I have felt better. I glanced at myself in the mirror this morning and that was a big mistake. I blame Thomas’s passion for Islay malts; there are times when I wonder if he’s not Scottish because he knows more about them than any Scotsman I’ve ever met. He and his wife Claudia have the farm down the lane and had organised a farewell BBQ in my honour and all the neighbour were there (except Alastair, of course because he’s never there). It rained and that was a good thing because the land needs it but we still stayed outside in their great open-fronted barn where the horses are stabled. Chickens pecked at the ground and I flew my new little helicopter that is gyro stabilised, has three motors and is about the size of my toe nail. We all know that China will take over the world one day. I feel a little sad because Luis couldn’t make it; he’s in Portugal, of course, but his mum is in hospital for her annual visit. She likes the break. It’s like a holiday for her.
Thomas looked out over his wet meadow and wondered when he’d be able to gather the hay. It’s an annual ritual and the whole valley joins in which makes us all feel a little closer to nature, at least for a day. Marion and Jupp were there with their border collie Kapu who has become a real softie. Their daughter, Anne, who speaks better English than me, is now in Kenya for six weeks and I think they miss her, although she’s been a globetrotter for years and even attends university in the next country. Michael announced that everyone should get a Porsche 911 before they get too old and he had followed his own advice. Patricia, his wife, will probably look good in it as well; she looks as if she just walked off the pages of Vogue in any case. Dr Stefan and Cristina are moving away at the same time as me because the arrival of their second child means they need a bigger place. Somewhere sound-proofed! Martin had just brought his boat back from some inland lake in the Netherlands and Olga was cuddling their perfect toddler who is seen but never heard. Uli and Ruth added a dental touch before going off to Austria for a break with their perfect teeth. Udo and his family have been in the valley since the last ice age and I’ll miss the sound of the hunting horns and songs that come from his house.
Claudia and Thomas gave me a photo album of all the people and events in das vergessene Tal since I’ve lived here and was the perfect present because all things may fade but memories are forever. There’s so much I’ll miss here and I have only two weeks to go before I wave goodbye to the valley. I find myself doing things for the last time; you know: I don’t suppose I’ll be buying any more basmati rice from the Indian shop again, things like that. I hope the neighbour’s BBQ doesn’t come into that category but maybe we can have an action replay in Portugal but I suspect that it will never be quite the same again. The end of a chapter.
My head may ache but my heart is full.