welcome to emmas housethought

the day technology came to my village : one year of the blog

(or, The Best Sex I Had Last Year)

When I bought my old house, she had no telephone line, which is quite normal for old houses in this country. Throughout rural portugal you will still see crusty signs that advertise a phone service in a local café or general store. Not so long ago, no one had a phone, and then suddenly mobile phones appeared, and the humble landline simply passed into obscurity. The technology skipped a generation.


And that’s fine if your locale has a nice robust mobile signal floating about. Mine doesn’t, which means to make or receive communications I had to walk up the mountain and stand on one leg. Which would have been complicated had I severed a limb with the chainsaw.

I explained this situation to Portugal Telecom in December 2007, in the hope that they would come the next day and fix me up with a telephone service. The next day, they did not. I continued to call them daily to remind them, and to also remind them that I was using a rival telecommunication company’s mobile network to do so. The more they put me off, the more money I would spend with vodafone. But they didn’t care.


After the first couple of months I decided to use a different tactic. I didn’t really need to explain that I was a foreigner but I pointed out that as an Australian-type foreigner almost everyone I knew was a very expensive phone call away. And how we Australians like to jibber-jabber. What a good client I would be! A big spender! But this didn’t impress them either.

Next, I tried begging. Then I tried being a pest. I tried being nice and developing a ‘customer service relationship’. At this point I had a breakthrough of sorts. They told me they were thinking about connecting the phone. I asked if they would call me back when they had thought about it and I was told “we are not allowed to call our clients”. Um, hello? Trying to do business, and you cannot call your clients? A telecommunications company who cannot call their clients. Nice strategy. Don’t think it will catch on somehow.

It was, at least, an original angle on the “don’t call us, we’ll call you” attitude traditional taken by producers towards actors. And I knew what that meant. It meant that our phoney relationship was over.

Several months later I received a letter from PT informing me that they had finished thinking about connnecting me and had decided not to. It was too hard. Too expensive. But you know, time had passed and I had moved on. I wasn’t hurt. I felt no desire to respond. I mean, I couldn’t exactly call them on my home phone or anything. They made it easy for me to walk away.

Just now I’m remembering something quite funny about dealing with Portugal Telecom. Everytime you call up they want you to provide a phone number. “That’s exactly the reason for my call” I would say, (for which they had no automated response). Brazil, anyone?


So my life continued on its uninterrupted way, free from birthday wishes, announcements of births and deaths, random calls from mother at 8am on a Sunday. In fact, as I didn’t have a TV or radio at this time either, my life trickled over without so much a squeak from the outside world, unless I dared to venture down to the tiny town for a newspaper or session at the espaço internet. Even then, the modern world would come to me only in strictly measured doses. And it’s amazing how few letters you receive when you send none yourself. And no pigeons arrived either (note huge gap in the market there, entepreneurs…).

Occasionally people from modern life would come to visit, because even though my existence had diminished to a barely detectable vibration, other people’s lives continued with the same rampant tramping zeitgeist as ever. I would be horrified by visitors who incessantly sent and received text messages and had separation anxiety from facebook after an hour. They scoffed at the absence of hotspots. Like, at the fonte. At the depositos do lixo. In the forest. Nothing. No signal. Zip. Tch. Toh. Gr. Humph. Who were these people, I wondered,  and what planet were they from?


Then, out of the blue, an incredibly good-looking guy with an 8 metre pole arrived and asked where would I like it. It was now December 2008, and I was making an on-the-spot decision about where to fit an ugly eyesore into my grandiose house plans. Up went the pole, and we fixed a date to run the cables.

I almost forgot to tell you about the sex. We were discussing a potential pole site down in the garden. I was standing on a wall that drops off a few metres to the little road below, and my neighbour was passing by, checking out me-and-hunkyportugueseguy. I wobbled, and considering that this was in pre-vertigo days, I think we’ll have to say I swooned, and Senhor Telefone reached out and grabbed me. And pulled me swiftly towards him. To him. At him. Oomph. My neighbour reacted just as I did, with a shriek of surprise and delight. And then it was over. But the moment was good and I definitely felt the earth move.


