You know when you buy some new clothes, or some new cups or plates, or even a new beachtowel, you really love the new one and get rather obsessed with it? But then over time you start using the old ones again and allow them a new lease of life, rescuing them from the dark corner to which they had been banished?
Well I have clearly been guilty of this. Despite deliberately entitling this blog “A Foot in Two Campos”, I have so far focused entirely on my exciting new venture, the charming little casita in Colmenar. But in between my ever-lengthening trips to Spain, I am fortunate to live in the beautiful North Dorset countryside – a charming campo in its own right. At the moment Shaftesbury town (famous for Gold Hill which appeared in the iconic Ridley Scott advert for Hovis), is bedecked with bunting, the shops are decorated with Union flags, and the town – like most of the country – is revelling in Olympic spirit.
Last month the Olympic Flame came right past my cottage. It was a wonderful day, still a good few weeks before the Olympics began, and was a great beginning to the games.
And earlier in the spring we celebrated the 8th Shaftesbury Feastival of Local Food. A new event this year was the Gold Hill Cheese Race, in which competitors had to run UP the hill carrying 22kg cheeses!
It’s a small, mostly friendly town. Just like Colmenar, Shaftesbury is surrounded by villages, hamlets, and isolated farmhouses which use the town as their centre for banking, shopping, and often selling. I’m not a Shaftesbury native, I’m guilty of being an “incomer” of a mere eleven years. But my professional work supporting charities was a useful way in, and I became a Trustee of a couple of small local charities which was a good way of meeting people and feeling useful. Starting the Shaftesbury Feastival of Local Food 8 years ago was a great way of getting to know a lot of farmers, food producers, and delicatessens!
There are many parallels between Shaftesbury and Colmenar. Similar size, similar rurality. Of particular interest is the fact that many people choose to retire to Shaftesbury, which now has a higher-than average age profile. The town has therefore developed an elasticity, expanding to include incomers. Similarly, the campo around Colmenar has a good sprinkling of ex-pats (though less than half are British). In the town centre there are only a few non-Spanish, and the Spanish neighbours say they have no concerns about foreigners moving in. Indeed they say it helps the local economy and helps to ensure that independent shops, the post office, and the two banks, remain open. Surprisingly, I’ve heard more of the “pull up the drawbridge” mentality in Shaftesbury, where frankly the incomers are unlikely to do much damage, than I have in Colmenar, where surely the locals must be acutely aware of the carnage on parts of the Costas, wrought largely by the British elements of the ex-pat community.
Inevitably this blog will continue to look at similarities and differences between my two home towns.
© Tamara Essex 2012