Permaculturing in Portugal

One family's attempts to live in a more planet-friendly way

In waiting

A wait can be a bit of a weight at times if you let it. But we’re just going with the flow of things. Less stress all round that way. Right now we’re in Scotland (with snow on the ground) and here until the end of May at least, so our plans have had to be put back a bit.

Our brave boy Aonghas just had surgery on a brain tumour. The surgery went well and he was amazing in how he coped with it all and his stay in hospital. He’s recovered so rapidly you’d never guess what he’d been through if you didn’t know already. He’s even recovered the peripheral vision he’d lost due to the tumour pressing on the optic nerves. Prior to the operation, the consultants said that once nerve tissue has been compromised it doesn’t recover, so he wouldn’t regain his sight through surgery. They could only stop it deteriorating further. Now they’re saying it’s because he’s young. Go figure … But he can’t fly for 3 months until the bones that they drilled through have healed over, so here we are.

Once or twice during long nights full of constant interruptions for blood pressure/temperature/pulse rate monitoring, etc, I wondered whether I was doing the right thing again. Then the next day another patient was moved into the next bed. She has the same diagnosis as Aonghas. This is an uncommon condition that affects only 0.5-2 people in a million, which means that, all else being equal, there are only somewhere between 30 and 120 people with the condition in the whole of the UK right now.

Given that, what are the chances of 2 children with the same diagnosis ending up in the same hospital for surgery at the same time, let alone in beds next to each other? But when I overheard her parents speaking and realised they were speaking Portuguese, it seemed somehow beyond coincidence. More like a strange kind of thumbs up from the universe, evidence of some sort of magnetic attraction existing between us and Portugal. And she’s recovered her sight too.

Meanwhile we still haven’t quite got to the stage of the escritura. The process of collecting all the right pieces of paper together is taking the owner longer than expected, but there’s no sense of anxiety or concern. A different sense of time exists here. In the (Scottish) Highlands, the mainlanders talk about “Island time” when referring to the Hebridean relationship to the clock. This always struck me as hilarious when I lived there, since mainland “Highland time” is already a Tardis trip away from anything encountered in more populous areas, so there are distinct feelings of déja vu to this. Even, strangely, a comfortable feeling of familiarity.

There’s the story, apocryphal or not who knows, about the Spanish motorist stranded in the Highlands and needing a part for his car to get going again. On getting no clear answer about timescales from the garage, the Spanish guy explains the concept of mañana and asks whether a similar thing operates in the Highlands. The Highlander thinks long and hard, then says slowly, “no … no, I don’t think we have a word that quite expresses that sense of urgency …”

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