Wednesday, 19 September 2007


It was a day like any other really. Well, I suppose like any other of the Poop In Europe type of days we’ve been having since leaping out the Matrix 6 months ago and hurling ourselves into Europe 4 months ago. 4 months to the very day in fact. It was 7th September 2007. Woke up in Coimbra (pronounced ‘queembra’) and said to each other lets go see this place called Moses we’ve seen on the web. We can’t wait 2 more weeks for the appointment booked with the estate agent. We want to see it today. Now. Destiny waits for no man. Drive.

With no idea what lay in front of us, not a clue what the area and the landscape in that region of central Portugal would be like, what the vibe of the local village called Amieira would be, and even if we would be able to find Moses at all, we set off. On the website it had said Moses was a 15 minute walk down a dirt track from the tiny hilltop village so to search all directions might take us a few days of wild trekking to actually find it. We could ask people in the village but with my Portuguese vocabulary only just topping the 6 word mark I wasn’t expecting much quality communication.
So as usual we had no idea what we were doing, but bizarrely, coursing through mine and Vonnie´s veins, was a not inconsequential level of adrenalin. Would today be the day we found the place that we set out to find? Could this be the place we had spent so many months imagining might exist? Could this be the one?

The closer we got, the tinglier the sensation grew. And oh yes, we recognised this feeling. It was the same when we met each other 15 years ago when after only 6 hours in each others company, decided to get married. It was the same when we saw our tumbling down house in New Cross with rain pouring in through the roof all the way down to the basement and we knew it was to be our house; the house where we would raise our yet to be born kids. Unmistakably the exact same feeling. Eyes wide open. Hearts racing. Spirits soaring in delight at the expectation of what was ahead of us, what we saw around us and what was happening inside of us. As we drove the last 10km stretch to the village all we could do was grin inanely at each other. Surely this couldn’t be it? It’s called Moses. How cool would that be?

Blissfully unaware of all the commotion taking place in our emotions, Moses the dog lay peacefully asleep on the back seat. No need to get excited by what you can’t smell, eat or swim in, is there boy?

Turn after turn, view after view, forest after forest, river after river, remote pretty village after remote pretty village, our excitement just kept growing. It felt like we were going home after years of being away.

Finally there it was. The signpost to the village of Amieira. Somewhere in the surrounding forested hillsides of this sweet looking white washed village was a property for sale – and its name is Moses. As the Mosiemobeel pulled into the village entrance road, a lively little fiesta type car came bolting out and screeched to a halt. 4 blond smiley faces stared out at us in wonder. Mum, Dad and 2 young kids in the back. In their faces I read a whole heap in a few seconds. They were expressing a look that kind of said "What is that beast of a vehicle? And what is that doing here? In this village. Motorhomes don’t come here. Campers don’t come here. In fact no one comes here. What is that thing doing here? And who are those young people driving it? They have got to be lost" Then the smiley faces spoke. In English. Really. In English. We introduced ourselves. They were Chistian and Alice. Living in Switzerland which explained the perfect English. This was the village Alice was born in and they were back just for the holidays. "We’re here to look at a property for sale called Moses. Do you know where it is?" "Moses? Ummmm, There’s a Moses (pronounced like a sort of Mozezjh). It’s where my gran was born and where parents grew up. Take the dirt track after the orange brick house and walk for 15 minutes." Off they sped with a "might see you later for a drink if we’re still here" farewell.

Result. A warm and friendly welcome from a young family who spoke English and gave directions. I’ve been fortunate in my short life to have experienced a number of such coincidental encounters. Too many for me to even want to explain away with rationality. The angels were singing loud and clear. And the door of destiny was opening as wide as could be. Step on through buddy boy.

However there were quite a few dirt tracks and stone buildings and we didn't know which to take. So Von turned to our faithful 4 legged companion and said "buddy boy, you gotta know where this place is, show us the way". He turned on his paws and sped down one of the tracks and led us down a hill until we came to the top of a dirt track drive with houses below. 100 metres later we could see it all. 3 abandoned one hundred year old stone houses and 2 windowless stone store houses covered in vines, nestled in a lush little valley on 2 hectares of the sweetest sweeping stone terraces with ancient olive trees dotted along, surrounded above and beyond as far as the eye could see by eucalyptus and pine forests, with spectacular views of folding mountains into the west over which the sun would set rivalling anything we’d seen so far on the trip, and to top it all off a noisy meandering rock lined, fruit tree bordered broke at the bottom. It was the place in our dreams. It was the one. We had been led to the Promised Land by Moses. And it’s called Moses.

