Charting a couple's move from London to Portugal, tales, adventures and moving advice


Take you down….to London City 2

Posted on August 19, 2010 by Ben Algarve

Time really does fly.



Each time we land back in Portugal after a quick work-related trip back to the UK, we always count how many weeks it is until the next time we have to join the Easyjet “speedy boarding scrum.”

However many weeks it is, it always seems to only be five minutes before once again we have that sinking, melancholy feeling that always hits us around ten days before we have a trip back to the UK booked.

Once we get there it is fine – a whirlwind tour usually involving several different clients, a few friends, a corresponding quantity of city-sized hangovers and a couple of nice family visits.

Then, before we know it we have landed back in Faro again, ready to endure the first couple of days back in Portugal which always seem strangely unsettling while we get back into the flow of life in our new home.

In an ideal world we would pop back for work with less frequency than we have to now, but it is part of the deal, and having to spend just five weeks out of 52 in the UK is a lot better than the other way around! Being there and getting on with it is actually the easy part – the nasty bit is the few days before we go, when we suddenly start to appreciate everything about our life in Portugal all the more – rather like the sad end of a holiday.

Anyway, each trip back presents us more contrasts between our old and new lives and serves as a bit of an appraisal as to how well our move to Portugal is going.

This time the main thing I noticed was how miserable the average stranger looks in the UK – all the time I spent pounding the London pavements between clients, the words of Dizzee

Dizzee Rascal - accurate about London

Dizzee Rascal – accurate about London

Rascal kept playing through my mind: “take you down to London city, where the attitude’s bad and the weather is shitty…” accurate and slightly depressing!

Dwelling on the negative for just a moment longer, something about the UK we just cannot get our heads around now is the opening hours of shops. At shopping centres in Portugal, shops opening daily until 11pm is commonplace, yet in a city of 8 million people the doors are closing at 5.30pm.

Surely someone is missing a trick if the shops open at the precise times when most people are at work and close as soon as they would get a chance to visit them? One night per week of “late night shopping” until 8pm is a bit of a token gesture and surely in the peak of the summer, 8pm would mean, at best, “early evening shopping.” Next time the UK enters recession, opening shops when people are free to visit them could be a good way to boost the economy!

Before those reading from the UK tire of my whining, I must point out that this time round there were several aspects of our quick visit back we did enjoy immensely: a roast beef dinner, Thai food and shopping in big, well stocked supermarkets.

Most importantly though, we enjoyed a good helping of English banter. Conversations we have in Portugal can be quite repetitive – with expats they tend to be of the “how long have you been here? How do you make a living?” variety, and those with our Portuguese friends are restricted by our limited grasp of the language. It was a real pleasure to chat with people close to us in our native language – we do miss the quick, cutting English wit.

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

One wonderful surprise in these conversations with friends and family, is that we now consistently refer to Portugal as “home,” without thinking, rather than England. I see it as an important part of the process that our subconscious minds believe here to be home…

So, the trip complete, we are back HOME in Portugal. As I said earlier in the post, there is generally a couple of unsettled days of “re-entry,” not helped this time by the fact we were not quite prepared for HOW busy the Algarve gets in August, even “up the quiet end” like we are.

As predicted by a couple of expat friends earlier in the year, we have now had our fill of tourists and are ready for them to disperse and give us back our roads, beaches and supermarkets.

Other than that it is lovely to be home, somewhere where the sun is shining and we have time to eat healthy food at a slow enough pace to avoid heartburn. After nine months we are starting to see the good and bad in our past and present lives, but we really do prefer this one 🙂

Photo credits: Autodance1234, Chaerani, Arpingstone

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7 Positive Life Changes 9

Posted on July 19, 2010 by Ben Algarve
Clapham Junction - Not Missed!

Clapham Junction – Not Missed!

After my slightly negative post on Friday, it’s time to put my positive head on again to start the week. Also, I am either getting more used the weather or it has cooled down a bit, so no moaning from me today!

So to start my week filled with positivity. Here are….seven positive ways life has changed since we moved to Portugal:

1. My most frequently used method of public transportation is now a small boat that takes me to the local beach and back, sometimes with a light spray of sea cooling us down as we go. This certainly beats London Underground and South West Trains.

