SUR

Giving something back to Marbella

Roz James. Despite living her life around her multiple sclerosis, the artist has worked on local TV and radio, runs a website and sells her paintings for charity

ASH MAER

She's a well-known face among the expat community in Marbella.

But Brit Roz James grew up a long way from Southern Spain - in Surrey in the UK.

Born in 1958, the local artist found her love of horse riding at the age of six and went on to study at a college in Leatherhead.

"I started shorthand, typing and basic bookkeeping," said the 63-year-old.

"Back then everyone did secretarial work. But I found my forte in accounting, so I went on to do that."

Roz got her first job at the age of 18, working for a merchant bank in Esher, Surrey, as a secretary and bookkeeper.

She went on to qualify as an accountant and worked for the same group of companies in Surrey for more than 20 years.

And it was during this time that she experienced the proudest moment of her life so far.

She was invited to attend the Windsor Horse Trials with her horse Onyx - shortly after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).

She explained: "Horses are a great passion of mine. But you have to actually be invited to participate in the Windsor Horse Trials. So it's quite a big thing. There's a lot of pomp and ceremony in the Windsor Great Park. I'd had Onyx for about 15 years by then but we finished the whole trial and did it together. I mean, she was in her 30s. So it was a big achievement to actually do the whole thing for both of us.

"When I was younger I used to do a lot of cross country and the show jumping at county level, and things like that. So I moved into dressage more when I got the MS because obviously you're less likely to go flying in dressage than you are with cross country."

In 1997, at the age of 39, Roz met her husband Derek at a singles club in Weybridge in Surrey, which she said "changed her life".

But was it love at first sight?

"It certainly was a very strong attraction, which has only grown over our 24 years together," she told SUR in English.

"My health was not doing too well then. So everything was going a little bit downhill really and I wasn't in a great place. But he helped put me back together again."

The pair married in 2000 and then decided to retire due to her health, before moving to Marbella in 2003.

Roz explained that her parents had a place in Marbella from 1978 so she used to come each year.

"I fell in love with Marbella in my 20s," she said.

"Thankfully, so did my husband. We came two or three times a year and always said we would retire here.

"It was a very different place back then, but much smaller than it is now. There was still a lot of quaintness about Marbella. There was no English spoken, which is why it was much easier to learn Spanish as little or no English was spoken in any of the shops."

As for what she likes about Marbella now, she said: "It's a stunning place to live, but really, it's the community and people. Every time I go to the shops you have conversations and I always see someone I know when I'm out. England has become too busy and people are always in a rush. We feel like we live in a village even though Marbella is a town. But it does have that village community feel."

And since moving to Marbella Roz hasn't stopped. From embracing the language and the culture, to running an information website for Marbella with her husband Derek and being given the opportunity to work on radio and TV, she has even recently started selling her own artwork.

She said: "[Presenter] Nicole King introduced me to Marbella Radio and TV, which was terrifying but great fun. I never thought I would get to be on the radio or TV regularly. But due to my mobility and of course the lockdown, I needed something I could do easily from home. So I set up the studio."

Since the pandemic Roz has been throwing herself into her artwork. She now makes abstract fluid art paintings, with all the profits from her work going to local Marbella charities.

She said: "I've always loved art. But here I started to dabble a little bit with painting. I started painting rocks and making them look like hedgehogs and things like that. And that became a huge way to get me through lockdown as well."

She continued: "MS isn't something that defines me, but everything is sort of done around it. That's why I needed something I could do from home. But you know, it's also a good thing because art obviously helps me hugely with dexterity and mental ability. So life doesn't have to end just because you get something like that."

As for her plans for the future, she said: " I want to continue with my art and sell more and more to raise funds for many different Marbella charities. The town that is our home has given us so much, so we want to give back to it."

And as for the retired life, she added: "It's busier than when we had full time jobs. How did we ever find the time to work full time? We live in a beautiful town, so we feel blessed to be retired here."