Julian the Frenchman drinks too much red wine and drives his moped too fast. He flies past us on our walk home from pretending to watch/watching the football at the bar in Odeceixe. Dennis the Harley rider recognises the whizzing sound a bike's accelerator makes when someone falls off and is suddenly sprinting up the dark road and it's all very dramatic until we find Julian mounting his moped. Luckily all he has lost is most of the skin from his knee and a little bit of the skin from his elbow, and the alignment of his front wheel and his front bike light. He still wobbly zooms past us on the dusty track, one hand in the air 'BONJOUR!!'

There's a pirate party for Ami's 3rd birthday. Transform from dirty workers into dirty pirates. Screaming and cake and indoor fireworks and a spectacular treasure hunt for a real buried chest filled with gold, shots of Portugese nonsense spirit, flying an excited Ami around the decking for ever and ever and ever in our arms like a fairy.

Robyn tells me about his vision for a 'lounging lizard' in one of the bathrooms of the new houses, and asks me if I'd sculpt it for him, out of concrete. (concrete..!?). The house is beautiful and nearly finished, the bathroom surfaces and walls are smooth, finely-sanded clay with soft corners and edges… ahhhhh fuuuuuck..!! Not expecting a hugely welcoming response from the concrete-providing builders to the conctrete-sculpting artist, I arrive at building site and set about mixing the concrete like Robyn showed me, 3 parts sand, 1 part concrete, river water not tap water..  A few minutes and I'm aware of a something behind me, something is the Portugese builder staring over my shoulder at my mixing. Here begins our days of hilarious failed attempts at communication. He is incredibly helpful, explaining and teaching me, in Portugese, everything I could ever need to know about concrete and tools. Unfortunately I don't understand a word he is saying and to everything he says I respond with 'obridgada' or 'muita obrigada' or 'bom dia'. He laughs at my weak mixing and sighs at me trying to signal about whether the power drill has a reverse function, and looks totally exasperated at me trying to drag an extension lead across the building site and fucking the whole thing up.

He mixes the perfect mix of concrete for me, precise to the nearest droplet of water, untangles the knotted extension lead, shows me the correct setting for the power drill, pops his head around the corner giving me a nod of encouragement, and when I'm trying to get a smooth finish as if by magic he appears with a sponge that does the job perfectly.

He tries to explain to me that I need to wear gloves, grabbing my hand before I can dip it into the mix, comparing my palm to his palm, my palm to his palm. I shrug and smile that I don't really mind, he shakes his head and leaves me to sculpting my lizard in concrete. Concrete is so much fun to sculpt with. Later that evening my hands tighten and blister and over the next few days begin to shed a thick layer of skin. Concrete is toxic, stupid fucking Welsh girl.

Fancy dress party for Sean's 25th birthday. Pimps and Whores. 3-course meal, fake penises, whips and chains, a lot of Sagres, a lot of smokes, music from Ole who used to be a DJ at forest raves in Holland, more Portugese nonsense spirit that I get warned about every time I pour a shot of. There's purple sick in the garden. I'd heard about Robyn and cross-dressing, he arrives at the party as an entirely convincing woman. And tells the boys that if they intend upon living a life of good mental health they need to embrace their suppressed feminine desires. The Dutch are goooooooood.

At the moment we're a team of:
1x Portugese
2x Welshies
1x Scotsman
1x Latvian
2x Dutch
1x Frenchman
1x Aussie
2x Brazilians
and Dutch Robyn, Valeria & their two children, 
and Dutch Ole & Bela.

But then there's also,
Old German Paul the biker with a beaded wizard beard. He built himself a little cottage on the land somewhere that we find one evening when we're in a misty field following a big black horse into a forest. He feeds us a lot of Chinese wine and a lot of hash-pipe, and tells us how he built his house, and shows us photos of him in a German biker porno mag. Then sends us flying home, laughing in the pitch black, mind-blown by the incredible sky without light pollution. He is a hilarious, who turns up at the farm intermittently on his horse Jazoo, sneaking us bottles of cold Sagres and smokes behind the fence at the bottom of the garden.

And 50-something Tom the traveling carpenter from Cheltenham who lives here in his caravan, getting paid a low wage to do carpentry in the houses. When I asked him if he was planning to go back to the UK after he'd finished he laughs. Then he tells me about his life at the moment, traveling around to projects similar to Vida Pura, parking his little home on beautiful land for free, with Portugese weather, inspiring people around him, lunch cooked for him from organic veggies, and amazing beaches a 5 minute drive away.. I can understand why he's laughing.
He drives us to the beach in his surf van for the sunset, and we talk for a few hours about his life, the camps and communes that changed him, and laughing a lot about the ones that went very wrong. He teaches me basics about building your own hand-built house, books and materials and techniques. Will do it.

I have had so many inspiring conversations. 
People arrive at Vida Pura to help for a few weeks, 80% don't leave.

Muito Bonito Burro. 
Very Beautiful Donkey

Train journey back from Porto to Lisbon with mum, repeatedly we accidentally sit in the wrong seats, each time getting asked to move, each time start laughing and can't stop. While mum is in the toilet a man who we'd earlier thought was the ticket inspector comes grinning into the carriage at the opposite end. He spots where we're sitting and marches down the aisle, ignoring the other passengers. He stops and plants fat kisses on my face, and with no more of an explanation than 'Obrigado!' (Thank you) he walks off. 

