I have a spare while, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to update the blog.

We’ve been back in the UK since Sunday, and can I just take this opportunity to say “Brrrrrrr!”?

If you’re not used to the freezing cold, winter is really not the time to be moving back! That said, the whole Christmas holiday period certainly does help. It’s quieter for us with work, and there are more opportunities to catch up with family and friends, which all goes to soften the blow.

A bit.

It’s a shock coming back. That’s obvious, I’m sure. But what surprises me more is how much relief I feel already. It’s almost as if I’ve spent 4 years in Portugal holding my breath and NOW I can exhale. What’s weird is that it didn’t feel like that at the time. Maybe it’s just the accumulation of stresses and issues that led to our return that have amplified that feeling so much, I don’t know, but there’s a huge sense of relief that I feel right now, which is so completely opposite to how I felt when we initially left on Sunday.

It’s not all over, by any means. We still have big hurdles here. School, for starters. I’ve sent off their mid-year admissions forms, and I’m now playing the waiting game to see if any of our chosen schools have vacancies. I am hoping that our first choice will – because I really didn’t have a second or third choice – but what will be will be. It can only be better than what they have been through. (I’m saying that with a certain amount of denial, by the way)

Likewise, we have other challenges. Car insurance has been difficult, and even our home isn’t available to us for another couple of weeks (in the meantime, we are blessed to have a very accommodating family) and even then we have to completely redecorate before we can move in. That’s quite a job, but it’ll be so much easier to do while it’s empty. Unfortunately, it also means that we’ll be spending the Christmas and New Year period with paintbrushes in hand. Again though, the quieter work season helps.

What won’t help, however, is our new addition!

Meet Zac. How completely adorable is he? We’re hoping to pick him up on Monday. Nik has wanted another Springer Spaniel for years, and Eliot has ALWAYS been desperate for a dog. Nik grew up around working Springers, training and breeding them, and he has always said that, as soon as we lived somewhere that would accommodate one, he would get another. Well, it might be a little premature from the housing point of view (and he probably expected that the “somewhere” would be in Portugal, not the UK!), but some things are just meant to be.

He was only 20 or so miles away, and for a 5 month old Springer, his temperament was lovely. He comes from good pedigree, show grandparents and a working line of gun dogs with good temperament, and he is utterly gorgeous. Eliot and Nik were instantly in love, and I have to admit that even I was taken with him. For a pup, he was so well behaved.

We had already arranged to have a night away tonight so we couldn’t bring him back right away, but we’ll fetch him as soon as we get back. And we’ll make the most of what will be our final night away until he’s older, fully trained and vaccinated and able to be put into kennels!

For Nik in particular, he will soften the blow of having to come back to England. We’ve got to make the most of it, and this is our start. We have lots of business plans and ideas that will help us too: things we couldn’t have done from further away which we can do from here.

The boys are both so much calmer already. Granted, they haven’t started school yet, and that will bring a whole other set of stresses as they settle in wherever they are, but Jake already seems like a different person. It’s baby steps. One issue at a time, and we’ll deal with what’s left when we’ve tackled the first layers.

Maybe it was just our time, but I actually don’t feel like we’ve made the wrong decision at all.

And who’d have ever thought I’d be saying that from 2 degrees C in the UK in December?



I got told off last week for my initial post being too brief. I think the main problem was that, because I didn’t do much explaining, Nik then spent several days answering the same questions over and over.
So here’s a proper explanation.

We are returning to the UK for two reasons.

Firstly, school.
The boys have coped here. Barely.

Jake started off OK but it the last 18 months or so, he’s begun to really struggle. Unfortunately, being a teenager, he’s not really told me that. He’s your fairly typical non-communicative teen, so I’ve found out by regular reading of his school books. Despite his obvious difficulties, he seemed OK at school so we were content to let it go in the hope that, if he really had a problem, he’d tell us.

Eliot has never thrived at school, in either country. He’s about as non-academic as they come and so scraping through has been his norm really. Long-term, he worries us less. He’s one of those people that you just know will be OK.