He came back to fix the line rather inconveniently as my sister and brother-in-law arrived for a visit. Rather more inconveniently for my sister who wanted to take a shower but found that the up-the-pole position gave the techo a perfect view of her less-suntanned bits. I argued on the side of the techo installing my much needed phone, but she got wise and covered the window with a piece of cardboard. The details one remembers of a good day. We sat around in high anticipation of connecting to the world, but as it goes in Portugal things don’t happen in the pre-estimated time. We were waiting for three days.


Mario, or Paulo? I can´t even remember his name, how superficial of me.

Maybe it was during this time that they decided I should start a blog. All I know is it wasn’t my idea and after a year of seclusion the last thing on my mind was revealing my every waking thought to the universe, especially if my thoughts were locked in the tedium of choosing toilet appliances. I was excited enough just to have a telephone line to telephone people on, but in a matter of minutes I would have email rushing at me, a world of information and news available, a facebook account where long lost friends could be found again and then in a month or two, I would be out there living nude in blogland. OK not nude, but sometimes feeling exposed nonetheless.


At first, I confess,  I found the contrast a bit extreme, but after few weeks I felt comfy in my little global village. I was mollycoddled by the fresh warmth of friends and family. While I  watched my life from another (quieter) era slip away, and the irritating interruptions of random communication began creeping in, I also realised anew just how important friends are.

And starting the blog only reinforced this. I expected the internet to be full of weirdos, and I can confirm that it is, but a few of them are now my friends, and if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.


A year on, and more than 60,000 visits later, I’d like to thank a few people. Foremost, a gargantuan thank you to Fairy and Med for taking it on and keeping me going. About 6 months into it tinyartdirector and I realized there wasn’t going to be any largesse of riches coming our way but we had created quite a nice cuddly monster which other people liked as well, so we’d better keep at it.

Big massive thanks also to Isabel (weirdo) for her constant ideas and feedback. Dee (weirdo in spain) and all the other hilarious women who have tuned in and encouraged. Non-scalable Derek (not that weird) and a variety of other cheerful blokes who’ve gotten into the building bits without being patronizing fools (I will try to actually build something this year, promise) and to all the Portuguese; the porties and the tugas who’ve made me feel welcome even though I can whinge like a pom and can’t write in their language, yet. Thanks peeps. Thanks.

Oh and I should thanks my pets, Mao and Wookie, for being themselves and keeping me warm in the winter. Onya, fellas 😉


Ironic (or just stupidly shitful) that my phone line/internet connection died around the time of the one year anniversary of the first post. And I´m still not reconnected after months and innumerable chats with the good people at 16200. Shout out to Anna, Alvaro, Fernando, Patricia, Maria, Nuno… quite a lot of people there to answer the phones but no one to come and actually fix the line. And Portugal Telecom still don’t call their clients. What’s that all about?



  1. Tania April 29, 2010 11:25 pm Reply

    May the force be with you in dealing with PT- dealing with them is a shitter! I love your blog- all of it, and find it completely fascinating on all levels. Rock on and forca.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: April 30th, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Forca and rock on to you too! Thanks! 🙂

    [Reply to comment]

  2. Paulo Reis April 29, 2010 11:47 pm Reply

    Nerves of still , Emma …

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: April 30th, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Nerves of “de stil” that should be… a great art movement…

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  3. Emma April 30, 2010 12:55 am Reply

    I recognise that Correios sign! Hope you’ve filled out the Livro de Reclamações!

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: April 30th, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    That´s your sign! Well I asked for the book, then was very impressed when they organised an inspection for yesterday…. who didnt arrive. Going back to Coimbra on wednesday…. and nothing will come between me and The Book this time.

    [Reply to comment]


  4. Denise April 30, 2010 2:27 am Reply

    I am so sure I have heard those words before from a few companies in Australia, “Sorry we don’t call clients”. Just cant remember who it was – Optus, Telstra, Vodafone ummmmm. Its the most ludicrous statement you can hear from a telecommunication company. Its sort of like “Sorry we don’t do h..d jobs” as you walk into a brothel. Its a funny world.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: April 30th, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    :0 too funny… I often remember how telecom aust(telstra) were before optus came along… just like PT. And then what happened? Competition made life hell for them, they privatised and life improved for the whole nation.

