Friday, 19 July 2013


6th July
We haven't been able to get our generator started (we need it to run power tools now we haven't got an inverter that works properly); so we went into Castelo Branco to buy it a new spark plug, oil and petrol. On the way back we bought cherries, peaches and nectarines from a man at the side of the road, 7€ for a big box of cherries and a couple of kilo of peaches and nectarines (there were more but we ate some!).

We have temperatures of 40 + it's far too hot to work, so we spent the afternoon in the pool; we came back for dinner and then went back to the pool until it got dark (and the mosquitoes came out). Another lazy day.

7th July
We did the pool thing far too early last evening by the time we went to bed we were hot and sticky again; I had a very uncomfortable night with not much sleep. We sleep under a mosquito net with two fans going all night; unfortunately the fans blow the mosquito net towards us, so I spend most of the night retreating up the bed so that the mosquito net is not touching me; mosquitoes can get you through a net (if you're close enough to it) I have a bite on the sole of my foot to prove it which is extremely irritating!

When we went to collect water from the fonte today we passed a man with a donkey and cart with four goats tied to the back of the cart ambling along behind him; I got the camera ready to take a photo on our return - unfortunately we didn't see him but we did see a goatherd next to the river with a huge herd of goats.

We spent the afternoon at the pool - it's the only time I feel human! On our way home we saw a whirlwind it was taking up large clumps of straw and swirling them right up and over the trees - it was very impressive. Pam saw one the other day, between our quinta and her's; when we passed by our neighbour's quinta later that day there was a 10L (I say it was 20L but Brett made me amend it!) metal paint tin, plastic bags and pots, hay and masses of other stuff all dumped in their water tank and the road outside looked like a hay cart had passed by dropping half it's load.

We went swimming, to cool down before dinner; we ate dinner, and heated up again, .............. we went back to the pool before bedtime.

8th July
Nick is looking at the first inverter that we broke (the manufacturers have given him the go ahead), so he says we could have it back by tomorrow; he's also ordering us another inverter from another supplier (for the other building). So today we celebrated by buying ourselves a big fridge/freezer, it'll be delivered on Thursday.

It was rather horrid in the shop, the lady who was serving us was really friendly and chatty; then she tried to sell us an extended warranty - we never buy them, she tried every way to convince us we should have it - she even went to the extent of saying that these models are renowned for breaking down after two years (the life span of the guarantee that comes with the fridge), but as we continued to say "no" she got more and more sulky - she obviously gets commission from selling the warranties, it made us rather uncomfortable (but it also made Brett more determined to say "no"!).

We bought a 1000w inverter (55€) from the Chinese shop; we had hoped it would run our little fridge (about 300w) but it doesn't. We looked it up on the internet - fridges need an initial boost of 1200w to start them, never mind it's good to have a spare (it can run the pool pump once we've sourced some batteries).

Today I saw a bird that looked like a Macaw, it had blue wings and a yellow body and it was about twice the size of the azure winged magpies - they don't have Macaws in Portugal! Mark says it could have been a Roller, but they are the same size as magpies so I'm not convinced. I hope I see it again.

P&M came round for dinner and a dip in our pool, they loved it too (the pool). They took the temperature on their decking yesterday, in the shade it was 46 , that's hot; what would it have been in the sun? Apparently Portugal is experiencing a heatwave at the moment!

9th July
It's still hot, and we had an uncomfortable hot and sticky night, as we didn't go for our midnight swim.

Brett spent all day building a structure in the other room - but I can't say what it is as Pam reads my blog and we want to show it to P&M when it's finished, we think they'll be impressed (photos will go on the blog once P&M have had their unveiling!).

Because Brett had been busy all day we didn't get over to the pool until after 5.00, it was lovely cooling down at last.

We went to P&M's for dinner and sat on their decking watching a big fire a few villages away from us, every so often there would be a flare as a tree caught fire (impressive and scary) - os bomberios (the firemen) were doing a good job of getting it under control.

10th July
The heatwave was supposed to be declining today - ha, it didn't feel like it this morning. My latest fad is making iced tea; unfortunately I don't have any ice (because our inverter still isn't fixed), but I get Pam to bring some whenever she's over (she has two fridges, well three if you count the travel fridge we're borrowing and would be absolutely lost without) so most of the time it's actually slightly tepid tea! Being tight (I call it being a smallholder) I make it with our used teabags so, apart from a bit of sugar and a lemon, it's free. And now I'm making iced coffee too, I've never had it but it sounds rather delicious; I looked the recipe up on the internet - soak ground coffee in cold water for eight hours, strain through butter muslin (I used kitchen towel!), fill a glass with ice cubes, 1/2 fill with the coffee concentrate, top up with milk and add sugar to taste - they also said, for extra indulgence, add condensed milk (sounds wickedly yummy!). So far all I've done is soak and strain the coffee grounds, so I have the coffee concentrate, which tastes rather bitter at the moment.

