A hundred years and counting
While many have been celebrating Christmas and the start of the new year, for one family in Fuengirola the first days of January have brought an extra special celebration, with a one hundredth birthday, complete with a personal birthday card from the Queen.
Gladys Maud Osborne, known to her friends as Gill, has been a Fuengirola resident since the mid-1960s and has been celebrating her centenary with friends and family from across the world.
Born on 4 January 1916, Gill moved to the Costa del Sol with her husband Jack and two daughters in 1965, in the hope that the warm sunshine and dry climate would help improve her arthritis.
Before settling on Fuengirola, Jack and Gill had toured southern France and the Costa Blanca but it was an invitation to visit the home of the eminent surgeon Hamilton Bailey in Mijas that introduced the couple to the small fishing town of Fuengirola.
Having opened the town’s second English-owned bar, called Bar One, the family brought music with them from the UK, creating a lot of interest among the locals and visiting holidaymakers from Madrid, who especially enjoyed listening to the modern sounds of British and American pop.
Although the bar was the second English-owned establishment in the town, the Osborne family had a quick learning curve in getting to grips with Spanish because there were very few English speaking people in the area, as tourism had not really developed in Fuengirola at that time.
“There was only one hotel in those days, the Hotel Florida, and there was no promenade, just sandy pavements,” explained Gill’s daughter Suzanne, who ran the bar with her sister for five years. “We had to learn to be able to communicate and all of our friends were Spanish,” remembers Suzanne, who adds that having the name ‘Osborne’ seemed to go down well with the Spanish locals who associated the surname with the famous sherry producers in Cadiz.
For a while, Gill and her husband Jack moved along the coast to Estepona, where they built themselves a home right on the seafront, both being fans of swimming in the sea in those days. However, it was not long, just a few years, before the pair moved back to Fuengirola. Jack used to say that moving to Spain had been the best thing he and Gill had ever done.
After Jack passed away thirty years ago, Gill went on living in Fuengirola and has become well known for her regular visits to the cafes and bars around the town for her morning coffee. Even as she reaches her centenary year, she still enjoys the freedom of taking her mobility scooter around the town, with the Spanish flag flying from it proudly.
Although Jack and Gill’s children, five grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren are now spread across the world in locations such as Seattle, Sweden, Mauritius and the UK, Gill is certain that the move to the Costa del Sol was the right one for her and her husband more than fifty years ago. “Spain has been wonderful to us and this is truly our home and once I got here, I felt I had nothing else to worry about,” she says, adding the warm climate has helped her reach such a grand age.
To help Gill celebrate her 100th birthday, friends and family flew in to Spain from across the globe for a special family party between Christmas and New Year. Among the party decorations were large photographs of Gill and her husband Jack when they were engaged and original newspapers from the date of her birth, her 21st birthday and the day of her wedding to Jack in Sidcup, Kent.
One extra special surprise for the centenarian was receiving a signed birthday card from the Queen, which arrived just in time for the party.
Gill’s daughter Suzanne and granddaughter Nuria are convinced that in addition to the good weather in Spain, it is Gill’s positive attitude that has helped her reach 100 years of age. “She is a very positive person with a great spirit,” Nuria told SUR in English.source surinenglish