Finding a dead body while shelf stacking at Safeways, and learning Spanish in Glasgow would not normally be seen as ideal preparation for service as British Consul to the Canary Islands. Matthew Vickers took them in his stride and has found them both useful in his position as friend, advisor and servant to the British community in the seven islands.
Just nine months into the job, Matthew sits in his Santa Cruz office, he has another, also with 4 support staff, in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, and reflects on the road that brought him to our shores. ” I”M from Liverpool and a staunch Red, but after 8 years in Oxford, including studying history at University, I ended up in Glasgow.”
On the shop floor
Not a noted hotbed of Spanish influence, but Matthew found a thriving community north of the border. “Most of my friends were Spanish, I passed it at A level and at one time had a Spanish girlfriend, so I tended to speak Spanish a lot of the time.” The need to earn money after University put Matthew on the high road. “I joined the management trainee programme for graduates with Safeway and it was a great experience, I had to do a bit of everything from stacking beans to accounts. Finding a body in the Edinburgh store was a bit unusual, but I enjoyed meeting the public, and it was a great way to learn customer relations.”
Moving on from the supermarket chain, Matthew joined McCurrach, a Glasgow firm that handled sales programmes for some big companies such as Scottish and Newcastle breweries, that brought some nice perks. “I dealt with Irn Bru and through their sponsorships, got to see Rangers and Celtic at home.” After rising to boardroom level, the credit crunch saw Matthew made redundant last year and he was back job hunting.
Just the job
“I saw a Consul job advertised on a web site, they were looking for people with experience in business management and customer services, sounded right up my street. There was no destination mentioned at first, but after getting through an interview in Madrid, it became clear that it was for the Canary Islands, even better for me.”
Now settled near Santa Cruz with his wife, Matthew is enjoying the job, time to put him on the spot and see what he makes of his role.
Best thing about the job? “The variety, I just had the sad duty of dealing with the tragic death of a British lady in Los Gigantes, earlier this week we hosted the new British ambassador for Spain, HMS Scott made an official visit today, and next week I have 2 public advice meetings to attend down south.”
Worst thing about the job? “Well the Los Gigantes tragedy was very tough. I just hope we can give the best support possible in such circumstances, it’s a big responsibility.”
Most bizarre request? “I have been lucky so far, but I know colleagues have had people phone to ask for help with their packing, and ask where the best hair dressers are.”
Advice to those looking to move to the Canary Islands? “Do your homework, check things out and think all the possibilities through. People can help themselves when they get here by signing on to the padron (official register of residents) and by learning Spanish.”
Advice to holiday makers? Always take insurance, it covers so many problems that might arise.”
Favourite part of Tenerife? It has to be Mount Teide, a trip up there takes you through so many different layers of landscape and plant life.”
How do you relax? “Well I was in a band in Glasgow, and I am jamming a bit over here with some friends, playing bass and singing. I also love football and watch Liverpool on TV when possible, and have been to see CD Tenerife a few times.”
British Consul here to help in South Tenerife
There are 2 open meetings for advice on pension, benefits and health, being held on Monday 16 November. The first takes place at Casa de la Cultura in Adeje at 2pm, and the second at South Tenerife Christian Fellowship, upstairs at the Apolo centre at 6pm. The Consul and experts in pension, benefits, and health will be there to answer all questions. For more information go to www.ukinspain.fco.gov.uk.