18th May: LEAVING WALES
We have such lovely kind friends; they came to help us load the removal vehicle with all our worldly possessions and they worked jolly hard for about four hours - thank you all so much (and an extra special thank you to Debbie for making us all lunch), hope to see you all in Portugal.
Then we waved 'goodbye' to our furniture. wondering if we would ever see it again; we did everything that you're advised not to:
· We booked an independent removal man; he took the first lot of our furniture back in February, assuring us he had insurance but, as he had just renewed it, he didn't have the documentation to prove it - so we just took his word for it (as our furniture was already loaded onto his truck).
· Second lot of furniture was just about to go and he actually informed us he wasn't insured. And we still let him take our furniture away!!!!!
· While we were waiting for a friend to bring his 4x4 (to pull removal van and trailer up our drive ......... don't ask!) he casually mentioned that he would be going on the internet that evening, to road tax his van - apparently it had been SORNed for the last few months - so his van wasn't even legal.
· He was just a bloke with a van advertising on an ex-pat website in Portugal.
The Barn scrubbed up pretty well; let's hope someone wants to rent it out.
We spent the night at Rebecca's, in Clevedon; Rebecca wasn't there - she was at Buckingham Palace.
19th May: FERRY - PLYMOUTH TO SANTANDER
To save money we booked reclining seats, on the ferry, instead of a cabin (a saving of £65); of course we upgraded once I decided I wouldn't get any sleep!!!
We had a really smooth crossing for a change and we both slept well.
20th May: SANTANDER TO PEDROGAO DE SAO PEDRO
I really hadn't been looking forward to the drive from the ferry to our village, but wasn't nearly as bad as I had expected and it took an hour less than anticipated too, which was great.
We had to stop off at our quinta, before going to Pam and Mark's; my goodness it's over grown, but so, so pretty, wild flowers everywhere. My vegetable garden has completely disappeared with no sign of the onion and garlic bed or all the herbs I planted; but the broad beans are absolutely covered.
It was so nice to see Pam and Mark and Brett was completely wrong - every time I converse with Pam on Facebook he says "you'll have nothing to talk about when we get back", we just talked and talked.
They have done so much to their place while we've been away, it looks fantastic, they have proper accommodation with painted walls, tiled floors, solar electricity, hot running water, a shower, washing machine and fridge (all mod cons) and the piece de resistance is their absolutely fabulous area outside their kitchen, a huge wooden platform - we will be copying!!!
We ate out on their platform and sat outside chatting (until the mosquitoes drove us inside, I'd forgotten about them!); it's great to be back.
Pam and Mark have said that we can stay with them for as long as we like, we really do have kind friends; so we can organise our place a bit before we move onto our quinta.
Brett started to strimmer a path through our quinta to the building where we'll be living and storing our furniture (about 250 metres from the gate to building) in preparation for our furniture's arrival tomorrow (fingers crossed!). I swept out the building, creating more dust than I swept out as the floor is concrete (hopefully soon it will be tiled) and the broom just broke up the surface - I won't be doing that too often then!
I have to say we're feeling a little bit overwhelmed, at the moment, realising all the work we have ahead of us.
Back to Pam and Mark's early evening and I volunteered to accompany Pam on a trip to the vet in Penamacour with Toobie, the farm dog they inherited with their quinta.
The vet works with farm animals all day and has an evening surgery around 8.00 p.m. we arrived 8.15ish - he arrived about 8.40, it's all very laid back here. Another English couple arrived after us; they told us they have about 22 dogs (I lost count as she was telling us the details) 8 or 9 were rescued from a ditch and they also bred Rottweilers. They also have lots of cats with two litters of kittens, they were trying to find homes for; no wonder the Portuguese think ex-pats are mad. Toobie had to have a blood test and as the results would only take 20 minutes we waited in the waiting room while the English couple went in - then the vet asked us to come in and help translate for him, which shows how much our Portuguese has improved.
Poor old Toobie's results were positive; he's got a horrible condition from being bitten by a mosquito (it's rife around here) he's got to have an injection and tablet, twice a day, for a whole month (Pam and Mark will administer them).
