We’ve been back in the UK a couple of months now, but everything still seems rather alien!
In my last post I was perhaps a little negative about the Portugal we’d left behind, so I’m going for some more balance this week.
Life in the UK has been good, but with an undulating backdrop of homesickness. It doesn’t help that I still do a lot of writing work about Portugal, and having to write about beaches I am no longer just down the road from isn’t the most fun way to begin a working week! Suffice to say I really don’t think it will be that long until we pop back to the Algarve for a visit.
That visit would probably feel more urgent if it weren’t for the glorious weather we’ve had in England, and that’s where I’ll begin my list of random observations:
1. The weather here isn’t that bad at all.
I know we’ve been lucky with a dry April, but we’ve just spent a long weekend visiting family and we’ve been happily outside for rather a lot of it. Yesterday we had a pub lunch in a beer garden and I woke up today with a tanned face. That was NOT something I was expecting!
The other pleasant surprise is that even when the headline temperature looks low, it’s actually perfectly warm in sheltered spots. Of course I miss the Algarve weather, but what we’ve had since we’ve been back is more than acceptable, and actually far more practical for our baby son.
2. The UK mobile network is APPALLING!
I said that these would be random observations, so now we go from weather to phone signals!
Last weekend on our big family trip, there wasn’t a single house we arrived at where we could get decent data reception. This includes an area covering Kent, Outer London, Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. 3G reception on motorways was rubbish too.
I don’t know if it’s just that the UK’s network struggles with the number of people, but by comparison Portugal’s mobile infrastructure is fantastic.
3. We still have Portuguese “muscle-memory”
I don’t know how long this is going to last, but we are both still often convinced we are going the wrong way around roundabouts, and occasionally find it hard to remember the English word for something (my wife struggles particularly with “coentros,” which is coriander).
Worst of all, we’ve yet to shrug off the continental “hug and kiss on both cheeks” greeting, which in the UK results in either a near-head-butt or the recipient thinking you’re going in for a snog, neither of which comes across as particularly dignified…
4. England is expensive
This is a complicated point, but overall it’s a very good job there are more earning opportunities in the UK, because it’s far harder to live on a budget.
It’s not that all day-to-day things are more expensive. Groceries, for example, are probably cheaper than in Portugal, and as I’ve said before there is far more variety. Our utility bills are less too, but that’s completely cancelled out by a council tax bill of nearly £200 per month.
Where the budgeting unravels is in entertainment. Back in the Algarve, ten Euros could mean a good long trip to the bar and a bite to eat to take home. Here, that ten Euros won’t come close to buying the first round.
At the moment we’re spending every weekend catching up with friends and family, so our spending pattern isn’t typical, but suffice to say we keep having to top up our entertainment budget, and the credit cards are coming out far more than they did in Portugal!
In addition, working longer days and commuting means being more tired, and that’s when the lure of the takeaway menus becomes strong.
Finally, there’s just so much in the UK that you CAN do! After years of missing the theatre, and the easy access to gigs and festivals, we feel like we want to do it ALL. To do so we must work hard to earn it – and on that basis it’s easy to identify the start of that slippery slope back to the rat race. We must proceed with caution!
5. We’ll probably visit Portugal sooner than we thought
One thing that did come up during our manic weekend was the rather sad realisation that once we’d done everything we had to do, we’d be going “home” to elsewhere in England, rather than “home” to Portugal.
This was actually quite a good thing to realise, because it reminded us that we still have plenty waiting for us in Portugal: somewhere to stay; all of our friends, and all the places and things we miss. I even still have my two most beloved Portugal purchases – my moped and my Weber barbecue! There’s absolutely nothing stopping us going and working from there for a few weeks whenever the “homesickness” gets too strong.
Well, there is one thing stopping us, which is that while we continue to socialise “UK style” every weekend, we’ll never have the time nor the money. So, on that note, I shall sign off and get some more work done
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