Friday, 25 July 2008

Not here. Over there. Go on. Get a move on.

If you're reading this you probably haven't caught up with us for a while. This is the old blog site of the Winter family posted to chronicle our wee adventure round France, Italy, Sicily, Spain and Portugal last year before finally finding a little slice of heaven in the village of Amieira, central Portugal. To find out what we are up to now just click here. It's called Of course it is. And we would be thrilled to hear from you. Drop us a line, a call, a card or just send warm fuzzy feelings to us from wherever you are sitting right now. Cheers. Ta Ta.

Friday, 18 April 2008


We arrived in sunny Lisbon 4 weeks ago, on the Thursday before Easter. Angel and Moses made it safely through the drama of travelling by aeroplane, handling the whole thing way more calmly than we did. "Tom" picked us up in his pick up and, after an eventful drive back encountering a little police investigation involving MOT papers that apparently indicated very clearly that the car was not allowed to carry passengers or luggage (imagine how full the van actually was!), it was so lovely to be reunited with "Jerry" and Michelle again back in our home town of Oleiros, Portugal.

In the sunshine of the next day it was clear that "Tom and Jerry"  had achieved an incredible amount in just 2 months since buying Bacelo (seen here in the photo) in January and, not surprisingly really, were suffering a little from the exhaustion of it all. They’d cleared out buildings, set up a nifty clean drinking water system from one of their 2 water mines, installed a new kitchen and shower in ‘Kahn’ cottage, cleared great chunks of land, cut down trees, dug out and planted a large vegetable patch. In the midst of all that, they had had to make a safe and a large watertight space for boxes and boxes of their stuff shipped from Sheffield.

Before Christmas we’d rented a house in Oleiros for all of us to stay in. We’d planned to be there for the next year or so until our own reconstruction work on the magical place called Moses would be finished. However, after only a few days, we decided it was far more sensible to move into Bacelo, next door to Moses. Eventhough it’s only a 20 minute drive between Amieira and Oleiros, the energy involved in making the daily trip coupled with the need to look after and clean another house just didn’t make sense. There will be an incredible amount of work to get done this year in order for Moses and Bacelo to be ready for the first yoga retreat season next April. It was immediately obvious that we could do that work loads more efficiently and with more energy if we were all staying together rather than apart.

Last week "Tom and Jerry" travelled back to the UK to stay with "Jerry's" critically ill father. Our thoughts and prayers are with them right now as it’s a tough one. "Tom" should be joining us again in the next 2 or 3 weeks, but "Jerry"  will stay with her Mum and Dad for as long as is necessary. While they are away we’ve moved into their lovely rustic but still fairly posh country estate house to continue the reconstruction and gardening work.

Before they left though, we were able to help them prepare Harry’s house, named after one of Jerry's kittens, ready to be the Winters new home. I worked with "Tom" (the one actually doing the work here) to put on a new tile roof, install a wooden floor and clear the grounds of some pretty nasty caterpillar nests in the pines. To give you a better idea of what it's like here we have taken videos on the mobile phone and uploaded here below, so hope you can see them. If not let us know.

Vonny, the kids, and got stuck into creating state of the art self build compost bins necessary to use in conjunction with our chosen dry toilet system; one which will produce the best compost for our hungry vegetables and flowers. Von can tell you more about this in her bit. But just to say we are learning loads in a really short time about all this stuff and have had fun chopping down Memosa trees to use to construct the huge compost bins. And boy was it a good feeling to finally finish it yesterday. First project completed to time (1 week) and to budget (about 10 euros for the balls of string). Next!

Anyway, everybody is well here. Kids are working hard with us on the land, are making a kennel next week for our neighbours dog called Mourinho (another one is Scolari!) for shelter from the rain and sun, and have been to school a couple of times already. Angel has settled in like she’s always owned the place and is kindly allowing us to live here with her (no change there then!). And Moses is sooo happy to be back, thriving in the country life taking himself off for walks on the estate whenever and wherever he fancies. It’s been great to hook up with our Portuguese new mates too, Raquel, Belita, Pedro, Anita, Sara and all. Fine fine people. Sara and To’s wedding on Saturday too. 270 guests. So we had to pop into Coimbra yesterday for some outfits as ours are still in storage in Salisbury, along with the plants from our garden, awaiting delivery to Portugal (don’t ask). All will work out for good in the end. We’re sure of it.

