Culture Shock, Great things about Spain

A Nostalgic Yearning Finally in Place

As I sit here in my new flat at my desk propped up against a window with, finally, a view out into the world, the first thought that comes to mind is a nostalgic one that I’ve had since I visited Calais with my folks back when I was 20. This strange nostalgic yearning has crept up on me now and then over the past decade. It’s not a particularly glamorous memory, in fact, it’s rather simple, but finally I feel as if I’ve arrived.

Cheese sarnie on the beach? Photo by Sum Dood

“Where the bloody ‘ell is that beach?” said my Dad as we pulled over just outside the centre of Calais. I peered out of the window and grinned at a couple of French ladies sat outside a cafe sipping on coffee. They both smiled at me and giggled. I sat up, surprised that they’d responded.

“Let’s have a drink in there,” I said to my parents, waving as the chirpy mademoiselles continued to smile.

“I think we should have turned right back there,” said my Mum, holding the map the wrong way round.

“Damn it,” said my Dad, putting his foot down. I glanced back as the French ladies slowly drifted away. I smiled to myself, happy that I’d partially interacted with the locals. 

Within an hour, or so, we were walking along the beach front, not bad considering it was only ten minutes from the harbour.

“Lovely here, isn’t it?” said my Mum as she put her arm round me.

“Yeah, not bad,” I said, looking over towards some chalets with families gathered around. That’s when the feeling came, the curiosity of what it would be like to live in another country. I pictured myself in one of the chalets, chilling in a blue striped deckchair alongside the two French ladies, all giggling while sipping on French wine. Why not? I remember thinking to myself, why not live abroad?

“You there Baz?” said my Mum.

“Eh? Oh sorry, what was that?”

“Dad says are you going in for a dip?”

“Yeah, sure,” I replied.

We had a great morning on the beach: messing about in the sea, soaking up the sun, and chomping on ham and cheese sandwiches.

“Amazing the difference just a few miles away, eh?” said my Mum.

“Yeah, lovely weather,” said my Dad, closing his eyes as he lay back on his towel.

“Yeah, it is,” I said, wondering what life would be like away from England.

“Shall we go for a walk round the city before we get our booze?” said Mum.

“Great idea,” I said, curious to see what the city was like, and check out the sights, if you know what I mean.

Calais was a charming little city. There wasn’t much to it, just a couple of main streets with bars, restaurants, and shops.

“I’m just popping in here,” said my Mum, ducking into her third shop in the last twenty minutes.

“What again?” said my Dad. “We’ll be over there,” he added, pointing to a bar on the corner. We got a table outside and ordered a couple of beers.

As we sat waiting for our drinks I scanned the area. Everything seemed so different from back home. I was fascinated with the fact that everything was written in a different language. Sure, I’d studied a bit of French at school, but never really appreciated it until then. The local French people were so well dressed. Even the different currency was fascinating.

“Have you ever wanted to live abroad?” I asked my Dad.

“What me? Nah, I love England too much. It’s nice to go on holiday now and then, get a bit of sun, but I’m quite happy. Why do you ask?”

“I dunno, it just seems so different over here: the atmosphere, the weather, even the beer.”

“Yeah, these glasses are a bit soppy, aren’t they?” he said, holding up the half pint glass and knocking it back. “Uh-oh, here comes trouble,” he added, nodding over towards my Mum as she skipped over the road carrying a few extra bags.

As my parents squabbled about how much my Mum had spent, I glanced up at the flats overlooking the main street. There was a couple sitting on a sun-lit balcony. The guy was reading a newspaper, resting his feet on the railings, while his girlfriend was by his side with her head stuck in a book. A small white dog poked his head through the railings, looking straight at me.

That’s when another strange yearning feeling hit me, a sort of calling, telling me that there was a world out there to explore, to find the perfect place to live.

As we drove off to find the massive supermarkets to end our booze cruise, I pictured myself living in one of those foreign flats, coming down in the morning and buying a newspaper and some fresh bread, and chatting with a few locals on the way. I imagined going back up to my balcony and reading while sunbathing and glancing down occasionally to a lively street.

