A Rather Grey Summer in Portugal

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(Ben) Well, here I am with a beautiful new baby in the middle of the Portuguese summer. I should, by all accounts, be walking on air. And a lot of the time I am. However, over the last few days I’ve hit a bit of a wall.

Although I pride myself on giving a “warts and all” account of life in Portugal, I do try to keep my posts largely positive. As a result, I’ve spent much of the day glancing at my “to do” list, seeing “write Moving to Portugal post,” and switching back to doing something else because I don’t want to use this blog as a place to moan.

Unfortunately though, I’m also rather obsessive about ticking off all the things on my “to do” list—so if you’d rather not hear me have a cathartic brain-unload, you may wish to navigate away now and return another day when I’m back to talking about sardines and sunshine.

So, what’s landed me in this rather grey mood? Here are the main things:

  1. The state of the world 

Israel and Palestine; Russia and Ukraine; My own local bank being exposed for corruption on a grand scale; I (really) could go on…

Sometimes I wish I could temper my natural curiosity and need to research, because the current state of the world is truly depressing, and potentially on the precipice of some seriously horrible shit.

Head in the sand - like most of the Western World
Head in the sand – like most of the Western World

To add to this, I get frustrated that so few people seem to realise or care, and know far more about football and the Kar-bloody-dashians than they do about issues that will, one day soon, affect them and their families.

“Ah, but how can the world depress you when you’ve got such a beautiful new son?” I hear the optimists amongst you say. Because he’s got to grow up in this world too, and there’s only so much I can do to protect him from it—and that frequently keeps me awake at night.

  1. Portugal’s “Summer”

It’s not been that bad, but this Algarve summer has been far cooler and cloudier than usual. I moved here for the weather, and never expected to wake up to grey skies in late July.

  1. Job dissatisfaction

I should make very clear that I’m very lucky to have the wide range of regular work that I have. However, I’ve recently started to realise that I spend much of my working life prioritising earning money over doing work I enjoy.

Yes, yes, I know the same applies to half the working world, but I’d love to spend more time lavishing care on this site and on www.foodandwineportugal.com – I’d also love to write another book, but my new-found identity as “provider for a family” has turned me back into a wage-slave, which is exactly what I moved away from the UK to escape.

Losing sight of why we came here
Losing sight of why we came here

There are other things I could cite: niggling health symptoms, family crap, but those are the main reasons I’m having a bit of a down phase.

So, on that depressing note, what do I propose to do about it? Well, the one thing I am always glad of is that I’ve never been one to wallow in the doldrums for too long. Much of today has been devoted to working out how to redress the balance and flick the positivity switch back in the right direction.

On that note, here’s my plan:

  1. I’ve already enrolled on a Child Psychology course, and later today I’ll be making a start on the lectures. I recently found out I’d got a good mark in the Open University course I completed last year, but struggled to justify signing up for another module straight away thanks to ludicrous fee increases and the need to spend the money on nappies and formula. Even though I’ve not missed the stressful run-ups to assignment deadlines, I have missed the mental stimulation and the learning, so this is a good compromise, and I’ve managed to find a properly accredited course for far less than the punitive OU fees.
Time to start studying again
Time to start studying again
  1. I intend to continue to spend hours of each day playing with my baby son, who always does something exciting and new every single day.
  1. By the end of today, I want to kick off my next online project—perhaps some kind of “expat dad” blog, or a new eBook. To ensure I stick with it, I will (at least try to) refrain from being swayed by Euro signs when I’m offered writing work that I know will bore me to tears.

That just leaves me with the general state of the world to sort out—something I’ll probably struggle to manage single-handedly! Still, I’ve plotted a bit of a life plan for the next few months, which is quite enough for one day.

If you’ve reached this point in the post—well, I really should thank you for listening! If you’re bored of hearing me moan, I did warn you!

I’ll conclude by suggesting that prospective Portugal expats take this post as a lesson that real life follows you everywhere you go, and that moving abroad is not a cure-all. On the other hand, I just know I’d feel way more down in the dumps if I had to commute home from central London this evening instead of sitting on the balcony studying my for my new course 😉

There ends my catharsis. I feel better already.

IMAGE CREDITS: Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Its always good to let it all out Ben ! I think your Expat dad blog sounds a great idea – I am sure Lou would want to be involved as well, so maybe Expat first time parents would be a good one. The state of the world is terribly depressing and wont be solved soon, but hopefully the Algarvean weather will pick up soon and cheer you up a bit. Hot and steamy in London, with the odd torrential floodings and hailstones. Lets not get started on global warming as well eh. Enjoy the rest of summer. Saz

  2. Thank you Saz, it is good to have a (perhaps rather self-indulgent) moan sometimes!

    Best wishes,


  3. Good post Ben, it never hurts to have a little moan now and then. I’m with you on the weather; however, I always remember that I’m here all the time, not just for a week or two like the holiday makers, so I’ve not spent my hard earned money for a hot sunny holiday and not got one. What’s really been bugging me is the incredibly strong winds we’ve been having. So glad you’re planning to spend time with Frederico, babies grow so fast you can miss so much. Good luck with your studying and new project. Best wishes, Sue

