MY brother and sister-in-law moved to Spain a few years ago. My sister-in-law is American. She couldn’t take the Scottish summers and, being American, she decided to do something about it.
That’s what they used to do, the Americans. They used to see a problem, do a bit of ruminating and then do something about it – so we ended up with powered flight, Moon landings and a massive effort during Second World War which indubitably swung the tide in the Allies favour. (It did, so let’s have no muttering at the back, there.)
But nowadays they seem to see a problem, blame someone else and then turn up at the rally of a presidential candidate who probably thinks the world is flat.
My lovely sister-in-law survived about three Scottish summers and considered the difficulties in a Yankee, can-do way. Spain, she said. That’s the place for us.
My brother, being a true Scotsman married to a dynamic woman, just did as he was told.
My mother had strong reservations about all this foreign traipsing about. When she was a young mum, even leaving the east end of Glasgow to go and live out by Uddingston was considered heading into deepest rural Scotland. It wasn’t, it was roughly a 40-minute bus ride even back then, but to the folks of Shettleston we were virtually emigrating – something we knew a lot about because like practically every Scots family, we could point to a map of the world to show where cousins, aunties and sisters had gone to live.
The difference back then was that people didn’t come back. There were the letters, cards and of course, the carefully booked transatlantic Hogmanay phone call. Once a decade, if we were lucky, there would be a visit.
It was the tail end of the great Scottish diaspora, where we exported more people than Hillman Imps. So mum was a tad wary of what looked a whole lot like emigrating.
She has memories of the
Broomielaw, where the big ships left wreathed in streamers and women wept while saying goodbye to sons and daughters heading for Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
What she hadn’t factored in was easyJet, Ryanair and that bit of the European Union project that means people from Dundee can go and live in Dubrovnik if they so wish.
Grey power takes over the Costa del Sol
They’VE got a nice house in a pretty part of Spain, and told mum to hop on a plane and visit. She loves it, and finds gadding about in the sun just the thing to soothe an arthritic hip.
The entire Costa del Whatever has become the playground of Britain’s Grey Power set. There may very well be criminals on the run soaking up the sun in villas bought with the proceeds of the Covent Garden Heist, but they have to jostle in the shops with jolly grannies from Glasgow and doughty grampas from Hull.
They take on a new lease of life with chock-a-block diaries of line dancing, aqua aerobics and village-to-village rambles.
A grand old job creation scheme
There are times when I wonder if we couldn’t strike a deal with the Spanish government to take on this elder care on a more businesslike footing.
We’ll send you our old folks and your young folks get jobs – although we will miss their cheery faces in our service industry.
It can’t be worse than bunging them into a home with dodgy owners who may very well be using the extortionate fees they charge to back a three-legged nag in the 3.10 at Ayr.
Fending off the scooter suitor
This spritely rebirth under a Spanish sun makes them behave like teens. Which makes our generation behave like outraged Victorian parents.
My sister-in-law and I have had several anxious conversations about not one, but two gentlemen callers. One is Spanish who speaks lovely English and never fails to take his hat off when conversing with a lady. The other is from England and we understood him to be the proud owner of a mobility scooter.
One hears of woman having their heads turned by these Don Juans. Suddenly she’s off tripping the tiles and eloping under cover of darkness. Mum’s had her hip replaced. This could end badly.
I told sis-in-law to impose a curfew. You try that, came the answer from Spain.
Then the bombshell dropped: the chap from England did not have a mobility scooter at all. It’s a proper scooter, a Vespa. Quite a different scenario.
What sort of rebel with a comfortable index-linked pension is this, turning up all Marlon Brando attitude, creaking leathers and suspiciously white teeth, thinking he can just whisk mamma off to cruise the highway like a biker gang queen?
She’s grounded, I tell you.