I don’t know where time goes. The days go scudding past as we live our relatively simple little life here on our pitch at Turiscampo. You might be wondering why we’re staying so long. It could be because we like being on a serviced pitch and having everything we need around us – that’s good enough for many of our neighbours but that’s not what keeps us here. It could be because we’re enjoying having a car and tootling around the neighbourhood pretending that we live here – no it’s not that either, although it is great fun. Ours is a much more practical, if possibly slightly illogical, reason. We have booked the van into Camperserv for some repairs on the 18th of this month and it will be there all day. This would render us homeless for the day along with two small dogs and no practical way of getting to anywhere more interesting than the main road that Camperserv is on. Dogs are not allowed on buses and it seems that taxis are less than willing to take them – so we realised we would need to keep the car until after the repairs were done. Our rental car has this campsite down as our local address so we need to be still here to stay within the terms of the agreement. With the car, we can spend the 18th however and wherever we want while the work is done, then we’ll bring it back here, stay one more night and be on our way touring the Algarve. This is no hardship at all and we’re happy to pass the time in relative luxury. It does highlight one of the dilemmas that motorhomers face on a long trip. If your vehicle is your home and it has to go into a garage you have to find a creative solution. If you have canine companions it gets even more complicated.
So, back to the question of where time goes. We’re living a delightfully simple existence of walks, meeting up with friends, doing jigsaws, playing games, knitting and reading. Occasionally we watch a bit of TV but not often. I have a traditional Scottish whistle – in fact I have two. Unlike more complex instruments, each one is made in an individual key so you have to have different whistles to play music in different keys. I bought a B flat whistle last year and then Shirley bought a Ukelele. Playing along together was complicated and involved a Ukelele capo and a lot of head scratching. I won’t bore you with the details. This year Shirley bought me a fabulous Chieftain V4 low D whistle. It’s a beautiful thing and it satisfies my urge to learn not only a new instrument but also traditional Scottish music. The key of D works well with the Ukelele so we can play along together when the mood takes us. Here is a short video of the maker of the whistle playing one – I have a long way to go but it’s fun practising.
This trip feels very different to last year’s long tour. This is a bit of a surprise because we deliberately returned to the Algarve where we spent December, January and February last year. Our route here was different, making the journey interesting and varied but the final destination is the same. The familiarity makes us feel very comfortable yet there is still a feeling that is hard to put a finger on. It seems that the feeling of difference comes from the inside rather than the outside. Last year we still owned our house and Chris and Mary were living there while we were away. As we went about our daily lives in the sunshine we would often find ourselves thinking of home and imagining life going on in the house. I would occasionally remember that it was dustbin day or think about Scott the window cleaner. Daily life in a corner of Bathgate would be lurking in the back of my mind. These days I still occasionally think of the house and then get a bit of shock when I remember that it is no longer home. Someone else lives there. Someone else has to remember what day to wheel the bins out. The thing that anchors us to Scotland now is our family and friends and a small storage unit where we have some belongings. On this trip, we are doing more than enjoying the gentle pleasures of discovering new places and returning to our favourites. We are doing some internal work, reflecting on our lives and considering what is important to us. Don’t be concerned though, we’re still noticing the ridiculous, laughing like drains and loving the freedom.
The Endless Saga of Boo’s Bottom
You may remember that we had to visit a French vet because Boo couldn’t stop licking his bottom. This canine habit is not only disgusting to contemplate, it is also noisy and particularly annoying in the middle of the night when 8 kg of poodle can rock 4 tons of motorhome in a similar way to a small earthquake. Despite the fact that a dog has four legs it is impossible for it to scratch its bahookie with any of its limbs and therefore has to rely on the tongue. If you ever thought a dog’s life sounded appealing think on! Having experienced the ferocity of Boo’s bum scratching habit last year on our trip we bought a slightly kinder version of a cone of shame with us. After the ministrations of the French vet, we got a few weeks of peace and quiet until Boo began his antics again. Every night, in those deep dark hours, when the rest of the world is out cold, one of us would have to get up and put the collar on. He would sleep for a few hours then start crying, presumably because the itch was driving him mad. We were pretty demented ourselves.
