In between sessions of helping us about the place my parents both had time to consider what we are doing here and enjoy the pace of life and connectivity to the natural beauty of this place. It was interesting how the experience seemed to stir up their own childhood memories of living in the countryside. For my Dad that was in rural Kent living with his sister, my Aunt Sally, in an orphanage that their mother helped run during and after the second world war. His reflections were interspersed with naming the calls of the abundant bird life here and once or twice mimicking a cuckoo to entice them a little closer. “When I was a boy I once had 6 cuckoos circling around my head doing this.”
For my Mum, she reminisced about her young life in the village of Wrington, Somerset with her family. She said Vonnie regularly reminded her of her own mother. Maybe it was the fags and the early afternoon G & Ts (or the local equivalent called Ginghina made from sloe berries) or perhaps it was because Vonnie had successfully managed to populate our vegetable beds here with pretty scented geraniums that had once started their life as cuttings taken by my Granny for her own garden, from where my Mum took more cuttings for her garden in London, from where we took further cuttings for our garden in Shardeloes Road, and finally emigrated with us to Amieira in central Portugal. It’s amazing how plants can help you to recognise the interconnected nature of all things.
In the middle of their stay, Angel bought them a present one morning, of a live wild rabbit. Poor scared thing was running around under their bed. Angel regularly catches mice, lizards, snakes and birds, bringing them into the house as gifts. I have no idea why cats do that. Maybe they’re not presents at all. Maybe it’s just that cats like to play with their prey, nay torture them, in the comfort of their on home where escape is an unlikely eventuality. Whatever the motivation, we had a rabbit in the house and didn’t know quite what to do with the poor creature. I picked her up, took her outside and tried to calm her down by sitting down, stroking her and covering over her eyes, while we decided her fate. Option 1, to let her go, might result in recapture by the ever present prowling Angel, unsure why we were being so gentle with her conquest. Option 2, put her out of her misery as she was sporting what looked like an injured, possibly broken, leg. Option 3, keep her and nurture her back to health until we could let her go back to the wild with at least even chances of survival. Option 3 it was. Von ran around clearing out a wooden crate, putting in fresh bedding, food and water. When all was arranged, I carried the little rabbit to her new house cum 5 star recovery clinic. No sooner as I laid her on her new bed, did she have a heart attack and died of fright on the spot. Angel?! Please don’t catch rabbits again. But if you must, definitely don’t bring them back in the house. That was the first wild rabbit I’d ever held. And the first creature to die in my arms. Nature can be harsh. No doubt about that. Life is precious and can go at any time.
This morning, Vonnie and I were taking a stroll passed our Adega (small stone cottage used for storage and particularly pressing and making wine, an ancient and central aspect of Portuguese rural culture – “you do not truly know a man until you have fought him” is a line from The Matrix which I transpose to say …”until you have drunk with him in his adega.”) and along the little river. Suddenly the bushes on the other side of the valley began to shudder and there right in front of us, maybe only 50 yards away, passed a family of wild boar along on old overgrown path. A mum, dad, dark brown, enormous, frightening and powerful, followed dutifully in single file by their 8 smaller, but nevertheless impressive, stripy and incredibly cute youngsters. I’d like to see them again one day. Maybe invite them in for a cup of tea.
Although my parents didn’t get to see the wild boar up close and personal as we did this morning, their presence is a good indication of the wildness of our new home. A wilderness that seemed to inspire and evoke so many memories for Mum and Dad. Our 30,000 square metres here is set in the middle of thousands of hectares of unpopulated pine and eucalyptus forest, home to a vast array of wild creatures and birds, of which the wild boar have the freedom to live without fear. Until that is, the annual barbaric boar hunts, with military type men, not usually from anywhere round here (therefore serves no vested interest for protection of land and the such and is just a cruel brutal sport), their guns and their dogs. We suspect the hunts used to happen on our land in the years when no one was living here. Now we are here, we hope the hunters will now have to choose an area much further away from us. In effect we think we’ve created a little gun free reserve for the boar just by living on the land. Bless. Run free little boars. And by the same token, run free Mum and Dad. Don’t forget what you learned to do here. More time spent doing nothing. The rest is really good for you.
Teaching is still going well. Many of the 6 to 10 year olds are making really good progress with their English. Mainly it appears they are learning to have fun with a new language. There are still a few of them that seem to have written off the possibility of ever speaking English because it is too hard. But more games, more songs, more nursery stories, and very soon, I hope, they will forget they ever thought they couldn’t do it because they will be speaking it. We’ll see. But apart from the occasional shout and now and again having to eject one or two out of the class, they are all lovely. Full of energy and ever so adorable.
It’s hot too. And getting hotter. Yesterday, 40 degrees. So the kids and I took Moses for a swim in the big River Zêzere to cool off. Video below. Which means I have a new phone, but have managed to keep the original number of 00351 96 421 9028. Sorry for the confusion this month. Will try not to lose this one. Promise.
Just had a call from another stone mason. He’s coming to visit us this afternoon to see the work we need to do to our other 2 houses at the top. Let’s hope he comes. Let’s hope he likes it and wants to help us do it. And can do it soon. Here’s hoping. Although I suspect if he is any good we will have to wait a good long while til he can start. But we're getting used to that. Waiting.