It’s time to bid a final farewell to all of you in Gran Alacant; friends, colleagues and readers of my monthly ‘Chatter’ column. A series of unfortunate events has conspired to end my time, in this part of Spain. I have lived on the Costa Blanca for a little over two years now and for the most part, enjoyed my time here. This has been a journey that I wouldn’t have missed for the World, despite the pitfalls and difficulties along the way. The Spanish are fantastic people, as are the many Expats who live in this urbanisation, all of whom have been welcoming and accepting of me. When you live in a community such as this, you soon become aware of the nature of those around you. Everyone has been a source of inspiration and gone out of their way to help my partner and I, settle in to Spanish life; without them it would have been a very different experience.

I will be moving to Australia at the end of May, forging a new life down under, as I begin to navigate new opportunities in the birth place of my husband! We have been together for 23 years, spending most of our time living in the UK; today we are preparing to fly to Perth, in order to offer support to my Mother in Law, as she deals with the spectre of cancer; a difficult undertaking, especially after spending so long in Europe. All of us will have to face the dreaded C word at some stage; it makes a World of difference when you have family around you. The hardest part, when living abroad, is the lack of contact with loved ones; I have found that especially arduous myself, so can understand just how my partners Mother feels.
In my last ‘Chatter’ column, I want to talk about my recollections living in Spain and focus on the issues that have impacted me since arriving in 2015. Let me say straight away, that living in Gran Alacant has taught me much about survival. From the outset, I have learned to live in an extremely frugal way. For the first time in my life I have had to budget and watch the cents, only buying what is necessary. Money is tight in this region and it hasn’t been a particularly pleasant undertaking at times; trying to attain a decent standard of living has been gruelling. I am however thankful for the life skills I have acquired, as a result of my awareness. I am no longer the wasteful Northern European; today I throw away very little.

The sense of community in this area is a breath of fresh air; Gran Alacant is a village, serving a tight knit, mostly British Expat community. It has been a privilege living with such a fantastic bunch of people, many of whom will remain a part of my life, even in Australia, through the wonders of social media. I have made many enduring friendships that I hope will last the test of time. My memories of everyone are largely positive and unquestionable; my friends and neighbours are the glue that holds this place together; without them it would not be the destination it is today. Expats are a truly hardy, canny and resourceful lot. There were times, I could have walked away and left everything behind; without the support of those around me, I’m sure I would have done just that. Expat life is about battling against the odds, helping others when needed and giving ‘newbies’ the benefit of your wisdom. It isn’t about sitting on a terrace everyday, drinking wine in the hot Spanish sun, although it is a frequent part of life here, as one would expect. Spain has a lifestyle I have thoroughly enjoyed and one I am reluctant to leave!

I have faced many challenges and have spent, what seems like a lifetime dealing with the huge volume of paperwork needed to enjoy a trouble free life. From the beginning, we set out to become legal in every sense of the word and at times have navigated the Spanish system blind, but on nearly every occasion we have managed to complete all the necessary documentation. When you Marry a non EU foreign national, you know your life is going to be difficult from the get go and ours has been a roller coaster ride. Staying together under challenging circumstances has been strenuous at best, near impossible at worst. Spain is a welcoming country , but like most EU nations it makes life very tough for those of us who don’t fit the traditional European mould. The frustration both of us have endured has been a nightmare on occasion; many sleepless nights and stressful days have been a feature of our life, not only in Spain, but also for the 23 years we have been together. Having said that this country has been far more accepting than most and we are very grateful for the time we have spent here.

Gran Alacant is a place we know well now, but before we moved here, we had no idea it even existed. I had never been to this part of Spain before and picked it because of its location, between the popular holiday destinations of Benidorm and Torrevieja. For us, not yet 50 years old, we had a number of years to work, before being entitled to a pension. It was and still is necessary to work and survive, just like anyone else. Gran Alacant has given us more than I could have ever hoped for. I Have been allowed to follow my aspirations of writing, not only my online blog, but also in the G A Advertiser, composing my ‘Chatter’ column each month. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing for Ged and Lou and would like to thank them for the opportunities they gave me. I will of course continue to write in Australia, as I always have done. ‘Spanish Views,’ has now become ‘Roaming Brit,’ documenting a new phase in my life and the issues I am likely to face on a daily basis.

I have also been lucky enough to teach English to Spanish children at the ‘Princesa de Asturias School’ in Elche, another ambition fulfilled, as well as working for ‘Dunbars’ as a chef and in my current role, at ‘LoungeD,’ serving the community that surrounds Plaza Mayor. Spain has been a life enhancing period, giving me breathing space before I move to the other side of the World; it has been a learning curve in all respects. The skills I have acquired in GA will serve me well in the future. The memories I have made will always remain with me, a part of psyche and responsible for the person I have become. Wherever I lay my hat, Gran Alacant will be firmly beneath its brim; a time of growth, exploration, learning and freedom!

I would like to thank everyone for reading ‘Chatter’ each month. I have had many positive comments as well as other more constructive words, igniting debate and creating conversation; two aspects of life I find stimulating, as I know you do also. The support you have given me has been heartwarming and appreciated; I shall miss writing for the Advertiser, but will do my best to keep up to date with events in this community, reading about your exploits online and commenting when I can. Finally, I would like to offer all my friends and neighbours a fond farewell, wishing everyone success in their lives. As I continue to pack my life into suitcases, I am mindful of the ending of an era, starting a new journey far away from here. One day I hope to return, have a pint or two, listen to the ‘Chatter’ in the squares and the opinions of all of you; the life blood of this community; once again sipping sangria in the hot Spanish sun!