The Only Way es Lanzarote – The Story Continues…

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Sunrise from Our Terrace

The last blog finished a year after we first had the thought of moving to Lanzarote and six months into our new life. So what’s happened since and has it all worked out for us?

The short answer is a resounding yes! It’s hard to believe that in January 2017 we’ll have been here four years. We have had some ups and downs, mainly with work, but that’s pretty normal for Lanza. We love living here and we haven’t regretted a single moment. Sally has had to go back to the UK a few times as her Dad was taken very ill but I had no desire to go back. Sally finally persuaded me to visit in September 2016 and I’ll admit that it was lovely to see our families.

We’ve found Lanzarote to be a fabulous place to live with a great lifestyle, low cost of living and lovely year-round weather. Apparently my blog has encouraged people who have been thinking of relocating here to finally take the plunge and change their lives for the better.

However, it’s not right for everybody. Lanzarote embraces some people but chews up others and spits them out and we’ve seen many come and go. But we’ve found that it is usually down to attitude. Come here with a positive outlook, prepared to be flexible and to do what it takes to make it work you’ll probably be okay. But if you are too fixed on what work you will or will not do and you are looking for a great salary from the start you’ll be lucky to last six months because it is unlikely to happen.

We have also discovered that when you’re dealing with officials and the notorious Spanish paperwork, the easier you make it for them, the easier they will make it for you. Take all the necessary original documents and colour photocopies with you. Quite rightly, very few officials do, or will speak English so, if your Spanish isn’t good enough, take someone to translate.

Working Life in Lanzarote

Wages in Lanzarote tend to be a lot lower than in the UK but so is the cost of living. And the quality of life is so much better. We work less than half the hours we previously had to, just to make ends meet.

When we moved here the recession was at its lowest point, work was hard to find and jobs with contracts were like gold dust. Now there are plenty of jobs being advertised and there has been a clampdown on the black economy meaning that more employers are offering contracts, although plenty still don’t.

My first job here was working in the Penny Lane bar while trying to establish myself as a freelance writer and Sally was going to various hotel pools selling products for Suncare.

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Sally at Suncare

Suncare products are natural and great quality – we still use them – but it takes a certain mind-set to be able to sell them day in, day out. A friend of ours has been with them for years and makes a good living but Sally found that, being commission only, the earnings could be very hit and miss. Some days she would work for six hours and barely cover the cost of her petrol, which she found extremely disheartening.

She took various other jobs in an effort to improve her income. She worked on a market stall selling beautiful hand-made jewellery, which she loved, but again it was commission only. She took jobs in two different bars only to be told that her face “didn’t fit”.

Eventually she was offered some cleaning work in holiday villas and apartments, but for only €5 per hour which was appalling. However, she learned many tricks of the trade and it led to her being offered more work at €8 and then, as she grew a reputation for quality and reliability, this increased to €10 plus per hour. Cleaning is a valued occupation here and good cleaners are highly sought after. Sally now has many private clients of her own as well as occasionally helping out on holiday lets. She also works at Teguise market on Sundays clearing tables at a food outlet.

I worked in the bar for around a year until the owners, with whom we’re still in touch, decided to relocate to Fuerteventura. I then took a full-time office job, not something I had envisioned in Lanzarote, selling activity holidays around the world with sports such as diving, surfing, kite surfing and wind surfing. I’m not a salesman but I did okay as it wasn’t a hard sell and the customers already wanted to do the activities so I just had to tie them in with the accommodation.

Then friends of ours, who have a shop called A Little Bit Bazar in Tías, which sells imported British goods, asked me to work part-time in the new branch they were opening in Playa Blanca. I jumped at the chance as it would only be two and a half days a week and it would get me out of the office job. I also now have four days free in which to write.

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Me with Chris King

The great news for me is that I now have regular writing work and I have had over 100 articles published! These have been in the UK, Spain, America, Canada, South Africa and Pakistan among others. In addition I edited two novels for an American author which have been published and I have proofread and edited many articles, training manuals and even two philosophy white papers. I also edited a cook book written by Chris King, owner and award-winning chef of Kristians, in my opinion the best fine dining restaurant in Lanzarote.

In addition I am a staff writer for Lanzarote Information which was such a useful resource when I was researching our move to the island. If you click on the link you can see some of the articles I’ve written about different aspects of the island. I try to encourage tourists to get out of the resorts and see some of the unique landscapes that Lanzarote has to offer.

My website is still a ‘work in progress’ and I’m open to constructive criticism. I still have to do other work to supplement my income, but nowhere near as much as before.

The Realities of Life

Lanzarote isn’t perfect, although it comes pretty damn close! But there are some little annoyances.

In the UK we take free banking for granted. When we opened our accounts with Santander here we were assured that there were no charges but what we weren’t told was that was only for the first year. After that we got charged for our debit cards, some transactions and transfers. We were also supposed to pay a certain amount into our current account every month and keep a minimum balance of €500. So we had money sitting in the savings account earning hardly any interest while we got charged for not meeting these criteria. But how do you play the game if you don’t know the rules?

I have recently opened a new on-line account with BBVA which claims to be fees free, but we will see!

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Another bugbear is the internet, which is particularly important to me as all my writing work is on-line. If you don’t already have a landline it’s almost impossible to get one installed, particularly where we live. Our previous landlord was told he could have a phone line if he paid €250,000 to have the road dug up!

At first, I tried a dongle from Orange for my internet, which could be a bit hit and miss. A company called JMA came and assessed our property but there was no sight line from the roof to the communications masts on either of two mountains at Femes and San Bartolomé

Then we contacted Telecomunicaciones Lanzarote, known locally as Satellite Gary, who installed a satellite receiver on the roof. We now get a massive 6Mb download speed! I know that sounds pathetic compared to the speeds available in the UK, but it’s enough for me to work and we can stream TV. The internet occasionally drops out when the weather is bad but fortunately that is not very often here. If that does happen, I just have to take the laptop to a bar to work – oh, how I suffer!

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Ordering goods for delivery from outside the island is something else that causes annoyance. You can be charged more in import tax than the items cost. I bought something on Ebay in the UK for less than £10 and when the post office tried to deliver it I was told that I would have to pay €13 for tax and administration. I told them to send it back.

A friend of ours had a delivery of computer equipment by courier and the driver made him go to a cash point and draw out the €120 fee before he would leave the goods.

The trouble is that the charges seem to be random and dependent on the delivery driver or who is in the customs office that day. It was announced months ago that the tax would be abolished for goods under €150 but there is no sign of it happening any time soon.

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Customer service can be a problem in shops here and Trading Standards appears to be non-existent. They are fine when you’re buying something but if you find a fault and try to return goods, they don’t want to know. This doesn’t apply everywhere and with more mainstream European outlets opening the situation is getting better.

If a shop won’t refund or replace faulty goods you need to ask them for a complaint form which they are obliged to give you. Often that is enough to make them act but, if not, you fill in the form and give one copy to shop, keep one copy and take the third copy to the police to denounce the store. To do all this is a pain and I think they hope that you just won’t bother.

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These little niggles are a small price to pay for living in Lanzarote and I certainly wouldn’t let them stop you from moving here.

So, What are the Positives?

Once you become a resident and start paying into the system you become entitled to health care which is excellent. I only have experience of the medical centre in Tías and they were brilliant. It’s a 24 hour facility with a minor emergency department, although for anything more serious you will be transferred to the hospital in Arrecife.

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Sally’s Allergy

Sally was asked to thoroughly clean a bar and kitchen which had just changed hands. Unfortunately, the place had been fumigated the day before and the new owners didn’t realise that she shouldn’t have cleaned until the bar had been aired for 48 hours. Not only that but, as Sally’s face began to swell, we found out that she has an allergy to the cockroach spray.

When it got to the stage when she could barely see she went to the medical centre where she was rushed to a private room and put on a drip. Her normally low blood pressure was through the roof and she was attended by six staff until her condition stabilised. After two hours she was given a prescription and allowed to go home and within a couple of days she was back to normal.

Prescription drugs are much cheaper here and some medication that is only available on prescription in the UK can be bought over the counter for a fraction of the cost.

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A big advantage being a Canarian resident is that we get half price fares on flights and ferries between the other islands and the Spanish mainland. We just go to the Ayuntamiento to get a Certificado de Viaje (travel document) which is valid for six months and costs a whole Euro! We use the cheap flights to explore various regions of Spain and take short breaks around the Canaries.

The system has been computerised so that you shouldn’t need the travel doc but, having had a couple of problems with airline officials, it is safer to have it.

We also use the buses a lot to travel around the island, so we got a residents’ Bono Bus pass which gives you 20% off all fares.

Sometimes we get one bus to Arrecife bus station, have a look at which is the next bus to depart and wherever it is going is where we’ll have lunch (there might be wine involved!).

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Staying with travel, it’s really cheap to run a car here compared to the UK. We pay less than €35 for car tax, diesel is currently around 87 cents a litre and unleaded petrol is around 95 cents. The equivalent of the MOT test, the ITV, costs €36.18 for a petrol engined car and is every two years for cars up to ten years old and annually after that.