We sat and imagined. Didn’t take much imagining either. It was immediate. Like a film. Like flashes of light illuminating our paths with each new view. Our entire lives stretching out in front of us here in this out-of-the-way grassy Portuguese idyll. So many flower beds. So many olive trees. So many grapes. A myriad of walkways and vistas. A whole farm to sow, nurture and harvest. So many delicious meals to be created entirely from the produce of this small piece of rural paradise. So many sun soaked evenings spent supping home grown wine with friends joining us from around the globe and new ones we’d make in the area. Everything was possible. It might take us a lifetime to create but everything was beautifully and bountiful in its potential. A banquet of promising possibilities.
We set off up the hill to the village awe struck by what we had found. A bit numb to be honest.
After only 4 months of searching round Europe we had found Moses. We had found our home. But in all these things the waves of doubt come in like a tide sometimes. A bit like snakes in the head. So even by the time we had got back in our motorhome to drive off to a local campsite for the night, we were questioning everything. Are we just naïve fools? Are we laying layers of meaning to this place when in fact it’s just a dud? Silent in our thoughts we exited out the village lane. Then, again by the most provident of consequence, along scooted that little fiesta to block our path. Out jumped Christian and Alice with more gushing warmth and excitement for us. We told them of our fledgling plans and they were overjoyed for us. If someone could calculate the probability of both those meetings, I know it would be a rather large figure. We arranged to come back and see them the next day. We returned over the next few days to dream some more and to start planning how it could all fit together. We met with Alice’s parents over an impromptu Portuguese breakfast which included home made port and grappa. And heard more stories of village life.

Vonnie being Vonnie, wasn’t entirely happy. Although there was loads of room for a yoga retreat in the midst of a Giverny style garden, there wasn’t really enough housing space for our friends "Tom and Jerry".  So we set off on a wee hike, which Christian kindly offered to be our guide on, through brambles and fennel along the brook to see if we could find another property nearby that would be suitable. And we did. We found Qunita Perfume (keenta parfum) much closer to Amieira than Moses was. Another beautiful ruined farm with 2 houses and several outhouses. Perfect for them. We had read that the nearest neighbours to Moses were 0.5km away but didn’t realise that it would be abandoned and for sale.

So, a house for us. A house for Josh and Ellie next to it (you wouldn’t believe how excited they were when we told them that was what we were thinking). A house down the valley lane for Michelle. A house 500m away for "Tom and Jerry".  And about 7 or 8 store houses that could be converted into guest houses or into granny flats for all our parents when the time comes. No need for planning permission for yurts either. Tutt’ a posto as they say in Italy. All in its place.

That evening we nipped into the local town of Oleiros 20 minutes drive away to look for an internet café. We found a state of the art one provided free of charge by the council. Again, result. Not just cos it was free (see earlier blogs on my fondness for freeness) but because it demonstrated a forward thinking council. The council staff guy that worked there that night asked what we were doing in Oleiros. In response to our project he said he thought the council would love it, be right up their street and he thought they would help us however they could. Roll out the red carpets. We emailed pictures to Michelle, "Tom and Jerry" to see what they thought. And when "Jerry" saw the blue doors of Qunita she just cried and cried and knew we had found them their home.

Later we went out for a meal with Christian and Alice, and while gorging ourselves on barbeque chicken, meat, chips and salad in a local restaurant we discovered they were considering returning to live in the village too at some point in their future. They were also on their honeymoon as they had just had a church marriage the week before. They were christians and felt as strongly as we did that someone somewhere had orchestrated our happenchance meeting – for both our benefit.

Day by day everything seems to be falling into place for us. Moses fits us like a glove. Exhilarating challenge lies before us. Mountains of hard work and toil. But what a thing to invest our lives in. Up to now its all been rhetoric and ethereal notions of a life less ordinary. Today it’s real. It’s tangible. It exists. And its name is Moses.
Offers for an early advance on the book and film deal are most welcome. Only thing left to do now is to buy it.


