Living in this amazing country

The last few days of August heralded the welcome arrival of September with slightly cooler days and nights, which for those of us who have made the Algarve our home were very welcome. Life can move now at a slightly quicker pace and we can all start planning events for the autumn and winter months when there will be less of the sun seekers but a welcome trickle of tourists rather more interested in discovering the true Portugal, its ways, customs and food.

In 1967, my husband decided that, after holidaying here for a few years and already owning our own property in Albufeira, we should make it our permanent home. So we and our 18-month-old son moved to Portugal in September of that year, which means that 2017 will be my 50th anniversary of living in this amazing country.

Sometimes I have to remind myself of how different it all was then and how much Portugal has changed in those 50 years – changes that probably took other countries a hundred or more to develop.

The sleepy Algarve we came to didn’t have much in the way of mod-cons and what they did have was exorbitantly expensive. Luckily, we had brought with us things like a washing machine and a few other electrical items but soon learned that it was impossible to use more than one at a time or the circuits would blow. Actually, being without electricity and water was a way of life. We were more frequently without than with. We always kept containers full of water and a plentiful supply of candles and oil lamps just in case.

The people themselves were always delightful. Kind, generous to a fault and helpful, mostly uneducated to any degree, most couldn’t read at all but even though we couldn’t speak Portuguese and they couldn’t speak English we somehow managed to communicate. Now they automatically assume that if you look foreign you can’t speak Portuguese and automatically talk to you in English which is annoying when you’ve spent many hours learning it.

I laugh when I read letters complaining about the roads and drivers… I just wish those writers could have been here to see what we had to put up with then. The EN125 was our only road from Sagres to Vila Real de Santo António.

Then it was a narrow strip of tarmac festooned with pot holes without a white line in the middle or side to denote just where the road began or ended. There were few drivers or cars on the road but quantities of motorbikes – and I mean bikes with a tiny motor attached and exhaust pipes that belched black smoke with unmusical accompaniment.

Then there were the plenitude of beautifully painted carts pulled by mules or donkeys, a charming sight with José and Maria upfront and either their produce in the back or other members of the family. However, not nearly so quaint when they were on the road after sundown with no lights and you could suddenly come across them and drive into their rear end!

But all that is past and although I found it all very funny or annoying at the time, I was young and after the sophistication of London it was just such a gentle and pleasant time. We learned to take life as it comes and how to deal with it.
The modern world we live in now is so very different. Living without water and electricity is a thing of the past. Of course I’m much older now and enjoy having the comforts of life and especially good medical treatment, which I have sadly had rather a lot of and been grateful for.

Thanks to the doctors and nurses who have taken such good care of me I can look forward to a future and this year has already been a memorable one with another grandson born in June to my youngest son and his wife, my daughter’s 40th birthday and in October she and I are going on the holiday of our dreams to the musical south of the USA.

The idea of being where some of the best jazz musicians have played in places like New Orleans and Memphis, where we might even go around Graceland to pay homage to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, then on to Nashville where all the great country and western singers hail from is unbelievably exciting for both of us even though we are from two different generations.

When we return, it will be time for me to start working on The Grand Variety Show, which will again be at the auditorium in Lagoa on Friday, November 25. This year will be its 10th performance raising money for charity, which will be on behalf of the Bombeiros Voluntários de Lagoa (Lagoa firefighters) and Salva-Vidas de Ferragudo (sea rescue team of Ferragudo) – two first-class charities that have been heavily overworked this summer, and to whom we all owe a great debt of gratitude.

Although I already have some special artists lined up for the show, there is still time to let me know if there is somebody talented that perhaps you have seen perform and would like to suggest.

See you in November if not before.

By Jenny Grainer

Jenny Grainer arrived in the Algarve to live, work and raise a family in 1964. She is a freelance writer and her book ‘Portugal and the Algarve Now and Then’ is now in its 3rd printing.