Quit and feel better

Once upon a time (just a week ago)

I gulped down the receiver and told her the news.

Not surprised, she was not surprised

She said.

And she was happy. A like minded soul who spent 3 glory years in a campervan in the outback.

At my age.

She understood.

I couldn’t come back. Not now.

To spreadsheets, appraisals, frowning late nights and HR connundrums

Not now, when I feel, finally, dare I say it, it sounds so cheesy,  I am being

Just being

And being me.

No job, no boyfriend, no flat, no income, no kids, no garden. At 35.

It feels great.

Because I am getting better.Letting it gooooooooooooo.

No hacking cough, no doubts, no shoulders with lead weights and a dead end sign to a life I didn’t

Sign up for.

Each cell, its shaking imprint taking tiny footsteps to dissolve and take on a happier shape

Yoga in the morning oh hello cliche to the rising sun but it helps

Deep breaths in (I had stopped breathing) when I remember


And this is what I now can see, through a smoky pane

I don’t have to sack off my dreams. I can dust them off and go chase them.


Mushroom geek

This weekend we joined the official mushroom walk in Monchique.

Mushrooms, mushrooms everywhere! We (Fee, Nic and I) got very excited and we took 6 hours to do a 2 hour walk, stopping to poke in the bushes, under trees, to try and find new species. All the locals raced ahead to pick them (the only time I have ever seen locals moving fast) and we got kinda lost, kinda happily.

We found almost 20 different types.

And I have decided that the Portuguese word for mushroom, Cogumelo, is my favourite Portuguese word.

It sounds so earthy and peaty and dense and beautiful.

Flyer for our exhibition

Nic (Nicola Dillon) runs a design company Kinked in London and has put together the brand and publicity materials for our event. The concept is based on old Portuguese tiles with a contemporary feel and in black and white to be more sustainable (using less ink) and so we can stencil the brand onto the walls inside the space.

Article in Algarve 123

Today, Algarve 123 published an article about us and our project! Very pleased with it.

We are also meeting Carrie Bratley from The Portugal News on Tuesday morning to talk about our project. Hopefully we will get some more press…

Too forward for Monchique

Today started badly.

Last night I invited 4 of the girls from our house to go on a research trip around the handicraft shops. The task was to find the best souvenirs/crafts out there to go into our special map of the producers in and around Monchique. I was all enthusiastic, saying we could go for lunch together. When we woke up it was sunny and crisp and pretty much perfect.

Then I spoke to the first artesanato maker on our route – a shoemaker. Huddled in a dark, damp room off the street, glasses perched on his nose and surrounded by insoles, leather scraps, a sewing machine and piles of boots, he was a reportage photographer’s dream. In terrible, but chirpy, Portuguese, I told him we were making a map with all the local producers on it, so tourists would know where to come and buy local products.Was he happy to be on the map?

Immediately, he waved me away. ‘No quero nada’ he grumbled. I don’t want anything,don’t want to be involved in anything.

Any chance I can take a photo

No, I don’t want to be involved in anything. Go, go.

This pretty much sums up the attitude of the people here. They don’t want to be helped. And they don’t want to help themselves either. Their country is going down the pan but everyone seems happy just sitting talking about it, not doing anything about it. When I speak to people about business ideas, obvious ways to make money through tourism, people just shrug. What is the point when the economy is so bad?

Where is the fight, the dynamism? Where is the passion?

That shoe maker can sit there all day and make his shoes but if there is noone to buy them then what?

People seem content just earning enough money to survive, not to turn their hobbies into their job, not to see opportunities and fill them, not to make a little more money from what they are already doing. All the campaign groups protesting against the mine consist of resident foreigners. This is no surprise.

It dawned on me, speaking to that shoemaker, that this is not the place for me. I want to go where there is a need and people want to find solutions to address the need. Where external help is considered helpful.

I had a drink with David, a local guy of 25 last night, a young dad. You are too forward to work here, he said. Maybe I am. I want things to happen, to make things happen, This is what I am used to and what I most miss. Although being in a place without zest is probably the best antidote to stress I could have found. Destiny, huh.

After the encounter with the shoe maker I left the girls and just did my own thing. I had a good hug from our donkey. I ate some melted camembert and some Jamaican patties and some lentil soup all on one plate. I drew a couple of pictures of Monchique.