2. We now start each day with a drink on a sunny balcony, rather than in a car, hating every other human-being on the A3.

3. I often have time to have lunch at a table – rather than lunch which is encased in pastry and eaten whilst walking and checking emails on a handheld device.

4. Swimming is now something we do almost daily rather than something we just do on holiday.

5. Our main method of cooking is outside on a barbecue rather than the wok in the Chinese takeaway down the road.

6. We look tanned and healthy, rather than drawn and anaemic.

7. We get to wear shorts and flip flops every day without the risk of coming home with trench-foot.

As always, for sense of balance, here are a few things that aren’t quite as good.

1. We have a LOT less money.

2. We now frequently buy meat that we discover is off when we get it home and have to throw it away.

3. We have to be a lot more organised in terms of making sure we have what we need at home – no 24 hour Tesco’s for us any-more!

It’s really not bad at all. My little whinge last week should only be viewed as a blip 🙂

Have a good week.

Image credit: Martyn Davies

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Portugal – A Six Month Review 3

Posted on June 10, 2010 by Ben Algarve

Readers of the blog from long ago may remember a post called “Worries and Jitters,” that I posted just over a year ago, when I looked into the future and wondered how we would feel about our move to Portugal once we had been here six months or so and everything had sunk in.

At the time, I promised to revisit the questions that I had asked myself and see how the real-life experience compared with my predictions. As we have now just passed our six-month point, I thought it the right time to make good on that promise and see how things had worked out.

I wonder if I’ll miss everyone too much?

Algarve Early Evening

Algarve Early Evening

Not really. Our own visits back to the UK, combined with people coming out to see us means we have had plenty of company, and that time you do spend with family and friends is more precious.

We do suffer from the occasional “home-sick” day, and “sick” is the right way to describe it, as it hits you suddenly and really is like a physical feeling. At those times, technology like Facebook and Skype really does become a lifeline, and one we would hate to be without.

Being at such a distance also reveals a few surprises in terms of relationships with others – the people who make the most consistent effort to stay in touch and come to see you are not necessarily the people you would have expected.

Given that I am writing this the day before the world cup, I must mention that however much I love being here, the best place to watch the game is in a rowdy London pub with a bunch of good mates, and I expect to miss this tremendously in the coming days.

I wonder if I will miss the changing weather in England?

No, not one little bit – and after our first Algarve winter (the wettest since 1870,) it is quite changeable enough where we live now!

It is nice to know you will only need shorts and flip flops every day from March onwards, and on the odd day that it does hammer down with rain it is a pleasant novelty. England can keep the frost and biting wind!

I wonder if the locals will accept us?

Almost without exception, we have been made to feel very welcome, something for which I am extremely grateful. About once per week we are served in a shop by someone determined to scowl their way through the transaction and this can be slightly offensive when the same individual manages to be polite and jovial to the Portuguese people ahead of us in the queue. This doesn’t get us down – every country has its share of arseholes and Portugal certainly seems to have far less than London!

I wonder if I will I actually get bored of fresh fish and healthy living?

Well, it’s not that you get bored of fish, but you don’t want to eat it every day. With shellfish especially, its quality and abundance tends to lead to us having a fortnightly binge, followed by a period of never wishing to see another clam again!

Healthy living? Yes, we do spend more time walking, swimming and riding bikes, but my innate inability to keep to any kind of consistent fitness regime does appear to have moved to Portugal with me!

Sadly, life does still get in the way of the very best of intentions sometimes, but it is certainly easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle here without a fried chicken shop on every corner.

I wonder how much I will miss London?

London Traffic

London Traffic

The answer to this really has surprised me. When I predicted my answer to this question I was adamant that it would only be a matter of HOW much I would miss it – I would never have guessed that I wouldn’t miss it AT ALL.

We miss spending time with friends, we miss pub-banter in our native language, we miss reading the papers over a Sunday roast and we miss browsing in bookshops and record shops, but none of this has anything to do with London itself. This leaves menacing chavs, pollution that makes you cough, high prices, maddening traffic, ludicrous quantities of signs and announcements listing things you are not allowed to do, and journeys on public transport that leave you hot, sweaty and cross.

So, no, we don’t miss London at all!

I wonder if it will all be as wonderful as we hope?

