How things have changed.
Entering my fiftieth year on earth who would have thought I could be so pleased about not getting plastered on my birthday?
But after all this time has passed – all the hard work that has been done – the roof is sealed; the walls and the pillars are finally finished.
The plastering is done…and so it’s time to have a drink!
Welcome to the final instalment (for the time being at least) of what has recently felt a bit like a Bob the Builder blog.
Next week I’ll be back to telling stories about the dogs, the Spring flowers and a whole series on the things on the farm I can f-up that will cost us loads of money to repair.
Yes, on January 20th, on the eve of my 49th birthday, as Joe Biden swore the oath of office, as first female Veep (of colour) Kamala Harris waved off the Pences, and the season finale of The Donald played out with Sinatra’s “I did it my way,” we finished phase one of our building project.
Thank goodness we didn’t do the plastering my way – that would not have ended well – mainly because I’ve discovered it requires something I have in short supply: patience.
Thankfully Rui has patience in buckets…and sponges, trowels and in the wooden planks painstakingly drawn across the face of drying concrete to make it perfectly smooth.
His delicate touch to sharpen corners is calming to watch, but calamitous to try.
The gravity challenging, up-plastering of the underside of a protruding ledge was too close to call at half time, but by the end of the day it was Rui Dias one, Isaac Newton nil.
While Rui has been patiently circling the damp sponge of total perfection, I have become adept at scrubbing wooden planks clean of concrete and watching attentively while making all sorts of ooohhh and aaahhh noises.
And I’ve been grouting the front roof to seal it from the rain…which has just returned after a week of crisp, cold and beautifully clear days.
And I’ve been hammering and cutting and screwing and bolting the back roof so we can stop all our stuff from being ruined!
Meanwhile Ana has been sobbing…sometimes uncontrollably.
They’ve been mostly tears of joy…either at the beauty of my workmanship…or perhaps because Donald Trump has left the White House.
Ana calls them tears of hope…and it has been an extraordinary four years.
We spent one of them in California – amid the beautiful cloisters of Stanford and then with Oda in Los Angeles – as the pandemic forced remote working, lockdowns, and as people took to the streets shouting Black Lives Matter.
My BBC background always makes me think twice before having opinions, let alone sharing them, but when the President of the USA has been a compulsive liar it’s hard not to say something.
When that president has used social media to fuel hatred and racism and encourage white nationalists to raid Capitol Hill.
When he has shown such a lack of leadership and disregard for his people by politicising the use of masks and failing to fight against the pandemic.
When he has weaponised the words “fake news” to the detriment of global democracy and at the cost of brave journalists struggling to hold the powerful accountable across the world.
When he has eroded the concept of truth to such an extent that many people now question science, believe in crazy conspiracy theories or are refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
It’s not just Donald Trump that’s responsible for this erosion of truth…but he’s become the flag-bearer.
It’s reached even rural parts of Portugal…the suspicion over journalists, the questioning of scientific truths and the wearing of masks.
One of the best essays I’ve read recently is by Timothy Snyder in the New York Times. This line stands out: “Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president.”
Ana summed it up: “What happens in the US affects everyone – not just Americans – and it has been horrible to live under that cloud of hate and mind-boggling lying,” she said this morning after delivering birthday sandwiches in bed.
It’s been a long-running family tradition for the birthday boy or girl to be woken with an ornately decorated symbolic sandwich.
Oda and Derek Day were live on Facetime from the West Coast for artistic direction, and I think you’ll agree that perhaps we have found the logo for Vale Das Estrelas (Valley of the Stars).
Secret things are planned for my birthday…within the limitations of our time. Plastering is not on the list, but the scene has been nicely set by my presents:
- an LED/speaker/icebucket (a holy trinity) for the Dog & Hound bar which is the next project for the newly roofed and plastered room
- a beer cooler for the beach
- a long email chain and an amazing message from a bloke called Tim, who’s a mate of Nik who knows a LOT about telescopes…and is helping us buy the best starter kit for our new hobby: Astronomy (well, with stars in the title we need to know something about them!)
So, as I rest my aching arms and glue-stained, slightly punctured hands and settle in for a fabulous smörgåstårta lunch, I do so with a sense of relief.
Relief that change has come – to America and to our house.
And relief that the new tiles and the glass doors won’t be delivered for a couple of weeks and that I won’t have to be Bob the Builder every morning for a bit.
Now…back on to that thing I mentioned about getting plastered…
Thanks Franck! Hope to see you soon.