Twelve months ago pub landlord Mick Dennison and wife Lynn decided to quit Lancashire for a new life in Spain. Here he reflects on the upheaval of emigrating.
It was like sitting in a bath. A hot tropical sun browned our bodies as we lay in the shallows of the Bay of Thailand. Adventure over, almost time to come home, but where was home?
We had set off on our Far East and Australia adventure (Backpacking On A Pension we called it in our online blog) almost a year ago to the day, free from the shackles of running a Morecambe pub for the past 10 years.
Free from the dismal British weather and, for the first time in ages, free to do exactly what we wanted.
Twenty-four years in the army followed by eight years climbing the corporate ladder in the telecommunications industry had seen me travel the world extensively but always at someone else’s behest. Now, after those ten torrid years in the pub trade (there’s another story), it was time to do something for us.
We arrived back in England last May; tanned, fit and ready for our new challenge. Our plan had always been to retire in Spain, this, it seemed, was the right time to do it. Our eldest daughter had lived on the Costa Blanca for almost ten years, we had holidayed there many times and this was it. We had dispatched our worldly goods, mid-February, to the village of Jesus Pobre, between the major towns of Javea and Denia. Our daughter had arranged a rental on a three bedroomed townhouse via someone she knew. A reduction in rent was also negotiated (the house had been empty for a while) which in the end saved us having to pay out separately for storage while we were on our travels.
We spent five days saying our final goodbyes around Morecambe and Lancaster and packed up the car with the worldly goods we forgot to send over.
After a tearful farewell to our daughter and granddaughter it was time to depart for Portsmouth, via Warminster, where my wife Lynn’s family live.
After a pleasant two night crossing to Bilbao, and immigration quickly cleared, I set the sat nav for our new home; seven hours and 450 miles later we arrived. It was not a strange, daunting experience it could have been. We knew the village and people well. Our daughter had been married here, we had many local friends, and we knew where the best bargains were in the local shops. In essence, this felt more like home to us than, well… home!
I had tapped into a pension pot for our travels and to ease the way into our new life in Spain. This, we found, soon diminished, leaving us to survive on my monthly military pension.
It was time to look around for gainful part-time employment which proved easier said than done.
Unless you’re in the mega-rich category, or have bought a business over here, times can, as they say, be hard. Lynn managed to secure a few days helping to clean holiday villas. I, on the other hand, couldn’t find anything. It was summer, everyone had their quota of seasonal workers. Spain is not the ideal place to find work, even the locals struggle. It was the ravages of nature which finally came to my rescue.
It was nearing September and I could not have been any lower. We had helped a local private school by hosting children for its summer activities. That money had long run out. We were not really living any sort of dream, just living from week-to-week.
The fires that ravaged this part of the Costa Blanca were just a few miles from our village. We saw people’s houses going up in smoke from our terrace – it was awful. It did, though, trigger a community spirit never seen before. A charity music festival had been organized by the ex-pat community to raise money for the volunteer fire brigade’s new equipment. At that time I was in the early stages of trying to secure a slot on a local radio station as a soul DJ. The owners of the station were broadcasting from the event and asked me to MC the whole day, live on air!
The event raised almost 20,000 Euros (2,000 of which I helped through facilitating an auction), finally the locals got to see who Mick Dennison was. I got the Thursday evening soul show slot and the Saturday afternoon sports show, not big paying jobs (payment relies on securing sponsorship) but nonetheless, a foot in the door. A reason to get out of bed in a morning – a purpose in life. The radio presenting has also led to me securing DJ spots in bars, villas and at weddings. It was worth bringing over all my DJ kit from the pub!
In October I secured a Saturday morning teaching job. It’s to help Spanish and Russian children be more fluent in English. Not too daunting as I’d taught all throughout my different careers, I’ve brought up two daughters and I’ve got grandchildren.
We are now learning Spanish, it does help in trying to secure employment. We have two good English friends in the village, Mick is from Moor Nook in Preston, and we are even more accepted by the village locals.
Starting a new life here in Spain isn’t the same as being on holiday. Firstly, if you want to buy let’s say a mobile phone you have to get an NIE number.
Easier said than done, Spanish bureaucracy is hard to wear down. Thankfully, my daughter is fluent in the language and although it took the best part of a day, we were able to obtain that all important document. Registering with a doctor, that’s another thing!
We’ve almost reached that first year, they reckon at the 18 month point you know if it’s where you want to be. Having experienced the worst winter for probably 50 years in Spain and managed to survive financially we could certainly be looking that far forward.
This dream has got to work.