Kev and Jo are thirty-something.  Just a year ago they were living in the south of England, he worked in a large company as a computer systems administrator in charge of four thousand computers, and she was a successful recruitment consultant.  They enjoyed a good life-style, bought designer clothes, drove nice cars and spent their weekends clubbing and dancing.  Now, a year later, they are living out in the Spanish countryside  receiving their water through sluice gates once every two months and pumping it by means of a petrol-run generator which cuts out at inopportune moments.   And, they say, they are happy and have no regrets about this radical change of direction. 

My two questions were probably the same as most people’s – “Why did you do it?”  and “How did you do it?”  The answer to  “why” came from Jo:  “We felt that even though we had all those nice things, and people thought we were happy, our quality of life was actually very poor.  We spent all our time rushing around, and never had time for each other.”  They decided that Spain was the solution, so they upped sticks and moved first of all to an apartment in a residential area in Orihuela Costa.  “Our idea was to use this as a temporary base to look around for a more permanent home in the real Spain.”   Within six months they had found the “finca” of their dreams.  A plot of land with a small old house about eight kilometres from the nearest town, half an hour’s drive from the coast, with glorious views of  the countryside  and a sunset to die for.  They fell in love with it, and decided that this was the place for them.

Kev took up the story of “how”.  “First, get yourself a rogue estate agent,” he said with a quiet smile.  “What do you mean by that?”   The story then unfolded of the extraordinary catalogue of problems they have had to overcome, starting with the agent and his builder friend – both English.   “They basically told us a pack of lies – they said the structure of the existing building was sound, that we could be living in it in a week and that water and electricity supplies would be no problem.”  Unfortunately, they also lied about the value of the property.  When contracts were signed a month later and the old lady owner along with her four daughters kissed them on both cheeks saying “¡Buena suerte!”  (Good luck!) they had signed away more than double the real local value of the land.

Having discovered that more than half of the building would have to be demolished, the first thing they did was buy a caravan, in which they are now living, another four months down the road.   Moving in was a complete nightmare.  The buyers of their apartment were anxious to take possession, whilst Kev and Jo were waiting for the perimeter wall, a washroom and a septic tank to be installed by local builders.  The lack of urgency was unbelievably frustrating.  “There was no way they were going to move faster, however hard we tried to explain the situation!”  Around this time they met Ginés - who they call their “guardian angel” – a local man who knows everybody and gets everything done.   He took them under his wing, arranged their paperwork with the local council and introduced them to all the good local workmen.  Ginés took great exception to them getting a second estimate for a job:  “¡Solamente Ginés!”  he would say pointing to himself. “Only Ginés”.  He accepted no payment or favours and even came round unsolicited to water their plants for them while they were away.  They were left with no option but to “go with the flow”, but soon found that Ginés could be trusted to arrange everything they needed efficiently and for a good price.

It was the owner of the local bar who let them know they’d been ripped off on the sale.  The whole village found out about it of course, and every time they went in for a drink he would say: “Tut, tut, tut, mucho dinero, muy malo, if you had asked me I would have told you what it was worth.  Muy malo, mucho dinero.”  Despite being well received by the locals, Kev and Jo endured a series of setbacks which would have sent anyone else crying back home.  Within the same week of moving Kev was made redundant from his part-time job, someone drove into Jo’s car and they found out that there was no way they would get their electricity supply without paying out thousands of euros. 

“Have you told her about the snake yet?”  Jo asks Kev, and she takes up the story once more.  One morning as she emerged from the caravan she was confronted by a metre-long poisonous snake sunning itself in the caravan patio, not far from their three dogs.  She went completely beserk and screamed at Kev to kill it.  He missed it with a stick and the snake tried to go for him before hiding itself in the awnings.  Eventually a Spanish neighbour came to their rescue, hooking the snake out with a rake and clubbing it to death.  He buried it nearby “with its tail still wriggling.”  That really marked the low point for both of them.

“So, let’s just go back to the beginning shall we?  You are happy living here and have no regrets?  How can this be?”    It seems that after hitting rock bottom Kev and Jo realised that they had no choice but to accept the situation and look on the positive side.  Instead of worrying about everything, they’ve decided to focus on all the good things.  They live in a beautiful environment, they have time for each other, they have neighbours who help them and don’t care what they wear or what car they drive, they have learned to appreciate the important things in life and they’ve learned to see the funny side of a lot of the things that happen to them.

Jo now works selling houses in the area, and Kev is a computer “trouble-shooter”, sorting out technical problems in people’s own homes.  As well as travelling to the coast, he particularly helps people who are running computers in the surrounding rural area.  Their experiences have also affected their way of working  – they take time to get to know their customers properly in order to meet their needs, and have made lots of new friends.  And as for the finca: “It’ll all get done eventually but there’s no point in getting stressed out.”  It seems that living in the “real Spain” really has worked for Kev and Jo, and that they feel like better and happier people for it.   



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