As this post goes out, we are on the verge of signing and exchanging contracts on the sale in London. It’s a few days later than my ultimatum, but good enough, I think.
Part of the hand-written inventory for the new house
The paperwork is also piling up for our purchase in the Algarve. All the documents seem to be in good order, but then we expected that from the Sensibles. Because it is, in a legal sense, three properties, we have three land registry documents, three tax title certificates and two habitation licences; one of the three properties is a ‘rustic’ property and doesn’t require a habitation licence.
We also have an inventory from the Sensibles, which includes this life-enhancing list of trees:
olive, carob, medronho (‘strawberry tree’), pomegranate, orange, lemon, peach, plum, fig, vine, apple, pear and pine.
Behind all this in ways he probably could not imagine, but I will at some point endeavour to explain, is my father. It is almost a year since he died. At the beginning of next month, on the first anniversary, we will raise a glass to him, a glass of Krug, gift of a generous author of mine in thanks for editorial work done, and which we have been keeping for this occasion.
Dad in the prime of his life, engaged in his favourite hobby: sea-fishing
In his final year, my father was too ill to enjoy life much, although he always managed to look rather fine: he had a head of thick, dark hair right up to the end of his life, and good skin, and so his appearance perhaps belied how he felt. Any compliments as to his good looks would be met with a characteristic wisecrack: ‘Oh, I’ll make a lovely corpse.’ (You can take the man out of Bootle, but you can’t . . . etc.) In the last few months of his life, he became so ill that he needed full-time care, which was provided by a mixture of the NHS and Social Services. This was, in so many different ways, a torment for every one of us. He developed vascular dementia. This sent his always considerable imaginative powers right off the scale, but he never lost the ability to recognise his family. Even if he thought he was under some kind of benevolent guard rather than in a hospital, and that tunnels were being dug throughout the surrounding countryside, and birds were flying in formation at the window while displaying shields, he still knew us, and in this we were enormously lucky. Every time we turned up at his bedside – which was often, as often as we could make it – he swelled with pride. ‘My children give me substance,’ he said.
My father had always been a reserved, slightly imposing, somewhat moody man. He bore the responsibilities of life heavily. He was as loyal and devoted a husband/father as anyone could be, but he rarely displayed his affection, certainly not as we grew older. He saw his role more as that of giving authority and trying to make sure we kids were toughened up a bit in preparation for a harsh world, and in this he was quite typical of his time, and it reflected his own, quite hard upbringing. What he particularly wanted for all of us was education and training and the opportunities that these could provide. His own ambitions had been thwarted at the age of fourteen when he had to start work to help the family purse. In so doing, he was turning down the scholarship he’d won to a technical school; the scholarship didn’t cover kit, which his family couldn’t afford, and anyway they needed another income. Eventually the RAF offered an opportunity and bombed-out Liverpool was left behind.
Dad at the very end of his life, in a brief respite from the exigencies of Care, enjoying a cold glass of wine on a hot day (photo by me)
In the last weeks of his life, paradoxically, a burden seemed to be lifted from him. He was ready to die, and not in the least afraid. He was dignified in the face of many a bed-bound indignity, and brave in the face of much pain and discomfort. He never lost his sense of humour. On a few occasions he made me laugh so much that I corpsed and had to leave the bedside to go and recover myself. (Heaven knows what people thought! I guess you see everything in a hospital.) He drew us all closer to him, and closer to one another, and this was a joy amid all the sadness.
And quite how all this leads in my case to Portugal I see now I shall have to save for another post.