For those who prefer to look at photos rather than read, enjoy some new photos of a stunning sunrise on flickr, and with it we send you our love and Christmas greetings!
For those who have time for stories, please read on…
Christmas, stripped of its routines, away from family and instead parked up by a lagoon outside a little village that hardly bears any signs of the festive season. It invites me to rethink about what is important to me and in my life.
In my childhood, Christmas was always a time of stories. My mother would read a story to us by candlelight, surrounded by the smells of my grandma’s freshly baked biscuits.
One that sticks in my mind and often comes back to me, was Tolstoy’s Wieviel Erde braucht der Mensch?(How much land does a man need?) For those who don’t know it, here it is online. I know, it’s not your run of the mill Christmas story, but then my mother was not a run of the mill woman 😉
Recently we have met people who, for one reason or another, made me think of that story again.
There’s the retired couple, let’s call them Bob and Ann, who moved from England to settle in Portugal’s interior. They arrived in a campervan, even bigger than our Emma, fell in love with the area and stayed. They built their house in a little village surrounded by olive groves. Bob is a very smart man, and it is obvious that in his working life he earned enough money so as not to have any financial worries now. The house is quite unusual, not the kind of house I would build, but it seems exactly how they want it, and they both seem happy with it and each other.
Their campervan now sits in the driveway, a grand home for their cat! Bob collects instruments, and from his stories we gather that he once picked up a very valuable violin in a job-lot. Were he to sell it, it would fetch a lot of money but Bob says, Why sell it? I have enough, I’ve got everything I want.
It is so rare to hear someone say that. Who knows when they have enough, and what is enough to you? What is enough to me? What do I really need?
Rich people often suffer from wanting more. Bob is an exception, I think. In addition to having enough material goods, he has a sharp mind, a great sense of humour and an open heart. He looks out for those who may need help around him and he will always help if he can.
In Òbidos, the Christmas brimborium is in full flow. This is one of the most touristic towns we have passed through in Portugal, and yet, the fabric of the town seems neglected, it seems everyone is after the money from strangers to line their own pockets, nothing gets ploughed back into the place. The town looks tired. What a contrast to the social entrepreneurship that was at the heart of the development in Cháos!
We weave through the less populated part of the town when we come across a short scene of love and separation: a woman is waving a man good-bye, on Christmas eve. There is obviously a strong bond of love between them and the parting is not easy. She remains behind, clutching a young Siamese cat while he drives off.
Down by the seafront in Foz do Arelho, we meet a man in a Peugeot 404, built in 1967.
Frank loves this car, his father also had one, but the 6-seater version. We start talking to the man and it turns out that he bought it new when his daughter was a toddler, over 45 years ago. Everything is still original, the leather seating, the paintwork, everything. Every weekend, he drives the 80km from where he lives to bathe his ailing legs in the seawater. This is a ritual trip down memory lane – he says he’s got the spirits of his parents sitting on the backseat and his wife sat next to him. The car is family he says, and it brings him close to those he has lost. He sits in his car, happily eating persimmon fruits that he picked from his tree, enough to feed his whole family of spirits. There is such a bittersweet feeling about him.
I feel so blessed to be where I am and with the man I love. It feels such a great gift to have found each other, to feel love with no hesitation, no ifs and buts: to experience people and nature together and to have time and space to dance, to read, to reflect; to connect to each other’s families and to share the joys and worries for our respective offspring. I feel a great peace inside me. Of course, I love Totnes, my flat in Seymour Villas and most of all the people in the house and Frank loves his house and garden in Cardiff but it seems that for us, peace doesn’t lie in a physical place but in the heart of the relationship, never mind where we are.
It is from within this peace, that we want to connect to the outside world, to our children and wider families, to the communities we live in and so wish to send you all a part of this feeling. Have a Happy Christmas and festive season wherever you may be!
Ruth & Frank
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