‘Where are all the young people’ my last one shouted.

There is so much opportunity here, but it is so frustrating!

Rui the President

Met the President yesterday, Rui Andre, and he really liked our ideas for our maps and our project. He is 36 ( I have reviewed your age  now, Mr President!) , and has been in power for 2 years, after the last Mayor was in for 27 years. He is going to give us an exhibition space, free refreshments and full support. Yey! Hopefully he will do a little speech too…

He is extremely nice, progressive and creative. It is refreshing for Monchique to have in power someone who is from an education background (he used to teach art in schools) and is also from Monchique.

His wife must never get to see him because he puts his everything into his role – every weekend he seems to be doing something with local people – from boar hunting to going on a theatre trip and he is also President of the old folks home, where he knows everyone by name.

I do not know any Mayors in London who show such passion and commitment to their role.

Afterwards, he said on Facebook that he enjoyed meeting us! And called us young and creative saying we had lots of good ideas:

Woohoo – nice to be called creative (and especially to be called young! 🙂 )

Restaurants in Monchique

We gave the task to Cola and Veronika today to create content for our map of Monchique.

They researched the local restaurants of Monchique. They asked the owners about their favourite places in Monchique. They came out as:

Top 5 attractions in Monchique

  • Waterfalls
  • Watermill and picnic spot
  • Picota
  • Convent
  • Birdwatching the eagles near Foia

They also found out about the prices of the restaurants, the atmosphere and their specialities.  The places we are going to show on our map are marked Y

A Charrette Restaurant Y

Owners favourite place – Picota / Fioia

Clientele: Couples/families

Speciality: Traditional Portuguese food – special is pork, cabbage, beans

O Chala Y

Younger crowd

Snacks, cake, changes artwork once a month -local artists

Bestsellers – cheesecake and bagels

Herbal tea popular with locals

Recommended: A Rampa

Cafe Montanha N

Don’t speak English, very local bar, cheap

Loja de Chocolate – tea, chocolate, coffee Y

Refers tourists around Monchique

Handmade crafts are all local – need a kitemark…?

Does yoga tea…potentially a hippy town?

Barlefante Y

Music – Rio Grande and Mercado Negro

Most popular toastie – chicken toastie!

Cafe da Vilha Y

Cocktails are very popular

Owner favourite restaurant A Luar

Cafe Bellavista N

Nice inside. Cheap piri pri

Restaurante Oze Y

Great value prato de dia. Very popular with locals.

Recommended Fernando

Restaurante O Parque Y

Great atmosphere. Central hub for the town. Homely and warm.

Fernando Y

Large, homely, very popular with locals, beautiful view, on the road up to Foia. Do half dishes. Speciality: bacalhau

Teresinha N

Quite expensive, not that friendly, local joint

O Luar de Foia Y

Pumpkin marmalade, honey cake, modrono cake

Assado de porco preto the speciality, outside oven, seasonal ingredients, cosy atmosphere

Owner enjoys birdwatching on walk to Foia – lots of eagles

Estalagem Y

Palmeirinha Y

Jardim das Oliveiras Y

A Rampa Y

To my BFF

You were the calm, smart one beside a powerhouse man

Working effectively, efficiently and seemingly happily

Until it bust apart and I let you store your life in my attic

And you went home, to a small place, to remember the bits you grew from

And I was impressed that you threw into the air a life that from the outside seemed so so good

But it was not and you listened and left

And I visited your 1960s architectural haven

And got crushed with you in a reggae club changing room

Hiding in a car while your friend tagged graffitti in a country where that crime is almost worth a hanging

I gave you a book.

Blue cover. Colombia.

And we read it by the modern fireplace. Crackling.

And we knew we would go. We promised.

And we went. Big blue skies and empty islands and hiding our age from 22 year olds boys.

And milkshakes in the market and coconut rice and slow dancing with soldiers

And a racing boat on choppy seas and swinging hammocks where you found fun and I realised my own pain that would take me another year to creep out of

With you, always there, a green light to chat to when I needed

With the same high hopes and not letting go of what we deserve

Your sun and horse print on my wall in Portugal.

Blu tacked to my tippee wall

To make me strong, my BFF

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