I’ve been sitting here trying to come up with an excuse for not blogging about our life in the Algarve for nearly two months … and I’m afraid there is none.
Thankfully, two wonderful readers – Dave and Joana – recently left comments and have inspired me to get blogging again.
In my defence, it has been an extremely busy few months (though maybe not so busy I couldn’t have bashed out the odd blog here and there). Exactly one year to the day after we closed the door on our Rhiwderin house for what we thought was the last time (the sale was due to go through in November 2019), we finally bought a property here in the Algarve.
Regrettably, our new home is not the traditional, picture-pretty stone cottage of our dreams, but while we waited and waited for our UK house sale to go through prices were soaring over here (and thanks to Boris Johnson’s ‘die in a ditch’ speech, the pound was plummeting). Traditional houses come at a premium – a two-bedroom dilapidated property close to us is currently being marketed at 400,000 euros – and we had to be realistic about how much renovation work we were prepared to do.
In the end, we opted for none and have bought a lovely three-bedroom townhouse in a superb location just over a mile from the sea and surrounded by beautiful countryside. We have sea views from our bedroom terrace and we even catch glimpses of the ocean from our front garden. It’s far more than we anticipated on our Welsh-sized budget.
No sooner had we moved in than I returned to the UK for two weeks to enjoy a fabulous reunion with my family and friends. On the downside, I’d missed my annual flu jab and thus succumbed to the virus, returning to Portugal very poorly. I was just getting better when Harri succumbed. At one point, neither of us had voices and we spoke to one another in whispers.
Our first house guests were Denise and Geoff, the lovely friends we met in a car park at Praia da Marinha just over a year ago. Not looking forward to spending Christmas entirely on our own, we invited our hiking friends to stay for a few days (nothing to do with the fact that Denise is a great chef and prepared several delicious meals while she was here!).
Harri had just invested in a new hiking book from Cicerone called Walking in the Algarve (by Nike Werstroh and Jacint Mig) so on a very warm and sunny Christmas Eve we set off to do walk number 8. We’re still without a car so Geoff kindly drove us all to the starting point near Silves.
Having enjoyed five hiking holidays in Madeira – where the only level walking to be found is along the levadas – I was very excited to learn we’d be following an Algarve levada for several kilometres.
What a wonderful walk it turned out to be, with the highlight being a viewpoint overlooking the confluence of the Odelouca and Arade rivers, sparkling in the sunlight. Of course, no day’s hiking is completely without its hiccups and I caused a bit of a rumpus when, entrusted with the pristine new guidebook, I somehow managed to fling it into the levada. The book floated; however, the water surface was a long way down and Harri had to lie on the ground to retrieve it. It’s all dried out now, which is good, because if this first walk was anything to go by, this book is an excellent little introduction to walking in the Algarve.
Christmas Day dawned bright and sunny, so the four of us headed down to the coast for a longer walk (fortunately, Denise had our traditional Portuguese Christmas dinner of bacalhau à brás taken care of). We felt a pang of disappointment when we spotted a large crowd of Santa Clauses on the beach below preparing for their winter dip, but Harri and I were still coughing like mad so it probably wouldn’t have been a great idea plunging into the icy waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
For parents of young children, Christmas is all about the kids. Now mine are grown up, the festive season is about getting out and about while Harri is off work. Since the middle of October, we’ve had a new addition to the family – a little ginger tomcat called Moses (so named because he was wet and alone when we found him aged four weeks). Back in June, we agreed to mind a friend’s terrier over Christmas. Despite our misgivings, we did not back out of this commitment. Unfortunately, on the first night, the dog attacked Moses, which meant the next two weeks had to be conducted like a military campaign as we tried desperately to keep them apart … and our little kitten in one piece.
We had several invitations for New Year, but in the end we stayed home, in part because of the animals but also because we didn’t feel inclined to pay a fortune on taxi fares to get us to and from Albufeira (where the parties were taking place). The older I get, the less inclined I am to see a new year as anything particularly significant. That said, I did set my alarm so that we could watch the fireworks from our bedroom window at midnight.
So what lies ahead? Well, I’ve just starting devising some routes for Walking World, which is very exciting for me after years of being the one who makes the sandwiches and takes the photographs. Using online mapping has been a steep learning curve for me; however, the Walking World team have been absolutely fantastic, not to mention extremely patient. I won’t go into details about my walks here, but I promise I’ll write a blog about my new project very soon.
Something I am unsure about right now is whether to look for paid work in 2020 or focus entirely on my writing (and blogging). I love the idea of a steady income again, but wages are so low here that I wonder if I should put all my energy into writing fiction instead (which, let’s face it, might not earn me a penny).
Back in December 2003, when I was working for Monmouthshire Council, the then assistant chief executive arranged a two-day management training course a week before Christmas. Needless to say, he had trouble filling the places and so he instructed several of us more lowly employees to attend. I still remember the training company’s name: Q Learning. There was one point, when we were supposed to tell everyone what our long-term aspirations were. Most people reeled off career-related goals, but I just couldn’t work up any enthusiasm about a career in communication (I never did, which is probably why I left). Instead, I told my colleagues I wanted to one day live in a house overlooking the ocean and spend every day writing.
Well, I’m now living in that house with the sea views, so perhaps it’s time to put the second part of my dream into action and get that novel written.
A belated Happy New Year to everyone.