So, it’s September the 12th a passenger (whose name you will find out later) was to be picked-up in the evening and come to stay with us in the mobile home.
"So", we thought in the morning "we have time, why don’t we ride to the beach?"
And that was just what we did!

But dum dum dum dummmmmm…..

We came to a campsite (on our bikes) but we had to go down steps to it, then we had to go over a blue tube! I thought "how on earth are we going to get over that!" But oh we were not allowed to pass-by! ¡Turns out it was an air tube! ¡¡Fancy that!!

When we eventually got home, we then packed up the mobile home, which means: wind in the awning, fold up the ground sheet, and make sure everything is secure etc etc etc. Off we went to the airport to get our….


When Moses saw Papops he was like a new dog! Oh my days I’ve never seen Moses so happy on this trip. It was wonderful! We kept on chanting, PAPOPS, PAPOPS, PAPOPS, PAPOPS, PAPOPS!!!!

"Oh" I thought "what do I do now?"

In the morning we drove to Moses (not the dog, the houses!!) Papops likes it! We are so glad! With Papops we ate, drank, swam, walked, climbed, talked, we did lessons, we watched rugby (yuck), we swam some more. It was lovely. In two days when Papops left, we all knew (including Moses the dog not the houses) that there definitely was a part of us was missing.

Well now we are where I belong… the sea!!!!!!!!!

See you soon Ellie!!!

The Sparkling Roads of Portugal by Von

We Poopers are very impatient people and we just couldn’t wait two weeks for the estate agents. We decided to call them a second time to see if we could find the place Moses for ourselves. They said no but we ignored them anyway. We decided not really knowing where we were going. Or what the place would be like. Or how far it was. Or well anything. All I knew was that 1, we were going to find it and 2, the Mosiemobile would get us there.

Andy has written a great deal about the journey to Moses but there are a few experiences special to me that I will share with you. All the time we were driving to this place I was falling in love. After leaving Coimbra we drove through an area of once forested mountain that lay exposed due to the ravages of the 2005 fires. Due to the lack of trees we could see down the mountain side into a valley. All along this valley were terraces of olive trees and nestled within the terraces were these lovely stone houses and secret gardens. We stopped off because I just had to see. I managed to climb down a little way to get a closer look. Squatting on the side of the mountain I said aloud, "I would like a place like this, nestled in the valley but surrounded by mountain, I wonder who lives there." On the way up I got my answer. Coming towards us were three smiling older ladies all dressed in black. One carrying hay on her head, the other supporting her and the other talking and chatting. One of them came up to the motor home and promptly started blowing kisses at Moses, the other started blowing kisses at me and the last one blew a kiss at the children. There is something very special about the kisses of these older traditional women and that day I felt that there was something special about to happen. Some special blessing for us Poopers. Blessed and welcomed by the upholders of the traditional ways we moved on. The sun was shining and we were all in thoughtful silence, it was then that I realised the road was actually sparkling. I have later learned that many of the roads sparkle due to a mix of minerals from the granite used in their making. So, sparkly inside and out, we carried on in search of Moses.

As we drove, the city gave way to towns and the towns gave way to villages and the villages to tiny hamlets and then finally we were surrounded by gently folding Portuguese hills. Not as dramatic as on the North coast of Spain, or as wooded and enclosing as in the Italian Abruzzo’s, but gently folding and wrapping into each other mile upon mile. The landscape looked so feminine; sensual, approachable and vulnerable. We were finally on the road less travelled in Portugal and then we arrived at Amieira the village we had read was closest to Moses.

Always when we stop driving, there’s a flurry of activity to make the motor home comfortable for when we return and depart. There was more of a flurry than usual because 20 or so villagers came out to see us and the builders argued over where Moses actually was. Eventually one builder carted Andy off to take him to Moses, leaving the kids, the dog Moses and myself sorting the motor home. Once the sorting was done we were too impatient to wait for Andy to come back, not knowing where to go I decided to try and ask the one or two villagers still standing around. My Portuguese only extending to ‘good morning’, ‘good night’ and ‘I’m sorry’ meant that asking directions was pretty fruitless. Frustrated I stood at the side of the road and said to myself, ‘I can find this place because it is mine’. I knelt down next to Moses the dog and said to him, "Hey bud can you find it? Can you find Pa Pa? Can you find the water? Take us there, find it boy." I had barely finished speaking before he set off at the highest speed I have yet seen him capable of running. So rather than a slow thoughtful walk to Moses, the children and I set off at full pace down the hill following our beloved dog but not sure if he would take us to the place. Then we saw Andy coming. He was just leaving to come back up the hill and fetch us. With a huge grin at once annihilating any questions in mind he said, "Come and see". So not only is our new home called Moses but Moses the dog was the first one to lead me there. How special is that!

