Home and away

news: Home and away

Euro 2004 is over, the best team won and the tournament was an enormous success. Hey, the rest of Europe was so impressed that they bought the company, sorry, made Durão Barroso chief honcho – let’s hope he shows more humanity in Brussels than he did at home. But, before we lay the weary subject of football and its followers to rest, let me say one or two more things.

Sometimes, Judy, I get the impression that you just skim over my deliberations, unwilling to accept the bigger picture. Your “losers, those honest, hard-working people in Albufeira…who had to clear up the mess and get on with their lives” probably sold more beer in the first week of the tournament alone than during the whole of last year – especially to those yobs whose drink-fuelled excesses caused such a commotion.

When questioned, most bar owners on The Strip refused to divulge how many pints had crossed the counter, but the fact is that one investigating journalist counted six barrels containing 50 litres each and 100 bottles of Budweiser and Corona going out in one bar, during one game lasting 90 minutes. With beer priced at three euros a pint, that’s a lot of money. I am also fairly sure that ID cards were not demanded and that the law stating that it is forbidden to serve customers who appear to be drunk was safely ignored.

Secondly, binge drinking and the violence associated with it is not a football-related phenomenon, but a British problem equally indulged in by women. Nor is it the sole preserve of the young or socially disadvantaged, as illustrious personalities such as Peter O’Toole, George Best and many others have so ably demonstrated in the past. Recent television footage of drunken mayhem in the ‘respectable’ London suburbs of Ealing and Chiswick – I have lived in both – and the introduction of special police patrols (Operation Optic) to deal with the growing problem, only serve to reinforce this fact.

Sticking our heads ostrich-like in the sand and blaming male football supporters will not get rid of the reality that surrounds us, nor will spiritual development courses. Alcoholics Anonymous seems more appropriate to me!

Yet all of us here in the Algarve have one thing in common: we have opted out, or rather chosen to pursue a better quality of life away from modern Britain and its increasingly ugly manifestations. Periodic reminders such as those incidents in Albufeira only confirm that we made the right choice.

So, what else are we not missing in our lives in the sun? Well, first and foremost, there is sun on average 300 days a year of it. This fact is not only pleasant and warm – making layers of pullovers and thick coats redundant – but has also been proven to increase our personal happiness and disposition in general. Our outlook on life becomes more positive. Compared to month and month of grey and rainy days back home, we have truly arrived in paradise. Our standard of living also contributes to the feel-good factor.

Despite rising prices over the last few years, we are not only still able to afford the better things in life, but probably also live in a spacious detached house rather than a two-bedroom flat mortgaged to the hilt. Then there is the more relaxed lifestyle. We have less stress and more time to actually live. Lateness for a dinner invitation is not a problem. In fact, it doesn’t normally matter when you arrive, except on time – something that would cause a riot in Kensington High Street.

In Britain, 14 per cent of trains that leave never arrive – those that do are inevitably late, expensive and dirty – quite the contrary of the service over here. With all the new motorways, theatres and different cultural events, let us forget cricket, Tesco and Shakespeare. In fact, if I start on food and drink, fresh fish, the diversity of affordable restaurants and the number and quality of beaches, all of which are either extortionately expensive or far away in England, I would never finish. Coupled with the natural Portuguese friendliness and appreciation of time and good conversation, I think we are in the right place.

A recent survey in Britain shows that a lot of people agree with us. As first-aid courses are starting to include the treatment of gunshot wounds in Manchester’s Moss Side and other cities, a third of Britons have expressed the wish to leave the country, in despair at the state of the nation. It is estimated that an extra six million will be living and working abroad by the year 2020.

One million Britons have already retired to a foreign country, 850,000 are working away from home and a total of 186,000 left for good last year alone. The majority of departees cite soaring crime, escalating house prices and long working hours as motivating factors. Others are fed up with the crises in the health, fire and police services, dilapidated schools and high taxes. Job-related stress and its harmful effect on family life was also an important reason given by those questioned.

The Centre for Future Studies established that more and more people, especially white collar professionals and skilled tradesmen, are turning their backs on Britain to seek a fresh challenge, a better quality of life and new experiences. Is this true for you? It is for me.

PS If you have any comments or thoughts send them to me, Skip, c/o The Resident.