welcome to emmas housethought

more building

Houses built: 0.10

Injuries: (1) Major egg on head (and some on face) after scaffold collapsed upon said head. Lesson learnt – don’t adjust scaffold while standing on it. (2) Agonising rib relocation causing much grief and oddly much holding of breast in hand. (3) Wondering when the extreme fatigue and aching muscles thing will subside. And for fat to drop off and transform into jessica biel, say.

Alcohol consumed: One bottle of Dewers, two of Blackheads. Several panachés and a few bottles of vinho verde. Strictly for medicinal purposes, you understand.


I love the sound of a cement mixer in the morning. Not. Bloody neighbours. Renovating. No SEVEN-AM-IN-THE-MORNING starts on my site that’s for sure. Bloody builders. Bloody building.

Things got right dirty this week with The One cutting electrics channels and getting heavily into the zen of the angle grinder. Business electric has taken a lot of research. The Youthful Energetic Electrician with Great Hair knows what he’s doing and is making a mess of the place. Crew person number 3, Mr Youthful Energetic Talented and Unstoppable, and I, got out the cement mixer and slapped up about 6 square metres of capping for the old walls. Loved it. Swimming in the delights of lime am I.


I tell you, it feels remarkably like hard work. I mean like working on a film, work. My brain is not what is was, but planning way ahead, prioritising and arranging the crew and gear is all coming back to me. The others chortle when I compare renovating to shooting but my role is rather the same. And I am the money, I.E. the producer, as usual. I’m at the budget stage where you ignore what’s on paper and just bleed cash: it’s the same as early shooting phase. The only difference is, in this case we keep going until the money actually runs out, rather than the objective being a finished film. It’s terrifying watching what was once €100k dwindle to tens of thousands. And no, I will not get the house finished with the money I have left. Donations welcome. Button below.

Before I leave the film comparisons I’ll just pay service to the fine small crew we have.  As a production manager we have some discretion and as one of my mentors Malinda would have it – we chose crew on the basis of looks. “Very important to have a cute crew”, she would say. “Boosts moral”. Thanks to Penfold we get to work with mixed origin, interesting, and motivated people and who, coincidently, would make Malinda proud.


The One and I frequently lament the lack of spirit in young country Portuguese. No ambition, no interest, no hobbies, and no passion. which these boys (in the main, they are Portuguese themselves but with foreign parents) possess in abundance. Portuguese kids grow up to be bad in business, unmotivated and boring – you see them every day in the person the front desk who carries on a 10 minute wag on the phone while you stand there and wait like a dickhead. You see it in the crap building work on Portuguese houses. And you hear it at the neighbour’s dinner table where every night the conversation is the same: Benfica and Portuguese food being the best in the world.

I’m not suggesting Portugal should become possessed by work and wealth and lose its calm, generosity and gentleness. I pray it finds its way down the a third path between consumerism and community. Firstly, this country needs talented teachers to shake little Joâo out of his depressed catatonia. The illiteracy that Salazar wrought on this country continues to corrode it like a bad gene. Parents never read to by grandparents, parents who do not read to their children. Houses with no books nor love of learning.


So, to the bathroom appliances. I know you’re dying to know which range of dunny I have chosen but first I want the reader to appreciate how difficult this part of the building process is. Unless you’ve been down this path yourself you cannot imagine how stressful choosing a toilet can be. For years I have been fixed on The Grecia, tempted by eggshell blue and the rosy pink of The Nanna, and the mustard two-tone of The Gaudy.

The One talked sense. He talked resell and cost. And he hates pink. Hence I am now the proud owner of a perfectly generic but brand new white and shiny bog, bidet and sink and umpteen metres of PVC begging for installation. I even bought Acme tiles. Super standard 15×15 white no funny business tiles. I love them. I’m relishing the plainness of it all. I feel like it’s all come from REMO (sydney people will know what I mean).

God it’s exciting.

On a final unflinching note: I am sick to death of being asked when I am going to breed. I’m not offended, I’m just bored of the unrelenting repetition. The expectation, obligation.

I’m 41, I tell them. (Oh so you should start!).

We have pets. (It’s not the same, you need a baby!).

I am not a COW. (Blank – did she say faca ou vaca?)

I carry two genetic diseases, both potentially fatal which I do not want to give to anyone, except maybe the next person who asks about my fertility. (double blank – didn’t understand a word of that)

There are plenty of children who need better parents and I have always fancied adoption/fostering. (Bu-!)