When I looked at Moses the place (okay from here on in I will spell Moses the place in the Portuguese word for it Mós, meaning ‘millstones’, renamed Moses last year by the estate agents so we’d know it was ours: most thoughtful of them), so when I first looked at Mós I couldn’t believe it. It was a replica of the village I had seen in the valley with the three old ladies. At the time that village was the only one we had seen that looked like that and here I was standing in a place that looked almost exactly the same. It really is beautiful, exactly as it is, but standing there I could see all the possibilities of the future unfolding. In my minds eye I saw the colour returning to the village, I heard the children swimming in the brook and Andy playing piano in the house. And once Papops came I could also see the grandparents hanging out sipping port, laughing (and eventually probably drooling a little [Andy’s addition]) and reading to the kids as the sun sets over the valley. I was hooked. I was home.

We spent most of the day in Mós, talking, looking around and clambering up and down the terraces. I was so happy, but then I became aware that there were a couple of shadows. One, Joshua looked crestfallen. The place was beautiful but it wasn’t Italy. Two, none of the houses were big enough for us to live in as a family and three, there just weren’t enough houses for my friends "Tom and Jerry" to join us.

I hadn’t realised how much Joshua loved Italy and seeing how crestfallen he was, I said to myself, " I have seen this place. It has been offered to me. It is magical but it cannot be home if my little boy does not want to be here. If this place is meant to be for us then answers to questions will come, if those answers do not come then we move on. Life is too short and too good to be wasted on regrets." Well, the answers to question one came quite suddenly, after the second time we went to be there I noticed Joshua playing a little and relaxing and then he came to kiss me and said "Mum it is beautiful". I knew in my heart that those words were the beginning of a change of heart. Mós was beginning to work its magic on Josh.

The answer to question two came in the middle of the night when Andy woke up and said that if we had the two houses that are virtually two foot apart then the kids could have one and we could have the other and we could connect them via a covered court yard and pathways. You see in my secret dreams of our new house, I had always seen an internal courtyard with the home structured around an indoor garden. During our travels we have had the opportunity to see this in the many Roman ruins we visited so that Joshua and Eloise could continue their learning on the Romans which they’d began in school. When visiting the archaeological sites all of us had fallen in love with the indoor courtyards and now here we were planning to do the same. Well once we told Josh and Ellie our plans they were totally convinced.

So the obliterating of shadow one and two came pretty quick. Encouraged by this and the sheer magic of all our experiences associated with the place so far I felt certain that we could deal with shadow three. In my being I knew that somewhere amongst the undergrowth there’d be a place for lovely "Tom and Jerry".  The next day we found Christiana, our Swiss German angel, who said he would walk us to Mós. At the start of the walk I felt strongly that we should not go the usual way but go the long way round via the village as we turned the corner away from the village we saw Quinta Perfume!

We had read on the website that the closest neighbours were 500m away. We had also read that there was a really lovely property called Quinta and were thinking of going to see it with the estate agents just in case we didn’t like Moses. Never in our wildest dreams had we thought that the neighbouring property would be up for sale and that it would then be the lovely estate called Quinta Perfume! "Tom and Jerry" love it and join us next week to buy it at the same time we buy Moses. Well I guess this trip is all about wild dreams and the realisation of those dreams, step by step.

In the last two weeks question after question has been answered. Big ones, small ones, tincy, tiny niggling ones. It seems as if life has big neon arrows pointing at this place and we just have to follow the path. We’d said all along that Moses would lead us to the promised land and that the place we would find would rise up and bite us on the arse. Mine definitely feels bitten. And it’s not letting go.

