My Alicante Story

ARGYLE media assistant Nino Robertson gives his personal account of why Alicante is such an important place in his life.

THE first tour for Argyle under new manager Ryan Lowe will be in Alicante, Spain, a place that has a totally different meaning for me as well, as my family.

I was supposed to be born in January 1996, but things do not always go to plan. As it happened, I was born three months prematurely on October 11, 1995, and in Alicante, Spain, while my parents were on holiday. The result of my premature birth left me with cerebral palsy and the inability to walk. For a while, it looked as though it might rob me of my life.

“I’m sorry but funnily enough, I don’t really enjoy your birthday,” my mum will tell me, as she recounts my stressful first few days on Planet Earth. I cannot begin to imagine what the agonising days, weeks and months that followed must have felt like for my family. The only feeling I can have is one of gratitude that I am still here.

Heart surgery was a must just as my days in the world had entered double-figures, and things looked pretty bleak. Such was the situation, Mum would only be allowed into the Intensive Care Unit for one hour each day. She rented a flat in nearby Benidorm and would travel day after day. Family members would fly out when they could but, on one or two occasions, I think they were told to say their goodbyes.

I can only be thankful to the surgeons and nurses who helped. In a way, I did get to say thank you, 17 years later. My parents divorced before my first birthday, although that is a different story entirely. It is worth mentioning because, in terms of going on holiday, one year I would be with my mum’s side of the family, and the following year with my dad’s. My dad would more often than not book a villa somewhere in Spain. For my 17th birthday, we happened to be not far from Alicante, so went to the hospital where I was born.

I must admit it was strange; I was unsure what to expect. We arrived with a letter in broken Spanish explaining a little bit about me and why we were there. Shortly after, an English-speaking nurse arrived and took us round to where I would have been cared for. It hit home then, the seriousness of it all, although I had a sense of disappointment that my mum had not been with me that day because she stayed in Spain for the duration and was the only one to do so.

In one respect, though, I always carry a little bit of Alicante around with me. Anyone who has met me will understand that my name, Nino, is particularly peculiar, given my broad Scottish accent. That said, when I was born, I weighed the equivalent of half a bag of sugar – and Nino means “small boy” in Spanish – so it all makes sense.

I know it is an emotive subject, and it is maybe for that reason that I have yet to see a lot of the pictures and videos that were taken of me in hospital. I think they are all on old VHS tapes, too.

As days and weeks passed, I gained strength and was eventually deemed fit enough to fly home. It was Alicante to Glasgow via Brighton. I can imagine the relief upon touching down on British soil after a couple of months of uncertainty. After doing the necessities, we were allowed to continue to Scotland. 

Despite my family’s ordeal, I remain ever thankful to the staff at the Hospital General Universitario de Alicante. If I had been brought into labour back home in Scotland, it is very unlikely they would have had the technology to save me. I am not sure if I believe in fate, but over my first few weeks in life, and the months after, my mum was told consistently that “que está destinado a ser” – or “it was meant to be.”

Muchas gracias, Alicante.