How time flies when you’re enjoying yourself, or so the saying goes. The last four or five weeks have been a blur of work and getting the jobs done for the winter, or at least the more temperate part of the year. But now I find myself lounging around again with time on my hands until the next flurry of jobs, if any, come in. it’s nice to have the luxury of choice when picking the work that most suits my mood though as they say, money is money and though the majority of the jobs I’m taking on at the moment are far removed from anything connected with my career of the last thirty five years or so, they’re certainly more enjoyable and interesting and they pay well.

The weather however is being extremely kind to us at the moment for it’s mid morning on a bright, warm sunny Monday well into November which suits my soul and my joints, reaffirming my belief and that of my former GP back in England that the better the weather, the lesser the ailments. (And it’s suiting the late year rental tenants we’re looking after!) I’ve always believed that a morning greeted by bright sunshine and a mild breeze gives little reason to be sad or glum, though for most, experiencing such positive a start to the day is shortlived as the realisation of impending work, jobs or task brings one down to reality with a bump.

But idle hands as they say? Well, all the more reason to source even more ways to keep busy during periods of less intensity, and that’s what I’ve been doing this week. Al Davies’s ‘Hour Of Rock’ was broadcast by live internet stream last week after a months probationary period with a new local radio station called Heart FM Spain.

Yes, yours truly now has a regular slot every Wednesday evening at 6.30 PM on 88.20FM local Spanish time playing classical and off the wall rock and heavy metal tunes fulfilling yet another ambition of becoming a ‘Rock Jock’ on the radio. You can listen to Heart anytime or if you’re really desperate, my rock show on the internet by logging into at 5.30PM Blighty time and clicking on any of the media player links at the bottom of the home page.

I’ve got listeners in Cambridge, Southampton and even a few in Iraq! And if you want a request, just use the ‘e’ contact address or the text number and I’ll give you a mention or play a request here in downtown Andalucia!

Well, that’s the plug out of the way, I see by my weekly look at the Sky news for Blighty that stabbings and violent crimes are up, the economy is in turmoil, the Labour party is preparing for another four years by offering the usual sweeteners, soldiers are still being murdered in the Middle East, a new American president is promising to again change the world and Tony Blair made 12 million pounds out of invitation speeches last year! Still very little good news then, ah well, as long as you’re fit and healthy eh!

Alone again and with the honeymoon over, New Years day brought with it not only the obligatory hangover, but thoughts which now turned to planning for the future and more importantly planning to relieve the boredom which for a lot of people gives rise to depressive thoughts.

We had studied the local business opportunity area, assessing our strengths and weaknesses in a market which, for the beginning of 2008, still looked to be booming and prosperous, but this was before the dark clouds of gloom which were soon to plunge the world into recession and the realisation of the fact that jobs and work may become harder to come by than first anticipated. And so it was.

I looked at a number of opportunities with regard to self employment, after all, I’d just left a less than supportive or fulfilling job behind and certainly had no intention of ever having my life controlled again by someone else’s incompetence. No, that wasn’t an issue. The problem was that no matter how qualified you think you are, no matter how many courses or training programmes you’ve completed, and no matter how much experience you have, it all comes down to one thing, supply and demand!

I mean, when in the Navy, I, like others, were possibly one of the most well trained individuals in my field with possibly millions being spent in order for me to cover and work in a number of dangerous or essential situations. I had come down to earth with a bump on leaving the service whereby the only thing that got me my next job was not the exemplary CV, but the interview where my own personality traits had been used to secure a relatively decent job. This however became a chore, as company profit margins far outweighed investing in people as the market I was in became more of a nightmare than a worthwhile vocation. Hence the reluctance to pursue anything like I had experienced before here in my new country, and hence the reason I looked to things totally and completely different.

But what did I know about cleaning pools? What did I know about property rentals? What did I know about property security and maintenance? What did I know about tree surgery, landscaping, roof repairing, plumbing, electrics, brickwork, house painting, in fact anything and everything outside of the Navy and the legal environment I’d been accustomed to? NOTHING!

And that is possible one of the biggest challenges I have had to face and hit head on, the need to change and learn from scratch, and the need to get out and find this work, task, jobs and people who needed me.

So that’s what I did.

I read, watched, helped, assisted, attempted, tried, did anything and everything I could in an attempt to learn and be able to do everything our business implied, and it’s funny, but today there isn’t a task I feel I cannot handle or tackle, and as our new prospectus states, if I can’t then I know a man that can!

So how do you start up a business here in a foreign country when you had never run one in your own?

