Eileen and her daughter Hilary relaxing in the garden of their home in Fuengirola. / T. BRYANT

Celebrating one hundred years of outdoor life

Eileen Bladen told SUR in English her quick decision to move to Spain has helped her to live a long and healthy life

TONY BRYANT

An Irish expat who has lived on the Costa del Sol for nearly 40 years will mark her 100th birthday this weekend with a special celebration party that will be attended by family members from all over the world.

Eileen Bladen, who was born in Dublin on the 19 June 1922, came to live in Mijas in 1984 and immediately fell in love with the area. The sprightly Dubliner, who now lives in Fuengirola with her daughter, Hilary, believes it was her rational decision to move to Spain that has helped her to live a long and healthy life.

Growing up in Ireland with five brothers is one of the things that Eileen feels shaped her future, because she learned from a young age how to shoot, fish, ride horses and participate in sporting activities such as rugby.

"I was a boy the whole time growing up because I was surrounded by boys. I was the only girl in my family, and even all my cousins were boys. We were all born shortly after the war and I think the Lord must have decided to replace all the men who died during the conflict," Eileen told SUR in English.

After achieving university qualifications, WWII broke out and halted Eileen's plans to study in Europe. She intended to go to Paris for three years, but instead, she joined the Red Cross in Dublin and trained as a nurse.

She met her husband, Barry, who had been a POW in Nagasaki, at the end of the war, and they moved to England to start their family.

Unfortunately, Barry died at the age of 60, and after the initial shock of loosing him, Eileen travelled to Mijas for a short break.

However, she fell in love with the town and made an on-the-spot decision to stay in Spain. She decided that she wanted to integrate into Spanish society and so she joined the local bridge and tennis club, as well as the Mijas Art Centre, where she took Spanish lessons.

The sprightly Dubliner is looking forward to celebrating her milestone birthday with family members. / T. BRYANT

"Making that quick decision to move to Spain is the best thing I have ever done. It meant leaving the people I knew in England and not knowing anybody here, so it was definitely going to be a challenge. But the Spanish people are so friendly and welcoming and I soon began to make lots of friends," she explained.

Eileen has seen many changes to the province since she first arrived, although other than the overwhelming amount of construction in the area, she says that there is "absolutely nothing" that she does not like about living here.

"Quite honestly, there is nothing I do not like about Spain, nothing at all. I have had some Spanish friends for more than 30 years. They have become my family. The only problem is that I am out living so many of them, and I really don't know how," she said, breaking into a chuckle.

Keeping in shape

However, the energetic senior citizen says that there is no special secret for living a long and healthy life, other than "keeping oneself in shape".

"One of the most important things is to be outdoors. I've always been energetic and active. I loved participating in all sporting activity. I just love to be outside.

"I also enjoy a good Mediterranean diet and I can still enjoy a glass of wine with my meal, with the exception of breakfast," Eileen declared, bursting into laughter.

She is currently getting ready to receive 25 members of her family, who are flying in from the UK, Ireland, France, America and Dubai to help her celebrate her centenary in her favourite restaurant in Fuengirola on Sunday.

Eileen, who says that she doesn't feel any different for reaching her milestone birthday, is already looking forward to her next one, when she will receive her special commemorative coin from the Irish president.