By JENNY GRAINER
Jenny Grainer arrived in the Algarve to live, work and raise a family in 1968. She is a freelance writer and her book Portugal and the Algarve Now and Then has sold more than 2,000 copies.
AS CHRISTMAS approaches and another year draws to its inevitable end, those of us who live in Portugal, particularly here in the Algarve, should count our blessings.
The sun shines for many hours of the day, the rain has turned the summer dried countryside into a velvety green blanket and the farmers are very happy.
Ours is a winter wonderland in more ways than just the pleasant climate. Most of the foreign community living here come from a background that allows them to enjoy a reasonable if not luxurious way of life. Unlike many people in this world, even if pensions and share prices have been reduced because of the falling pound, we will still manage to have a few gifts under the tree with loved ones around us, either here or wherever we are going to join them – maybe even the other side of the world where relatives are now living.
We can talk on the phone to those who cannot be with us in the flesh and through the wonder of our computers we will be able see children, grandchildren, family and friends with our web-cams. Yes, I know we have a share of the problems that many face, robberies in particular, which happened to me and a neighbour on a Portuguese urbanisation, but flip the coin and be thankful that we have things to rob and often the money to replace them.
Throughout the Algarve, roundabouts have sprung into being like mushrooms, hopefully making driving a little safer. Some of them are works of art with symbolic sculptures or oases of Palm trees, spectacular to behold all year round and sparkling and shining now like beacons in the sky with Christmas decorations the local councils have provided.
The shopping streets are also beautifully decorated unashamedly celebrating the birth of Christ with not a care in the world about political correctness. Nativity scenes abound in shop windows, public libraries and schools, and many Town Halls have organised competitions to find the most imaginative. Is anyone offended? I don’t think so.
Christmas fairs are presenting an eager gift-buying public with all sorts of crafts and homemade produce although their days may be numbered if ‘Health and Safety’ come across them.
Thank heavens, unless we happen to be in blatantly tourist areas we are unlikely to see our teenagers falling around drunkenly, with the GNR handing out Flip Flops to girls no longer capable of balancing on their stilettos, as a trial experiment that Devonshire police in the UK are doing.
We started our Christmas in an entirely different way this year by going to the theatre in Lagoa to see William Shakespeare’s silly but delightful play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. What a wonderful treat. I’m rather more used to putting on plays myself so it was quite exciting to sink back into the comfortable seats and be thoroughly entertained by first class actors, performing against a magical set. Director Priscilla Morgan certainly put the joy of the season into all the hearts of her audience.
Our last Christmas was spent in the home of a very dear friend and a very merry one it was. This year will be even better because my daughter and her husband will be joining us at home and she will be roasting her first turkey for me while I will just sit back and appreciate the feast I know she will prepare. Sharing Christmas with one of my three children will be very special and next year the plan is for all of us to descend on my eldest, the one with my three granddaughters, over there in sunny Manchester.
So, with much to look forward to, it will be sad to remember those who will not be sharing in our celebrations. Friends and strangers who will be facing their first Christmas without a loved one who has left this earthly life – all the selfless people who will be operating emergency services and even those behind locked doors because of crimes they have committed. Many of them will hopefully learn their lesson and straighten out their lives when they have served their sentence and return to the outside world, but some will have to seek a pardon from a greater power, because many of us will find it hard to forgive. Our thoughts will turn to innocent children like Baby P and the inhumane treatment metered out to this beautiful child by the people meant to care for him,or Karen Mathews who has seemingly placed her selfish needs and desires, before any of the seven children she has brought into the world.
Make each day a special one, as none of us know which will be the last. Don’t put off until tomorrow whatever you can do today. Send those cards and letters and wrap those packages with love. Make peace with your enemies and don’t go to bed angry. Have a wonderful Christmas and, God willing, I’ll be with you again in 2009.