Monthly Archives: January 2014

Learning the Language #1

The British are well-known for all manner of tourist/ex-pat crimes – the most common complaint I’ve heard from people here is that so many simply take it for granted that everyone speaks English and subsequently make no effort. At all.

As I’ve always felt deeply ashamed visiting a country in which I’m unable to speak the language, when I came to Portugal last winter I was determined to reach at least an intermediate level of Portuguese while I was here.

I had 3 months to do nothing but learn the language. No problem!

Except I was surfing and writing and climbing and looking after horses and running and swimming and reading and emailing friends and then I was on a course for 2 weeks and all of a sudden it was time to go home and I hadn’t improved my Portuguese much at all.

Oooh I forgot the best excuse – everyone here speaks English so I didn’t get the chance to practice!

There were occasions that I tried to speak to people, to begin with; then I went to the Intermarche to buy some stamps and the kind-face lady behind the counter answered me in English.
I was prepared for that so had been practising my reply
‘Fala comigo em portugues, por favor, estou aprendendo,’ I said (very slowly).

She responded in English ‘It takes too long. Let’s just speak in English, OK?’

I gave up a little bit after that.
I figured it was worse to feel stupid than to appear ignorant.

So, since I arrived for this trip I’ve been making much more of an effort.

Fortunately for me, and thanks to my dear friend ‘Da Luz’ (she lived round the corner from me when I was young and just HATES that nickname) I have quite a sound knowledge of the basics and structure of the language.
Da Luz devoted a fair amount of time to teaching me all kinds of useful words and phrases when we hung out after school.

She made me repeat these phrases time and time again, until I could eloquently (and in a near perfect Madeiran accent) tell her brother that he had an incredibly tiny penis* and to go and do rude things to himself, or one of his friends, or let someone perform said acts on him, in several different ways.

At the age of 12 I proudly informed Da Luz’s mum that I was pregnant, believing that I was telling her I was hungry.

I also learned how to tell someone to go and change their nappy.
How to say ‘wee-wee bed’ to a child.
The names for lots of foods and to count and the days of the week. Months. Seasons. Hello, good day, good afternoon, good evening, how are you, I’m good thank you, and you, happy christmas, happy birthday etc..

Da Luz was a great teacher. And I remember every word she taught me.
But there was one she missed out….

The Wonderfully Funny Family are incredibly tolerant and show great patience with me and my attempts to communicate in Portuguese.

Actually, that’s not strictly true – SheWhoDoesNotWishToBeNamed regularly tells me I sound ‘retarded’. (NB. Her word. Not mine.)

As most of our conversations are in the kitchen, they generally revolve around food, cooking, utensils etc.
Hence, I had no reason to distrust Norberto (despite the fact that his sense of humour’s quite similar to that of a teenager).

We made bacalhau (traditional salted cod dish) one evening and he taught me all the different types of bacalhau.
I wrote them down because I have a terrible memory.

I’m finally reaching the end of the story…

On Friday I was chatting with my friend (I have a friend! I know! I’m going to write about making new friends soon) at the beach and we got onto the subject of bacalhau.
I impressed him with my knowledge of all the different types of dish:
Bacalhau a Braz – boiled, then mixed with skinny chips, egg and onions before being cooked in the oven.
Bacalhau com natas (with cream)
Bacalhau com grao (with chickpeas)
Bacalhau no forno (with potatoes in the oven)
and then I couldn’t remember the other one.. the one that Norberto said was made without cooking it.. with just olive oil and garlic.. he told me that if you ate it that way it was a sure sign that you were starving.

Sergio had no idea what I was on about.
I quoted Norberto’s words ‘It means you’re so hungry you’ll eat any crap…’
He still had no clue.

I got my notepad.
I found it.

‘Punheta de bacalhau!’ I proudly exclaimed.

Sergio laughed and told me he’s going to find me a new house to live in.
Apparently I shouldn’t be learning words like that.

Click here if you’d like to know the translation

I love it here.
And I’m learning the language, with a little help from my friends.