Besides all that, I really like Portugal. It is a very gentle place, unassuming and elegant. I can grow all my favourite temperate plants here and virtually all of the plants that grow in Barbados. Imagine nectarines growing next to bananas. Finally, there are so many black people here. Everywhere we have been, in the cities, in the towns, in the villages, on the beach. I have seen black Africans, black Brazilians, white Portuguese and every combination of this spectrum walking together, talking, working etc. I have seen more mixed race couples here than anywhere else we’ve been in Europe so far outside of London and no one stares at me. At all. It’s amazing!

There’s a lot to be done. So much to be sorted out and so many more questions to arise. Questions we know will be answered like our first ones have. There is so much work to do and I am sure there will be many hurdles to climb over, go around, dig under or simply blast through. But with such a magical beginning we are feeling blessed. We have been pointed towards a place and when the universe points only a fool walks away. The universe pointed me to Andy, to Shardeloes Road, to Josh, to Ellie, to Moses the dog and now to Móses the place. There is indeed a long road ahead to be travelled, it is the road less travelled but I really feel it is a sparkly road. We have found our new home and it’s called Moses!
Need I say more?

Josh – Free to be free

Forget what I said about Portugal being too perfect. It is just right.
Since my last blog my mind has changed (dramatically) about Portugal. The flowing streams, happy people, flourishing flowers, green grass, beautiful houses and villages and just the inventiveness make Portugal my favourite country I’ve been to (I said dramatically). From our stay in Porto we have driven through the “mountains” and the multi
coloured towns and forests until we met our future; Mos. If you look on a map you will probably see a place called Castelo Branco (if you look on a more detailed map it is possible but highly unlikely that you will see a place called Amieira) that is roughly where Moses (Mos) is.

We came across Amieira, not by chance, but with loads of excitement. First of all I wasn’t sure about Amieira or Mos (moshjz) but after the 2nd, 3rd, 4th,
and 5th time I guess you’ll grow to love a place. It was because of that, the fact that I had many conversations with dad about it and the fact that mummy was so happy, so at home in the wonderful place that you could see the joy seeping out of her, that made me change my mind about Portugal.

Dad had told me that in all the 13 years and eleven months they had been married, not one single time (maybe apart from when
Ellie and I were born) had she been this happy. Constantly these words rang through my head saying “hello brain to Joshua. 13 years! 13 years! Do you speaka da Engleesh? 13. T-H-I-R-T-E-E-N years. Your mother's happiest moment is here. The person, who loves you, cares for you, comforts you and held you for nine months. How does that make you feel dumdum, Mr. grumpy and moany? You’re making that joy level drop. Remember 13 years.” Those words rang through my head, day and night, night and day.

However one piece of the puzzle was still missing in my mind; me. Now that piece of the puzzle is packed in tight with the rest and right now is being welded into place.

When we went there with my Grandfather (who brought us tonnes of new books and school books for the “new school term”) that same joy that seeped out of my mother, seeped out of me. Although Papops held a bit of a grudge (don’t all grandfather’s with really expensive houses in Dulwich village when their son and daughter-in-law are about to buy a ruin) at first, he soon decided that he liked Mos.

We had a great time with Papops. He flew out from Gatwick to Lisbon with a rucksack, a bag, and a 27kilo suitcase full of books that smelt of frankincense (the bag of incense had split). As soon as the books arrived we dived into the suitcase looking for what was ours. We settled in all snug in the back while dad drove and Papops talked about life at home.

Mummy, Ellie and I stopped reading
only once it became too dark to do so. That’s when we saw the lightning. It must have been an electric storm because there was no thunder. The last real thunder storm we experienced was in Andorra (we did have a couple in Italy and France) which was pretty loud especially because it echoed throughout the mountains. This storm was by far the biggest I have ever seen, the whole sky was lit up in a violet light. The splashes of colour from the lightning lit up all the villages and the view that were previously hidden in darkness. The few seconds in brightness showed Papops the view too. It was an amazing experience, driving though the fog with huge bolts of lightning being the only source of light apart from the village street lights (that carried on flickering) and the motor home headlights.