We’ve watched this type of mad life change thing before in films like Under the Tuscan Sun, and that one with Russell Crow in his uncle’s rural French vineyard, but to experience it for ourselves is something quite different. I could expound for pages on the profundity of it all and how divinely delightful it is to stay here; cold misty mornings, warm lazy afternoons, blossoming fruit trees, frolicking rabbits, (frolicking children even), gushing streams loud from the spring rains, generous and kind neighbours infinitely wise concerning the plants and land which they’ve worked for decades, fresh vivacious home grown veggies, scrumptious red wine at a pound a bottle, etc etc. But I’m going to spare you. You’ll simply just have to book your flights and come live it with us for a while. Go on. What yer waiting for?

This is probably the last post on our beloved Poop in Europe Tour blog. We have loved this. It's been a great way to document what we've done and where we've been so in the future we can always look back here and know how and why we got to where we did! We are setting up a new blog about our new adventures in Portugal. This is now at - of course. So for now, Ciao, ate logo, au revoir, merci, grazie, obrigado and above all thanks for all the fish.

Monday, 25 February 2008

London’s Final Chapter

One year ago today, we left our jobs, our house, our friends and family, bought a motor home and began a 12 month European adventure to unearth a future for our little family outside of London. Since arriving back in London before Christmas we’ve been staying at my parent’s house in Dulwich. But today we are moving back into our old house at number 34 Shardeloes Road in New Cross to pack it up ready for Portugal and the new life that has been made available for us there.

We came back to London to do a few important things. Sell the Motorhome, sell the house, catch up with family and friends, and for Joshua and Eloise to have their last ever birthday parties in London.

For Eloise’s 9th birthday in January, she travelled up town on the bus to go ice skating with her friends Connie, Livi, Anoushka and Hatti outside the charming setting of Somerset House in central London. Ellie also bought her first ever guitar from Hank’s, one of the many cool old music shops in Denmark Street just off the Charing Cross Road. Eloise, as always, is happy.

Hanging out with Vonny’s mum Arlene and sister Anne has been wonderful. Anne is 17 and studying drama at Lewisham College. She’s already a superstar to us, but I have a feeling that one day the rest of the world will know it too. It was very special to be here to see her first professional performance as Chanice, in the short play Scenarios. The first of many to come. You go girl! Once Anne is settled into her career, I hope Arlene will come out with us to Portugal and Anne can join us all whenever she needs to recover between shooting movies.

It’s been great to see my Aunty Sally too, who has very kindly been giving the kids intensive piano, guitar and knitting lessons. We took her for lunch to say thanks, in the middle of 300,000 people (plus a few dancing dragons) celebrating the Chinese New Year in Chinatown. Although Sally has lived fairly close to central London for over 40 years, she like me, had never been to these before. It’s a funny thing about London and I imagine other big cities, that all these incredible events go on around you every year, yet very few join in. Anyway, this time we did and loved it.

Joshua had the longest ever 11th birthday. It involved a whole week of stuff. We were staying at my friend David Gold’s top floor flat in Notting Hill, and thought it an excellent idea to be tourists for the week. The camara shops in New Oxford Street were the first port of call to buy Josh a good quality, second hand, close-up lens so he could experiment more with his gifted eye for detail. We battled with rogue prams and screaming kids so we could sniff the sharks and fish in the Aquarium. Nipped into the brilliantly inspiring Dali & Picasso exhibition next door. Took walks in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park bizarrely without Moses who was staying with Papops and Grandma. Walked to the movies to see the film Jumper at Bayswater Odeon. Marvelled at the stunning winning entries for the Wildlife Photography Exhibition in the Natural History Museum.