* You have an incredibly tiny penis – This is a very useful phrase which could come in handy one day. You should memorise it, just in case.
Tu tens um caralinho pequeninho.

Getting organised (help?)


Me and my Kangoo

I spent the entire! day yesterday messing about (didn’t even leave the horsey-house except for dog-walks) setting up somewhere else to do random writing stuff (about writing and random stuff, funnily enough); then a little time this morning vanishing random stuff from here that wasn’t related to mine and Bom’s little adventure.

Bom’s really excited about the fact that I’m getting organised – he’s snoring very enthusiastically right now; probably dreaming that I’ve stopped tapping on my laptop and am taking him out to eat horse-poo (disgusting I know – I ask him not to but regularly find him hiding behind the wheelbarrow licking his chops.)

So now that my OCD-monster is content with blogs and writing tools, I have only one little thing to worry about.

My Kangoo.
I love my Kangoo and I need to rescue it from its current plight.
It’s sitting in the driveway sadly displaying an expired insurance badge.

None of the stupid insurance companies in Jersey (that I’ve found so far – does anyone know of a magic broker?) will insure it for use out of the island for longer than 90 days.

The stupid UK company that assured me they’d insure it (having suddenly realised Jersey isn’t part of the UK ) declined the policy they originally offered. ???? I know.

The very friendly-helpful-polite people in the insurance companies in Portugal can’t insure a Jersey registered vehicle.

Fortunately the Wonderfully Funny Family have a great big beautifully battered (I like driving things with character) burgundy jeep that I can use until I sort something else out.
But how and what to sort?

The options:
1. Matriculation – register with Portuguese plate – Expensive, time-consuming, no resale value because it’s a right hand drive.
And what happens if I decide to go back to Jersey?
2. Buy something here and drive the Kangoo back to Jersey to sell it. Fly back here. Expensive. Time-consuming. Distressing for the Bom dog.
3. Buy something here and sell Kangoo to someone who wants to come and get it and drive it back?
4. Persuade one of my wonderful friends to come for a holiday and drive it back. 🙂 I like that one best.
5. Buy something here and let the Kangoo sit in the driveway for an indefinite period in case I ever decide to go back?

I numbered the options for a reason.
Because unless somebody can wave a magic wand or make a decision for me (I HATE MAKING DECISIONS) I’m going to get my dice.

6. Throw again

Seriously, I’ve been stressing about this situation (on and off – sometimes I just forget all about it and go for a surf or take the jeep for some dirt-track playtime to ease my pain) for weeks now and it’s mucking up my funtime and making me frown.

I know I should have been better organised but I didn’t know how long I was going to stay and I thought the UK insurance company lady knew what she was talking about and the Coles managed to get their car insured when they were here (company since stopped cover) and other people from Jersey (and Guernsey) have had their cars here for years, so I naturally assumed those law-abiding citizens had valid insurance – silly me.
Rant over.

Help? Anyone?

Dad? Haha


The Wonderfully Funny Family Part I – SheWhoDoesNotWishToBeNamed

The family I’m staying with are funny.
I don’t think they’ll mind me sharing that.
In fact, I imagine they’ll be quite proud if they happen to read this.

I don’t think I’ve spent a single day here without laughing, and laughing really is the best medicine for a person who’s a bit grumpy.

The dogs are mental. The horses all have very strong characters.
The cats don’t take any nonsense.
So Bom and I have fitted in very nicely and we feel at home.
I do get the odd occasion when I wish I had my own bathroom. and kitchen. and house 😉 But most of the time I really love it here and am chuffed to bits that they want me to stay (forever).
They do.
I think.
Yeah I’m sure one of them said something like that once. or maybe it was my interpretation of the time She-who-does-not-wish-to-be-named said if she ever leaves home she won’t have to learn to cook because she’s going to take me with her. That was nice, wasn’t it..
She’s so sweet.

This page is dedicated to SheWDNWTBN and her sense of humour.
She doesn’t do hugs.
She makes the best ewwwww-face I’ve ever seen.
She’s a little bit fussy about food. Dinnertime ewwwwww-faces are common.
She’s very pretty. I told her she looked especially pretty one morning and she called me a paedophile and made the ewwwface.

