The other side of the street

Even rich people suffer in times of economic depression. Honestly.

So as a contrast to the family of six adults living out of two old age state pensions and a part-time cleaning job, I thought I would tell the tale about the other side of the street. Literally.

Spain has this quaint term called ‘front line’ relating to properties. If you have a flat in a block that directly overlooks the beach, it is called front line. If you are the next block back, you are ‘second line’. OK so you can’t see the beach, but it still isn’t too far to walk for idle Spaniards.

I don’t think the description goes any further than second or third line, because after that it doesn’t matter.

Our village is not directly on the beach, it is about ten minutes walk away. An extremely nice round trip takes about 40 mins although nearer an hour in summer.

However, the street we live in, is known as front line. It is part of the old town and marks the end of the housing with views to the Mediterranean. There are about five family plots that take up most of the street. I’m including ours in that, as originally, it was part of the next door family plot, and they treat us like adopted family inasmuch as we get share-outs of family veg from the relatives up the back, we get leftover food, and – the big one – we get to go in their house to watch football! when Spain is playing, or for whatever other reason.

But across from all of these five plots is one huge finca, owned by a family further down the coast who deal in gold in Marbella and Málaga. Or they did when we first arrived. They have never lived there, but they did have beautiful horses which occasionally went to shows, a peacock and a couple of parrots plus loads of dogs and chickens.

We’ve always got on well with the groundsmen and the horse people who have worked there, and Partner has been inside a few times to help with mechanical problems or anything that needed an extra hand as a favour.

The arrogant owners have occasionally acknowledged our inferior presence when they have pulled up to collect eggs and generally make sure everything is going ok.

One day, we arrived back from Gib to find an empty finca. The groundsman had been sacked, and the horses moved to another finca. Because when you have money, you have more than one huge finca worth millions.

The house at the finca
And the huge stable block

Since then, the ground has continued to be worked by various different agricultural workers, there are about four huge fields that grow mainly potatoes, but also courgettes and cabbage.

Just before Christmas, someone appeared. Someone was living there.

It turned out to be a relative whose business had gone bust and he had no money. Well, in as much as he wasn’t working and had nowhere to live. He still has his silver BMW. Comes from Barcelona apparently. This family has relatives all over Spain.

He’s a nice guy, friendly, and speaks amazingly clear Spanish which is somewhat disconcerting when we have got used to the Andaluz habit of dropping and slurring the endings of words.

He goes down to the bar for a bit of breakfast around 11am (he didn’t do that originally) and our neighbour collects the bread for him from the bread van, and he potters across later on to collect it. Our neighbours hold a key for him too, in case he is out and something needs to be delivered.

Recently he was out and a big silo was dismantled, presumably either to be sold, or moved elsewhere. Asset stripping your own assets in fact.

What fascinates us about this story is that it is just unbelievable. UK families that I know do not work like that. If you are out of work – tough shit. Apart from the fact that both our families don’t own multiple properties, they wouldn’t have put us up anyway in a grace and favour house. My parents did home us (for free) on return from Australia until I got a job in London. Partner’s mother said we could stay there too, as long as we paid our way. On the UK dole? Yeah, right. Not much competition there staying in a poky three-bed terrace and paying, and a large three-bed detached for free.

I should add, that years later, my father told us that we were on our own.

So, two sides of the coin, two sides of the street. But in both cases, families supporting the ones without income.

Meanwhile next door, my neighbour has suddenly started growing onions from sets in plantpots. He used to grow veg at some ground next to his daughter’s (up the street of course) but that got sold off (all Spanish ground is owned by fifty members of the same family of course and this was more someone else’s ground than his son-in-law’s).

But his terrace was always reserved for flowers and tiny guindillas (red chillis) because he likes the look of them. Now, shortage of money has made him decide to grow veg on the terrace. Or perhaps he has been encouraged by my veg growing and realised it isn’t such a bad thing to do after all.

My guindilla plant (in front of lemon tree) – present from cash-strapped nextdoors

I still have rocket, escarole, espinacas/acelga and parsley. Some of the newly planted habas/broad beans have germinated, and it looks as though a few of my onion seeds are coming through too. Broad beans are 1.90€ a kilo. A pack of seeds cost 1.45€ I think I may be planting some more.

