Wednesday, 19 September 2007


It was a day like any other really. Well, I suppose like any other of the Poop In Europe type of days we’ve been having since leaping out the Matrix 6 months ago and hurling ourselves into Europe 4 months ago. 4 months to the very day in fact. It was 7th September 2007. Woke up in Coimbra (pronounced ‘queembra’) and said to each other lets go see this place called Moses we’ve seen on the web. We can’t wait 2 more weeks for the appointment booked with the estate agent. We want to see it today. Now. Destiny waits for no man. Drive.

With no idea what lay in front of us, not a clue what the area and the landscape in that region of central Portugal would be like, what the vibe of the local village called Amieira would be, and even if we would be able to find Moses at all, we set off. On the website it had said Moses was a 15 minute walk down a dirt track from the tiny hilltop village so to search all directions might take us a few days of wild trekking to actually find it. We could ask people in the village but with my Portuguese vocabulary only just topping the 6 word mark I wasn’t expecting much quality communication.
So as usual we had no idea what we were doing, but bizarrely, coursing through mine and Vonnie´s veins, was a not inconsequential level of adrenalin. Would today be the day we found the place that we set out to find? Could this be the place we had spent so many months imagining might exist? Could this be the one?

The closer we got, the tinglier the sensation grew. And oh yes, we recognised this feeling. It was the same when we met each other 15 years ago when after only 6 hours in each others company, decided to get married. It was the same when we saw our tumbling down house in New Cross with rain pouring in through the roof all the way down to the basement and we knew it was to be our house; the house where we would raise our yet to be born kids. Unmistakably the exact same feeling. Eyes wide open. Hearts racing. Spirits soaring in delight at the expectation of what was ahead of us, what we saw around us and what was happening inside of us. As we drove the last 10km stretch to the village all we could do was grin inanely at each other. Surely this couldn’t be it? It’s called Moses. How cool would that be?

Blissfully unaware of all the commotion taking place in our emotions, Moses the dog lay peacefully asleep on the back seat. No need to get excited by what you can’t smell, eat or swim in, is there boy?

Turn after turn, view after view, forest after forest, river after river, remote pretty village after remote pretty village, our excitement just kept growing. It felt like we were going home after years of being away.

Finally there it was. The signpost to the village of Amieira. Somewhere in the surrounding forested hillsides of this sweet looking white washed village was a property for sale – and its name is Moses. As the Mosiemobeel pulled into the village entrance road, a lively little fiesta type car came bolting out and screeched to a halt. 4 blond smiley faces stared out at us in wonder. Mum, Dad and 2 young kids in the back. In their faces I read a whole heap in a few seconds. They were expressing a look that kind of said "What is that beast of a vehicle? And what is that doing here? In this village. Motorhomes don’t come here. Campers don’t come here. In fact no one comes here. What is that thing doing here? And who are those young people driving it? They have got to be lost" Then the smiley faces spoke. In English. Really. In English. We introduced ourselves. They were Chistian and Alice. Living in Switzerland which explained the perfect English. This was the village Alice was born in and they were back just for the holidays. "We’re here to look at a property for sale called Moses. Do you know where it is?" "Moses? Ummmm, There’s a Moses (pronounced like a sort of Mozezjh). It’s where my gran was born and where parents grew up. Take the dirt track after the orange brick house and walk for 15 minutes." Off they sped with a "might see you later for a drink if we’re still here" farewell.

Result. A warm and friendly welcome from a young family who spoke English and gave directions. I’ve been fortunate in my short life to have experienced a number of such coincidental encounters. Too many for me to even want to explain away with rationality. The angels were singing loud and clear. And the door of destiny was opening as wide as could be. Step on through buddy boy.

However there were quite a few dirt tracks and stone buildings and we didn't know which to take. So Von turned to our faithful 4 legged companion and said "buddy boy, you gotta know where this place is, show us the way". He turned on his paws and sped down one of the tracks and led us down a hill until we came to the top of a dirt track drive with houses below. 100 metres later we could see it all. 3 abandoned one hundred year old stone houses and 2 windowless stone store houses covered in vines, nestled in a lush little valley on 2 hectares of the sweetest sweeping stone terraces with ancient olive trees dotted along, surrounded above and beyond as far as the eye could see by eucalyptus and pine forests, with spectacular views of folding mountains into the west over which the sun would set rivalling anything we’d seen so far on the trip, and to top it all off a noisy meandering rock lined, fruit tree bordered broke at the bottom. It was the place in our dreams. It was the one. We had been led to the Promised Land by Moses. And it’s called Moses.