The last question is the biggest, and the hardest to give a straightforward answer to. On a web-forum the other day, someone said, as part of a conversation, “nowhere is paradise,” and that was the first thing that popped into my head when deciding how to answer this question.

Wherever you find yourself in the world it doesn’t mean you won’t get food poisoning when you have made plans, it doesn’t mean clients will start paying their invoices on time, and it

Praia De Cabanas, Algarve

Praia De Cabanas, Algarve

doesn’t mean there won’t still be days when you wake up in the morning and simply don’t feel up for it.

However, as I type this I can glance out of my window – I see blue sky, sunlight bouncing off palm trees, and all I can hear are church bells, birds and crickets. I have great quality food to put on my barbecue shortly that cost us next to nothing and a small rack of inexpensive but delicious wine to choose from. I am not still in a car cursing the traffic on the A3, knowing that when I get home all I will have the energy to is decide which menu to order my takeaway from.

Most of all, I can be fairly confident the sun will blaze in when we lift the shutters in the morning and that if I am having an “off day” there is always that endless, glistening sea at the end of the road to lift my spirits.

Would I go back? What do you think?

If you are interested in what I predicted my answers to these questions would be prior to my move to Portugal, you will find them HERE.

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Guest Post: My Wife’s View 24

Posted on May 12, 2010 by Ben Algarve

I thought it would be interesting to give a slant on my sometimes perhaps slightly rose-tinted view of our move to Portugal, so I asked her to write a guest post reviewing her first six months in this wonderful, sunny country! Here’s what she said:

Sunrise on another beautiful day

Sunrise on another beautiful day

Being asked to write a guest post for my husband’s blog started me thinking seriously about how I feel about Portugal after six months of living here. It also made me think about the life I left behind in London.

It’s funny how quickly I’ve adapted to some things, while other things still take me by surprise every day. Greeting people in Portuguese and driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road felt natural within weeks of being here, yet I’m still surprised and overjoyed by how bright the sunshine is each morning when I open the blinds.

The cost of life in Portugal is also something I take for granted now. I was genuinely shocked at the cost of dinner out for two last time I was in London: £100 for the meal, plus the train there, the drinks before and after, and the £35 taxi back to the hotel. Here we can get all the fish we can eat for €9 per person – and that seems normal now.

It’s also strange that the things I miss are so different from the things I thought I would. Missing family and friends was always a given, but with regular trips back to England, having visitors here and the wonders of Skype, I don’t actually feel like I’m missing out too much. It’s the little things that I’ve been most surprised about missing – things like spring onions and Thai food (yes, I am as food obsessed as my husband!)

So, how do I feel about it overall after six months? The true answer is that I’m very, very happy to be here. I’ll gladly live with never eating Pad Thai again if it means that I can stay in

Spring onions - Worth Missing Out on

Spring onions - Worth Missing Out on

this wonderful country. The people are so welcoming and supportive of (well, amused by) my efforts to speak their language and settle in their country. Each day brings some kind of small triumph, whether using a newly learned word in conversation or making our first green salad with leaves grown entirely on our balcony. Life now is so far removed from those hours spent fuming in London traffic and feeling tired/stressed all the time that I can’t believe how lucky I am to be here.

Before this starts to sound too sugar-coated though, there are definitely some unexpected downsides to living in Portugal. Mosquitoes, for example. While numerous bite-riddled trips abroad have long since taught me that my blood tastes particularly delicious to these flying cretins, I’ve never seen mosquito bites as more than a minor irritation. Until I lived here. Now every bite brings with it ridiculous swelling, incredible itching and the feeling that my skin is on fire. All of which last for days. I suppose I should be grateful that this gave me the chance to put into practice the ‘trip to the chemist’ module from my Teach Yourself Portuguese CD. It’s hard to be philosophical about it though, when my arm looks like a balloon.

Another unexpected downside is… Hmm… Ok, so I’m sitting here stumped as to what else is bad about living here. I do really want to give a view of both sides of life here, but the only other bad thing I can think of is that shampoo is a bit more expensive than it is in England. As is conditioner.

I’ve thought long and hard whilst writing this about whether I have any regrets about leaving London to live in Portugal and the simple answer is no. For someone who values happiness over money and loves the simplicity of life in the sunshine as much as I do, all I am left wondering is why I stayed in London for so long!

