Sunday, September 12, 2010

"The Best Pupils of the Year". 'Course they are.

On the eve of returning for the 3rd year to their lovely local school in Oleiros, Josh and Ellie found out last week that they both won prizes for being "O melhor aluno" (The Best Pupil) in their year group. A tremendous effort on both their parts. Moving to another country, learning a completely new language from scratch, adapting to a new culture so far removed from the one they grew up with in London, is an achievement in itself. But to do so with such ease and grace, making some really lovely new friends along the way, and topping it off with the best grades in their classes resulting in winning a prize at the school diploma day? I could not have written a better script for them myself. Done us proud, didn't they just?

Our old friends John and Caroline and adorable girls Maya and Violet arrived 2 weeks ago to spend a year's arts residency with us here at Moses. John is a painter and Caroline a photographer. River and I spent 3 weeks in August finishing the restoration work on the Xisto cottage that we had ourselves been living in for a year and a half. The house looks gorgeous and the Purdays have quickly made it into a home.

To find out more about them and what they will be up to, they're already blogging. http://purdaysinportugal.blogspot.com/ is the family one. http://www.touchwood-portugal.blogspot.com/ is Caroline's photographic journey and http://www.mayasportugalparadise.blogspot.com/ is Maya's very special own addition to the global blogscape. Watch those spaces and mark my words. Another beautiful story is being written here. And there is more to come. Much more.

Summer break is ended. Tomorrow kids return to school and we start the routine of long school days (kids leave for bus at top of the hill at 8am returning 6.30pm) and continuing work on the land and our own house at Cabeço. This has been a pretty full on year for us. Restoring 3 houses in stone, clay, lime and wood, planting and watering over 300 trees up and down the land, starting and establishing 2 beautiful and productive vegetable terraces, installing irrigation systems from the bore hole and the water mine, all of which were governed by some pretty tight timescales based on the seasons and the arrival of people at various points. My Mum and Dad in June, Helen, Anthony and Cleo in July, Nathan and Annie in August and then the Purdays, all of whom needed accommodation ready. Feels like the season of deadlines has now finally passed and we are moving into a new, calmer, less pressurised way of working.

The list of jobs and projects to start is still fairly huge - decorating the houses, building storehouses for all these potatoes and beans harvested and jars of jams we are about to make, building barns and a workshop for me to make all the shutters, flyscreens and cupboard doors required, a new greenhouse and potting sheds, restoring the Adega by the newly planted orchards to be a fruit storehouse, cider press and studio space for John to paint, possibly houses for chickens, sheep and a pig, pergolas for the roses, grafting of all the old grape vines, river damns to create cascading natural swimming pools, forest clearing, more terrace clearing and more, much much more.

Yet River and I are sure in the knowledge that this will all get done. Sometime. Probably sometime fairly soon as well. It is, after all, why we are here. To expend the energy of our thirties and probably some of our forties, on creating a more sustainable life for us and our children. We are getting there. The food from River's 'horta' this year has been outstanding. Plentiful potatoes, phallic courgettes, the sweetest tomatoes, yard long beans, corn right off the cob, peppers, onions, cucumbers, carrots, beetroots, herbs, squashes and my days, those pumpkins. The 'sweat hours' as the Americans say, are so worth it.

And all this comes with such an incredible feeling of accomplishment, in particular because we came out here from London fairly ill equipped for this way of life. I never would have imagined when we first found Moses 3 years ago, that in 2010 I would be able to build houses and terrace walls in stone and clay, put on wooden tiled roofs from scratch, plaster, plumb, be proficient in the use of a wide range of power tools including chainsaws, pneumatic drills, band saws, grinders, cement mixers and tractors, while at the same time teaching over hundred children to speak English in 3 local primary schools, properly becoming a part of our wider community. Awesome, simply awesome.

Autumn is approaching. Even though it's still hot and blue blue skies, we know when the rains come, they come to stay. All our lovely old neighbours have already begun, ney some already finished, bringing in their fire wood for the winter. We're already late. The grape harvest is round the corner and we want to help our neighbours make their wine again this year where we can. Then it's October and our dear friends Ian and Merle and tribe arrive over the hill at Eiro de Miguel. Then it's olives, picking sorting bagging pressing into oil. Then its Christmas and the long awaited season of rest, reading and reflection that we already know to be a Portuguese mountain winter on the edge of wilderness.

But today is Sunday. And I plan on doing nothing.  Except this blog of course. And cooking up a lunch of freshly harvested roasted veggies. And maybe a game of chess with Josh while I can still beat him and scrabble with the Purdays. Maybe just a wander down to the adega with River and Moses to imagine what we will do to the place. We recently decided that is where we will retire to one day, tending the orchards, living even more simply and let the kids have everything else. They deserve it. We will diminish, and go into the west, and remain Memphis and River.

Thanks for tuning into the blog. Videos up below in a bit...

Peace and all good things.


Memphis.


Ellie gives her first interview with Moses TV since her return from London. 



The Purday family give their thoughts on their arrival at Moses and show off the new improved cottage they will be staying in for a year. 






Ellie and Josh pick up their Best Student medals at school.





2 comments:

Alice ~ writer, dreamer, traveller ~ said...

what a fabulous life you have created for yourselves and such a wonderful feeling to know where all your hard work is taking you, I'm sure. Here's to the start of a new season and may you enjoy the coming months that bring with them time for reading and reflection!

James said...

Congratulations to the children for their great achievement...It´s not easy to be the best student when you live in different country with a different language and culture. As for the rest, I just want to say thank you very much for sharing you experience with everyone..it has been such a great pleasure to follow your blog! So many improvements...you do have fantastic houses now, and it seems that you have a fantastic life as well! Thank you, and força ai!!