A 21st century capitalist Christmas.jpg

A 21st century capitalist Christmas

By PAUL MCKAY [email protected]

Teacher, Paul McKay, left London to live a self-sufficient existence in the Monchique hills with his partner Martyn. He keeps an assortment of animals and grows a variety of crops in an eco-friendly way – all on a limited income.

Thursday 5th November

Halloween has been done and dusted, Guy Fawkes is in embers – I suppose we should think about getting the tinsel out.

Sunday 8th November

Today was rather like the story of my life in miniature. We had planned to go for a long walk along the cliff tops from Lagos to Burgau. I overslept so the route had to be shrunk down.

After delays involving showers, power cuts, runaway dogs and an escaped pig causing a traffic jam, we eventually set off just before lunch time.

We left the car park at Porto de Mós in Lagos and climbed a steady path along the cliffs towards Luz.

I had a bright yellow rucksack packed with water, fruit and a beetroot salad. The second we reached the peak, the midway point in open country, affording panoramic ocean views, the threatening clouds above us burst and we were drenched.

My suggestion to shelter under a gnarled fig tree was met with derision. With impeccable timing, to ratchet up the tension one more notch, the beetroot salad container spontaneously erupted; rich purple gung trickled slowly down my back and into the elastic of my undergarments.

The acrimonious conversation as we strode back to sea level, with me holding the beetroot and vinegar bag at arm’s length, did little to raise the spirit. The inclement weather forced us to picnic in the car, not quite the idyll I had envisaged.

Whilst picnicking ‘a la voiture’, I filled the silence by reading glove-box literature and noticed the car was ‘sans’ its required insurance documentation. Less than three hours after setting off, we were back home looking for said papers.

A few hours trawling through 20 years of paperwork and we were no nearer finding it. This kind of event seems to recur more frequently as one ages. In August, I purchased The Paul McKenna book and CD How to change your life in 4 weeks. I read it in English a couple of years ago to no effect, so thought I’d try it in Portuguese.I haven’t seen the book since the day I bought it.

Realising time was pressing on, I began sorting out my things for work on Monday – no sign of the keys – here we go again. I grabbed the mobile to use as a torch and inadvertently touched a dog lead setting off a flurry of leaping and yelping. Surrounded by bounding dogs and shrieking cats, I trekked through a typhoon to the car and promptly found the lost insurance, in the boot of all places, along with two light fittings, some missing tupperware and my first sighting of a birthday card (I was 49 in September).

I then dropped the mobile and had to struggle in the pitch black to reunite it with its battery.

Monday 9th November

I was woken by the alarm on my mobile at 3am; forgot to reset the clock after the boot incident. When I arrived at the car this morning, the door was wide open – fortunately my neighbour’s cats had not seized the opportunity to perfume it as is often their want.

Thursday 12th November

Slight delay on the way to work today as my neighbour’s dogs were romantically attached in the middle of the road, both pulling in different directions resulting in a stalemate (another microcosm of life perhaps).

Sunday 28th November

Christmas is coming…that time of year when, briefly, we think about goodwill to others and then buy a wide screen telly for ourselves.

After the nice man in Worten helped us to understand the difference between Plasma and LCD, we bombed up and down the Algarve comparing prices. We finally settled on an LG LCD from Rádio Popular.

Monday 31st November

Apart from buying a bargain Christmas tree from AKI, the whole day has been spent fiddling around with wires behind a giant TV. After years of peering at a tiny, tinny telly with ‘Basic Line’ proudly emblazoned across the front, this new item looks a little incongruous in our humble lounge, not unlike a Rolls Royce parked in a council estate.

We are slowly learning to avert our eyes when Angela Rippon appears, for fear of being suffocated in a cloud of face powder and skin coloured sludge.

Tuesday 1st December

Martyn has spent seven hours behind a TV and a computer box, attempting to link the two in a technological nightmare. We have a bin bag full of wires – Scart, RGB, HDMI, USB… a shopping trolley full of plugs and adaptors and a constant stream of interested parties offering well-intentioned but ill-informed advice.

Most of this advice is delivered to Martyn’s backside as his head is shoved behind some appliance struggling to make sense of the myriad of sockets in a near blackout due to fluctuating electricity supply.

Despite the cool weather, but on account of being upside down for most of the day, Martyn is sweating profusely and claims to have broken out in nappy rash. We are trying to get our heads around bluetooth as it were, but are hampered by complete ignorance and the timely disappearance of the computer manual.

On a more positive note, the Paul McKenna book surfaced during the Computer Manual Hunt (shoved in a box of seeds), so maybe his supernatural powers and positive thinking will change my life before Christmas.

Saturday 5th December

The TV is up and running now, thanks to about 20 consultations with the nice men at Rádio Popular and Worten. On the last visit, I said blue tube instead of bluetooth, but I think I got away with it. Mother phoned today, embroiled in her own techno-opera with a mobile phone. She wants to remove nine photographs of herself looking into her handbag.

Polite questioning ascertained that each time she takes her new phone from her handbag she involuntarily snaps another photo of herself.

Sunday 6th December

I suppose we really should be getting out the tinsel and baubles now. Our turkeys are giving us a wide berth and the leaves on the Estrela de Natal are deep red. Jamie has started popping up with his strange concoctions again and they’ve already wheeled out Delia on the Beeb.

M&S have roped in some big names and even Woolies have come back via the internet – this isn’t just any Christmas, this is a 21st century capitalist Christmas.

Think of me on the big day – Her Majesty in close up on a 33-inch screen at two o’clock and the rest of the day spent hunting for the nut crackers – sweet! Merry Christmas.