My own particular ‘Costa’ experience is probably quite far removed from most of you other lovely ‘Costa Women’. I’ve spent the last 8 years or so, based in a quite rural, traditional Spanish village, where there is not a souvenir shop, a ‘real’ fish and chip restaurant, or ‘English’ bar, upmarket or otherwise, for hundreds of miles.
I’d like to say that it is sleepy and unspoilt, full of traditional, age-old culture, and to a certain degree it is. The tiny streets and alleyways, and the many derelict buildings standing alongside beautifully renovated houses, would not look out of place in (old) Bethlehem. A magnificent church stands in the village square, and the local people dance there at fiesta time.
Children play safely outside till the early hours. Local news is broadcast every day from the ‘Town Hall’ at 12.30 via loudspeakers positioned at various points in the village. No need for gossip here. If someone dies at 12.15, only 15 minutes later everyone knows about it.
A handful of shops provide the basics of everyday life and many villagers have more than one job. The village postman is also the slaughter man at the local abattoir. Then he rounds his day off nicely by serving his slaughtered cow at a busy bar where he is also a waiter. Small finca’s and olive groves surround the village and in many doorways you’ll find a very old lady selling large yellow juicy peaches, aubergines, and plump tomatoes from a simple wooden box
I agree it sounds idyllic.
There’s only one thing spoiling this rural retreat and that is, 'some' English abroad.
Before the village was first ‘discovered’ by a few mature Brits, my guess is that life was very quiet. Genteel Spanish ladies and gentlemen would have enjoyed their coffee and brandy outside the bar, with their extended families, while the children played in the nearby square. The only minor irritations may have been the local ‘young gun’ in his souped up Peugeot 205 playing his music just a bit too loudly. But all good things come to an end and in this case, more of the British arrived and they weren’t just passing through.
I witnessed first-hand how some English conducted themselves in this peaceful village. Some may say this is just ‘my’ perception, but for this community, sadly it speaks volumes.
What first struck me is the fact that this is SUCH a sleepy place. Nearly 2 hours from a beach, over an hour from any town worth mentioning, with absolutely nothing to do.
What attracts the type of English person that, in its simplicity, it has?
The Costa del Sol, it is not. We are talking a one-horse town with no horse. So why would your average 30 year old, tattooed English man, with matching earrings, want to come HERE to ride his quad bike like a maniac through these particular streets?
Why would a family, leave two of their older children in England, and relocate two high-spirited Northern lads of 9 and 11 to live in a house where some rooms have no roof and the sky is their ceiling.
Boredom for them was trouble waiting to happen, when they were involved with other English boys and chased a local farmers pig with sticks, shouting so much that the pig collapsed and died. Of course the parents were most indignant when the farmer asked for compensation for his dead pig.
Word soon got round, the boys gained a bad reputation within weeks of being here, and their mother spent her days hanging from her balcony calling their names every few minutes, attempting (for damage limitation) to have them in her sight virtually 24 hours a day.
So much for a ‘better life for the children’.
The same children are grounded for the most insignificant misdemeanour, and in some ways that’s easier; at least their Mum can relax then because it’s the only time she really knows where they are.
What great ambassadors for England some of these people are when at a traditional Spanish fiesta, an English girl threw her drink over another English couple and overturned their plates of food. A row erupted into the streets, with the sounds of ‘fight, fight, fight’ literally fighting for airspace with the beautiful singing from the local Church choir.
As you may imagine, not one of the 20 or so English here have a job. They have ‘plans’ and ‘ideas’. As they have very little else to do, plans and idea’s are dreamt up mostly under the influence of too many San Miguel’s. I wonder what thought process makes these people leave England for a better life abroad, only to recreate the same lifestyle they are so anxious to leave behind.
No effort is made by them to speak Spanish, no effort is made to adopt the Spanish culture, and no effort is made to integrate into village life. The English seek out the English and perversely sit outside the Spanish bar using the same expletives and charming descriptions you can hear at any Yates wine bar at any hour of any day in England. Of course many of these words are the same in any language, so they don’t even get ‘lost in translation’ and are overheard by many very elderly Spanish ladies.
The Spanish people here are a gentle, inoffensive community, with a variety of talents. I had coffee with a lady who spends the weekdays in Barcelona, where she is a dressmaker for Spanish royalty. Currently, she is making flags for the next Fiesta later this month. These are truly couture flags, with naturally, not a stitch out of place. The 20 year old local beauty, working in the local deli, can skin and bone a chicken, and stuff it with garlic, apricots and pine nuts, in what seems like minutes, its mesmerising, believe me.
Of course, the Spanish too, sit outside in the evenings, enjoying a glass or two of wine. They play cards, and board games, chat and sing songs, and they clearly don’t need the help of that most English of cultivated ‘crops’ growing in the same disruptive English men’s neon lit cupboards, and cellars to help them chill out.
Can you just imagine 20 or so stoned Spanish nationals, rocking up in a sleepy English village, overtaking the pub on the green, and fighting amongst themselves at the local village fete?
Would it be tolerated? By jove it wouldn’t!