Well, we’re finally in. The new house (‘casa do campo = cottage) is a dream, set in a hectare of oranges and pomegranates. It’s about a kilometer from Lagoa but a world away from the villa that we vacated. Villa-land is not Portugal; it’s an artificial construct based on northern European suburban ideals, manicured gardens, strimmers, lawnmowers, barking dogs, houses close by each other, built to impress. The new house is not like that, it is peaceful and secluded, yet close to civilisation.
At night, the sky is pitch black and the stars have never been brighter. At sunrise and sunset, massive formations of cranes fly overhead, to and from the wetlands around Pêra. In the adjacent fields, we have chickens, geese, horses, goats and bunnies. The dogs are really interested in the bunnies. The horses are really interested in carrots and apples.
I had never been impressed with our nearby town of Lagoa, but that’s because I only ever knew it as an obstacle of traffic lights on the EN125. When you get off the main road, it is as charming as any Portuguese town with little cobbled streets and traditional houses that have passed from parents to children for generation after generation and it has a picture-postcard appeal to us newcomers that is lost on the locals. The alleys cannot be called roads; there are no pavements and no gaps between the houses, just enough space for a horse and cart to wobble over the cobbles and cars venture through at their peril under suspicious eyes. The jumble of stucco-fronted houses climbs seamlessly up the hills to the church like a roofless tunnel.
The biggest difference between this place and the old one is that I now feel I am living in Portugal with the Portuguese, shop in the same markets as them, share the same air. Most expats hide away and pretend that they’re in England or Germany + sunshine. I like being more Portuguese and feel far more at home in the casa do campo than I did in the villa.
Now, what do I do next? Oh, yes, there’s the new, highly-planned book relaunch of Flight Into Darkness via a Facebook party. I’m still thinking about that one, it’ll probably be in November. Then, there’s starting to tout myself around as an English teacher. Life in retirement is never dull!