She sings beautifully in her room and closes the door in my face if she realises I’m listening. She’s singing now. Next time she’s evil I’m going to record her singing and share it on here.
She has an i-phone and lots of friends that send her amusing videos of themselves making silly faces.
She showed me some of them tonight to cheer me up after DJ ate my dinner.

DJ little boss dog is the King of Eating Food Left on the Table for Just Two Seconds.
Edwina was making quiche so I had a little bowl of gluten-free stuff which I was all set to tuck into, in what I thought was an empty kitchen.
I left the room for seconds and came back to find DJ standing on the table with his face in my bowl, belting down my dinner.

DJ attempting to look boss while surrounded by daisies. Check out his supersonic bat ears. I love him but don't tell him that

DJ attempting to look boss while surrounded by daisies.
Check out his supersonic bat ears.

When I told SheWDNWTBN that I hate her dog she tried very hard not to look amused, then offered to make me some food.. I’m not that brave so I went to make something myself and she decided to grace me with her presence in the kitchen to ‘cheer me up’.
She did this mostly by laughing at me, especially when I tripped over Buddhacutepuppy and swore as I almost spilt my dinner version 2.
She then began to take photos of herself on her phone and when I asked what she was doing she replied ‘I’m taking pictures of myself having a good time.’

She gave me a hug after that. And she doesn’t do hugs. Ewwwww.


What am I doing here?

I read an article recently which really hit home, about whether being away makes your world better and how easy it is to feel that the grass is greener, the sun sunnier.
I totally agreed with it. In many ways.. but!

It made me start wondering whether being here, in mostly sunny Portugal, is making my world better. And if so, how? and why?

Last week some nasty logicthief snuck into my room and stole a chunk of my brain. Everything was horrid, nothing made sense and I spun into a mean little vortex of feeling lost and alone that got me thinking about going ‘home’ and whether I wanted to and what I would do and then questioning why I was here and what I wanted and what I’m doing and what AM I DOING?!

I think I’ve figured it out.

I’m figuring out what I want to do. That’s what I’m doing here.

I’m also avoiding the feeling of suffocation that comes with living in a small community.
When a friend suggested that I share a link to this blog on a website from ‘home’ about Islanders who are away from The Island, a shudder ran through me at the thought of all those people* reading my posts and knowing my business.
For me, that’s one of the many reasons that, for the moment at least, the grass is greener here.
There are none of those people* here.

I wrote a list of how many people I know in Portugal (total 26) and it made me smile, that’s a bit weird isn’t it? But I love it – I’m not associated with anyone or anything. I have no history. That brings with it an immense feeling of freedom.

What else am I doing here?

I’m enjoying the mild temperature and more reliable sunshine.
I am a sunshine creature (that sentence makes me want to write a jaunty little song and make up a dance routine in the style of The Nolans).
I don’t like dark nights and cold wet mornings. They make me feel depressed.
Of course there have been (and will undoubtedly be many more) moments here when I feel depressed. Living in Portugal isn’t transforming me into a constantly smiling, relaxed and superjubilant being who’s able to shrug off a bad mood or ignore irritations.
But I can have a grumpy day without anyone telling me to cheer up, be grateful for what I have and think of others who are far worse off.

I can be myself. I don’t feel pressure to conform to anything or anyone’s expectations of me.

I can surf if I want to, in warmer water than I could in Jersey, with no boots or gloves or hood.
I’m still wearing my 3mm suit and wondering whether to sell my winter suit because I really don’t think I’m going to need it.
And there are so many choices of beaches and breaks and coasts and points and hardly anyone in the water on weekdays.
I’m a fussy surfer** and I hate crowds*** so having such a choice of places to go works out for me reeeally nicely. (I could possibly find words to express that more eloquently but reeeeeally nicely will do.)
And guess what else?!
Surfing makes me ridiculously happy, deep down, inside, wholly totally wonderfully happy (for at least the preceding 24 hours, if not longer.)
Even if I’m not a superhotbrilliantsurfingmachine and I’m scared of big heavy waves and I’m a bit clumsy so I injure myself regularly (my board broke my nose a few weeks ago, which served me right for dropping it in the car park the previous day) surfing makes my world feel better and brighter. 

