I wrote a book about my life in Portugal and in the forward are two lines
‘I can’t complain that my life has ever been boring. I don’t ask for things to happen to me they just do.’
That doesn’t always mean that I want them or they are memorable because they are happy occasions, they are simply events that have often changed not only my life but those of other people to an extreme extent.
For example not very long after I moved here to live in 1968 there was a violent earth tremor which brought down homes, monuments, churches and ancient trees. It all laid scattered over streets and main roads and to the poverty stricken people of the Algarve at that time it was looked upon as a sign from God that he was sending down a punishment. The few remaining churches soon filled with people praying penitently for forgiveness. Picking up the pieces of their lives and rebuilding the damage took many years and gave everyone a healthy respect for the power that nature has over us.
Only a few years later the whole country suffered from the effect of the 1974 revolution when the Portuguese military decided to throw off the yolk of dictatorship. The Portuguese do not have the volatile or violent nature of our Spanish neighbours and the takeover was quietly done without bloodshed. Nonetheless – at the time, with borders closed and the strict military rule that was initially necessary until order was restored, it was all a little awe inspiring. The changes it brought about over time with proper democratic elections showed the power of mankind when they want to bring about change. Again I was pretty shaken at the time but now enjoy the democracy which has resulted in greater freedom of expression if not a lessening in bureaucracy.
There have been many other life-changing experiences over the many years I have lived here of the more normal kind and far more personal, but the tornado that swept through my area of Lagoa just a few weeks ago on the 16th of November was yet another of the unwanted experiences from which only time will help those of us who experienced it to recover.
We now live amongst the heartbreak of those who truly suffered and I don’t mean ourselves. The damage to our property was minimal and with the help of the insurance company will be repaired, but for those who will not have that form of financial assistance their achievements on the possession scale of things is now, in many cases, zero.
Loans on TVs, electrical goods and furniture will still have to be paid for even if the items are ruined – money for instalments on cars still has to be found even though they are no longer capable of running, which means where someone has a job or children to take to school they will not have the means to get there.
A local farmer who lived in a caravan on the land he had farmed for many years in which he had invested everything – watched it all being destroyed. His transport lorry for which he had had little work of late was also parked on the land and suffered expensive damage. Only one week before in order to reduce his outgoing expenses he had exchanged his all-risk insurance for 3rd party. He now has nowhere to live, no work, no transport and no insurance to pay for any of it. How unlucky can you be?
At a time when life was difficult for all, the local council, already on a very tight budget, did all that they could. Streets were clear of debris within hours, accommodation, food and clothes for those made homeless was found and the clear up operation has put everything back to as normal as possible in a way that can only be admired.
The lovely Jacaranda trees that ran down the street at the back of my garden have gone as have many of a variety of trees so thoughtfully planted by Lagoa council along with wild almonds, olives, figs and carobs and many wild bushes and flowers.
In an urbanisation like ours where people live in apartment blocks hardly knowing anyone, it takes an event like this to know neighbours as friends who pull together in an emergency – clear the streets or help in each others homes but enough is enough! I don’t want to be the person to whom ‘things just happen’ any more. I’ve had enough ‘once-in-a-lifetime experiences’ and from now on would just like to enjoy an uneventful life. Some hope!
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.