Postcard from... Rocquetas

When they came here it felt like their big chance. The house in that small town in the Midlands that they had called home for over two decades had increased in value, beyond anything they could have imagined. People urged them not to sell. “The house prices will keep going up,” they said, and for a while they were right. But that wasn’t the point. The point was to make the escape. And so they landed here, a town in Spain that is not quite Spain, with its branch of the British Legion, a German doctors office, and a Belgian driving school.

They found the shop in a small arcade, a block back from the beach. The real estate agent was Swedish, and had lived in the area for years. Good foot traffic, she promised. An international crowd. She showed the spreadsheets, with numbers of hotel rooms and average occupancy rates. Reassurance that when the tide of tourists retreated, the locals - both Spanish and northern European (mostly retired) - would pick up the slack. And so they signed the contract. They would sell environmentally-friendly, cruelty-free cosmetic products. The shop opened. It did okay. Not great, but okay. After a while they realised they were never made to be shopkeepers. They had to open seven days a week in the summer, but never earned enough to hire staff. In the winter, things were slower than they had been led to believe.

And so, after three years, they were heading home. Was it all a mistake? It was too soon to say.