Beans, soaking in salt to get rid of the worms, at least they aren’t full of pesticides

Always grow what works for you. I have always been successful with brassicas, salad, potatoes and beans. So that’s what I’ll be growing over the winter season.

More economical/austerity/penny-pinching measures:

Partner went into town on the bike after it had been raining and fell off down the river bed. Idiot! Luckily he fell into a pile of river sand. This is why, when we used to go out on the tandem, I would jump off when I thought he was going too fast and recklessly.

We finally realised that our 82-year-old neighbour hadn’t stopped having a perm for fashion reasons. It saved going to the hairdresser and paying unnecessary money. It looks better anyway, chic and short. Her daughter always referred to it as caracolas – because it looked like curly snails.

The peg bag split (RSPB) after 20 something years. They don’t make things like they used to do they? The straps on the bike panniers went. Same comment. Solution? Make pannier into new peg bag.

Pannier with a new life as a pegbag

I have renewed my love affair with Spanish buses. They are a) comfortable and b) cheap (I have travelled from one end of Spain to the other for around 60€) and c) normally leave on time. Of which more next time as this post is not about buses. Except that they are cheap.


30 comments on “The other side of the street

  1. It amazes me how utterly and completely spoiled some people are. I hear people here whine and complain if they or their partner is out of work (“how will i get new clothes, now we have to move to a smaller house, blah, blah). Like you, my parents made it very clear to me I had one free pass to come home should the need arise, but only temporarily. I am the single breadwinner in my home and am thrifty, could care not a bit about material things and in the event I lose my job I’m certain I could make do somehow because I have those life skills.
    Mr Rich man in the big house would most likely have a nervous breakdown if he had to completely fend for himself.

    I also say, yes to the Bus!!!


    • I don’t give a toss about new clothes and we live in very small space here in our Gibflat. I did the reciprocal thing with my parents, when they sold their house and weren’t sure about the moving date we offered to put them up (ok it was pretty basic but the offer was genuine).

      I’m not worried for now about income, but later, without a pension, as state pensions continually get eroded away, I daren’t even think about it.

      Actually we wonder if Mr richman has already had one :(

      And, bus post to follow at some point :D


    • Haha! yes, there is actually a main theme to it all. I do try and keep it all within whatever that is. Chutney cupboard would be brill. We eat too many tomatoes to ever make them into chutney. About the only thing I have now is grapes soaking in anis :D


  2. Lovely pics, I love those typical white buildings of Spain.
    The contrasts between the poor and the rich in Spain appears vast, far more so than in the UK.
    I grew tomatoes for the last two year, taking the seeds from the previous years crop.
    Being fully retired I had big plans for this year, but other plans took over and I left it all too late to start anything properly. Perhaps a good job, with the lack of summer.
    Next year I WILL.
    Having to grow your own produce because you can’t afford to do otherwise, puts a totally different light on doing it. I love the idea of growing my own, but I have the luxury of popping down the shop to buy if the crop fails.
    Looking forward to the bus post, I do enjoy bus travel.


    • Aren’t they gorgeous, well especially the huge rich ones :D

      I’n not sure the contrasts are different, just differently manifested. At the end of the day there will always be landed gentry with money, nouveau riche, middle class, working class, poor people and most of us somewhere struggling along in all those categories at some point. ETA The last three categories not the first two!

      I am useless at tomatoes. Whether in Newcastle (far too cold :D) or Spain – should work but didn’t. My dad was class at them, used to grow them in the greenhouse and had so many he was giving a pound of tomatoes away with a pound of bacon!

      I can never have enough of them. Gazpacho, tomato sauce, curry, casserole, salad to name the first few that come into my head.

      The crop failing is a worry, which is why you need to keep planting every couple of weeks, try and get the timing right and persevere. I had more gains than failures in the UK :) The trouble with Spain is the growing season is different. The only time you can’t grow anything is summer!

      ~ The bus post is a story of its own, plus I want to add the times to a page for anyone who wants to look up Málaga/La Linea.


