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I had no idea what to expect when I bought an old farmhouse in the hills above Loule in 1994. I stood in the kitchen with rain dropping down the back of my neck and impulsively told the agent I'd buy it....
From then on it was a steep learning curve. I was 47, single, spoke no Portuguese but was totally fired up with a naïve enthusiasm. What got me through was the wealth of kindness I encountered.
On a stormy November night my gas fired boiler refused to stay alight. My new friend Jose who ran the tiny village shop plied me with medronho and phoned his friend Manuel. No problem, he said triumphantly, he will come to your house tonight. At midnight, shivering and miserable, I got ready for bed. Five minutes later a little white van trundled up the track. There was no outside light near the boiler so Manuel made the repair using his lighter. I cowered behind the wall awaiting the explosion..... He refused to take any money and bumbled off to rejoin Jose in their medronho fuelled mouth organ session.
On another occasion I ran out of firewood.. my neighbour shoved me up into his pickup and off we went.... Where are we going? I asked hesitantly. 'To cut down a tree of course'.
In those more lawless days I used to stand on the top terrace with an old airgun pretending to take aim at the 'drogados' who were parked on my land. I had one rusty cartridge and no idea how to use the gun but it seemed to do the trick. I also dealt with snakes and rats inside the house, employed English tradesmen who ripped me off and Portuguese who did not.
The most useful decision I made was to learn Portuguese. It has enhanced my life here beyond measure. One of my current neighbours is 87 and still rides around his land on a donkey with his enchada over his shoulder. He recently told me he thought he should be my 'namorado' and brought two bags of oranges to my gate to plight his troth......
Life in the hills is wonderful - thanks to the kindness of strangers.
Author Bio - Sally moved to Portugal in 1994 after a long and varied career in England, walking Great Danes for the local pub (payment in wine....), publishing children's books, selling houses and being a single mother to two children whilst working in an advertising agency. All good skills for a new life in the Algarve.
Sally is currently looking to move to a tiny cottage with garden for a completely insane Portuguese Water Dog.