We also rummaged around in all the tatty but demonstrably well loved book and magazine exchange shops round the back of Portobello Road. Those old-school book shops are the antithesis of the modern day, sterile, globally franchised, advertising laden, coffee selling book stores so prevalent everywhere else. In the midst of the must and dust and chaos, you feel that the books actually magically find you rather than the other way round.

At the weekend, we hired a powerboat from the Ahoy Centre in Deptford and sent Josh with his mates Halim, Tyran, Noosh and Hatts along with his cousins Sam and Joel, up and down the Thames for the afternoon. Josh even got to drive the thing himself, right through the enormous silver Thames barrier. We had an amazing week, so thanks Joshi for being 11.

And so it comes to pass, the final chapter of our life in London. Our time in my home city of London is coming to an end, and we’ve had heaps of fun. Now we’ve finally found cash buyers for the house and the motorhome, we’ve booked a removal firm called Armishaws to pick up the contents of our house on March 11th. We should be booking flights to Lisbon for the week after that. Although the last 10 weeks have sometimes been frustrating simply waiting, doing very little here when we have so much to get on with in Portugal, it has been good to have the time to say goodbye to the places and the people that have made London our home for so long. But it is, without question, the final chapter. As Caroline Purday said to us this week after they decided they are planning to join us in Portugal at some point in the next few years, she is acutely aware that she is now living in her past. Their future, like ours, is in Oleiros, Portugal. London is just the place we used to live; already it has become our past before we’ve even left it.

Last night Von and I began watching the DVD, Into Great Silence, a documentary about a monastery of monks that live most of their lives without speaking. Their experience of a silent life is in such stark contrast to the nature of this vibrant, pulsating city. But it is a contrast that calls to the very depths of me. I don’t think Von will allow me to become a silent monk, but we are both truly excited by the prospect of the quieter, contemplative, gardening life that awaits us, along with all our friends, in rural Portugal. Enough said.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

A Spanish Honeymoon

7 months after we left on our voyage of discovery, our Poop in Europe Tour is coming to an end. The Fellowship of the Poop broke 2 weeks ago when we tearfully said goodbye to our beloved cherubs Joshi and Elli at Lisbon Airport for their flight back to London (kindly chaperoned by Michelle) to stay with Papops and Grandma. Moses had said his goodbyes to the kids in the morning because he was to be spending the day (and night as it transpired, naughty thing) with Raquel. After months of travelling, exploring, wandering round France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, living cheek by jowl, sleeping, eating, washing, dressing, studying, chatting, laughing, singing, dancing and sharing every moment together in a single 5 x 2 metre room, all of a sudden, just like that, Von and I were alone.

For the whole 2 hour drive back to Oleiros from Lisbon we were quiet. Missing the kids before they had even taken off. Only our thoughts to keep us company. Reflecting on what an incredible truly life changing experience this year has been. Travelling like we have as a family has validity in itself. We are definitely stronger now than we were before we left. We know each other better. And what we know we like. Loads. It has been an experience that has dug a deep well that will last our little family for many years to come.

But the best thing is we don’t have to go back to what we were doing before. Our travels have opened the door for a chance to live in Portugal. With this view down the hills from our place. And it’s a chance we are grabbing with everything we have. We now have a future that is Portuguese. We will grow old there. See our children, grandchildren and probably great grand children actually be Portuguese. The possibilities of what that entails are so exciting that as soon as I ponder on them for just a minute, a thousand images explode through my imagination. Particularly how Von, Josh and Ellie (and not forgetting Moses and Angel) will be able to grow in ways that life in London simply does not permit. My prayer is that I will not waste the abundance of time available in this life unfolding before us.

Madrid & Barcelona
We spent a few days in Oleiros saying farewell and thank you to our truly lovely new friends. Cleaned up the house, packed up the motorhome and set off for London, with Madrid and Barcelona planned stops along the way. We knew this was the last trip we would take in the Mosiemobile. So it was a little sad too that we were also saying goodbye, maybe only for a while, to life on the open road.