The rest of the day is with sad goodbyes to mum, getting in stupid dangerous situations at motorway/pigeon shit junction, sitting on my suitcase, lorry fumes and eating bran flakes for 3 hours, then catching a coach down the coast to Odeceixe (oh-de-say-eesh) as the sun sets. 

3 years ago two Dutch friends Robyn and Ole, along with their wives Bela and Valeria, bought a tiny ruined house in a valley and since then, with the help of a team of local builders and 15 workawayers at a time, working 7 hours, 4 days a week, they've created Vida Pura. The little house has been renovated to accommodate the volunteers, with a big kitchen and sitting room, and a massive pantry filled with every kind of food you could have a Sagres/hash fuelled urge for. There are also two yurts + 5 caravans on the land for workers. Ole & Bela and Robyn & Valeria are building a house each for themselves, on the hills either side of the valley. A HUGE vegetable garden run by lunar calendar, grows organic fruit and veggies for the two families and all of the volunteers. 

There's a compost toilet that is so OK you'd only know it wasn't a normal loo when instead of flushing it you put a handful of sawdust down the hole. AND it's used by at least 10 smelly workers. A combination of eco-energy sources from solar panels and wind-mills to black pipes running across the roof to provide hot water, allow them to be surviving entirely off-grid. The houses are built using the traditional Portugese method of clay-packing and straw bales, straw and wood can be found on the land, and clay in the soil, so houses can be made almost entirely from FREE STUFF. 

We start work at 8:30, and finish at 4, with a morning coffee break and lunch break. Lunch cooking is done on a rota, cooking for 16+ people on an old gas stove and a really crap gas oven is a fucking experience… But maybe you get used to it, and people are always around to help. Depending on the time of year, all sorts of work needs doing, from planting and weeding in the vegetable garden, helping with the construction of the houses, maintaining the land, looking after the rapidly breeding animal farm of chickens or 2 baby ducks or 2 huge dogs or 6 cats or 3 donkeys, or the giant cross-gender cockerel Rodney. 

In the afternoon we swim up the river that runs through the farm, there's waterfalls and a dam, and misty flood-planes that look like they belong in jurassic park. Or hitch-hike to the beach. The journey is an assault course of hilly fields, pot-hole dust tracks, and some rivers to drive through. Sometimes Ole gives us a lift and we all pile into the back of his pick-up truck, speed-freak and aiming for the dustiest pot-holes, howling laughing from the front seat, and emergency stopping for a little green parakeet in the road that he tries to catch in his hat. Ducking from the police on the bridge. When we arrive we're 8 shades more filthy. Evenings are bottles of Sagres, watching the sunset on the beach, listening to the musically-able improvise hilarious and beautiful concoctions of guitars, bongos, violins, harmonicas. Weekends are Odeceixe beach and surfing and fancy-dress parties. The river that runs through Vida Pura runs to Odeceixe beach, it's a really incredible little bay of clear blue river, white sand, forest cliffs and Atlantic Ocean.

In return for work the volunteers get food and accommodation, but the 'work' has a worthwhile and direct benefit to the life you're living, eating, enjoying. I haven't before met so many kind, accepting, and generous people in one place at one time, everyone weird, everyone crazy, and all by-passing the shitty capitalist system in a farm of fun.

We walk into a pretty stone courtyard where the smell of spunk gradually increases beyond any OK level. Gagging, hysterical, running for an emergency exit. It's the plants, it's the plants! We're SURROUNDED BY FUCKING SPUNK PLANTS!!!!

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Lie down on a wall in the sunshine, waiting for a river boat, huge globules of paint fall from a height and splash all over us, actually it's seagull crap. But then I have one of those spooky small-world friend-from-home-thousands-of-miles-away encounters, so maybe..
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Free tour of a Port cellar and try to learn some stuff about 'vintage' and feet stamping and bitter seeds... around the nice tour-guide lady with the funny accent, and the tourist jokes...
The free tastes of Port at the end is all.
+ the 32748327847 stone steps up the hill home are a bit easier.
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Mum has spent the last 5 days almost tripping over, almost, catching herself at the last minute. I've been keeping a tally, she's been giving me knowing looks like her bones might shatter.
Today she finally hit the floor, onto a beach bar decking of people chilling out on beanbags. It was so good.

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Peacemaaaaaaaan enthusiastic nutter drove us all around beautiful places for a day in an old yellow van.

Ultimate dream exploring in Zelda land + hobbits in Mordor. Climbed down a very deep well to a secret passageway, crawled through underground tunnels with creatures and unknown other stuff.. found secret lakes and caves.
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Red-wine picnic lunch. Did a wee behind a rock with mum at the most Western point of Europe. Pissed all over my shoes.
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Perved on Portugese surfers. Stopped in a town and ate what was "The most, very most, very best, most DEEEELicious. DEEEELicious. DEEEEEELicious ice-cream, in the whole world, whole ENTIRE world!!!"

and tried the Belem tradition of "Absolute heaven, heaven in a mouth, absolute insane heaven in your mouth!!!!!! Insane delicious HEAVEN to eat!!! To EAT IN YOUR MOUTH!!!!"

Thank you Marcos you lovely excited man!

Mum writes: http://www.lucewomangetsabout.blogspot.co.uk
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