Wash Day

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(Another lovely sunset)

Yesterday was wash day. Washing your clothes while travelling in a camper van requires a little extra organisation. [But before we start a health warning… Kate, close the email… there’s a picture of a snake in this post!] When we arrived last week we were at the limit of our clean clothes and we picked this site because it had a washing machine. It turned out to have so much more but that’s another story. So as soon as all our passport details were handed over I asked about tokens for the washing machines. (Would you like to know the cost? €3.73 and the sun dries them for free.)

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(Our washing…)

So we parked and I went straight to the washing machine room. But it was full. The washing machine, I mean. With someone else’s clothes. On other trips I would have happily taken out someone else’s washed and wet clothes and placed them on top of the machine to put mine inside but we’d had bit of an incident back in Vila Chã. There was a great washing machine there too and a dryer. Anyway, the incident… it had been raining for a few days but on the morning of the incident the sun was blazing so I took off to reception to buy a token. When I arrived at the machine with my bag of washing and my token there were three bags of washing beside the machine. There was also a man pulling clothes out of the dryer. I smiled and put my bag down in the queue.

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(Perfect drying weather)

I came back thirty minutes later to the incident…. the cleaning lady gesticulating and talking loudly in Portuguese to the maintenance man. I was considering backing out of the washing machine room when the maintenance man turned to me asking, is that your washing? pointing to the dryer. Sensing, clarity was of the utmost importance I shook my head violently while saying, No, No, No. Communication is great when it works and it worked this time because when I had stopped shaking he was smiling at me and telling me to go ahead and put my washing into the now empty machine… No idea what happened but it makes me think twice before taking someone else’s clothes out of a machine. On this occasion our need to have clean clothes made me brave.

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(This little snake stood between me and my washing…)

And now I’m feeling a ton of gratitude for my washing machine at home. When I’m at home I never notice how easy it is to throw some washing in the washing machine. I just don’t notice. I don’t notice and I take it for granted. But the way to a joy filled life and a happy filled heart is to notice all the simple things around me that bring me joy and allow every simple thing in my life to flow. Gratitude isn’t about being nice to someone, gratitude is about noticing the things and people who make your life lovely….filled with love. Noticing them and thanking them with love.

Step 14. Say thank you to your washing machine, Mairead.

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Might be driving illegally…?

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(New shoots)

I hope you had a lovely St.Patrick’s Weekend! I made a green shamrock to celebrate but it looks more like a green ace of clubs… and I had a very trying experience purchasing an electronic toll card online. It’s a long and winding story… Like at home there are toll booths and there are free-flowing electronic tolls that read your licence number here in Portugal. When we arrived in February at the town of Chaves we stopped at their electronic toll setup machine for foreigners. There we connected our credit card to our camper van number plate and off we went with our legal receipt. Simple. Easy.

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(New family)

Then on Saturday morning something woke me up early and made me look at the receipt. It was about to expire. It has expired today. No problem, there was a phone number at the bottom of the receipt, I’d ring and extend the validity date. I could handle this. I rang the number and the man who answered spoke perfect English. Perfect enough to make it clear that I could not extend the validity date. But… I could purchase a toll card at the post office on Monday or online anytime.

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(Old day)

Rather than wait until Monday (mistake number one) I went online to purchase the card (mistake number two). There was a very helpful site with Frequently Asked Questions and both the questions and the answers were very helpfully in English. Unfortunately, when I clicked on BUY the card I was linked to the Portuguese Post Office website. I love the Portuguese Post Office. They have patiently sold me stamps and envelopes and delivered (in super quick time) my letters and cards. Nevertheless, I do not like their website. It’s in Portuguese (naturally) and no matter how much I want to believe I could possibly recognise some words I cannot actually recognise any words…

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(Old door)

But you will remember Google Translate? The app on my phone that will translate typed words into English? I was working on this problem for an hour by now and although I was losing the will to live I kept going and eventually I bought the card! Yay! And I successfully connected the card to our licence plate! Yay! Then I proceeded to connect the card to my phone so that I could check the balance and keep it topped up and completely legal while we drove in Portugal.

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(Old cobblestones)

That’s when the post office website changed the language to Spanish… Google translate was giving me some odd translations about monsters and caves. That was my first hint something bad was happening (I thought I was just losing my mind.) And yet I kept going turning the language back to Portuguese while wishing their English language button would suddenly come to life (but no…)

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(Old sign)

I never did get to connect the online card to my phone.. we might possibly be driving around illegally. On top of that there was a message – in English –  on the card: PLACE IT VISIBLY ON (VEHICLE’S) DASHBOARD….  We may have to put the laptop in the windscreen for the rest of our stay in Portugal… somebody forgot to bring the power cord for the printer so we can’t print the card.

Step 13. Always wait until Monday, Mairead.