We sat and imagined. Didn’t take much imagining either. It was immediate. Like a film. Like flashes of light illuminating our paths with each new view. Our entire lives stretching out in front of us here in this out-of-the-way grassy Portuguese idyll. So many flower beds. So many olive trees. So many grapes. A myriad of walkways and vistas. A whole farm to sow, nurture and harvest. So many delicious meals to be created entirely from the produce of this small piece of rural paradise. So many sun soaked evenings spent supping home grown wine with friends joining us from around the globe and new ones we’d make in the area. Everything was possible. It might take us a lifetime to create but everything was beautifully and bountiful in its potential. A banquet of promising possibilities.
We set off up the hill to the village awe struck by what we had found. A bit numb to be honest.
After only 4 months of searching round Europe we had found Moses. We had found our home. But in all these things the waves of doubt come in like a tide sometimes. A bit like snakes in the head. So even by the time we had got back in our motorhome to drive off to a local campsite for the night, we were questioning everything. Are we just naïve fools? Are we laying layers of meaning to this place when in fact it’s just a dud? Silent in our thoughts we exited out the village lane. Then, again by the most provident of consequence, along scooted that little fiesta to block our path. Out jumped Christian and Alice with more gushing warmth and excitement for us. We told them of our fledgling plans and they were overjoyed for us. If someone could calculate the probability of both those meetings, I know it would be a rather large figure. We arranged to come back and see them the next day. We returned over the next few days to dream some more and to start planning how it could all fit together. We met with Alice’s parents over an impromptu Portuguese breakfast which included home made port and grappa. And heard more stories of village life.

Vonnie being Vonnie, wasn’t entirely happy. Although there was loads of room for a yoga retreat in the midst of a Giverny style garden, there wasn’t really enough housing space for our friends "Tom and Jerry".  So we set off on a wee hike, which Christian kindly offered to be our guide on, through brambles and fennel along the brook to see if we could find another property nearby that would be suitable. And we did. We found Qunita Perfume (keenta parfum) much closer to Amieira than Moses was. Another beautiful ruined farm with 2 houses and several outhouses. Perfect for them. We had read that the nearest neighbours to Moses were 0.5km away but didn’t realise that it would be abandoned and for sale.

So, a house for us. A house for Josh and Ellie next to it (you wouldn’t believe how excited they were when we told them that was what we were thinking). A house down the valley lane for Michelle. A house 500m away for "Tom and Jerry".  And about 7 or 8 store houses that could be converted into guest houses or into granny flats for all our parents when the time comes. No need for planning permission for yurts either. Tutt’ a posto as they say in Italy. All in its place.

That evening we nipped into the local town of Oleiros 20 minutes drive away to look for an internet café. We found a state of the art one provided free of charge by the council. Again, result. Not just cos it was free (see earlier blogs on my fondness for freeness) but because it demonstrated a forward thinking council. The council staff guy that worked there that night asked what we were doing in Oleiros. In response to our project he said he thought the council would love it, be right up their street and he thought they would help us however they could. Roll out the red carpets. We emailed pictures to Michelle, "Tom and Jerry" to see what they thought. And when "Jerry" saw the blue doors of Qunita she just cried and cried and knew we had found them their home.

Later we went out for a meal with Christian and Alice, and while gorging ourselves on barbeque chicken, meat, chips and salad in a local restaurant we discovered they were considering returning to live in the village too at some point in their future. They were also on their honeymoon as they had just had a church marriage the week before. They were christians and felt as strongly as we did that someone somewhere had orchestrated our happenchance meeting – for both our benefit.

Day by day everything seems to be falling into place for us. Moses fits us like a glove. Exhilarating challenge lies before us. Mountains of hard work and toil. But what a thing to invest our lives in. Up to now its all been rhetoric and ethereal notions of a life less ordinary. Today it’s real. It’s tangible. It exists. And its name is Moses.
Offers for an early advance on the book and film deal are most welcome. Only thing left to do now is to buy it.


Baba said...

hey , are you guys still around? what about passing by the "mount of Oaks", near FUNDAO/COVILHA...?
here it's Barbara...just checked your blog cool !!!
so, you are welcome...
you can find directions on my blog...somewhere last month I guess...or few weeks ago...


Baba said...

haso, now I got to read the whole story !!! you're moving here :-) and you end up being so close to where we are :-) !!!
very interesting !!!!
I'd really love to meet you guys...I don't have, if you'd like to come on a little adventure towards the "mount of Oaks" it would be cool...let me know... we could have a meal together maybe...
e.mail me ...

The Wheel said...

So here is Moses...glorious! Absolutely glorious!


Phil said...

wow. this account of events has brought a tear to my eye. I'm so, so pleased for all of you.

Freaky! Those feelings and coincidences are something I've experienced too. Andrew, you'll remember me saying at the time as we made our final arrangements to jump in the blue and head to NZ.

When its right, you know its right.