Penamacor is a lovely little town, it has a mediaeval quarter, a castle, lots of cafes/bars where you can sit out and people watch - it has a very nice atmosphere, and it's where our nearest supermarket is. We went there this morning and in the supermarket car park was a lady with three children and a truck that wouldn't start; she'd parked forward into the parking bay and the children were trying to push her, uphill, out of the space - they weren't getting anywhere fast until Brett helped them, nobody else had offered any help, we think it might be because they looked a bit like gypsies.

Brett continued with his secret project, I did lots of holding of wood and being a sounding board. The wood here is very rough sawn, every time I hold a piece I came away with lots of splinters in my hands - I kept leaving the job to get tweezers to pull them out. The wood is also very rough measured a 50 x 100 joist means 50ish x 100ish give or take a few mm or so!!!! Which makes it very hard to work with and to keep projects 'square' (very frustrating for Brett who is a perfectionist).

THIS is the end of a joist!!!
There was still no sign of our mended inverter today L and the fridge arrives tomorrow, so we're getting rather anxious and a little bit frustrated; we have all these panels topping up a huge battery bank, so lots of free energy, which we can't access properly and .......... all our food is going off - I bought some carrots Monday afternoon they didn't even last until lunch time today.

We went in the pool this evening and I was decidedly cold!!! So the heatwave is abating, it's only supposed to have been 36   today and it's going to be even lower tomorrow.

I've resorted to 'Deet' (I hate using it) for mosquito repellent and it appears to be working - I've already tried a lot of the natural ones like 'Block Magic' but I was getting bitten to smithereens still; however, for two days now I've used 'Deet' and I don't have any new bites - it makes sleeping so much easier.

11th July
And today it was only 34 , so definitely cooling down (but next week it's climbing again).

Still working on the project which is getting bigger and sturdier.

Our fridge arrived J...................... yay! Our inverter didn't L ...................... pooh!

It might seem sad but we're very, very excited about having a bigger fridge; when we lived in the farmhouse we had a BIG American style fridge which was just the right size for us. Then we moved into the Barn and our lovely fridge wouldn't fit through the door so we had to use the one we'd bought for the holiday lets, an under the counter fridge. Last year we lived in the camper, which had an even smaller fridge (we had all the problems of going off food last summer too). And now we have P&M's travel fridge (which is full of beer!!!). So this new fridge means we can store fresh food, make ice cubes, have lots of different types of cold drinks and it has three freezer drawers, so we can even make ice cream and sorbets ........... and, one of our favourite discoveries (in a Greek beach cafe), we can keep our glasses in the freezer. But first we need our inverter to run it!

We've had our pool for a week now and the water is still sparkling and clear (I can easily see my feet on the bottom), so we must be getting the balance of chemicals right; when we used it last year it had gone green and slimy within a couple of days and we never could see down to the bottom, so we're very pleased with ourselves.

Because food goes off so quickly we are trying to buy fresh food only when we will be using it that day or the day after, which is great if you want to shop daily but we don't. Tonight we had a store cupboard meal - spaghetti served with a sauce made from anchovy fillets, onions, garlic, red pepper, courgette, chillies and lemon juice (plus flavouring) topped with parmesan - was it nice? well it certainly wouldn't have won 'Master Chef'!!! Unfortunately I made enough for tomorrow too!

12th July
This morning was a real surprise, we woke up to dull overcast skies - I even had to put on a jumper!!!! It was lovely not breaking out into a sweat (sorry glow) every time I moved; the sun had burnt through the cloud by 10.00.

Today there wasn't much I could help Brett with, he was chiselling out joist joints, so I made a dress; out of one of Debbie's old duvet covers!!!