However, buying and selling a car privately can be complicated and around 10% of the car’s value has to be paid in tax. This is usually paid by the buyer unless otherwise agreed with the seller. You also need to check there are no debts associated with the vehicle as these stay with the car and will be inherited by the buyer.

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Fish Platter at Famara Restaurant

Eating and drinking, in or out, can be as cheap or expensive as you choose. There is a surprising amount of produce grown on the island and it can be bought very cheaply from the farmers’ markets, but is also widely available in shops.

In our town, Tías Fruits is an old-fashioned style greengrocer where around 70% of the produce is from Lanzarote with the rest coming from other islands or the mainland.

The large supermarkets have excellent meat and fish counters and there is a huge range of local goats’ cheese available.

If you can’t resist buying goods from ‘back home’, you’ll pay more than you’re used to but even those prices are coming down with increased competition.

caleta-billAs for eating out, there are places to suit all tastes and budgets from fine dining restaurants to simple, local bars serving wholesome home-cooked tapas dishes.

At one of our favourite tapas restaurants, we had a couple of large beers, three or four tapas and a bottle of wine for less than €22!

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Christmas Day BBQ

And of course there’s the fabulous climate and the laid-back lifestyle which, to my mind, go hand-in-hand. When the sun shines you feel better and with the slower pace of life it has to be beneficial to your health.

In the UK we felt as though we were constantly running but getting nowhere. I had high blood pressure and was almost constantly stressed out, conditions which I left behind when we moved to Lanzarote.

As I write this we are approaching our fourth Christmas here. Sunset in London is at 15:51 whereas the sun will be shining on us until around 6pm. On Christmas day, as on previous ones, we are planning to have a BBQ on the terrace.

We do have rain of course, and storms. We have recently had some significant rainfall but this has the benefit of bringing out the greenery, flowers are blooming everywhere and the island is at its most beautiful.

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Lanzarote in Bloom

What’s New?

At the end of the last blog we had just moved into a fabulous apartment, and we loved living there for 3½ years. However, our landlord lived above us with his wife and kids, and they are a lovely family, but as the three boys were growing older they got noisier and more boisterous. Additionally, they got a dog which hated being left on its own so, while they were all out at work or school, she would howl and bark for hours on end making it impossible to concentrate on my writing. So we decided to look for a new home.

At the moment long-term rental accommodation is very difficult to find but, on our first day of looking, we just happened to go to a bar to see a friend whose boss just happened to have an apartment on which her tenants had just happened to give notice. She showed us photos of the place and we said we’d take it subject to viewing. We were so lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

We loved the house at first sight and we moved into our new home in July 2016. It’s in a beautiful, peaceful, rural location with stunning views, but within easy walking distance of Tías and Puerto del Carmen.

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Our New Home

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View from the Terrace

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It only took us three weeks or so to get our residencias but we’ve heard that it can now take more than three months just to get an appointment.

Many ex-pats were concerned about what effect Britain leaving the EU would have on them. We have been assured that it won’t affect those already resident here and paying into the system, but it might become more difficult for people wanting to move here after Brexit.

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Spain has decided that ex-pats who are resident for two years must change their driving licence to a Spanish one, despite this not actually being passed in law. There are large fines being imposed for non-compliance so we took the path of least resistance and changed ours. Many people are resisting the change as they don’t want to let go of their British or Irish licence but, if you return home, you can just change it back without losing any entitlement.

Everyone had told us that we would be required to take a medical and a driving assessment, both of which we would have to pay for, but we didn’t have to do either. It was a fairly simple process which took three months from start to finish, the delay being caused by the DVLA in the UK taking their time to supply information.

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For transferring money from the UK, I recommended Foremost Currency, and I still do, but it’s worth signing up with two brokers and comparing their rates. I now also use Currencies 4 You who don’t charge a fee and their exchange rate is usually great, but sometimes Foremost, who charge £10 per transaction, still beat them. Many people here rave about Transferwise but I check their rate each time and they have never yet matched the deals I get. The more beer money for me the better!

Lanza Life

There is always something going on in Lanzarote – the Canarians love to party! Many of the events are free to attend and well worth seeking out, like the candlelit classical concert in Arrecife with the orchestra on a floating raft; rock concerts on the beach; the ceremonial wine harvest; horse racing and the many carnivals and fiestas throughout the year.

You can find out what’s happening through Lanzarote Information and you can join various Facebook groups such as Lanzarote  Events – cultural etc and What’s On Lanzarote, events guide.

Life’s a Beach!

Four years ago we took a gamble but it paid off and we have not looked back. If you’re thinking of doing similar you have to weigh up the pros and cons in relation to what is best for you and your family. But, if it’s what you really, really want, go for it because it’s no good thinking later, “what if?” You might fail, but you might end up like us, living the dream.

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Footprints in the Sand

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Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment.

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You’ve Heard of TOWIE – Well this is…TOWEL (The Only Way es Lanzarote)

Sally in the Extremes Small Version

TOWEL (The Only Way es Lanzarote)

The Idea

On yet another wet July evening after aCank 002 miserable day at work the conversation turned to  the possibility of moving away from Dorset. Both Sally and I intensely disliked our jobs and had been looking for alternative work for some time. However, it was becoming apparent that the West Country, while being a beautiful place to live, was not the land of opportunity. We rented a lovely thatched cottage, just outside Cerne Abbas on a private estate, and which overlooked a lake, but, with the seemingly wetter climate, we had begun to see more negatives than positives such as the damp, and it was cold. I had already been searching for work further afield on-line and I broached the subject of a move with Sally.

CottageI had been a chauffeur, until my boss had retired, and that would be my ideal occupation. I’d seen vacancies in Bristol, Oxford, Farnborough, Cambridge and even in Hunstanton in the wilds of Norfolk. Sally said that she would be happy to look at any location and with her skills she would have little trouble finding a job anywhere.

At some point during the conversation I said, ‘What about moving abroad?’ We loved to travel and had lived for our holidays so, why not?

We discussed various options and agreed that realistically it would have to be Europe, but there was the small problem of Language. Sally speaks very good, but slang, French which wouldn’t work in a business environment and I am similar with German. I had learned a fair amount of Italian as we travelled there on a regular basis but it was basic conversational stuff. I then suggested another of our favourite locations – Lanzarote.

We had been going to the Canary Islands since the first year we met, 1997, the first trip being to Fuertaventura. We’d also been to Gran Canaria and Tenerife but Lanzarote became our winter destination of choice and we usually went every year in January for Sally’s birthday. This island has a much more relaxed feel than the others with fewer of the “fish & chip” and “lager lout” brigade, no high-rise hotels and, dare I say it, a slightly older clientele. There is a large ex-pat community and many of the locals, through the year-round tourist industry, speak English.

The seed had been planted and there was to be no going back as, if we didn’t go for it, it would always be a “what if?” scenario.

The Planning

The timing was not entirely in our hands. I had suffered a back injury at work nearly four years previously and, after endless visits to specialists, misdiagnoses, medical investigations, surgical procedures, and piles of legal paperwork, the court case had finally been scheduled for September. We decided that we were going to make the move whatever the result as, by selling practically everything we owned, we could afford to sustain ourselves for a while but we would have to find work pretty quickly. However, my Barrister was confident of a positive outcome and that could make all the difference. We set our sights on October but decided not to tell anyone yet.

I started doing my research into the realities of relocating to another country and fortunately there is a wealth of information out there. Whatever we would need to do someone has done before and is happy to share their experiences, good and bad, on various forums. Lanzarote Information was a great place to start and I signed up for their newsletter which gives up to date information on anything relating to life on the island, including the immigration procedures. Also, Estupendo, an Estate Agency, provide a free downloadable relocation pack which gives a timetable of the things you need to do, both before you leave the UK and when you arrive on the island, with everything from banking and legal requirements to shipping your pets.

Sally began to think about how to sell our belongings. How did we manage to acquire so much stuff? Eleven years ago we had returned from our previous sojourn abroad, in America, with just four suitcases and now we had this two-bedroomed cottage full of stuff! She came up with the idea of having a garden sale to which hopefully all of our friends and acquaintances would come, as well as advertising further afield. What didn’t sell could be put on Ebay or taken to a car boot sale.

There was also the timing of giving our notice to the landlord and deciding where we could live between quitting the cottage and actually leaving the country.

Then, in early August, my solicitor contacted me to say that the court case had been put back until January as they were struggling to find dates on which both of the expert medical witnesses could attend. That took the wind out of our sails a bit but, as it happened, it turned out for the better. It was going to be a lot harder and take longer than anticipated to sell up and organise everything. We would never have been ready by October. However, it meant that we would have to go into the depths of another winter in the UK.

It was difficult going into work every day carrying on as normal and not being able to tell anyone about our plans. We also had to go on with day to day village life. But gradually, unable to fully contain ourselves, we started dropping hints to people that we were unhappy at work and that we were toying with the idea of moving away and the rumours grew around the village.

