Q travel: with BARRIE MAHONEY

‘Twit­ters from the At­lantic’

Q Magazine - - News -

Barrie Mahoney was a head teacher and school in­spec­tor in the UK, as well as a re­porter in Spain, be­fore mov­ing to the Ca­nary Is­lands to launch and edit a new English lan­guage news­pa­per. He en­joys life in the sun as a colum­nist and au­thor, and con­tin­ues to write a se­ries of pop­u­lar nov­els and books for ex­pats.

‘Liv­ing in Spain and the Ca­nary Is­lands’ – A New Book by Barrie Mahoney

What a year 2017 has been for Bri­tish im­mi­grants liv­ing in Europe, as well as for those hop­ing to make a new home in the sun. Since I wrote the first ‘Let­ter from the At­lantic’ as a news­pa­per re­porter in 2004, so many things have changed. When my part­ner and I moved to the Costa Blanca, it was a time of great op­ti­mism and ex­cit­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties. The ex­change rate meant that the Bri­tish liv­ing in Europe were get­ting a very favourable deal. Prop­erty prices in Spain were re­al­is­tic, and for many peo­ple the op­por­tu­nity of a new life in the sun be­came a re­al­ity and not just a dream.

It was also a time when Bri­tish en­trepreneurs es­tab­lished new and suc­cess­ful busi­nesses in the Costas, and Spain was grate­ful for the in­vest­ment and made new­com­ers wel­come. It was a time when it seemed that noth­ing could halt the en­thu­si­asm of the Bri­tish for a new life in Spain.

Then there was the fi­nan­cial crash, later to be fol­lowed by the EU ref­er­en­dum and what has since be­come known as ‘Brexit'. Look­ing back, it should have been ob­vi­ous that the pound was se­verely over val­ued for many years, and that many Brits were liv­ing in a ‘fool's par­adise' that would even­tu­ally come to an abrupt end. There was rapid de­val­u­a­tion of house prices, lead­ing to neg­a­tive eq­uity and fi­nan­cial chaos for many who had over ex­tended them­selves when buy­ing a prop­erty in Spain. A num­ber of Bri­tish owned busi­nesses in Spain col­lapsed, leav­ing many dis­il­lu­sioned and with lit­tle op­tion other than to re­turn re­luc­tantly to the coun­try of their birth.

The re­sult of the ref­er­en­dum, ini­ti­ated by the then Prime Min­is­ter, David Cameron, went badly wrong from the point of view of many Brits liv­ing in Spain. The re­sult of the ref­er­en­dum was ac­com­pa­nied by a fall in the value of the pound, and left many with a re­duc­tion of around 20 per cent of the in­come that they were used to. Pen­sion­ers, and those on a low in­come were the first to feel the ini­tial im­pact of the de­ci­sion to leave the Euro­pean Union, and for a time it seemed that the rush to leave Bri­tain for a sun­nier fu­ture had ground to an abrupt halt, as the elec­torate be­gan to take stock of their new po­si­tion out­side the Euro­pean Union.

My new book, ‘Liv­ing in Spain and the Ca­nary Is­lands' goes back to the be­gin­ning of the year with a se­ries of let­ters that re­flected and ex­pressed the mood at the time. Con­fused as to what the fu­ture would bring, there were of­ten an­gry, and some­times de­pressed con­ver­sa­tions in bars, restau­rants and all ar­eas of Bri­tish so­cial life in Spain and the Ca­nary Is­lands, which is where I cur­rently live. Es­tate agents were gloomy and re­moval com­pa­nies were re­port­ing a sud­den resur­gence in busi­ness, as many Brits were leav­ing Spain and head­ing back to the UK. Of course, many of the el­derly and sick could not do this, be­cause they had nei­ther the re­sources, good health or in­cli­na­tion to deal with what would be for many a trau­matic re­turn to life in the UK. I also doubt that many would sur­vive the rapid drop in tem­per­a­ture ei­ther.

The po­lit­i­cal cli­mate is chang­ing once again. As I look back over these tur­bu­lent 12 months, I know that many busi­nesses, banks, es­tate agents and re­moval com­pa­nies in Spain are re­port­ing a greater pos­i­tiv­ity and en­thu­si­asm from those who are still long­ing to move from the UK to Europe. For many, the EU ref­er­en­dum has con­firmed what they al­ready knew; that they are firstly Euro­pean and not just Bri­tish. Po­lit­i­cally, many dis­like what they see as a new anti-Euro­pean or­der within the Bri­tish po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment and have de­cided to vote with their feet.

As well as re­tirees look­ing to ful­fil their dream of head­ing for a health­ier life in the sun, young peo­ple are see­ing their fu­ture as still be­ing part of the big­ger Euro­pean dream. De­spite sig­nif­i­cant changes, there are new re­al­i­sa­tions for Bri­tish peo­ple hop­ing to make a new life within a coun­try of their choos­ing, and not just the ter­ri­to­rial con­straints created by an ac­ci­dent of birth.

It is true that many of the op­por­tu­ni­ties and free­doms have nar­rowed since my­self and many oth­ers be­gan our new lives in Spain, as well as other parts of Europe. The op­por­tu­ni­ties pro­vided by the free­dom of move­ment to live and work in any coun­try across this ex­cit­ing and in­spir­ing con­ti­nent are the envy of many across the world and should not be lightly over­looked. Life is short; if you have the en­thu­si­asm and the means, my best ad­vice is to grasp ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to ‘live your dream'.

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