What I miss about the UK?

Ever since my wife and I moved to the Algarve roughly 20 years ago, I’ve constantly been asked what I miss about the UK. I used to say I didn’t miss very much but having now lived here for as long as I have, I can honestly say there are loads of things that I really miss. Here are just a few of them…

I miss the endless rain, the snow, the blizzards, the black ice, the slush, the hail, the icy cold winds, the floods, the fog, the mists, regular thunder and lightning, permanent clouds blocking out any sun, and every other version of lousy foul weather that the UK regularly throws at you.

Now that I live in the Algarve, I get over 300 days of glorious sunshine every year, and I love it.

I really miss paying at least £75 for two of us to go out and eat a below-average steak and chips, usually served in what can best be described as either tepid or at-room temperature, in a dingy restaurant with dusty old maroon flock wallpaper and really naff music playing in the background, and where the waiters would, in all honesty, prefer it if you weren’t there at all.

Now I live in the Algarve, I get change from €40 for two of us, a great steak on the stone and chips, in a nice restaurant, with really friendly service where I’m made to feel really welcome and appreciated.

After I’ve finished eating my dreadfully mediocre meal in the UK, I really miss all the loud, obnoxious, rude, half-dressed teenagers getting blindingly drunk every night due to alcoholic binge-drinking, and my then having the pure joy of watching them throw up all over the pavement whilst making quite obscene gestures to everybody in sight, and shouting incredibly unpleasant foul language at any passing motorists.

Now I live in the Algarve, I can walk home through the streets, even at night, and I feel perfectly safe and it’s all relatively quiet and peaceful.
I miss spending at least an hour-and-a-half on the dreadful M25 surrounded by hundreds of giant lorries trying to drive me off the road while suffocating me by belching out poisonous exhaust fumes, and all just to travel 10 miles.

Now I live in the Algarve, I can drive from one end to the other in the same amount of time, and I very rarely see a lorry.

After 38 years of living in South London, I really do miss everything I had on my doorstep. Not being known for my truly superb cooking expertise, I really appreciated that from my flat I could walk to three different Chinese takeaways, a kebab shop, two fish and chip shops, a takeaway burger and hotdog shop, and an Indian restaurant. All eight of these options were within a hundred yards of my flat, and they all charged reasonable prices.

However, living in London these days is now virtually impossible unless you happen to be a multi-millionaire. Most of those places I mentioned are no longer trading because they have all been priced out of existence. But there again, these days, why would you want to live in London anyway?

The place is pretty grubby, the rents are all sky high, not that there is anywhere left to rent anyway apart from a few grubby, dirty hell holes the greedy landlords that own them call ‘apartments’, whereas, in reality, they are tiny box rooms that haven’t been decorated in 20 years, and they will cost you a month’s salary for a week’s rent. As for buying a house in London – forget it, unless your bank account has a spare seven figures in it.

So yes, I miss the South London I knew when I lived there, but I couldn’t go back there now, simply because what I knew all those years ago no longer exists, even if it was affordable. Renting or buying a house in the Algarve is certainly far more possible for most people as prices are so much cheaper than London, as is the cost of normal, day-to-day amenities, from groceries to transport.

I miss all those lovely UK politicians of all parties constantly slagging each other off and trying to govern every aspect of my daily life. In the UK, they’re on TV and in your face every five minutes – telling you how to think, what to do, where you can go, how to be politically correct, and dreaming up new taxes and laws to ruin your life in every conceivable way they can think of.

Now I live in the Algarve, I don’t really care what any of the politicians in the UK do or say. They can rant and rave at each other and say what they like, and it really doesn’t bother me – because 20 years ago, I had the good sense to call it a day in the UK, pack up all my worldly possessions and leave. I never watch Portuguese TV, so I never get to hear about Portuguese politics. I just enjoy living here in the sun and getting on with my life.

I recently had to return to the UK on business for a few days, and those two weeks in London and Cambridge made me realise just how much I missed the rudeness of being completely ignored by everyone around you. I miss the fact that nobody even acknowledges your existence when you say ‘hello’ to them, I miss the foul language you are constantly subjected to in the UK these days, but, most of all, I miss the common courtesies of life that all seem to have died out in the UK.

Generally speaking, I find that, here in the Algarve, most people – even if they don’t know you are really friendly – are polite, helpful and, mostly, incredibly courteous.

I miss getting the flu and numerous colds every year, I miss the rheumatism and arthritis I occasionally got in the UK because of the lousy weather. I miss bronchitis and aching joints because of the damp, deteriorating eyesight and everything else that goes with living in a cold, damp climate like the UK.

Now I live in the Algarve’s fantastic climate, my aches and pains have all gone, and my eyesight has improved to the extent that I no longer need glasses, because the warmth has relaxed the muscles around my eyes.

Then, of course, there’s the sheer joy of driving on the left in the UK.

I really do miss all the daily traffic jams, particularly those that happen in the ‘no go area’ of the concrete jungle we call London. The traffic jams start at 5.30am every morning and don’t finish until 9.30pm in the evening. I miss the totally empty bus lanes that I’m not allowed to use, even though there’s never a single bus in sight, and I really do miss the pleasure of being overtaken by hundreds of pedestrians strolling along the pavement, whilst the hundreds of pedal cyclists who are allowed to use the aforementioned bus lanes sail past me without a care in the world having never read the highway code.

I miss the never-ending road works with 17 million cones blocking my route, and not a single workman in sight for miles. I really do passionately miss the thousands of speed cameras taking my photograph every 500 yards, even though I’m only driving at 15 mph because of the aforementioned road works and the 17 million wretched traffic cones.

I miss the countless opportunities to spend my hard-earned cash in the approximately one million parking metres currently installed in the UK, even though they are obviously providing hours of pleasure for those nice wheel clamping companies and all those kind-hearted, really lovely gentle souls called traffic wardens.

I really do miss driving round and round for over an hour in the UK, just trying to find somewhere to park the wretched car and then, in the end, giving up and going home because it’s now too late to do what I intended to do when I originally set off.

Now I live in the Algarve, I can park virtually anywhere I want, and 99% of the time I can do so for free, and so far with not a single speed camera in sight.
Those are the things that I miss about the UK.

By Trevor Holman
|| features@algarveresident.com

Trevor Holman has lived in the Algarve for 20 years. An ex-session musician, advertising director and Justice of the Peace, Trevor has written four stage musicals, over 100 songs and has had eight of his novels published to date, including the highly successful ‘Algarve Crime Thriller’ series.