Permaculturing in Portugal

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

Our virtual escritura

I guess for anyone well accustomed to video conferencing this sort of thing is a yawn, but for us, and probably a fair proportion of those present, completing the purchase of a property via the internet is an odd sort of event. To be simultaneously ‘present’ in two places over 1,000 miles apart was a bizarre experience.

There we were, of sound mind and body, sitting around the computer in Scotland, while simultaneously experiencing some disembodied hint of what it must feel like to be profoundly disabled and reliant on others to move us about to all the various places we needed to be in order to take part in the proceedings.

Sitting on the chairs in the notary’s waiting area was familiar – we’ve sat there before and could almost kid ourselves we were there in person, chatting to Cynthia and Pete, waiting on last minute problems getting sorted, watching Alfredo give Cynthia a lesson in typing Portuguese accents on an English keyboard, seeing the rest of the room in memory that the webcam’s limited field of vision wasn’t reaching …

Sitting in Cynthia’s lap wasn’t quite such a familiar experience admittedly, and the notary’s office even less so, but still there was this strange there-but-not-thereness about it all.

Pete & Cynthia getting us ready

Pete & Cynthia putting us in position

Aside from Pete and Cynthia, who related to us exactly as we were, everyone else looked like we felt. Sometimes they looked intently at the computer. We waved and said “olá” or “bom dia”. They smiled and waved but looked simultaneously slightly embarrassed like they’d been caught in the act of mistaking the window-dresser for one of her mannequins. Others seemed to respond to the computer as just a computer and barely notice our presence, so it was our turn to feel like peeping toms.

Then all of that fell into place when Cynthia sent me some of the photos Pete had taken. Looking at how we appeared to them, chances were they could barely see us!

The view from the other side

The view from the other side

There was a last-minute hitch. The cheque for the purchase price is handed over immediately before the signing. In Portugal, bank cheques have a pre-assigned expiry date regardless of the date they’re written on. The ones my bank had given me in January, and which I’d written out for the purchase price before we left, expired last week. But no worries. The girl in the bank is from Benfeita and she would pass the cheques if I could email her to confirm I wanted them honoured. That done, the ceremony went ahead.

The notary completes the signing of the documents

The notary completing the signing

The notary was very professional and businesslike and took it all in her stride. The documents were read in Portuguese, then in English, then everyone signed them, then that was that!

We now have responsibility for Quinta do Vale! Bem feito!

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