22nd May: FURNITURE ARRIVAL
Hoorah, our furniture arrived in the village on time (I didn't doubt it would!) AND the van and trailer managed to get along our track right to our quinta - this was one of our main reasons for hiring a private removal man rather than a proper company with big removal lorries, and it was one of our biggest worries - how would we get our furniture to the quinta if the van couldn't fit down the track, but it did and we were greatly relieved.
With help from Pam and Mark unloading the furniture took less than half the time it took to load. Then it was back to P & M's, for me, to help with the food preparation for our 'welcome home' party; Brett stayed to sort out our living accommodation.
A lovely party with old friends and some new acquaintances; the platform was decorated with fairy lights (posted to us, in Wales, and transported along with our furniture), we drank our communal homemade wine (grapes from both our quintas) and ate pizzas cooked in P & M's bread/pizza oven - yep, we're going to copy that too - it was a brilliant evening.
23rd May: CASTELO BRANCO
Happy Birthday Mother. XXX
Well we went into Castelo Branco and communicated in Portuguese (well Bret did! We have been studying Portuguese daily whilst we've been back in the UK and are keen to use what we've learnt.)).
In the first shop, an electrical store, the man didn't speak any English at all and we came out with exactly what we went in for.
Then we bought a 1000L water container on a pallet (to fill from our well for our household use) - unfortunately the man did speak English so we had a dual language conversation with Brett talking Portuguese and him answering in English!!! It was all rather bizarre.
We are getting too comfortable at P & M's so have decided we need to move onto our quinta tomorrow; how exciting/worrying/scary.
24th May: BUREACRACY
Today was one of those days that you dread but needs to be done; we had to arrange insurance for our truck (we've had it a year), then pay the road tax (really not looking forward to that after last year's experience), arrange for its first service and put money on our Portuguese mobile (which for some reason wasn't working) - and all this had to be conducted in Portuguese as these bureaucrats make a point of never speaking in English (they are real 'jobs worths').
It started badly, in the insurance office, where we got the woman who thinks that you simply shout loudly at foreigners and they will understand you better - fortunately the man in her office decided to take over, and we completed the transaction in just over one and a half hours!!!! Everything takes so long here.
Next stop was the Fiscal Office (Tax Office) which, apart from a ten minute wait, went surprisingly smoothly - so our truck is now legal for another year.
Went to book a service with Mitsubishi and were told to come back after lunch and they would service it there and then; wow, the day was going well ......... famous last words!!!
We left the truck at the garage and walked to Jumbo (shopping centre), it was very hot!! So our Portuguese mobile no longer works, as we haven't used it for seven months, the Sim card has been cancelled; and 'no' you can't purchase a new Sim card, you have to buy a new phone with a new Sim card (can't even use the old number) - so we now have two Portuguese mobiles but only one Sim card - I am annoyed.
This evening we took P & M out for a meal to thank them for putting us up for the last few days. The restaurant in our village isn't open yet so we went to one just outside the village; we had a very good meal (rather better than our local restaurant!) and it was a very pleasant relaxing evening after which we came back to our quinta and both slept very well, under a mosquito net loaned to us by Pam.
Today we started making our lives a little more comfortable. We filled the 1000L water container, our pump is brilliant it only took a few minutes to fill and should last for about a month. We have treated it with some kind of chemical, 2 teaspoons to 1000Ls of water, which makes it completely safe to drink (William!!!).
Pam has left Portugal, she's gone to France for a week, to stay with her mother; I'm already counting the days until she comes back!.
We've cheated a bit and connected a fluorescent light to one of our (already charged) batteries; it means we don't need to go to bed once it gets dark! We'll never take lights or running water for granted again. At the moment we are leading quite a primitive life here, but it will rapidly improve once the solar is up and running. And once we've had our second well tested we'll be able to move the water container nearer the building we're living in, so then we will be able to have water on tap.
