I have just become a full-time resident of Spain, after several years of commuting from the Isle of Wight to camp on and develop a riverside small-holding or finca in the Monty Python district of Catalonia. Last year I bought and repaired a tiny bungalow in the nearby village of Riba-roja d’Ebre as a permanent home, with the luxuries of a freezer, hot water, and internet access. Now I intend to stay here for the rest of my life. The finca is at last sufficiently manageable to give me time to record the highlights of the good life in my golden years. I have achieved a dream that has been mine from early teenage years – that of living as close as I can to a childlike enjoyment of the joys of the simple life. Someone once said that if you haven’t grown up by 50, you don’t have to. As I approach my 70th birthday, I am happier than I have ever been, dirt poor, shamelessly scruffy, pottering happily at all kinds of new projects, as green as they possibly can be: growing all kinds of unusual crops as well as learning how to use them; drying, pickling, bottling and preserving my crops, using natural herbs for medicine and making wine and vinegar. In fact, my standard of living is, by some measures, far better than I could afford to maintain had I stayed in the U.K. I don’t have TV, nor many mod cons. The walls are single brick, the roof leaks, the gas is bottled, the water and electric are both a bit iffy, and the rural ambience does not include much in the way of culture, but I sleep soundly, eat exceptionally well, have vastly improved health, peace of mind and contentment. The people here are wonderful, proud, helpful, happy and friendly and they seem to live to surprisingly healthy old age. I am learning both the new languages they speak here. Catalan is their local tongue, a difficult mixture of French, Arabic and Spanish, but Castillian Spanish is also spoken by most younger people and is much easier to learn. I am thoroughly enjoying a whole new way of life: a new climate demanding new ways of living, gardening and cooking, and a close and challenging contact with nature; especially with snails, wild boar, snakes, biting river fly and mosquitoes. My pets are feral cats and my neighbours are hundreds of noisy cormorants, storks, herons, eagles, moorhens and kingfishers. With neither mains water nor electricity on the finca, there is endless opportunity to invent Heath-Robinson energy and irrigation solutions. For some people it would be a nightmare. For me it is satisfying, fascinating and fantastically great fun.
My name is Sylvie.