Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Foolish, Unlearned, Nobody in Peasantville.

Hey ho. Hope all is well in the lands across the seas and beyond or from wherever you maybe reading this today. Welcome.

Here in the land called Moses, deep in the heart of the forgotten Portuguese interior, it has been a most fascinating season. After the rush and madness that was the end of 2008, the joy of Arlene and Annie’s Christmas visit, the reflections that followed in the stillness of those long cold, wet, winter evenings, Spring is now emerging all around us. Bright pink cherry blossoms nudging through here and there, white and yellow daisies devouring the roadside verges, heathers under the pine and eucalyptus forests bursting into purpleness, warm sunny afternoons, all revealing the promise of much much hotter and longer days ahead and the full glory of nature that we know is about to explode just round the corner.

It should now, you’d think, be the perfect temperate weather and, after our long winter’s rest, the perfect moment in time for Von and I to now be in top gear with the restoration of our other 2 houses. But au contraire.

I am not exactly sure why, but we’re not too concerned. It feels like we are riding the flow of natural rhythms in this most enchanted of places and consequently we’re in no hurry to push things along at the hectic pace of 2008. Slowly, slowly and all things shall come to pass. Não é, Shanti? We have though, managed to clear both the other houses ready to start the first part of renovation – raising the old stone walls by a metre or so in height (in stone, not straw bales, cos we’ve found an old local guy who can do it brilliantly and quickly, prepared to also teach us how in the process, and we haven’t been able to find a decent straw baler near here for love nor money) and then installing new wooden roofs on top with a carpenter roofer who happens to be the boss of Michelle’s gorgeous young Brazilian boyfriend, Warley (captured here squatting down by one of the granite pools in the river that flows round Moses).

We’ve also been able to do a few cool odd jobs around the place: like carving a drain out of the lime floors to transport the sudden emergence of an underground stream that ran through the house after all that rain fell in January (the most for 20 years in Portugal); pruning a dozen or so of our 40 silver leafed olive trees (like this one in the photo); building a neat tri-chamber compost structure from old floorboards; making the house feel even more like a home with simple bookshelves of long sweet chestnut planks on red fire brick pillars and some much needed kitchen storage space; a chimney in the bathroom so we could fire up the elegant old wood burning stove that we’d found abandoned in the ironmonger’s car park in Oleiros; new fascias for the bath and toilet from sawn off pieces of old broken wine barrels; vegetable beds edged with boulders fallen when the new terraces were carved out last Autumn; and new graduated steps along the path that connects the houses at the top (Cabeco) with the house at the bottom (Moses) heaving chunky trunks of felled pine trees up the hill and then back filling them with rubble and clay. That actually sounds like quite a lot of work now I have written it, but it really has only taken us a couple of hours a day and nothing approaching the generally accepted notion of ‘strenuous’.

Meanwhile, the kids have both had their birthdays, Eli’s 10th & Joshua’s 12th, and continue to fly at their lovely school in Oleiros, making great grades and even better friends. They are fantastic little creatures and we love them lots. The very sweet little Brazilian lass in the photo is Ju Ju, Eloise’s best mate here, (Hatti will forever be her bestest mate in the whole wide world) and she’s spending the weekend with us at the mo’ making cookies and cakes every few hours. Josh will be entering another photo competition this week called Splash Flash 09 featuring the best of the waters in Oleiros. He won the prize for the most original photo in the council’s last competition, so he’s keen to do well again this year. Here’s just one of his amazing shots. If he ever finds the time between his full-on studies to write another blog, you might get to see some more of his talent. Last weekend we nipped over to Coimbra to buy them new clothes and shoes cos they were looking a tad dishevelled. The clips below are from that trip to Portugal’s University City.

Coffee and bike rides alongside the Montego river in Coimbra…

Anyway, enough of the catch-up, let me explain the title of this blog entry as well as the reference to peasantville in the skits above.

Our closest neighbours are old. Joao and Eugenia (not the ones in the village but the other ones round the corner in Vale da Figueira) and José & Eugenia (whose Father built our houses over 80 years ago) have lived in these parts, in their current houses in fact, all their lives. They, like so many people round here, are kind, generous and expert stewards of their lands. We can’t help but admire the way they live, so simply yet enjoying the rich abundance of the fruit and cultivation of their toils. Not much cash and as such, together with their rustic lifestyles would be thought of by townsfolk and city folk as mere peasants. In the next 20 years or so, if we are able to learn even half of what they know how to do, we will be gloriously content.

In contrast, the so called civilised learned sophistication of the London we left behind and in the shopping malls and universities of Lisbon or Coimbra, doesn’t really seem to make much sense to us out here in the sticks. On so many levels, we have been unlearning, deconstructing, dropping much of what we thought we knew and in response are in the process of seeking the authenticity of a more firsthand physical and, in particular, spiritual existence. We have no idea if anyone will ever pay to stay here and therefore whether we will have ‘enough’ cash to live. But, strangely, we’re really not that bothered, most of the time. This place, the potential of the land, in itself, in ourselves, is more than enough. To some we know this will appear like pure irresponsible foolishness. Maybe it is.

Moreover, we were previously surrounded by a world where people, including us, were seeking, often with all our might, to become important, or at the very least useful to our employers and/or to society at large. Here, however, we’re slowly recognising that we’re moving towards a lifestyle where most of those people would consider us useless nobodies. And boy, let me tell you, it feels just great.

When I grow up, I want to be a foolish, unlearned, nobody.

Ironically, this label for my new found self awareness makes for quite an apt acronym. F.U.N. So much fun in fact, that if ever our kids tell us one day they are off to the mountains to renounce the world and become foolish, useless, nobodies like us, it will be a delight. (As would be the case if they said they’re off to become doctors or actors, scientists or artists – just in case the grandparents get too worried by all this new fangled babble.)

I went fishing early this morning with Josh by the Rio Zezere (not in the pretty little stream in the photo which runs at the bottom of our place, but the big river just over the hill). Didn’t catch a thing. Obviously, hapless fisherman that I am. But to spend a couple of hours with my boy, appreciating the awesome tranquil beauty of a thick cold March mist being dispelled by the heat of a rising Springtime sun, chitchatting philosophical nonsense together about life’s existential quirky dilemmas, while waiting with not so rock solid faith for the trout to bite, is one treasure I would not swap for all the treasures of this world. Well, maybe I would to land an actual fish one day. (Just for the record I should note that what we were doing probably shouldn't be called fishing until I catch a fish, so if you wouldn't mind please re-read that para to begin 'I went sitting this morning...)

I will leave you with this video clip of Von and Slinky sharing a quiet moment on the yoga terrace yesterday. For the more discerning of you, you will note that Slinky begins to move into a very familiar yoga position, which I, unsurprisingly, misname, and which Von, the yoga teacher, even more surprisingly, can’t remember. Correct answers on a postcard to Moses, Amieira, Oleiros, Portugal, 6160-052. Previous experience of yoga, or of anything else for that matter, is not a requirement for entry. Prize winners will be chosen next month. By Moses the dog. Of course.



Maria said...

Can you teach englihs for adults and childs?

The Winters said...


We have never taught English before, but suprisingly, I am currently thinking about doing so, so I would be interested in finding out why you want to know. Probably the easiest thing would be to call me on the mobile 00351 96 421 9028. Or you can email me at itscalledmoses@gmail.com

Até já!