August 2011


Hi everyone

The gaps between my newsletters seem to be widening...I've just realised that the last one was in March. But like this, there's a few things to tell at least.

As anywhere else in Europe, we had the census here as well. The things was, though, that we hadn't realised that this was going on and when two nice gentlemen with a lot of paperwork appeared on our doorstep I didn't know what they wanted and sent them on. Some time later, our neighbour called round. She had heard from someone that we hadn't filled in the census and she said we should do this urgently, otherwise the police would turn up at some point. So, off we went to the local "Freguesia" and found that the only thing they really wanted was the number of people living in the area, the more the better. All the rest they weren't really interested in. Only later we found out that there was quite a hefty fine on not filling in the census which our neighbour saved us from. Just prior to that we had decided to put an end to our constant fear of being stopped with the English Toyota and started looking for a Portuguese car. Considering out minimum budget, the range of available cars wasn't all that big but eventually, we found a little 20 year old Suzuki Swift. It looked in good working order and the test run went well. After bartering a bit we got it for 475EUR. The young guy who sold us the car helped us with the Portuguese red tape and we set off with our purchase. On the way home the car started to stutter and Mark barely managed to drive it back in 3rd gear. Big shock, but eventually we found out that it was just a spark plug, had it replaced and it's been running fine ever since. We even got it through the MOT without any hassle. Now it's just a case of getting rid of the Toyota which Mark wants to sell for parts.

AOn Mark's birthday we went to Lisbon. It had been his wish for a long time to go and see it and someone had told us about a good "flea market". We went to the nearest railway station (about 40 miles from here) and took the train to Lisbon. The train ride wasn't very interesting but the old part of town where the last railway station is, is very nice. Everything seemed very relaxed and safe. But I know from people who've seen other parts of the city that there is a lot of crime there and drug dealing. We saw only a small part of it because we were walking but what we did see we really liked. Lisbon seems a bit less run down than Porto. (Having said that, Porto's "run down-ness" has its own charme). Click on the photo to see a few pictures.

I spent the best part of the summer working on a mega sewing project. Friends of ours have started a kind of group venue and they had ordered a 7m yurt for which I made the cover. It's not only enormous in size (the roof cover alone was 100m2 worth of fabric), they also wanted a fitted roof cover, round windows, mosquito netting everywhere and a seven-pointed purple star. I admit that I was a bit nervous about the whole thing because I had never done anything of these dimensions and I was virtually on my own with it all. But in the end, I managed and even though the owner had a few remarks he was quite happy with it.







Here are a few pictures of a place called Sao Simao, not far from here. It's a so called slate village. There are a few villages in the region that have been restored in the old style and sometimes they even build new houses imitating the old materials. If you click on the foto to the left, there'll be more...





And then there was the story with the cat...It all started with a painting Mark bought of a Dutch lady who exhibits at one of the car boots in the area. It's a painting of a cat with somewhat furious eyes and it's called "the angry cat". Mark liked the picture because it reminded him of Mexican art. We put it up and a few days later, a cat turns up begging for food. She looked very thin, so we gave her something. She came back the next day, a bit more curious. I didn't really want to commit myself because we had these two house sits scheduled for the summer. But then the first house sit got cancelled and the cat went on calling and spending more and more time at the house. After a week or so I hear her on the steps and then there was this other little voice. I opened the door, and there was a little kitten on the doorstep. A bit later the mother went to get another one and then another one. There we were with a whole cat family to look after, just a few days before we had to move out the house because the owners were due to come for their summer holidays. Luckily, we were able to stay in a house in the village that had been empty. The house has a big terrace where they kittens can run round and still be safe. We've had them just over a month now and they've got quite big. We're hoping to find a good home for two of them, one will stay with the mother. We would keep them all but the place is too small for four cats and we can't really afford them all financially. (Click on the picture to see more photos)

The house we're living in now belongs to an elderly couple in the village. It's actually already been passed on to the son who lives in Lisbon. It's been empty for several years. The outside looks nice because it's been rendered and they put a new roof on but inside it's still in its original state (the house is about 100 years old). The rooms are ok, a lot of woodwork (with a lot of woodworm activity in the past as well) and quite quaint. But it doesn't have a bathroom or kitchen, so no running water in the house. We've put a gas cooker in one of the rooms where there is a table and a kitchen cabinet. There is a tap outside with water from a borehole. In the morning, we fill a big water container and a number of bottles for drinking water and that sees us through the day. In one of the back rooms, there is a composting toilet (bucket principle). In the summer, this arrangement is ok and before the winter, the owners want to install a septic tank and drainage. We bought some insulation material for the back part of the house. The Portuguese build their roofs only with a bit of wood and tiles, no roof felt or anything, even in modern buildings. Some people have started to request insulation now but it's not standard yet. We'll have to invest a bit of time and money to make it livable but in return, we don't have to pay much rent and we can stay here for quite a while without having to move out twice a year. There are again a few photos, just click on the image above.

That was it for this time. Whoever wants to come and visit, you're most welcome, we still have the keys to the other house, so there's plenty of space.

Love from both of us and lots of catties

Andrea (and Mark)