I was anxious as we waited for the couple to arrive and view the villa. It had come as a surprise when Sally told us that a couple were interested in buying the place. We had settled into the annexe and made it quite cosy and homely; now people were coming to view it and if they liked it we would have to move out.

They were an elderly couple who had holidayed in Algarve many times but now they were looking for a place to retire to. We chatted amiably to them, as we showed them around the villa. The man pointed to some damp patches on the sitting room ceiling and Hub said yes, repairs would be needed to the roof tiles. They seemed surprised that there was damp but as we pointed out to them, there was often heavy rainfall in late autumn and winter; that at times the weather could be ‘monsoon-like’!

I didn’t need to say very much as Hub did all the talking, saying that there were things that needed doing to the place to bring it up to scratch. I must admit I felt pleased to hear him say this and at the downcast look on the couple’s faces; wicked of me I know.
After we had shown them around I made cold drinks and we sat outside as they continued to ask questions.

The lady asked me if there was vermin in the house or garden and wanting to be honest with them I said we did see the occasional rat. The woman’s face gave a look of horror. Hub went on to say, that they were naturally wild creatures and that you had to expect it in the open countryside. But he went further and told them that if the weather got really wet, tiny green frogs appeared, often by the hundred; they appeared on and around the veranda area. This was perfectly true but the couple didn’t seem too pleased to hear it!
We waited to hear from Sally and when she did call it was with a reprieve for us. The couple were not in a rush to buy and were going to consider it and they also had other properties to view. Meanwhile we had a breathing space!
Christmas was near and Jamie would soon be flying out to us once more. Jeff and Kody, who now seemed pretty serious in their relationship, were going to the Grenadine Islands to spend Christmas with Kody’s mum, who lived on the island of St Vincent. Our daughter Lesley, in the early stages of pregnancy, was feeling tired and had decided to have a quiet Christmas at home with Ray. This meant we had to make do with telephone calls to our oldest two children.
It was great to have Jamie out with us once more, so at least we would have a family Christmas time.
I managed to persuade Hub to go along to the Christmas service at Lagoa’s large main church, the Senhora Da Luz (Our Lady of Light); Maria was expecting us and I said we could not let her down. Christmas hasn’t meant that much to me since the children have grown up but I do like the religious side, which I feel is often forgotten in today’s climate. Seeing the nativity scene and the Special Baby in the manger brought home to me the fact that the coming year would bring a special baby into our family. Not sure about Hub, but I thoroughly enjoyed the service and the Holy ambience, along with the beautiful singing of the choir.
One day at the workshops, Hub got talking to Joao and asked after Calado, our young carpenter who had gone into the army for his national service. Joao heard from Calado and he told us that Calado was enjoying his time in Germany and was even talking of staying on there when his service was finished. We always missed Calado. He was a lively funny young man and both Hub and I thought that one day he would come home to Algarve and re-join our work force. But on hearing this, it didn’t seem that would be happening now and that made us both feel a little sad.
However that wasn’t all. Joao was talking very enthusiastically about Germany too and said that he would like to go and see the country for himself. Both he and Calado had always been good friends. Did this mean we were about to lose Joao for a second time?
There was a sad little moment one day, as Hub and I drove out to a repair job. I have to explain that I wear clip on earrings and I have a bad habit of taking them off and putting them down, or even losing them!
As we drove along, I noticed a pair I had left on the shelf of the dashboard and this sparked a little memory.
Hub had gone out to a job at Rocha Brava; Calado, Carlos and Joao had been with him. Hub told me that Calado had seen a pair of my earrings laying on the shelf in the van. He had picked the earrings up and placed them on his ears, saying “Very nice, very pretty”
Hub told me about it and how he, Carlos and Joao had laughed.
So another time as we drove up to the job, Calado and Joao sat in the back. I then took off my earrings and turning to Calado I said, “Do you want to try these on?”
Now although Calado was mischievous, he was also quite shy. His face turned bright red and of course Joao and Hub fell about laughing.
Now, as Hub and I drove out to the repair job, I looked at those earrings laying there and I suddenly felt very sad. It didn’t look as though Calado would be coming back to work for us and we would never be the same ‘family’ workforce as before.
Christmas came and went as did Jamie back to our other home in Essex.
I tried to get back into work mode with the garden and also paying the odd visit to Julie’s place in Alvor but my mind wouldn’t give me rest. Once again our life was becoming uncertain and it didn’t help when Hub came home one evening and said that Joao was thinking of moving out to Germany. It seemed to me, that for very step we took forward, we took 3 backwards. We had plenty of orders but with Joao thinking of moving on, our workforce would become depleted again.
The workshop phone rang one day and it was a man wanting a new kitchen. We hadn’t made a kitchen for some time and so we invited him to come and look at the display one that we had setup at the back of the workshops.
Jack arrived and as Hub showed him the kitchen and some of our other designs, he told us that he’d taken early retirement and had bought a small cottage in the Monchique area. It was a bit rundown and he had been working to renovate the place and a new kitchen would complete the job.
Jack had also been an accountant. When Hub found out about this he asked if he would be interested in doing our books for us; we’d had to manage our own until then. Jack said he would as it would help supplement his retirement pension.
As I worked the gardens one morning I heard the sound of a car pulling into the gravel driveway. On going round to the front I saw that it was Sally. I invited her in for some tea and as we sat chatting she suddenly said “There’s no easy way to tell you this Ellie. You know the old couple who viewed the villa? Well they’ve put in an offer and the owners have accepted it”
I was at a lost for words, simply saying “Oh, right”
Sally then pulled out some leaflets from her briefcase and said she’d taken the liberty of searching out some apartments that she thought might suit us to move into. But my mind wasn’t on the apartments. I was miles away in solemn mood and thinking ‘this is the end’. Sally talked but I didn’t hear her; I suddenly felt weak and without any fight left in me.
When she left, I stared blankly at the photos of the apartments and wondering what Hub would say when I told him. Although the business was going along okay, we didn’t have a great amount of money coming in. Moving to an apartment meant paying a monthly rent and the big question was, would we be able to afford it?
Hub flicked through the leaflets showing different apartments but showed no interest at all. His face was crestfallen and then he told me that Joao had given a months notice, saying that he was going off to Germany to meet up with Calado. Calado had told him there was plenty of work on building sites so he would find a job quite easily.
I seem to recall that we went out for dinner that evening, to talk things over. First we had to choose an apartment to move into as the elderly couple wanted to move into the villa within a few weeks. We chose one on the outskirts of Lagoa; at least I could walk to shops from there and I would be able to visit Maria.
But then, as we chatted, Hub shocked me by saying that he was gradually losing interest in the carpentry business. I think I stared at him for a while, not quite taking it in. Then depression descended on me. If Hub was losing interest, where did we go next? I felt very sad; it sounded like the end of the road for us in Algarve.
We managed to sort out Jack’s kitchen; he wanted something plain and simple, so the boys were able to fit that for him in his little cottage.
One day, as Hub and Jack were arranging his payment for said kitchen, Hub was chatting to him and saying that he thought we might have to close the business. Jack listened intently then made a suggestion. He had been in quite a good position in his last job and had experience in man management; his suggestion took us by surprise.
“If you want to take a break and go back to the UK to see family, maybe I could keep an eye on things here for you?”
We talked it over with Jack and Hub thought it was a good idea.

