This week’s expat interview is from Kevin Borman who has written a book, Flamingos in the desert – exploring Almeria. Enjoy reading more!
When did you move to Spain, and where from?
In October 2005, from Sheffield, England. We both gave up our jobs in summer 2004 when my partner’s youngest son flew the coop. We bought a campervan and began to search for somewhere with a better winter climate than the UK. Two three-month long trips followed until we found the right place, tucked away in the semi-desert mountains of Almeria.
Who came with you?
My partner Troy. She had the vision to see that the small house on a bare plot that we bought could become something much more interesting. And so it has, after years of hard work on both the house and the garden. We have 360 degree views from the top of the house. It’s a bit windy but otherwise it’s paradise!
Where in Spain do you live now?
On a ridge at the side of a small valley in the Sierra Cabrera mountains of eastern Almeria. Our nearest town, about 25 minutes away, is Sorbas.
What things (apart from loved ones) do you miss from your country of birth?
We miss the rain, gloom, and cloud – but that’s great because that’s why we came here! Other than that, not very much really. After all, it’s easy to keep in touch with people, it’s easy to follow what’s going on back there and even buy British products here if you really want to – which we generally don’t.
Do you work? As what?
Yes, I’m a writer. Back in the UK I was also a full-time teacher. Since I stopped teaching I’ve been able to devote more time to my writing. The major outcome of that was the publication of my book ‘Flamingos In The Desert’ earlier this year.
How are you with speaking Spanish?
I can get by in most situations but my spoken Spanish is not as good as I’d like it to be. I can read Spanish moderately well but oh to have learnt it properly at school at an age when my brain was still working!
If you could change one thing about Spain… what would that be?
In general it would be good if there was less corruption and less administrative hassle. Specifically, living where we do, it would be nice to have a more reliable water supply. But I take the view that if you move to another country you should be ready to accept that it will be different to where you’ve come from – after all, that’s why you moved in the first place – and you have to take the rough with the smooth.
What is the best thing about living in Spain?
The climate, the food, friendly people – our Spanish neighbours were immediately very welcoming when we arrived – the uncrowded roads, the chance to explore the fascinating and relatively unknown area where we live, the fact that it’s still cheaper than the UK…
What is your favourite Spanish dish?
No particular favourite, though I’m not keen on the more dubious parts of pigs. A bit of ‘tapeando’ with friends is a great way to spend an evening though – trying something different in three or four bars, usually with a glass of wine in each.
What is the predominant nationality of your friends in Spain?
Mostly British, though with a fair few Spanish and Dutch and the occasional German, Romanian and American.
If you won the Euromilliones – would you still live where you currently are?
I’d stay here. It’s almost paradise and we’ve put a lot of work into making it the place we want to be in, so… no reason to move.
If a movie was made about your life – who would play you?
For it to be an authentic portrait it would have to be someone who likes hillwalking, harvesting tomatoes, making maps, playing drums, singing, talking to an eccentric cat, sharing wine with friends and writing, among other things. Now who might that be?… I’m not sure.
If you had to describe yourself as a drink or cocktail… what would you be?
I’m not a cocktail expert but a glass of red wine or a pint of good English ale would do fine.
Right – now is the chance to tell us all about your business/website/blog if you have one (or more of course). Go for your life!
After more than four years of research and writing my book ‘Flamingos In The Desert – Exploring Almería’ was finally published in March this year. It might be described as a guidebook but in fact it’s much more than that, as I’ve aimed to really get under the skin of Almería province. I’m intrigued by this area. It’s superficially rather drab but once you look a bit closer, you find all kinds of intriguing features. The more I’ve explored – not just physically but by talking to lots of people and also by reading Spanish sources – the more I wanted to produce a book that would give English-speakers an insight into what really makes this little-known pocket of Andalucía tick.
I hope everyone will find things of interest in the book. If you want to know about the reintroduction of loggerhead turtles, the history of the gold industry, the disused airfield near Turre, how to take your olives to the local olive mill, how flamingos feed or how to walk down the Río de Aguas from source to mouth, it’s all in there. There are floods, nuclear bombs, threshing circles, Moorish irrigation systems, and lots of details of local walks. Peter O’Toole, Sergio Leone, John Lennon and Jack Nicholson make brief appearances. There’s even a recipe for prickly pear jam. From flamingos to earthquakes, iron ore mines to goats and wildfires to high-speed trains, I’ve enjoyed sharing what I’ve learnt, my reflections and understanding of landscapes, history, wildlife and culture on a journey from Almería’s Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park to the Sorbas Gypsum Karst and far beyond.
I’m delighted by the enthusiastic response the book has generated. It’s sold over 600 copies that I know of in this area in the first four months, plus an unknown quantity online. I’m also part way through a run of book-signings and talks that go on through the summer and into the autumn.
My email address is in the book and I’ve invited readers to contact me. Quite a few have told me they’ve bought extra copies as presents for friends and word of mouth recommendations have definitely helped sales. I’ve had lots of really positive feedback:
‘Having been introduced to your wonderful book by our neighbours in Spain, I felt that I must write and send congratulations on a great read. I am around half way through the book and am constantly looking for the next opportunity to dive back into it. It is great to think that someone has taken real time and effort to get into the real Almería, a wholly overlooked yet fascinating province. At the moment we are just occasional “visitors” to the area and tend not to explore further than the playa but the book has given us real impetus to visit further afield when we are next over.’ (LH, Vera Playa)
‘History, geology, flora and fauna, food, culture, anecdote and much else besides. Ticks all the boxes and it’s so well researched. This is delightful writing. There’s a real feel for the place, an empathy with the landscape and its people. From profound, heartfelt comment to a small goatish rock festival. Very readable.’ (PB, Sheffield, UK) A reader from Velez Rubio said: ‘Thoroughly enjoyed reading your book from cover to cover. Can I have a couple more copies, please?’ Another, from Alfaix, added: ‘Definitely the most informative and readable book of its genre which I have read.’ SG from La Mela told me: ‘I am just loving your book, dipping in and out. It is answering all sorts of questions and mysteries,’ while BP (I don’t know where he lives) emailed me, lamenting: ‘I ordered a copy from amazon which I received the next day, and am now looking forward to reading it if I can wrench it away from my wife.’
The book includes a detailed contents listing to its 30 chapters, as well as six maps and a comprehensive Index and Bibliography. In addition, there’s an online album of 256 photos that accompany the book. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to send you the link to the album, whether you have the book or not!
Flamingos In The Desert is available from amazon, from the publishers at feedaread.com, from many local outlets in Almería province and also direct from the author. A Kindle version is also available on amazon, where an extract from the book can be seen.
Elle, along with Alan, is the owner of Spain Buddy and the busy web design business – Spain Web Design by Gandy-Draper.
Born a “Norverner”, she then spent most of her life “Dann Saff” before moving to Spain in 2006. Elle’s loves are Alan, the internet, dogs, good food, and dry white wine – although not necessarily in that order.