Friday, 1 May 2009

Hello to Andalucia!

How a poor, befuddled Englishman has begun to build a new life in Spain. By Glenn Stuart. The dawn broke on a blisteringly gorgeous day. It was to be the first of many. An uninterupted spell of sunshine. Well, almost uninterupted. There was a little thing called work that had to be dealt with. That was the one constant that was going to remain unchanged. Is still unchanged. About a million years ago, I’d answered an advert for a job, applied and, much to my amazement, I was called for interview. This took place in a very plush Spanish owned hotel in London. It wasn’t so much an interview as a prolonged chat really. One and a half hours. It all went like a dream, the job was mine, and before anyone could take a breath it was all systems go, putting my house on the market, finding a removal service – for the furniture and the pets – and, perhaps most important of all, securing somewhere to live. Prior to moving out I’d planted myself in front of the television, as most of you probably did, and soaked up as much as I could of the delights of satellite t.v. stations devoted to Spain and living abroad in general. It all seemed so...idyllic. As I watched my eyes would close and I’d let myself drift away to another world, another more peaceful and restful existence. Carefree days that went on forever, barmy nights spent sipping sangria by the pool, exotic food, fabulous, invigorating company. A new life, unruffled, unhurried,uncomplicated. If only I’d known! Now you mustn’t get me wrong here. I love Spain. Love the people, the climate, the food and, yes, the wine. But the reality isn’t quite the same as the dream. At least, not for me. You see, I’m not a rich man. The sale of my house would leave me with barely enough to put down the tiniest of deposits on a new home. And what exactly would that ‘new’ home be like? Certainly not on the coast! Prices there, well they’re just insane, as I’m sure you’d agree. No, it would have to be inland, a magnificent roof terrace something slightly more ‘down to earth’...only time would tell! As it was, after the offer of the job had been made, I naturally began the exciting search for properties on the net. And what a selection there was! We’ve all done it, haven’t we? Typed in the location, the minimum and maximum amounts, number of bedrooms, bathrooms...then waited with baited breath for the results to flash up? I think I got about two matches! Well, the weeks passed by and I took up one of those so-called low-cost sampler trips, whereby a property company here in Spain would pick you up at the airport and chauffer you around a selection of properties. I’d told them what I wanted, something inland, something ‘typically Spanish’ in a white-washed mountain village. I told them how much I could probably afford. Of course, estate agents the world over never take much notice of this figure; they usually hike at least twenty thousand on the price. ‘I can go up to 150,000,’ you say as they rustle through their selection of properties for sale. ‘Well...’ always the long pause here as they pick up the various details and put them back with a deep sigh, ‘we haven’t really got very much at the moment...Ah! Here’s a lovely one, just come in this morning. One hundred and ninety five thousand. Bargain.’ No doubt something similar would happen to me here in Espania! The hotel was nice enough. A touch Spartan, but clean. And the weather was lovely. I had been met at the airport by the company representative and the plan for the next two days had been put before me. Forty eight hours and twenty three properties. Not bad really. Gave me some opportunity for sleep, so I didn’t complain. It didn’t take long for me to begin to experience that awful sinking feeling that often accompanies me on this sort of jaunt. Conversations were like a mirror image of what had gone before in the U.K.: ‘I can go up to about 140,000,’ I mumbled under my breath, squirming with the embarrassment of it all. There was the expected sharp intake of breath, and the disbelief in the word, ‘Euros?’ I nodded my head feebly. He shook his. ‘You’ll not find anything for that.’ So I was taken on a whirlwind tour of the inland towns of Andalucia. Names I had only seen on the internet were now real places. The properties were lovely, some of them spectacular, all of them grossley over-priced and way, way beyond my means. Property number one had spaciousrooms, a magnificent roof terrace with views to die for. I pictured myself settling back on the sun-lounger, reaching out for a long, cool drink...Then a voice shattered my imaginings, ‘This one is two hundred and ten thousand.’ I looked up at the grinning face before me and shook my head sadly. On to the next,with up-lifted heart! Well, to perfectly honest, a faltering heart. Things were not going well. Property number two was immaculate, set in a tiny street of equally quaint properties. Inside it was just as inspiring...but the price? No, it was too much. Depression had set in with a vengeance and grew relentlessly as the hours dragged by and more properties were viewed, each more unattainable than the last. Words of advice are often freely given. Don’t rush into things is perhaps the best. I’d read all the books, browsed through all the magazines, closed my eyes and dreamed the dreams. A beautiful, glistening villa, set on a hill-side with sensational views of unbroken and unspoilt countryside. Or perhaps a traditional townhouse? Furnished in the age-old style? Well, I wouldn’t be rushing anywhere, that much was certain! That final evening I kicked my heals as I strolled down the promendade of Fuengirola. It really was all a dream, or at least it felt like it then. How was I to make it all happen when so much was against me? Without independant means,without a small fortune to put down as a deposit, how could any of it ever become a reality? I slumped down on a seat outside a bar and watched with growing envy the people happily strolling by. It all seemed so unattainable, so out of reach. When the time came for me to return to the UK, there was one thing of which I was absolutely sure about – I really wanted to come and live in this beautiful country. I was determined to do that. And that is the one point I want to get across to anyone reading this. It can be done. ‘Where there’s a will...’I paused at the foot of the steps that led to the aeroplane that would soon be jetting me back to Old Blighty and cast my eyes across the tarmac to the sweep of mountains that embrace Malaga International Airport. I looked and I knew that I would return. Somehow a way had to be found . In the final analysis there really was only one option left open to me: renting. Not such a bad choice, as long as somewhere could be found. Which it was, after a struggle. And a very nice choice too, I have to say! But there’s nothing quite like owning your own home, now is there? So it wasn’t long after settling here that I was on the search again. A search I will detail later. For the time being, there was the village, and the people of the village, to get to know! Get to know more about Glenn Stuart - visit his website Here you'll find out all about his latest book, 'The Well of Despair'. Buy it, read it, enjoy it!