Life-changing 2015 – now we look forward to New Year

columbusmarilyn

 

 

 

 

 

November 2013: In Barcelona we saw Columbus’s monument and met ‘Marilyn Monroe’.

Well, it has arrived – the very last day of the year. Tonight, at midnight, we say a fond farewell to 2015 and look forward to what we hope 2016 may bring.

Ok, farewell but fond? I wonder how many times you have heard anyone say something like: “Thank goodness that year is over, it was really awful” or “Next year cannot be as bad as the last one”? Too often, I am sure; you have even probably said it yourself.

On the whole, 2015 has been a great year for my beloved Lisa and I as we have achieved so much and really made a significant change to our lives.

It all started right back in January when we were still living in a warm glow having returned on Boxing Day from a simply wonderful holiday in, first, Hawaii and, second, New York City. Coming back to the usual dull, wet and windy British weather got us talking. We chatted about how great it would be to live in Hawaii but realised that, for financial reasons, that would be impossible.

But that reminded me of the Mediterranean cruise we took in 2013 and particularly our shore excursions in both Palma de Mallorca (or Majorca to give its Anglicised spelling) and, the next day, Barcelona. It was November, yet lovely and warm. We visited Barcelona on November 8, my birthday, and as we sipped sangria in the seating area outside a café bar in the Rambla, we agreed we could live there.

At that time, no more was said and no action was taken but in January this year I reminded Lisa of that conversation and said we should at least see whether it was feasible. To be fair, she was worried that I would be leaving the country in which I had always lived and might feel uprooted but having reassured her, she set about finding out what sort of accommodation we could buy and the approximate costs.

In February, I started investigating whether my disability benefits would be paid in Spain, the quality of the Spanish health service and resumed pushing my ex-wife into selling our former matrimonial home. We had agreed that she could live there until August 2014 but then it should be put on the market. Eventually this was done but it involved a great deal of negotiation between she and I, the joint sellers, and the prospective buyer who is now her new husband.

header-leftWe travelled to Manchester in March to visit A Place in the Sun Live exhibition linked to the TV series of the same name as we were determined not to overlook any possibilities.

In April, Lisa’s hard work came to fruition and we travelled to southern Spain to look at some properties that she had found online and we liked. We also knew by then roughly how much money I’d be getting from my share of the house sale but still did not know when.

To cut a long story short, we saw a number of properties but fell in love with the second one we saw. After that, we were seeing how other properties measured up against that one. They all failed. So we had found our ideal property but could not buy it until the UK house sale was completed. Unbelievably, after we explained our situation, the sellers in Spain took it off the market to give us time to get the money. They did not even ask for a deposit. We returned to the UK on May 7, general election day.

The house sale shenanigans rumbled in through June but in the third week of July the cash finally arrived and we were then able to complete the purchase very quickly. In view of my Multiple Sclerosis, we needed some work done to improve access for my wheelchair and to rip out the existing bathroom and replace it with a purpose-built wet room. We had already agreed a quotation during our April trip, so now the work could proceed.

In August, we owned our furnished home in Spain and we began to make detailed arrangements. We packed what we wanted to send in advance and this was delivered here in September by a courier, we packed our suitcases and sent everything else to an auction. It was very exciting.

Oh, I should have said, I found my disability benefits would still be paid in Spain and that the health service here is rated much higher than the NHS.

Anthem of the Seas.

Anthem of the Seas.

In October we left our flat in Colwyn Bay and travelled to Southampton to start our holiday that had been booked before I suggested moving to Spain. It started with a nine-day cruise across the Atlantic aboard Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, followed by another nine days in the USA before flying back to the UK. We stayed two nights in hotels and then on Sunday November 15 we flew to Spain.

December has been our first full month in Spain and as it draws to a close, we have to say that 2015 has been a great year and that both Lisa and I are looking forward to 2016 with eagerness and enthusiasm.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

 

In new home but much more to do

Bright colours, sun and mountains. The view from one of our living room windows today.

Bright colours, sun and mountains. The view from one of our living room windows today.

