were stating in your blog I hadn't thought and it really saddened me when I realised how complicated the developments both in Spain and in Britain are at the moment. I do hope that the politicians and lawmakers and anyone involved in the process (and with the power to have a say in things) will be wise enough to make decisions that are humane and rightful, but time will show how and where the process will end. Looking forward to reading more from you soon!

annestevens said:
Tuesday, February 26, 2019 @ 1:33 AM

Hello Tamara, I am shocked to read just how bad things are because of this Brexit business. I live in Australia but would like to live in Spain as I enjoy the lifestyle and the people. I have still a British passport and an Australian one. I realise you can not answer everyone individually but wonder if you can advise me if there is public transport in the area you live in? I would like to visit a place where I was not dependant on a car. Please keep up your blog it is great. Good to know people are welcoming that is what I liked Last time in Spain was 2015. All the best from Anne

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