And how I so nearly sparked a massacre
The events of this week suggest I have almost attained the heady heights of officially becoming a country bumpkin.
I say almost, because as we left São Teotónio for the cross-country drive down to the Algarve, I did turn my nose up at the bloke peeing next to his van at the side of the road.
I’m not quite there yet.
But there were a couple of things I noticed during our day in Faro that led me to this conclusion during our bureaucratically frustrating lockdown-limited shopping trip to the big city.
In order for our application to the Tourism authority to be considered we need a simple social security document that is impossible to get…even when begging in person, rather than just begging over the phone…our project is now sadly in jeopardy over a piece of paper.
The first thing I noticed was the amount of mud on the car: a lot more mud than anyone else…and splashed in that inground way only attained by vigorous revving to, let’s say, extract oneself from a mudbath.
Then it was the back window: not only was it completely missing, but anyone passing would have seen an entire second-hand back door jammed inside.
It was so bad we happily parked up in various places confident nobody would think there was anything in the car worth nicking (there wasn’t).
I had dropped by a dodgy car parts shop and now have some heavy YouTubing to do to work out window propulsion systems (I’d just switch it in but it’s the wrong colour).
But the key thing – the moment I realised my bumpkinification was complete – was when I messed up at the McDonald’s drive-through.
Having lived for years in California and loved In-n-Out Burgers, this really should be second nature.
And this wasn’t LA – it wasn’t even massive, metropolitan Lisbon – and the consequences could have been huge.
On reflection it’s simple: order at the squawk box, pay at the first window, pick up at the second window. Easy. No need to even worry if I’d remembered to ask for the fries “animal style” (In-n-Out in joke).
But for some reason I got confused and didn’t stop at the second window – I drove past and parked.
Why? Because I’m not one of those there fanci city ferk oo go t’uh drive-thru (with apologies to Yorkshire).
As I walked back to the window, I realised the scale of my mistake…the car behind us had already taken my Miami burger and Ana’s BigMac…and we were left with his kids Happy Meal…and everything was out of sequence.
The poor man was already out of the car park and on his way, and I feared for what might happen when he got home and little João was going to have an unexpectedly Unhappy Meal.
My mind raced. With the stress of lockdown and home-schooling perhaps this could have been the final straw? Maybe he would return to McDonald’s with a shotgun…
Obviously mass shootings provoked by confused country folk are more LA than Loulé, but it was nevertheless a concern.
The whole production line ground to a halt. I mean imagine…everyone’s order one out…Big Mac lovers getting chicken, ketchup haters getting extra sachets. Can you imagine?
The mirrored window slammed shut as they tried to get to the bottom of the problem.
Cars were backing up impatiently as my desculpes (sorries) confused the staff even more.
They looked at me, at the Happy Meal, at the Unhappy Meal man’s car passing on the main road and presumably their minds also drifted onto the terrible sound of gunfire that would inevitably follow.
At least there were no drinks to mix up – for some obscure reason Maccie Dees are only allowed to sell food and not drinks because of the pandemic.
The window reopened, my McBaggie was full, my order – and general order – were restored.
We sheepishly slinked off down the road to get some diet cokes from a garage and occupied the air and water bay munching our lunch and listening out for gunshots.
It was a warm sunny day in the Algarve.
We reached 23oC in Vale Das Estreles at the weekend and you’ll be pleased to hear the solar batteries are so full we even lavished our precious energy on three machine washes in one day.
Oh yes, we lived it up, we used that electricity…we even took hot showers and had enough spare water to run through the radiators for a bit to take the chill off the house.
Now we are really living.
It was a warm sunny day in the Algarve, but it was a little depressing.
We haven’t really been to big towns much, what being country folk and that, and it was quite a stark contrast seeing so many places shut and so few people around.
Portugal is still very much on the red list having had a nasty spike in COVID-19 cases (after very flexible restrictions at Christmas) and recently had both the world’s highest number of deaths and new cases per million of population.
There are only 10 million people in Portugal, so the absolute figures are relatively low, but that’s not the point.
There’s been a weekend curfew from 1pm, dine-in restaurants and non-essential shops and schools have been closed and people have been urged to stay at home.
It’s had an impact – the figures are heading the right direction thanks to the lockdown – but we’re still currently the worst affected in Europe, and it’s been especially tough for a lot of people in the cities.
But in Alentejo we’ve had less than 900 deaths since the pandemic began – and although remote and rural, our province does cover a third of the country.
We can go for walks in the fields and on the beach and haven’t been so badly affected – I even completely forgot about the curfew one day – but friends in the Algarve who came here from the UK for a couple of weeks in December can’t get out…there are no flights…not even any planned for March yet!
My surprise at the different life those city-folk lead was the final indication of my complete bumpkinisation.
On the way home I peed by the car at the side of the road.
And finally, in other news…if you’re a regular follower of the blog and care about these things…
- Thanks to the wonderful Debi, the control unit for the boiler (our last hope for hot water…if it’s the right one) was bid for and bought on German eBay. It’s been delivered to the local café, so Friday’s the big day…let’s see if six weeks of effort and waiting, and lots of euros makes any difference at all
- the lake is now really full…loads of water!
- And did I mention that the solar batteries are full?