Travelling South for Brexit
As an Englishman I found recent events a rather strange experience. As on the Friday of the 31st of January 2020 instead of reveling with most of the country in the long-awaited Brexit phase. Listening out for the bongs and chimes of the striking of the town and cities clocks at 11 o clock, rather I found myself flying southwest to the beautiful city of Porto in northern Portugal. Not unlike the late stragglers of birds that leave our shores and skies, albeit temporarily to warmer climes when they sense the colder snap winter is fast approaching.
Portugal is a wonderful country that takes three quarters of the western seaboard of the Atlantic from its Spanish neighbours. Steeped in colorful history from its battles with the Moors, its long-standing alliance with Britain from 1386. It’s a nation of great traveler’s and discoverers, of exquisite cuisine and its humidity and warmth accommodate abundant growth for the valleys of vineyards and olives orchards of plentiful fruit.
I take the Metro to the city for the express pendular train to the old university city of Coimbra. That is where the ex – prime minister Antonio de Oliveira Salazar had served previously as a lecturer and had risen from finance minister to leader and dictator. A role used to rule with an iron like fist from 1932 – 1968, he was replaced due to ill health, but it wasn’t until 1974 that after a military coup, democracy was restored.
I change trains at Coimbra for a much more sedately paced one. Heading south towards Tomar, a splendid city, rich in history with its magnificent castle atop a hill in the centre which was once the headquarters of the Knights Templar. The Templar where an organisation of devout Christians during the medieval period who carried out important missions to protect European travelers visiting sites in the Holy Land whilst also carrying out military operations. As we trundle along through the countryside viewing the simplicity of life in rural Portugal, from peasantry to palaces, watching the countless people, mainly the elders, working on their plots of vegetables, labouring as they have done for many a year to produce the daily basket on the table.
Caminho da Cruz
I stop at a tiny stop called Fungalvaz, and my prearranged taxi is their to meet me, Vasco speaks pretty good English and I speak very little Portuguese. He drops me at ‘Caminho da Cruz’, (the way of the cross) an old building sat on the side of a hill overlooking the Pegoes aqueduct. I am renovating Caminho da Cruz for the purpose of it to be used as a Christian retreat in the near future.
The building and surrounding acre of land where purchased last year when it was in quite a sorrowful state of disrepair. No water, gas or electricity with a broken roof that had been leaking in for many a year, crumbling walls, rotten wooden floors and 8-foot brambles covering most of the land. The first visit last year, saw me and my brother in Christ Andrew, working with generators, filling water containers from the nearby town and showering under a camping solar shower as we looked at doing a temporary repair to the roof and clearing out the debris.
Roll on 11 months and things are much improved, though there is still a long way and a lot of hard work to do. We have electricity and water, bottled gas, 2 working bathrooms, 2 new traditional type kitchens, log burners, a new traditional red tiled roof, new floor tiling to about 10 rooms, an outside terrace area and an ongoing outside kitchen! Wow, when I write it down there is a tremendous difference. Anyway, this trip I am here to prepare for the next materials visit, which is me going back to the UK next month and loading up the big trailer with UPVC windows and doors, furniture and tools. My good friend Dave will be travelling with me and Bertie my faithful dog will be travelling from Manchester to Portsmouth, sailing down to Bilbao in northern Spain, over the mountains and the plains of Spain and onwards to Central Portugal.
So I am here preparing the door and window apertures ready for the new ones. I happened upon some brand new but liquidated stock on a first come first serve basis. I got 12 windows, all new, for the princely sum of £250. After measuring everything up they are either too big or too small. One way or the other so it is necessary to either cut out or add to each window aperture and render it up ready for the new ones. I also have some nice second hand glass doors for a front and back door where once it was a home made concoction of wood and nails that partially filled a gap, the doorway was rather small, I’m told the previous owners were only small so they only needed little doors. I am also building a new porch to hang the door, its rather pleasant as it has great views of the aqueduct.
I have been attending a local Portuguese Pentecostal church, an Assembleia de Deus, (Assemblies of God), in nearby Ourem. It’s a wonderful little place where they are passionate for worshipping God.
It’s a small congregation of around 30 people and one of the best things I find is there is no band, no musical instruments, no stage lights or microphones are required. We just stand and praise, sing and worship the Lord. The service is completely in Portuguese!
God bless thelovely couple who are the only ones who speak English. They come over and sit with me to translate the message. It opens my mind to understand the struggle some have across the world where language is a barrier, though it is reassuring to know that whatever language or tongue we speak, God is the creator of all. Amen.
So please feel free to come along for the ride as I experience Portuguese life and go about my daily walk with Christ.