From Hair to Eternity – Ep 6

So within the first 72 hours of being in the Costa Del Sol, my husband has bagged a sought after contracted job and is up bright and early the following morning to begin his first day at the Theatre.  I drop him off in the town centre and he cheerily waves goodbye whilst clutching his Minions Lunch box and a bag of Spanners.  I turn and look at my son, paint on a bright smile and take a deep breath.

‘Soooo, are you ready to go look at some schools???’  I say in an overconfident voice.  He looks at me out of the corner of his eye and mumbles ‘yeah…  but only if we get that Xbox game you promised me straight after’.

So on this sunny day, less than a week into our adventure, mother and son  spend a warm afternoon visiting several international schools up and down the Mijas coast and by 5pm we have agreed on a small college situated in the centre of Fuengirola.  The deciding factor for the boy child is that it is based underneath a water park but for me, it’s the fact that there are only 14 children in the class.  The lady at reception smiles and swipes my card as I wince at the amount leaving our account.  I console myself with the fact that Private education costs more than double back in the UK then hastily head outside into the street to hyperventilate into a McDonalds take away bag.

With reality sitting firmly on my shoulders, I plonk my ample buttocks on a nearby bench and look up at the orange blossom casting shadows across the pavement.  Husband and son have a clear path towards their future in this foreign land and suddenly, for the first time on this journey into the unknown, I begin to think about me.  What am I going to do work wise here to enable us to fund our new life in the sun?  I’m 51, hardly the age to re-train as a stripper in 24 hour square.  I glance across to adjacent shop window selling opaque mirrors and reflect on the choices I have made in my life.  I close my eyes and see my younger self with these new opportunities, what would she have done with them?  My eyelids grow heavy with the weight of responsibility and…

…its 1983, I’m 16 years of age, my breasts are unfeasibly pert and the biggest decision I have to make in life is what flavour lip gloss to wear.  Exactly one month after leaving school with only two ‘O’ levels to my name, my mother threatens to throw all my Heaven 17 albums away unless I tidy up my bedroom and more importantly, for her middle aged sanity, find me a job

 I begrudgingly browse through the local newspaper and spot an advert for an apprentice hairdresser.  The wage is £29 a week and all the hair lacquer I can hide down my trouser leg.  After a brief interview with the weary weight watching female owner of the salon I am offered the post of chief tea maker and sweeper upper.  A jubilant mother cooks me Faggots and Peas to celebrate the impending foray into adulthood.

The enforced career choice isn’t exactly the most demanding job in the world.  My best creative work at the salon is invariably performed the morning after the night before.  On one occasion, an elderly clients hair is removed unceremoniously from her scalp alongside the rubber streaking cap after applying the wrong volume peroxide onto an already over processed head.  Needless to say my wages for that week are consumed on a selection of head scarves for the irate customer in question.  Undeterred and unrepentant I promise my jaded employer I will take the position more seriously from this day forth but come 6pm I’m sprinting home to change into my tukker books and Lady Di blouse, all promises forgotten, the disco beckons.

With Spam sandwich firmly in hand, my girlfriends and I jump on the bus and spend the one hour journey in silence, looking through the dirty windows, our New Romantic souls tortured with yearning over which Duranie is the most delectable. After reaching our destination we smile coyly at the doormen and are granted permission to enter, our blossoming bodies the only entrance fee we have to pay. Youth is a commodity and we barter well. The hours pass by, fuelled by Malibu and Coke and Marlboro lights. Smiling and flirting, we sway in time to the music, taking it in turns to work the dance floor knowing that eventually we will locate a proud male owner of a coveted Ford Capri who will happily chauffeur us all back to our beds at 2am and all we have to do in exchange for this free transportation is provide flattery and broken promises.  We are young, we are beautiful, we are…

…’Mum, have you nodded off??’ yells a familiar voice in my ear.  I bolt upright, wiping a dab of dribble off my chin, my nubile younger self is nothing but a distant memory and the reality of the present is facing me with hands on hips.

‘Of course not’ I blurt out, whilst trying to stand up on my recently awakened legs.

‘Well that’s good because while you were having your lady nap I’ve been looking on Google and there’s a Game shop just down the road.  And I’m really hungry, can we have some Tapas?’

Just then the phone rings.  Husband is ready to be picked up from work.  He’s hungry too.

I sigh and nod my head and make my way towards the car.  Tomorrow I will start to think about what I want out of our impending adventure but right now, the only thing I really desire is the Colonels secret recipe along with a side order of bravery and the courage of my younger self.

