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
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.
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