We tried changing his food, we put cream on his bum, we used tea tree shampoo, we shouted at him – nothing worked. Then he started chewing his feet. The noise of dog claws cracking and squeaking in between the sound of slurping was causing us to seriously consider making him sleep outside. The only thing that stopped us was the certain knowledge that he would howl until he was let in again. Then we read about fungal infections and the fact that it makes your dog smell like cheese crisps. “That’s it!” we cried and dived into Mr Google to find the answer. On went the antifungal cream, more baths with Tea Tree and Neem oil. That seemed to be working until one day we noticed that one of his toes was about four times its normal size. Off we went to the local vet and were surprised to be met by Larss. Given that in Portugal you would expect to be treated by a Portuguese vet we were taken aback on two counts. One that his name badge suggested Northern Europe and two that his accent was unmistakably Australian. We recounted the sorry tale of Boo – who by now had a completely bald and sore behind and a very sorry for himself look on his face – and Larss gave him a quick and efficient look over and said, “I can fix him”. I don’t often want to kiss an Australian vet who looks like he could wrestle a crocodile in his tea break but this was the best news ever. It turns out that Boo has a mite infestation. Larss told us that he had a uniquely Australian treatment that he had brought with him and he would have itchy boy fixed in no time. In went three injections, antibiotics were prescribed for his foot and cream for his bum and we were told to come back each week for three more weeks. In the meantime, Poppy lay barely moving up against the wall of the consulting room, whistling nonchalantly and muttering under her breath, “No other dogs here. Move along please.” That night we all slept like dead things. Not a squeak, a slurp or a crunch from Boo and we definitely heard Poppy say, “Thank fxxx for that” as she nodded off. It’s a miracle! He has just been back for his second treatment and he is still sleeping peacefully every night. Larss, I think I love you.
In case you are concerned about our well being or that we might be infested ourselves, worry not. These mites live on dogs all the time. The fact of the take over bid his particular mites have launched is a bit of a mystery and we’ll get him checked out for general health when we get home. In the meantime, he is much more pleasant to live with. Long may it last.
Celebrations Algarve Style
The feast of the Three Kings on January 6th is a big event here. In many ways, it rivals Christmas for family get-togethers and the giving of small gifts to children. The site restaurant hosted a special buffet for the occasion so we booked a table. The restaurant here does an excellent buffet every night for 12€. On occasions like this one, they make it a bit special and include a glass of wine for 15€. In winter they light the log burning stove and make the place toasty warm. You might think this is a bit extreme when we’re so far south but it’s surprising how cool the evenings can be and walking into that cosy atmosphere is a delight. We were a bit wary when we discovered that the table next to us contained two families with four children between them, all younger than about eight. We needn’t have worried. We were hugely entertained by them, especially as the parents had obviously agreed that they would be allowed to eat whatever they liked from the buffet. The best bit was watching the staff continually filling up the section with the chips in. These kids had massive appetites. The provided entertainment was an excellent duo playing covers of music from the eighties and nineties. They were superb musicians and played loud enough to cover the sound of kids chomping chips but not so loud that we couldn’t chat with one another.
Thus began the week of treats that contained my birthday. On the day before the event, we met up with friends Ken and Mo and had lunch at Lazy Jack’s – a very friendly café bar on the marina at Lagos. It was a filthy, wet, cold day and we were glad to run inside and get treated to their unique kind of humorous service and very good food. The waiter offered us the Golden Years menu, obviously designed for more mature people. He said the portions were smaller but we got three courses and a drink included so we decided to go for it. I cannot imagine what the portions would be like on the main menu. Enough to say that we didn’t need to eat again all day.
The next day we were much relieved to wake up to the return of the sunshine. We drove to Alvor, where we walked the dogs on the incredibly beautiful beach and, by some wonderful serendipity, we met up with our friends Melanie and Biz (aka Ian) who were easily persuaded to join us for lunch in one of the excellent fish restaurants there. This is the once a year event when I get to drink wine and Shirley is the driver. Just to be clear, I am not hard done to, the drinking of wine is not high on my priorities and I’m usually happy to be the sober driver. On my birthday Shirley insists that the roles are reversed and I drink a glass and try not to get inebriated enough to embarrass myself or anyone who is with me. It nearly worked! I was doing fine until my storytelling became a bit overly enthusiastic and I knocked a large glass off the table and smashed it. The waitress was very sweet about it as she swept it up. Face still a bit red …
We spent the evening sitting beside our little firepit and drinking a glass of wine, looking at the stars and feeling thankful. This is the life!