Monday, May 26, 2008


So this is how the story goes. There was this cat, who lived with a sweet family in Oleiros, together with their dog. The cat and the dog become pregnant at the same time. The cat produces her kittens a little while before the dog gives birth, but disastrously suddenly dies in a road accident a few days later. The dog, while still pregnant, (hope you are still with me) heroically takes it upon herself to nurse the motherless kittens from her own teats, otherwise they would surely not have made it through their first 6 weeks. Raquel gets wind of the valiant tale and leaps into immediate action, galvanising the support of friends and family to provide as many good homes for the kittens as she can find. And so it came to pass, that Slinky, with the milk of her adopted canine mother still warm in her belly, found her way into the home and hearts of this crazy gang of English people in the village of Amieira. Although Angel is taking a little longer to get used to the idea than the rest of us. Bless.
That’s the top news story of the month. Below is a video of the wee thing in action in the garden which Von and "Tom" created outside Harry’s house last week after our stuff and plants finally arrived from London.

Second news item is that Josh and I made contact with the emerging cricket scene in Portugal. And we both actually managed to play a game last weekend together for the first time, on a sweet ground on a converted field, bought 2 years ago by a nice South African guy called Sandy. The pitch is only 90 minutes drive south of here in the village of Albegeria near Santarem. The teams seem to be a mixture of Portuguese, Sri Lankans and other South Africans but I will let you know more about the other teams when the league (yes apparently so) starts later in the summer. Before the big event we obviously had to have a knock about practice, that as you can see from the picture was on a makeshift strip outside Kahn cottage. Didn’t do us much good as we lost the first game of the season. But at least there is a season here. We both can't wait til the next game.

For the last few weeks, Von has been sifting soil to create the optimum conditions for veggies in the ‘horta’ , and I have been working hard with "Tom" restoring Harry’s house. Which, I am glad to tell you is now complete. Well, the building work is done. Now we just need to paint the insides and make it our home for the next year or so. We’ve had so much fun doing this restoration work that Von and I have decided we will restore our houses down at Moses by ourselves as well, with a lot of help from "Tom" and a little help from local builders and carpenters when we need them. So watch this space.
"Tom" just went back to England at the weekend to kiss his mrs and bring her back with him in a couple of weeks. It will be so nice to have "Jerry" here with us all. It’s not been the same without her here. Kind of like watching “To The Manor Born” without Penelope Keith. Anyway, comeback soon guys, we don’t like squatting here without you.
Finally, some friends of Ian and Merle (the tipi people), Elisabeth and her friend Oriel, popped over to see us in the week, and stayed with Eugenia and Joao for a couple of nights. We really enjoyed their company. Elisabeth is a Emotional Freedom Technique practitioner from Hereford with a 12 year old daughter called Tara and they are considering moving to these parts as well - or at the very least spending their summers here until Tara leaves school. More lovely people. And English too. Soon we will simply have to raise a union jack somewhere. Or maybe not.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Wedding, April 25th and maybe new English Tipi Neighbours

Tudo Bem?

We’ve had a busy couple of weeks here in Amieira land. 2 weekends back we went to the wedding of Sara (the local yoga teacher) and her lovely hubby Antonio Miguel, 10kms east of us in Estrieto. It was a delightful affair and a real privilege to be invited to be part of such a wonderful day. 270 people. All the bells and whistles. Food was lavish with awesome creative sculptures to fruit and meat, To’s old university fraternity mates playing guitars and singing at every available opportunity, dancing late into the night, loads of kids free to run round and be themselves. Everything was a treat to witness. Thanks guys we had a ball. Who's getting married next?
The following weekend was a big one here in Portugal. It was only 34 years ago, on April 25th, that they had their last revolution. It was a bloodless one but like many other revolutions round the world, holds little real meaning for country people like those out here in the sticks. Nothing really changed for people here. Just a different regime with another name. But the date is still a good excuse for a party and I am sure over the years I will understand the significance of the strategic change that took place in 1974. Anyway we were invited by the inimitable Raquel and her hubby Francisco to spend the weekend with his parents at their family home in Gafete, in the heart of the Alintejo region.
It turned out to be quite an education (as well as a mighty cool weekend party). Francisco’s great grandfather had built a charming house for his wife Anna, with fascinating orange gardens and sculptures. But most interestingly for us, he also created a fabulous pleasure garden together with summer houses and irrigation systems on 250 hectares of nearby farm land. Now all the buildings are a little rickety and the irrigations systems no longer in use because Francisco mainly uses the land to raise 91 cows, but the place has heap loads of character and inspiration for us. If it was possible to do all that a century ago, surely we could do something equally as incredible today with our little 2 hectare patch.
Below is a sneek at part of the gardens with Moses loving the lake obviously. Coincidentally, when we travelled this bit of portugal last year, we actually stopped for a break outside this farm and Von marvelled at the land and wanted to go explore it. So when we arrived it was a bit spooky to realise we'd been here before - it was Francisco's farm.
Last Tuesday we had an email from an English couple, Ian and Merle, who said they were thinking of buying a place round the corner from us and would we be interested in meeting them. They currently run a tipi company in the UK and are thinking of relocating here in Amieira! Well, what a blessing they were. We had a fantastic day (which also happened to be Ian’s birthday) with lunch at our place and then being shown round their potential new home that has hundreds of fruit tree laden stone terraces and awesome views down the Rio Zezere valley, just 5 minutes drive over the hill in Eiro do Miguel. We really hope they buy the place and get over here as soon as they can cos they are proper lovely. There could be some interesting synergies between their tipi retreat plans and ours as well. Triffic.
David and Pam Pott came last Thursday (which also happened to be David’s birthday) to stay for a few days in the middle of their own trip round Europe. How gorgeous was that? Catching up on their travels and their emerging plans for their new life when they return to the UK, revelling once again in Nanny Pam’s story telling, and just their company has been a great blessing for us all here. We were sorry to see them go, but we know we see them again. Hopefully Pam caught the bug of this place and maybe she can run creative retreats here one day soon.
While David and Pam were here we explored a bit more of this region of Portugal. We went with them up to Santa Comba Dao on Mothering Sunday (a month later here than in the UK) with our neighbour Eugenia and family to see her mum as she had no transport to get there. Its only 60kms but took nearly 2 hours as it is directly north and we had to pass over 3 mountain ranges! And then on Tuesday we nipped over to Barbara’s Mount of Oaks retreat space near Fundao for lunch shared with 15 or so guys who had joined her from the recent Rainbow gathering in Portugal. A most hippy affair but we are really pleased we now know where Barbara is and we will be back many many times. She is a remarkable lady and doing extraordinary things with her land there (see her Shanti Pilgrim blog). It was a little bittersweet though as Vonny went with her to the Vet where her poorly cat actually died on the table. Barbara was totally gutted and our thoughts are with her cos she loved that cat something bad.
"Tom" returned from the UK on Wednesday and has been hard at work on Harry’s house since. I will post up some pictures of the work next week. It’s been fab to have him back with us. Sad "Jerry" is still in the UK but we hope to see her and maybe her mum in a few weeks when "Tom" plans to return to give them both a little break from caring for "Jerry"s pops.

So as you can tell, an eventful fortnight. Here's a little something before you go. After a typical hard days work in the sun last week, I saw a rare sight. There in the bush, exhausted from cutting brambles since dawn, was a Vonetta, asleep in a wheelbarrow. That’s all for now folks, will write soon.