Anxiety dreams and a breakdown
…but much to be thankful for at Christmas.
As we all stumble towards the finishing line of terrible 2020, there are many things to get stressed about.
But anxiety dreams about pulling up plants and digging trenches should not be waking me up at 3am.
Surely, I should have enough time to process everything on all those long drives up to Lisbon and down to the Algarve battling Portuguese bureaucracy (burro-ocracy a friend calls it after the Portuguese word for ass or donkey).
The rush to switch my UK driving licence for a Portuguese one is more about Brexit deadlines than rules here, but it’s especially hard during a pandemic to get an eye test, a national health service number (only from Lisbon), a full medical…and all the paperwork by December 31st!
Anyway, back to the dreams…
After three weeks of rain soaking the hillsides are, the possibility of a mud slide is not totally unfounded, but I mean what else could possibly go wrong, right?
When a dirt road is your lifeline, you pay a lot more attention to the little rivers that start washing it away…and then you start digging channels, diverting water and worrying…
The badly built collapsed wall in front of the house seems to be gradually slipping further down the hill, and the heavier the rain, the more I dream of disappearing patios…
I think we’re coping pretty well with all the challenges, but the anxiety dream might be more about having absolutely no idea what might go wrong next…
I mean who would have thought that after buying Millicent (our Land Rover Freelander) a full set of fabulous mix-use tyres for the mud, she would immediately show her gratitude by blowing an alternator?
(Presumably all the people who have been making “you shouldn’t have bought a Land Rover” comments).
The little red battery warning light seemed so innocent when it flicked on as we revved up a muddy slope that afternoon, but it was dark by the time the headlights started to fade and the windscreen wipers began stuttering to a standstill in the heavy rain.
Millicent passed out as I rolled onto a garage forecourt, but it wasn’t a nice garage.
After some aggressive language, the mechanic (who was knocking off after what presumably had been a very bad day) barked “alternador,” jump-started Millicent just to get us off his drive, and told us to go somewhere else to call a tow truck. Nice.
We risked driving up the long and extremely steep hill out of Odemira town because we had 70kgs of Garfunkel in the back…getting anyone to give us a lift with our guard dog was probably going to be unlikely, and an 11km walk home was looking likely.
The car started faltering on the hill with two turns to go and just as images flashed through my mind of breaking down on the hill in the dark and the rain, I remembered the heating was on.
Turning it off gave Millicent just enough electricity to reach the top. Her engine died and we rolled to a halt for the second time and started problem solving.
It honestly couldn’t have gone any better – we called Ana from the Fidelidade insurance company and the amazing David, who with his wife Ju, is the owner and creator of the beautiful Orada retreat just over the hill from our house.
He’s already been incredibly kind helping us with all sorts of things from roof advice to generators, but jumping in his “bus” to pick us up – Garfunkel and all – was a complete lifesaver.
He arrived in 15 minutes, just before the tow truck and helped us negotiate getting the car to the right garage for electrical issues and dropped us off at the top of mud hill to walk just the last stretch.
Guard dog in tow we were home in less than an hour.
Obviously, that wasn’t the end of the story…the replacement rental car was an hour’s drive away (thanks to David again), a new alternator was €300 with no guarantee it would arrive before Christmas, and new COVID restrictions were becoming restrictive.
Our other saviour Richard offered to ask a guy he knows at a scrapyard.
I did the same and managed to find a second-hand alternator for €80…another drive to the Algarve and a race back to miss the no crossing municipal boundaries COVID curfew.
It wasn’t the right one. I drove up and down to the Algarve again and bought a new one.
It wasn’t the right one. I took it back. The garage got out an angle grinder to make it fit. Millicent is back.
A lot of things do seem to…happen…to us, but we just laugh now…not hysterically (yet)…but like everyone else, we hope 2021 is going to get easier.
And there’s a lot to be thankful for:
1. New friends (and old) helping us out as we find our feet and negotiate our new life: (Richard & Pauline, David & Ju) “Welcome to country living,” David told us while rescuing us from the side of the road: “Things break all the time.You won’t be immune, but you’ll get vaccinated.” Apt.
2. Sodden earth: perfect for pulling up estevas (pron: Shht-AIR-vahsh…also known as gum rock rose) – one of the most famous Alentejano plants with its fresh smell and beautiful flower, but incredibly flammable and in need of removing which is very difficult (unless it’s wet). Much satisfaction is gained uprooting them from the mud, even if you end up dreaming about them.
3. Fried chicken and roundabout art: we had no idea the Algarve town of Guia was famous for its fried chicken…let alone roundabout art featuring chicken and grapes. I love roundabout art but thought it was just African countries that did it this well…
4. Eating wild boar (wild boar) stew: yes, thanks to Richard and Pauline we got our own back on the little buggers at an unassuming sports-club restaurant in the mountainous town of Monchique. (one of those fluorescent-tube cafés you’d walk right past…so happy to be shown this gem!)
5. 50 year old medronhos: nothing better to pair with wild boar (wild boar) than home-made fruit liquor (thanks to Richard’s mum for that one)…very smooth.
6. The PR woman’s fabulous email from Veissmann boilers: yes, I emailed the UK office (thanks Gerrard Williams) and got a lovely “the replacement part is on its way” message and frantic phone call from the local agent who was both angry and (hopefully) more motivated to provide warm water for Christmas. Still no sign of it.
7. Great wine: these are our wine selections for the holidays after a wine tasting at Wine Castle (through Richard & Pauline…again!). We’ll be focussing on wines a great deal more - particularly those from Alentejo - in the New Year…
8. The great fortune to be in a place where we can actually have Christmas with family in Lisbon. So sorry for everyone who’s on lockdown or Tier 4 and is going to have a rubbish Christmas courtesy of the pandemic. What was that meme? “Only 367 sleeps to Christmas…”?
All the very best to all…we hope you have as good a holiday as possible in the circumstances. Thanks for reading and please share the blog with anyone you think might be interested!