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.