Wednesday, 19 September 2007

The Sparkling Roads of Portugal by Von

We Poopers are very impatient people and we just couldn’t wait two weeks for the estate agents. We decided to call them a second time to see if we could find the place Moses for ourselves. They said no but we ignored them anyway. We decided not really knowing where we were going. Or what the place would be like. Or how far it was. Or well anything. All I knew was that 1, we were going to find it and 2, the Mosiemobile would get us there.

Andy has written a great deal about the journey to Moses but there are a few experiences special to me that I will share with you. All the time we were driving to this place I was falling in love. After leaving Coimbra we drove through an area of once forested mountain that lay exposed due to the ravages of the 2005 fires. Due to the lack of trees we could see down the mountain side into a valley. All along this valley were terraces of olive trees and nestled within the terraces were these lovely stone houses and secret gardens. We stopped off because I just had to see. I managed to climb down a little way to get a closer look. Squatting on the side of the mountain I said aloud, "I would like a place like this, nestled in the valley but surrounded by mountain, I wonder who lives there." On the way up I got my answer. Coming towards us were three smiling older ladies all dressed in black. One carrying hay on her head, the other supporting her and the other talking and chatting. One of them came up to the motor home and promptly started blowing kisses at Moses, the other started blowing kisses at me and the last one blew a kiss at the children. There is something very special about the kisses of these older traditional women and that day I felt that there was something special about to happen. Some special blessing for us Poopers. Blessed and welcomed by the upholders of the traditional ways we moved on. The sun was shining and we were all in thoughtful silence, it was then that I realised the road was actually sparkling. I have later learned that many of the roads sparkle due to a mix of minerals from the granite used in their making. So, sparkly inside and out, we carried on in search of Moses.

As we drove, the city gave way to towns and the towns gave way to villages and the villages to tiny hamlets and then finally we were surrounded by gently folding Portuguese hills. Not as dramatic as on the North coast of Spain, or as wooded and enclosing as in the Italian Abruzzo’s, but gently folding and wrapping into each other mile upon mile. The landscape looked so feminine; sensual, approachable and vulnerable. We were finally on the road less travelled in Portugal and then we arrived at Amieira the village we had read was closest to Moses.

Always when we stop driving, there’s a flurry of activity to make the motor home comfortable for when we return and depart. There was more of a flurry than usual because 20 or so villagers came out to see us and the builders argued over where Moses actually was. Eventually one builder carted Andy off to take him to Moses, leaving the kids, the dog Moses and myself sorting the motor home. Once the sorting was done we were too impatient to wait for Andy to come back, not knowing where to go I decided to try and ask the one or two villagers still standing around. My Portuguese only extending to ‘good morning’, ‘good night’ and ‘I’m sorry’ meant that asking directions was pretty fruitless. Frustrated I stood at the side of the road and said to myself, ‘I can find this place because it is mine’. I knelt down next to Moses the dog and said to him, "Hey bud can you find it? Can you find Pa Pa? Can you find the water? Take us there, find it boy." I had barely finished speaking before he set off at the highest speed I have yet seen him capable of running. So rather than a slow thoughtful walk to Moses, the children and I set off at full pace down the hill following our beloved dog but not sure if he would take us to the place. Then we saw Andy coming. He was just leaving to come back up the hill and fetch us. With a huge grin at once annihilating any questions in mind he said, "Come and see". So not only is our new home called Moses but Moses the dog was the first one to lead me there. How special is that!

When I looked at Moses the place (okay from here on in I will spell Moses the place in the Portuguese word for it Mós, meaning ‘millstones’, renamed Moses last year by the estate agents so we’d know it was ours: most thoughtful of them), so when I first looked at Mós I couldn’t believe it. It was a replica of the village I had seen in the valley with the three old ladies. At the time that village was the only one we had seen that looked like that and here I was standing in a place that looked almost exactly the same. It really is beautiful, exactly as it is, but standing there I could see all the possibilities of the future unfolding. In my minds eye I saw the colour returning to the village, I heard the children swimming in the brook and Andy playing piano in the house. And once Papops came I could also see the grandparents hanging out sipping port, laughing (and eventually probably drooling a little [Andy’s addition]) and reading to the kids as the sun sets over the valley. I was hooked. I was home.