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Broken Shells Calling

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(Friday evening in Furadouro)

I mentioned yesterday that I loved the town of Furadouro and one of the reasons was the beach. Not the sand but the shells. Not the perfectly pretty and complete shells. The broken ones. I had started noticing broken shells on the beach at Vila Chã, I thought they were interesting but not as interesting as the terracotta coloured stones. Then at Lavos Praia there were no terracotta stones but loads and loads of little broken shells.

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(A mix of broken shells and pebbles)

They weren’t everywhere, they seemed to be washed up in a line parallel to the tide line… a broken shell line, but there were so many I couldn’t but notice them. I started picking them up and once I started it was hard to stop, it was like they were calling me. Why would they be calling me?

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(Some of the bigger shells I saved!)

The ones in Furadouro were bigger, the chipping away had only begun, but in time (unless I saved them?) they would be tiny little broken bits. I wonder if shells start off perfectly pretty and complete somewhere up north and they get little pieces chipped off as they travel south, until they are so small they look like sand. I saved a bag full from Furadouro. I think I know why they were calling me…

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(and more…)

When I picked up the first broken shell I was surprised it was so smooth at the broken edge. It was like it had been sanded with sandpaper. Of course it had been sanded with the original sandpaper… sand. That’s why I kept picking them up. They were lovely to hold and to run my finger along the smooth edge. And they reminded me of buttons. I love buttons. But it wasn’t just their button-like feel, I also recognised a human-like feel.

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We start off perfectly pretty and complete and then bits get chipped off and we’re broken. We feel broken. We chip off others. We break others. Everyone we know is broken in some way. But these shells were asking me… Can’t you see how different we are? How very interesting we are? How we are so, so beautiful in our brokenness? I’m bringing a bag of broken beautiful shells home, please let me know if you’d like one to remind you that you are beautiful.

Step 12. Believe it, you are so, so beautiful, Mairead.

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Go, go, go. Stop.

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(The Atlantic Ocean at Furadouro)

When I was last talking to you we were in the campsite with the Tubes… and the computer could not be fixed… Well, Monica rang on Friday and said it was ready… she didn’t elaborate so we weren’t sure if it was actually working. But Denis was not deterred, he was ready to take it back no matter what condition… I think this could possibly be a form of unconditional love…? for an inanimate object?

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(Furadouro again)

So off we dashed to Porto. We had planned on parking outside the city at a camper parking place (and getting a bus into the Porto.) When we arrived the camper park was full so we had to drive all the way to the computer repair shop in the middle of the city. The biggest problem about driving in any city is finding a spot big enough to park. The next biggest problem is – driving in a city. Fortunately, it is only a problem for me and as I am not actually driving I kept my eyes mostly closed.

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(Cute houses in Furadouro)

And would you believe when we arrived there was a line of huge parking spaces right outside! We realised they were short-term parking and very expensive (so no one wanted to use them – which was very lucky for us) when we were leaving which was much too late to pay… luck upon luck.

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(The convent/monastery at Tomar)

The computer was fixed! Monica was thrilled to see us go, she had begun to recognise Denis’ phone number when he rang and  even at a distance I could hear the dread in her voice when she picked up the phone and said, “Hello Denis”. So we could finally leave the area of Porto and we had no idea where to go, Monica suggested south along the coast so as it was sunny that’s what we did. We arrived at the seaside town of Furadouro. I loved this place, for some reason it reminded me of a film set or a Disney park…

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(Frescos in the monastery at Tomar)

On Saturday morning we moved further south to a small town with a camper car park beside roundabout. On Sunday morning we moved on to the town of Tomar, I had been there and loved it when I was on my camino walk. Up on the hill above the town are the ruins of an old monastery and convent that were in some way connected with the Templar knights. We spent a few hours here and moved on to the town of Fatima and then onto another small town to stay at the Fire Station where there was a small camper car park.

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(Huge outdoor area in front of the church at Fatima)

We are now in a very nice municipal campsite beside the town of Alcacér do Sal. There’s a lot of birdsong and a supermarket just up the road. There’s a castle in the town so I’m happy to settle down here for a few days and wander towards the castle tomorrow.

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(Our view today… those white blotches are birds who fly into that field and for some reason remain close to the sheep)

Step 11. Make time for rest, Mairead.

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I have a great idea! No, hang on, it’s a terrible idea!

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(I went for a walk to find the chiming church)

There’s a church in the town and every hour it chimes, quite a long tune, from a loudspeaker. I noticed it every hour yesterday… I’ve only just this moment noticed it today. That means I missed at least six chimes. (I’m not sure if it chimes on the half or quarter-hour as well.) Anyway, just another example of how one’s brain ignores the familiar…

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(Interesting animals)

This campsite is interesting, I think I said that yesterday and one of the things that make it interesting is the Tubes… The Tubes are cement cylinders. You may have seen ones like them when passing motorway road works. I think they are used to redirect rainwater or maybe they hold electrical wires? Not sure.