The new apartment was very nice but I couldn’t settle into it. After Hub had told me he was losing interest in the business, I started to lose interest too. The elderly couple moved into the villa but they only wanted me to work one day a week to keep the garden tidy, so my money was really cut down. I was miserable and since Jamie had gone back to UK I was really missing my family.
I was able to see Maria more easily and to have our chats over coffee but I found it hard to maintain any interest in the business and of life in general in Algarve. When I spoke to Lesley on the phone I felt the need to be with her. Jeff and Kody were settling down together and I felt really cut off from my family.
Hub had a talk with Carlos and told him that we were going back to the UK for a holiday and that Jack would be in charge of things. Carlos didn’t seem too bothered, his only interest was in the carpentry work and Hub was now paying young Miguel a wage for his work at weekends.
We made plans for our return to the UK and one evening Hub said “Let’s make a little holiday of it. We can stop at a few places on the way. It’ll do us good”
I was all for that. Being in the campervan we could stop and start when we wanted and so we planned a different route home.

There was no BBQ dinner this time when we left Lagoa. I said my goodbyes to Maria, promising to stay in touch and as we drove away, I had serious doubts whether I would ever see her again. I had a feeling deep inside, that once we got back to England, Hub would put the business up for sale.
I longed to see my daughter and our sons. Since I had found out we were to be grandparents, my heart hadn’t really been in Algarve but with my family back in England.
As we left Algarve behind and headed over the border into Spain, I really did wonder whether I would ever see that sunshine land again. When I look back now to those times, the memory I carry in my head is of the Jacaranda trees in blossom, in the parks up by the big church in Lagoa.

But now we were on the road again and heading for Gibraltar.