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You Have to go There to Come Back 2

Posted on May 10, 2010 by Ben Algarve

Apologies once again for my extended absence. We had to pop back to England to attend the wedding of some dear friends, and to earn some money.

As with last time, it was a whirlwind of activity without a second to spare, and we hardly found time to breathe until we unceremoniously landed back at Faro airport, wondering how we managed to keep up with the pace of city life for so many years!

Now we have been away from the UK for six months, our Portuguese life seems like our normal life and it was pleasing to find that we now view and refer to Portugal as “home” without giving it a thought.

As ever, it was good to find time to catch up with some friends but we did find ourselves longing to be back in the Algarve. My wife, especially, experienced home-sickness for Portugal for the first time, although this was perhaps magnified by the fact that there is only so long anybody can stay sane within the purple and yellow confines of a Premier Inn!

Every time my wife and I finished our respective hectic days and reconvened over some kind of hastily procured takeaway food, we found ourselves discussing how our lives had changed, and the general theme was how glad we were to have made the drastic jump to a life in Portugal.

London Underground - not a good way to start the day

London Underground - not a good way to start the day

We concluded that there was literally no amount of money that would persuade us to return to a life in London – and we really do mean ANY amount! Getting some distance from the hamster-wheel existence so many people live really does put things in perspective, and although I looked very hard, I failed to see a single happy face on the rush-hour district line. My wife reports that she did see a lady who looked reasonably cheerful walking down a street in South London, but was swiftly reminded she was no longer in Portugal when she tried to smile at her and was met with a look of astonishment and distrust!

I am aware I am sounding really negative about my old home-town, so believe me when I say I am not trying to put across an attitude of “London’s crap, Portugal is great.” However, between incredulity at paying the equivalent cost of a great seafood meal for two one-day travel-cards, shock at just how unsuited the average London shop assistant is to any kind of customer-facing role, and paying coronary-inducing amounts of money for rather mediocre food and drink at every turn, I find it very hard to sugar-coat our most recent London experience.

There were good sides: seeing people we miss (as always,) being able to get fish and chips, taramosalata and Thai food, and being able to buy clothes designed for those of us who eat on a regular basis and can’t fit into clothes made for slim Portuguese men, but unfortunately we had done all of this within a couple of days and were then counting the hours until our return!

Now we are back where the sun shines and just have to shake off whatever nasty bug it was we caught on the plane on our way back, before we can settle back into Portuguese life….then I can start to blog about nice things again 🙂

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Fine food, flood and fire! 6

Posted on January 05, 2010 by Ben Algarve

Apologies for my prolonged absence! Our first festive season in Portugal has been mixed, to say the least – so here follows a bit of an update. Much as I am a “glass-half-full” kind of person, there have been some negatives in the past few weeks, so in the interests of being fully representative of our time here, I shall tell you of the bad bits as well as the good!

Snow in London

Snow in London

Shortly after my last post we took a trip back to London to see some family, do some shopping and do some work. We were lucky to see some snow while we were there – snow, which I am sure you know, still shows no sign of abating three weeks on. A few days was quite enough for us! Our trip back was something of a high point – we wondered if we would yearn to be back in London again, but it was, in fact, quite the opposite. The same old things that annoyed the hell out of us still annoyed the hell out of us, and we were counting down the minutes until our return to Portugal before we got through Gatwick airport.

We were amazed that, after just 2 months in Portugal, we had already got used to a life without there being four more people in each square metre than there is really room for, found the sheer amount of “do this….do that….don’t do this” signage and accompanying announcements maddening and, despite having lived in the big city for over a decade, found the whole place SO fast and SO busy. It’s incredible how quickly different becomes normal.

We had a great time seeing our friends and family, felt smug that a city the size of London couldn’t manage to produce civic Christmas decorations that came close to those in Tavira, and had a lucky escape out of Gatwick, despite the weather, to return home for Christmas.

My wife had to work from home right up until the end of Christmas Eve, on the first year in five that I had a decent, long break. Perhaps next year we will manage to co-ordinate our diaries a little better and finally both have a long Christmas holiday! As a result, Christmas itself, though wonderful, was all over a little too quick. We managed to construct a full English-style Christmas lunch, including frozen sprouts – we were sadly unable to find any parsnips – perhaps next year we will drive to Spain, where apparently they are available!

