Photo of a hammer

A kind of hunch

If one is relocating to Portugal, the first thing one must do is purchase a drill machine along with a tool kit, and the second thing one should do is take some basic carpentry lessons. It is necessary to hone these life skills because it is easier to put a man on the moon than to get hold of a carpenter in this beautiful country. Believe me, it’s true.

Carpenters are people that specialize in woodwork. The term used to describe them has been around since the 14th century and originates from Latin carpentarius (wagon maker), with its root word carpentum (wagon).

It is also a common last name; like Richard and Karen Carpenter of the musical group Carpenters, with hits such as ‘Yesterday once more’, ‘Top of the world’ and ‘There’s A Kind of Hush’.

So, I was saying that the busiest people in Portugal are the carpenters who, for some strange reason, spend more time in Luxembourg than they do in this country. The two nations are very far apart with the shortest distance between Luxembourg and Portugal being 2086 kilometres (1296 miles).

If you travel in an airplane (which has an average speed of 560 miles), it takes around 2.8 hours to arrive. The bus route is erratic and takes 20 hours and 27 minutes to go one way, which is not very user friendly, so to speak.

However, once the Portuguese carpenters are in Luxembourg, there is no telling when they return to home ground. Nobody knows, least of all the companies their phone numbers are listed under. Also, no one has the faintest idea why they keep visiting another country when there is such a drastic requirement for their services locally. But ‘gone to Luxembourg’ is supposed to be a self-explanatory statement that brooks no further argument and there is nothing one can do about it other than wait for them to get back.

And this can be a long interval, mind you, because the concept of waiting can stretch from a couple of hours to a few months. Eventually, after much persuasion when they do turn up, one must have a proper ‘scope of work’ lined up for them. I mean, asking them to put some nails on the wall or to paint the chipped corner of a table makes them scoot to Luxembourg again.

Since there is such a shortage of them, they are a very sought after lot and work on an extremely tight schedule. In retrospect, if my parents had encouraged me to join a carpentry school, I would have had an extremely successful and profitable career path in Portugal, I think.

To avoid the manipulating carpenters, many of the us pick up the drill machine ourselves. Or train our gardeners to do so by paying them extra for the additional work.

I got accustomed to this bit of reality very fast, but my new Chinese neighbour had quite a bit of learning to do.

“Guess what happened today”, she asked me yesterday.

“What?” I was curious.

“A carpenter came to my house”, she informed me.

“Wow!” I exclaimed in astonishment.

“I told him to hang some pictures. But you know what happened next?”, she continued.

“He went off to Luxembourg”, I made a random joke.

“How did you know?” she was shocked.

“Let’s just say I had a kind of hunch”, I laughed.

By Nickunj Malik
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Nickunj Malik’s journalistic career began when she walked into the office of Khaleej Times newspaper in Dubai thirty-one years ago and got the job. Since then, her articles have appeared in various newspapers all over the world. She now resides in Portugal and is married to a banker who loves numbers more than words.