We stopped for the night just over the border in a wee town called Alcantara and nipped into a couple of cafés just so we could hear the noise we knew we’d hear. We have found the Portuguese to be a very quiet people. Polite, good natured and respectful in public. The Spanish in comparison are so very different; they are unbelievably loud, brash, passionate and expressive. Even with just a few people in a bar, its sounds like there could be 100. I think I like Spanish culture, but because it seems more obvious, more immediate, it doesn’t intrigue me as much as my experience so far of Portuguese culture. As the border is just 90 minutes away from us and Madrid only 5 hours, I think Von and I will make regular forays here in future.

Spanish landscapes are just jaw dropping gorgeous in parts. Cork trees are magnificent on their own, but when they’re planted in such vast numbers, they take your breath away. We stopped at a campsite just outside Madrid for the afternoon, took Moses for a long walk through the countryside and then headed into the centre for a night out. 2 hours waiting for a bus wasn’t much fun but we reminisced on the days we were first married with no car and spent far too much time waiting for buses and trains in London. Madrid has a lovely vibe to it. Lovely old centre which doesn’t really wake up to party til 2 or 3 in the morning. We found a delicious and posh restaurant recommended by the Lonely Planet and there we were, Von and I, on a date. No responsibilities. Just the 2 of us. Wonderful.

As the trip in and out of town was a little tricky we decided to leave the next day for Barcelona. And boy is it far away from Madrid. 13 hours of driving later we arrived. As the closest campsite was also a fair way out of town, about 13km, we decided to hire a little car and to stay for 3 days. This really was turning out to be like another honeymoon for us. Wandering hand in hand around Barcelona’s bohemian old quarter either side of the Rambla, popping in and out of shops and cafés, exploring the Picasso museum, marvelling at all the various Gaudi buildings and then taking evening strolls on the beach. Loved it.

Barcelona has a reputation of being one of Europe’s best cities and it’s clearly a fun place to be; the bohemian parts rival the best of Covent Garden and to be so close to the sea must be extra special in summer. But for me it didn’t live up to the hype. Apart from the rich heritage of arts and music, the dominant culture seemed to be that same old same old soulless modernist commercialism that is at the heart of so many of our cities. Maybe if we stayed there again with someone from Barcelona it would be different. We would see the city not as a tourist but from the inside out and have the chance to meet the people that have clearly made it a remarkable place for so many others. Next time I think we’ll fly though. That drive from Portugal is a beast.

Blocked by the British
The final leg of the Poop in Europe tour was upon us. A drive straight through the centre of France (stopping off regularly for Almond Croissants – how do they make them so scrumptious) to Paris and then north to Calais for the ferry to the white cliffs of Dover and for England. We had booked the early morning crossing in order to leave us plenty of time to arrive for my Dad’s 70th birthday bash. Unfortunately the border control officials said the tick treatment issued and certified by a vet we’d seen in Barcelona, was not acceptable for the British authorities. So we would have to see another vet in Calais and wait 24 hours before being allowed to board a ferry. It was gutting that we would have to miss the party and also bloody typical of the immovable systems of control that plague my country. Not once did any official even look at Moses to make a judgement on the risk. It was simply the wrong brand of tick treatment, so the right box on their forms couldn’t be ticked, and nothing would convince anyone any differently. Welcome home Andrew.

Finally we arrived in Dulwich, London, to the house of my parents where I was born. Great to see the kids again and Moses went a bit nuts with excitement at seeing my Dad. Christmas was lovely with Josh and Ellie really enjoying being with their grandparents and cousins again after so long. It’s now the day after boxing day and my family has gone to the ballet to see the Nutcracker. I’m at home in bed suffering a little from a dodgy flu. Although probably just exhaustion from all the Christmas shopping!

Anyway, that’s about it from me for 2007. Just to say a Merry Christmas and the most happiest of new years ever to you all.

Monday, 3 December 2007


Hi guys, it’s Von, or Maria if you prefer. So much has happened since my last blog that I am really not sure where to start. In order to cope with the multitude of comings and goings and decision makings I have been spending some of my time looking at trees, just staring, not moving enquiring into the possibility of giving my brain the opportunity to be quiet and still. One thought always leads to another and looking at my life now I see myself both as a small tree plant and as the gardener. The best way for me to explain where I am at now at this stage of our travels is through the metaphor of gardening. So bear with me a little and hopefully you will see where this metaphor goes.