While the UK had the snow, we got the rain – and not just a little – they say when it rains, it pours. “They” are correct. With only a small respite on boxing day, we got used to the water crashing down, both outside, and at some points, through gaps in our window frames. Here began our issues. With the rain came the damp, and with the damp came the mould. Day after day, we kept discovering more walls in the house dripping with water, and mould appearing in more colours and varieties than on a top-class Christmas cheese-board. We were aware houses in the Algarve are prone to damp but local people have informed us that the quantity of rain, and the amount of accompanying damp is truly unusual, the same as the extreme cold has been in the UK this year. We are currently engaged in a running battle involving air conditioning, dehumidifiers, towels, bleach sprays etc. It is not fun, and the atmosphere in the house has made us ill, but we will win this war!

Tavira Fireworks

Tavira Fireworks

New Year’s Eve came around, and as we were both quite unwell, both with mould-related issues and the after effects of over-indulgence in rich food and wine, we had a quiet night in and watched Tavira’s fireworks display from the roof terrace. The Portuguese certainly know how to put on a show – it was a truly breathtaking display – lasting about 15 minutes, set to music, and genuinely far more impressive than anything I have ever seen in the UK. It made us very proud of our little town.

The following evening though, things swung the other way. We took a wander into Tavira to watch a band playing in a temporary arena on our town square. We were enjoying a drink and really rather impressed with the rock cover-versions on offer! We spoke about how agreeable the atmosphere was and how “they could never do this in London without a load of police and security.”

Five minutes after this remark there was a huge explosion about three feet behind us. A yob had thrown a firework directly at us. Had it landed any closer, it would have done us serious harm. We were truly shaken – it was a big enough explosion to cause the band to stop playing and many people scattered, appearing to look for the perpetrators.

This incident marked the beginning of the biggest crisis of confidence we had experienced since our arrival in Portugal. The helplessness of not knowing enough of the language to say “who the f*%k did that, did you see anything?” along with feeling ill, and having a mouldy house, led to our first serious doubts since our arrival.

I am very pleased to say this only lasted a couple of days. Some chance encounters with typically friendly Portuguese people in the following days, a bit of sunshine, and the incredible service from the estate agent in helping with our mould problems quickly restored our faith. We love it again now – but as I said at the start of the post, it has certainly been a mixed few weeks!

Apologies again for the gap between posts, I won’t let it happen again 🙂

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What do you miss? (or don’t we miss!) 11

Posted on December 10, 2009 by Ben Algarve

A reader of my blog asked me the what I missed about the UK since I moved. I have been meaning for some time to post a “negatives” list to balance out all of the sunshine and new experiences, so here it is! People back at home in the cold and rain could be forgiven for thinking we have just embarked on an eternal holiday when they see the photos and blog posts, but the fact is that you do still have to deal with all the day-to-day crap that comes up (well most of it!)

We don't miss the M25!

We don't miss the M25!

SO: Here is what we miss so far:

1. UNDERSTANDING: When the people at the town hall refuse to give you a fiscal number, or your mobile internet stops working, or you miss a delivery from the postman and get a card through the door, you take in for granted in your home country that you understand what do about it, and know how to complain if necessary. This is not possible when you only understand a smattering of the language. We wish we had had more time to get ahead with the language before we came. You start out reasonably intelligent, get on a 2 hour flight and when you get to the other end you become rather stupid. Quite a strange feeling.

2. CENTRAL HEATING: Friends in England don’t seem to believe us but in the Algarve it gets cold at night – and when you are in a house with tiled floors, designed to keep the heat OUT, it can get really bloody cold. Air conditioning heats individual rooms very well, it doesn’t ever make a house feel cosy and toasty when you walk in. This one surprised us.

3. FOODS: Taramasalata and poor quality sausage rolls from Greggs – that’s it so far.

4. FRIENDS: I was starting to tire of Facebook, Twitter etc. in the time running up to our move, but these things become a real lifeline when you are thousands of miles away. There are still times though, once a week or so, when you really miss human contact with the people who have known you for years. I don’t this this will ever change.

