Trains, planes and automobiles

It’s been a good few weeks since I last wrote a blog post, so apologies …

I travelled back to the UK on 1st May – just for a week, to see the family, celebrate my daughter’s 25th birthday and collect some bits and pieces from storage. It’s really starting to warm up here now (when it’s not raining!) and I didn’t really bring many summer clothes, so I wanted to grab a few bits to keep me going.

The trip back was long but smooth. An hour’s drive to Fundao, where I left the car (with some trepidation) in the car park by the station. Three-hour train journey to the magnificent Lisboa Oriente station (in the photo above), where I killed some time by walking along the river in Parque das Nações and eating pizza. Across the city on the metro to the airport, then the usual hanging around and waiting until my flight departed. Two hours in the air, more hanging around at Gatwick, then a very speedy Gatwick Express bus to Oxford where Mum was waiting for me thanks to a friend who’d given her a lift. A long day of travelling, but it was so lovely to be back and see everyone.

I stayed a few nights with Mum, catching up with her and Dan, and also met up with a friend in Oxford. I visited my tropical fish in their new home – all doing very well – and helped rehome one of the cats, whose ‘forever home’ hadn’t gone according to plan. I did some important admin and I found plenty of summer clothes in the storage garage but sadly all the useful stuff I wanted – frying pan, potato peeler, “how to grow your own veg” book – were right at the back of the garage and totally inaccessible. Never mind. I got my blue boots, so I’m happy.

The whole family came up on Sunday to celebrate Katie’s birthday, and it was a lovely day – for various reasons it’s been a very long time since we were all together. Then I went back to Sussex with Katie and her boyfriend to spend a few days there. She is a primary school teacher and I was honoured to be allowed to go into school with her and help in her class (Are you REALLY Miss Brown’s mummy?”, I was asked all day long!)

family

It was wonderful seeing everyone and being together and I do miss my family loads … but the UK? Nope …. First thought I had was “Gosh, it’s so flat!” The roads are so congested, everyone is in a rush to get somewhere, Oxford was just teeming with people and everywhere looks a bit grubby … I did enjoy the hot cross buns Mum saved for me, but really there’s not a great deal about my country of birth that I miss at the moment. If I could bring everyone over here, that would be ideal 😀

After an all too brief week I was on the plane heading back for Lisbon, where I spent a night in a hostel before catching the early morning train. I’ve never done hostelling before, apart from a week at the youth hostel in Sheringham many years ago, where the kids and I had a family room. This one in Lisbon was a proper backpackers’ hostel, full of young people from all over the globe – and one tired, rather grumpy middle-aged woman (me!). I was in a women-only shared dorm of 9 beds – three sets of three-tiered bunks! Fortunately, I was on the bottom – I didn’t like the idea of climbing down from the top bunk every time I needed a pee! There were only three other bunks occupied so I thought I might get a good night’s sleep – except one of the occupants snored SO LOUD I could even hear it with my good ear pushed into the pillow! (I’m deaf in one ear, which has its advantageous, not least in normally being able to shut out night time noise.)

I popped to the bar next door for a nightcap before bed. Lisbon was busy and bustling, even at midnight, but there was something more relaxed about the atmosphere to that of London or Oxford at night; a more congenial spirit.

However, it was with some relief that I was whisked away on the train to Fundao, to collect my car (complete with all its wheels!) and drive back to the farm. I’d only been gone a week but everything had changed so much! The goslings are twice the size, the piglets are enormous, the grass is long and lush, there are leaves on the grapevines, new flowers in the verges, tiny fruits on the trees. It seems like a really exciting time of year, when everything changes every day.

breakfast in arganil

I was only at the farm for a couple of days before I packed my bags and headed off again, this time to a friend’s house near Arganil, about 50 miles west, where I am dog sitting for the next ten days. It’s a beautiful place and I have my own self-contained apartment (ensuite shower and loo!!) and access to the house, a fridge full of food, and two adorable cats and two crazy dogs to entertain me. This has been a really good opportunity for me to find out what it’s like to live entirely by myself, and apart from twice daily dog walks and a bit of garden watering to do, my time is my own to spend as I choose. I came with a big bag of things to do in case I was bored, but in fact I’ve loved pottering round! I’ve spent an afternoon shopping in Arganil, met a friend for lunch, spent a couple of days working on a proofreading project, read a lot, drove to Pampilhosa for Portuguese class, walked the dogs, slept, listened to music …. Apart from being bitten to pieces by mosquitoes, it’s been really lovely and relaxing, and I haven’t got bored of my own company (yet) – and am now really looking forward to my forthcoming move to the little house at Coelhosa, where I can really put this “living by yourself in Portugal” thing to the test!

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