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Monday, 01 May 2017

A Labor of Love: Living & Renovating in Portugal - Page 3

Written by Jeannie Pontet
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The large living room needed brightening up. Two little yellow framed windows either side of the white front door winked behind half opened white shutters, the window at the kitchen sink overlooked a grey, cracked wall of the neighbor's cottage; had it been positioned just one meter to the left one would be able to appreciate the hill beyond that beheld the splendor of the seasons with orchards of apple, peach and pear trees interspersed with vines and figs.


The wooden clad ceiling of this dank room was oppressive and the kitchen ‘units’ were nothing more than packing boxes screwed to the white washed walls. The sink was a haven for millipedes and the storage cupboards below accommodated a family of house mice. The parade-privado had to go, opening up the room to welcome visitors.
“Marió is your man” Chuck enlightened me “he is local, dependable and thorough, but don’t forget, this is Portugal! Three weeks will be three months; Three thousand ‘mais o menos’ (more or less) becomes four, five thousand”. So Marió came with his nephew Alexandra – painter/decorator excellent. Keen to start work as soon as possible I dispatched myself to the relative comfort of the villa in which I had invested a year before. A large airy 4 bedroomed elegant house that stands proudly upon a hill overlooking the village below in which snuggles my little cottage, from there I could keep an eye on Mário and his clan of workers that include his brother João, his brother-in-law Pedro, Carlos the electrician, Super-Mário the carpenter and Filipe the plumber and his mate Andreas.


The living room was cleared, everything except the fridge, which remained powered up and stocked with Super Bock to quench the workers’ thirst. Mário, a swarthy chap barely 5feet 5inches short with a powerful torso on little legs and tiny feet, arrived with his brother and nephew; the kitchen was soon ripped out and, clutching a masonry drill that dwarfs him, Mário began with gusto drilling into the kitchen wall to create an opening for the larger window. ‘Super Mário’, the carpenter began in earnest building superb pine kitchen cabinets and was soon creating a warm but practical hub for the home.
There were no architectural plans drawn, no applications submitted to the Camara, rough estimates were given “mais o menos”! “First there must be light! Then one must be able to appreciate the views! Plenty of both please! The kitchen window must be changed for a larger one. Kitchen units must be made to measure in a lightwood that would conform to keeping everything simple. Oh! Chaps, whilst you are busy tearing out the window – my goodness, is that a rock in the wall? Could you please also remove that awful ceiling, save the wood it can be recycled, I am sure I will have use for it later. Oh! Chaps, look behind the wood planks a lovely high ceiling with beams…ok some are missing, can we just pop in a few more?” The demands continued!


The master bedroom was large with a small window overlooking a tired and dirty terrace. “Oh! Chaps! Faz favor, slip in a pair of French windows, how lovely to be able to meander from bed to terrace on a summer morning!” Behind an east-facing wall, out of sight, is the most beautiful view looking across the little cottages, over a stream, beyond the orchards and vineyards and up to my villa. One must be able to sit in bed with a cup of tea and admire that view every morning.
“Oh senhores! Replace this wall with as big a window as possible; 3 meters - is that too big? No? We need permission from the Camara? Surely a friendly chat with the neighbors who own that piece of empty land below. Ta bem!”
Meanwhile I attempted to tear down the ugly shed on the terrace that protected the traditional concrete BBQ and which obscured my views towards the lake. However, eager as I was to destroy it my enthusiasm rendered me in ‘outpatients’ and off work for three weeks as I slipped a disc simply moving a support beam that proved to be a little too heavy for a lightweight such as myself!! My sweet neighbor Christina, whose husband José is a house-husband (very unusual in such a macho society) who holds down two jobs to keep her family fed, took me under her wing, driving me to the hospital daily, helping me with my shopping, and taking me into her humble home to partake of the occasional meal with her family. Their kindness, upon which I became most reliant, is forever apparent.

(Page 3 of 6)
Last modified on Monday, 01 May 2017

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