I have no narcissistic urge to procreate or populate. (Nar-?!)

Oh do fuck off. (ooo offended estrangeira, best run away)




  1. Kerry July 5, 2011 7:17 pm Reply

    “did she say faca or vaca?” love it!! great way to start my morning, thank you Emma!

    [Reply to comment]


  2. Emma July 5, 2011 7:18 pm Reply

    Superb, as usual. Curious that I am NEVER asked about babies…

    Loz’s kids, the ones that do want to learn, will be leaving the country anytime soon. So sad. Fortunately for us, it seems as though our builder has his head in the right place. xx

    [Reply to comment]


  3. Richard Edwards July 5, 2011 7:19 pm Reply

    How can such friendly and concerned people as the Portuguese be so unhelpful? Customers especially foreigners are ignored in shops and restaurants, village events are wonderfully noncommercial but there are no signs or if there are they are misleading. All the best free events that one hears about took place yesterday. O.K. many expats do not make the effort to speak the language but they are the customers with money so should be encouraged. But I feel smug if I am the only foreigner in a group and do not want busloads of expats around.

    [Reply to comment]

  4. António July 5, 2011 7:33 pm Reply

    Emma I adore you.
    “Bottles of Vinho Verde for medicinal purposes” …lol, yeah right!!!

    “I like the sound of a cement mixer in the morning”…you could listen to Valkyries Ride at the same time…lol

    I’m sorry about your accident with the scafolding…that was really bad…hope you are ok now.
    You are so accurate “in painting the canvas” of the Portuguese society that I’d vote in you if you were a politician.
    Maybe you should make a difference if you were a local Mayor.
    My favorite band of all times is Pink Floyd and they have this song in a Long Playing (I still listen to the records, I’m an old fashion guy) “Radio Kaos” with a particular lyric that says “…a country of waitress and waiters”.
    That’s how I see my country…there is very few entrepreneurship…people, as you said, just talk about football and food and are proud to have their shinny Mercedes, Audi’s and Beamers and live happy with that.
    And there is another thing that is annoying me; the journalists often ask to foreign people “Do you like Portugal or do you like Cristiano Ronaldo or Portuguese food…”
    It seems that is all we have to offer…we have the need to be “loved” as a country…everybody likes to be loved but up to a point.
    There is more beyond to be shown is everyday’s news but that doesn’t sell cuz nobody cares cuz we are all a bunch of ignorant and idiot people…you just look at the Portuguese elections.
    Ok, enough…lol
    Kisses and get better soon.

    [Reply to comment]

    Alice Parreira   Reply: July 5th, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    @António, I must be honest and tell you that I found your picture of our countrymen too dark! I have no idea where you live and work but I can assure you there’s far more to portuguese people then what you’ve just wrote. The main problem has been the lack of good politicians with guts to implement new opportunities to young and not so young portuguese entrepreuners. The result of this .. the amount of young engineers, scientists, PHD’s who had to leave the country in order to progress in their careers. It is indeed very sad that a country who payed for the education of these brains has to let them go due to lack of opporturnities. Also I dont know what kind of background you are coming from, certainly not like mine where my father used to read and play music to us. When I started primary school I knew how to read and write already. Dont take me wrong..; I do know Portugal is not a Scandinavian country but come on…you do exagerate our shortcomings far too easily! Did you know who won the 2011 Pritzker Architecture Prize ? our very portuguese Eduardo Souto de Moura, before him Siza Vieira won the same prize in 1992! This is only an example of some great portuguese people, its not only Cristiano Ronaldo or Benfica!
    Have a glass of portuguese wine and listen to some portuguese music i.e. jazz : Mario Laginha, Julio Resende or a portuguese soprano like Liza Veiga! Fique bem 🙂

    [Reply to comment]

  5. mary July 5, 2011 7:37 pm Reply

    What’s with Purdy imitating the black cat or is it the other way around? Sorry in advanced for being more interested in the cat pic than the rest of the post : )

    and the dag what’s with that too ???

    Great work though, soon I won’t recognise the place !

