The valley is full of quiet and peace. Passerines braid the air between the trees. The rosemary in the garden is dense with flowers and bees. The sun isn’t shining all day long every day, unlike December last year when each hour of daylight was an hour of blue skies. December last year . . . I was drawn sharply back to last year for a moment in the post office in Tavira. We spent a lot of time there when we were new, organising rental of a post box, sending important documents off. I even bought a few Christmas postcards printed on cork. Since then we’ve had little business to do in there, but yesterday I received notification in our post box of a parcel and went in to pick it up. There on the counter were Christmas postcards printed on cork. Instantly, I was dematerialised and transported back a year. I had to kick back to the surface, rushing through the events of the past year to remind me that it did happen. Fifty-two weeks condensed into a single moment. Lucky I’ve got this blog as proof that it isn’t all a dream.
Adventures in Portuguese
I continue with my forays into the Portuguese language, even without the benefit of real immersion – it’s too quiet where we are – or any systematic approach to learning, thanks to the continuing pressure of work and other demands. I was encouraged by a short conversation I had with a very nice woman, who wanted to know how long I’d lived here – a direct question which I managed to answer – and declared my Portuguese to be, after such a short time in the country, ‘espectaculo’. So encouraged, that I went off to buy something I needed, determined to do it in Portuguese. I’d already constructed a mnemonic for the name: a fruit + a museum in New York + thingummybob. (I’m not telling you what it was. A little puzzle.) So I walked in, went up to the counter and said I’d like to buy a fruit-museum-thingummybob, please. She knew exactly what I wanted. Success! I’d be out of the shop again in a moment.
Alas, I’d managed to give the impression of being a competent Portuguese speaker. She went to the shelf and took down the two versions of the fruit-museum-thingummybob they had in stock. She proceeded to unpack each one and describe in great detail what it did, the differences between the two, the variations in price, the advantages and disadvantages of each style, and so on. Unfamiliar with the thingummy anyway, I decided to nod and hope for the best until I could simply buy the version that came with the nice little zip-up case for storage, which was the basis on which I was making my choice, then leave and read the instructions in English. But the fatal moment came: a direct question. I had no idea what she was asking me. Her face soured. (Not typical Portuguese, this. These are the friendliest people ever.) ‘English?’ she said. I shook my head firmly. No way was I admitting to speaking English. Not a word. I managed to conclude the purchase, but she wasn’t pleased. I think she felt I’d cheated her. Next time I’d better admit defeat earlier on.