THE MOTHER

 

The daylight stretches out its long, cool bands,

streaking the clouds with promise of new light.

She sits alone by the window

wrapped in her robe and her thoughts.

Memories scroll past the screen in her mind,

recalling her children, the toils and the joys,

the lonely vigils in the night,

the often thankless tasks.

The noontime sun burns harsh upon the land,

leaving no place to hide, no shadow for relief.

She sits alone by the window

wearing her shades and her smile.

Thoughts come unbidden of sorrow and loss

and myriad times when her joy was so full

she thought her delight could not end

as all seemed so settled and firm.

The sunset thrusts high in the western sky,

turning grey clouds incandescent with red.

She sits alone by the window

clothed in her shawl and her peace.

The glow reflects from her cheeks where the tears

left their streaks as she pondered the present

when all’s not well with those she loves,

deep wounds will take long to heal.

But in it and through it, beyond and above,

the One who sorts all, still is Love.

September 2014

 

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Down in the dark

I look around me. Everything seems dark.

I feel alone. I cannot find my way.

A hopeless sense of deep despair pervades

my being as I cry and hug myself.

Time passes and I know there is no point

in sitting with Self-pity in deep gloom.

I look above me. There I see some light,

not strong, clear sunshine, but a growing glow.

So far away, I cannot feel a change

I think I’ll just remain here in the dark.

Time passes and I know I should move on.

Self-pity wastes my time and keeps me low.

I look beyond this pit of self-made pain

to see the hills around, now bathed in light.

The sun has risen; dark, dense shadows fly;

this thought brings hope to my sad, troubled soul.

I cannot wait for time to pass some more.

I’ll stand and shout, I’ll move out to that land;

I’ll feel the warmth and see the light around;

Self-pity cannot, will not win the day.

I cast him off; I walk into the light;

I feel the sun; I see the land around;

I move once more in freedom, peace and love.

I’ll not return. Self-pity will not win.

I live in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Because there are so many hills and valleys, our village lies in shadow as the sun rises, while the hills around catch the light and reflect it to us, until at length, the sun tops the hill and we are bathed in light and warmth. As I was walking this morning, I felt that this was saying something to me, so I wrote…

Really – section 6 – moving abroad

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER

6. Can you cope with noise?

The Spanish are very noise tolerant. They will not understand if you complain about what they see as routine background noise…

If you need peace and quiet before you can sleep, you may have a problem which will not go away, or which may occur some time after you settle in. Most villages, towns or cities have around 6 fiestas each year. These can last over a weekend, or for almost a week. Noise will range from enough of a background hum to make it difficult to drop off, to so loud you want to go and put your head in a vice…. Also, you may have a pack of loose dogs which roam the streets at night…. Or a single dog next door which barks while it’s owners are out – which could be every weekend till 2 or 3 in the morning.

Personally, I have found that I sleep through most noise now, or can turn over and drop off very quickly, but we leave home for the jazz festival and the week-long fiesta once a year..

Can you cope with dust?

Sounds an odd question, but if it is important for you to have your living space clean and shining at all times, then you will face a lot of work. The Spanish ladies are up early each morning, and they mop the whole way through their house or apartment, damp dusting furniture where appropriate, ending by sweeping and mopping the pavement outside before swilling the water out onto the road to lay the dust there. Otherwise, you need to be prepared to live with a light film on everything, and dust motes dancing in the rays of sunlight glancing through the cracks in the shutters…

How do you handle change?

Do you see change as a challenge or a problem? There will be a lot of change and adaptation in your lifestyle if you move to a different country. After all of this, let me say – we have never regretted our move to Spain. We enjoy the friendliness and generosity of the local people, we love Spanish food and wine, we get a lot of pleasure from living at a much slower pace. We have a chance to explore amazing countryside, and experience and try to understand a different culture. We began learning Spanish before we left the UK and have continued in Spain. It is very rewarding to be able to talk to the local people, even if only a little and haltingly. We are repaid by their friendliness and by being included into many of the local events. It has also enabled us, as pensioners, to plug in to some of the perks available to us through Social Services, where we are the only expats on a holiday or trip… Great fun!

I hope this will be of some help to some. Whether in the end youdecide to move, or not to move, at least you will have thought it through.

I may see some of you out here one day!

Hasta luego!!

Margaret

Really – section 5 – moving abroad

5. What other things do I need?

Doubtless you are likely to want some form of transport. There are two main ways of tackling this, neither of which is easy…  You can buy a suitable car in the UK ( think 4×4 if you are living out of town) and have it matriculated in Spain. This can cost from 700 to 1000 euros, depending on make, model and age. This still leaves you driving a right hand drive car in a left hand drive world – not always easy.  

