Thursday, 22 November 2018

Between the Dazzling Sun & the Cosy Rain

Watching the crashing waves of the Atlantic on a day trip to Bolonia.
That time between Christmas and New Year, when it is mostly dark and damp and deathly cold in the North of England, is the time we mostly waver and think back with deep longing to the life we have left behind in the South of Spain. To the warm winters sipping wine by the chiringuito, the weekend trips to the picturesque mountain villages, the sound of children playing outdoors, the endless choices of tapas and drinks in cheap bars and restaurants.

We don’t remember the dwindling bank account or the scorching summer heat or the tiresome bureaucracy. After all, nostalgia was always known to bring back selective memory and fuzzy feelings, because like our romantic memories of youth, it is a time we can never go back to again.

A few days ago, John received an offer for a job in Gibraltar, for the clinic he has lobbied to be set up in the nearly two years we have lived there. It was a call he has been waiting for a long time and would have set into motion the fulfilment of a dream that had been halted prematurely when we were forced to go back to Britain a year ago for financial reasons.

Three years ago, when we were packing our life in Sheffield for the idyllic life in Costa del Sol, our hearts really fluttered. We haven’t lived long enough in the house we have just bought in Hillsborough to feel any sort of attachment. We had good jobs but not good enough to feel bad about leaving. We were naive enough not to be fazed by the upheaval, our child too young to understand what was going on. We really thought we were going to be there forever.

The view from our flat in Alcaidesa with Gibraltar and Africa in the horizon.
And we did have a good time, a postcard life of a seemingly endless holiday. Our first home had a balcony that looks out to the Mediterranean where we had the view of the glittering lights of fishing boats in the morning when fishermen set off to the sea before sunrise. In the evenings we watched the many colours of the sunset as the day faded into night, making way for the moon to rise and cast its reflections in the calm sea below.

Summer afternoons in the communal pool in our home in Guadiaro with Isaac's bestfriend Nico.
Our village of Guadiaro during the annual feria.
When we got tired of living like expats, we moved to a village where locals and expats happily cohabit. In the bus stop, John would speak to the neighbours in his broken Spanish while I happily conversed with the many other Filipinos who lived around us. Isaac went to Spanish school where he easily picked the language and played with our next door neighbours until it was time for bed. At the weekends, we visited his grandparents who lived in the coastal urbanisation of Duquesa which is all but British in location.

Our life in Spain wasn't all perfect of course. John couldn't get a job despite all his efforts and slowly the dream was turning into a nightmare. In the end he had to go back to Britain to save ourselves from financial ruin and we became a long-distance family like that, seeing each other every three weeks. It wasn't an ideal situation and eventually we had to admit that the grass wasn't always greener in the other side. But at least we tried our best and there wouldn’t be any regrets.

When we came back to Britain, we settled back quickly as though we really just went away for a long extended vacation. We realised how much we've grown from the experience when the world we returned to seemed to have stayed the same but we now look at it more differently. We got better jobs than the ones we have left behind before we went away. We moved back to our home and set it up like how it used to be. We found Isaac a good school where he thrives and he started football training with the club he loves. If there is such a thing as middle class contentment, perhaps this is it. We are in a good place, we can now afford little luxuries and it felt like a hard-earned success.

Our home in England is next to the park and the Sheffield Wednesday football ground.
We are surrounded by the beautiful countryside with the Peak District less than an hour away.
Still, there is of course that niggling nagging feeling inside that there is a better life out there waiting for us. In a sunnier place we were forced to leave behind.

Then the job offer came. There was excitement, then dread. Between a nice comfortable life of blissful predictability and a thrilling existence clothed in uncertainty, how do we choose?

Our decision would have been easier if we were in less a than favourable situation. If we needed a fresh start, if we were younger, if there was no Brexit, if we had more energy to throw away our already comfortable life to have one more shot at the life we still dream about.
One day, a mayfly said this to a moth drawn to a flame. “you know that flame is a trap set by humans. It’s not like you only live for a day as I do. Why would you want to throw yourself at the flame knowing that you’ll die?” 
The moth said, “the flame is too beautiful not to throw myself at. There’s no beauty without pain.
But experience has taught us that there is beauty in predictability too and in the end, though we allowed sensibility to trample over our dreams and there are regrets we must live with, we will be okay with that. 

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