Catching up … with friends and Lagos Finanças .jpg

Catching up … with friends and Lagos Finanças

RETURNING FROM a visit to Britain, where temperatures reached new highs and jelly fish swarmed into the shallows as holidaymakers sought refuge in the sea, it has been all go. Visiting Lagos Finanças before flying out on June 22, we were told that it was too early to licence our cars. With the deadline of July 16, as soon as we came back it was our first priority.

To date, the electronic system intended to simplify the whole process has been, as far as I am concerned, a dead loss. After several attempts, I failed to obtain the last part of my licence, an essential document to be printed and presented along with the money or, in the event of using an ATM, offering other information required by Multibanco.

With instructions from the Association for Foreign Residents and Property Owners in Portugal (AFPOP) alongside my computer, I obtained my password, a reference number and my ID; all of which must be noted for future use, when legalising my small run-around. We had a dummy run at doing it the old way, but took fright on seeing at least 50 people waiting outside the Câmara building, and the same number inside. The next day, a friend said: “Try at the post office,” but this proved impossible without the final printout. An acquaintance sent me to the new retail park at Portimão. She had taken her Livrete and Cartão de Contribuinte to the Staples store and bought the vehicle stamp there. However, the papelaria had sold out by the time I reached it, so I was told to visit the Finanças – back to square one.

After a two hour struggle and the temperature at 90 degrees in the shade and climbing, I called into the AFPOP office, where I was told we had an extension until July 31.

It was good to have a couple of weeks in the old country and to see the family, if only for a few days. After visiting our stomping grounds in Somerset and meeting old friends, none of whom appear to have aged, we went shopping, deciding that Weston-super-Mare had gone to seed and was a place to be avoided.

Flying from Bristol to Newcastle and back was akin to being herded like cattle to an abattoir – shoulder to shoulder in an overcrowded departures area, then crammed in grossly overloaded buses from terminal to plane. Boarding became a free for all, women with small children were trapped in the crush, instead of being allowed to take their seats first.

The time in between these flights was spent in the sparsely populated Northumbrian hinterland, its fields shaven close, after the first cut of silage grass had been baled into black plastic rolls. Driving alongside Hadrian’s Wall one misty morning, past the gaps where centuries of peasants had taken stones for building purposes, it bore no resemblance to the defences ordered by Emperor Hadrian, when he visited Britain in AD 122. Unable to subdue the Picts among the remote mountains of Caledonia, he cut his losses and walled them out.

Was he turning in his grave today, I wondered, now that the Scottish influence at Westminster threatens to dominate south of the border, and we are paying taxes set by a man from Kirkaldy? With costs soaring at Holyrood, our money is being diverted from essentials to pay for this new parliamentary pile north of the border.

Such thoughts were soon forgotten as we approached a small village called Talking Tarn within a few miles of Carlisle. Six of us were to meet for lunch at the pub, our combined ages adding up to something over 500 years. As one well past the ‘sere and yellow leaf’ of Shakespeare’s day, there is an added spice to such meetings and, while none of us were without physical limitation, the unadulterated pleasure taken in each other’s company was a joy.

The remainder of our time was spent near Tenby, among the rich green fields and woods of west Wales on the family smallholding, a short drive from the beach. Children, grandchildren and their partners joined us for a few days and, being a first ever gathering of the clans, it became a celebration.

Accommodation being at a premium, number one daughter pitched her tent on the lawn, but when a thunderstorm broke in the night and the tent leaked, she moved into one of the caravans nearby. Our young granddaughter, in her large shiny car, painted British racing green, chauffeured us round the beauty spots. With the Boss’s guidance, we became lost in a maze of narrow country lanes. Tall, unkempt hedges, draped with honeysuckle and bright with foxgloves and Meadow Sweet, brushed the limo’s sides, while between the wheels, a hump of weeds nudged its sump for mile after mile.

Expecting a farmyard round every corner, finally we found a finger post pointing to our destination – the lily pools of Bosheston, where there are otters and a wide variety of waterfowl. Coots pottered about on top of the lily pads and a heron, up to its hocks in clear, still water, waited for something edible to drift by. A magical place. Then on to Saint Govan’s Head, close by the firing range at Castle Martin, to visit a tiny chapel built by an Irish saint in the sixth century AD. Seventy-four steps down a near vertical cliff, it is a place of peace and contemplation. Having no internal walls and built into the rock, there is a fissure where it is said Saint Govan hid from pirates and left the imprint of his ribs.