Or you can buy a left hand drive car when you get to Spain. Unless you buy one with a warranty, you have no guarantees, and probably not enough fluency to ask all the right questions….

There is an alternative, not often done. It is possible to buy a left hand drive vehicle in the UK, have it completely overhauled there where you can discuss things readily with the mechanic, drive it out to Spain and have it matriculated.

How do I manage for money?

If you have a state pension, you can opt to have it paid directly into your Spanish bank account. You will get the exchange rate current on the day it leaves the UK on its journey to you. I suspect if you were to research it, you would find you will get a reasonable rate unless you are prepared to check the money market every day to exchange at the optimum rate – and even then, you need to pay for the pleasure, unless you are moving large amounts. If you have a pension paid into your Spanish account, you can request each year that your account fees be reimbursed. 

For any other situation I would suggest you research it yourself to put your mind at rest.

What are prices like in Spain compared to Britain?

Prices vary from store to store the same as in the UK, so it is worth-while shopping around. Even in the village where we live, prices vary from shop to shop, but only slightly. On the whole, we find the price of white goods is higher in Spain, but the cost of building supplies is considerably cheaper. Furniture tends to be expensive on the whole, so unless you want all IKEA stuff, you may want to bring the bulk of yours with you. 

Buses are good, comfortable, and punctual. They are also comparatively cheap. Once retired, you only pay half price. The coastal trains, the Cercanias, are a fast, convenient, cost- effective means of transport. 

Really? fourth section – moving abroad

4. Can I afford to move out there?

You may look at the prices of property online and feel you can afford to buy. In Spain, you need to add on roughly 7-10% of the asking price to cover taxes, etc. Also, many estate agents will charge between 3000 and 4000 euros to help you negotiate the deal. Make sure you check that out up front. You will need to provide a deposit, which is non- returnable, and that is paid as soon as your offer is accepted, usually before you have time to have it surveyed – if you can find a qualified person to do it….

Can I afford to live there?

If you buy into one of the complexes on the coast, you will get a reasonably clear idea of costs – how much your maintenance fees will be, etc.  If you buy privately, you need to ensure that you have a valid, up-to-date set of deeds and you need to read it through thoroughly and if in doubt have it checked by a lawyer. Many expats have found out too late that part of their home is owned by another party, or that there are clauses in the deeds limiting their rights. 

You also need to be aware that once you have signed, in Spain, you are liable for any outstanding debts on the property, and this can be for hundreds or thousands when it comes to old electricity

bills or household tax. In short, you need to ask all the right questions and/or have a very astute lawyer, one you have verified is trust-worthy, and that is likely to be expensive!

What if I become seriously or terminally ill?

This was written before Brexit. Double check everything!!

You need to decide before you move out what your plans

are for healthcare. If you live 6 months or more in Spain each or any year, you are technically resident there and not eligible for health care in Britain. If you are under the age of 65 you will not be able to claim free healthcare in Spain unless you are employed in Spain and/or you or your employer are paying your national insurance.

If you are over 65, receiving a UK state pension, there is a reciprocal agreement whereby you register with the Spanish Social Services and get the same as in Britain.Check out the situation about moving your healthcare from Spain to the UK should you become terribly ill and want to return home.

What happens when I become older and frail or need support?

Where you choose to live may be influenced by this question. Is it wise to live 6 or 7km out along a dirt track to the nearest village, where there is only a doctor visiting, say, twice a week? This is not such an issue if you are younger and in robust health, but can create insurmountable problems when you are older, as you become less able to get about. It makes sense to check local facilities, buses to the nearest hospital if you need outpatients care, and, if necessary, flying times to the nearest hospital, should an emergency occur…

Do I feel I can learn a new language? Is it necessary?

It is always helpful to speak as much as possible of the local language. In areas away from tourist centres, it is almost essential, although usually you can find someone living nearby who can translate for you. This will usually require payment on your part since that is how the translators make their living..You need to fill in forms, talk to the bank, query your  council taxes, consult the doctor, apart from mundane things like going to the butcher’s, etc. 

But take heart, we have found that if you are prepared to try, the local people will bend over backwards to try to help you, and it is amazing what can be done with a few key words and lots of hand signals!!

