It is with a sad heart that Her Outdoors and I have to say goodbye to a much loved friend. She has been an important part of our lives for what seems a lifetime, but is actually only seven short years. But what a seven years! We’ve travelled together, slept together, upset our neighbours, had many a scrape and had lots of adventures. She gave me my ‘Sundance’ nickname (I’d gone 60 years without one before meeting her!). She even helped us move to Portugal.
We have travelled much with her. She’s taken us far and wide, since our first meeting in a very cold and wintery Wales in 2010. She’s been with us from the Western Highlands of Scotland to the most southwesterly point of Europe. even to Africa. And what adventures she’s seen and caused – besieged by drug dealers, getting lost many times, encounters with the police, getting stuck in tight places and the unforgettable bomb scare outside the Ministry of Justice in Seville, Spain.
She’s taken us to many interesting places; the French Alps, Italian Lakes, Scottish Highlands, Edinburgh Festival, Moroccan Souks, Slovenia, the Alhambra in Granada, the Palaces in Sintra. We’ve been skiing and even enjoyed a couple of music festivals with her.
She’s also been very kind to friends and family. She’s picked them up at the airport, housed them when our house was full, been there at family picnics, gone shopping. She’s provided excitement for Shelagh (sadly departed and much missed mother of ‘Her Outdoors’) and weekend trips for language students and Australian friends. She’s transported timber for sheds and patios, furniture, motorbikes not to mention what seems like thousands of plants.
It’s not all been fun though. She was instrumental in causing the bomb scare in Seville and she’s let us down a few times. She stranded us on a remote beach in Portugal when we had to get assistance. There was that incident on the Moroccan motorway that caused some damage… the penalty charge for the Dartford crossing… and her annual checkups and charges. There was also that expensive ‘accident’ at Sainsbury’s, not to mention the latest encounter in Portuguese car wash which ultimately caused the fatality…
We are going to miss you Sundance, our beloved motorhome. RIP (Rust in peace.)
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‘Her Outdoors’ and I decided to buy a house in Portugal for two main reasons, the weather and the lovely people. How we went about buying our house is detailed in a previous blog as is the weather.
The weather of course is changeable, (not as much as in the UK!) but what of the people? We have always found the Portuguese as gentle, hospitable and lovely, but what makes them so? Is it their family values? Their respect for older people? Is it their humbleness, or is it their undemanding nature and acceptance of less than the best? If so, perhaps they should learn to be as revolting as the French (who, I believe, have a healthy disrespect of royalty, politicians, Americans, foreign wines, etc etc …), as demanding as the Germans or as noisy as the Spanish. Or maybe not!
The Portuguese are certainly accepting. They accept poor service (there is a restaurant in Quarteira that seems to specialise in poor/rude service!), queuing (unless you are old or pregnant), and bureaucracy (ever been to the Camara?). They do also seem to accept inefficiency. One estate agency still had our house up for sale six months after we bought it. (We had people knocking on our door asking if they could look round.) When buying our house, the lawyer missed, or overlooked, the fact that not all of our property was legal (it is now!). They also ‘lost’ our money for a few days by putting it in a different account!
There are opposing views about the work ethic of the Portuguese, they are either ‘hard working and inventive’ or ‘lazy and lack imagination’. (The first stereotype is usually attributed to the Portuguese, the second to Brazilians!) Perhaps a factor here is that in Portugal, the family is central to the Portuguese way of life, and takes precedence over all other relationships, including business. Employing family members is seen as the normal thing to do, as it makes sense to surround yourself with the people you know and trust the most. Perhaps having family members in a business is what promotes a more relaxed climate as there isn’t the ‘competitive’ element you normally find within organisations.
I do wonder though, whether the more relaxed attitude prevalent in Portugal is because they live in a different time warp continuum? “I’ll be there this afternoon,” means I might get there some time this week”. “I’ll send it in an hour” means “I’ll send it after my siesta…maybe, … if I actually remember to”.
It has taken ten months to get plans drawn up for an extension and we now have to wait for Camara approval before we start building. The N125 so called “road of death”, which runs across the Algarve, was thought to be named due to the high number of accidents, but it’s actually because the various councils involved are killing time while they re-build it! Oh, and before I forget, the local Post Office sometimes closes ten minutes before it says it does.
What is generally agreed though, is that the Portuguese are lovely people. One thing I like about the Portuguese is how I’m addressed these days. Usually it is ‘Senor Alan’. Recently though I was called ‘Sir Alan’. Not sure whether that is because I look like the guy who’ Lords’ it over Amstrad and who was looking for an apprentice. Or maybe it’s just because I’m so sweet (it’s a pun, not a claim). At this point I was going to make a reference to the US version of “The Apprentice” but I can’t possibly Trump Lord Sugar.
Another thing I really like is the Portuguese attitude to pedestrians and their use of zebra crossings. Here in Portugal it appears to be the custom that if drivers see pedestrians approaching then they stop to let them cross. Amazing or what! Even when the pedestrians are a few yards (or metres) from the crossing! Compare that to the UK, where the rule is that unless the pedestrian has a foot on the road, then you hit the accelerator hard; heaven forbid that they should be allowed to get that first foot on the crossing and ‘claim’ their right to cross the road. *
*Disclaimer: “The Author” cannot be held responsible for anyone who accepts any of the viewpoints expressed in that last paragraph and consequently gets knocked down by a driver that has failed to read this blog.
