As time goes by – smiles better

Easter is already behind us, the April Fools have come and gone, spring has sprung (as have the clocks) and summer will be in full swing by the time you next hear from me. Doesn’t time fly?

While clearing out my wallet just now, I came across the German identity card – I keep it to remind me that I am actually supposed to be one of them – which was issued to me in Berlin immediately prior to my epic and final voyage to the Algarve, and two things struck me. Firstly, that my intended sojourn to this wonderful part of the world will have completed its 20th year come November and, secondly, that I will be ‘celebrating’ my 53rd birthday on Wednesday!

Really? What happened to that somewhat impetuous, cosmopolitan and yet world-weary 33-year-old who stepped off the Lisbon bus in Portimão two decades, a different century and millennium ago?

I can’t really tell you – my best answer is ‘a zillion things while time stood still’. Or maybe these verses from the Casablanca theme tune explain it better:

Yet we get a trifle weary
With Mr. Einstein’s theory.
So we must get down to earth at times
Relax relieve the tension.

You must remember this
A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh.
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by.

And when two lovers woo
They still say, “I love you”.
On that you can rely
No matter what the future brings
As time goes by.

Whatever the case may be, here I still am as a few of you I have known from the beginning are also. Some things have remained of the Algarve we knew then and many have changed as our peaceful European backwater does its best (and worst) to catch up with other popular holiday destinations.

On a personal level, the past 20 years have had their fair share of ups and downs, upheaval and loss. The passing of my father still weighs heavily on me at times, while the knowledge that my mother and sister are always there for me, whatever the circumstances, gives me great strength.

Life also has a funny way of playing tricks on you. If I was not agnostic, I would say ‘the good Lord giveth, the good Lord taketh’. After spending years wandering in an emotional desert, I finally met ‘the one’ last summer and the future appeared to be brimming over with promise for an absolutely fabulous 2016 until an unforeseen development at work turned my perfect world upside down again.

Suffice it to say that my new-found harmony at home is currently being counterbalanced by a war of attrition waged to defend all I have achieved professionally since my arrival.

As I said, life can be a bugger, but Aries people are natural born winners and I, with the help and support of my family and friends, shall succeed – watch this space!

But enough about me – is it just ME? – and more about you. The Office for National Statistics has revealed that life is getting better all the time. Apparently you are happier, healthier and wealthier than ever before.

Statistics show that between 2008 and 2011, healthy life expectancy for men went up from 62.5 to 64.2 years, and for women from 64.2 to 66.1 years. Add in that the net national disposable income has risen to £22,786 for every individual, a dropping crime rate, not to mention the brilliant sunshine, and a long and blissful holiday or retirement in the Algarve seems a certainty.

Yet, paradoxically, most of us don’t believe it. Satisfaction levels are actually falling suggesting that the more comfortable we become, the more likely we are to be grumpy and complaining – or is that just the British way of life?

My philosophy is to embrace life and make the best of fortune or adversity. My glass is always half full, never half empty. A long time ago I learnt that if you smile at your fellow human beings, be they strangers, acquaintances or friends, they will as a rule smile back and forget their troubles even if only momentarily.

Make it a habit to do at least one good deed a day, be it acknowledged or not. It will make you feel good about yourself while spreading a little happiness.

Constantly worrying about things will only make you miserable and irritable. Make a list of the things that are having a negative impact on your life and systematically set about putting them right or eliminating them. This may sound a little regimented and Teutonic but you will find just how easy it is to lighten the load most of us carry around.

The way time has flown by – it speeds up from year to year – since those never-ending schoolday Sundays burdened by undone homework, has taught me how finite our existence really is … soaring life expectancy statistics or not.

We must make the most of our stay on this planet before the unknown catches up with us, and I took a big step in that direction when I moved here all those years ago – I hope you agree. See you in July!

P.s.: As we are talking about statistics – not statins! – and getting older, the University of Miami has proven that regular exercise in later life can knock years off the age of our brain. Pensioners who do high levels of activity slow their memory decline by around a decade. So, off you go! Hit that boardwalk, surfboard or tennis ball!

By Skip Bandele
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Skip Bandele moved to the Algarve 20 years ago and has been with the Algarve Resident since 2003. His writing reflects views and opinions formed while living in Africa, Germany and England as well as Portugal.