‘We take almost all the decisive steps in our lives as a result of slight inner adjustments of which we are barely conscious.’ Austerlitz, in the book of the same name by W. G. Sebald.
We arrived in the Algarve on Monday morning and will be flying back to London on Wednesday afternoon; these are the flights we booked while in Italy, after Herr Sensible got hold of Husband by mobile phone on the threshold of an Etruscan tomb. It is hot and dry here, almost too bright for photography. The night is warm, with stars refusing to be entirely outshone by a bright yellow moon.
We have been busy. First we had a meeting with our Doutora of Taxes. She was impressive. A complex set of rules was made limpid. The decisions we needed to make about our residency status are now done, and that tight knot of worry I had is undone. The details are, I think, too dry and dull to relate here. Anyway, so far so good. In common with our lawyer, whom we shall also see again while we are here, her tone was friendly and her knowledge sharp. It occurs to me we’ve been very lucky with our professionals so far.
We have also sat around a table on the terrace of our house-to-be (all being well) with the estate agent and the Sensibles and discussed terms and timings. We are about to enter the contractual stages, and will be handing over a sum of money, an agreed percentage of the final price, to show commitment. This brings about a commitment on both sides, since if the sellers were to pull out they would have to pay us double the money to release themselves. We have no particular fear of that.
We aim to complete in mid-November, and to overlap with the Sensibles by a few weeks beforehand, which means arriving in the Algarve in October to begin our lives here. This period of overlap will allow us to get the landline and internet connection set up ready for our moving in. It will also allow us to learn how everything works, and to meet the neighbouring farmers who play an important role in the life of the house: they pick the olives and carobs, and once a year they clear the land of dry vegetation to make it fire-safe. One of the two wells on which the house relies is on a piece of their land, and the agreement to use it needs to pass over to us. For these and many reasons this will be a relationship that is vital to us.
All still depends on our sale in London being completed successfully. Unlike in Portugal – and, so far as I can see, unlike in almost every developed country – in the UK there is no commitment on either side for the many weeks it takes solicitors to do whatever they do to process a property transaction. Nothing is certain until exchange of contracts. We are keen to reach that stage.
This external cisterna supplies the garden. Beneath the house another cisterna stores 30,000 litres of water, drawn from the main well, which is for household use. We will have to think harder about water, where it comes from and how much there is of it, than we are used to.