Mallorca’s timeless reputation as an isle of enchantment, where the heady fragrance of romance hangs seductively on the breeze, was the last thing on Margaret Dolan’s mind as she jetted in to escape the chill embrace of north east England and the raw despair of a newly broken marriage. In her mind was a statistic she’d read on the flight from Newcastle…that a woman over 50 – like her – had more chance of being mugged than finding true love with the perfect partner, especially if – like her – she was being buffeted by the emotional turbulence of an impeding divorce.
Today Margaret is an attractive, effervescent blonde, with twinkling blue eyes and a chic sense of style. But seven years ago, her confidence was drained and her future uncertain, when a friend rang and said, “Margaret, you need a break – so I’ve booked us on a ‘cheapie’ to Mallorca for a week. “Get packed! We’re off on Sunday.” It was July, 2001, and Margaret had not long since split up from Michael, her husband of over 30 years and the father of her two children, Lisa, then 27, and her 28-year-old brother, Steven.
Michael’s job as chief engineer on a merchant ship had always been a thorn in their marriage and after three decades Margaret had learned the art of self-sufficiency. His work was demanding and it took him away from their comfortable house in South Shields, Tyne & Wear, for months on end. Then he’d suddenly reappear for four or five weeks and whatever routine the family had went by the proverbial wayside.
There was no other amorous attachments on either of their parts, so the marriage just drifted aimlessly onto the rocks. The one bonus was the lack of acrimony in ending the only long-term relationship Margaret had ever known, but she was still deeply traumatised. So when her friend rang with the holiday offer, Margaret reluctantly agreed, hoping a change of scenery might perk up her flagging spirits Magaluf was to be the destination. Knowing the resort’s reputation for hard partying, it wouldn’t have been Margaret’s first choice, since, at 51, the notion of late-night drinking and dancing until dawn was definitely off her holiday itinerary.
But, she rationalized, “What does it matter so long as it’s somewhere warm and I can relax, with a glass of chilled white wine on a sandy beach, and focus on carving out a new life as a single woman.”
Margaret had no firm plans for the future, just that she intended to sell the family home, buy something smaller and continue working as a sales negotiator for a local estate agent. On the plane over, her friend joked that the elfin blonde might become a second Shirley Valentine and Margaret visibly shuddered at the prospect.
“Romance is the last thing on my mind,” she admonished. “I’ve had 30 years with one man – and that’s enough for any woman’s lifetime.”
So, on their second evening, with the pair enjoying a girlie night out in a local piano bar, Margaret didn’t give a second’s thought to the two men who came over and introduced themselves. Nor did she ever imagine that this fateful meeting would utterly transform her life.
John was British and in the boat business in Portals Nous. His friend, Carlos, was Spanish, but spoke English fluently. He was smartly dressed and behaved with great consideration. There was no instant thunderbolt of attraction – Margaret made certain of that by assuming an air of quiet detachment – but he did impress her. Carlos explained that a year earlier his English-born wife, Angela, had died after a long battle against breast cancer. They were devoted to each other, he said, and had been together for 32 years, though they didn’t have children.
They’d met in Mallorca, when Angela was working as a holiday rep and he was a young Spanish Air Force conscript. The sun-kissed isle was a blissful backdrop for their love to flourish and, by the time his national service ended, they’d formed a strong bond of adoration and affection. However, Angela had gone home to Birmingham and Carlos had to return to his job in a Madrid bank. But, just to be near her, he requested a transfer to the company’s London branch and it was granted. Soon they married in Britain, but the allure of Mallorca was so compelling they returned to set up home in Cas Catala as a prelude to living an idyllic life in the sun.
Margaret recalls, “Carlos’s love story was a moving one and I could see immediately what a decent, caring man he was. So the following night, when John suggested the four of us go out to dinner, I couldn’t find it in me to refuse.
“And despite both Carlos and I grieving in our different ways, we slowly connected, spending much of the rest of the week together.” Months later, having kept in close touch by phone, Carlos visited Margaret in South Shields. Naturally, it was cold – it invariably is there – but he brought with him an aura of loving warmth that Margaret found irresistible. Before long he asking her to come to Mallorca and marry him when her divorce was finalised. It wasn’t a decision Margaret took lightly, but she eventually agreed. As she says now, “I can honestly say I’ve never regretted that momentous decision for a minute.”
Naturally, there were problems, the foremost being language. Because, although Carlos speaks better English that some people Margaret knew on Tyneside, his friends were mainly Spanish, so she had to learn the lingo. Surprisingly, the cultural differences posed few barriers and Margaret soon came to appreciate Mallorca’s relaxed lifestyle, which has brought major benefits to the problems she’s suffered with a long-term kidney ailment. She has also inherited a 31-year-old parrot called Georgie, who is equally cheeky in Spanish and English.
Margaret says, “He’s great fun, though he insists on calling me Angela, probably because Carlos’s late wife was also blonde.” The one hurdle both had to work hard to overcome was acceptance of their relationship by Margaret’s children. She explains, “Being a woman, Lisa – who married two years ago and not long ago presented us with a beautiful granddaughter – was probably more understanding. “But it took Steven some time to come to terms with the idea of his mother moving abroad with a foreign husband.
“I desperately didn’t want him to feel disloyal to his dad, but I have to say my ‘ex’, Michael, was understanding and encouraging. For me it has brought the added bonus of being able to have Steven bring my 10-year-old grandson, Aiden, to stay with us.”
Seventeen months ago, Margaret and Carlos wrote another chapter in their Mallorca romance, by marrying in a ceremony at Calvia Town Hall. Now Senora Rada, she says delightedly, “No day goes by without me thanking my lucky stars for discovering new love with a wonderful man on an enchanted isle in the sun.”