Yayy, we are in! Lisa and I today, finally, completed our move to our dream home in Spain. OK, we have been here since the 15th but today was the first day we could move in as the work overran by a few days.

Once again Lisa shouldered most of the work because of my MS but we welcomed the assistance of Eddy and Geoff who were only too willing to lend a hand. By the time my beloved had cleaned where we had been staying, we were really ‘in’ by about lunchtime.

Then came the part where we could work together easily – unpacking and putting everything away. There was too much for the two of us to do in just an afternoon and by 7pm, we decided enough was enough. By then, half of it was done and we plan to finish the unpacking tomorrow.

It is a lovely feeling sitting in our own place in Spain. It may be November but it was sunny on Tuesday with the same forecast for the next four days. You just cannot complain about the weather here.

A couple of guys from a local broadband company came this morning to connect us to the internet. We had a choice of four speeds, depending on how much we were prepared to pay each month. As Lisa and I both use the internet a lot, we opted for the fastest available – 10 Mbps, a bit faster than we had in Colwyn Bay. ‘A bit faster’, no. A whole lot faster than the 2Mbps common there.

We did hit a couple of snags. I thought I smelled gas. Its LPG, so the odour is distinct. It seems that the cooker we bought with the property had been installed incorrectly. Well, tomorrow, the gas man cometh; then we will know what needs to be done.

The other hiccup is our new backdoor, which was working just fine earlier in the day, now refuses to shut properly although it does still lock. Something else for tomorrow!

Steps towards Spain

Work 1 

Bathroom fitments removed and stored in bedroom while wet-room is fitted.

Preparations for our great move to Spain continue apace with Tuesday witnessing another step, actually two steps, along the journey. Then, one more step was taken this morning.

First step: Pictures have arrived showing the work in progress to turn the dream home we found into one that is absolutely perfect and one in which I can live comfortably with my disability. Although I don’t need it now, Lisa and I made the important decision to buy a home in which, if needed in the future, I could use a wheelchair indoors.

In truth, if it ever happens, that should be several years away but as we are making a big move, really a lifestyle change, we decided to be ready for whatever Multiple Sclerosis may hold for me in the future. We don’t want to be forced to move again.

One of the key improvements being made as part of the package of conversion works is the provision of a wet-room. The bathroom fitments have been stripped out already and a full wet-room is about to be installed complete with a fully accessible level entry walk-in shower that will also be suitable for a special roll-in shower chair,

Step two we made without actually needing to do anything more ourselves as we had already done our part. It came in the form of an email from Paul, the driver/courier from Anyvan. He let us know that our possessions have arrived safely in Spain and have been delivered into our new home. Nothing more can be done with those until we get there in November.

I have to say that Lisa and I are both so impressed with Anyvan’s method of operation in which any of its couriers who want a particular job bid against each other to win the business. That way the client can get the best possible price. What’s more, the professionalism, courtesy and willingness to be as accommodating as possible – as clearly demonstrated by Paul – show all of the company’s associated drivers in the best possible light. They really do seem to know everything about giving top-rate service and superb customer relations. We would have no hesitation in using their services again and would highly recommend them to others.

Step three took the form of a visit to the vets this morning. Having given both Pooka and Prissy a health check-up, the vet scanned the microchips they had implanted before their trip here from Florida in March 2012 and gave them both their rabies vaccinations.

Tomorrow, we have to go back to the vets – just us, not the cats – to pick up their ‘pet passports’ that will allow both of them to enter Spain without going into quarantine.

Just one more thing to do today, this time because of our holiday before we leave for Spain, and that is to telephone the cattery to book the cats in for their stay while we are in the USA.

If you wonder why we have a holiday just before moving abroad, the holiday was booked before we decided to move; then the money came through from my former matrimonial home. It is all a bit of an almost runaway train but one of our own choosing and in which we are enjoying the ride.

Goods and chattels start journey to new life

ES-UK-US

One American, Lisa, and one Brit, Ian, will soon be enjoying their married life in the sun of southern Spain.

