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Monday June 11, 2012

Spain's still standing

According to many in Blighty an exodus of miserable British expats, tails firmly between their legs, devalued euros rattling in their threadbare pockets will soon be returning from Spain to fall on the mercy of the British government.

Newspapers are filled with teeth rattling reports of Spain’s imminent demise, rising anger and discontent on the streets, banks on the verge of collapse and hyper-ventilating expats not knowing which way to turn. Spain might well have been given a €100 billion rescue package to keep it afloat but would that be enough to keep nerves steady?

In London recently several concerned friends asked whether I’d ever consider bailing out of Spain. I reassured them that in case of emergency we’d invested in a jolly nice, robust tent and intended to spend our twilight years as itinerants living off the land around the Soller valley with our chickens and livestock, picking up fallen lemons and oranges along the tracks. A few seemed to take me seriously.

At a café in my mountain town I was chatting with a Spanish friend who airily agreed that of course the economy was in bad shape but what the heck, the sun was still shining and later she’d be dining with friends at one of her favourite seafront restaurants. Her immediate concern seemed to focus less on Bankia and rather more on whether a table would be available. She lamented that restaurants in the port were full to bursting these days.

Last night in the comfort of Mood Beach, a spacious British owned restaurant on the outskirts of Palma, a lavish and cheerful dinner was underway in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Paul Abrey, the British Consul, gave a rousing and humorous speech and to my eye there seemed few white knuckled expats present. One guest admitted that yes indeed things were a mess in Spain but that his business in Majorca hadn’t suffered at all and he had absolutely no intention of returning to the UK. “Aren’t things a lot worse back there?’ he quizzed before trotting off to refill his glass of cava.

An elderly lady who’d lived on the island since the sixties shrugged philosophically. She told me that nothing could be worse than living through the Franco years and that most of her friends held bank accounts both in England and Spain – or elsewhere. “It doesn’t pay to put all your eggs in one basket, does it?’ she winked. Cava corks popped and the wine flowed before local British expats rose to their feet at the end of the evening to sing the British national anthem.

More celebrations among the expat community continued today, the highlight being a traditional English tea party at luxury hotel La Residencia in Deia village, the brainchild of the hotel and English language newspaper, The Majorca Daily Bulletin. Hundreds of guests arrived full of cheer and merriment and despite best efforts I was at a loss to find anyone remotely worried enough about the Spanish economy to consider a move back to England. ‘If people back home feel better to think of us expats being worse off than them, so be it,’ smiled a cheerful Liverpudlian. ‘As they say, you can’t keep a good myth down.’

This article first appeared in Telegraph Expat. Image used copyright Telegraph

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