I guess, without knowing, that was when I set myself a challenge: one that involved travelling round the world to find my place here in Sevilla (I was never going to live in France really, was I?). 

And now, as I sit at my desk, with a new view out the window onto a busy street, the sun pouring in and lighting up my keyboard, an empty plate next to me with crumbs of fresh bread from the local bakers, my small Westie looking up from her basket, French music playing on my laptop, and my wife playing with our son in the next room, I know that I’ve finally quenched that nostalgic yearning, and that it was well worth the wait.

When did you first realise that you wanted to live abroad?

17 thoughts on “A Nostalgic Yearning Finally in Place”

  1. Always love to read your work, that is why I tried to set up my own Word press account, apparently to no avail. You bring alive in a most profound way the very mundane and ordinary, and I respect and appreciate your effort! The crumbs on the plate, and the little dog in his basket, and sunlight filtering in the window brought back very poignant and very special memories to me also.Long may you bring great joy to others with your work !

    1. Wow, such a lovely comment. That’s exactly what I’m trying to achieve with my writing and the sort of comment that inspires me to write more. Thanks a lot. Checked out your blog but guess you are just starting?

      Thanks again!

      1. I signed up to the blog because I wanted to be able to post comments and have a connection with people who can write. I wanted to post comments previously but they would not let me until I had created and set up a Word press page. I hope to be able to write a little in a few months time, I am taking some classes. Above all I am very weak generally with IT, and, I have mild issues with tecno phobia.I love your writing and your work and I have read ALL your stuff and loved it all. I encourage you to keep on writing and I will dare to suggest a book which I know you will enjoy for two reasons. BIG BAD LOVE by LARRY BROWN. As a writer and a teacher of English you will LOVE this book. !! I look forwards to enjoying more of your work and may post some comments on some of your previous stuff that i read and was unable to express my appreciation due to not having my own Blog page etc. Anyway wishing you all the very best from Ireland. You have a great gift and a great talent and I encourage you to keep pressing forwards with your writing for the enjoyment of all and many !

      2. Wow is all I can say to that. I’ve had a few comments about my writing over the years, mostly good, a few bad ones, but I can take that on the chin. Your words have touched me though. So much so that I started writing more, even at 1.30 a.m. when my wife and baby are tucked up asleep. Thanks for recommending the book, I’ll have a look for sure; looks like fun! Thanks again for writing and following me. Hopefully speak to you again soon.


      3. Hey Barry,

        Glad to know you have been burning the midnight oil and hopefully some new material will follow in due course. Over the past few months there has been an apparent resurgence of interest in the whole Spanish lifestyle and retirement opportunity. This has been noticeable in the UK and Irish media especially since the start of the new year..Once again they have started to flock down there to investigate the lifestyle potential through purchase of a second home or retirement home . After the winter we have all survived here little wonder I guess. So there is still an appetite here for good material that can bring alive the scorching hot plains of Spain. I look forwards to more stories and adventures from sunny Seville. Much better to be the guiri than looking at your umbrella and wellies every day ! Perhaps you would be well placed to assist and help the discerning Relocation client as a sideline to your teaching and writing activities. Helping people make their dreams come true and building a future in the process. The North London native is forever part Salesman at heart lol !

      4. Hey,

        How did you know I used to work in sales? Or does every Londonder at one stage in their lives? But nah, I’m out of that business. Tried it for a couple of years but the lies and deceiving forced me out. Curious to know there is more interest in Spanish lifestyle though. Are you thinking of coming over yourself? Have you been to Spain?

        Hope all is well! Thanks for writing.

  2. 22 years ago when I was on holiday with my now husband, our first holiday abroad on beautiful Kefalonoa, and he said ‘you know I could get a teaching job abroad, if you’d feel you could leave England’. Next year we were living and working in Portugal! No regrets 🙂

    1. Hey Wendy,

      Thanks for writing. Sounds a familiar story. Are you both teachers then? My parents have been to Kefalonia a couple of times and love it there. Definitely on my list of places to visit.

