Or should that be villages? When we first moved in there was a lot of paperwork to be done: forms to be filled in, proof of residence to be made, photos taken… we traipsed round various offices together always taking all the documents with us, never knowing what was needed when. It was therefore with some amusement when we got any authorisation, our residência for example, as it seemed we were not living together. We were given different postcodes, one of us is living in the village to the east, Galega, and the other to the west, Chão de Ourique! We are in fact living bang smack in the middle of the two, perhaps the village boundaries go through the house.
Anyway, this was way back in 2010. Although the house may be in two villages it has neither a number nor a street name (the bank manager is always moaning about that). Some of you will remember the council had a village meeting back in February asking for suggestions for names. Last month we received a note from them saying that the proposed name for ours was Rua da Escola (and giving us 10 days to object and come up with something different). Ah, I hear you say: you’ve never mentioned the school. That’s because there is no school. There is a building which was used as the school, D. Elena went there when she was a child in the 1940s, but it hasn’t been used as one for decades. A name is better than no name though and now we wait for our number. (Which might help us to send parcels to the UK; at the moment the customs declaration form has to be done online but all attempts to fill it in fails as the address is incomplete…).
D Elena told me that the schoolteacher used to arrive by bicycle. In those days the road was just a dirt track and when it rained heavily he wasn’t able to come as it was all too muddy, especially as people kept oxen which made the road even more impassable in bad weather. She used to complain that she wasn’t allowed to go to the bigger school when she was old enough, as her brothers did, because it was in another village and she was a girl. She had to stay behind.
Which brings us to the next topic: it seems the village is for sale, including the old school house. There are 17 buildings on the west side, Chão de Ourique. Only six of these are lived in: three with Portuguese and three with Brits. Alas, at the start of the month there were seven occupied houses but we had to say goodbye to Ol’ Man River who lived alone at the far end. There is a lamp post in the village which serves as a notice board and as most notices are about who has died it is referred to as the death pole. We were sad to see his name and picture there but at 96 he had had a good innings, as they say. Despite his age he was always quite cheerful, we could often hear him singing, and always asked us what day of the week it was. His house, along with D Elena’s, is to stay with their families, as is another house, but the remaining are either for sale (five of those, I exaggerated a little) or abandoned (three).
There might even be more abandoned houses but as they have no roofs and have become one with nature it’s not always so clear what was a barn and what was a house. I often wonder what the village must have been like when all the houses were fully occupied and the old people who live here now, or up until recently, were children. D Elena used to talk about the past with pleasure until she remembered how hard it was without water and electricity (and the muddy roads) and got a bit tearful.
Meanwhile the greenfinches in the plane tree in the courtyard have left their home. They fledged this morning having stood on the edge of the nest flapping their wings and tweeting loudly for the last four days. They haven’t gone far, we can still hear them in the olive trees over the wall begging to be fed.
The last word goes to Jussi. Despite being a pedigree Labrador, with a whole string of operations and emergency treatments and medicines under her belt, she has, amazingly, turned 13. I have lost count how many times I thought she wouldn’t make it through the latest saga of illness, including the operation for the tumour at the start of the year, but she is quite perky, for her age at least, although her daily walk is just through to the end of the village and back. Alfredo is still around to shout Gordo! and chuckle whenever he sees her. Parabéns to Jussi.