Meet Secret Serranía blogger Paul Whitelock

Meet Secret Serranía blogger Paul Whitelock

Paul Whitelock is 70, married for the second time (2010), retired since 2005, but freelancing as a writer and translator/interpreter. In his previous life he was a translator, a languages teacher and then a schools inspector. He has two adult children who live in the South East of England…

Secret Serranía:        So Paul, where are you from originally?

Paul:   I was born in Barnstaple, Devon, but after university I spent the next 35 years living in the North West of England, until I emigrated in 2008.

Secret Serranía:      Where are you living now?

Paul:   In Ronda and Montejaque (Málaga). We’re fortunate to have two properties, so can swap between our modern villa in the campo near Ronda and our old village house in Montejaque.

Secret Serranía:      How did you come to decide on your particular location in Spain?

Paul:   I discovered Ronda two decades ago with my first wife. We fell in love with the town and the area and in 2001 we bought a “bolt-hole” in the Barrio de San Francisco in Ronda, which we regularly used for holidays and short breaks over the years. After my redundancy, early retirement and divorce in 2005, I spent increasing amounts of time in Ronda. Then I met and fell in love with the “Meter Maid”, who was living in Montejaque, so I moved out here permanently.

Secret Serranía:      What was it in the first place that attracted to you to move to this area?

Paul:   Since I first visited Spain as a 20-year-old student I had a hankering to live here one day. The journey has been long and over four decades I had visited most parts of Spain, but Andalucía and the Ronda area really did it for me.

Secret Serranía:      How would you describe your life here in Spain?

Paul:   Life in Spain suits me. I love the people, mostly, for their warmth, friendliness and honesty. I like the way that life is lived on the streets. The traditions of the paseo and the tapeo are unique in my experience. I like the slower pace of life, which is largely stress-free.

My life here gives me the best of several worlds: because of my 20-year association with the area I know lots of people, both local and foreign, so I have several social lives, based around Spaniards in Ronda, Spaniards in Montejaque, and English-speaking immigrants, as well as German speakers in the area (my wife is German). In addition, the climate suits me better than the damp and grey North West of England.

Secret Serranía:      Do you miss anything about home? What would you say are the negatives of living here?

Paul:   I miss my immediate family, but, in fact, apart from this year with the Covid-19 problems, I’ve probably seen more of them since I moved to Spain than when I was living in the UK. I also miss a decent pint of real ale, but that’s rather frivolous. Negatives? Bureaucracy, poor time-keeping and corruption, but you get used to those.

Secret Serranía:      How do you find the cost of living here compared to back in the UK?

Paul:   I think the cost of living here is definitely lower, especially inland where we are. Food and drink are mostly cheaper, as are council tax, gas, water and fuel. Cars, electronic goods, decent clothes and furniture are more expensive.

Secret Serranía:      With your knowledge of the language and the length of time you’ve spent researching and travelling in Spain, I would imagine you’ve found it easier than most to integrate.

Paul:   It’s been relatively easy, as it’s been quite gradual over the last decade or so, as described above. Being fluent in Spanish has helped immensely, of course. I would say I have many more “friends” here than at home. My time is spent living, which includes all the domestic stuff you have to do wherever you live, working a bit at writing and translating, travelling and enjoying my second marriage. My life is very different to when I lived in the UK, where I was working long hours with little time for a decent social life.

Secret Serranía:      How about your wife – did she adjust well to life here?

Paul:   The “Meter Maid” was already living here when I met her. She’s from Germany (She worked in Montejaque’s twin town Knittlingen for many years) and has no intention of returning there to live.

Secret Serranía:      What about day-to-day living, healthcare, etc.?

Paul:   Day-to-day living is very pleasant. With both of us being retired we can usually enjoy a long late breakfast before starting on the chores. We take each day as it comes. I’ve not needed any healthcare yet, but my wife received outstanding treatment when she had an ongoing eye problem in 2009 and an operation to remove her gall bladder in 2012.

Secret Serranía:      When you first moved here, do you think you made any mistakes that looking back you can warn/advise others about?

Paul:   Not really. I think I’ve been able to learn from the mistakes of others. I’m pretty risk-averse too.

Secret Serranía:      What would your advice be to would-be expats looking to relocate to Spain?

Paul:   It depends how old you are, whether you’re retired, need to work, have kids of school age, want an urban or rural environment, etc. Make a list of criteria and make sure you choose somewhere that meets most of them. Don’t buy a property until you’ve spent a significant amount of time in a place and are sure you feel comfortable with the people, be they locals or immigrants. Be serious about learning Spanish. It will enhance your life here immensely.

Because of Brexit and in order to protect your rights you need to be quick. Get residency, an ID card (TIE), a Spanish bank account, a Spanish driving licence and healthcare sorted out before 31 December or you could be disadvantaged once the UK is no longer a member state of the European Union as of 1 January 2021.

Secret Serranía:      Finally, do you see yourself ever returning to the UK?

Paul:   No. I’ve burnt my bridges in the UK. Apart from family and a few friends I have nothing left there. Home is now here. I am committed to Spain for the rest of my days, which I hope will be many. Having married again 10 years ago, with a heap of grandchildren between us (nine at the last count), with a choice of where to live, we’re here for the duration. In fact, I’ve already got my eye on a niche at the cemetery in Montejaque!

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About Secret Serranía

The aim of the Secret Serrania web portal is simple… to bring together the best rural tourism businesses, big and small, in the Serrania de Ronda to one brilliantly useful website.