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  5. Denise April 30, 2010 2:30 am Reply

    Bloody hell, my comment is awaiting moderation just popped up at me. Is there no free speech left in this world !!!! hehehe

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: April 30th, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    It´s ok love, you pass… 🙂 someone has to check that you´re not just selling steak knives… 🙂

    [Reply to comment]

  6. Terry Fletcher April 30, 2010 2:52 am Reply

    Yup, you captured it succintly!

    Not that I suffer many of these tribulations – only when the ZON connection goes down, and takes everything with it (internet, phones and fax). And surprise, surprise, our guys actually DO call us back, even on our mobiles, to keep us updated …

    Some of us simply have to be thankful for small mercies. Fortunately I have a ‘Maria’ who can behave like a fishwife when it comes to dealing with recalcitrant techs. The problem usually gets rectified pretty damn fast, especially when, between us, we can convince the tech he is talking out of his other orifice!

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: April 30th, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    Note to self: get Tia Maria onto PT… or change suppliers!! Thanks terry, nice to hear from paradise 🙂 Must visit soon!

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  7. PAulo Reis April 30, 2010 10:41 pm Reply


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  8. Dee Hawa May 2, 2010 9:27 pm Reply

    thanks emma, still to be considered as a ‘card carrying’ weirdo
    at this time of life! there’s hope for me yet! As usual great laugh
    at the carryons ‘up north’…. keep ’em coming! Dee x

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: May 3rd, 2010 at 9:46 pm


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  9. Nuno H May 3, 2010 9:33 am Reply

    Hello Emma!

    I thought I should comment here, instead.

    Happy anniversary!

    I got surprised that you manage to keep your nails well take care, in spite of all the hammering, sawing and scrubbing.

    Is it me, or the techo’s mobile number (if it is such) is missing a digit?

    Cheerios and good luck!

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: May 3rd, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    I knew we´d get sprung with the hands! You are right Nuno, they are not builder´s hands they are tinyartdirector´s!! And what a great relationship PTguy & I had – I can´t remeber his name and he gave me the wrong phone number 😉

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  10. Cristina de Jesus July 20, 2010 5:50 am Reply

    hahahaha… I must laugh due to your adventure with the Pt. I lived in Coimbra, in Lisbon, and now in Pataias… and since Coimbra, I left cable. only satellites and mobile phones…
    At least they follow me everywhere 😀

    [Reply to comment]

  11. Ingmar September 20, 2010 9:24 am Reply

    Hi Emma,

    my gf just flew to Portugal with a friend last night, and today I started reading “Down under” by Bill Bryson for no special reason, so somehow my unconscious mind connected the two countries and suddenly the question “What is Emma actually doing?” popped up.
    Really nice to find your site, but, unfortunately, I didn’t manage to read ALL texts tonight (it’s too much…). Will do this in the next days!
    That’s very nice photos, and somehow the story with the telephone line reminds me of my days in New Zealand.

    Let’s keep in touch! Cheers, Ingmar (Djerba, Mosbach ’99…)

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: September 20th, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    Ingmar! How fantastic to hear from you! Oh how I do love the internet sometimes! 🙂

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  12. Tony Charlton December 15, 2011 3:36 am Reply

    Hi Emma
    just found your site. I’m moving to Portugal in January, looking for a place in Coimbra region. Arganil looks top of the pops at present. We are currently living in Botswana so are not looking forward to cold winters – is it very cold over there? Where are you living?
    Anyway, thanks for the blogs, hope to meet you when we hit Portugal.

    Tony Charlton and Amo.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: December 15th, 2011 at 7:57 am

    this year is pretty mild really, we won’t be seeing any snow in my village this year but it is still too cold and wet for this australian. Arganil is fine but I’m not quite sure why it’s so popular with expats. We’re in the centre too, about an hour south of Arganil.

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  13. Tony Charlton December 15, 2011 8:39 pm Reply

    Hi Emma
    thanks for e-mail. I have been sitting in my pool, water is 28degrees! The thought of snow and rain is sending shivers down my spine.

    Are there any places around Coimbra which have better climates, mild winters and hot summers?

    The story about the telephone is frightening, sounds just like Botswana.


    [Reply to comment]


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