Our destination (one of the 3 campsites we’ve stayed in throughout the week that we’ve been in that area) was closed, so instead we parked up outside the gates to sleep. In the morning we packed our bags and headed towards Amieira, where the news travels quickly between the 20 people that live there (although we’ve heard when there’s a summer party 20 turns to 150). We started our hike by heading towards Quinta then taking the road to Moses. We headed down to Lisbon the next day and after the 2 ½ hour drive we stopped off at a little restaurant to eat.
The first dish was a small plate of salad for the 5 of us. The 2nd plate was huge, almost 3 times the size of the first and piled high with barbeque chicken, beef, ribs you name it. What we have noticed is that the Italians, Spanish and the Portuguese (especially the Portuguese) have a fondness for meat.

We parked up at a campsite in the evening of Moses’ Birthday eve at a campsite just outside of Lisbon.

When the morning came Moses was 2 and got a new collar, Papops left (Moses huffed and puffed all the way through the drive back because Papops is by far his favourite. Although maybe it was because he hadn’t had
breakfast yet and it was 10 O’clock), and we spent the whole day pampering Moses.
We spent the day at the swimming pool campsite and left for a day out in Lisbon the next day.

The old Lisbon, Alfama, is mainly white with splashes of colour from the trams, shops and people. I had a painful limp (dad had cut out my verruca and then put on this stuff that is supposed to freeze it out but instead it was burning into my foot) so we didn’t walk far but we still took lots of photos. We ate out at a Portuguese café called Pois Café (translated in English as Next Café) and actually found three meals with no meat (of course Ellie had to have smoked salmon sandwich with salad, but no tomatoes), Hallelujah! After we had some cakes (I had the cinnamoniest apple strudel, while Ellie
and Mummy shared 4 slices of lemon cake and dad had the best Dutch orange chocolate cake ever. All of them had to be homemade) we walked up (in Lisbon you either go up or down, never flat) towards the 28 tram stop and hopped on the longest going one. Ellie and I got window seats so we could stick our heads out of a 20mph (30kmph) moving tram just to bring them in as soon as a post went by, while mummy took photos and dad sat on his own until he got a chance to come up with us.

Once we left Lisbon we drove up to the coast to check out the best surf (and skim boarding) beaches in Europe. Some of the beaches hold the world championships, so there were people doing 360’s, 540’s, I even saw a guy do a back flip. Kayakers were there doing 720’s there were even boogie boarders their doing tricks. Right now we are outside a beach with the hottest water in Europe and I’m off!

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Josh - Returning to Our Roots

With our new photos and more experience about handling our camera we now have photos for every occasion.

After finding out a couple of years ago that my mum’s great-great-great grandmother was Portuguese we decided it would be like going home again. We drove through Galicia – the last “county” before Portugal – stopping off and taking long walks for Spanish “passagiata” (I still think Italian passagiate have a lot more vibe) or going for trips specifically (or as Ellie would say it: pacifically) for photos we eventually took our last look back at Spain before entering Portugal. We were driving down the road and dad suddenly decided to pull over next to a café – one which thought that hot chocolate was a chocolate drink warmed up - 200ft from the border. Ellie and I ran to the border to see who would enter Portugal first. I won obviously but decided to take a rest under the border. Eventually dad drove on and the landscape changed dramatically. Although Portugal is pretty flat (the highest point being 2000m, 7m of it being a statue, the lowest point being well under sea level) mountains were springing up everywhere!

We drove through to a little town and decided to stay there a couple of nights out side a bumper car pitch, result. The first thing we did was go to the estate agency. We were gob smacked. Almost all the houses were under 100,000€! We found one house with 18 hectares of land that was under 75,000€ called Moses. I’ll tell the truth, I have been a bit unfair to Portugal but I have an excuse which, I think, is a rather good one. We came into Portugal and all we have seen is amazing, the beaches, the towns and the houses. I love Portugal just as much as anyone else but the thing is, it is almost too perfect. Also Italy felt like home to me, sure there’s some Portuguese in me but Italy is just so……random. Of course nobody else understands a word that I’m saying. Portugal has got this; Portugal has got that, which I understand. Don’t get me wrong I’m not trying to be moany but that’s how I feel. I know I say this about everywhere but if you ever have a chance to go to anywhere in Portugal (I recommend Porto just remember your walking boots. We heard that Lisbon is steeper) or even travel it - like my grandma and grandpa have done lots of times – do.