      Thanks again for writing.

      1. Hi Barry, no, I am not a teacher but my husband an English teacher and I usually have ended up working in the school library, which is my job at the moment, not a bad place to hangout really!

  3. Regarding your last to me on this thread, I had read in one of your articles you had spent time doing Sales work in Australia. I seem to recall it was at the time not so much a choice as survival in the moment. Anyway not quite sure which one of the stories it was or perhaps it was your profile. I noticed it especially because I have dipped in and out of Sales myself over the years. To answer your question I did live in Spain on two occasions, roughly one year each attempt. I tried Torrevieja in the ex pat scene and I hated it, (I was selling cars then). I also did a year in Valencia, and found I loved the natural environment there especially the beach. However I was not crazy about what i perceived to be a coldness or indifference from the regional natives, in spite of the fact that in those days I was a very strong Spanish speaker. I have just returned to Ireland after ten years in USA and before that was in Asia for five years,mostly Japan so I have my own fair share of stories just no ability to write them down for others.To further clarify and answer your question I am seriously considering a future in the Madrid area. I am doing the CELTA course this year with a view to maybe trying to teach ESL in Madrid. I actually did it back in 1996 but tried to teach there last year for a few days and failed miserably. My main area of potential interest is retirement relocation, some of this would be sales based in nature. I do know and love Seville and I have a long history with San Fernando in Cadiz, this started with a school exchange in 1987 between my school in North London and some families on the Naval base there, I hope to help people with retirement living and relocation in areas of Spain with less well established tourist economies, more inland regions primarily. A kind of retirement rural tourism with investment as a catalyst for local economic regeneration.Nothing new in that especially in Spain. I just wanted to share a bit about my motives for following your work which right now allows me to live a kind of vicarious life through another son of North London living in Espana. Furthermore please forgive my own English which is currently of a very poor standard pending some basic classes and a CELTA course later this year. Appreciate your awesome work and look forwards to many more inspiring tales from there.

    1. So you’re doing a CELTA? Definitely the best qualification to have if you have a love for teaching. I just did a DELTA and that was mad. Why do you say you have no ability to write your stories down? Have you thought about setting up your own blog about your life stories? It sounds as if you have a lot to talk about and could inspire others, give it a go! I started by writing short stories about my trips, and it turned into a book. Sounds as if you have a decent plan for your future ideas, there will always be a need for retirement places over here in Spain. Good luck to you!

      1. Not finding it easy with CELTA. I am trying to pre study the course material, I start the actual four week intensive course at the end of this month. Usual story cannot relate much to the grammar, cannot even fathom a DELTA, my hat off to you for that one. No way at this stage I could summon up the confidence to write my own blog,as I have no talent for writing and very little understanding of the literary universe . However i still fancy my chances holding an audience in a pub. I reckon I could still keep them amused and entertained with stories from a by gone era when I was a bit of a wild cat. I remember writing a comment to you a couple of weeks ago, and stated that I had only seen the sun on two occasions so far this year. Well it remains the same at two days, God knows how much I wish I could be in Conil or Sevilla today. Retirement in Spain should be compulsory Jokes aside.Spain could be and should be doing more to attract inwards investment from Northern Europe, all the growth states in USA are sunbelt states based on companies paying lower wages and a relative low cost of living index to the Northern States.. Many people want and need some sunshine, the American example suggests they will sacrifice a great deal to enjoy life in a warmer climate. Spain should be an obvious choice for European start ups, the lifestyle with obvious implications for potential employee satisfaction, leading to greater innovation and productivity. There is a reason that Sillicon Valley is located in Northern California and not in Oklahoma or Idaho. I Must dash and shut my window,some sideways lashing rain has started, only the third time today so far. Hope you guys are all having a good one down there.