    [Reply to comment]

    spownall   Reply: July 6th, 2011 at 7:49 pm


    synchronised loafing

    [Reply to comment]


  6. michelle July 5, 2011 7:51 pm Reply

    as ever…funny entertaining blog post!Long may it last

    [Reply to comment]

  7. Steve July 5, 2011 8:34 pm Reply

    Great Blog Emma…Im a big reader as I love Portugal and cant wait to get back there….in Gold Coast QLD, tacky shallow and yuck….Id like to live in Coimbra

    [Reply to comment]

  8. Alice Parreira July 5, 2011 9:17 pm Reply

    Dear Emma, I’m sorry you’ve hurt yourself and hope all is well now. As for the portuguese neighbours and their questions about your private life .. well I think you have all it takes to handle those delicate situations 🙂 Take care now and make those men work for you 😉

    [Reply to comment]

  9. Lucy July 5, 2011 9:19 pm Reply

    Good to see you working on your house again, ouch to the scaffolding – more booze needed by the sounds of it!

    As for the kids question – it doesn’t stop even once you have had them! We just came back from Bali & every person thought they would ask when we were going to try for a boy….


    [Reply to comment]

  10. Ricardo July 5, 2011 10:09 pm Reply

    I usually read your blog every now and then and I feel that I have to clarify something that you just said:

    “The One and I frequently lament the lack of spirit in young country Portuguese. No ambition, no interest, no hobbies, and no passion. which these boys (in the main, they are Portuguese themselves but with foreign parents) possess in abundance. ”

    I think you shouldn’t put all the young Portuguese in the same bag. You are living in one of Portugal’s most backward zones. This young country Portuguese that you are talking about are children of Portuguese emigrants who left Portugal in the 60s.
    These people never saw a book, probably never went to school and left Portugal because they had no other choice (either leaving or starving to death…). France was the main destination.

    While abroad these people lived in low-income housing and their social life remained confined to other people of the same (or inferior) social level: the majority North Africans coming from Algeria, an ex-French colony devastated by the war. The Children of these Portuguese grew up, made friends and went to school within the same environment. Suburbs schools aren’t usually the best…

    Even today, 50 years after, Portugal and the Portuguese are still seen in France (and probably in a few other countries) as a 3rd world country… A few months ago I listened to this kid saying on TV: “I’m not racist; I have black, Arab and Portuguese friends…”

    You and me, we were lucky to grow up in a civilised city, went to good schools and now we are grateful for that. But not everybody had the same chance…

    Anyway, don’t want to excuse the Portuguese, but believe me that Lisbon, Porto or Coimbra are completely different places.

    The young generation there is like any other in the world: play station, mobile phones, facebook, etc… Off course, still minimal interest for books or love of learning…

    Give the first step: offer a book to a 6year old kid and you might be able to start changing the next generation.

    All the best from France

    [Reply to comment]

  11. Steve Masters July 5, 2011 10:56 pm Reply

    Emma, while I don’t wish pain on anyone, try hurting yourself again before writing your next post. The anger adds a touch of comedic cynicism. Great stuff. And get well soon.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: July 6th, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    done. new post coming shortly.

    [Reply to comment]


  12. Clare De Mayo July 6, 2011 12:29 am Reply

    Loved the come back on non breeding. Priceless. I will borrow!!!!!!

    [Reply to comment]

  13. Lauren July 6, 2011 4:46 am Reply

    Haha, I loved the last part about breeding! As someone who is about to get married in less than 3 months and doesn’t have a maternal bone in her body, I can sympathize. People can’t possibly comprehend that some of us don’t want to go down that path. My same friends who complain to me one day about how difficult and expensive it is to raise their babies are telling me the next time I see them that I should join them in motherhood. 🙂 I may try heading straight to the “Oh do fuck off” part you mentioned as I’m getting tired of the explanations…

    Best of luck with your rebuilding – it looks fantastic!

    [Reply to comment]


  14. Alyson July 6, 2011 5:27 am Reply

    ha ha! love it! only advice I can give re the ‘ooh you’ll be trying for a baby soon then’ gibber (like heck I will!) is… when you get to 42 people stop asking… well I can only assume this as I am now 42 – and nobody has said it to me this year????! so… not long to wait!? LOL 😉

    [Reply to comment]


  15. Ad July 6, 2011 8:55 am Reply

    Stop hurting yourself, keep up the good work, and fix the typo a few lines above the sheep’s head.

    And run for mayor when you’re done- I think that’s a good idea Antonio and I second it

    [Reply to comment]

  16. Vern July 6, 2011 12:06 pm Reply

    Currently in Australia we are having a wonderful British programme on TV called ” Grand Designs.”
    This is about young people in the UK building houses with imagination and trying to make them blend into the surroundings.
    I love the ideas and materials that are being used, completely unconventional, recently there was a house built surrounded by a lake. Makes me think of you Emma, except these would be designers seem to have pots of money.
    I don’t know about Portugal, but in France all tradesmen have a title and are greeted by the house owners with a kiss on both cheeks and a very sincere handshake.
    Did you chop up all the firewood?
    The sardines sold here by Woolworths are in cans named Santamaria and fully imported.

