Husband set about painting three rooms of our new house while I stayed on at the Chalet to work until the time came to move out completely. We said sad goodbyes to First Friends, although we’re only just up the valley from them, and moved in properly to our house. We can hardly believe how much we love it here. Our own place. My lungs, now healthy again, fill up every day with soft, scented air. We listen to birdsong all day long. The views are soothing to the soul. But life is rarely, if ever, perfect.
When we started looking at houses, the top of our priority list was good internet access. I need it for my work. The estate agents we were initially in touch with said this should be the least of our concerns, but I guess that’s because they thought we’d buy a property on a development next to the coast or a golf course or something like that. Somewhere along the line, of course, we ended up falling for a house by the river in a remote valley.
We remained positive. The telecoms company in Tavira told us, ‘No problem.’ A satellite would give us television and internet access. We’re not interested in the television, we asserted. If it comes with the package, OK, but really what we want is the internet connection. No problem, she said, it does both. Husband was speaking in somewhat faltering Portuguese; I was speaking apologetically in English. Whichever the language: No problem.
Everyone we’ve spoken to here who’s been through the same process has been too kind to mock, ‘You didn’t believe that, did you?’
Two telecoms engineers appeared quite quickly. They were an uncle and nephew. The nephew, with his pony tail and his bright, shining brown eyes, had worked around Europe as a DJ and spoke very good English. He liked to talk, too. ‘We Portuguese are good communicators. We’re not good planners, but we’re good communicators.’ They were going to install the dish. ‘This gives you good TV. Do you want one cable or two? Two, and you can watch programmes and record at the same time.’
‘What we really want is internet access.’
‘This is just TV, not internet.’
He went on to tell us that he was sick of capitalism, that he felt it had had its day. ‘When I meet someone, I don’t want to know what they have. I want to know who they are, what they can do. Not what they own. It’s time for a worldwide revolution. Governments don’t work in the people’s interests.’
Swept up in feel-good revolutionary fervour, we decided not to press the internet point. It was hardly their fault, after all.
The next day a new engineer came, this time to set up the landline. ‘Ah, there are gaps in the connection. You have missing telegraph poles. It’s the woodpeckers.’ He left, and no more has been heard.
At least all our stuff arrived. In the evening of the following day, Friday, two sturdy and cheerful East Anglians, both called Roger, showed up in the deep dark with a van. (Darkness is dark here.) I say ‘showed up’, but Husband had to meet them on the main road to help them find the way; it’s difficult enough in daylight, impossible at night. The deal with the delivery company had been that our belongings would be decanted from the pantechnicon into vans because of the inaccessibility of our setting. One pantechnicon = two vans, I’d have thought. Well, it did, but it was one van making two trips. After emptying the first van-load, the two indefatigable Rogers left, to return two hours later, unguided this time, with the second load. Just after midnight, they finished. They reassembled the bed and the wardrobe, waved an upbeat goodbye and vanished into the darkness.
Our possessions, relatively modest in the context of London, here feel like immodest wealth. Eleutherio, the neighbouring farmer, dropped by on Sunday to pick up two armchairs and some chests of drawers left by the Sensibles. Husband was midway through unpacking. Stuff was spilling out of boxes on to every surface inside our home. It was like we wanted to show off everything we owned. At least our pony-tailed revolutionary came round before the arrival of all our goods and saved us that embarrassment.
Eleutherio, I’m sure, doesn’t care. He’s a happy man. He has a big smile and shining brown eyes, but he’s probably too old for revolutionary zeal. He has a lovely wife, and two absurdly joyful dogs: Lordy and Estrela. He drove off in his loaded pickup, his two adoring dogs alongside him in the passenger seat.
We received a text message from the telecoms company telling us that the installation is now complete and we are customers on a 24-month contract. We have no landline, no internet access of any description and very patchy mobile reception. For now, needing wifi is a good excuse to visit First Friends or go out for coffee and cake. In the longer term, I think we need to recruit the help of our agent. If anyone can make the telecoms company keep their promises, she can.