I heard it on the grapevine

Števe Brown Every Friday afternoon on El Punt Avui TV Nicole has a chat with an English speaking expatriate who lives in Catalonia. Here is her chat with Steve Brown.
As it is the theme for Small Talk we know you live in Catalonia. Where do you live?
I tell people I live in Girona, but it is just outside of Girona. A lovely little town called Celrà.
Very close to Girona, just 10 min. What made you move there?
This goes back about ten years, I had an opportunity to quit my company in the UK. I was working in electronics and when I was 60 years old there was a window where I could walk away from it. I had come to Girona on holiday before and wanted to live near Girona on the coast side but not on the coast.
What drew you to the Girona area?
I had come on holiday to Llafranc many years ago and I always liked the location. France is very close, that is very attractive, the Mediterranean is close and Girona is a beautiful city. I just wondering around the estate agents in Girona, looking for a flat or something and I ended up buying a flat from plans.
You didn't see it before you bought it? That is brave!
Well it was just a shell, they had started building it.
How long did it take for the building to be completed?
Two years. I would pop over from the UK for a weekend, stay in a hotel and go and check on the project. Check the roof was still on!
So once the it was complete you made the actual move over – no looking back?
No looking back, I have no intention of going back to the UK. I love it here. I go back to the UK just once a year.
What do your friends think of you living here?
My friends in the UK envy me because of the weather of course! And here my friends envy my freedom as I am retired, I have an income and I can do the things I enjoy doing.
You say you are retired, but really not completely!
When I came here I started painting but the ‘techi' side of me very much liked the idea of web design and graphics, which was really taking off back then. I have this lovely mixture of art and technology, so my techi side is satisfied and so is my artistic side. A long time ago I went on a retreat and I started doing sketches of cottages in pencil. Then a friend commissioned me to do a watercolour of the house where she lived. So it went on from there. My style has relaxed since then. I did one painting recently where the trees where blue!
Very David Hockney! You recently had an exhibition in Celrà…
It was in the civic centre in October 2014. It was my third exhibition and I think I would like to start showing my pictures in Girona, maybe at the Sant Narcis festival for example. I also sell postcards and greetings cards in shops in Girona.
Your other hobby is cycling, road or mountain biking?
Road, mountain biking has never attracted me. The roads around here are great. Some people ask me if it is dangerous but I think the roads are marvellous. I am fit enough to go to the beach and back in a day. Just another thrill of living here! I also love going to France. Not by bike though! I am a big fan of the train.
What is the railway service like over here in Catalonia compared to the UK?
Infinitely better. It is cheaper. I often go to Perpignan on the high-speed train. I like to go there to practice my French, do a bit of shopping, change of food.
How has Girona or Catalonia changed you as a person since you have been here?
The change is dramatic! I was a recluse, socially. I worked for myself, I worked from home. Since being here I have got involved in two social groups, which I help organise. Once is Girona Grapevine and the other is a meet up group.
Girona Grapevine has been going for quite sometime. It is simply a social group for English speakers. We have all sorts of nationalities. We meet once a week.
The other group, is like a social network but you actually meet. They organise events. I took it over organising it a while ago.
So Catalunya has changed you for the better?
Learning a foreign language, it is amazing for self confidence. I don't know why it is, it isn't just self confidence in speaking the language it is general self confidence. My life had definitely changed.
Give me three top tips for living or visiting Girona or Celrà.
The thing I love about Girona is the public transport. I don't have a car so it is an important part of my life.
One place I really like in Girona is Plaça de la Independència. I love the atmosphere. It is full of restaurants and bars.
And as we have mentioned, the cycling. It is a cycling mecca!
Sign in. Sign in if you are already a verified reader. I want to become verified reader. To leave comments on the website you must be a verified reader.
Note: To leave comments on the website you must be a verified reader and accept the conditions of use.