To be continued – Episode 7

To be or not to be, where is the greenroom? – Ep 5

So here we are, our family of four, finally living in Spain.  I actually can’t quite believe it.  The dream we never thought would happen is now our reality.  And unfortunately, reality involves getting a job.

Having met my husband at the local Am Dram society in Hastings several years (and dress sizes) earlier, I decided to make contact before leaving the UK with the Fuengirola equivalent known as the ‘Salon Varieties Theatre’.  After peddling my wares on Face Book messenger, I happened to mention that my husband is an electrician and they replied forthwith explaining that their lighting technician was about to retire in April and would my husband be interested in applying for the position?  Bears and woods instantly sprang to mind.

Now, before I go any further, can we briefly talk about ‘Dream Jobs’?  We all have that one thing we would love to do for a living.  I’d love to write a book.  A book that you can hold in your hand, to sniff the ageing paper, to turn over the corner of the page when your eyes grow weary and laugh out loud in a room full of people and not care because for that brief moment in time, you are that heroine in chapter 12.

To see my name on a dust cover would be better than waking up without pillow marks embedded onto my crepe face.

My husband’s school leaving wish was to work in the West End, to bring the performers to life in front of a live audience.  With his dream still intact he escaped the clutches of the local secondary modern age 16, gangly and unprepared and sat innocent and eager in front of the careers advisor who instantly poured water on his ambitions by replying ‘No son, that’s a career for fantasists and rich people from London.  Get yourself a proper job. People will always need plugs and sockets and wires changing. Become an electrician, you’ll always be able to put food on the table then’.

So that’s what he did 30 years ago, he became an electrician. A job he enjoyed but never loved.  And now, on offer, in a resort 1300 miles away is a chance to turn back the clock.  So, after a brief ‘we’re here!’ call, off we trot, showered and shaved (and that’s just me) to meet the people that have the potential to reinstate a young mans dreams on an older body.

An hour later we are sat outside the Theatre bar, drinking fresh orange juice and waiting with sweaty palms to meet ‘the board members’.  The tables surrounding the thespian haven are adorned with middle-aged laughing people. Men with perma-tans, women with white teeth, everyone appears happy in their skin and at ease with their choice.  A mixture of Spanglish echoes around us and I whisper to my husband to stop jigging his legs up and down, this was a job he had done voluntarily on his own time for the past three decades; the only difference now is that he would be paid to do it.

A firm hand is placed on my shoulder and I look up into smiling brown eyes.

‘So, you must be the power behind the throne!’ laughs the stranger in my direction and introduces himself and also what his role is on the board and finally, what would be expected if Marcus was given the job.  An attractive lady joins him and warmly kisses me on each cheek.  Both members talk passionately about their time in the British speaking Theatre then lead us through velvet clad stage doors into a hub of adrenalin filled activity.

On stage a rehearsal is taking place.  Young and old high kick their way into the wings while a director booms instructions from the front row of the auditorium.  I look up at the lights and breathe in the smell of the greasepaint.  Teenagers with languid expressions awaiting their time in the spotlight come to life as they are released from the confines of backstage and leap like adrenalin fuelled antelopes onto the boards.

Turning to my husband I smile but he is lost within the lighting control desk, eyes alight with all the possibilities ahead akin to Mr Spock faced with the new and updated Starship Enterprise.  I look towards the man and the woman who greeted us on arrival; both look at ease with the roles they have been given in order to keep this well preserved British Galleon afloat in a Spanish ocean.

The man senses my gaze and leans against the door.  ‘So what are you going to do for work here?’  He asks enquiringly?  Before my brain has time to engage with my mouth my truth tourettes steps in to reply on my behalf

‘In all honesty…  I have absolutely no bloody idea’

He laughs and nods his heads towards my husband

‘Well, the job’s his if he wants it, his references are excellent, I think you’ll both fit in well here, what you think?’

I look him in the eye and smile and reply on behalf of my husband

‘Sir, I think we’d both like that very much’.

(For more information on the upcoming theatrical season please follow the link below)

http://www.salonvarietestheatre.com

To be continued – Episode 6

 

