4 February 2011

A New Year

Happy New Year - better late than never.  The reason for my lengthy absence is the fact that at the end of October I managed, stupidly, to break my right elbow!  The short version is that I slipped, didn't fall down but ended up smashing into a wall with my elbow.  Got a cracking black eye and basically carried on without realising I had broken my elbow until friends nagged me to visit the hospital.  The doctor thought I was remarkable considering the damage I had done and the fact I was still driving and only using the occasional pain killer.  An overnight in hospital getting it pinned with two pins and wrapped in some wire led to me being one of the worst patients in living memory as not being able to be independent is not something I enjoy.  However, the positives of it were amazing care from the hospital.  One set back being that one of the pins decided it did not like where it was and wanted to make its own way out via my skin.  This was removed under a local anaesthetic leaving its partner to slowly wiggle away on its own.  I am now able to do everything I want but will not be having the wirework and pin out until at least April.  I have recovered full mobility and am now concentrating on getting my hand to tap my shoulder - about 3inches still to go, before my next consultation in April. I have to commend Glenn, my partner, for his stoical patience faced with such an appalling patient.  He has been brilliant. 

An upside to this is that I have fully embraced bus travel.  We are very fortunate here with transport.  At the bottom of the lane leading to our house, is a bus stop and a regular service from two buses.  Both go to the bus station in Sintra, where you can nip on the train to Lisbon, or change buses and go to Cascais on a choice of buses.   Going in the other direction, one bus goes to Cascais and the other goes off down to Praia Grande, through Praia das Macas and up into the villages.  The bus to Cascais is fabulous.  It goes through  the villages of Colares, Almocageme, Atalaia, Azoia, Cabo da Roca, Malveira da Serra until you reach Cascais.  What this means is that you get a brilliant trip for an hour with the added bonus of being able to peer over walls into wonderful gardens, abandoned mansions - my favourite being one with deer living on a patio - woodland and seeing the beautiful coast line.  The bus drivers are highly skilled as some of the roads through the villages are extremely narrow and winding - can give rise to sea sickness in unsuspecting tourists visiting Cabo da Roca - and some are obviously under the impression that the bus is actually more of a F1 car.  Always advisable to sit next to the window as close to the 'stop' button as you can get so you can reach it from a sitting position and not run the risk of being flung full length down the bus if you have to stand!  The cost of this beautiful journey is peanuts.  I buy a book of 8 tickets, which is 4 return trips and the total cost is about 16 euros. It is cheaper to buy the ticket in advance from the newsagent than buy on the bus for some reason.  You also meet very nice locals on it and the usual run of loud, noisy teenagers who can be very entertaining when they suddenly realise that, yes, you do understand English four letter words.  One never forgot me correcting his pronunciation - hilarious.

The weather at the moment is beautiful.  The sun shines most of the day, the sky is a lovely pale blue and all the plants and trees are growing and we have some blossom out too.  At night the temperature does tend to rocket down but as we have a wood burner in the house, we are never really that chilly, as can be seen by Pompey keeping whiskers and paws warm by HIS wood burner.

The birds seem to be under the impression that Spring has arrived and we are being woken daily by birdsong.  Even the annoying weeds are colourful so do not have that sad, brown, miserable garden thing we used to have in UK.

Our lovely friend, Pedro, who was working in our village shop, has left to work at a local little apartment hotel.  He invited us to go and see the place and have a coffee with him, which we did.  It is a little gem hidden down a little gravel track by Praia Grande called Praia Pequeno or Little Beach.  He was thrilled to see us and showed us all around the place and we now visit for a chat and a coffee on a regular basis. We have coffee in the dining room that overlooks the Atlantic and the surfers further along at Praia Grande.

The entrance to Quinta da Vigia

Check out the website to see what I mean. 

Everyone misses Pedro in the village shop but I loved the owners attitude - they were not annoyed that he wanted to leave, totally the opposite.  They admired his drive to further his career and always ask if we have seen him.  Pedro is only 19 and has not had an easy life but he is a joy to chat to.  He is very knowledgeable about the history of the area and last week he showed us his school project on Monserrate Palace and told us how hard it was to understand the old English of Childe Harolde by Byrom!!!!  He is also living in at the hotel so is very involved in the work there as well as finishing his final year at school. 

After Christmas we managed to get our landlords to come down for a drink - they are very busy people as they have another estate in the Alentejo and have 4 children at home - all either studying or working.  We had a lovely evening and discovered lots about the origins of our estate which apparently in the mediaeval times stretched from Galamares to Cacem - a mind boggling distance as it's about 11 kilometres today!  We have also discovered that the word 'quinta' comes from the King owning one fifth of each estate!!! 

The estate now has two new additions - Pinhao (Pinenut) and Sado (the name of a river in the Alentejo).

Pinhao, the labrador, arrived first just after Christmas.  He is a chubby, cheeky puppy with bags of personality.  Sado, on the other hand is a four or five month old puppy - yes I know he is enormous already - who was being mistreated until he was rescued by our landlady which has left him with a fear of men.  The pair have already ingratiated themselves with us - a good rest point on the tour of the estate plus the added bonus of dog biscuits.  Sado is slowly gaining confidence and where he lacks it Pinhao has it in spades.  They called round for a biscuit the other day and I walked them home.  Pinhao decided that he was knackered having the shorter legs and went in but Sado sweetly walked me back home again before he decided to go back himself.  So far only Pompey has 'bumped' into Pinhao and was not impressed but the estate is big enough for all of them to cope.

We have many trees along the roadsides here and for the last few weeks they have been undergoing severe pruning.  This involves a hydraulic crane, large trucks for ferrying away the debris, at least one to four GNR policemen to sort out the traffic and lots of comments on the internet and newspapers about whether it is right or wrong, the methods used, should they be allowed to cut down some of them etc.  The trees are very old and the roots do start to cause problems by the edges of what pavements we have so it is sad to see some of them being removed but the other day we noticed that in the stumps of the old trees, new saplings had been planted - that pleased me.  Obviously it will be years if not hundreds, before they reach the size of the others but at least they are being replaced.  However the ducks have had to cope with twigs, sawdust etc on their part of the river and are very unimpressed.

The River Apple in Colares was once so big, large boats used to come up it and moor in the village - another interesting piece of history that our landlords told us about.  It is hard to find out these things here as, unlike the UK where there is such a record of history of  villages, towns, cities etc, there is little information here.  I did borrow an excellent book from a local estate agent, Eric, which shows photographs of some of the really old quintas on the hills here, with a little bit of information about them.  One is now a school, one a hotel etc and the website for Colares itself, has some information on some but quite a few entries on the website say that the property is in private hands there is no information on it - hence I cannot find out why there are deer on a patio with the walls of an empty, enormous mansion!

The river in Colares - try to imagine boats coming up from the sea!

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