Look at that view! This is a window sill I don’t object to. Apart from the Oldies snoring in the background, it can’t get much better than this. Suburbia would never have been high on my list of places to hang out in, but I can certainly live with life in suburban Lisbon. Well, it comes with beaches for a start! And staying in a seventh floor flat, sure, when I half close my eyes and squint just so, it is almost like being on an Atlantic cliff.
Her Ladyship, on the other hand, has taken a while to get used to the high life here. She nearly freaked, for a start, when she noticed this warning sign on the elevator. And she’s been choking on her cornflakes every morning ever since a team of decorators started painting the neighbouring ten-storey apartment block. Without a scaffold. ‘Where’s your helmet? Put on your helmet! What would your mammy say if she saw you without your helmet?’ she shouts out the balcony door. ‘Clip on, you eejit. Look, he hasn’t clipped on yet! Oh lord, I can’t watch!’ I don’t know which is more entertaining. Watching them or listening to her.
Mind you, her own antics on the decorating front aren’t quite without their dangers. I suspect that having your big toe practically stuck up a tap whilst you’re installing under-counter lighting is not exactly in keeping with health and safety regulations.
Luckily, I get plenty of opportunity to escape the dangers of apartment living, as the Oldies have got into the habit of bringing me out with them on their shopping expeditions. I’m intrigued by the way things are done here on this front. All the larger outlets, be it a supermarket, bank, post office, even some cafés, have a queuing system in place. The Oldies eventually copped on to it after queuing several times for what seemed like hours, watching everyone else being served but them. Now the first thing they look for in a shop is the console that dishes out the numbered queuing tickets. The only problem is knowing which button to press. The supermarkets offer options for the bakery, fish, meat and delicatessen counters, so you’d better be sure that you know your padaria from your peixaria or you could have a very long wait ahead of you indeed! The post office options – I counted eight – are beyond comprehension and the word selos (stamps) is nowhere to be seen. Thank goodness the Portuguese are such a friendly and helpful lot. They practically trip over themselves in their efforts to rush to the aid of the helpless Oldies. Even His fiercely independent Lordship has learned that he need only raise his ample eyebrows a mere notch as an indication of slight puzzlement and within seconds there is sure to be a helpful local at his side, inquiring, in perfect English or French, if there is anything they can help him with.
After all the queueing and chatting with the locals, no shopping expedition is complete without a trip to the local beach. Well, it’s on the way. Sort of. ‘Let’s just pop out and get some fresh bread.’ ‘Mustn’t forget to post that letter.’ ‘Oh, we’d better get in another pineapple, just in case we run out’… three hours later, back at the flat, sand is being emptied out of the shoes and the towels hung up to dry. Now, that’s my kind of shopping!
Autumn here is just like in Ireland. The weather is getting cooler (we are down to mid to high twenties from early thirties, brrrr!), the jackets, scarves and woolly hats are out, and the leaves are turning brown and starting to fall …
Just like at home. Well, almost like at home.
I am no expert on humans, but one thing I have learned here in Portugal is those three little words that everyone wants to hear. The three little words that bring a smile to every senhora’s or homem’s face and a little leap of joy to their hearts. You know the ones I mean: pastel de nata.
These delicious little custard tarts have got to be the best Portuguese invention ever. Heaven on a plate! Pastel de nata, I love you!