Only Goats and Horses – Ep 3

Oblivious to the correct protocol when one is faced with a suitcase eating goat, I did what I thought Bear Grylls would do in this situation; I wrestled it to the ground, chopped it up into bite size pieces and turned it into a nice curry.
Obviously that’s a lie; I’m not actually that keen on curry, so I yelled and shook my hand luggage at the uninvited guest while my son hid behind the nearest bush. Both kids stared at me for a moment, and then the hairier of the two grew bored and decided to relocate to the field opposite, gripping the severed handle of the aforementioned case like a well deserved trophy and disappeared into the brush.
Without further ado, I unlocked the gate, ran through, slammed it shut, heard more yelling, remembered I had a son, let him in, slammed it shut for a second time and made a bid for the safe confines of the house. After a brief knee shuffle we located the keys which were hidden under the BBQ and without further interruption we entered our new temporary home.
Leaning with my back against the closed door I searched for the light and flicked the switch. Several lamps erupted into life, illuminating a warm and welcoming lounge and kitchen area. My son, all thoughts of our wildlife interlude forgotten, ran upstairs to the largest of the four double bedrooms and threw his bag onto the floor and promptly set about finding out where the WIFI code was located. I on the other hand looked for the most important item in the house, the kettle.
After a brief sanity respite containing three sugars and an out of date chocolate bourbon, I finally took stock of our surroundings. The house was completely made of wood, not a brick in sight. An arsonists dream. I trailed my hand against the warm grain and dragged my weary legs upstairs in search of the bathroom. Post wee and wash I wandered down the hall and flopped down onto the first available bed I came to. Without invitation oblivion engulfed me and drifted off into a much welcomed late afternoon siesta.
Just as I was happily chatting away to the tin man about the liberal use of WD40, Dorothy rudely interrupted our conversation by yelling something about not being in Kansas anymore. It was at that point the bed beneath me decided to vibrate, and may I add, not in a pleasant way.
I opened one eye to make sure the ruby slippers were still adorning my trotters when the house was suddenly engulfed in a bright light. Boy child, headphones surgically attached to his head launched himself into my room, almost taking the door off its hinges in the process yelling ‘This is your fault, I knew we should have stayed at the premier inn, this place is haunted!’ and then jumped onto the bed beside me and dived under the covers all the while mumbling about crucifixes and rotating heads. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes I looked around the room and at that point another flash of light erupted from behind the curtain followed by an enormous thunder clap. An involuntary yelp seeped out from under the covers followed by a faint whisper … ‘Take her, she’s older and an atheist’.
Staggering from the bed I headed over towards the window and pulled back the blinds. A massive electrical storm was cascading down around us with forked lightning dancing over the sea, causing the house to shake like a 6th grader at his first prom. Opening the balcony door I walked out onto the decking and stood in awe watching Mother Nature conduct her own impromptu light show.
A series of knocks on the front door dragged me back into reality and I stumbled onto the landing and peered around the banister. A tall silhouette stood outside in the dark, hunched against the door frame with his back to the glass, a sack slung over his shoulder. Holding a finger to my lips I motioned to my son to be quiet. The stranger banged on the door again, this time more forceful and I stood still, rooted to the spot with fear, all thoughts of lazy days in the sun fading like a distant memory. Taking a deep breath I steeled another look around the corner, heart in mouth to see the intruder looking directly at me, hair plastered to his head but with strangely familiar eyes.
‘Are you going to bloody let me in or not? I’ve not had a decent cuppa in over a 1000 miles’

To be continued – Episode 4

One Foot in the Brave – Ep 2

“Mum, would you rather die by being sucked down the toilet, rammed by the drinks trolley or catapulted out the window?”

Ignoring the boy child’s Haribo infused fascination with morbid in-flight endings; I fasten my seatbelt and look out the window at the country I call home. Catching my own reflexion in the glass I see my mother’s eyes looking back at me and I wonder if I’ve made the right decision by letting my husband drive all the way to Spain. Tears prickle behind my eyes and I rapidly blink them back.  I really hope he hasn’t crashed travelling through France as I’ve grown quite fond of that glass coffee table he’s got bubble wrapped in the boot.

Anyone thinking about relocating to Spain will find long term accommodation hard to come by, especially in the tourist resorts as the summer season approaches but I have been fortunate enough to be put in touch with a friend of a friend’s auntie’s brother’s great niece who has inherited a family house in the Campo which we can stay in rent free as long as my husband promises to repair a few electrical bits and tidies the garden occasionally.  I don’t quite know what a Campo is but it all sounds very glam and Poldark esque.  I’m consumed by visions of myself riding bareback to the local fruit and veg market on an untamed Palomino stallion.  Hundreds of Looky-Looky men follow my progression through the various stalls as I scoop up several kilo of sundried tomatoes and casually drop them onto my rotating umbrella hat.  In reality, I’d probably have to tuck my breasts into my knickers if I rode anything that went any faster than a slow amble in fear of giving myself a black eye.

Time flies like my transient youth and before I have time to order another vodka chaser we have crossed countries, breezed through customs and are tucked safely on board the fast train to Fuengirola.  Unfortunately most of the 35 minute journey is spent apologising to the local residents as our errant Suitcases decide to take on a Torvil & Dean style skate off down the centre aisle every time the train departs a station.  Straddling both bags with my fluorescent thighs I smile apologetically at our captive olive skinned audience and they shake their heads in weary acceptance at the anaemic interlopers currently invading not only their network system but their country too.