I have been silent about being in Portugal because I have been watching, waiting, observing, is this place really the best place for us to plant ourselves as a family. When you have invested your time and effort in the growing of a small seed you want to make sure it’s the right place. Gut instinct and universal signs are wonderful indicators giving you a kick start or a nod in the right direction, but when you are responsible for the growing of something precious you want to be as certain as you can that the site is right. Whether I like it or not I have been at the centre of this move. It was me who said to Andy it’s time to go. It was me who said to the kids it is time to go. It was me who said to my dear friends Michelle and "Tom and Jerry" come and do this thing, whatever it is, with me. So after the thrill of moving, travelling and finding Moses I went into a little panic. Oh God, is this the right place, is this the right place for all these beautiful people to plant themselves?

The Greenhouse
A greenhouse is a place where little seeds are planted into a little soil. As the gardener you provide the greenhouse to give this fragile life some protection and shelter in the hope that it will grow. You provide some water and nutrients, you cover them when they are under the soil with some black plastic to encourage humidity and moisture retention, to make sure that the strong light of the sun that they will eventually need, does them no harm. As the gardener you watch over them, you wake early to see if they have awoken and as soon as that first green sprout shows itself above the surface you invite them to come into the light. You keep them warm but not too hot. You water them never letting them dry out but never drown them. You talk to them, whisper welcome to them, tell them you love them and can’t wait to see them flourish if you are a crazy loon like me you may even walk in every now and again and brush your hands lightly over them to encourage them to resist you and grow stronger. At some point you know that in order to facilitate better growth you will have to pinch out the top growth of that plant to encourage branching, the first pruning. You marvel at their rapid growth and recognise that no matter how much you do that the majority of the magic of their growth belongs to the seed and not to you.

Barbados was my greenhouse. My family did this for me. I was watched, loved, cherished, kissed, cuddled, encouraged to grow in every direction possible. When I was getting a little leggy (ie lippy) and out of hand I was pinched out, pruned to encourage better growth. And for all this I am truly grateful. To be loved and cherished as a child is the single most important thing a family can give and looking back now I can see that all that was given to me freely. But there comes a time when each little plant must leave the greenhouse go through the difficult stage of acclimatisation and enter the nursery bed.

The Nursery Bed
When I left Barbados at 17 I left with very little in my suitcase and a whole lot of love and encouragement in my heart. The nursery bed is all about that little plant beginning to spread roots and to become strong in a less protected environment. Indeed at first acclimatisation was difficult, the cold, the grey, the rain, the loneliness of not being surrounded by all the other little plants just like me. The loneliness of being without family. But England is a great gardening place and so many people in their own way facilitated that growth. My wonderful teachers at the London School of Economics. My great friend Eska who shared a pineapple with a lonely sullen Bajan girl and got me on my way to spreading roots - to finding Andy. I will never forget the magic of that first Christmas at the home of my father and mother in law, Rev Pops and Dr. Mops. In that truly beautiful English home I was welcomed and I was taught. I learnt so much about the environment I was in about the finer aspects of English culture, English life and most thankfully I learnt about English gardening. At Shardeloes Road the largest possible roots were spread with my beautiful friends. So many beautiful people have passed through that house and in their passing I grew stronger, with good root system and wide branches and with my beautiful Andy established some plantlets called Ellie and Josh. London was a great nursery, a wonderful place to grow and to be challenged. I left London a much stronger and more capable person.

One man and a chainsaw or an axe or a sickle or a knife or a stick…or basically anything that cuts a path.
I have discovered that my hubby loves a chainsaw or anything that can cut through a path. With great determination he has managed to clear so many of the old overgrown paths around Mos and during that process we have discovered that the land we have bought is even more special than we first thought. It has been wonderful to spend days cutting and hacking and chopping and shifting and getting horribly scratched up by brambles. The finest time so far is when we discovered that running along the boundary of the land are the most beautiful series of granite pools surrounded by impressive trees and rocks that look like megaliths. We have also discovered that there is a whole lot of cutting down to do so that will keep him occupied and happy for some time to come, result! So now we know that there is good solid hard work to do.

