Sources of Joy – Days 31—33

I have decided to give the “Sources of Joy” series proper blog titles from now on, with the day count as the subtitle and the URL. I shall be revising the titles of all past posts in this category in the days ahead. That way, I can keep track, and possibly ensure a certain variety.

The fact that I am writing a three-in-one update  means I have had a fair bit of work, an extremely varied week involving a good deal of preparation, yet no positive response to a private appeal for a couple of 36-hour days in which to accomplish all the necessary and desirable tasks on my rather long list of things to do.

In brief, on Wednesday I rejoiced when I received a long-awaited phone call, the thought of which had been tapping on my shoulder for days. It was Social Security following up on our application for respite care for João. The appointment was made for today.

I was so encouraged by the call that I was no longer quite so bothered by the fact that this fascinating sculpture seen at Faro airport minutes before had been partially boxed in by protective glass.

Don't fence me in
Don’t fence me in

I am grateful for the warm messages of support received from friends, as we step into unchartered territory ; a system conceived to make a situation – for which there is no remedy – better for both of us.

It does not feel like a joint (ad)venture at all, although as far as is humanly possible, all decisions are being made jointly, or have been made jointly in advance long before today. I am alarmed and frustrated that joint decision-making now means in practice is that João simply agrees with whatever I say. The joy comes from being honest about this, both to João (who semi-forgets almost immediately on one level, but remembers enough to remember to trust me next time) and to anyone else who asks me what João thinks. There was a time when I could answer that last question with precision. these days, my answer is more likely to be a combination of guesswork and good judgement, where possible, or that annoyingly inconclusive “I don’t know”.

I watch with silent horror the gradual erosion of João’s once passionate determination not to give up in her fight against MS. Her tenacity has turned to quiet capitulation, interspersed with odd bursts of a once fiery soul which vanish as suddenly as they appear. Hollow affirmations which fail to resonate. I, the sounding board, give these echoes and ghosts no purchase. What response with kindness can there possibly be?

Upon return from the airport, gardening and another translation kept me suitably occupied for many an hour, with a subsequent brief period of blank stupefaction followed by blissful sleep.

As I drove home after my acupuncture treatment on the afternoon of Day 32, I contemplated revealing that I was a major contender for the leadership position in the Portuguese Quarterly VAT Declaration Procrastination Stakes*. How it was even possible every time I started to submit my declaration online during the preceding permissible 45 days, that I received a request for a translation job? I am still trying to figure that out.

Let’s weigh it up, shall we? Translation job versus VAT return? My favourite thing versus the bottom of the barrel?

Well, it happened again. I got home and checked my-emails. There was a nice plump request for translations glowing at me from my inbox. As I was busy telling myself that there was no way it would be still available some two and a half hours after the request was sent, with a deadline of 08:00 GMT the following day, I received a phone call from the agency. It turns out they were still waiting for me to respond. A quick look at the document while on the phone, and still ultra-relaxed from all those energy-balancing needles tells me that this is a follow-up article on a translation I did last week. I say yes, it is entirely possible that I do the job by the required deadline. I say it convincingly, cheerfully, as  if the VAT declaration is a doddle. In fact, I do not even mention VAT on the phone.


I skidded through the portal’s gateway with my VAT declaration a mere 12 minutes before submission deadline, having spent more than 40 minutes attempting to validate my grand work of faithful but very dull documentation. As I hastened to make the online transfer of the VAT due before the stroke of midnight, I realised that I had switched my smartphone off when it rang during my acupuncture session, and I would need the confirmation code sent via SMS to complete  the bank transfer. I do not know the two PINs of my smartphone. Mad dash into the cupboard where my files are stored. Retrieve said PINs. Enter code received via SMS. Hit Enter. Online transfer complete. Print confirmation. All done, with a mere 7 minutes to spare.

Then to get rid of the aspirin-like taste of VAT out of my mouth, I reward myself with a couple of hours of translation, which effectively leaves my mind too occupied to think about the important meeting on Friday afternoon.

The meeting goes well. Help of one sort or another will be forthcoming. Timings for this are uncertain. Bureaucracies, however pleasant and helpful, based their mode of operation on the principle of one more thing. There is one more thing, which I was not told about in advance of the meeting.  that I have to hand in on Monday.

This Friday evening, for once, I am content to subscribe to the illusion that I have all the time in the world.



*I do hope the linguists among you noted  how I managed to cram one adjective and five nouns (one of which was an acronym) into one noun phrase. Stylish it is not. Possible, it is. Yoda, I am not.


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