We had the idea that if the court case was in January any settlement would be unlikely before the end of February, therefore we’d have the end of March in mind for the big move. We looked at dates and decided that we would give our month’s notice on the cottage on the 1st of November. That would give us four weeks to at least sell all of the large items, although November wasn’t the ideal month for selling but better than the subsequent three months.

We then had a lucky break. Some friends of ours, Ian & Mel, had a holiday let which was going to be empty from October to April and they said that, if it would help, we could rent it during that period. It would also give them some rental income during those months when it would normally be empty. It was a one-bedroom annex on the side of their bungalow, fully furnished, and they would include the bills in the rent which would save a lot of paperwork. Having asked what we were currently paying for the cottage Ian came up with a figure for the rent which was extortionate for the size of the place but, for the convenience, we decided to go for it. Things were coming together.

Selling Up (Easier Said than Done!)

Sally set the weekend of the 2nd and 3rd of November for the garden sale and, as well as word of mouth, we emailed the details to our contacts and put up posters in the surrounding villages thinking that, if nothing else, people would come to be nosy. Sally worked really hard to organise the sale and her enthusiasm was phenomenal. I pretty much kept out of the way as I felt a bit useless. Some of the larger items, particularly the electrical goods, were sold ahead of the sale but the buyers allowed us to hang onto them until we moved out which was a major benefit.

Unfortunately the turnout for the sale was poor on the Saturday, especially from Cerne Abbas from which we were only a mile and a half. You’d have thought it was the other end of the earth! However, those who travelled further to see what was on offer nearly all bought something so it was not a total disaster. We put some stuff away for the night but just covered the rest and left it out for the Sunday.

The following day we couldn’t believe our eyes when we woke to find three inches of snow on the ground! It had not been forecast and was so localised that Wessex Radio in Dorchester eight miles away didn’t even know about it until somebody rang in. That was certainly going to stop any footfall. By 11 o’clock the snow had turned to rain which then fizzled out to leave a cold damp afternoon. A few hardy folk showed up and we did sell some more. But we were going to have to do it all again the next week.

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At work things had gone from bad to worse for me and I was feeling constantly stressed. I was already on medication for high blood pressure and the job was making it worse. It was now the busiest time of year in the cheese industry with the build up to Christmas. I had snapped at colleagues a couple of times before and, when I had been spoken to by the management, I explained that I was struggling to cope with the workload. I suggested that they at least get a temp in to take some of the weight off. I was told that it would be looked into but I didn’t hold out much hope.

Then, on the Thursday of that week, the 8th November, my immediate boss, the Financial Director, had been digging at me all morning. Finally I really blew my top, told her in no uncertain terms where to stick the job and I stormed out. As I flew out of the car park, spinning the wheels in three different gears, I felt an enormous sense of relief. It did however take me a full week to calm down and for a while Sally was extremely worried about my health.

The timing could not have been better. On Saturday morning the postman arrived with a letter from my solicitor. My former employers had agreed to accept liability and settle out of court with an offer that came within the parameters which my Barrister had set. It was not a huge amount by any means but it took the pressure off us and will enable us to make the move to Lanzarote a reality. We could also bring our leaving date forward again.

On Sunday I phoned another director at work, who was a little more sympathetic towards me, and said that I was taking a week off sick but would come back to work my notice and train my replacement if required, to which he agreed. However, later in the week the Managing Director phoned to say that they were concerned about my health and that I need not return to work but they would pay me in full. I don’t think I have ever been so grateful to receive a call! Thank you Mike.

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Meanwhile, the sale must go on! Sally had again been putting a huge effort into the second sale weekend whilst also worrying about me. This time she had printed out hundreds of leaflets and delivered them around the villages by hand to try and drum up some enthusiasm. There were a few more people on the Saturday and more stuff went but, on the Sunday, we had forgotten to take into account that it was Remembrance Day which is taken very seriously locally, and rightly so. We would have to have another sale and time was running out.

Sally decided that some of the older furniture and other bits and pieces were not going to sell so she contacted The Weldmar Hospice, a local charity, and they came with a Luton Transit van the following Wednesday and took away a full load. We could finally see floor space!

We had arranged to move into the holiday let on the 24th November which would leave us a week to clean the cottage, fill in holes where pictures had been and generally leave it in the same condition as we found it. But we still had so much to do in the meantime.

Our next door neighbour wrote a column about the village for the local paper and she very kindly offered to mention our sale and this also got onto the website. Lots of people saw this plug and we had several calls asking what we still had for sale. Quite a few were obviously dealers looking for a bargain but we didn’t care as we just wanted to shift as much as possible. Consequently we had a much better turnout with people coming from Dorchester and even Weymouth.

Nearly all of the big stuff had now gone. We had sold the TV but had been able to keep it until leaving but we had to sit on garden chairs to watch it as the suite had gone. We still had our bed but had agreed to give it away to someone who wanted a spare. It was ten years old but the base was good, it just needed a new mattress. Just a week left in our old home.

We had decided on our departure date for Lanzarote and the one-way flight was booked from Gatwick on the 26th January 2013.

Moving House

On the weekend of the move into the holiday let we had arranged for those people who’d  UK Hol let Viewbought goods, but allowed us to hang on to them, to collect them. The move itself was fairly straightforward and just involved ferrying stuff a couple of miles. There were still a lot of smaller items with some value to get rid of but Sally was going to do a car boot sale one weekend. The small apartment was soon full of our things with not much room to move. It was strange to think that in a couple of months we would have whittled it down to the four suitcases we were going to take to Lanzarote.

As for the cottage, it still had a lot of stuff in it although Sally had arranged for the Weldmar Hospice to collect another van-load which they would certainly benefit from. I started filling in the holes where our pictures and ornaments had been hung, the filler actually matching the paintwork which was handy. Sally tried to sort out the new place to make it habitable.

By three o’clock we’d had enough and decided that it was time to adjourn to The Giant Inn, our local of the last four and a half years, for a few beers. The usual suspects were in there and it was now beginning to dawn on them that we really were leaving the village soon.

On Monday Sally had the “pleasure” of going to work while I had the week to get the cottage into a condition acceptable to the landlords. There were still things in every room so I started in the main bedroom moving stuff out and cleaning from top to bottom and as the week progressed I did each room in turn. On the Wednesday the weather broke so I had a bonfire to get rid of all the crap in the garden and any bits of old furniture and newspapers we had accumulated for lighting the fire. It took six hours even with the help of Rosie who had come to our first sale and bought lots of things. She came round out of the blue just to see if we needed any help and I wouldn’t have got the garden straight without her. Sally came home from work for a while to organise the van-load for The Weldmar.

At the end of the week it was with a great deal of satisfaction that I viewed the cottage which was now in the same condition, if not better, as when we had moved in.

We had one unexpected piece of good fortune. A good friend, Richard, had given us a globe just before he had died of cancer. It had been sitting in a corner in the cottage and I hadn’t really studied it until we were moving at which time I realised that it was a mid-nineteenth century piece by a famous manufacturer. I contacted an auctioneer acquaintance who entered it in a fine arts auction for us at which it made £500! Richard had loved travelling and I like to think he knew that his gift would help us to achieve our dream.

On the same day my car passed its MOT without any work required. It seemed that fortune was still smiling on us.

The holiday let proved not to be up to the standard we had expected for what we were being charged in rent. The central heating system badly needed bleeding and made the most horrible noises first thing in the morning. On the electric cooker, the grill did not work, only three of the four rings on the hob worked and one of those was either on full or off, no in between, and the oven gave off such a chemical haze that made our eyes sting so much that after using it once we never did again. There was damp in the bathroom because the extractor fan didn’t work. When we told Ian of these faults he said that he’d get them sorted but he never bothered. Also the electric tripped out quite regularly which Ian seemed to imply was our fault but turned out to be a problem in his house. We didn’t push the issue as we had to live there for two months and they had been friends to us.

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The following Friday Sally came home from work in tears. Her boss had been a bitch to her and in twenty six years in the recruitment industry she’d never been treated so badly. We talked about it and, as she had only intended doing one more month anyway, we decided that she would finish on Monday. I composed a letter of resignation for her which told her boss in the politest terms exactly what she thought of her.

So we had now both left our jobs and, not that we’d had any intention of doing so, there was now no going back.

The Waiting

I felt a bit trapped in the apartment as I had been used to escaping to my office upstairs in the cottage. However, I had plenty to do. We had loads of photo albums, as well as hundreds of pictures that we had never got around to putting into albums, and we had decided to scan them all onto the computer. They are now on random play as our screensaver on the computer and we look at them more now that we ever did before.

We intended to sell all of our CDs and records so I was also backing them up on the computer and a hard drive, as well as on an ‘i cloud’, in case the laptop ever crashed. We had bought a ‘Brennan’ storage device which would also be our hi-fi in Lanzarote. I had already scanned and stored all of the important documents.

I had begun Spanish lessons for one hour each week, although I only had time for six lessons, and I was doing a lot of homework as I wanted to learn as much as possible before we went. Fortunately my teacher had lived in Tenerife and taught me Canarian Spanish which is slightly different to that on the mainland, more like South American.