Leaving the Motorhome
Once the weather started to change and Michelle came we realised pretty sharpish that it was time to go. Off we went to our dear friend Sara just to ask if she knew of anyone who was renting a house or apartment with some space outside for Mosey. Within 24hours we had moved into a lovely house with more space than we knew what to do with after so long in the motorhome and the best thing of all… a hot bath! Yipppeeee! At this moment we Poopers are now comfortably housed, well fed, well watered and very content. Thanks Sara. So we know that we don’t have to be stinky horrible campers for the next year or so.

Sara & Antonio’s Engagement PartyWhat do you do with a new house? You fill it with as many people as possible of course… When we heard Sara’s news last week that Antonio had proposed, we asked when the party was, naturally. But here they don’t have engagement parties. They seem to have parties just because they want to, but not for this reason. So we said because we are English that we simply had to host one for them and last Friday we held our first of probably many parties to come, in the house we’re renting. We cooked traditional Bajan food, everyone ate and drank loads, and a few stayed til the early hours, singing, joking and drinking in the kitchen or in front of the huge roaring fire in the lounge. At 2.30am someone announced it was time for the traditional Portuguese final drink of the night. The last one. The one you drink and then say goodbye and go. However it seemed to kick start more singing and drinking of wine, port and aqaurdente. 2 hours later it was all over. (Pictures: the happy betrothed. Or at the time of taking these at 4.30am more like the patient Sara and Antonio the baird!) So now we know that good parties can be had in our pad, absolutely essential for long winter nights.

First days at School for Josh and Ellie
The biggest burden I have been carrying is how will my children be able to interact with other children here if we live at Mos? Once again the support of good friends came to the rescue and for this we have to give huge thanks to Annabella or Bellita or Bellina as I like to call her. Over the course of the time we have been here she has given the kids worksheets in Portuguese and then one night at the bar she came and said to the kids, “would you like to come to my class next week?” On the first day we arrived at the school gates, let’s just say we were really nervous. Standing at the gates were an entire class. Now normally in London that would have had made us very nervous. But, as we walked up we were welcomed with a chorus of “Hello!” and within minutes Joshua and Ellie had disappeared totally enveloped by the most beautiful smiley bunch of school kids. Within the week Josh and Ellie had been to three classes and by the end of the week they were talking about going to school. What an amazing breakthrough for Josh and El. Muito obrigada Bellina, I can’t tell you how much that experience meant to all of us. (Pictures: Spot Josh and Ellie amongst the kids and in the far right corner just a little taller than the children is Bellina)

So now we know that Josh and Ellie will make friends here.

Tree Huggers
A special big up has to go to our dear friend Raquel. Raquel is definitely the mover and shaker of the group. She manages to speak English so fast that I have to ask her to slow down just so this slow Bajan girl can keep up. So far Raquel has managed to give us an amazing education on the local flora and fauna around here including a terrific seminar this week on the amazing Medronheiro trees and their fruit, the Medronho (pictured here in the fruit bowl, in the cakes and in the Aguardente). The best time for me though was when she took us to the local tree nursery. So many tiny and somewhat larger trees lovingly planted in a nearby forested valley waiting to be rehomed as sadly the nursery is closing sometime soon. And all of them, no matter what their size, can be bought for 25c each. I am still hoping that we will be able to save some of them and take them to Mos with us, but not so sure. For now we have just been going for walks there and are truly grateful that our other friend Barbara (gosh I could write a whole blog entry on our time together so far) will be coming and taking as many of them as she can. (Pictures Medronheiro fruit cakes. Very good. Just about everything to eat here is very good). So now I know 2 people who are as madly in love with trees as I am.