      2. So have you started your CELTA yet? I was back home last week and it was sunny all week, that’s never happened to me before. I actually like the rain and cloudy days here in Seville. From about June till September there are rarely any clouds in the sky and temperatures are unbearable. It sounds like I take the sun for granted though. It’s funny but even though I live in Spain I’m not often at the beach or even sunbathing, but now I have a new terrace I might try to get a slight tan this year. Agree that Spain should try to do more to attract foreign investment, any sort of investment and growth in the economy would be a fine start to this disaster we are living at the moment…

      3. Hey Barry, enjoyed your news from Seville as always though you be a spurs fan I jest. I would much prefer a hot Seville summer there than an Irish one ! I guess the Cadiz or Huelva areas have the perfect weather more than Seville,so who knows that maybe you can get a gig in Cadiz one day and live down there. I am sure your crazy Cunao would enjoy the beers by the beach routine, Glad you enjoyed home and no doubt there was some tom foolery about North London. I start my CELTA this week, very nervous and apprehensive to be honest. I have studied for months prior to the starting, but doing the official pre tasks now feel under prepared. Anyway should be ok. I noticed a comment you made about struggling with a return to Seville after a visit to the coast. I am giving very careful thought as to where to maybe try and spend the rest of my life and Madrid versus Valencia is a huge debate within. I love Madrid for so many reasons, but that potential for daily beach life in Valencia presents a real tough choice. I guess a similar situation would be Seville versus Malaga ? Even in a Thailand scenario Bangkok has the critical mass of students and Pattaya has the beach life. I am 43 now and with many years of ex pat madness behind me I only want to move one more time and put down roots and get a dog back in my life. I worry about the limited life choices if I do move to Spain, but truth be told I need that sunshine on my back. Lets hope you can get some more stuff published and see a financial reward for your writing, and then you can be heading down to your Cadiz house for the weekends in a nice motor (which hopefully I will sell to you ha ha).I am not too hopeful about my chances to set up in the car business in Spain so better get myself a decent CELTA result and see if the good but mysterious Lord will open to me one last and final door, and try not to squander the chance. I remain really delighted to have found your blog and get great enjoyment from your stories and encourage you to keep moving forwards to publication and beyond. I only worry if you make too much money you will start flying to London on a very regular basis and might even buy a Spurs season ticket ! ahhhhhh………… Hope you and the family have an awesome weekend and if your brother in law does visit lots of fun and games with him and his mates. Guess I will be neck deep in CELTA books for the next four weeks but will keep an eye out for any stuff that you post and I can get a vicarious Spain fix. Peace be with you and yours hope the little man is well and the trouble and strife is taking good care of you ! .

      4. So how is the CELTA going? The only thing I remember about mine was the Ricky Gervais style tutor we had, funny thing was she was a woman! A car business in Spain must be a profitable idea, there are loads of cars on the road so surely you’d find some clients, despite the recession. I lived in Bangkok for 7 months, 1 trip to Pataya was enough for me, a bit mental, but could live in Bangkok easily I think, not sure the wife, and especially the in-laws, would approve though. Interesting you say about limited life choices in Spain, I often think that, what do you mean exactly though? Anyway, hope the CELTA is treating you kindly. Good luck, if you have any q’s then let me know.

  4. Living with a Norwegian mother and my three sisters in a very small village in Leicestershire for some of my early years was like living abroad for me. Every time we strayed away from the house we were visiting a foreign country. Gradually i became almost English, though a good part of me saw home as Norway. First time I went to Norway I was two years old.

    Anyway, now I live in Conil de la Frontera, not so far from you.

    Like your style of writing, You might be interested in peeking at my other blog, which recounts my experiences in Norway

    1. Hey Bryan,

      Thanks for writing. Just checked out your blog, nice work. A friend of mine is going to Norway this summer break so I sent it to him. Do you live down in Conil then? I passed through there once on the way to Vejer, great part of Andalucia! Like what you said about Leicestershire, must be like a foreign country to most people!

      Thanks again for writing and following.

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