I like speed, and from a young age always have had. Not all my friends were into the buzz you get from speed though. They never experienced the highs it can induce. The feeling of increased confidence, the excitement…
Since we moved to Portugal, getting a good supply has been a problem, despite Portugal being ranked 31st in the world. ‘Her Outdoors’ is not perturbed by our present level of supply, but I have been having serious withdrawal symptoms. The problem here might be because there are not enough dealers/providers, so there isn’t the pressure to provide a good, reliable service?
Some people might think I’m talking about amphetamines, but my reference to earlier days was about the highs I’ve had from doing a ‘ton’ on powerful motorbikes (not in Portugal of course!), from downhill skiing, even from sailing in a gale force 7. Actually I’ve done them all in the last 10 years. What I’m referring to in this post is to megabytes per second (mb per sec), a measurement of download/upload internet speed. It’s the thing that helps me save time, allowing me more of it to waste, usually reading some of the diatribe on Facebook or the like.
Recently though, I’ve been uploading a lot of videos to my Youtube channel. Now videos are large files, so you need a decent upload speed. Certainly you need more than the paltry max 0.6 mb per sec we had with MEO, one of only three major internet service providers (ISP) in Portugal, along with Vodafone and NOS. As they are large files I tend to set them to upload overnight when internet traffic is lighter, so speed should be better.
Sometimes though, I’d get up in the morning and the files would still be uploading. Consequently, I found myself forever checking the connection speed (using Ookla’s Speediest). Please forgive me for all the numbers, but some useful points to consider here:
According to MEO … “ADSL Internet service offers 24 Mbit/s downstream and 1 Mbit/s for upstream without traffic limitation, nationally or internationally.”
When our connection was newly installed we were getting less than 2mb although I clocked 5.5mb whilst the engineer was setting up.
After complaining about slow connection we were getting around 3.8mb
After more complaining, we were getting around 5.6mb and in fact it touched 10mb, but that was when we had the engineer working on the connection.
Recently, the maximum download we have been getting was around 4.6mb, but often it has been down to less than 1mb.
Sorry MEO but we have had enough of this poor service and are cancelling our 2 year contract. Instead, we are trying out a new 4g router connection. 4G is the fourth generation of wireless mobile telecommunications technology, which basically works the same as a phone signal. .
Time will tell in terms of the reliability of this new connection but the early signs are good, with a maximum of 34mb and an average of around 18-20mb download. Upload speeds have also hugely increased, reaching a maximum of around 20mb. So now it’s not so necessary to be constantly monitoring connection speeds. Except, I like speed and so am now monitoring just how fast it can be.
So much for the slower paced Portuguese lifestyle!
Until now I’ve associated succulent plants with the spindly, sad specimens my mother had on her window sill. They appeared lifeless lacking the excitment and colour of other plants. But when I inherited this garden in Portugal, I discovered, they didn’t need to be indoor plants with all the limitations of a British home; far from being boring, these plants are the ones that have captured my imagination most.
An Aeonium growing out of a rock, enormous blue and varigated agaves that give drama to the rocky part of our garden that has less than 2 inches of soil, the subtle colours of echeverias which seem to show permanent flower rosettes until the flower starts to really flower with the prettiest of blooms. There is a wondrous variety of colour, texture, size and form. They can be spiky, fuzzy, often multi-coloured. They can be pudgy and round or leafy and delicate. They can be enormous and architectural and intimidating or tiny and intricate and itybity . They can be so cute or can be aggressive and poisonous and violent.
The last two summers in Portugal have been long and hot and we haven’t been here to water so most of the established garden has had to survive without water and on the whole it has especially, I note, the succulents. They look a bit sad when we arrive back from our summer holidays but after the first rains everything seems to revive miraculously.
The more succulents I meet the more I gawk in wonder. A word of caution though, don’t just plough into Agaves, Their sap is a nasty irritant. Just ask ‘Mr Sundance’. That was one rash move too many for him!
Trichocereus pachanoi… doesn’t that just roll off the tongue…. is it the name of a dinosaur; an Italian dish perhaps? To me, with my burgeoning passion for succulents, it is the San Pedro cactus, which grows like a candelabra tree and no spikes. Inspired either by the romance of those iconic giant cacti featured in the westerns I watched as a child, or more likely by the enthusiasm of Lyn Kimberley of Desert Plants of Avalon growing her weird and wacky cacti in the Emerald Isle I decided now was my opportunity and San Pedro was the one! My new found passion for succulents was taking off.
Lyn had grown one from seed in Ireland and was now getting a spectacular display of huge white, scented flowers, albeit 15 years later. Surely it would thrive in our Quinta garden in Portugal, whose climate is much more akin to Peru where it originated. Now I’m patient, but not that patient. I didn’t want to wait 15 years, so headed down to our local garden centre. There they had a few largish columnar Cactiwith lethal spikes, but no San Pedro.
Ever on the look out for inspiration from neighbouring gardens, however, I had noticed a rather huge and lovely specimen a few houses along from there. On closer inspection I saw a branch had broken off and was caught in the upper branches. Much to the embarrassment of Alan I called to ask if I could have it. The front door looked rather grand as if it wasn’t used so I went round to the side and shouted ‘Ola!’ in the open kitchen door. A little old lady appeared looking suspiciously at me, or it could have been me that looked suspicious… I’d practiced what I was going to say in Portuguese and while I was speaking suddenly a huge grin appeared on her face. Was it a smile at my attempt at speaking Portuguese or, as I prefer to think, was it her delight in finding someone who really appreciated her garden?
Her husband was called and along with ladder and broom handle, not only got that piece down but also broke off another piece especially for me. They were the size of leg body parts and just as heavy! Result… or so I thought! When I got them home, I found it was not in fact a cactus at all but Euphorbia ingens! I’ve dried them out and planted them in a sandy soil mix hoping they will ‘take’.