Back when I worked (oh how long ago it seems, now!) I was up with all the jargon. Words like social inclusion, stakeholders, outcomes and future-proofing. The charity sector’s version of management-speak. And yet all of a sudden I am “future-proofing” all sorts of aspects of my life! And it feels quite serious.
Purely by luck rather than any sort of forward planning my house will, I think, do me well into old age. Watching friends both in Spain and the UK needing to make adaptations or move to more manageable accommodation or nearer essential services triggered a very serious walk around my house, looking at it dispassionately. Will it work for my later years? Yes, I think so. There’s a downstairs bedroom with easy access to the bathroom. At a pinch, a stairlift might even be possible. I’m in the village centre, easy access to shops, buses, neighbours etc. And, as importantly as any of those practicalities, it’s where I want to be.
A couple of friends have thought that I’m being premature. But a stroke, a fall, a broken hip, a debilitating illness, these things can strike at any time. We all know that. We’ve all seen it. And how much harder is it to move when in the middle of any of those problems?
So the house will suit me until they carry me off to a nursing home or to the crematorium. Yet all the while, all the small changes I can make now, all the slightly bigger changes that I can envisage and budget for further down the line, the over-arching question-mark is still there, hanging there, that uncertainty, probably manageable for most of us, probably not for some. Is there any point in planning for the future while the dark cloud of the unmentionable B-word hovers over us?
In the meantime, a big part of future-proofing continues to be improving and perfecting the Spanish language. Because only through the language are deep friendships made, and only through deep friendships are real roots put down. So I carry on studying, carry on practising with friends, including with Jose, my inter-cambio language partner since I arrived (and always my best resource).
Yet all the while, all the time the language improves, that cloud still hangs there. The hours and the money on lessons … we lack the certainty to be 100% sure that it’s all worth while. The brain says “of course it is!” and I continue to actively help and encourage other British people wanting to learn Spanish. But deep inside the niggle is there. Learning and improving the language assumes a future here. Despite the clear blue Spanish summer sky, we are never without that cloud. It just hangs there.
So there is not just the normal future-proofing that everyone should be on top of – updating the will, ensuring that loved ones are protected – five million of us have extra future-proofing to do, we have to do Brexit-proofing. Of course, everyone has to, not just those of us who exercised our Treaty rights to live in a different country. Everyone needs to prepare (just like the leaders of the Leave campaign, most of whom have demonstrated their patriotism by moving trust funds, wealth management companies, or their manufacturing base out of the UK). But we lesser mortals have to plough through a list of additional tasks, whether we are citizens of EU27 countries living in the UK, or UK citizens living in one of the EU27 countries.
Future-proofing our residency cards. After five years of official residency in Spain we are entitled to change them for a card that has the word “permanent” on it. Only a small change, but the “guidance in case of No Deal” that the Spanish government has prepared for us sets out that people without “permanent” residency may have more hoops to jump through in the future when we become “Third Country Nationals” and change to a different, non-EU identity card. When we have fewer rights. When we don’t, in fact, have the RIGHT to be here, we only have “permission”.
Future-proofing our driving licences. I finally got round to exchanging my driving licence for a Spanish one. In case of No Deal. Because we don’t know. Because so many things remain unclear. They have taken my British one, given me a temporary one, and I check the postbox each morning awaiting the Brexit-proof Spanish licence (which will need explaining when I drive in the UK!).
Health care. The big one. Frankly, all I can do is check my savings account and my ISA and hope and assume that there is enough in there to take care of me in the case of No Deal. You move to another EU country safe in the knowledge that the 300,000 British pensioners who have done the same before you, have their healthcare funded by the UK (from the taxes paid throughout our lives) paid to our new host country through the EU-wide agreement. Without a Deal, many will reluctantly return to the UK, unable to pay for healthcare and medications out of a pension which every month buys fewer euros. Pensioners faced with bills of 1,000€ a month, some even more, just for medications. Those of us lucky enough to have come out here with a bit of a cushion check it nervously, wondering if it will last. The enormous blue sky stretches from the village to beyond the mountains. And in the middle, unseen by everyone except British people, hangs that cloud.
I went on one of my little road-trips last week. Una escapada. A lovely few days, meeting old friends and new. Back via a village that’s not too far from me, Torrox Pueblo, which traditionally hangs umbrellas in the main square to provide spots of shade and a bit of colour. Lovely! Colourful. Photogenic. From nowhere, between the coloured brollies, up in the blue Spanish summer sky, a white cloud drifted across.
The cloud is always there. Life goes on, we future-proof, and as far as we can we Brexit-proof. But life is in limbo for five million people about to lose our rights. There’s a cloud that doesn’t go away. Never a day or even an hour goes by without it forcing its way, uninvited, into our thoughts. And a coloured umbrella won’t be enough to protect us.
© Tamara Essex 2019 http://www.twocampos.com