At this point in typing the post I have had to call my wife to ask for ideas. The fact is for me that is it. After ten minutes of intense thought, all she has come up with is: “the potential for snow at Christmas,” “stepping onto a carpet when getting out of bed in the morning,” and “electrical sockets that don’t spark when you unplug something.” We both agree that we are scraping the barrel for ideas and that it is a lot easier to come up with things we don’t miss!

So: here is a quick list of the things we DON’T miss!

Just another December day :)

Just another December day 🙂

1. Traffic – and just the general amount of time it can take to do what should be simple things in London.

2. Celebrity Culture.

3. Greedy, money focussed London city types.

4. Overpriced, poor quality food (apart from Greggs sausage rolls!)

5. Extortionate Council tax.

6. Wine that costs more the 3 euros.

7. Darkness, rain, wind, sleet, hail etc.

7. Being in a perpetual rush.

8. Routine rudeness from strangers and people working in “customer service” roles.

9. Paying for parking.

10. Overpriced public transport.

11. Our old neighbours awful piano playing.

We have hardly had to think to come up with those eleven and we could go on! But I think you probably get the picture, we love it here so far, feel almost constantly lucky and thankful, and, so far at least, we wouldn’t change a thing 🙂


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Broken Britain? 7

Posted on July 12, 2009 by movingtoportugal
Welcome to Britain

Welcome to Britain

I got “started on” today! I don’t think I have even used that expression since school some 17 years ago. It was all very unexciting really – I was cycling into the park to meet my wife in what would generally be classed as a “pretty posh” area of London and a group of 3 “youths” blocked my path in order to cause some sweary low-level trouble. It passed without event and in the grand scheme of things it was nothing major at all, but it was still enough to make me not particularly want to stay in the park, or even go there again really.

I am so pleased I am moving to Portugal in under four months. I have always been pretty patriotic, but it’s time to speak from the heart. This place sucks nowadays. The Friday before last, I had to snatch my wifes bag back from a bag-snatcher outside our very friendly London local – and living in London has made me so desensitized to this kind of low-level crap that I only just remembered about it and hadn’t thought to mention it to my family.

So as not to risk turning this post into an unfocussed political rant. Here are five things that are shit about London and the UK.

1. If you break a traffic or parking regulation in London you will be pounced on and fined immediately, be it by a well-paid, target-driven council worker or an expensive, tax-payer funded CCTV computer system. If however, you prefer higher level crime, you can go for shop-lifiting or burglary with complete impunity because there isn’t enough money to get cops to investigate that.

2. If you don’t fancy working and you prefer to drink or smoke weed all day and have fun by causing trouble in public parks – don’t worry YOU CAN. We have a welfare system that needs completely overhauling so that people cannot make a career out of laziness and stupidity. The Kaiser Chiefs should never have been allowed to release that song that says “It’s cool to know nothing.” For many I fear the irony was lost and it was adopted as a mantra!

3. Still on the subject of public parks. If you get some rare English sunshine and you fancy buying one of those disposable BBQs and having a couple of burgers in the park – YOU CAN’T. There is nowhere within the M25 where it is allowed. “Feral Youths – roam all you want! – Eco-friendly middle classes who fancy a quiet organic burger before clearing away and recycling all your litter – you are not welcome here!” Bloody ridiculous. Did everyone start out stupid or are they reacting to being treated AS IF they are stupid?

4. APATHY. Hold on, weren’t the majority of our politicians caught COMPLETELY RIPPING US ALL OFF a little while ago? Why did no-one DO anything? Well a few people texted a few jokes about it to each other, maybe a spot of light whinging around the watercooler. But then the Champions League final came along….now there’s some common ground we can ALL talk about! Pathetic. Everyone seems to have been so numbed by sport and celebrity culture that they don’t care what is important. Every person in this country who starts reading the paper from the back should be ashamed of themselves.

5. VANITY. A culture where physical beauty and/or sporting prowess are more revered and rewarded than genuine good is rotten to the core. Perhaps this culture is affecting the whole western world, but Britain is doing it’s best to lead the charge of the superficial. I thought all the Susan Boyle business may have been a turning point but it appears to have just been a temporary blip in the collective conscience, and the tabloids soon manged to put a stop to that. “SuBo” anyone? It makes me want to break stuff.