We were still trying to sell stuff so one Sunday we took some stuff to a charity auction in a village not too far away. Fifty pence per lot plus 10% of the selling price went to the charity and we got the rest. We only made around £35 but it was better than nothing. The following week Sally had a stall at a car boot sale and took over £70 which considering the torrential hail storm she got caught in wasn’t bad at all.

Christmas seemed to come around really quickly and Ian & Mel had very kindly invited us next door for dinner with their family. There was going to be fifteen of them so Mel said that two more wouldn’t make much difference to the catering. I arranged with a former colleague to get a lovely selection of cheeses to take round along with a bottle of Champagne. The day itself went very well apart from sometimes having too many women in the kitchen which can be a recipe for disaster. We had met most of the family before and we got on well with them. The party broke up in the early evening and we put our feet up in front of the telly for the rest of the night.

Between Christmas and New Year we went to my brother’s where he managed to gather the clan with most of our aunts and uncles and some cousins. We thought it would be the last time we would see any of them before we went. We had also not expected to have time to visit some of the further flung family, especially my sister in Norfolk. But that was not to be the case.

After a quiet New Year’s Eve my brother phoned the next day to say that my brother-in-law, Terry, had died. It was not entirely unexpected as he’d been ill with motor neurone disease for seventeen years and had recently deteriorated. It looked like we would see more of the family after all, but under unfortunate circumstances. We’d have to see when the funeral would be as we were running out of time.

~~~

I still had the finances to sort out. In the relocation pack I’d downloaded it recommended a currency broker for transferring money from a sterling account to the euro account as you get a better exchange rate and the charges are much lower. Regardless of the amount you transfer the fee is only £10, as opposed to the bank charge of £30. The broker I used was Foremost Currency and Alastair, the trader assigned to me, was extremely helpful and I have used them twice since then. The euro was dropping but I managed to lock into a decent rate. They would hold the money until I had my Spanish account set up. I also opened some savings accounts to hold our emergency funds should our venture fail and we had to come back and start from scratch.

~~~

The weekend after New Year we had booked a free break at a hotel near Bath using up all of our Tesco vouchers. After all the stress of selling everything and moving we had decided that it would be good to get away to where we couldn’t do anything but relax. It was lovely just strolling around the city and along the canal and river banks. We found a beautiful country pub where we ate both evenings and it felt great to spoil ourselves for a while.

On our return to reality we were told that Terry’s funeral was to be on Wednesday 16th January at 1 o’clock at Kings Lynn in Norfolk. Unfortunately there was very cold weather forecast to move in from the east that weekend so we would have to keep an eye on that. If we were to go we would have to travel up on the Tuesday and return on the Thursday as it was a five hour journey each way. Sure enough heavy snow hit East Anglia at the weekend with Norfolk being the worst hit so we decided to wait until the day to decide whether or not we would be able to attend the funeral.

On the Tuesday morning I checked the weather and travel news and it seemed that there weren’t too many problems on the roads so we decided to go for it. We actually had dry roads and bright sunshine until we got up around the Cambridge area where it became duller and colder and we began to hear more and more reports on the radio of sheet ice on the main roads and numerous accidents. But we plodded on and eventually reached Snettisham where my sister lived. We booked into a hotel for the two nights on both of which the temperature dropped to minus 16 degrees!

The funeral went smoothly and there was a good turnout considering the weather and location. There were even a few laughs as it was to be a celebration of Terry’s life and he had certainly been a character. It was great to see both of my sisters, despite the circumstances, and to catch up with some of the other relatives. However, there were a few tears when we parted as we knew it would be a long time before we would see each other again – unless they could make it to Lanzarote.

On the way home it seemed that the bad weather was following us and we were concerned that with only a week left and more snow forecast we might be trapped in Dorset! We made it home safely just as a few flakes began to fall. The following morning, the 18th, we woke to a complete white-out.

~~~

Sally's Birthday

Sally’s Birthday

It was Sally’s birthday and we had intended to drive out for a special lunch but our cars were not going anywhere. Our accommodation was on a crest with a steep hill in either direction so, with minor roads not being gritted, the only way in or out was on foot unless you had a tractor. We decided that we’d walk the mile into the village and to The Giant Inn where we knew there would be a good gathering of locals who had been unable to get to work. We weren’t disappointed and there was a great atmosphere in the pub. After a few beers and some pub grub we struggled back up the hill.

The snow and freezing temperatures were due to continue for the foreseeable future and we were now very concerned. My brother, Les, had offered to pick us up from home on the 25th and take us to the hotel we had booked near to Gatwick Airport prior to our early morning flight. He had to get from Chippenham, which was also snow-bound, to rural Dorset and get up and down our hill. We still had some goods that needed delivering to their new owners, not to mention our two cars, the potential buyers of which had let us down. It was going to be a tense week.

We had so many last minute jobs planned but in some respects it took a little of the pressure off by not being able to do certain things. We had intended to go to Yeovil for free eye tests but neither we nor the optician could get there, which saved a journey. Fortune did seem to smile on us as, with the farm traffic going up and down, the road became useable with extreme care so we could at least get about locally. Also, a couple in the village, Matthew and Shelley, agreed to buy both of the cars for the asking price and would accept delivery on Thursday, our last day in the village. The forecast for Friday was not too bad and at home we were finally ready to go. The last of the stuff we weren’t taking, such as our winter clothes, would be taken by my brother to store in his garage.

There were some minor hiccups. Matthew, who had agreed to buy the cars, said that he didn’t have all of the cash but he would pay it into our bank the following week and we had no choice but to trust him. Then, after dropping off the first car with him, I received a phone call to say it had broken down! I went in the other car to his location and called out the AA. Fortunately it only needed a new distributor cap which cost pence and didn’t affect his decision to buy the car.

Finally, shortly after six on Thursday, I dropped the second car off and it was time to go to The Giant for our final evening. The landlady, Anneliese, had offered us a free meal as a parting gift and a lot of our friends were due to come and see us off. It turned into quite a session and while I stayed on the beer Sally went on to the red wine and ended up falling through the front door when we got home. Ian and Mel had given us a lift up the road thank goodness! We certainly slept well and awoke to the alarm feeling remarkably good and looking forward to our imminent adventure. The waiting was over.

The Journey

Les rang us early with his ETA and he was right on time. We loaded his car to the roof but Cerne Hol Let Leaving Daystill couldn’t fit everything in so we asked Mel if we could leave a last few bits which she could keep or dispose of as she chose. Mel saw us off as Sally squeezed into the back seat with the luggage and we were on our way. The Journey to Gatwick was uneventful and, after we had treated him to lunch, Les left us at the hotel and headed back to Wiltshire. We were pretty sure that he and his wife Kay would be among the first to come out and visit us.

Left to our own devices at the hotel we went for a few drinks in a couple of the pubs in Horley but we weren’t going to go mad as we had the alarm set for 04:15 to be ready for a 05:20 check-in the next morning.

We’d booked our flight with Easyjet and had two pieces of hold luggage, limited to 20kg, and two items of hand baggage which could be any weight as long as you could lift it into the overhead compartment, so we had nearly 80kg in all. At the check-in desk when the clerk saw how heavy our bags were he asked if we would like to put our hand baggage in the hold free of charge which was a brilliant piece of luck. With small events like this smoothing our way it seemed like this life change was meant to be.

There were no problems at security and once through the time seemed to pass really quickly until our flight was announced. Mind you we have never had any trouble passing time at airports. Sally had a minor panic when, after a ten minute walk to the gate, I told her we’d arrived at the wrong gate and were about to board the flight to Marrakesh, just to wind her up. Our flight was at the next gate. Mind you, she believed that gullible was taken out of the dictionary!

The flight took off on time and actually arrived fifteen minutes early. As the doors were opened and we stepped out of the plane, that beautiful rush of warm air hit us, which was so welcome after the two weeks of freezing conditions we had endured. We were home.

The owner of the holiday apartment we had booked for our first week, Suzanne, had said Atalaya Terraceshe would pick us up at the airport to save us getting a taxi. We rang her as we’d agreed when we cleared customs and she was there within ten minutes. The apartment was located in the centre of Puerto del Carmen and it would be a great base from which to get ourselves sorted. We’d decided to just acclimatise for the weekend and get down to the business of finding a more permanent home on Monday.

Wild Parrots

Wild Parrots

One of the first things we noticed was the parrots flying around which was not something we were used to in Dorset. We heard them before we saw them and when they roosted in the palm tree outside the apartment they made a hell of a noise!

After a shower and a change of clothes it was ‘beer o’clock’ and time to check out our new, temporary, local bar which was, appropriately enough, The Journeyman.

Life Begins in Lanzarote

As it turned out The Journeyman was a good place to start as the owners, Sel and Chrissy, were very helpful and gave us some useful information, particularly with regard to finding long-term rental accommodation. They also provided free wi-fi which was going to be very well used during that week.

Over that weekend we talked to as many people as we could, in bars and to the PRs outside the restaurants and clubs and, as soon as we said that we had moved to the island, everyone was happy to give all the information they had. They all had a story to tell of how they had come to live there, how they got work and how they coped with the notorious Spanish paperwork.

Prior to leaving the UK I had been looking on-line at accommodation and had asked advice by email from a guy called Martin at Grupo Estupendo and he had been really helpful so I had a pretty good idea of what we were looking for and at what price. However, he had said that they would take a month’s rent as a deposit, a month’s rent in advance and a non-refundable fee of around half a month’s rent. When I mentioned this to people they said that we should never pay a ‘finder’s fee’ and most agents would not charge this. So, despite Martin’s help, we weren’t going to be using Estupendo.

We walked the entire 8km length of the ‘strip’ checking out the various locations. At the far end near the airport was Matagorda, a quieter area which was quite laid back. We decided that it would not be for us as it was too far from the centre where all the action was and where we thought networking would be more effective.

On the Monday morning we were raring to go. We headed for the Old Town as we had had a tip that there was an apartment to rent. The one we planned to look at was no longer available but there was another next door. It belonged to an English lady who was married to a Spaniard and she was happy to show us around. The view was outstanding and we could have happily sat on the terrace and looked at that all day long, but unfortunately the inside was a bit tired and run down to say the least and we wouldn’t have been happy there.

We went further up the road just to be nosy and a Spanish guy asked if we needed any help. When we said we were looking for an apartment he just happened to have one that would be available in six weeks, but he had another that we could use in the meantime. He showed us the temporary one which was a lovely two-bedroomed place. He said that he couldn’t show us the other one until Wednesday and gave us his number to arrange a viewing. We weren’t entirely keen on moving twice in six weeks but thought that we’d have a look.

We left there and headed for Atlantico Homes where we had been told to ask for Helen who was the long-term rental agent and very helpful. She didn’t have much available; one that was too expensive and one that had no oven (a lot of rentals only have a two ring hob). Then she said that she had one that might suit us but it was in Matagorda which we’d already written off. Helen told us that it had everything we wanted, was in our price range and was well worth a look. Deciding to keep an open mind we went along straight away.

We met the Scottish couple who owned the apartment; they had just bought it and fully kitted it out. It was a small ground floor place on an apartment complex with a pool and a bar. They had bought a full size cooker, a large fridge freezer, washing machine, two leather sofas, TV with British channels and a hi-fi. The terrace got the sun for most of the day and it was a quiet location but only a few minutes’ walk from the beach, bars and restaurants. It was available until October when the couple were returning to live full-time and, by agreeing to commit to the full eight months, we managed to get it for €475 per month, including bills, which was a bargain for that location.

The owners weren’t leaving until Sunday so we couldn’t move in until the following Monday. However, we were supposed to leave Suzanne’s place on Saturday but fortunately, when we called her, she told us that no-one was booked in until the Wednesday and it would be no problem for us to stay an extra two days. Things were still working in our favour.

Having got the most important thing sorted out we settled into our ‘holiday’. Until we had an official address we couldn’t do any of the paperwork or even open a bank account so we might as well enjoy ourselves. We did continue networking and we met some great people, some of whom will remain friends.

We discovered a lovely local bar, Il Baretto, which was candlelit in the evenings and is one of the few bars that don’t have TVs blaring out, just quiet jazz music in the background. It has a great atmosphere and is run by Lynne from Belfast who insisted on giving us shots of Jägermeister to welcome us to the island. ‘Happy hour’ there is always a good laugh and that is where we met Gillian and Grahame from Newcastle and Jerry and Deidre from Ireland.

We also met Rick who was the supervisor for Suncare in the Puerto del Carmen area. We thought that this was quite amusing as that day he had got badly burned after falling asleep on the beach! Ironically we would have another connection to him at a later date.

We only met Gillian and Grahame on two occasions before they flew home but they are a lovely couple who have a place here and visit on a regular basis. Gillian liked the ‘gypsy’ style dress Sally wore and said that when she came back in March she would bring a handbag she’d bought but never used which would match the dress and which Sally could have. We exchanged email addresses and Gillian said if there was anything we couldn’t get here and that we wanted brought over to let her know.

The other couple we got to know were Gerry and Deirdre who were quite fascinated by our move here and wanted to know all of the details. And over several beers and bottles of wine we filled them in. When we moved into the new apartment they were keen to see it and were our first visitors presenting us with a bottle of red wine as a house-warming present. We also exchanged emails with them as they were coming back out in April and we would like to meet up with them again.

We ate out every day that week as there was only a two-ring hob in the apartment which Coastal Path to Puerto Calero (4)would stifle my culinary skills! We also considered it to be good for networking and we found some wonderful restaurants along the way. One day we did the 3km walk along the coastal path from the Old Town to Puerto Calero, which is one of our favourite locations on the island, and had a leisurely lunch while watching the boats come and go.