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(Three Tubes together)

But here at the campsite they are used for accommodation. They have a bed with thick mattress, an electric light and curtains and windows! They are tiny apartments for people who would like to experience camping without the tent! I am very attracted to them. I am starting to have an idea about buying a field and putting Tubes in it… and you can come visit me or just visit the field if I’m travelling! I haven’t completely (or even slightly) thought it through. I’m in the very-excited phase of this idea. Many of my ideas don’t get past the very-excited phase. It’s my favourite phase but it’s not very productive. It’s where I think This is a great idea and I can’t wait to bring this to the world and this will definitely be workable and I love it and I will work on it every day and in no time at all it will be completed and I will enjoy it for the rest of my life. In mindfulness circles this is living in the future… I am particularly fond of my imagined future.

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(Two Tubes side by side)

Any idea that gets through the very-excited phase moves into the very-scary phase. Very, very few ideas survive the very-scary phase, it’s my least favourite phase and it’s also not productive.This is where I think this is a terrible idea, how did I ever like this idea? I could never share this with the world, this is like that time that people thought my idea was terrible and told me… This is the worst idea I ever had. Here we have living in the past, a particularly scary tiny bit of the past. No fun. It is truly remarkable that any idea would get past this phase, but some do! Anyway, I’m in a very-scary phase of an idea at the moment, I’m encouraging it into a productive phase but it keeps slipping back.

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(Breaking news: The church chimes every half hour, just heard it. Can you see the loudspeaker?)

Step 10. Live in the present, Mairead.

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Hello, is that Monica?

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(The neighbours walking their dog last night)

We’ve moved again and now we’re about 30 minutes inland, in a campsite near the town of Lourical. The sun is shining and we are parked between two orange trees. I can hear hens and I believe there’s a pig somewhere around. This is a very interesting site. We found it by accident but it seems like a place we would pick to stay if we’d known!

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(Sunset over the Atlantic later last night)

Anyways it’s run by a Dutch couple and they have young helpers. During busy season there’s a very pretty restaurant (with good reviews) but it looks like we are the only ones here so we may be unlucky with that. One thing we are very lucky with is the train station. There’s one in a nearby town and we will be able to park in the supermarket and take the train to Porto (Yay Porto) when Denis gets word from Monica.

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(The restaurant at our new campsite)

Still no word from Monica… 😦

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(They have a (tiny) farmers market in the garden)

Real time drama: Denis maybe you need to ring Monica? Denis considers his options and rings Monica. I can’t hear the other side of the conversation but Denis doesn’t look happy, overjoyed or ready to dash off to Porto. He looks… confused. I think there might be a problem with the fixing…. Ok, Denis has just got off the phone with Monica. Monica was just about to ring Denis. There is a problem. The part cannot be shipped and there is an email on it’s way from the manufacturer to explain. I suppose we won’t be rushing back to Porto (missing Porto already) …and that grand idea with the supermarket car park and the train… poof!

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(A hen jumped out of this hay stack – she was hiding her eggs. Hens not in full agreement with the farmers market?)

So here we are in a beautiful tree, animal, egg filled garden campsite enjoying the sun. Now what?

Step 9. Gratitude… for the old, slow computer that is working.

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I can almost see the sea from my bed…

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(There’s a breakwater from the beach out into the sea)

We’ve moved on from our campsite beside the boardwalk in Vila Chã. We spent two nights in a car park in the town of Estarreja, about ninety minutes south of Porto. Now today we are in another car park in Lavos Praia, an hour further south. And the sun is coming out! Oh and Denis’ computer is still not fixed! That’s why we are not travelling too far from Porto. It turns out the replacement part didn’t arrive from Ireland yet but when it does we will be well placed to rush back and collect it.

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(This was the view from the bed before the camper parked right next door – gentle rain and roaring seas)

We can see the sea from this car park and if there wasn’t a camper from France parked right beside us we could see the sea from the bed… but there is and we can’t! There’s a boardwalk here too but it’s only a little one and the waves have not been kind to it. This morning before I had my shoes on there was a lot of noise outside. I popped into my slippers to have a look. There was a crowd gathered around a small white van in front of our camper.

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(This Atlantic Ocean is very powerful)

I was a little embarrassed by my slippers but I needn’t have been as there was another lady in the crowd in her slippers and she was even wearing her dressing gown! Everyone was speaking French. Bonjour! Bonjour! It was the local bread man! He comes each morning to sell pastries and bread and he speaks French.

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(The beach, Lavos Praia)

As you may know I have been learning French for many years (…with minor success… I can say hello how are you but if you tell me how you are I cannot understand you…) so I joined the queue and asked for four bread rolls…. turns out my French isn’t up to Portuguese standards. But pointing works, I got my bread. We are staying here again tonight so I need to practice my French for the morning. If only I had a dressing gown.

Step 8. Acceptance, it’s not always possible to fit in, Mairead.

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