Sod it, it was a political rant, but I feel a lot better now. I just think it’s a damn shame that somewhere I have tried so much to love has been so spoiled. I am also pretty sure that it is going to get a lot worse and that we won’t be the last skilled, hard-working couple to get away and prevent our children having to grow up amongst the scumbags.

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Finally…..a good Summer! 2

Posted on July 03, 2009 by movingtoportugal
England's green and pleasant land

England's green and pleasant land

I have been a bit slack of late when it comes to keeping this blog up to date. Those reading from England will know that the weather here has been really rather special the last couple of weeks, and after three back-to-back bad summers before now it is about time!

So, blogging has taken a low priority, below barbeques, pimms, cider and getting in far too late every evening. England is a contrary so-and-so – spending years winding you up with shocking weather and grumpy people  – pushing you right to the point where you arrange to leave and go to Portugal, then at the eleventh hour becoming a lovely sunny place where strangers smile! Still, there’s no way it will be permanent and the fact the good weather has had such a positive impact on my state of mind affirms our decision to move to where the sunshine is.

Now, after a month of sunshine, we find ourselves with only FOUR months to go until move day which is pretty daunting, but having said that, we do seem to be making progress – our work situations are getting to the point of being finalised and there are finally spaces appearing on shelves where our Ebay and car-boot efforts are starting to make visible progress. The build up of savings is starting to slow down at times – it seems a lot easier to build funds up when there aren’t so many opportunities for al-fresco dining in London!

The next thing we have to do is book some flights over to Portugal to arrange our fiscal numbers and then the next milestone is being able to “go public” with our news to my clients. I have been itching to do for several months but business reasons have prevented me from doing so. I am a very direct and honest kind of person and dislike feeling duplicitous, so I am really looking forward to everyone knowing, even if it does mean telling the same story to dozens of people. Perhaps I should just print the blog URL on some cards and hand them out?

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People spotting at the office party 4

Posted on June 11, 2009 by movingtoportugal

“Yes, they’re stereotypes, there must be more to life?” Stereotypes, Blur.

As a self-employed person, I am fortunate to be able to work just from home and my client’s offices. To start with I really missed having “workmates,” and felt myself going slightly strange and socially inept as a result. Five years on, and I have adjusted to my own company and really love being home-based.

Today, my wife was working from home as well, and the sun made a surprise visit, so after work we decided to go to a local pub garden for a drink. It is usually fairly quiet but when we got there the garden was mobbed with a couple of work leaving parties. After a few minutes, my wife said “isn’t this horrendous?” She was reading my mind. Is it just me or are all these occasions exactly the same? You can instantly identify the factions: from the people who look so uncomfortable it appears they haven’t set foot in a pub for several years (yet at the same time look like the kind who will later sink a couple of bottles of wine with the curtains closed,) to the well turned out middle-aged secretary nursing her half pint of lemonade and not managing to even disguise the fact she is waiting until it is socially acceptable to go back to her house in deepest Surrey and water her garden.

The only thing any of these people appeared to have in common, other than their place of work, was the fact they were all willing to dish out small-talk and wear a false “well isn’t this NICE?” expression. The only group that seemed to be even slightly enjoying themselves were the few lads in their early twenties, sure to be the last to leave and waiting for the oldies to go, probably so they could drop all the pretence  and chat about the clubs, drugs and ladies they planned to enjoy at the weekend!

We found the whole thing rather depressing. Is it just a British thing that everyone seems to have a real persona and a work version? Will it be the same when we get to Portugal? I’ve not realised it before, but being self-employed has allowed me to be myself a lot more – if clients don’t want to work with me they don’t have to – and I get to wear shorts when it’s hot 🙂

I genuinely hope that all of the people we saw tonight at their office party have more exciting and fulfilling lives than it appears to someone sitting at the next table in the pub garden – whether that fulfillment comes from stamp collecting or wife swapping makes no odds to me! Furthermore, I hope I will always be self-employed, but if one day I do end up “working for the man” again, I hope that when someone says “are you coming to the pub?” I have the integrity to say “no, I have plans tonight!”

As a somewhat contradictory footnote I should mention I have made some fantastic and lasting friendships with people from work in the past, but I don’t think it’s too much of a generalisation to say the percentage of those who sign your leaving card who become lasting friends is still pretty low!

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