Beyond Mañana

Real Expat Life in Spain

Clive Read: A Pioneering Expat in Javea


You can learn so much talking to people who have been in Spain for many years, and the changes they have seen here.  Clive Read and his wife Ann have carved out a happy life for themselves in Jávea over the decades, and contributed to the expat community in a multitude of different ways.

“Ann and I came to Spain in November 1985, after selling a Care Home for the elderly, we had founded four years earlier. The die was cast when we bought a holiday home in Jávea at CA 56 (having previously decided that we would retire to Porto Colom in Mallorca) so that we could take short breaks from the care home, where we were 24/7 and it seemed as if we were seeing our parents die in front of us, every month. Buying on Mallorca was out of the question, because an air strike or rough seas would prevent our return to Derbyshire within a 24 hour drive. After buying the ‘holiday home’ – through an Abogado/Notary in London – but that is another story – our present on Christmas Eve was a large brown envelope from Derbyshire County Council, telling us that – from 1st January – owners could only be out of the country for 2 weeks at a time and 4 weeks in a year. We put both the holiday home on the market (no takers) as well as the care home (loads of interest) and the rest is history.

“Ann’s background was in Mechanised Accounts (Midland Bank) and mine in Photo-journalism, advertising and print production. Ann learned ‘copy typing’ at school and it has always served her well, whenever she needed to work, or when we needed the money.  Our ‘Christian’ faith has always been our motivation. We met in church (Hatcham Evangelical Free Church in New Cross) and have enjoyed the various challenges we have faced.

“We were fortunate in finding Jávea on our first visit, although we originally came to see a property called “El Faro” in Moraira. We have never failed to drive between the Parador and the Port on a sunny day (and around 300 a year are sunny) without thinking – and one of us saying “It must be nice to be able to live somewhere as nice as this”. Jávea has always been very parochial – but in 26 years of living here – so are we. In 1985 the only inter-communication between foreign residents was the HELP organisation, that organised members into zones, with each zone looking after it’s own. Few houses had phones and none of the rural homes had street names or consecutive house numbers. AD 233 was next to AD 111 and, in our zone, Ernest and Joyce Godwin and his wife walked the streets, compiling a map and identifying the houses. Ambulances, the Guardia and tradesmen large and small would park, walk to their tiny house at the rear of ‘Carrasco’ to find the location of the house they needed.”

Clive and Ann have been involved with so many changes and improvements in Jávea over the years: “We introduced English-language radio ‘Live with Clive on 105’ each afternoon from 3pm on Radio Jávea, and founded ‘Jávea Good Neighbours Club’ to raise the £18,000 to provide the first heart defibulator machines on Red Cross ambulances in Spain – in Jávea.

“We founded ‘Jávea International Civic Society’ in 1989 with Kees Romeijn, Colin Marcus, Tina Scherpenhuijsen, Graham Bradbeer and Per Svensson, and I was the first Secretary and editor of 140 monthly editions of the ‘Civic Society Bulletin’.

We founded ‘Jávea Evangelical Church’ in 1992 and became its first Pastors.

We founded the ‘Grapevine’ magazine, and later, the ‘CopiShop’ in the Port

As well as the BritsinSpain2003 group at Yahoo (still going).”

I wondered what Clive found had changed most significantly in Jávea, during the many decades since he and Anne had first arrived?

“Jávea is MOSTLY improved (but certainly not uglified – like Calpe or Benidorm with tall buildings) but many of the years have been marked by ‘pretty’ – yet unwise – plans, like making the Ring Road so narrow that it was necessary to buy slimmer buses. Jávea remains annexed from Spain by the N-332, with no trains or adequate bus service. The name of Tony Cabban must stand out as the first ‘non-Spanish and not self-serving’ councillor that I can remember in the Jávea Town Hall.

“For 14 years we have been responsible for the Spanish edition of a daily devotional of encouragement – La Palabra Para Hoy – that is 11,000 copies shipped (64 pages A5) to more than 2,500 addresses throughout the world. 6 months ago we founded ‘Welcome to Paradise’ – and we are back where we started: Focused on Jávea”

Of course, one sad change in the area is the wave of migration the other way, and  over the years Clive has seen a number of friends and neighbours return to the UK: “Not as many as you would expect – at the time – but looking back there have been many, due in the main, to declining health and the inability to communicate with medical staff. Nowadays there is a deluge of people going back to the UK, unable to earn money in Spain, and such poor investment income that every month is a struggle. Many more would have left Jávea, had they been able to sell their homes here”

But Clive and Ann still believe that for many, the advantages of life in Spain today outweigh the downsides.

“A better quality of life, weather, sunshine and climate. Spain’s admission to the ‘Common Market’ brought the advantage that foreigners no longer had to travel to Gibraltar or Andorra (or the UK) every 90 days, but everything became much more expensive. We have been very pleased with the health service in Spain – but living here since 1985 – have nothing with which to compare it.

“The blue sky and sun – tomorrow if not today – provides a wonderful backdrop to live life against. Those in the UK must seem ‘without hope’ as September ends and their only prospect is overcast skies, rain, fog, frost, snow and ice until April. Only by coming to somewhere like Jávea, do you realise that ‘life doesn’t have to be like that’

“It is interesting that the locals have 2 words to describe non-Javienses:

“The first is ‘extranjero‘ which is someone from the North of Europe who comes here for the warmth of weather

“And the other is ‘forestero’ which is someone from places like Valencia or Madrid. Why would they come unless they were on-the-run. It is interesting that Madrid’s new Foreign Minister has a home in the town, and Rita Barbera, the Lady Mayor of Valencia, has a house (frequently used – because her Generalitat Private Bodyguard are in the street when she is – just a 60 second drive from my own home).

But for Clive, Jávea is no holiday retreat: “Jávea for us – since we arrived with our 2 dogs in the days when there was a 6-month quarantine on all dogs entering the UK – has always been ‘home’. The UK is where family and friends live, but it does not mean that I am any ‘less British’ because I live in Spain.

Ann and I have both been able to use the skills in Spain that we learned in the UK, though we have always been self-employed to do so.  You cannot be – like I was – the sort of character who will “Go and sort it out!” – because few things ever get sorted out in Spain, and if they do, I think they would have done anyway. You have to embark on charge – with the likely expectation of defeat. but, once in a while, you win – and that can be savoured for months.

“Events shape your life. We have made ‘stupid’ and ‘outrageous’ decisions – but here we are, owning 3 homes, money in the bank, food in the kitchen, excellent and reliable friends – and the sun shines most days of the month. No wonder we regard Jávea as our ‘Paradise’ here in this temporary life of 3 score years and then!”


You can keep up with Clive via his newly formed Facebook group, Jávea Self-Help