4 Nov, 2010 @ 15:58
1 min read

Tale of the century

EXCLUSIVE By Caroline Peal

A BRITISH expatriate turning 100 has spoken exclusively to the Olive Press about the incredible changes he has seen in his four decades on the Costa del Sol.

Theo Oakley chose sunnier climes when he retired at 61, even though Spain was still firmly under Franco’s rule.

“The climate first attracted me, but before we left England we were warned we were going to live in a police state.

“When we got here, we found everyone to be very affable and reasonable. We rather enjoyed life in a police

But the regime’s strict attitudes to public decency (couples faced fines for kissing or holding hands in public) had its impact on Mr Oakley and his fellow sun worshippers from northern Europe.

“On the beach it was a shame because bikinis were frowned upon. I suppose it was good for the country, but not so good for us!

“Passing Spaniards would wonder what us foreigners were doing on the sand. Now it’s swung around – the
beach is their religion!”

Mr Oakley was born in India in 1910, but returned to England in the 1940s and worked in the oil industry before retirement.

“I used to enjoy a glass of wine and back then it cost three pesetas (two centimos) and a cup of coffee was two pesetas.

“Everything was easily available. I remember the Franco regime giving farm workers half a peseta per kilo of
oranges, so food was cheap too.

“And I have memories of accidentally leaving my wallet on top of the car, then still finding it when I realized
and went back for it later.”

But within two years of Franco’s death in 1975, ‘big changes’ started.

“The main one was people going from low paid jobs to very high earning salaries.

“It was all egoism and money. They could afford more varied food. Children suddenly found yogurts in the fridge.”

Mr Oakley, who turns 100 on November 04 now lives with his 89-year-old wife Charlotte in Los Boliches, Fuengirola.

The couple, who each have large families of their own, have been married for 32 years, having met in Torremolinos through their local church after both were widowed in the late 70s.

But, he says, there is no great secret to his happy marriage or long life. “I think it’s just divine goodness, one of those things.”

The Calahonda Church will be celebrating Theo Oakley’s momentous birthday with a special service on November 07.

Jon Clarke (Publisher & Editor)

Jon Clarke is a Londoner who worked at the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday as an investigative journalist before moving permanently to Spain in 2003 where he helped set up the Olive Press. He is the author of three books; Costa Killer, Dining Secrets of Andalucia and My Search for Madeleine.

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  1. Everything Theo says is true about fascist Spain, except he does’nt mention that you had to be really careful who you were talking to and who could overhear you.

    I left my wallet on the beach at Almeria, luckily it only had about the equivalent of 10 shillings in it, which was enough to cover all expenses for a day. I worked out where I could have lost it and returned the next day – it was still there – this was 68.

    The ordinary Spanish had nothing in the way of materialism but great family life, real fiestas, real food that was delicious and a real ‘way of living’ – all gone now – esta la vida.

  2. Stuart Crawford says the Spanish ” way of living” is all gone now.
    Maybe thats true on the Costas but here just an hours drive inland ,in and around the Pueblos of Granada it is alive .
    Here there are less influences to effect change so time seems to move slower.Degrees of change happen of course but you can still find great emphasis on family values,fantastic food and drink and real fiestas combined with a desire to share all of these things with ones neighbours.
    Thats what still makes it a great place to live.

  3. Peter,
    I lived in Guadix, moved last year. I really wonder what you ate back in the UK. Did you actually visit Spain in the 60’s, to give a you a point of reference.

  4. Tell you what Peter Worgan, state clearly the restuarants and the addresses where this ‘fantastic’ food can be found and I will get friends to visit and report back.

    Menu de la dia and a la carte as well – awaiting this info to pass on.

    Come to that I’m sure Fred and others would like to know as well.

  5. If the restaurant cannot serve an alternative to chips, they are useless and should be consigned to oblivion. This is how I judge a restaurant these days. I had a 60 euro meal the other day and the idiots said they could only serve chips with it. This will rule out 99% of restaurants coincidentally.

  6. Hi Fred, do you think Peter will come across with a list of these restauarants that serve ‘fantastic’ food?

    €60 for a meal – I know what that would get me in the UK – a damn good meal, including a good wine.

    A point of interest, in France they almost always serve steak with chips but I’ve never had any other meal served with chips.

  7. It will be a long wait I’m sure Stuart. True about France, mind you steak and chunky chips is a nice combination. They serve those horrible McDonalds style chips with everything here in Spain and not a whole vegetable in sight. The food is dire; best to eat good Asian food, if you can get it, as it’s so much more tastey.

  8. Nostalgia and sixteen pesetas for a Cuba Libre in Alicante in 1970. No fridges so the food was brought in daily. Franco’s forerunner of the Policia Nacional in grey uniforms (Los Grises?) and they passed through brown uniforms before settling on the European standard blue. It really was a case of round up the usual suspects when a crime was committed & beat them up until one confessed.
    Chips with everything maybe, but as long as they are genuine chips from real live potatoes & just think the salad is doing you good.
    ”I left my watch on a lamppost in Malaga twenty years ago and when I went back it was still there.
    What,the Watch?
    No, the lamppost.”
    (Stanley Baxter & Kenneth Williams)

  9. Fred,
    I have mentioned this Chinese restaurant before – the House of Wu in the San Juan de Dios/Granada – superb and cheap.

    Gresham – you can’t tell me anything about Fascism. I was in Pamplona on Mayday in 68.

    Sitting at a cafe with some of a film crew in the Plaza del Castillas, when a small pre war grey painted army vehicle pulled up. A nasty looking little Guardia got out and opened up the back doors, reached in and pulled out on rollers a beautiful piece of German engineering – a twin barrelled Spandau machine gun.

    I watched fascinated as he set up the ammo boxes and snap fitted the ammo clips. this weapon was capable of 3,500 rounds a minute – it was gimbal mounted and the little fascist sat on the tractor type metal seat swivelling it with ease in all directions – including mine.

    Whatever you think of the Spanish in general, they most certainly are’nt cowards and it was a point of honour for the Socialist and Communist students to try to run across the square with a strip of red flag.

    The Falangista civilians were waiting to trip them up and then the Guardia would come up and with their pistols smash in the faces of the female students and club the genitals of the male students.

    I heard the roar from the students trapped behind the ornamental caste iron railings in the University – liberte, liberte so decided to go and see what was happening there.

    I walked across the square trying to avoid stepping in the pools of blood with the Falangista glowering at me and up the road to the University – I was the only person on that street.

    Then behind me I heard the bellowing of a crowd and round the corner came this totally frightened crowd followed by the Guardia beating them – to fall down would have meant being trampled to death. I skipped up the steps to the raised pavements and went on walking and then stopped.

    The crowd had been stampeded in the other direction and there I stood all alone with the mass of students now silent behind the railings watching and a mass of Guardia moving toward me with their truncheons.

    If I had’nt had some Spanish I am sure I would have been beaten to death that day but as they came withing striking distance I said I am British and not participating. Luckily the Guardia nearest me was basically human and pushed me on saying that I was stupid to stand there. The Guardia beside him he stopped from clubbing me – so yes I am well aware of how life was in Spain under Franco, so it was really silly to assume that your the only one who knew what life was really like in Fascist Spain – was’nt it.

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