The clouds moved on and Spring burst forth.
After my first long damp winter, it was a joy to see the spring again.
The clouds vacated the heavens, the sun shone and the clear blue sky was visible once more. All was good with the world.
The countryside seemed to positively glow! The wild flowers of yellow and purple, filled the field in front of the house. It was an incredible feeling to open the door and be welcomed by an abundance of nature. Maybe I am exaggerating it a bit — but for a city girl, it was quite overwhelming, but in a good sense.
Had I really been here almost a year?
I find that many people seem to lose track of time when they move to Portugal, it kind of draws you in and before you know it — five years or so have passed.
It was early on in the season and the restaurants wouldn’t be hiring for a while, but I managed to get a small cleaning job. A lady nearby was in need of some help and I started cleaning for her a few times a week.
I got paid 500 Escudos an hour. That is the equivalent of about 2€50.
Anne was an English lady, a widow who lived alone in a villa just a few hundred metres or so away.
I learnt a lot from Anne.
I learnt that if you are not careful in life, you can become a raving alcoholic, obviously it doesn’t happen overnight. You can end up living alone, bitter and hateful. Cheap alcohol and cigarettes was one of the attractions for many ‘expats’ coming to Portugal back then, and often their downfall.
I realised that was a road that many could take if they weren’t careful.
Anne would often be very depressed and unload it all on me. I really didn’t mind too much as one of my things is cheering people up. When I left, Anne would often seem a little happier and I would feel good with myself for earning my 1000 escudos and making somebody’s day a bit better.
Her story was a sad one.
She had come from South Africa with her husband to retire in Portugal and before the house was finished, he had died suddenly. Leaving Anne to deal with all the unfinished business. She had barely managed to do complete the house and been ripped off a few times in the process. She had a son but he never visited her, at least not while I was cleaning for her.
She found her comfort in the bottle.
Back on the land, there was work to be done.
It was the time to start weeding and making sure that the trees were all properly pruned etc. João would do the pruning and I did the digging. It was hard work, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!
I was enjoying this outdoor life so much.
Working in the daytime, visiting friends in Estoi, going to the local cafés and really integrating with people.
To be honest I hardly mixed with Brits at all. I was getting a very good grasp of the Portuguese language and pretty soon, most expats thought I was Portuguese as I was blending in perfectly.
Soon my life was about to change...
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