A Permanent Hole
Ultimately the aim of every gardener (especially one who is dealing with trees) is to find a permanent home for the plant you have grown and cared for. A site where you can plant it in the hope that it will take over the care of itself and in time care for you so becoming an important part of the life cycle of your shared environment. A good tree in the right environment should limit soil erosion, soaking up excess water to make the land more usable, provide clean life giving oxygen and take away your carbon dioxide. It should give some shade on a hot day and shelter for wildlife. It may even give you beautiful foliage, scented flowers or fruit. In short it will not only care for you but it will reveal the fullness of its beauty. For all this to happen the right tree has to be planted in the right place or the effects can be devastating.

Is what I have discovered here what I need to make the decision that Oleiros is the right place for us?

After careful observation this is what I know. The place is beautiful, no doubt. But the people! They’re truly amazing. On our first meeting with the President of Oleiros two things struck me. One, he listened intently saying very little and two, the little he did say. At the end of our huge nervousness induced monologue he said, “You’ll have all the support you need.” I went away from that meeting thinking about those words and I have been thinking on them ever since. What is it that we need, what is the support that we need? The answer I think is the same as it always is: the support of people. It was the support of people who helped me to grow in Barbados and to thrive in London and it is always the support of people that we need. Without that, all hopes, dreams and potentials at best limp along and at worst die.

If I had moved to Portugal just for the beautiful place, it would have been enough and together my friends, Michelle, "Tom and Jerry" and my family Andy, Josh, Ellie, Moses and Angel would have made a life work. If I had then realised that there was a lovely community of people who we could be on the outside of and just enjoy the fact that they were here that would have been enough too. I would still have got pleasure from watching them. But, this is not how it is. We have come to Oleiros and found a community of people who have welcomed us, who have helped us each and every step of the way and have become friends. (This is the lovely Carlos whose married to the delightful Theresa.)

Almost every night we have met them at the fantastic Bar called “Calado” which translates in English as “Shut Up”. Calado is owned by the totally yummy Pedro (in the GANT top with Umberto and Ines). Here we meet everyone and laugh, watch football, play cards but mostly do the opposite of the name ie talk. It is this talking that has been the most wonderful thing. We have discovered that just like us many of our new friends have moved from the cities, have taken all their incredible skills, energy and hopes and decided to plant them, like us, right here in this little town of Olieros. They hope to plant, to grow, to nourish themselves, the people around them and the environment in which they live. This similarity is wonderful but the truly exciting thing for me is their approach.

Yes we have great bars in London too, yes we have friends but these guys in Oleiros have something that I think has been lost in London. They have the desire to move forward together and they make the time no matter how tired they are to be together and to make sure that everyone is ok. That no one is alone. That everyone has someone to share time with at the end of the day (usually at Calado) no matter how the day has gone for themselves. In London I could never do this, so caught up was I in my own personal drama that there was never enough time to share. They share time and you know what guys, it is really really good. It is perhaps the best kind of support anyone can receive; it is the basis of community. This community is ripe for growth in all directions. (Picture: Ines, another tree hugger who I hope will one day help us to grow alot of herbs at Mos.)

You see, you can move to a place and set up your own little island and not be a part of anything around you. That is not for me. I was concerned that that was what would happen; that we would move and be put in a position of setting up our own little Eden because we would not be able to be a part of a wider community. Nope not for me. It is largely because of this community of people that I know this is the right place and the right time. I now feel we can grow here. It is not just my own personal growth that is important or the growth of my family or my immediate friends, but the growth of the whole, together. I want to be a strong tree here. Not just for me but for all. It is a fragile land here in Olieros. For most of my new friends their partners live away, in either neighbouring towns or in the cities, because there is not enough work. The weather is beautifully sunny here now, and in many ways that is lovely but it should be raining and if it doesn’t rain what then? Will there be fires, will the trees survive? Will my new friends have to leave some day simply because the environment can not support their needs? Will we one day have to move on for whatever reason? Is this our permanent planting hole? The answers to these questions no one knows. And I find yet again I have to rely on instinct. My instincts tell me that there is good life to be had here, not flashy life, not showy life, not a life of constant leisure but a life of time shared and a life of community and a life of hard work and a life of open arms. So whenever you are ready come and share time with us. Our arms (just like our postbox that we finally got the key for a few days ago) are wide open.