We tried another local (2-3 miles down the road) restaurant tonight; we had a couple of beers sitting outside and asked for the menu, the owner shook his head, so Brett asked what there was to eat, he said lots ....... fish, pork and beef. When we went into the restaurant we were given bread, cheese and olives, but still no menu then .............. the owner came in carrying a large plate with half a big fish on it (we still don't know what it was) saying he would cut off a slice and griddle it (Mark opted for the fish). He went away and came back with a big plate with pork steaks and a slab of beef, again he said he would griddle the meat (Brett went for the pork, Pam and I for the steak) - the meat came with chips and the fish with boiled potatoes and beans, and there was a mixed salad. After we had paid the bill (60€, not that cheap for around here but it included the beers and wine) Brett and Mark were given agua-dente (very strong spirit),Pam and I were given cherry liquor (very nice). It was a good evening out.

13th July
Pam and I went to Castelo Branco for the day; we had planned to look at fabric and other interesting things (like Black Cat shop!), but by the time we had done all the shopping we just wanted to come home!

When we came back Brett let Pam see his building project, she hadn't guessed what it was.

Mark has built a barbeque from old bricks and cement with metal cans for a chimney; we went round to test it this evening - it worked well! Another jolly evening with P&M.

14th July
We took the day off and went to Sabugal, a largish town about 30 miles from home: we drove the country route via a couple of large barragems (dams/reservoirs). We could see the route on the map and it looked like plain ordinary roads - ha! You might start on an ordinary road, then you get to a village and are taken up very narrow, twisty, turny, cobbled streets that look like they shouldn't be being driven and are definitely not leading anywhere, then you either exit the village onto a wide, straight, flat, deserted road or it could be a single lane, bendy, mud track that goes for miles up into the mountains through forests of pine trees (and these are both council maintained roads). We didn't see much in the way of traffic but we did see an awful lot of wind farms and you could park right under the windmills which are absolutely HUGE, they completely dwarf the pine trees around them (and they are tall trees).

Sabugal has a castle and museum, we arrived at about 2.00 on a Sunday and had planned on buying a picnic and eating it up at the castle, but the shops were shut for siesta (between 1.00 - 3.00) even the supermarkets. So we went to a restaurant; Brett had Bacalhau (dried salted cod) a Portuguese speciality and I had Pork with sweet chestnuts - interesting. Then we went to the castle and museum and had a walk around the town, it was all very relaxing.

15th July
Today I started a job I've been putting off for ages, painting the front gates; and now I know why I wasn't keen to start! I have never known paint dry so quickly, and this is Hammerite paint on metal, I painted one side grumbling about my finish then went to paint the other side and all the drips (that can usually be painted out) that had come through from the first side had dried hard - I had to scrap them off with a paint scrapper ........ not happy, and it will need a second coat too. So I've done one gate, and am in no hurry to do the second!

Brett carried on with the bedroom/bathroom partitions; he's getting rather frustrated as none of the wood is square and both his spirit levels read differently depending on which way you have them!

16th July
Hot and muggy today.

Brett has been working on the roof; spray foaming the eaves so he can point it tomorrow.

He also made a trolley for the generator, which he's very pleased with; usually he asks me to help him to lift it or he has to wheel it about in a wheelbarrow, so it will be very useful.

17th July
Oh woe is me .............. I've been feeling a bit 'off' for a few days, but then I got a familiar pain behind my left ear, blurred vision with light sensitivity and this morning I woke up with full blown Bell's Palsy (for the third time); we had to go to the medical centre. I had my EHIC ready, so I thought it would be easy (and free) - wrong! It took ages to register and it took two people, and it cost 40.30€ for the consultation (so what does the EHIC entitle you to?) plus 14.30€ for prescription. I was told I had to have daily vitamin B injections for 10 days and use a cream at night for my eye; I was very relieved when the pharmacist said she only had tablets not injections! Though the injections would probably have worked better. I am feeling very sorry for myself and homesick!!!!

18th July
UK has the same weather as Portugal, at last a proper summer (it's been a long time coming).

I spent the day being grumpy, feeling sorry for myself and dribbling!

Brett continued pointing around the bottom of the roof - no creepy crawlies can get in now.

19th July

I'm feeling a bit better mentally today, I'm still feeling sorry for myself though. I let Brett take a photo of my face (so I can judge recovery) and even I can see I don't look nearly as bad as last time I had it, in fact, in photos, if I'm not smiling I don't look that much worse than last week; in real life my eye isn't blinking which looks really odd, but if I move my mouth (talk, eat, smile) then it's very obvious.
Dig the 'Monica' hair! 
I'm trying really hard to smile in this photo, the muscles on the left hand side of my face just don't work.
Poor me!!!!
The worst thing is that my eye doesn't blink, so it dries out, so I have to put drops in it all the time ans wear a patch!!! (I know, I need a parrot!).

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