It’s true as I said some time ago that the image of the dreamer coming over here, buying a bar or café in an attempt to live the dream and live in the sun is far removed from the reality. But was I going to be any different? After all, what I was attempting was basically much the same thing having little or no experience in my newly contrived vocation. I did have however, two things which stood me in good stead that I can realise now as having helped from day one.

Firstly I have the patience of a saint when it comes to the business, and secondly I’m totally loyal to the client offering a service that is both reliable and cost effective. Hmmmm, nothing new there you may say, but in times of hardship and little funds, it’s amazing how important keeping these two little things at the fore can affect you later on, especially if your vying for work against already struggling and established businesses. Oh, and the obvious fact that my market would invariably be limited to an English speaking clientele for the immediate future didn’t help.

I established a small client base from early on though it was a couple of months before anything else materialised, but during that time I was learning and planning on how to do things and sorting out what I myself could achieve and the people I could use for the jobs I knew nothing about.

At the time the recession was hitting most of Europe, hitting peoples pensions and investments, including ours, the business which is aptly named ‘Safe As Houses’ had been advertised in most of the English speaking papers and on various radio stations though most of the work was actually coming by word of mouth which is akin to the jungle drums and the cheapest form of advertising.

That said and done, the early months as I said were slow but I was certain things would pick up. Rose, although a stalwart in the setting up and continual promotion of our business, was less than optimistic of the future at this juncture with good reason, having seen our efforts bear little fruit. But little by little, word gets around that there’s a man who can or knows someone that can get a job done, with an optimistic outlook and a ‘never say can’t’ attitude who smiles, shakes hands, works hard all day while actually appearing to love his job, and does not charge the earth. And that’s what I now do and I enjoy every minute of it because at the end of that day, I can wine and dine my beautiful wife while looking forward to the next days challenge, whether it comes or not, without dread or monotony and with that same smile.

Colourful characters

As a self confessed vegetarian, (yes, I make sure all my meat dinners include at least ten per cent veg!) like the pies and pasties I so love, then a good butcher is on level par for making wherever I settle comfortable.

As it was with Weymouth, Dennis Spurr along with his lovely wife Maria are not only good friends of ours, but they run the Fantastic Sausage factory in St Mary’s Street from where a visit at least once a week was more of a pilgrimage than a shop!

I love anything from just about any animal, and I don’t care for the arguments and debates about cruelty, heart disease, protein deficiencies, BSE scares or any of that so called expert scaremongering stuff! Just give me a good steak or a chop two or three times a week with minced and diced beef and pork on the days in between and I’m happy.

And that’s where ‘Josef’ comes in at our local ‘Carneceria’ (butcher). Like Dennis, he serves up some of the loveliest joints, chops and steaks I’ve eaten and his BBQ packs rival even those of the Sausage Factory.

There are those, especially Brits, who choose to travel miles in search of a so called ‘British Butcher’ or an English supermarket to purchase a meaty taste of ‘home’. But I’m sorry, Josef’s fare is by far superior and cheaper in every way with fresh local produce evident in the look and the taste, and again, making friends has brought us more than a good deal when shopping. (Oh, and as you’ll see in the photo, he sells beer as well! Come on Dennis, keep up, Ha!)

Worth a visit

Less than an hour’s drive from our Villa is the once well named jewel of the Mediterranean, that unmistakable pinnacle of granite guarding the gateway to the inland sea, Gibraltar.

There is so much I can say about this place, so I may write about it over a couple of weeks.

Being a long serving Naval man, it’s only fare to warn you of my bias when stating the for’s and against’s of this once majestic port of call, though things have certainly changed since my first eye opening visit some thirty odd years ago. Indeed, I can only state from personal point of view that although the ‘Rock’ as it was always affectionately known, is steeped in history and still holds a magnetic captivation for those on a first visit, it has I believed lost some of its charm especially since the permanent naval contingency has pulled out.

‘Gib’ as I shall refer to it from now on, has always been known for its pointy helmeted English policemen in the hottest and most southerly enclave of the British Isles in Europe, (outside of Torquay of course!) but since the opening of the Spanish border some years ago now, it has undergone a transformation which has seen much of its mysterious charm lost forever.

Now, how do you get there? Well, Gib you must remember is still a bone of contention between Spain and Britain, both countries having fought over its control many times in its history and still being fought for on the political forefront even today.

There are no road signs or directions indicating even the existence of Gib on the Spanish side as they still refuse to acknowledge British rule, so I suggest you take the A7 coastal motorway and come off at the La Linea turn off, then follow your nose for the town centre and aim for the rock, you’ll hit the border eventually, then there are a number of ways to cross, but more about that next week.

Next week: Our own personal Hypermarket!