  3. Hurray! A post about inequality in Spain that doesn’t mention Sotogrande :D
    What village is this? Down in the Tarifa direction, I’m guessing…
    My mother in law spent most of her last year of life living with us. We had a fantastic time. I wouldn’t take anyone from my own family, though.


    • You escaped so narrowly. I nearly said my new pal Pink from Sotogrande can’t sell his house for what he wants… But I thought it was unfair. And neither can I. Or anyone else. We’re all in the same boat, wherever we live.

      Other way. In my pueblo, they would say, más por allá por Málaga. Pronounced, ma pa ya pa Málaga. Or in English, the far side of Málaga. La Axarquía.

      My partner would have been more than happy to have had my mother with us. In fact he went to collect her to come back for exactly that purpose. Sadly she dropped dead that very day. I may have a post somewhere. I may not have exploited its dramatic potential however. Neither of us would touch his family.


  4. A great follow-on from your last post. To be fair to the UK I do know a few people who have let family members live in a house they own, but all have been expats who have retired to France, but still have a property in the UK, now occupied by family. However, i don’t actually know anyone who would be considered rich on the scale of the family you describe, so my source material for commebting is a bit lacking. :-)

    As for buses – I have an over-60s bus pass here in Wales, but since I have to drive at least 4 miles in either direction to catch any bus at all, I still couldn’t manage without a car…….


    • oops I meant to mention the sequel but you found it anyway.

      Well, they sound like nice people. The question is, do they charge rent, or do the occupiers just have to pay bills? You don’t have to answer that, but that is a real difference.

      Yes, having to drive to catch a bus is not ideal. I have always bought near public transport. Some people look for schools, dentists, doctors. I look for public transport. Even when we considered buying a finca somewhat more in the sticks, there was still an infrequent bus nearby.

      I think my original rationale was if car didn’t work I needed public transport to get to work. Ever since then, it has been an automatic must-have.


  5. Enjoyed reading this. My Spanish is very touristy but I remember being chuffed with myself for working out that the Andalucians – Almerians drop the word endings. I even started trying to jibber like a local. Maybe that was a mistake.


    • Thanks SMM. I’m not sure I ever did it on holiday but it’s pretty unavoidable when everyone around you talks like that. It’s a bit like living in Yorkshire and talking with a relatively posh accent (I went to private school) and sticking out like a sore thumb as soon as you open your mouth.


  6. I like buses and trains too, especially if you aren’t in a rush and won’t get wound up discovering the timetable is nothing but a work of fiction. Availability of public transport was one of the main reasons for the choice of my current home, even though at the time of purchase and for many years afterwards I enjoyed the provision of a company motor.

    With the high levels of personal debt in the UK coupled with minimal savings, it really doesn’t take much to find yourself on the slippery slope. I was always taught to keep two years worth of spending money in the bank, my own social security fund if you like, for a rainy day, and in the UK we certainly have enough of them.


    • It’s very rare buses are not on time in Spain, which always surprises me. It’s one of the reasons bus stations are always full of people milling around as everyone arrives early. Public transport has always been one of my criteria for choosing a home, although in Spain we were pleased to find something that wasn’t falling down.

      I never learned a specific figure but that sounds a good rule of thumb. Probably need more these days – but for most people – saving any money must be pretty tough.


  7. The gentleman who looks after our finca…and us…currently has, apart from his immediate family, his wife’s cousin and wife, whom he takes to the bus station at 4.00 am so that they can get to work, his wife’s nephew, who is supposedly uncontrollable at hiome but very controllable under his eye, his sister who is there to take care of his ninety five year old mother and a moveable feast of relatives who need a place to stay between jobs or houses. None pay rent, all contribute what they can (though the nephew’s contributions have had to be returned to the rightful owners).
    I don’t know how he does it…but he thinks it is his duty…. and a duty gladly done.

    The American expats think we are cheap,…we use the bus service where ever possible, go to the big town markets, scout round for bargains.
    The Britpack thought the same when we were in France.

    But we don’t have inflated pensions; my husband has been too ill to work for thirty years…and we couldn’t open a new bank account in Europe as we don’t have a credit rating…not having borrowed any money for over forty years between us.
    Costa Rican banks think that is a good thing!

    I would love to be able to sell my house in the Loire Valley….we have had buyers with good safe government jobs who can’t get small mortgages…..because then I could put the money on deposit here at 10.6 %…. government guaranteed.

    We were brought up to be careful with have productive gardens…, never to borrow unless sure inflation was on its way….and we’re still here.


    • Not had time to have a good read of your blogs, but now I have updated mine I shall make that today’s must-do task.

      Yes, foreigners ie expats don’t like using the bus as a rule. Only poor people use buses. MUST have a car. Here in Gib the buses are free for residents – you’d have to be certifiable to use a car in those circumstances (although people do).

      Costa Rica sounds eminently sensible. We haven’t borrowed for years either. Actually the mortgage is the only loan I have ever had and we paid that off when we left the UK. In fact with those deposit rates – if I could sell my finca we could well join you. America Latina is always going to be a serious option for us, just because of having the language. Somewhere we’ve always wanted to visit too and never got round to.

      My parents never had a credit card in their life and saved up to buy things. It rubbed off on me, because that’s exactly what I have always done. I only used a credit card to hang onto savings for longer and paid it off every month. We had no furniture in our first house, eating off and sitting at a trestle table with work benches. We bought a washing machine and a fridge, a second hand cooker for £20 and rescued a butler’s sink for free from a garden (needed a good wash). We never did buy furniture in that house (or the next) – we got my parents’ cast offs. But by the time I did buy furniture I could afford to buy some good quality wooden products. I don’t know why people think they NEED to have NEW, right NOW!


  8. I’m always a little in awe when I read your posts. I was meant to travel, I feel that in my heart, though reality doesn’t cooperate. It’s great to at least read about other places from those who live there. Thanks for sharing.


    • Awe?!! Hey, that’s not the intention. I know people do wonder about living abroad so one of my aims is to show what’s like at a very practical level, and to make observations about how it feels, what we see, good things, bad things – and sometimes just providing basic tips and info.

      There are plenty of ex-pat Brits writing about Spain and we all write very differently. I’ve not seen too many that do Spain and Gib though so I may have a niche market there :D

      For me, I enjoy reading about people living elsewhere too, whether expat or their home country. It’s not a particular interest in any country that draws me though, the biggest lure is the style of the writer. They could live in Timbuktu – or Katmandu – or Papua New Guinea, but if their writing is boring as hell, I won’t be along for the ride.

      Anyway, thank you :)


  9. Wow! Don’t know where to begin on this piece. Had no clue that property was split up that way in Spain or that well I am guessing it is passed down from
    generation to generation maybe? Also, had no idea of the different lines of well how shall I say, sort of segregation based on wealth? This is an interested look at life in Gib and Spain. The pictures of that house are just unreal, and the man gets to stay there for free? Wow, my family would never do such a thing as to let me stay in there empty home.

    Love the photos of the vegetables in the planters, it is not common where I live for people to plant vegetables in planters, but I believe it is common in cities like New York City, people do plant veggies on their porch. Question: How do you grow things in the winter season? Do you use a heat lamp? I would love to grow beans like that, be a great money saver, and beans are so healthy and filling. Beans are one of my favorite foods.

    The photo of that red flowered tree in front of the home…just unreal. I cannot believe that they have an empty home with all those grounds and they do not even live there.

    This was literally a look at the other side of the street for me. Guess I have no clue how millionaires lived until after reading this, looks like the man that’s out of work, doesn’t need to go back to work now, wonder if he would ever move out? Probably not, at that place. The architecture of the house is outstanding.

    Can’t believe your partner fell of the bike, and how you always know when he will fall and warn him, that’s love right there, ha ha lol.

    If you get a chance ask the man who is out of work and living in the huge home if he is available, and tell him to check out my website (kidding, no not really). ha ha :) Then, we could walk barefoot on the beach!



    • Yes, you are right about the generational inheritance, and of course, each time, the property has more and more owners as the generations continue.

      Nice house methinks. I would like to stay there for free too.

      We don’t have a problem in winter – only in summer when it is too hot and dry. Autumn, winter and spring are growing times owing to warm mild damp climate. Temps today, 20-28 degrees C.

      The red flowers are in my garden. A rose tree that refuses to stop flowering and seems to like to keep its blooms as long as possible.

      I don’t know if the man is available, or to be honest, if you are even the right sex for him ;)


  10. I just like to say roughseainthemed’ that i enjoy reading your posts, cannot make a direct comment, only that I love your style.. You could write about a rubbish bin and make it interesting. That is what makes a good writer.. I once went to Barcelona and that was the nearest I get to understanding. But it is the writing I enjoy,,, thank you.. I hope you have sorted your marital disagreement..;)


    • Thanks Gerry. Oddly someone else wrote something similar when I wrote about changing the oil in my TD5 over on my Landy blog.

      Appreciate your comment and agree about style, I think I mentioned that elsewhere on another comment this morning. If someone has a readable style it makes so much difference,

      We’ve probably had ten marital disputes since then :D


  11. A great post. It gets to the nuts and bolts of it, without/sans hype. I guess if you are rich and can afford it and someone else is has experienced a setback and needs somewhere to live… what can you do… who knows the intricacies of such things. I can see where our posts have crossed over… now I have googled brassica and guindilla I’m even more impressed. You hearten my plans to grow veges. Dreams are funny things… who’d have thought. I believe it’s a good thing to have the ability and inclination to be frugal – you never know what’s awaiting in life. Better if you enjoy it, and see it as a challenge rather than a burden. This at least I can practice. Dinner tonight is frittata made from fridge and freezer ingredients only, so much more fun than buying the ingredients to order. I love the upcycled peg bag. I used to think I was odd getting a sense of accomplishment from doing similar, then I broadened my horizons and found I’m in good company :)


    • Sorry about the brassica terminology, I have always used classic gardening descriptions, probably came from learning to call snapdragons antirrhinums at a very early age.

      Me I would love someone to offer me a beautiful place like that :) it has a pool of course too :D The trials of the impoverished rich huh?

      Peg bag was cycling partner’s inspiration when it collapsed on the bike :D


  12. It is so bizarre about how people can afford such grand places – with stables (better than our house) and rarely live there….the luck of being born into the club. There are some large ranches/ horse farms that are similar (except not quite as old a family holding).
    Tagging along some vets, we were able to see one “exclusive” Arabian farm. Gorgeous horses – pampered beyond belief, helipads, horse exercise swimming pools and green manicured grounds. No real residents except grooms, and such who do not have it so bad living there – but the townspeople didn’t really care for the absentee owners.
    Some of the giant “real” working cattle ranches have been around since before dirt, not the same snooty attitude, but the heritage…frequently in lawsuits as some heirs want to sell and the others want to keep.
    Spain is very strong family and family connections. We were pretty much expected to get out and make our own way – except for extreme emergencies. There’s no way I would ever ask my brother for any kind of help at all – couldn’t bear the feeling of obligation from someone who would smugly remind you forever he was had to help. Would be nice if there was something in between. Partner’s family is a worse: needy mess.
    But on a lighter note, I always love the terraces/patio gardens full of flowers and veggies I saw in Spain. Seems welcoming to have bright growing things.
    (Catching up on reading…Molly so demanding…and it’s finally tolerable outside..posted pix of some of our walking routes)


    • Yes, the huge properties and space that people can afford is quite surreal. No horse exercise swimming pools though. Unless that was the purpose of the pool over the road?

      Absentee owners are ok as a principle although probably not in person, but it’s empty properties that no-one likes (says she of the two homes).

      And the split family properties and the arguments about selling v not selling sounds so familiar. Hey, I could be at home in Texas! They even speak sort of English there too don’t they? Or should I stick to español?

      Your family situation sounds exactly like ours. It must be a northern European/American concept. You make your own life. As for my MIL – a loan from her – and, she wanted to move in with us. Oh. No.

      Spaniards are superb users of outside space. It doesn’t matter how small it is – they use it to best effect.

      Loving Molly :)


    • Yes and no. There is a fine line between support/control/dependency.

      Different cultures, different families, different expectations. With independence, of whatever type, another world opens. I have no answers about which is better.

      How to combine it all? Doubt anyone can.


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