We’ve started doing a bit of weeding – some serious weeding – thanks to the cow king and the cat.
I thought perhaps our local cattle farmer’s go-to digger guy got his feline nickname of O Gato because he owns and rents out Caterpillar trucks, but then his driver turned up in a Komatsu.
The plan to dig out the eucalyptus roots was hatched in March when we stood among the trees with the cow king and agreed Lionel would cut them down and O Gato’s truck would then dig out the roots.
The time eventually came, and a large, yellow Komatsu arrived near the main road a few days earlier, poised and posed ready for action…adding to the sense of excitement and anticipation.
After Thursday’s national holiday the work began with a large metal finger digging up one root at a time, pulling it up, shaking it free of soil and then depositing it in a large pile around the perimeter.
I guess it’s the nearest we will get to breaking ground on our building project, but this week’s title of “no going back” doesn’t refer to our plunging into an ambitious construction project: “no going back” is Millicent’s latest foible.
Despite the beautiful spring clean Daniel kindly gave our much-suffering, pink eye-lashed Land Rover last week, I think it was talk of The New Car that pushed her over the edge.
We’ve been careful not to mention “TNC” when Millicent is in earshot, but when I picked up my godson James and his dad and my great friend Andrew at Faro airport this week for a visit, the subject may have come up in conversation on the drive home.
The new bright red Toyota Hilux is still on order and is due to be delivered “before September” and I think Millicent has a bit of a complex about the whole thing.
Having jammed her back window down and refused to lock any of her doors for the last couple of weeks, she now refuses to reverse.
While you could argue “no going back” is a good motto when embarking on a business venture, it’s not the most convenient trait for one’s only vehicle.
It demands considerable concentration while picking a supermarket parking spot and has led to some creativity which could be construed as antisocial abandonment.
Parking sideways across three spaces does guarantee an effective escape route, but is rarely considered socially acceptable without the benefit of context.
Panacea for a shopping trip is now finding two spaces in a line you can drive through to ensure forward passage with least impact on others.
Previously rock star parking was a place right outside with shade for the dogs.
But with that no longer guaranteed, we now have to leave Simon and Garfunkel at home, thereby further limiting the protection we can provide for a car with open windows that doesn’t lock.
“Go fix it dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,” I hear you cry.
But “With what shall I fix it, dear Liza, dear Liza?” is my reply: it’s quite hard in the country.
The local mechanic who has saved Millicent’s bacon on numerous occasions does not do gearboxes (let alone automatic ones), and the Land Rover garage in the Algarve said she was so old they couldn’t plug anything in to deliver diagnostics.
(My diagnosis is she can’t go in reverse so there must be a problem).
And the other garage not too far away that has helped Millicent before, can’t see her for three weeks…and that’s a lot more antisocial behaviour in supermarket carparks.
I can force her into reverse, but that involves a lot of drama: spinning wheels, unpredictability and a jerky stop that feels like the handbrake has been jammed on.
It’s so traumatic I fear that the next reverse might be her last…and it could take the whole transmission box with it.
“No going back” doesn’t sit as well with “no going forward either.”
We have an appointment at Feu Vert in Portimão next week – the Quick Fit equivalent here – and we really hope you can’t get quicker than a green light fitter (I presume it’s a French chain).
It would be great if Millicent receives enough attention – and without any further talk of TNC – that she is persuaded to start giving something back.
Our friends asked if she might be gradually shutting down and retreating to keep just the vital components going – a bit like how your body reacts to the cold by abandoning the extremities to frostbite.
I hope that’s not the case…she’s a great car (whatever you Land Rover denialists say!) and it would be great if she could keep us on the road a bit longer.
We’re still not quite at the “no going back” stage of our tourism project and some of the stories we have been hearing this week about building contractors is enough to make us think very carefully about going forward.
Friends with a much bigger project than ours are stuck with an absentee builder despite years of careful planning and a watertight contract.
We have been hit by months of frustrating bureaucratic delays from many sides, and material prices continue to rise weekly amid the COVID pandemic.
And until the detailed “specialities” of our project are finished and submitted to the town hall, we still can’t get a builder to give us an accurate quote.
This type of waiting requires nerves of steel.
Our fantastic week with James and Andrew – the beach trips, great meals and a beautiful kayak trip on the Mira River – came down to earth a bit this weekend as we reflected on just what we’re taking on.
We’re determined, tough and ambitious and believe force of will (and good planning!) can defeat every problem we encounter.
But then sometimes we wonder if we are totally insane trying to do this: a diplomat and a journalist walk into the Portuguese countryside and think they can create something quite spectacular.
We’re convinced, but is it just our own little echo chamber speaking?
Do you think enough people would come on holiday here to a remote off-grid lodge in rural Alentejo?
It’s a great view, it’s 15 mins from an amazing wild coast, but is our own little echo chamber right?
If we build it will they come?
Our water contractor told a joke at our meeting a few weeks ago.
God and the Devil decide to make a pact and arrange a meeting. They agree to each start building a bridge from Heaven to Hell which meets in the middle.
The Devil builds quickly and reaches the mid-point only to find God hasn’t even started.
“I can’t find a builder up here,” God explains.
I do hope that’s not true…
I would stay there! I'm an adventurous traveler but also middle-aged. Less of a backpacker than I used to be, more of a flashpacker. So that sounds perfect.
Well with all ventures you have ups and downs and moments of doubt about the future and your own abilities to bring things to fruition. You have to be determined enough to get through such periods and have a back up plan should something unexpected happen, such as how can you limit the problems of a difficult builder! I hope everything does fall into place for you and you make a great success.
I know it isn’t easy attracting ‘paying guests’ and they can be incredibly difficult, too difficult for me that I gave up any further thoughts of renting out our villa in Brazil……it was too much trouble! On the other hand I know a Belgium lady that made quite a good success of marketing and attracting Europeans to her ‘pousada’ in a remote part of Bahia but she was much better at interacting with people than I am. She was a presenter on Belgium radio in a former life ( one she has just resumed after many years in Brazil. Anyway, attracting people to a ‘remote area’ in Portugal as got to be a lot easier. And many British people live Portugal ….. so if you are determined then I think you have a good chance of success.
Boa sorte meu amigo