Chairman’s speech at Costa del Sol DFAS 25th Anniversary Dinner & Dance 10 May 2013
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to turn our attention to our founder Chairman, Susan Brodie and share some of her memories of the early days of our Society. I think Betty Fooks of Benahavis DFAS will agree that setting up a new society can be a daunting task even in today’s connected world with all the modern technology at hand.
As I have learnt from Susan, in 1988 when having relocated from the UK to Spain with her late husband Philip, she took up the challenge to set up our Society, it was in a very different Spain, without much internet, few photo copiers, no mobile phones, and in Susan’s case, no phone at all with the nearest public phone 7 km away in Mijas Pueblo. The motorways had not been built, beautiful, historic buildings were in decay, museums were unkempt and dusty and many churches had no idea about their treasures. This was also the time when visits were being made to Gibraltar for essentials such as cornflakes, marmite and brown sugar.
Everything was an adventure from the day of the society being approved by NADFAS in July 1988. At the first lecture there were 48 members gathered in the Salon Varietés Theatre that had also just started and was not the well equipped theatre of today. Monday was the one day available, the time was restricted until 6 pm and the bar was not always co-operative – some things don’t change! The first lecture, chosen by NADFAS was an introduction to English Silver by Ian Pickford. It was held in early November, the only time the National Chairman could come. The screen was a sheet hung from a pole, the first projector was smuggled in from the UK (there were still custom duties to pay in those days) as none suitable could be found locally. The projector stand was a ladder and there was no proper lectern, no microphone or laser pointer, but there was a great deal of enthusiasm. All of the 5 lectures in the first year presented their own issues. The third lecturer, Susan recalled, insisted on calling Chateau, “shartoo” leaving the non-mother tongue members mesmerized.
Many were the incidents in the early days. At one lecture a member kicked over the projector sending the slides flying, a lecturer became stuck at Málaga airport in the terrible flood of 1989. They ran out of food, the cash machines didn’t work, and no mobile phones made communications difficult. This lecturer finally got home nearly 3 days late via Madrid.
Eventually, things fell into place and the society began to plan other activities, trips, and social events. The first overnight trip was to Baeza and Ubeda. All went well in Baeza, but en route to Ubeda the guide made several unscheduled stops at every available telephone. Something was amiss. The way to the parador had been closed by road works and the bus had to be guided through lanes so narrow it almost took down the balconies. The next day, leaving Ubeda the bus was escorted out of town by a motorbike posse of guardia civil with the locals cheering them on.
On another trip in 1991, spending a night in Merida and having paid a down payment to the hotel, the group arrived to find their large prepayment had funded major works to the hotel’s heating system. It was chaos, cold and miserable. Every available portable heater in Merida was brought to the hotel. One couple had a perfect spy hole down to the bar from the floor of their room, another couple in their seventies slept in bunk beds and Susan and Philip had a minute room with no light. To compensate, the hotel laid on a fantastic dinner and it turned out to be the bonding point of the membership. The rest of the trip was culturally and scenically exceptional.
The same year in May, a Garden Dinner Party was arranged. Susan and other members did the catering after which Susan felt she did not want to see a salmon or a chicken ever again. With wonderful Spanish entertainment it was such a magical evening that guests gave substantial donations towards the Society’s future well being. Susan and the committee were now confident they would succeed in establishing NADFAS on the Costa.
These are some of the memories Susan has shared with me and as Susan said, looking back, it was a crazy venture.
Well, Susan setting up our society in 1988, the first of its kind in Spain, your foresight and fortitude laid the strong foundations we continue to build on today. It was an admirable achievement and here we are 25 years later, mature and thriving and with 4 younger siblings in our region. Susan, you have cause to be proud and we are most grateful to you for your courage and contributions in establishing our society.
I would like to ask Billy to propose a toast to our intrepid founder member, Susan Brodie.
Chairman, Costa del Sol DFAS 10 May 2013