I live in a village in the Algarve, in the south of Portugal. There are over 26,000 such villages in Portugal. I cannot give you a link to this information because I heard it on television a couple of years ago, and Internet searches to confirm the exact number have proven futile.
Things I like about living in the village:
- I do not live right in the village. I live about 10 minutes’ drive away, or 42 – 46 minutes’ walk away (depending on which way one is walking – downhill or uphill).
- I can do big important things at my desk (such as participate in a MOOC on Corpus Linguistics, translate a speech to be delivered by the CEO of a multinational next week, or self-publish my memoirs), but when I go into the village I am just that tall girl (even though I am 50) whose friend is in a wheelchair.
- By the time I have parked my car outside my favourite café, I have already waved to at least three people.
- I sometimes get offered coffee and things to eat when I go into the café.
- People say, “that’s life” quite a lot.
- I can go to Church wearing my gardening clothes, and no one notices.
- Everyone is real; there are no cartoons (although caricature is a distinct possibility).
A friend of mine died on my birthday this year. She is the sister of my close friend in Portugal, who managed to see her in South Africa along with the rest of the family just before she passed away. On Saturday at midday we went to the seventh-day Mass said here in the village. The night before, when doing my duty at the newly opened village charity shop, I was telling my co-volunteers about it. They said, “that’s life”.
After the Mass, my friend gets a lift back home with one of her neighbours. This frees me up to walk a little way up the road do my gardening job. From that you may deduce that it’s okay to go to Church in the village dressed as if you might just being doing a spot of gardening afterwards.
I was feeling physically weak, so decided a coffee and something to eat would be in order. My little old lady friend, Irene, and her sidekick are eating soup and bread in the corner. When she hears me order my coffee and a puff pastry with cheese and ham, she tells the café owner to put it on her tab. We spend a couple of minutes arguing about this, but I should have known better. My little old lady friend is somewhat offended that I should even think of refusing her gift. I resolve the matter by squatting next to her chair (she really is small!) and telling her how much I like her, and how very kind she is to think of me, etc.
I sit at the next table, but the tables are so close together that I have essentially joined the old dears “for lunch”. I brought this on myself really, because I gave my little old lady friend a chocolate bar when I bumped into her the week before. I now tell the story to the café owner (one of a handful of people who has not been in the village as long as I) that my little old lady friend has always been generous to a fault, and was, in fact, the very first person João and I saw in the village. I had left João parked in her wheelchair in the square outside the Church while I popped into a nearby shop. When I came out, João had a €5 note in her hand from the little old lady, and the little old lady was telling her about the years and years she had to look after her invalid husband before he died.
We can now talk about how the inclement weather has messed up our laundry routine, and when, according to the forecasts, our next sunny day might be.
Seeing as I was so rude earlier, I wait until the two old dears have completely finished their soup before I bid my goodbyes and run up the hill to weed and strim (too wet to mow) and sweep.
No one bats an eyelid when I come down the hill again, with two bags full of clippings and deposit them in the huge refuse bin. They have seen me do it often enough.
I come home and communicate with people on three different continents before settling down to some administration work.
There you are; a post without cartoons.