~~~

We did have one problem. We’d had our mail redirected to Ian and Mel’s while we were there but, before leaving, we changed the redirection to Sally’s parents. They would let us know if anything important arrived and scan and email any documents we needed. When they had not received any of our post by Friday we contacted Ian by email. Unfortunately Royal Mail had messed up and the post was still going to Ian’s and, for reasons known only to himself, instead of emailing to let us know, he said he had returned everything to sender! I had been expecting some important documents relating to our savings accounts in the UK and these had never turned up. I managed to phone the banks and building societies, at great expense and inconvenience, and get replacement documents. I also got the Royal Mail to rectify the redirection.

Ian obviously returned our mail on purpose although, as none of the mail was ever received by the senders, I suspect he was throwing it in the bin which is quite malicious. But I don’t know why he acted as he did and he has never responded to any further communications. Mel briefly answered one email but gave no indication of any problem. We have just had to write them off as they must have their own problems.

~~~

On Monday 4th February we moved into our new apartment. It was the easiest move we’ve ever made as we’d only partially unpacked during the first week. After picking up the keys from Helen we took the bags to the gate of the apartment complex and I left Sally there while I walked down the road to get a taxi. We loaded the baggage into the cab and less than ten minutes later we were in the new place. We partly unpacked putting clothes away in the wardrobe and drawers but, as we’d arranged to meet Suzy that afternoon to hand her keys back, we left the rest for later.

We did the forty minute walk back to Carmen along the promenade and, as we had time to spare, we stopped for lunch on the way. We saw a special offer for paella and a glass of wine which was perfect. When we met Suzy she was surprised that we’d already moved the bags as I think she’d assumed that we’d need a lift; she’s the kind of person who would offer but we’d never want to take someone’s kindness for granted.

Lunch on Our New Terrace

Lunch on Our New Terrace

After strolling back to Matagorda we went to the Commercial Centre where we checked out a couple of the local bars, which we would soon get to know very well, before buying some supplies from one of the two supermarkets. We returned to the apartment and made up some bread and paté and opened a bottle of rosé Cava. We also opened the two ‘New Home’ cards we had been given by friends in the UK and then we sat on the terrace and toasted each other. This was to be our home for the next eight months.

Settling In and Paperwork

Over the next few weeks we needed to get our residency paperwork sorted out so that we would be able to work. The first thing we needed was a bank account as our money was still sitting with the broker, so we headed for the ‘Strip’. During the first week I had spotted various offers in the windows of the banks but we had also heard that you had to be careful of bank charges so I wasn’t planning to rush into anything.

Our first stop was Santander as we banked with them in the UK and I wanted to know if there was any advantage to being with the same company. There wasn’t as they are completely separate. However, we met the Account Manager, Lindsey, an English girl who had lived here for most of her life, and she told us that we could open an account with absolutely no charges. She gave us all the information and I said that I’d check it out and compare it with the other banks.

Sally and I went for a coffee and, after discussing it, decided that we didn’t really need to go to another bank as our main criteria had been to avoid charges and the advantage of having an English person as our point of contact was a major benefit. So we went back to Lindsey to open the account and she made it really straightforward. We had to open a non-resident account initially but as soon as we had our residency papers Lindsey would change it to a residents’ one.

We had taken the laptop with us so we found a bar with free Wi-Fi and contacted the currency broker to transfer our funds into the new account.

