As I sit here on my new writing table, out in the patio hiding under a shelter with an inflatable swimming pool next to me to dip in now and then and cool down as it’s 40 degrees outside, I think back to last year when I was cooped up in a flat in the centre and realise how much better life is nearer the countryside.I’d lived in the centre for almost ten years in various barrios: the flamenco capital, a bohemian area, a posher part, and just on the outskirts of downtown Sevilla. The years went on and I became more and more frustrated about life in the centre. I felt like I was trapped in a strange bubble where the oxygen was gradually seeping away and more and more noise, pollution, and toxic sprays were pouring in.
Even though I’m a city boy at heart, I mean I did grow up in London, well, not central London, more near Watford than Buckingham Palace, I have always liked the bustle of a lively city and used to have a dream of working and living in the centre. I guess it’s the age, and the kids, who have changed my outlook for a quieter, more chilled out atmosphere, which it certainly is where we are living now, in an area about 10 km away from the centre called Mairena.
After two months here I’m so glad I managed to chisel away at my wife’s ideologies and persuade her to try life away from her precious city centre. Here are a few reflections on life out here.
Close to Nature
We might as well have moved into the jungle as far as my wife’s concerned. The house and babies are under constant attack from grubby insects (ants), small weird creatures (lizards), and wild animals (our own dog). When we arrived there were several armies of ants who had made bases in a few of the walls, in the upstairs bathroom, and even in my new pants draw (before my pants got in there, I must add). Luckily a quick trip to a garden centre up the road, unheard of in the city, and there was a lovely sample of industrial ant killer which got rid of the little pests overnight.
The first time I ever came to Spain, I was impressed by the fact that as we sunbathed and played around the pool in Mallorca we could watch lizards darting about. Now we have our own ones messing about in the patio. My wife and son have invented a game involving water pistols, but only they have guns. I like watching the lizards scuttle about and it impresses me how they can cling on to the walls so quickly, and dodge the sprays of water with such style. I feel sorry for them though, especially the one whose head we found by the side of our outside straw sofa (left by the previous tenants, which was about the only thing they did leave apart from the walls and ceiling. Can you believe they actually made the effort to take out the batteries from the air conditioning remote?).
There’s nothing better than watching your little one fall asleep at 6am, while listening to birds chirping in the trees. Much better than vans rushing past or builders chatting about what they have in their bocadillos. We have to put up with quite a bit of bird crap though. Seems as if our antenna, which is weirdly wonky, is a great place to perch and plop one out right on out main play area outside.
Thankfully we’re not that close to the farm animals, but the air is so much fresher out here than in the city. When I go back in now my lungs seize up and my throat feels as if someone has just dropped a packet of peach tissues down there. I’m a massive running fan and one of my dreams has always been to run by the sea every morning. When I lived in Salvador, Brazil, and Sydney, I loved running by the sea. But since in the end we decided to stay in Sevilla, rather than ship off to Malaga, mainly because I’m content in my job here, then running in the countryside is the next best thing.
After exploring the local area I have a new route which goes from my village to the next past olives trees, wild horses, mansions and a golf course, and at the end of my circuit there’s even an Aldi. Running in the fresh country air at half seven in the morning is a great feeling, I do miss my old route by the River Guadalquivir, but not as much as I thought I would.
Noise, what noise?
I never used to be that fussed by noise. I could put up with the traffic, loud neighbours, building works in the local area, and even church bells waking me up. But when you have a baby you become a lot more susceptible to noise as you’re just hoping that no one will wake it up. It might be a coincidence, but since we moved here my son has only woken up once during the night, the first night, and our daughter sleeps through and she’s only 3 months old. If I think back to the amount of times we had to console my son because he woke up in the night, normally from noisy students downstairs or drunken louts shouting abuse at each other at 4am (not me and my wife before you ask).
Here we have to be careful how we fold a packet of crisps in case we wake up our kids. My clicking ankles are probably the noisiest part of our evening. I’ve even started walking awkwardly to try to avoid any extra clicking. We hardly hear our neighbours either, for the first time in all the places I’ve lived in Sevilla.
Outside of Sevilla means outside space
We have a patio now, which is a must in the summer months. If we were still copped up in a flat with an energetic 21 month year old then I’m sure we wouldn’t be as relaxed and chilled as we are now. He’s a handful most of the time, but at least he has space to run about and fall over now. The fact that we can have plants and flowers and small inflatable pool, which is a life saver when it gets above 40 degrees, and we can have a romantic evening meal out under the stars when the kids are asleep, is a massive bonus.
There are also a lot of parks to take our kids to and meet other kids too. They are much cleaner than the ones in the centre and it’s great for our dog too. I love watching Pepa walking about sniffing the dead wasps and finding random lizard heads. She much happier out here, you can tell, because she just sits and pants in the summer afternoons and doesn’t complain about not being taken out.
What about you? Have you recently moved out to the countryside? Or are you a city person?
Barry O’Leary has been an expat in Seville for nearly ten years. When he’s not teaching English, he writes a blog A Novel Spain which is about how he sees life in Spain. He has also lived and taught English in Brazil, Ecuador, Australia and Thailand and travelled around the world in the meantime. His non-fiction travel literature book, Teaching English in a Foreign Land, about his adventure as a TEFL teacher has sold over 2,500 copies.