Really? – third section – moving abroad

3. What are my favourite things?

Try to make a list of the things you do enjoy about where you live in the UK. This may include things like visiting the library, going out to the cinema or theatre, having a day in the city once a month, etc. Remember that in most countries, access to English-speaking films, etc, is very limited, if it is possible at all. There may be a Rotary Club group, or some other specific interest group in a nearby town, but it would be best to check that out so you know..

We all look forward to the sunshine abroad, but it is not there all the time. Depending on where you choose to live, you can be snowed in, or marooned by landslips. You can end up in drought conditions with water rationing. You can be flooded out. Also, you need to find out the range of temperatures and rainfall in your chosen area. You may find that while winter, spring and autumn temperatures are what you would wish for, the high humidity of July and August makes you ill. Or the winter temperatures, around freezing point, may be something you had not expected… Are you prepared to research all of that before you decide on your dream home?

Where do I want to live?

Some people have watched travel shows on TV or have done a touring trip in the country of choice, and want to live away from the coast, up an unmade road, 5km from their nearest neighbour. They assure one another and their friends that they are going back to the simple life, that they will farm olives or almonds or whatever. Do you know how isolated you can feel when you have to drive 6 or 7 kilometres each way  just to go to a bar to meet friends. In Spain, with zero tolerance on alcohol consumption when driving, how long can you survive before being caught? Have you researched the price of olives, or almonds? Do you know how many hectares you need to own to break even, never mind make a profit? And what of the year when the prices plummet because there is a good harvest all round, or when your crop fails due to drought…

You also need to be comfortable with ‘foreigners’…. Apart from the Spanish themselves, you will rub shoulders with people probably of more diverse backgrounds than in the area where you live in UK – and that’s just ‘al campo’, never mind in towns!!

What are my expectations?

Do you have a vision, often fuelled by your experiences on holidays, that you will become part of a warm group of caring individuals who all support one another and have time to socialise in one another’s houses? This is quite often not the reality, so be prepared for that. On the whole, people meet at the bar, sharing a superficial chat about this and that, and filling one another in on the latest gossip. As in any small community, there are ‘larger-than-life’ characters who are either loved or hated, there are those with strong convictions on everything, there are people from lots of different areas of society. It is likely there will not be another person or couple there that you would befriend were you living where you are now. If this is hard to accept as an idea, you will find it even harder to cope with in reality. Many marriages fall apart as couples who had been growing apart without realising it, have the restraints of UK society removed. Many couples find that after settling in, one of the couple loves the new lifestyle while the other hates it. Broken marriages are everywhere, so one partner may stray in a way they never would have in UK. 

Really – second section – moving abroad

2. How does my partner really feel about the idea?

Believe me, this is one occasion where both of you need to be in total agreement. Not just that you want to live in a foreign country but where you want to be located, the type of place you want to be living in, and the type of property you want to buy. To begin with, there is general location. Most people opt for being near the coast, and reasonably close to an airport with frequent flights to the UK. It is likely that you will have already formed a preference. It would be a good idea to concentrate holidays for some months in that area. Try to visit ‘off season’ when there are fewer tourists. This enables you to gauge more accurately how many bars close down October to May, whether your favourite food shop still stocks the UK items you would not want to live without, what the rhythm of cafes is in the down time.

Then you need to think about whether you want to live in a gated community on the coast; or a different type of property, on the coast or inland; whether in a city, town, village or hamlet or right out in the countryside.

There are plusses and minuses to all of the above. The gated community gives you a sense of security, has a swimming pool ( but check if it is open all year) keeps out unwanted intruders – but also keeps out the surrounding culture. A house on the coast gives you quick access to the beach – but means there will be a higher incidence of tourists to affect your life and living conditions. Also, it can be very hot and humid by the sea, with a need for air conditioning, expensive to instal, run and maintain.

If you are considering a town or village, inland or on the coast, it might be worthwhile to check out the availability of local buses. It is not always possible to have a car available, and it is a pleasant option for visiting new places. In Spain, for instance, if you are retired, when you slot into the Spanish Social Services, one of the benefits is half price bus fares. 

If you are thinking of a village or hamlet, you might want to find out whether it has a bar, or a shop, how often in the week a doctor visits, or whether you must travel to another village or town for doctor, dentist, optician, shopping, etc. 

Talk to one another at length, exploring all facets of your move before you decide to change your lifestyle so drastically. It is better to spend time getting it right before you go, than to have to try to remedy mistakes later.

What about family and friends?

They always say they’ll come and visit, but what if they don’t? How will you cope not seeing your nearest and dearest as often as you do now? At best it is likely to be a couple of times a year. Most people cannot afford the time or the money to do more- and may not even enjoy the place you have chosen to live.