Can you believe, it’s three years this week since we sold our UK home and moved to the Algarve? Would I do it all over again? I honestly don’t know. When I walk down the stairs on a morning, to put the kettle on, it all feels quite normal and natural. And when I open the door onto my roof terrace I still beam at the sight that greets me. Pegging the washing out is interspersed with glances at the glittering sea on the horizon. It dazzles my eyes. Most days I walk through Tavira with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. I go to t’ai chi, or hop a train to nearby Cabanas to play croquet. And when I’m not doing that I’m almost invariably meeting friends, to walk and lunch together. The sun shines most days and I luxuriate in the warmth. Isn’t this the dream? The life I aspired to? I’d have to say yes – though the croquet did come as a surprise.
Can you feel a ‘but’ coming? I still find myself referring to England as ‘home’. Not so easy to shake off all those years. I liked stair carpet under my bare feet, and that comforting sound when the central heating clicked on. Temperature control is still an issue in a Portuguese house in the cooler months. And I’ve failed miserably to gain confidence in speaking the language. A simple task like booking a taxi fills me with dread. Fortunately, I rarely need one. Michael knows that part of his job description is chauffeur. I have a very nice French friend at t’ai chi, but our conversations are a muddle of misunderstanding. Switching between French and Portuguese is beyond me, and I stutter and stammer like an idiot. And then just smile hopelessly. I’m perfecting the Gallic shrug.
The chief regret, of course, is distance from family. I never tried to fool myself that this would be easy, but perhaps I was deluded into thinking that the benefits to my lifestyle would make it worthwhile. The past 2 years have tested that to the limit, and I was never so glad as when we could be together again this summer. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but it also hurts. We have a fleeting visit to Leeds planned for Christmas, but already government restrictions are in place for next month. Who knows what might happen to jeopardise things? Friends here have a transient lifestyle, returning often to the UK, and that is unsettling in itself. We live for the day, as we should, for none of us are young. Each separation could be the last. I don’t want to be maudlin, but I try to be honest. We have a friend who is planning to make a permanent move out here next year. What should I tell her? I wish I knew.
I read back through Living the Dream before I posted this morning. What a saga of ups and downs! Memories trigger memories, don’t they? As I’m writing this I remember all the good times. Wave upon wave of hugs and smiles. No use to dwell on the lost 18 months. I have to move forward with hope. There is no other way.