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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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  1. Sorry to hear about your mould problems and really sorry to hear about the firework incident. I can imagine that did shake you. I think the biggest thing we struggled with when living abroad was the language barrier. Like you say, in times of crisis you can feel pretty helpless… but it takes time to learn a new language proficiently. Anyway, I am sure that you will meet far more lovely Portuguese people and your experience will keep getting better! The odd hiccup along the way is to be expected and it’s refreshing that you are sharing both the good and bad times 🙂 Happy New Year – I hope it brings lots of great times!

  2. Hi
    Our house also leaks like mad in the rain and we have got white mould growing in very strange places. . . The Algarvean houses do not seem to be built for such heavy rain! Our next door neighbours house is newer than ours and he said his was like a swimming pool inside (mind you he was talking in Portuguese and we might have misunderstood). we have been learning the language for over five years and are still officially rubbish 🙂 We stayed in on News Year Day evening so missed the concert and the errant firework. I am pleased you were both unhurt, unfortunately yobs seem to exist in all countries. Hope the sun comes out again soon. Saz

  3. Your mention of mould-related illness is a bit worrying (as we’re contemplating coming out there to live). What’s the best way to tackle this mould problem, as you must be such experts now? Does it afflict all properties, pretty much? Is there anything to look out for when buying a property to try to swerve the mould scourge?

    PS still enjoying your blogs immensely!


  4. Hi Nick,

    The Winter of 09/10 was the wettest since 1870 so our experiences were as bad as they could be, but in older properties, mould can often be a problem. There is plenty that can be done, from mould resistant paint to mould remover sprays. In our modern place we have only seen the tiniest spot all winter.

    When looking at properties, beware of damp smells and condensation on mirrors and windows! It will always be worse in a place that has been used during holidays only than a place that is fully occupied. Try to look at property off-season!

    Good luck, don’t let mould put you off 😉

    Best wishes

  5. Vinegar – natural way to clean mold 🙂

    Also can you advice on some nice brick house then in Portugal?

    Here in Estonia climate are damp yet next to 0 mold in brick houses 😀

  6. Hi Alex,

    Thanks for the tip. I think it’s due to an absence of damp proofing – more modern houses are better insulated.

    Thanks for reading the blog and best wishes

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