On my January holiday I stayed at Monte Dourado once more; the apartments are not only very nicely furnished and comfortable but are ideally situated for walking into Carvoeiro's shops and restaurants. One day, I came home via the back way from Restaurant hill, past the market and Monte Dourado reception, so passing the swimming pool. However the temperatures were not high enough to tempt me into the water but as I looked down onto the pool area my mind drifted back to another pool; one that was 'ours' for quite some time at our villa near Porches and I remembered the 'pool man'!

Late one evening I sat at the bureau in the villa's cosy sitting room, going through some papers when I came across the list that Janet had left for our use; this was mostly about maintenance of the villa: Telephone numbers for repair firms in case, washing machine-fridge/freezer-television/video etc broke down. Then I noticed in large printed letters 'Pedro-Pool Man'!
Janet had mentioned the chap to us but both Hub and I had completely forgotten all about it. She had told us he came to clean the pool every so often but being so busy with moving-in and also with the workshops, I hadn't looked at the notes and now the date staring up at me was 'tomorrow morning'!

I called out to Hub, telling him he was due the next morning; his reply being " Well, I can't be here, you know I can't. We're still on the big job at Praia da Rocha. You still coming Jamie?"
Jamie gave an eager reply of "Yes. Course I am!"
There was nothing for it, I would have to be at home for 'Pedro's visit'. I had my garden job in the morning but if I started a bit early I could be home by midday. Pedro was due at 11am and the cleaning would take a while, so I would be back in good time to pay him. Problem solved!
The next morning I tried hard to concentrate on my work but I kept thinking of Jamie helping out at the large house at Praia da Rocha; I was worried and had good reason to be. The house was built high on the cliff road and Id recently been along to see it. I'd walked into the back of the house and the main living room and I'd suddenly found myself looking at sky! No back wall, just sky! Vertigo hit me and I quickly retreated from this awful feeling of 'hanging in space'.

"Ola Madam!"
It was Calado's cheeky face grinning at me from where our three lads sat on the edge of the lounge floor, their legs dangling in nothing but air! He beckoned me over. I timidly approached them and looking over their shoulders I saw space; just the sky above and below their unsupported feet a sheer drop of at least a hundred feet to the shiny beach far below. Calado urged me forward pointing to the sprawling beach and then up to the vast expanse of wide blue sky. But all I felt was emptiness and a terrible giddy feeling that had me withdraw from the precipice to the back of the room.
Now, whilst mowing the lawns, all I could do was think of Jamie and that great drop to the beach from that back-less house and now as I worked I sweated not purely from labour but the fear that he would be okay. He was a daring young lad and if he started playing around !! I prayed hard that Hub would keep a good eye on him!

As I walked along the lane I spotted a blue and white van parked close to the open gates of the villa; on walking into the garden I was confronted by a very strange sight. A short stocky man in dark shorts, his rotund belly protruding from a blue and white striped vest was wandering up and down beside the swimming pool. I say wandering but it was like wavering as his feet shifted in zigzag unsteady movements along the pool's edge, as he dragged a large fishing net through the water. I stood witnessing this weird scene, trying to fathom out what on earth he was doing? The pool was very clear, there was no debris such as leaves and from what Janet had told us all that was needed was the usual chemical cleansing. I called out, "Ola! Bom dia!"
I must have startled him, as he physically jumped nearly toppling into the water. But he steadied himself, put his hand up to shade his eyes from the sun's glare, trying to focus on where I stood in the shade of the gazebo.
"Ah. Ola Madam!"

Again he swayed, trying hard to keep his balance, one hand gripping the net pole, then he shifted his gaze back to the fishing net, peering hard down into the shining water. I called again, "Problem Senhor?"
The way he swayed about I thought any moment he would fall headlong into the pool but he called back "Its ok madam" and gave me a lop-sided, wobbly grin then "Dinheiro!", patted his pocket, pointing to the water. Then he 'acted out' a little scene for me. He'd been walking along edge of pool, pulled out a large handkerchief from his pocket and all his coins had fallen into the water, coins he was now trying to retrieve with the aid of the fishing net. I didn't know whether to laugh or be angry! He was obviously the worse for drink and I was angered that he'd driven in this condition but he struck such a comical figure, prancing along the pools edge, acting this scene for me like some drunken ballet dancer, with a fishing pole that seemed twice his size, that I was having great difficulty in not bursting out laughing! He pointed at a few wet coppery coins lying on the patio and through suppressed giggles I said "Oh well done"! Then I beckoned him over to take a seat saying " Cafe Senhor?"

I wanted him sobered up, he was swaying unnervingly close to the waters edge and I didn't want a 'drowned' pool cleaner on my hands! He looked disdainfully at the large mug of black coffee I set before him, as if to say 'where's the brandy?' But after my stern look and brusque "Okay?" he started to sip the reviving brew. An hour later he had finished cleaning the pool and after retrieving a few more coins from the watery depths he went merrily on his way.
When Hub and Jamie returned that evening I related the story and of course they found it hilarious but I insisted that from henceforth Hub would have to be there in case Pedro made a habit of turning up for work pickled!