That was a great big chunk of the page on surfing, hey. I feel like I should attach a photo of me surfing to justify the content of this post but I don’t have any. I have one of Nina B, who bears a spooky resemblance to me, or I have a couple of my shadow or my back or my silhouette with my bum sticking out (thanks for that PWD), but I’m going to have to just attach a wave picture cos that’ll serve better.
Here’s a lovely perfect-gail-size-wave-day at Cordoama.

Post-surf wave pic.
The day before my new friend made me lunch – if you haven’t heard that story already I’ll tell you it another time. It’s a good one.

There are lots of other things that are making my current world an easier place for me to be
– I’m living with an exceptionally patient and easy-going family who leave me alone when they can see I want to be left.
– I can survive comfortably on my savings with a stupidly small budget in exchange for working between 20-35 hours a week (it varies but average is probably about 28)
– I have time. to write. and breathe. and sit. and idle. and think. and read.
– I can drive for miles without going round in circles.
– I don’t have bills or paperwork or dull responsible grown-up stuff.

There are people I miss. There are days I’d love to see my son for a rib-crushing bear-hug (he crushes mine, not the other way round – he thinks he’s funny.)
There are evenings when I want to call one of my friends to meet for a beer.
I can’t pop round to my parents’ house and raid their fridge.
I haven’t seen my niece, except on Facetime, for 4 months and she’s growing fast. I don’t know how long it’ll be till I see her but I’m missing out on her formative years.
I don’t have a shed here (yet).

But it’s not enough to make me want to return.
I needed to get away from Jersey and while I could ramble on for hours about why, the BIG ONE, the reason that I remember when I fancy thai in the shed or a tree-planting snot-dangling competition or a spot of mikey-dancing (huhu hullo madam) is that for some inexplicable reason, I never really felt like it fitted.

Right here, right now, fits.

*all those people – I say it with a shudder. They are all those people who know who I am, but don’t know me. Those people who know my brother or my son or my parents or my friend’s brother’s ex-girlfriend’s sister’s current husband’s boss or one of my ex-colleagues or previous library ‘customers’ or eeeeurgh it’s making me tense.

**fussy surfer – unless I’m absolutely desperate to get in the water, I only really want to surf waist to head-high waves that are glassy and clean and only really on sunny days with a gentle breeze at most and not with other people or crowds*** [shudder]. If I was an ambitious surfer I’d surf anything and if I was a passionate surfer I’d always be in the water no matter what but I’m a fussy lazy surfer; it suits me just fine and means less people in the onshore slop for you passionate and ambitious surfers so don’t tell me to change. I hate it when people tell me I should get in the water no matter what cos otherwise I’ll never get any better at surfing. I don’t need to get better cos I’m quite happy catching little waves on sunny days so errrr. Gosh I nearly swore. See how annoying you ambitious surfers can be?

*** crowds – a crowd for me consists of more than 8 people. Now I know that’s not technically a crowd, but it makes me feel crowded therefore I will continue to refer to more than 8 people as a crowd. I hate crowds.
Now go back and click on the post-surf pic to make it bigger and count the people in the water 🙂  Aaaah that was a beautiful day.

2014 wishes

This is maybe a poem, for my friends.

I must be nice
I used to think
because I have lots of
really nice friends
who love me. They do.
(You do, don’t you. I’m not putting a question mark on that one)

Today I wondered
I made my I wonder face
and I wondered

Are my really nice friends so wonderful
that they could still love me
if I were not nice?
They are. (You are.)

So, I concluded,
I’m not that nice
but that’s ok
cos it only makes my really nice friends
even more so
it makes them (you)
even more than

I feel very lucky
but I daren’t say blessed.
Pip – I added that especially for you. I knew you’d like it

Dear brilliant friends who are so tolerant, kind and well.. just really so very very nice,
you are super
and I wish you a year filled with marvel, magic, love (ruv) and wonder xxx