~~~

We had begun to realise that ‘free’ Wi-Fi was actually quite expensive as we had to buy drinks, so it was costing five or six euros each time. I had picked up a network at the apartment so I looked into that. It was with Wavenet, which serves many hotels, and you could pay by the hour, day, week or month so I signed up for a month for €40. That is not cheap but it would do for the short term while I investigated the other options.

~~~

I had downloaded the residency application forms and I knew what documents were required. However, trying to decipher the forms with my basic Spanish and my computer’s translation software was not as easy as I had thought and people had told us of the problems they had encountered through missing out the smallest detail.

The relocation pack I’d downloaded in the UK had included the details of Guy Buske of A-Z Paperwork who offered assistance with any aspect of the Spanish ‘paper chase’ from Residencia to buying a car. We had also heard his name mentioned by people we’d met and it seemed as though everyone had used his services at some point. I contacted him and he arranged to come to our apartment, with no obligation, to explain how the process worked. For €110 each he would fill in all the necessary forms, pay the fees and make appointments for us but he wouldn’t take any payment until it was all completed. It was worth every penny.

He took our details and the required documents and said that he would call me when he had an appointment for us. He called the next day and told us to meet him at the police station in Arrecife the following Wednesday at 09:30. When we met he gave each of us several sheets of paper in the correct order and told us to just hand them to the immigration officer when we were called. He wasn’t allowed to go in with us.

We had been warned about Grumpy Rosa at the police station who had a formidable reputation for making people’s lives difficult if there was the slightest error on the forms. It was said that she had woken up in a bad mood thirty years ago and had never come out of it! In the waiting area we witnessed her in full flow, shouting at a man who had not brought some ‘vital’ piece of information. He argued back vigorously but he was no match for Rosa and left without his Residencia. We hoped we would be called by the other official on duty.

No such luck. “Siguiente!”, (“next!”) shouted Rosa. We had to go separately and Sally bravely volunteered to go first. I watched nervously as Rosa took the papers from Sally. Without saying a word Rosa typed information into her computer and after about five minutes printed a form from which she pressed out a perforated section and handed it to Sally. “Siguiente!” Another five minutes and, clutching my little green card, I joined Sally and Guy outside and that was it. We were Spanish residents.

~~~

During that week we had hired a car in order to re-acquaint ourselves with the island. The cheapest car hire I’d found locally was €100 for a week so I checked on booking via the UK as if we were on holiday. Through Holiday Autos I got a car for £57, around €64, plus I did it via Top Cash Back and got over 15% of the price back!

We went to every part of Lanzarote, something we hadn’t done since our first visit fourteen Castilo de Santa Barbara Teguise Viewyears ago, and despite the barren terrain it brought back to us the strange attraction of the island. The mountainous scenery with its volcanic cones was made up of so many different colours caused by the various rocks and minerals which had been melted and thrown out by the eruptions of past centuries. This is in stark contrast to the bright white buildings of the villages and towns and the beautiful azure ocean.

There is actually a surprising amount of vegetation considering the absence of any surface water. Palm trees abound and the farmers manage to grow crops using ancient techniques for catching and conserving moisture and we must not forget the wonderful local wines.

067The coastline away from the resorts is rugged and dramatic and, when the Atlantic Ocean is in her full fury, the waves that pound against the shore are spectacular. There are parts of the coast such as Los Hervideros where the surf rushes into subterranean tunnels and the spray spouts into the air from holes in the rocks which is fascinating to watch.

Famara Beach is a laid back area on the west coast and is a Mecca for surfing fanatics. Famara Beach SurfAlthough the red flags are flying constantly because the currents make it unsafe for swimming, it is great for water sports. In the small town nearby the sand from the dunes blows across the road and the bars are outnumbered by the surf and kite-boarding stores.

Around the main resorts there are beautiful golden sandy beaches which are perfect for sunbathing and swimming and in Puerto del Carmen the beach stretches for miles.

Cesar Manrique was an artist from the island who, having seen the sort of development happening on other Spanish islands, wanted to preserve the unspoilt beauty of Lanzarote. Under his influence all new buildings had to conform to the traditional architecture of the island, white walls with green or blue woodwork and not rising above tree height.

Jameos del Agua LakeHe also created some amazing tourist attractions using the volcanic caverns, bubbles and tubes created during the eruptions of the eighteenth century. Jameos del Agua has a huge underground cavern with a lake in which there are blind white crabs unique to that place. There is an auditorium built into the rock where

Mirror Sculpture

Mirror Sculpture

classical music is performed (perhaps it should be rock music!) and which has perfect acoustics. In the buildings there are displays of the geology of the island and also amazing mirror sculptures creating infinite reflections. The outside area has beautiful pools and exotic plants and you can spend hours wandering around.

Mirador del Rio is on one of the highest points of the coast and has a huge round window built into a hole in the rock which looks out over the small island of La Graciosa. Underneath it there is another fantastic building which is like something from a James Bond film.

Timanfaya National Park has an information centre of a similar design and a restaurant where you can have steak cooked by the heat of the still live volcano! You can also take a bus ride around the eerie landscape of the lava fields where you can see how the molten moving mass froze in its flow as it cooled. This area was used as the post-apocalyptic landscape in the TV series, The Planet of the Apes.

There are many other attractions but you’ll just have to come and discover them for yourselves. Ironically, after doing so much to promote tourism on the island, Manrique was killed in a collision with a tourist.

~~~

Carnaval 031February is carnival time on Lanzarote and the Spanish know how to party. Apparently carnival means ‘farewell to meat’ and is the beginning of lent in Spain. Each town has its own parade in turn beginning in the capital, Arrecife, and many of the participants take part in all of them. The parade in Puerto del Carmen was on Saturday 16th and we found a suitable bar from which we could view the festivities.

The costumes were fabulous, many of the spectators dress up as well, and lots of the groups played samba drums. At times the noise was almost deafening but the sheer spectacle was absolutely amazing. The parade lasted for four hours which, according to people we spoke to, is shorter than previous years due to the recession but It went on until well into the evening. Afterwards everyone gathered in the Old Town harbour area where a huge stage had been set up and there were bands playing into the early hours of the morning.

The next day the events continued in the harbour area so we went down there. We were amazed to see people there, still in costume from the day before, who had been dancing for twenty four hours or more! I would have been struggling to stand, let alone dance.

~~~

We had travelled around a lot by buses which are cheap, regular and run 24 hours a day between the resorts, but having had the freedom and convenience of a hire car I decided that we should buy one. Buying a new car in the Canary Islands is cheaper than in the UK because of the lower taxes but, strangely, second-hand cars are more expensive than at home. However, we couldn’t afford new. We had been told that you had to be careful buying a used car as any debts associated with it stayed with it and you could inherit them. Also, the transfer of title could be complicated.

After shopping around I found a suitable car for a good price at a dealership. It was a 2008 Our 'New' Car 002Chevrolet Lacetti and was an ex rental car. However, it was in great condition with low mileage (should I say kilometerage?), came with a year’s full mechanical warranty and a new ITV, the equivalent of an MOT, which is valid for two years on vehicles under ten years old. The dealer also dealt with the transfer paperwork and paid the car tax.

I went on-line to get some quotes for car insurance. For just over €300 I got fully comp with breakdown cover and in Spain the car is insured and not the driver so anyone over 25 can drive it.

So, the day we handed the hire car back we picked up our ‘new’ car. Apart from the convenience it would give us an advantage in the search for work as we wouldn’t be restricted to our local area as so many others were.

We thought it was probable that when we found jobs we would be working different hours in different locations so Sally decided that she would get a bike on which to get around. Puerto del Carmen is very bike friendly and the promenade goes from the Old Town all the way to Arrecife with separate space for pedestrians and cyclists. And it would be most likely that we would be working in Puerto del Carmen.

~~~

After getting our Residencia Guy told us we should apply for our Certificado de Empadronamiento, which is like registering for the electoral roll. We had to take our Residencia cards, passports and apartment rental contract to the Ayuntamiento (town hall) in Tias and the official filled in the necessary forms. She told us to return a couple of days later to pick up the paperwork and for €1 each we were registered. One of the advantages is that we now get half price travel on flights and ferries within Spain as well as reduced prices at many attractions. Even some shops, restaurants and bars will give discounts to residents so it’s always worth asking.

~~~

At the apartment we were settling in nicely. Sally had rearranged the furniture and replaced some of the landlord’s pictures with the few we had brought with us. We had almost everything we needed but I was very short of surface and storage space in the x-sv Apartments 014kitchen which I found quite frustrating. I had a look through the IKEA catalogue which had been left and found the perfect solution. It was a counter height wooden trolley with a solid chopping board on top, three shelves and a drawer and it would also give a little more separation between the kitchen and lounge. However, it was €130. We decided to go to the store in Arrecife and see it in the ‘flesh’. To my delight it had been reduced to €90 so we bought it on the spot.

We used the laptop computer a lot but Sally struggled a bit with the mouse pad so we bought a cordless mouse. Also, on a number of occasions I had wanted to print documents but couldn’t find anywhere to do so at a reasonable price so we got a wireless printer as well.

Socially we were getting to know the local bars and the characters that frequented them. We mainly went to Gee Gees which is a good ‘craic’ in the late afternoon; Pie in the Sky which catches the last of the sun going down; and The First & Last where Lorna is a mine of useful information, especially about the best places to shop.

In the Commercial Centre there is also a good selection of restaurants with Spanish, Mexican, Italian, Chinese and even Japanese food available. We eventually tried them all.