Our older son Jeff and daughter Lesley had been over for a short visit, it had been lovely having them to stay and we really felt like a family once more. Although young adults and leading independent lives they were still our kids and we missed them very much. During their stay we had a day at Silves; it was a first for Lesley and I wanted to show her the market, where we bought some fresh sardines and salad vegetables for our dinner that evening and of course she had to see the castle! Jeff had been before and he enjoyed telling his sister about the history of the castle and the crusades of the 12th century. They enjoyed there little holiday but all too soon it was over and after they had left both Hub, Jamie and me felt quite sad, lonely and not a little homesick!


One afternoon Hub dropped me back home before going to pick up some wood he needed from the timber merchants near Portimao. It was a lovely spring-like day and I was determined to make the most of my time alone by weeding and tidying the villa's front garden. But getting my priorities right I first made a refreshing cup of sweet tea, kicked off my working boots and relaxed into one of the patio's comfy chairs. The warm sun glinting on the pools surface and peaceful ambience of the pretty garden soon worked its soporific magic and I started to nod off...
"Cooeee! Hello there?!"
The loud voice had me nearly jump out of my skin! Sitting bolt upright I looked in the direction of the shout and there waving at me through the villa's gates, stood a short plump balding man
"Hi there! How are things going?"
He wiped a large white handkerchief over his broad red face, then waved that at me too. I felt slightly annoyed at being roused out of my drowsy cat nap but slipping feet into some old slippers I gritted my teeth, put on a smile and strolled over to say hello. On introducing myself he shook my hand saying,
"Ah yes. Janet and Len said you'd be staying here. I'm Peter, your neighbour over the back there"
He pointed towards the back garden and the field beyond. It was the old stone building that had aroused our curiosity, about a quarter of a mile from our back fence; one that we had thought derelict!.
"That's my place" Peter beamed.
I didn't quite know what to say. We assumed the place was deserted; neither Janet or Len had mentioned having a 'neighbour 'there. Being some distance away we never saw anyone but now and then we had noticed a very dim light showing from the place and thought maybe it was squatters. But no, the owner was now standing in front of me and he was English. I suddenly found this quite comforting that we had a neighbour we could converse with and talk to of home! I invited Peter in and as he sat down by the pool I went inside to make us both a cold drink.
Peter was a real nice friendly fellow and though I wasn't getting much gardening done it was lovely to sit and chat. When I told him about our carpentry business he asked how we were getting on? I said we were ticking long okay but that we had a few problems with customers not paying their bills on time and the odd cheque that bounced! He nodded in sympathy, saying that he knew, from various friends that things were starting to go downhill in Algarve; like the UK, he feared that Portugal was heading for deep recession! This didn't cheer me one little bit!
I said we had thought his house was empty but had seen a very dim light there now and then.
"Ah well" he sighed "That's because I don't have any electricity"
I must have looked astonished as he went on to explain,
" Its true. I don't have electrics. Been there over 2 years now and I'm still waiting for it to be connected"
"But I have seen a light?" came my puzzled reply.
"Yes, well, I put in my own small generator, which gives me just enough to power a couple of low watt bulbs and a small fridge. But I use candles most of the time"
But lack of electrics wasn't his only problem and he related the rest of his sorry tale to me. A year previous Peter had seen a local electricity company wiring a house in his area, so he had gone over to enquire how long it would be before his house was connected? All he'd received was a shake of the head and shoulder shrug and he hadn't heard a single word from them since! A friend told him it was because he'd had the 'audacity' to ask and that now he would be deliberately kept waiting. This was a side of Portugal I did not like. I had heard such tales before and it left a nasty taste in the mouth.
On negotiating the purchase of his rural cottage, he'd paid a local solicitor £16,000; this was to cover the deposit and conveyance of the property. But Peter had been in the UK whilst this was being carried out. When he came out to Algarve to move into his new home, he found that the solicitor had 'disappeared', taking Peter's money with him and was never seen again!
So he had to borrow money from family to cover his loss and was now living in very straightened circumstances. Peter had taken early retirement, thinking he could live easily on his pension but the stolen money had put paid to that dream for a while.
I felt a great surge of sympathy for this nice friendly man; he had been treated very badly and now he lived alone without even the luxury of a TV set for company. I asked how he was managing money-wise? We had known hard times in the past and how difficult it could be!
"I make pickles" he declared.
Again, I must have looked astonished saying "Pickles?!"
Then he explained how he had always enjoyed cooking; it was something he was quite good at. He had a number of fruit trees in his wild garden and also grew a variety of vegetables and so he'd come up with the idea of making different types of chutney and pickles to sell. There was an old gas cooker in the cottage, so he was able to buy Calor gas for fuel. Thus began his own small cottage industry and from what he told me, it was all going very well; not only were friends buying but he'd recently received regular orders from a local health shop. I believe the 'health shop' was relatively new to Algarve but I do recall using the one in Lagoa.
We had chatted for quite a while but on seeing the time I told Peter I'd have to get on with the garden work before Hub and Jamie came home for dinner.
As he left I told him to call in whenever he was passing and to bring along some of his jars of pickles and chutney; that I was definitely interested in buying a stock of them! Also to meet the boys. It was good to have such a nice friendly neighbour; one we could share our joys and troubles with! We wouldn't feel quite so alone now and I hoped Peter felt the same!

Statue of the Crusaders in Silves