On exiting the train station we rapidly locate the Taxi rank and I bang on the window of several sleepy drivers who take one look at the hastily scribbled accommodation address and shake their heads in a no nonsense manner.  Finally one elderly chap nods in agreement and looks dramatically up towards the hills.  Without further adieu our bags are hurled into his boot and with his foot on the gas he indicates Left, promptly turns right and without even a nod to the wing mirror,  takes an unscheduled U turn in the road.

Within minutes we are gliding up the A7 motorway through the Costa Del Sol.  Bleached villas envelop the landscape either side of the road and Indigo Pools twinkle in the afternoon sunlight.  Heading towards a sign that reads ‘La Cala de Mijas’ we leave the familiarity of the road and head North onto a dirt track which appears to lead upwards into oblivion.  My adventurer’s spirit rapidly starts to fade as we climb higher and higher into the mountains until the only thing left to view is the horizon. Thunder rolls overhead and the Sun is eclipsed by a cloud the colour of granite. We turn one final corner and come to an abrupt stop in front of a fenced off compound surrounding a rather ramshackle wooden house that wouldn’t look out of place in a Freddy Krueger sequel.

The driver drops our luggage by the fence and disappears in a cloud of dust.  My son shields his eyes and squints towards our new abode and then enquiringly back at me. I smile encouragingly and head towards the padlocked gate but his voice stops me instantly in my tracks.

“I really don’t want to worry you mother but there’s a goat about to eat my suitcase”

To be continued – Episode 3

A New Wife in the Sun

I think my husband finally admitted defeat after being forced to watch channel 4‘s ‘A Place in the Sun’ thirty seven times in one month.

In the deciding episode, Aunt Maude had left a substantial inheritance to a  lacklustre middle aged couple who, after being shown several stunning Spanish properties in Andalucia decided they wanted to stay in Accrington after all.  Shaking my head in disgust whilst inhaling my fifth Jammie Dodger, I sighed and pointed out to my forever weary spouse that come 2019 the choice to relocate in Europe may well be taken away from us Brits and we would have to stay and reside in the UK forever.  Brushing the crumbs off my increasingly expanding belly I sighed loudly and looked out of the kitchen window at the grey clouds rolling heavily across the November sky.

Rubbing away the deeply ingrained London smog from his bleary eyes, the man I married only 7 years earlier raised his hands in a ‘you win’ gesture and uttered the words I’d been longing to hear “Ok, let’s do it, we’ll move,  but you can tell the family!”

Scraping up my disbelieving jaw from the Axminster I screamed in excitement and rushed over to the computer to see how much international Schools cost and what paperwork was required for back-packing pets.  Behind me I could hear my husband mumbling under his breath about Rabies jabs and how they were missing a trick by not administering them to menopausal housewives.

Looking down at the family dog, feet in the air, snoring obliviously, no doubt dreaming of cheese and giant tennis balls. I made a mental note to get his maracas removed before heading off on our adventure.  The last thing I needed was the pitter patter of 24 Spanish feet while quaffing cheap Rioja.

(I did actually enquire with the family GP if the same procedure could be done with my younger husband but alas, the NHS is stretched enough apparently)

So here I am, exactly 5 months later and one week shy of my 51st birthday, staring vacantly out of the airport window onto the grey Gatwick concourse.  Beside me, my twelve year old son mumbles something incoherent about mozzarella and ambles off to purchase a baguette which costs roughly the same price as my first car.  The boy child is more than happy to move abroad.  He’s watched Bay Watch.  He knows that everyone runs in slow motion and looks like Pamela Anderson on warmer shores.  Plus I’ve bribed him with the promise of a certain Xbox game (yes I am a bad parent, but at least I’ll be a bad parent in a vest as opposed to a cardi)

The house is under offer.  The tears have been shed.  Man and dog are loaded up in the Jeep, our worldly possessions crammed into every available crevice. No doubt by now both would be heading over the French border, happily singing Charles Aznavour tunes en route.  The ties with normality had been cut.

I glance down at the suitcase in my hand and grip the one way ticket to Malaga tightly in my fist.  We have no home, we have no jobs.  We don’t speak Spanish.  We are either very brave or very stupid.

Taking a deep breath I drag my belongings and monosyllabic child towards the gate which is now boarding. This is the moment our lives will change forever.  I smile, pull my big girl pants up and take the first step towards our new life in the sun.

To be continued – Episode 2