Another major step along the road of our move to Spain was taken yesterday. At lunchtime, right on time as promised, Paul arrived to collect what we want to have in our new home. We had found him through the Anyvan business so, although we had not met previously, we knew he would be reliable and provide a quality and professional service.

Paul makes fairly frequent trips to Europe, particularly to France and Spain to transport various people’s possessions to and from the continental mainland. Our goods make up just part of a van that will be fully loaded when he sets off on his journey.

He had driven all the way to North Wales from east London and was going back via Manchester to make a second pick-up that he only got confirmation about last night. We enjoyed a chat with him and agreed we would all meet up next summer as he and his wife have a holiday apartment in a town only a few miles away from our new Spanish home.

Anyway, he made short work of loading into his van our three packing cases, one large suitcase, one overnight bag, one briefcase, a dismantled table plus a bundle of walking sticks and shepherds crooks. Then Lisa paid him the balance of his fee and we waved him goodbye. When we arrive in Spain in mid-November, our possessions will be waiting for us.

Our garage is looking a lot clearer these days. So far it has been emptied of furniture and other items that have been sent to auction, books and clothing that has been recycled, general rubbish and today’s despatch of our property to Spain.

There’s still some items to go to another auction but they will be going with the furniture in our flat when we leave in October.

It is such a culture shock to see our garage so empty. It really is getting to the stage where I can get our car inside – and that would be for the first time since we moved in more than three years ago. Actually, this Thursday I will introduce the car to the garage. That is the day our gardener comes to cut the front lawn and, without the car to cause an obstruction, he will be able to get at the weeds that grow in the middle of our driveway. I had told Lisa that I would park the car out in the road but now I don’t need to do that.

Sending our goods and chattels on their way was a significant step for us. We actually leave our Colwyn Bay flat for the last time in eight weeks, eight weeks today. Time is marching on and our excitement is continuing to build.

It is not only the garage that is beginning to take on an empty look, so is the flat itself. The wardrobes are down to just a few items as most clothing is now either on its way to Spain or is already packed in suitcases for our holiday in America. The drawers in the bedroom are completely empty, the sideboard in the living room, like the kitchen cupboards, now only contain the basics. The hall cupboard is similarly also almost clear.

Lisa is closely monitoring food use and buying only enough to get us through until we leave. Our ideal would be to run out at that point but we know that it will not work out like that.

¿Puedes hablar español? Not yet but I am learning

abc_frontpageA 2009 front page of ABC newspaper in Spain

Preparing for our move to Spain is much more than packing the belongings we want to take with us, it is also about getting ourselves ready to live there.

In fact, there is such a long list of things that need to be done before we leave that I have created a spreadsheet. Using this, we can keep track of what needs to be done with a planned date for it to be actioned and when each item was actually completed. Organised or what?

One entry that is not there, however, is one that we have already started, will continue right up to the day we leave and carry on even after we arrive at our new home.

I am talking about learning to understand and speak everyday conversational Spanish.

If we had chosen to move to a tourist area, we would have probably been able to get by in English alone but we wanted a different lifestyle, we wanted to live in an area in which, when we go to the nearest village, we would need to speak Spanish.

Now, anyone who knows me well would be aware that, other than English, my language skills are pretty limited. Learning languages is not something I ever found to be easy.

I studied French for five years at school only to have it give me up as a lost cause when I failed the spoken French exam, age 16. I think that the main problem was that I could not learn to think in French so I had to translate the question into English in my head, think of the answer and, hopefully, translate that answer into French. All that took too long, it was hopeless.

It was a similar tale with learning Welsh. Although I understood some of what I heard, I only ever learned to say a few words. Interestingly, though, one day when I was working as a journalist for the Caernarfon Herald two of my colleagues were talking to each other in the newsroom. I heard Eryl ask Neville a question to which he did not know the answer. I did, so I happily told them what it was.

There was silence. I had looked back at what I was doing but quickly looked up again to see two surprised faces. I didn’t know why until one of them said that they had been speaking in Welsh. I had understood the gist of their conversation without even considering the language and had then given the answer they needed but I had spoken in English.