    [Reply to comment]

  17. Vern July 6, 2011 12:18 pm Reply

    Have a look at some of your competition if you are thinking this way ?


    www. french-locations.co.uk.sybmap.html

    [Reply to comment]

  18. Dee Hawa July 10, 2011 7:14 pm Reply

    You are so cool girl!
    My how the place is moving on up… that’s if you manage
    to avoid a labotomy from dropping things on your head!

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: August 14th, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Hi Dee! I’ll be a bit dumber by the end of this but we wont know if it’s the injuries or the medicinal alcohol…

    [Reply to comment]

  19. john July 11, 2011 7:45 am Reply

    Bloody marvellous Emma
    You’ve had injuries, delays, changes of plans, diversions and got your hands dirty (watch out for lime). Welcome to the world of rennovations. More of this to come I can assure you as you progress. Just wait til your “houses built =50%” – so exciting but injurious- sad gits aren’t we?
    Plan well ahead and make sure your suppliers are able to pay for their raw materials. Current economic climate in Portugal means there are companies going out of business daily and many are in construction. We are still waiting for glass for our windows – thank goodness for shutters. Oh and the lecky is not full service yet.
    I wish you well.
    We have found the Portuguese to be hard working, eager to learn and sadly at arms length – unless you work at them, befriend them, have a go at the language, then they are totally trustworthy, friends for life and make you feel part of their community. Here on the Algarve there are so many brits trying to get work from other brits and you can easily feel that the locals are being pushed out of employment as they dont have the language skills. I think the attitude of mostly brit ex-pats towards employing locals is a major part of the problem. Many young people are earning minimum wages in tourist related jobs which the tourists think great as the prices are low – especially for food and wine. No doubt this is totally different in the North and the country.
    On brats, sorry babies, why want one? couldn’t eat a whole one anyway. Better off with a good view and a proper roof in my book.
    take care

    [Reply to comment]

  20. Origa July 18, 2011 2:32 am Reply

    Emma, I love your blog, you are brave and cool! And information (there’s really lack of info about Portugal in English) is very important for me since I’m going to move to Portugal for some time, too… So thank you very much for sharing your impressions,
    looking forward to read your new stories from Portugal!

    [Reply to comment]

  21. Rosa Maria July 20, 2011 11:37 pm Reply

    Hi Emma
    The best this post !!!!!
    Write more to us.
    Good luck to your works !!!.
    Rosa Maria (Tomar – Portugal)

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: July 29th, 2011 at 7:57 am

    thanks rosa maria x

    [Reply to comment]

  22. Gin August 4, 2011 7:11 pm Reply

    Hi emsy, scary progress there, but what I want to know is; on which bit of scaffolding am I going to sleep? Or do I perhaps get the comfy bed of plaster dust in the corner? Either way I can’t wait to see you and the One!

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: August 14th, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    @Gin, you’ll be on the lower platform of the scaffold and we’ll put mum on the higher one… we’ll take the pile of rocks outside…

    [Reply to comment]

  23. Maryann August 11, 2011 3:37 am Reply

    Great blog Emma! I found it a while age & just now saw the HGTV episode.

    We also bought a “ruin” in central Portugal & renovated it. We bought it from family for 17,000 euros, a whole house plus land in “decent” condition.

    How much could it possibly cost to gut & rebuild? We set forth naively, and three years and $200,000 USD later we are done.

    A restoration was so much more expensive than a renovation – So no wood ceilings, no schist living room, no restored bread oven, no original wood doors. Rooms are SMALL. Heating systems are a FORTUNE.

    We didn’t hire a builder, we paid a local crew time & materials so we could have more control. Okay, right. They (Portuguese pedreiros) are SLOW. Lunch usually included BBQ. And wine. Afternoons were even slower.

    If we knew now what we didn’t know then, we never would have started. But thank God we were ignorant. It’s was a blessing in disguise, really…

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: August 14th, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    Hi yes I relate to the “ignorance is bliss” lesson… all that shutzpah and blind force I had in the beginning…. the financial crisis kind of sorted that out, and now I am in the midst of the “renovations always go over time and over budget” lesson…

    [Reply to comment]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin