I have now been running Guest House Dar Cilla for ten years with a lot of pleasure, largely because I have a great team around me and we have the luck (or good judgement?) to have delightful guests, many of whom return regularly and have become friends.
This has added the social dimension to my life which was so sadly lacking when I first found myself alone here. As a couple we had not had time to make a circle of friends, and this is something that is doubly difficult to do when you find yourself a widow in a new country and a new community. You are well past the age of meeting other Mums outside the school gates, there is no such thing as a club here, I gave my riding boots and hat to my daughter-in-law on my 70th, to my own detriment I do not play bridge and I started golf far too late.
Added to this, in this what I call ‘the third phase’ of our lives (phase one is school and further study, phase two is motherhood and a working life, phase three is ‘retirement’ as from 60 when working is a choice, not an obligation) we become a bit choosy re our friends and although longing for company, it has to be the ‘right’ company. Tarifa is very much a ‘young people’s place’ – which, I am told, keeps me young too (?!) but limits the number of like-minded souls amongst whom you are likely to make your real friends.
What is great about the circle of friends I have now made here is that they are very often here for the same reasons I am here, are of many different nationalities, and very often have expatriate backgrounds so are used to moving, to re-adapting, to making a new life. We have plenty in common. My real Spanish friends (not acquaintances or contacts but real friends) are limited in number and are also those who have similar international backgrounds.
It was not our intention to follow either son to live near them. Having lived in seven countries and twenty houses ourselves, it seemed naive to imagine they would settle anywhere permanently, and we then still had each other. Even on my own, I would not have followed the family as I was determined to rebuild my own life – the book entitled ‘What to do with mother for Christmas?´’ is not lost on me! It is just a very big extra bonus that I have a son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren in each place.
It was thanks to our son that we discovered Tarifa. He was working here at the time and we came to visit, as parents do. We stayed, as not many parents do, but before we had decided to buy the ruin and make this our retirement home, our son had left Tarifa and was working in northern Europe. It was his deep love of Tarifa that convinced him to return here for good. His father had died by then and I was here alone. His girlfriend visited him in Tarifa; to his relief she also liked it, they married here shortly after, and are settled here 13 kms from me, with their two daughters. My other son lives in The Netherlands, 45 minutes from Amsterdam, where I am in the winter when it gets too lonely in Tarifa which is a small Spanish fishing town.
“You are so lucky” everyone tells me “to have a son in both places”. Yes, I am.
See the following blog for my personal experience in buying a ruin and rebuilding it as a guest house as a retired (but not ‘retiring’ !) Senior Citizen ....