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.

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. 

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!!!!

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.

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

Mumma's blogawog:

"Went out for dinner last night in an amazing circus-act-supporting place with funky decor and fabulous views, on the other side of town, that Holly 'knew' about. Was lovely. Mojitos, tapas and a bottle of wine. Not sure if it was the combination of all of the above but things went a bit strange after that. These three gurning drug dealers arrived and they sat gurning at each other intensely, and their presence upset the staff who went to pieces and refused to get our bill for us and were tripping each other up and stuff, and Holly lost her ring.
I may have remembered all that wrong. Took charge of the map because I was convinced there was a shorter route back home. Forgot that Holly is my daughter and therefore won't be told. Battle of wills ensued. Got very lost. Map got thrown on floor and stamped on. Strangers got involved. Tried, and failed, to pull the Parent card. Ah well, we got there in the end. Stubborn little witch. Can't think WHERE she gets it from.

 Builders next door started banging things at 8am! Bastards. Accidentally showed everyone on the tram my foof as I stood on balcony inspecting the weather. Eventually got our acts together and got on a tram headed west. Accidentally didn't buy a ticket, although we did try but it was too complicated. Result! Got off at Alcântara and wandered around the LX Factory - a huge arty-farty reclamation of old factories. Found best bookshop ever which had integral bar and coffee shop.
A week of Lisbon + Porto with Mumz, she's keeping a blog:

And this is from it:
" Landed in Lisbon at 7:30pm and caught the bus into the city centre. Holly had booked an apartment between Cais do Sodré and Bairro Alto, the trendy areas of Lisbon (of course) and as we stepped off Rua de Sâo Paulo onto Largo de Santo Antóninho we found ourselves slapbang in the middle of the most AMAZING street party. Barbecues and beer sellers lined the streets and competing music blared from every bar and balcony. If we hadn't been vaguely aware that 12 June was THE biggest festival in Lisbon we would have thought that Lisbon was the most CRAZY and HAPPENING city in the universe. Was fabulous. (Likewise, had we arrived the following morning, ignorant of the festival, we would have gazed at the litter, urine and vomit-lined streets in dismay and disgust).

Our apartment is on the second floor of a building a little way up the Calçada da Bica Pequena - a very narrow, very steep street up and down which trundles the Elevador da Bica - a two way funicular tram. Lovely apartment, with double balconied windows over-looking the street below.


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