I know, I know. It’s been a long time. Life gets in the way sometimes.
At the end of the last series, Emma was in Australia, working, recovering from back injury and suffering from the saudades.
Well, she finally got home again, reunited with The One and back trying to make a palace from a ruin.
The trip to Oz was successful on the work & financial front. With the winning combination of a bouncing economy, a supportive friendly and familial network and some good luck, I found myself with three jobs that were enjoyable and memorable. The cooking was great, then I did some writing and internet stuff, then a four month photographic project for a government publication on compost which morphed into agricultural field work.
Talking to Australian farmers, watching the extraordinary quantities of waste we create being transformed into the very substance that could save the Earth, and being in the wide open expanse of beauty that is Australia cracked open my mind. All that space made way for some big thoughts and I had an epiphany about why to build a house in Portugal. Emma’s House in Portugal, the book, now has its reason to be. It has, like, depth, man.
And now I’m a published dirt photographer as well. Awesome.
Meanwhile back in Cú de Judas the winter had wreaked havoc on this half built half ruined farm house and now the renovations needed renovating. A dirty rotten secret little hole in an outside wall had made an enormous bloom of black mould inside, and lo! if there’s a good reason to reject everything I’ve said about lime walls in the past, this is it. You can’t wash mould away from lime render with a stiff bleach, não é. You have to cut it out. And then there’s the rain that came in horizontally (Central Portuguese rain does, literally, pour horizontally, and even upwards, given that it never comes without hurricane-like winds. So it’s quite normal to find rain coming down your dome-hatted chimney. Quite normal)… through the windows and lo! if there’s a good reason to ignore everything I’ve said about fabulous old windows in the past, this is it. And so the render under the windows with have to be cut out too. The windows themselves will be cut out and placed without ceremony upon our private tip, aka the garden.
At least there’s that to be proud of. A dump of my own. Very interesting how little you call rubbish when you are using your own garden as a tip instead of some nameless hole in the ground somewhere else. Furthermore I don’t have to feel so bad about the house looking like a building site, because I’m just gloating with noble responsibility here (although it’s probably a crime of some sort). When it’s going in your front yard you quickly find there’s almost nothing that can’t be recycled or eaten by the neighbour’s dog. Naturally I care about my private hole in the planet and what goes in it – nothing leaching, nothing toxic, nothing a tree won’t grow on top of. Prawn heads still go in the regular garbage I confess, because of the smell. And cigarette butts. The garbos have to keep their jobs after all.
Enough chit chat. We have made a gorgeous hole in the wall! While in Australia The One was clearing out the basement, moving a huge trunk outside and come upon one of those holes in the wall that people in olden days used to stash stuff…like cash or jewellery or crystal meth. At least I presumed that’s what it was because these walls are full of cavities with small jars in them. But The One reported that he removed all the loose stones as a measure against curiosity killing the cat (see final pic). And so more and more stones came out until he reached what was unmistakably a large flat shelf and above, a well rotted lintel. So then I presumed it was a filled-in cupboard, because we have those too. Except you could see light coming in from outside, where the exterior render had failed. I was well worried about the house falling down on husband’s head by this stage. I didn’t actually believe that there wasn’t any clay mortar between the stones until I saw it with mine own eyes. The exterior render was simply stuck to the loose stones on the outside, and ripping it off revealed another ex-lintel. Although our hole wasn’t precisely in the right spot, there had definitely once been a window there. A neighbour told me that it was the father’s shoe repair shed (I had all kinds of shoe-making curiosities like stone heel moulds and huge needles and innumerable strips of leather) and when the son took the house it became the adega, where dark and cool took priority over a finely crafted piece of stone engineering.
Some of you have probably gone to sleep by now, but those of us who can hear the stones speaking, these discoveries are better than sex. I might be in dead set boring ordinary nowhere’s-ville, but this old house is still alive with intrigues and stories and hidden little secrets. If only just a hole in the wall.
Thus, with the perilous work done by The One and catastrophe avoided, I fixed the hole up into something nice and now we’re about to launch into some wall framing, followed by a bed, furniture and cupboard buying rampage. One day shortly they’ll be a nice room for the cats, because there sure ain’t enough space in our bed no more.
So while in the throes of hole making, we’ve made several new steps, grown some plants, fixed two major plumbing issues, re-worked the grey water system, siliconed the bath and broken the microwave, one of the last two remaining ‘kitchen’ appliances. I now have one electric frypan with which to produce miracles. “Ode to the Electric Frypan” post coming up.
What I actually came back to do is the kitchen. Which means the fix the walls, stain the floor, put skirting boards on and then do the kitchen. Even.Tu.Al.Ly.