In last week’s post I mentioned that visitors to Finca Los Gatos often ask us what we miss about the UK telling us the things that they couldn’t live without. Steve and I usually laugh and say “nothing” but of course there are things we miss but don’t pine for (except sometimes). Truth be told you can get most things here especially on the coast where there is a much larger ex pat population meaning that the shops are full of British goods. In Sax I can buy Tetley or PG Tips T-bags (an essential) and if I want to, baked beans. Ten minutes down the road is a huge Carrefour where there is an entire section with English brands of biscuits, jams and Marmite (which I love but don’t buy very often as it is extortionately expensive), and in Salinas, a small nearby town which has a lot of Brits for some reason, there is an “English shop” run by a British couple that sells lots of things, mostly tins or packets of food that I would never buy and some standard greetings cards. You can (should you wish to) buy a Daily Mail in Sax and the occasional Take a Break style magazine.
As I said last week, online shopping means that I have access to the majority of shops where I would normally buy clothes and the internet provides us with newspapers (and a whole lot more) so the things that I in particular miss, are very specific.
Here is my list:
- Bookshops and the library
- Marks and Spencer (don’t laugh)
People come first but whilst I miss my family and don’t see enough of them, actually I didn’t see them that often when we lived in England. More, I miss the knowledge that they, most specifically my mother and sister, are just an hour an away and I could get to them in a short space of time. The three of us used to try to get together a couple of times a year for some shopping/chatting at Cribb’s Causeway or Clark’s Village and for many years had a pre Christmas lunch and present exchange in Taunton near to my sister’s work.
Before we moved to Spain we made sure that mum could use skype so we are able have a face to face chat fairly often and of course she and my step father come and spend a week with us at least once a year, Kathryn has been over a few times and we have been back to England most years.
Some of my aunts, uncles and cousins have also come and stayed with us which has been lovely.
I miss the friends that I used to see regularly. There is no substitute for a chat over coffee after class or walking the dogs together. A few close friends have been to see us here and I am hugely looking forward to Helen’s visit in January. I miss my class members, some of whom had been coming to my classes for over twelve years and although I am still in touch with many of them, mostly on Facebook but some through the blog, there are times that I feel lonesome for the regular contact. I know a lot of people here now both Spanish and English and it is lovely to stop and have a chat in the street or to have an occasional coffee but there isn’t the same sense of ease that comes from having known someone for many years.
I miss Frome A LOT. I lived in Frome for thirteen years which is the longest period of time I have ever lived anywhere so to me it is my home town. When we moved to Frome in 1997 it was a shabby and run down place with dilapidated but beautiful buildings and many boarded up shops but it had a really great feel. I remember arriving for our first house hunting visit in 1996, parking in the North Parade car park, walking down the hill into the town and knowing that I wanted to live there. The three different houses in which we lived in Frome were always within walking distance of both the town centre and the fields which wrap around the boundaries. Over the years we walked up and down Frome’s hilly streets discovering hidden gems of streets and houses, we delivered leaflets for both our businesses to all the new housing estates and rambled with our dog Doobie through the surrounding countryside and villages. During the time we lived there Frome became a thriving and vibrant town with many independent shops and restaurants, a yearly arts festival, regenerated brown-field sites and a monthly artisan market. Filled with familiar faces and places, Frome will always feel like home.
Thank goodness for Kindle. Steve and I are both big readers and rely on Kindle for a supply of English books. I especially enjoy downloading free or very cheap books, usually classics and in this way have re-read the entire set of Anne of Green Gables books, Little Women and the four books about the March girls, Daddy Long Legs and Dear Enemy, all of which I read as a child and have recently discovered the books of Gene Stratton Porter that I remember my grandparents talking about when I was a child. However, I miss bookshops for the ability to browse through the latest fiction releases and for non-fiction. Popping into either WH Smith or The Hunting Raven bookshop was a regular feature of our Frome weekend as was a visit to the library to stock up on useful books on gardening, cooking, living abroad and other fascinating subjects. After I got home from work on Saturday afternoon, Steve and I would wander around town, visit the library and depending on the weather, sit outside the La Strada coffee shop or head home with a cake from M&S or Sagebury Cheese, the delicatessen, and dive into our books. Heaven. There is a charity shop in Sax which is run by English people and has a book section. A paperback is 50 cents and we have bought many books here. The stock tends to be books of a holiday reading genre which, whilst not a bad thing, can become monotonous. There is only so much chick lit I can read.
Finally in the list of things I miss is good old Marks and Spencer. From underwear to chocolate shortbread and Christmas decorations, Marks has always been my “go to” shop. I had thought Frome couldn’t get any better until a small branch of Marks and Spencer opened in the town. The local branch didn’t have a huge range of products but I used to drift around the shop on a regular basis enjoying the vibe. Like a homing pigeon coming to roost, I head unerringly for the nearest Marks and Spencer on any UK shopping expedition. There is even a branch at Gatwick airport and when we arrive there after an early flight I head straight into it for lunch supplies, usually a roast beef and horse radish sandwich and I know I am in England.
I am very happy here in Spain. There are a lot of things that I don’t miss at all and the blue skies and sunshine that lift my mood on an almost daily basis are one of the main reasons we moved here. I love my home, my work and the challenge of making a new life here but some days yes, I miss you; family, friends, Frome, the library and Marks and Spencer.