I'm making it sound like we're really suffering here, but we're not; we have a double burner gas hob and this evening's meal consisted of three dishes - sticky lemon chicken, couscous and broad beans (so that's not suffering). We have light, we can use our lap tops (and charge them), we're researching what to do about the internet; we borrowed Pam's dongle but we don't get a wonderful signal here with that provider, then again there is free wifi in the village, we just have to work out how to register for it (it's all in Portuguese!!), it would be brilliant if we could use that as we can definitely receive it on our quinta. We have our own bed, so we sleep comfortably at night, and a cosy seating area, with two sofas, a coffee table and shelves; we also have a dining area (table and 4 chairs), a cooking area with shelves for a larder and a wash area. And all this is in one room (which is actually bigger than the footprint of the Barn in Wales). All we're really missing is a fridge - the rest is just like camping/playing house. Oh yes, AND we get a better mobile phone (UK British phone) signal here than in Wales - I can text/make calls from inside the house and don't have to stand outside in the rain .......... he he, here I'd have to stand in the relentless sunshine!!!
26th May: SOLAR STARTED AND SANTA MARGARIDA FLOWER FESTIVAL
We are building a temporary solar system so that we can have electricity as soon as possible; the frame is going to lie across the water tank which ultimately we will use as a plunge pool (we've learnt from last year, this one will be tiled, and treated - we'll even buy a pump and filter for it). Today we built the frame and wired up six solar panels; if all goes to plan tomorrow could see the switching on - we could be using our fridge by tomorrow evening ......... mmmm cold beers!!!!
This afternoon we went with Mark to a flower festival in the next village. It was fabulous; all the houses, streets, trees (basically anything that didn't move) were festooned with handmade paper flowers.
There were stalls of food and drink, and local crafts for sale and there were bands playing, often in competition with one another! Many of the bands were solely made up with drummers, it was very primeval; my favourite band wore costumes and very realistic masks of wolf, badger, boar and goat - rather scary to look at.
There was also an amazing, hand operated, merry-go round with fantastic (very naive) figures of a flock of sheep and a wolf, instead of the usual horses.
27th May: PLAYING HOUSE ON THEQUINTA
We had a bit of a lazy day today as we were waiting for Nick (the guy who organised the solar for us) to come and give us some advice before we wired it all up; we can't understand why we (Brett) won't get an all mighty shock when we wire all the (already charged) batteries together (it's not as if you can turn them off).
As we haven't got a fridge yet (have I mentioned that before?) we have to shop for food daily. There's a Minipreço (supermarket) in Penamacor, the nearest big village to us (about 8 miles away); when we went there today there must have been at least half a dozen expats in there, not including us. More or less every time we go in there we see at least one or two estrangeiros (foreigners) in there, it is the only local supermarket; and we thought we were moving to a traditional Portuguese area.
Nick came and advised; Brett says he understands. I've put a broom in the room with the batteries ready to rescue him if he gets a shock (I've done lots of First Aid courses, they always say 'move the source of electricity with a broom .....'; Nick says it's only 12 volts so it's safe.
Pedgrogão de são Pedro has free wifi hotspot!!!! So this evening we went to the Junta (village council office, only open for 2 x 1 hour per week) to register. All negotiations were conducted in Portuguese, of course. Unfortunately it's very slow, well what did we expect for free? And so far Brett hasn't even managed to get the page to load; but I have managed to open facebook and AOL - I don't think I'll be using it to upload my blog though!
28th May: WE HAVE ELECTRICITY!!!!!
The internet was much quicker this morning; I managed to SORN our car and cancel the insurance on it - and we might have sold it; well we've had a few people showing interest, so we'll see if anyone actually gives us some money for it.
We've finished setting up our solar system (6 x panels, 14 x batteries); it's on and working - we're so excited.
It was a little bit scary; as Brett says he's rewired two houses, but then the system wasn't live (you connect to the grid once the house is wired), here we're working with a fully charged bank of batteries, so you have to make sure you don't touch live and neutral at the same time. We waited until it got dark to wire the panels into the system, as of course they are generating electricity during daylight; but it is only 12 volts until it goes through the inverter so it's not that dangerous (so we keep being told!). Anyway the lights on the charge controllers are twinkling away and the fridge is on!!!!!!! Tomorrow we will be able to do a proper shop AND BUY SOME BEER (we don't like it warm, so we haven't bought any yet!); have I mentioned that it costs 80 cents a litre?
Every day we are getting a little more comfortable and a little more civilised.