We spent most of the day in Mós, talking, looking around and clambering up and down the terraces. I was so happy, but then I became aware that there were a couple of shadows. One, Joshua looked crestfallen. The place was beautiful but it wasn’t Italy. Two, none of the houses were big enough for us to live in as a family and three, there just weren’t enough houses for my friends "Tom and Jerry" to join us.

I hadn’t realised how much Joshua loved Italy and seeing how crestfallen he was, I said to myself, " I have seen this place. It has been offered to me. It is magical but it cannot be home if my little boy does not want to be here. If this place is meant to be for us then answers to questions will come, if those answers do not come then we move on. Life is too short and too good to be wasted on regrets." Well, the answers to question one came quite suddenly, after the second time we went to be there I noticed Joshua playing a little and relaxing and then he came to kiss me and said "Mum it is beautiful". I knew in my heart that those words were the beginning of a change of heart. Mós was beginning to work its magic on Josh.

The answer to question two came in the middle of the night when Andy woke up and said that if we had the two houses that are virtually two foot apart then the kids could have one and we could have the other and we could connect them via a covered court yard and pathways. You see in my secret dreams of our new house, I had always seen an internal courtyard with the home structured around an indoor garden. During our travels we have had the opportunity to see this in the many Roman ruins we visited so that Joshua and Eloise could continue their learning on the Romans which they’d began in school. When visiting the archaeological sites all of us had fallen in love with the indoor courtyards and now here we were planning to do the same. Well once we told Josh and Ellie our plans they were totally convinced.

So the obliterating of shadow one and two came pretty quick. Encouraged by this and the sheer magic of all our experiences associated with the place so far I felt certain that we could deal with shadow three. In my being I knew that somewhere amongst the undergrowth there’d be a place for lovely "Tom and Jerry".  The next day we found Christiana, our Swiss German angel, who said he would walk us to Mós. At the start of the walk I felt strongly that we should not go the usual way but go the long way round via the village as we turned the corner away from the village we saw Quinta Perfume!

We had read on the website that the closest neighbours were 500m away. We had also read that there was a really lovely property called Quinta and were thinking of going to see it with the estate agents just in case we didn’t like Moses. Never in our wildest dreams had we thought that the neighbouring property would be up for sale and that it would then be the lovely estate called Quinta Perfume! "Tom and Jerry" love it and join us next week to buy it at the same time we buy Moses. Well I guess this trip is all about wild dreams and the realisation of those dreams, step by step.

In the last two weeks question after question has been answered. Big ones, small ones, tincy, tiny niggling ones. It seems as if life has big neon arrows pointing at this place and we just have to follow the path. We’d said all along that Moses would lead us to the promised land and that the place we would find would rise up and bite us on the arse. Mine definitely feels bitten. And it’s not letting go.

Besides all that, I really like Portugal. It is a very gentle place, unassuming and elegant. I can grow all my favourite temperate plants here and virtually all of the plants that grow in Barbados. Imagine nectarines growing next to bananas. Finally, there are so many black people here. Everywhere we have been, in the cities, in the towns, in the villages, on the beach. I have seen black Africans, black Brazilians, white Portuguese and every combination of this spectrum walking together, talking, working etc. I have seen more mixed race couples here than anywhere else we’ve been in Europe so far outside of London and no one stares at me. At all. It’s amazing!

There’s a lot to be done. So much to be sorted out and so many more questions to arise. Questions we know will be answered like our first ones have. There is so much work to do and I am sure there will be many hurdles to climb over, go around, dig under or simply blast through. But with such a magical beginning we are feeling blessed. We have been pointed towards a place and when the universe points only a fool walks away. The universe pointed me to Andy, to Shardeloes Road, to Josh, to Ellie, to Moses the dog and now to Móses the place. There is indeed a long road ahead to be travelled, it is the road less travelled but I really feel it is a sparkly road. We have found our new home and it’s called Moses!
Need I say more?

1 comment:

colleen said...

you seem very spiritual and so at peace.God bless.