However, we were now making the transition from holiday mode to ‘real life’ so we started cooking at home at least five nights a week and relaxing in front of the TV. When we went out it was usually just for a couple of beers at ‘early doors’; but the weekend was still the weekend! We were slipping into a similar routine to the one we’d had in the UK.

~~~

The occasional problem arose. In the UK Matthew and Shelley, who we had known for years and still owed us £500 for our cars, had not paid any money into the bank and had not responded to our emails. Eventually, keeping it friendly, I emailed to say that I would have to return to the UK to sort out a problem with the bank and I would pop in to see them. This time they did reply to say that, because of someone letting them down, they didn’t have all the money but would pay some in. A couple of days later £300 was paid into our account. Perhaps they thought I was going to turn up on their doorstep with a baseball bat!

Unfortunately they have still not paid the outstanding £200 using their baby’s ill health as an excuse and I don’t think my ruse will work again. At some point I might pay them a visit.

Here, after a few weeks, we had not yet received any post at our apartment and we were expecting our car insurance documents and information from the Spanish bank. Despite being told that the Spanish mail was notoriously slow, I suspected a problem. During a sleepless night I thought that I may have found the reason. In the morning I checked the building number on our rental contract, 11, and the number on the wall of the apartment complex, 10. All of our hard-earned paperwork had the wrong address! The next day was to be a busy one.

Firstly we visited number 11, a nearby villa, where a very nice Spanish gentleman told us that he hadn’t received any of our mail but he would let us know if he did. We drove to the estate agency to inform Helen and got her to amend our contract. Then we went on to the main Post Office where they were extremely helpful and we met ‘our’ postman. For once having an unusual surname, Snelgrove, would be useful as they could easily pick out our mail and divert it to the right address. A couple of days later a pile of post was waiting for us in our pigeon-hole at the reception desk.

The Search for Work

We came to the island prepared to be very flexible with regard to work. We had both worked in bars for many years but that would be our last choice here because of the long unsociable hours, but we would do it if necessary. However, we thought that Sally would be able to find work relatively easily because of her sales experience.

I had thought that I would do driving work, whether it was to buy a minibus and do tours of the island or something similar working for somebody else. We found out very quickly that it was a saturated market and the chance of making a decent living at it was practically non-existent. Apart from that, the cost of obtaining the relevant licenses, insurance and gaining ‘the knowledge’ would be prohibitive.

My second choice would be to work on or around boats. I have my Day Skipper ticket which enables me to captain leisure craft, under sail or motor, of up to 15m in tidal waters. I did my training in the English Channel in the winter and I have sailed across the Channel many times in various conditions, once getting caught by an unexpected gale force 9 storm with no problem. I am hoping that this along with my years of experience will help me to get some crewing work on one of the many tourist boats here.

When buying the printer I had also bought a pack of do-it-yourself business cards and I printed various cards to give out to any contacts we met. I designed one for my sailing based work, one for general work, one for Sally and one just with contact details for both of us. The idea was to get our names known to as any people as possible in the hope that if anyone heard of a job they would think of us.

We went down to the Old Town harbour to see if there might be any opportunities and the first person I spoke to was Andi, a Scandinavian guy who worked in a kiosk selling tickets for the Dolphin Cruises. He was very helpful and immediately phoned his boss, Pedro, who said that he would give me an interview later in the month when he returned to Lanzarote from Fuertaventura. That left us feeling really positive.

The following evening I had a phone call from Pedro asking if I could work the next day as he’d been left in the lurch. Unfortunately Pedro spoke little English and my Spanish was still very limited but we managed to clarify that I would be at the kiosk at ten o’clock in the morning, although I wasn’t sure what I would be doing.

When I arrived I met the boat skipper who told me that I would be working in the kiosk selling tickets. This was a bit of a let-down as I was hoping to be on the boat and I am not a natural salesperson, but I was definitely going to give it a go. The skipper showed me the ropes and told me the prices before going to sort out the boat.

The day didn’t go well. It was very quiet and around lunchtime it started raining. On a couple of occasions I had to speak, with difficulty, to Pedro on the phone. There were a few people who took information and said they’d come another day, but that was it. Once it got to around two o’clock it was apparent that there were going to be no takers for the boat trips that day. The guy in the next kiosk selling tickets for parascending and jet skis had drawn a blank too.

The skipper returned and said we might as well call it a day. He said they were trialling someone else the next day and another the day after and they would let me know if I had the job, but I knew I had no chance. Possibly, if my Spanish had been better and I had been able to communicate with Pedro, they might have considered me. I went home a bit despondent and, despite Sally’s encouragement, I knew I had blown it.

~~~

Another possible door opened when we were at the Python Bar in Matagorda and Sally gave a card to the barmaid Karen. She said that they might be looking for someone to cover the bar for a week at the end of April. It was a little way off but it could be a foot in the door. We would keep in touch and wait and see.

In the meantime I had signed up on Facebook to Lanzarote Jobs and Lanzarote Gossip and was looking regularly in the on-line classified section of The Gazette, the island’s English language magazine. I saw one ad for a customer service role, but with not much other information, and having done plenty of jobs incorporating customer service I sent my CV by email to the address in the ad.

I don’t particularly like using the phone and I usually get Sally to make calls for me so, when I hadn’t heard anything back after a couple of days, she rang the number. The call was answered, “Suncare Central, Sam speaking.”

From first arriving on the island people had told us about Suncare and that Sally with her personality and sales experience would be ideal to work for them, that they were a good company to work for and that you could make a decent living with them. And of course we had met ‘burnt Rick’, the Suncare supervisor, in Il Baretto during our first week.

On the phone Sally told Sam, “I know your company and Graham wouldn’t be suited to the job as he doesn’t do sales. However, it might suit me. I’ll send you my CV in the next week or so.”

Sam obviously picked up something in Sally’s voice. “No, no. I’m interviewing in Puerto del Carmen tomorrow. I can come to you.” They arranged to meet for a coffee at noon the next day, Tuesday 12th March, in the Commercial Centre in Matagorda.

When Sally got back from the interview she was very excited as they had got on really well and Sam had offered her the job on the spot even though she still had two people to see. She had loved Sally’s attitude and enthusiasm and the fact that Sally has been promoting aloe vera, the main ingredient in Suncare’s products, for many years. She would be perfect for the job.

Sally was a bit miffed that I had applied for the job and she’d got it as she hadn’t felt ready to start work yet. She was still enjoying the settling in and the fact that we weren’t under immediate financial pressure. But I’d had an unnecessary mini panic over money and thought that at least one of us needed a job to stabilise our finances as we had had a lot of initial expense.

She would start her four days training on Friday, just seven weeks after our arrival, before starting work proper. She’d be working 11am to 5pm five days a week in Costa Teguise, which is a twenty minute drive from home, and she would need the car for work. The job involved going to hotel pool sides at contracted hours and doing a three minute speech advising people how to look after their skin, bearing in mind that Lanzarote is around 900 miles nearer the equator than southern Spain, after which they would come to her buy the products. So there was no hard sell.

It seemed that while Sally was avoiding taking the advice to contact Suncare, they had come looking for her.

~~~

During her first day’s training, Sally found out that everyone in the company had Sundays Paddy's Day 004off. This was good news as that Sunday, the 17th of March, was St Patrick’s Day which, due to the large Irish ex-pat community, is widely celebrated here. Even the Spanish become Irish for the day and join in the festivities. We were happy to be able go along.

Paddy's Day 034There was a parade in PDC in the morning followed by live music and dancing, including a traditional Canarian troupe, on and around the stage by the harbour. There were loads of stalls selling all sorts of food and drink with, as you would imagine, many of them selling Guinness and Irish stew, although there were plenty of other choices. You could buy tokens for a euro each and which you could exchange for food and drink so for one euro you could have a small plate of paella or tortilla, a beer or sangria.

The harbour area was a sea of green and it seemed that everyone was dressed up. There were some great costumes and one of the main themes was “Kiss me, I’m Irish”. I’m not sure how much kissing there was but the music went on until late in the evening and the many Irish bars had their own entertainment and kept going until the early hours of the morning.

~~~

After Sally had finished her training she was very nervous about starting work on her own. She had never used a microphone before and standing up in front of 400 or so people at the pool was a scary experience. She had a great deal of trouble holding the microphone steady as her hand was shaking so much. But after the first time she got the hang of it and she loves the job. On her first day she had the highest sales on the island and in her first week, despite only working four days, she was third in all of the Canary Islands!

We found out through her company that we were missing one piece of paperwork – our social security numbers. I contacted Guy at A to Z Paperwork and he said that usually the company would sort it out but if we had to do it ourselves we would have to go to the Social Security office in Arrecife, that we might have to wait around for a long time and it might not be done the same day.

This time I found and filled in the forms on-line as it looked quite straightforward. On Sally’s day off we went to Arrecife and got to the office twenty minutes before they closed. The place was practically empty so we were seen straight away and ten minutes later we left with our numbers. It seems that most people go first thing and queue up and purely by accident, as we were running late, we found the best time to go.

As Sally now had a work contract and we had our social security details we would be eligible for medical treatment and we would later sign up with a doctor. We had heard that the medical centre in Tías was the best so we put that on our ‘to do’ list.

One drawback with Sally working was that she needed the car so I was once again without transport. I had no intention of using her pink and blue bike so it was decided that I would look for a second car. I looked on-line at The Gazette classifieds and at Buy – Sell Lanzarote on Facebook and found one car that was worth a look. It was a 2010 Hyundai L20 with very low mileage.