Ok enough moaning and mourning lets get to the happy part and (I hope) the funny part. Everywhere we’ve been has been so lush, so green, and so full of colour; the mountains the towns even the cities, which are becoming a huge problem in global warming all over the world (there are 10,300,000 people in Portugal. 10,300,000 is the amount of people who live in London), are beautiful. Everyone is so happy so joyous with that which life has given them, everyone knowing that life will give them what is best for them which is hard to imagine in a city. I for one, and I know I speak for many people when I say this (I’ve been reading waaaaaaaaaaaay too many books), have been inspired by the people who are happy with their lives in all the places I’ve been. In Italy: be free and happy. Live life and love it because if you are not you will feel locked up and grumpy (also EAT GOOD FOOD OR ELSE!). In Spain: let nothing bring you down mentally or physically because if you are happy your mind body and soul will be happy too. In Portugal: smile even when the sun is not shining because life will do what is best for you. In Barbados: chill man. The lord has given ya whatcha need bwoy. Ya don’ need any more dan dat. In Africa as a whole from what I’ve seen: make use of what you got while you got it because it might disappear before you know it. In France: Um…… Ur…… one sec…… it’s in there…… Oh yes, no matter how many bad things that happen the good things and people will be greater in mind and number. These are my views and they have helped me a lot and they all join to mean one thing…… Don’t worry, be happy, don’t worry, be happy, don’tworrybehappydon’tworrybehappydon’tworrybehappydon’tworrybehappydon’tworry you get the picture. You might think “what is he talking about! I don’t want to be free or eat good food. I am fine with being brought down. If the sun is not shining or life is not good to me I won’t smile” that’s your choice. Personally if that was me I would cower in a corner for the rest of my life but everyone has their own opinion.

One of my favourite places in Portugal is Braga, home of Bom Jesus whose commissioner was a 1.2m midget bishop. We drove into Braga and stayed in a campsite because it’s forbidden (not legally) to wild camp and you get glares when you wear swimming pants or bikinis (not so smiley now) in Portugal. We left Moses to sleep in the motorhome while we started our 3 hour walk to bom Jesus. We reached the church in 30 minutes after taking a bus and started our walk up the billions of steps. Ok my last moan, for me - carrying the camera a huge rucksack and having turned down my food for the campsite swimming pool - which I will talk about later – and having no water the 45min walk felt like 45 hours. Eventually we reached Bom Jesus for the last rays of the sun. The taxi back was like a roller coaster. If you ever find yourself at bom Jesus make sure you take a long taxi ride. We hopped in the black Mercedes and we shot off like a rocket. Within seconds it was over but the thrill was amazing. Back at the campsite I dived off the 8ft diving board without a hesitation but it took a good lot of encouraging to make me dive off the 15ft one. I did it three times in the end three times of pure agony.

My all time picture perfect place in Portugal is Porto. It is beautiful. There are no other words to describe it. Be-a-u-ti-ful. The gushing river, multi coloured houses, billions bookshops and cobble streets, a photographers dream, that is Porto. We roamed around (more like sprinted because dad always sets the pace at 6kmph) looking at everything. I would love to see how Porto will be in 10 years time. We met a guy who spoke English who said that Porto has changed dramatically in the last ten years. It is the same all over the world. The world is changing and being destroyed at the same.

We have now found a little spot to stay for the night. Ellie is annoying dad, dad is cooking, mummy is warning Ellie, Moses is sleeping outside and I’m peacefully writing this on mummy and dads bed.

I’m just going to check the check list. Am I relaxed? Yes. Do I love life? Yes. Are my soul, mind and body happy? Yes. Am I content with life and have I got a smile on my face? Yes. Am I chilled? Yes m’lion. Am I using what I got? Of course. What’s the ratio of bad and annoying things to good and helpful things? 1:4 (Ellie: dad, mummy, Moses, god). Am I worrying? What a stupid question. Am I happy? Yes. Living life and…… well, you know the rest.

My Favourite Places in Southern Europe (so far)
1. Rimbochi, Tuscany, Italy
2. Porto, Portugal
2. Giverney, France
3. Basilicata, Italy
4. San Sebastian, Spain
5. Alberobello, Puglia, Italy
6. Mt. Etna, 3000m, Sicily
7. Pyrenees, Spain France Andorra
8. Lago di Campotosto, Abruzzo, Italy
9. Paris, France
10. Braga, Portugal