Monthly Archives: December 2014

H.M. Ambassador to Spain

SIMON MANLEYHave you ever wondered what a day in the life of an Ambassador is like?
Click on this link to see an interview with Simon Manley, The British Ambassador to Spain.
The interview is in Spanish and was filmed for

Update From The Chairman – Dec 2014

StewartThis is the time of year when our thoughts turn to those less fortunate than ourselves. The British Benevolent Fund of Madrid has been helping British people in Spain since 1929 and it is planned to continue this work into the future. If you have not made a donation this year, please remember to give something now, no matter how small, by following the link to our website.

Many of you attended the Proms Concert in October and bought raffle tickets. This raised an amazing €4,500 and the BBF is extremely grateful to those of you that attended this event and the summer fete held at St. George´s Church in Madrid. Both these events helped raise the awareness of the work done by many people associated with the Fund not only to raise money but to remind people that there is help at hand for those that need it most. Many people that require help may not know of the existence of the BBF but it is very much hoped that by letting people know of its activities, more people will come forward to seek help.

If you or anyone you know is willing to spend a small amount of time in whatever capacity to join the growing number of volunteers to help us spread the word, we will always be pleased to hear from you. So pick up the phone now or drop us an email!

The British Benevolent Fund of Madrid has a long history. Be part of its future as it grows into a recognised charity in Spain.

Donate IconThis is the time of year to consider what can be put back into society and to contribute something more in 2015.

Best Wishes for a Very Merry Christmas

Stewart Cusden
The British Benevolent Fund of Madrid

christmas 2014

Why I Volunteer – Olaf Clayton (Executive Committee Member)

life in the sunI first met James and his wife Laura when I moved to Madrid in 2000. James was a successful photographer and his wife an artist whose watercolours and etchings of Iberian sceneries were sold around the world. Both were in their 60s, independently minded, with a lively outlook on life and seemingly a million miles away from needing any form of assistance from anybody -least of all financial.

They had both independently left England when young to seek fame and fortune in the new world. There they met, married and thrived. As the heady days of the 80s came to end they decided to cash in their chips, sell up their home, buy a boat and sail the seas. Live the dream and live life. After all they had money in the bank and both had skill sets that they could use anytime and anyplace they chose. The world was their oyster.

sxurviving adversity poemAfter several years they eventually found themselves in Spain. They liked what they saw and decided to stay, enjoy the warmer climate and try a new challenge. At first things were fine; they sold the boat and rented a fine apartment in town. James found work – not as much as before but enough to have a good living and Laura set to painting which was critically acclaimed and sold well. Though they were earning it was a challenge – a different language, different culture and a very different way of being.

That in itself was not going to stop them but in 2005 Laura suffered a series of mishaps and accidents that put her in hospital and from which her recovery was slow. This meant James was unable to work as much as he would have liked as he had to take care of his wife. Then the global crisis hit Spain and the work started to dry up. Old clients were unwilling or unable to pay his fees. Laura´s condition worsened and they made the decision to leave Madrid and live on the coast. It would be cheaper to rent and cheaper to live – they also felt that all the cultural barriers they had encountered would disappear and the work would pick up. They put their last savings to move down and rent a modest apartment over-looking the sea where at least Laura could recover and escape the harshness of the Castilian winter and benefit from the warmer climate.

never give up poemAt the beginning it seemed to work but the recession had already hit and money was hard to come by. The savings were drying up on rent and increasingly on healthcare. James was spending more and more time nursing his wife and less and less time on making a living. Then things went from bad to worse when Laura´s worsening condition led to a fall at home which rendered her comatosed and bed ridden. To his horror he discovered that she was outside the scope of public healthcare in Andalucia and no hospital would treat her or take her. He had no choice but to use the remaining savings on private healthcare and face the terrible reality that, after having sold their business and brought an ocean going yacht and sailed the world, they were now facing penury and possibly eviction. Götterdämmerung.

helping others poemA lifetime of independence had come to an end and a realisation that there was no way out; no way to help or support his wife with whom he had shared his adult life. It was at this point that I became involved looking for a solution and in the following weeks I looked at what was a dire and heartbreaking personal situation. I wanted to help but for the life of me I didn’t know how and could only imagine the pain and suffering of both as they faced each terrible day -and wonder how anybody could cope.

One of my discoveries was the British Benevolent Fund and the financial lifeline it lent to those who had no other recourse. It seemed that he would benefit and I called and told him that this would appear to provide at least a part solution to the financial side – he could make an application – maybe pay for a nurse or a adapted bed and then he could at least work. I was wrong of course; James was far too proud and independently minded to accept this and it was not pursued. What he wanted was the tools to do this himself and that is what he managed to do. He managed by his means to get the Andalucian government to admit his wife to a hospice where still she remains; looked after and cared for by professional medical staff and where he visits each day. He has returned to work and has been able to resume his life only this time – alone.

overwhelmed poemJames didn’t want the BBF but there are many others who do and when they reach out it is for us to pull together for one of our own. The UK population in Spain continues to rise and to age with a steady stream of people seeking a better life, there are many who struggle and many who cannot cope and who have nowhere else to turn.

That´s why I volunteered and why I feel the BBF has and will have an increasing role to play in the welfare of British people in Spain.