I contacted the owner who was Spanish and eventually we arranged a meeting to view the car. The owner had a child and dogs and it was filthy. There was also a bit of damage to the bodywork but it would have scrubbed up OK and it was a bargain as she was desperate to sell. It drove like new but it was very similar in size to the car we already had and a bit boring. So we told her that we’d think about it and had other cars to see.

I had also looked at the website of Orvecame where we had bought the previous car and they had just got in a soft-top Suzuki Vitara jeep. It was British Racing Green with a white roof and it looked a lot of fun. We went and had a look and took it for a test drive. It was pretty basic; no radio, no electric windows, but then again the roof would be off most of

Surfin' Jeep

Surfin’ Jeep

the time and there was nothing to steal. I decided to be reckless and go for it. I asked the salesman how much discount he’d give me as it was the second car I’d be buying from them. He went to see his boss and five minutes later came back and told me I could have it for €525 off! That saving would more than cover the insurance. As before, it came newly serviced with a year’s warranty on parts and labour and a new ITV. I had a new toy!

On the Move – Again

While at work Sally overheard her supervisor talking to her son about a two-bedroom apartment that might be available to rent in the Candelaria area of Tías which is about 5km inland from Puerto del Carmen. When Sally told me about it I said that we should definitely go and have a look. The place we were in was fine but we had started to become more aware of our neighbours changing every week, with some being noisier than others, and the fact that we couldn’t both get changed in the bedroom at the same time as it was too small, which affected me more than Sally.

So, when it was confirmed that the place in Tías was available, we arranged a viewing. The apartment was fabulous; at least four times the size of our current place, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a huge lounge/kitchen with lots of surface space and a gas cooker, a large terrace and a heated pool. And it was only €25 more per month! The only thing that concerned us was the location so we decided to think about it. We seem to do our best thinking in the pub so we went for a few beers. After weighing up the pros and cons we decided we were going to go for it, subject to the landlord’s approval. The apartment was on the outskirts of Tías, but only a fifteen minute walk into the centre and, now that we both had cars, a ten minute drive to Puerto del Carmen, Matagorda and Playa Honda which are the places we would go to most, and it was no further for Sally to go to work. We made a call and arranged to meet the Landlord and his wife the following Sunday.

On the Sunday we had another good look at the apartment before going for a cup of coffee with our prospective landlords with whom we got on really well. They told us of some improvements they would make before we moved in and let us know what was and was not included and we couldn’t have been happier with it . It was agreed that we would give notice on the Matagorda apartment the following day and move into Tías on 25th April. We would need to buy some stuff such as bedding and towels, a TV, etc, but we were given a key so that we could put it straight in the apartment rather than clutter up the old place. It looked like we had found our ideal home.

The next morning we had the unenviable task of telling Helen at Atlantico homes. Although we had signed up for eight months at Matagorda, under Spanish law, as long as you give thirty days’ notice, you can leave at any time without penalty. I put our notice in writing giving the reasons and we took it to give to Helen in person. Although she understood, she was obviously disappointed, as were the owners when they were told. They tried to get us to extend our notice period as there is an unwritten rule, of which we were unaware, that when you give notice it should be on the last day of your monthly rental period. As we had already committed to our moving date they agreed to waive this.

With extremely unfortunate timing we had other bad news for Helen as that morning the power to the electric socket in the bathroom had failed which is where the washing machine and water heater were connected. We rigged up our one extension lead but to use either appliance we had to unplug the fridge/freezer. Helen said she’d arrange for their maintenance guy to come round although he was very busy. When he eventually arrived a few days later he found that the electrics were in a bad state with water damage and a neutral feed that was live! He couldn’t fix it and it looked like the apartment would need completely rewiring which was going to be expensive for the owners who were also losing their rent money and wouldn’t be able to re-let. However, it was just as well that we were moving.

~~~

Around this time I discovered a website called PPH which connects writers, editors, proof-readers, etc, with people who need their services, so I signed up. I had been writing without success for a long time and had also qualified as a copy editor and proofreader, but it is a very crowded market and difficult to get a foot in the door. After completing my profile and entering job search criteria I have since received daily emails with a list of the latest relevant jobs which I can send a proposal for.

My first break came with a request to ghost write a travel blog post on Costa Teguise, Lanzarote, for which I sent a proposal and it was accepted. The brief was to write a family friendly post from the perspective of a 30ish year old woman whose sister and two children had joined her on the island. As I am a man who has never had kids and always avoided the child friendly places this was quite challenging but, as  a writer, I should be able to get into the heads of my characters. The deadline was tight but with a bit of research I completed and sent the article the following afternoon, leaving time for any revisions that might be required.

That first draft of the post was accepted and as it was published and I got paid I can now call myself a professional writer. I have since had a further six similar posts published, the only downside being that they are under the name of somebody else, but it is a start and something that will hopefully grow.

~~~

In the middle of April we had our first visitors from the UK; my brother, Les, and his wife, Kay. Unfortunately we couldn’t host them as it was before we moved to the larger apartment, so they booked into a holiday complex close to where we lived. It was great to see them and they brought a 20kg case of our stuff for us. At least we had the keys for our new place so they could see where we’d be the next time they came over. We took a lot of pleasure in showing them around our island, although we also tried to give them plenty of space to relax as they both work really hard. While they were here there was a celebration of St George’s Day, a sadly neglected event in the UK, where there were live bands playing all day and beer at 1€ a pint!

~~~

The day arrived for what we hoped would be our last house move for a long time. Having had the key to the new place we had already taken everything except the bare essentials. All that remained was for Helen to come and inspect the apartment and return our deposit. She was on time at 9am and by 9:15 we had returned the keys and were on our way “home”.

In Tías, our landlords had thought we were moviing in the following day and they were in the apartment doing a few jobs and cleaning so I just mucked in and helped while Sally started putting our stuff away. By mid-afternoon everything was done; the apartment was spotless, our clothes were in the wardrobes and the kitchen was organised. It must be “beer o’clock”!

The View From our Terrace

The View From our Terrace

We strolled into Tías to have a look around and get our bearings. Apart from The Mermaid, which is the only English bar, the town has a lovely Canarian feel to it with lots of Spanish bars, restaurants and shops. We have since found that there is a large ex-pat community here but it is not as apparent here as in the resorts.

~~~

Shortly after moving to Tías I got a break on the work front. Pie in the Sky, one of the bars we had frequented in Matagorda, had recently changed hands and we had met the new people. The previous owner, Kev, was still working there for the new management but he had now decided to go back to the UK. He had put in a word for me and one morning I got a text message asking me to pop in and see Alan and Sonja.

I went straight down and after a chat they offered me five shifts a week in the bar starting the following week. While bar work wasn’t the first line of work I would have chosen, I jumped at the chance. I hadn’t been behind a bar for twenty years!

~~~

Having made his decision, Kev wanted to go as soon as possible so I booked his flight for him and Sally and I helped him to sort out his apartment. We also agreed to store some boxes of stuff which he would either collect on a future visit or take back when, as he wished, he could return to the island when circumstances allowed.

We have discovered that life here can be very transient and people’s fortunes can change with the wind and the friends you are drinking with today can be forced, or choose, to leave the island tomorrow.

~~~

The bar work turned out to be very enjoyable and Alan and Sonja were lovely to work for.

Penny Lane

Penny Lane

They were Scousers and they changed the name of the bar to Penny Lane with, surprise, surprise, a Beatles theme. Within no time, and with some guidance, I was making cocktails like a regular Tom cruise!

Gray at Work

Gray at Work

I started out doing three nights and two day shifts, which was okay but, once they took on other staff, I managed to wangle all days which suited me much better. I also agreed to do some of the cooking when Sonja wasn’t there; nothing fancy, just bar snacks, but it added another string to my bow. The more versatile you can be with regard to work on Lanzarote, the better your chances.

When it was decided to decorate the bar, I volunteered to do that too – for a reasonable fee of course!

Life Goes On

So, here we are almost a year on from first having the idea to move to Lanzarote and our dream is now a reality. We are both working, we have cars and we live in a beautiful apartment. We never imagined it would be so easy, but for us it was definitely the right move and we worked to make it happen.

The best advice I can offer to anyone thinking of moving here is this:

  • Do your research; have an idea of where you want to live, what you want to do and how you are going do it. The more information you have the better prepared you will be for any eventuality.
  • Plan, plan, plan! Even though not everything will go according to your plan, having everthing mapped out gives you a good starting point.
  • Be organised, especially with paperwork. The Spanish love paperwork and you will be expected to have dotted every i and crossed every t. If you’re not confident of doing something yourself, get help – there’s plenty available, so don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Be patient. The administrative wheels can turn slowly and getting frustrated will get you nowhere, maybe a shrug and “mañana!” To be fair, I’ve found that attitude more from Brits than the Spanish.
  • Be flexible and open to opportunity, it sometimes comes unexpectedly. If you’re too rigid in your expectations you could be disappointed.
  • Enjoy your life! The whole point of moving here is for a better quality of life so get out and do stuff. There are so many festivals, many of them free, that there is no excuse not to join in.

Thanks for reading and, if you decide to take the plunge, GOOD LUCK!

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