Learning Spanish has, so far, proved easier than either French or Welsh but there is much still to learn and we will have to wait and see how it works in practice. One big advantage when learning Spanish is that its grammar, its sentence construction is very similar to English.

The development of my Spanish language skills may be at a very early stage but I am already feeling encouraged by my progress so far.

  • The Spanish in the heading reads ‘Can you speak Spanish?’

 

 

 

 

12 weeks until we leave, the countdown has begun

Our flat (or apartment) is well into its “We’re moving” feel. Many drawers are already empty, wardrobes are no longer bulging at the seams but hold only the clothes we will be wearing now and during our cruise across the Atlantic and our holiday in the USA. It most definitely is wonderfully exciting and the beginning of an exhilarating adventure.

Almost everything going direct to Spain is already packed. It certainly needs to be as, for various reasons, our limited number of crates etc are being picked up from North Wales during the middle of this month and are being delivered to our new home in September – a full two months before we will be arriving.

Where we live now has an integral garage that we have used to store any items that left no room for a car but that is already changing. All the large items have been sold off, most through North Wales Auctions, and a few via Ebay. So far sales have brought in more than £900 with more due to come. Apart from an old Indian sword being offered in an antique sale, when we leave in October the flat will be cleared by the auction house and the furniture will be sold in its next general sale.

Lisa is already saying “There is so much to do” but, really, what needs to be done is all well in hand and a vast amount has been accomplished.

De-cluttering is very much a word of the times and it is very good to do from time to time. We did ‘de-clutter’ before we moved to our current home back in 2012 but there is a vast difference this time.  Three years ago, we hired a van and got friends to help us to move two miles to somewhere with a garage to hold all those things y0u really should get rid of but don’t. This time we are moving not just two miles but more than 1,600, we need to pay for whatever we want to take with us to be delivered – and limitations about how much we can take with us certainly focuses the mind on the need to de-clutter.

Fortunately, furniture itself is less of an issue. We are taking no furniture with us as we have bought our new home more or less fully furnished. Of course, there are a few items we do need to buy and others we want to buy but there are many more that we neither need nor want as we are happy with what is already there.

Lisa and I are both finding it hard to wait until our October holiday and our November move to Spain.

 

Times, they are a-changing

It’s official. At last the money – from the sale of the home I used to share with my ex-wife – has come through. That’s it, the final link between us is now finally severed.

It would be time to pop the cork from a bottle, or two, of champagne but Lisa and I just don’t have time to spare right now as we have just completed the purchase of our new home in the south of Spain. Now, there is so much to do as we prepare for the move.

Oh, great times ahead.

We are not actually flying out to Spain until November but before that we are heading to the USA for what promises to be a super holiday. It all starts with a luxurious cruise across the Atlantic – hey, cut that out, stop singing the theme to the Titanic film. After that, we will be spending nine days touring around several states.

Finally, we will return to the UK, staying for just two nights, collecting our two cats from the cattery and sending them on their overland journey to Spain before we fly out to welcome them to their new home in the sun. Actually, both Pooka and Prissy were born, and lived most of their lives, in Florida; I am sure they will welcome the hotter weather.

Now, though, there is much to be done.

We have already started, of course, and have sold lots of bits and pieces through Ebay and North Wales Auctions in Rhyl. Most of our furniture will eventually go that way as we have bought our new home already furnished, although we will be buying a few new items.

Unwanted clothes and books have been sold to specialist companies while other fabrics such as duvets, pillows and curtains are being recycled.

Lisa has been a tower of strength through all this and has so far packed three 110 litre plastic crates, with an outsize suitcase to go – alongside a weekend bag full of shoes, a bundle of my walking sticks and shepherd’s crooks and my essential over-armchair swivel table (disassembled and strapped together). These are all being collected in early September and taken to our new home by road.

Once they have gone, if I know her (and I most certainly do) Lisa will begin packing for our trip to Spain, via America.

We are actually moving out of our current home, a rented flat in the North Wales town of Colwyn Bay, before we go to America. On the day we move out, Darren from North Wales Auctions is  coming back to clear the house. Perfect.

I’ll let you know how things progress.