  4. Ben
    Sounds like a little post baby blues. I think sometimes after such a great life changing event we all feel a little down. Perhaps the adrenaline and joy of a new arrival wears off and you start to think about life in general.
    On your plans for the future, the course sounds a great idea.
    Spend as much time playing with your son as they grow up o so quickly.
    Writing a new blog about an expat parent would be great and be of benefit for so many in the future. If it is as informative and entertaining as your previous blogs.
    As for the state of the world, i too thought about this when my daughter was born, we had the kosovo/bosnia crisis then the Iraq wars. There is always some conflict in the world i think it is just reported and in our faces 24hrs a day in the 21st century. As individuals it is hard to influence these people in charge, usually in a different part of the world. I myself try and concentrate on local issues that i can change. Giving up some time and even funds to help disadvantaged local groups or individuals. It doesnt have to be huge amounts but the benefit flows both ways.
    Working is always a tough balance between the $$ and doing something that we like. But just remember you could be commuting on a packed train or tube each day even before you start the working day.
    And to the weather, its a British privilege to moan about it. I am sure it will improve sooner rather than later.

    Families we cannot choose. I hope your health issues improve soon. The only advice i can give on health is to cut out the cigs, i switched to e-cigs 18 months ago after 20 a day for 20 years and I feel 10 times better in my health and not just respiratory.

    Anyway hopefully these doldrums will pass soon and you will be back on track.


  5. Hi Sue,

    Thank you for your kind message – and the reminder that we’ve got all year to enjoy the weather is a good one – here’s to a warm and tourist free September 😉

    Best wishes,


  6. Hi Stewart,

    Thank you for taking the time to send that message. I rarely remain in the doldrums for long, and getting it off my chest was key to turning the corner!

    I’ve now completed several hours study for my new course and have registered the domain for my next blog – watch this space!

    Best wishes,


  7. Ben
    I have been following this blog from the start, and really look forward to you and Louise’s posts. I used to check in regularly for updates until the FB page was set up. Now it’s great to see the updates flagged up (on FB).

    What I absolutely love is your ability to write with such honesty – please continue to do so, and I will read right through to the end of each post.

    I suspect an element of post baby blues may be contributing to your mood (among other factors) After the excitement of the expectations, and then the heady early days, it takes some adjustment to settle into day to day family life as you have never known it before.

    I think you are making a great start by taking the time to write about what you are thinking and feeling. I expect that with you and Louise’s life focus now changed with the birth of Freddie, your blogging focus will change also.

  8. Hi Geraldine,

    Thank you for your thoughtful message. As I said in a response to another reader, my new “dad blog” is already underway, and I will share the details soon.

    Best wishes,


  9. Congratulations for your Frederico!

    Name for Emperors and Kings, ah? 😀

    Or famous composers, nobles, engineers, architects, historians… joking 😛

    By next tuesday, weather will be “normal”. Summer now is a little shy, yes… but since the 1970’s the average Summer temperature grew about 1,2º Celsius.

    See things with other perspective: Now that the “Volta a Portugal” is on the road, the poor creatures can finally have a tour without those mass temperatures in the past, at least in the next few stages lol
    You can imagine what was like crossing the Algarve and the Alentejo in the middle of the summer in the afternoon :S

  10. · Edit

    I like your plan. And don’t worry so much about the rest of the world. They’ll sort it out or not. As long as you’ve got you sorted out, you’re ahead of most!

  11. Thank you for your words of encouragement, Jota and Lisa 🙂

  12. Hey Ben,

    Are there any tech/freelancer meetups around where you live? Attending one or two small meetups a month can do wonders to “lone worker” morale (I understand that you mostly do freelance work right?).

    I remember spending eight months in Gozo (tiny island) – amazing place, but I started to feel really “weird” after a while there… felt like something was missing in my life – regular interaction with like-minded (tech, freelance, small business…) people perhaps?

    As much as I enjoy “living in the sun”, I find that most places in Southern Europe are very much behind in terms of small business/tech/freelance type of stuff. And I like that. But I do often find myself feeling kinda lonely in terms of what I do for a living. It sucks.

    We’ve considered moving to the Algarve at one point (still might), but I fear that Southern Portugal might be even worse when it comes to this type of “isolation”.

  13. Hi Mantas,

    Apologies for the delayed response and thanks for sharing your experiences. I’m not aware of any tech/freelance meetups that happen in the Algarve, but that’s not to say that there wouldn’t be appetite for such a thing if you were keen to make something happen.

    I certainly agree that interaction with like-minded business people can be lacking when you work as a freelancer and it’s interesting to consider that it’s a global issue rather than one specific to just Portugal.

    Best wishes,


  14. PS. If you do decide to move to Southern Portugal and set up a tech/freelancers meet up, let us know! 🙂

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