Victoria, why Spain? Lisa Wright with Victoria Twead
An interview with Lisa Rose Wright for GoSpain magazine
The lure of Spain for generations of holidaymakers is obvious whether it’s sun, sea, culture or the ubiquitous sangria, but what about those foreigners who have decided to make Spain their home? What was it about the country which drew them here? How did they choose an area to live? What do they do here? Is there anything they miss? And what makes them stay or what makes them leave, Spain?
I’m Lisa Rose Wright, I live in beautiful green Galicia up in the top left corner of Spain and I write about the area. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. In this series I want to pose the question to other émigrés… Why Spain?
My guest this month is Victoria Twead, New York Times best-selling author of the Two Old Fools series of memoirs.
Hi Victoria and welcome. So, Why Spain?
Hi Lisa! Good question! I’m a list-maker, and when I need to make a decision, I reach for pen and paper. I still have the list I wrote back in 2003. It seems rather out-dated now, but here it is. I then pitched it to my less-than-enthusiastic husband.
Live in the country
Ridiculously low council tax
No heating bills
Wonderful Spanish food
Cheap wine and beer
Much more laid-back life-style
Could afford house big enough for family and visitors to stay
No TV licence
Only short flight to UK
Might live longer because Mediterranean diet is healthiest in the world
I have to report that my husband’s response was not encouraging. He scribbled on the bottom of the note: CAN’T SPEAK SPANISH! TOO MANY FLIES! MOVING HOUSE IS THE PITS!
I ignored him, of course.
You lived in a tiny village in Andalucia. What drew you to that particular area and did you look at other areas before settling down?
We loved Spain already but wanted to live away from the tourist hot-spots. Much of the Almería region is still relatively unknown and unspoilt so it was the perfect choice for us.
Did you look for work when you moved to Spain? What job(s) did you do?
In England, we renovated and sold houses to save enough money to move abroad. We bought our cottage in a tiny, mountain village and it had enough land to build a further two houses. Our days were occupied by stopping our own cottage from falling down and supervising the build of the two new houses. We kept chickens and suddenly had a thriving business on our hands supplying the village ladies with eggs. I began to write, and to our delight, the books became popular. So we were, in fact, self- employed, and still are.
You wrote your first memoir, Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools, before many of this type of travelogue memoir came out. What inspired you?
Moving to Spain was undeniably a culture shock. Every new day produced events either hilarious or heart-warming. Food suddenly tasted better, human behaviour was more fascinating, local events more interesting. It was like seeing in colour for the first time, and the book began bubbling in my head.
Of course, Joe often lost patience with me, and rightly so. “Stop dreaming, and concentrate! Hold that ladder steady or I’m going to break a leg in a minute!” But the book was relentless. As soon as I could, I began to write. And to Joe’s horror, I’ve never stopped.
Was there anything you missed from home?
I can’t think of anything except in those early days, we couldn’t get English TV so I missed my soaps. Oh, and I also missed takeaway curries.
If you were moving now would you do anything different?
Yes, I would ensure that my teacher came from deepest, rural Andalucia. Why? Because the Andalucian accent is so strong that even people from northern Spain have trouble understanding the villagers. You can imagine how we struggled.
From your experiences, what one piece of advice would you give someone moving now?
Learn the language properly. You won’t just pick it up. Can I mention another one? Leave your British car behind and buy a Spanish one. The paperwork involved in keeping your British car is a nightmare.
The 65million dollar question…was Spain for life when you made the move or did you always plan to move on? Why?
I thought we would live in our village forever. I didn’t know that my daughter would meet a gorgeous Aussie boy, marry him and start producing grandchildren on the other side of the planet.
You now live in Australia. Is there anything you miss about living in Spain?
I loved living in Spain, but I also adore Australia. They both share the huge, open, blue skies and the friendly people. I guess I miss Spanish village life but I can now watch my grandchildren grow.