However, this (school) year has been a whole other beast. Eliot has struggled to cope, even suffering with panic attacks at times early in the term and, while he has friends there in school who he chats to in fluent Portuguese, his abilities in the classroom are lacking. He is pretty much illiterate in the language, being mostly unable to read and spell it. At this stage of school, it isn’t going to get any better. Even he has confided in me that he struggled in class, and when my outgoing and confident 11-year-old is breaking down, I know it’s bad.

Jake is another matter entirely. He’s one of those kids who says little and just goes about his day with resignation. He gets up, showers, goes to school, goes to class with barely a mumble or an objection.

That said, we’ve noticed a change in his behaviour. He barely eats, sleeps poorly and just hasn’t been right for a while. We suspected he was suffering with depression, but it is difficult to tell the difference between “normal” neanderthal teenager and depression. Turned out we may have been right though when he came back from walking to the school bus in complete meltdown and started talking. Really talking.
Enter reason two for leaving and our proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”.

It didn’t take a genius to work out what we needed to do next.

Returning to England won’t fix everything. We all know that. Eliot won’t miraculously become some genius in school, and Jake won’t suddenly turn into a bouncy, bubbly teen. What it will do, however, is give them a chance.

It will remove a huge stresser from Jake’s life and that will go some way towards helping his mental health. There may well still be work to be done in that respect, but we shall tackle what is left when we know.

It’ll be a difficult transition back into English schools for both of them, but I’m fairly certain now that it will be for the greater good. For them both.

Neither boy is really thrilled about the move back (and it goes without saying that Nik and I aren’t). Eliot is quite excited about it, although he is anxious about changing school. Jake is being Jake and not really talking to us about it, but even he doesn’t really want to go back. I think it’s just change in general rattling him. I’m hoping that once he is settled into school, he will feel better about the decision.

And if one good thing has come from the last 5 years, it’s that we were right about one thing. We DO want to live here in Portugal, or somewhere like this. When Eliot has finished his eduction, we WILL be back. We are counting down the days!

Funny story: both boys have always been adamant that, when they’d left school in Portugal, they would be moving back to England again. Strangely, since deciding that we are moving back now, Eliot says he might move back to Portugal (with us) when he leaves school in 6/7 years.

Who knows what we will all be doing by then though, eh?

There’s news.

Some people already know, most don’t: we are moving back to England.

We don’t want to. None of us want to, but we have to salvage the boys’ education before it is too late. If we had more time or more money, we could probably sort it here, but, at this stage of Jake’s schooling, it’s too late. The only way we can pick up the pieces now, is to get back into the English school system as quickly as possible with the hope that the boys then manage to get through with some qualifications – ANY qualifications – because, at the stage they are both at right now, it’s more than they will manage here.

So, that’s what we are doing: returning to England. Soon. Like, next week.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a rash or sudden decision.
It will seem like it to everybody else, but it’s been something we’ve been quietly handling for a while, and with the addition of some health problems that one of us has been suffering with lately, it’s time.

So there you are.

The lorry is (all being well) picking up our stuff late next week and we are flying over soon after.

We have a ton of stuff to sort. The apartment this end, our house at the other end (it currently has tenants who now have notice), moving temporarily into the home of a family member who has very kindly offered us the use of her home until ours is vacant again, not to mention getting the boys into school.

So much to do.

So I’d better get back to packing boxes.

See you on the other side.
Maybe I’ll be able to get my thoughts on “paper” (virtually speaking) better then.

We were blessed enough to be invited to the Portuguese wedding this weekend.

One of Nik’s biker friends was getting married to his beautiful girlfriend.

At first, I was a bit apprehensive. Actually, we all were. We knew we wouldn’t really know what was going on and, on top of that, we had absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to wear. Nothing suitable for a wedding anyway. Neither boy owns “smart” clothes: not a shirt or trousers between them, let alone footwear that wasn’t Crocs or trainers, and Nik, having recently lost weight, didn’t fit into any of his.

I came across a perfect dress in a store in town and coupled it with a newly-purchased (2 days before the wedding, when I could finally work out what the weather was going to do) fake fur bolero.

The boys – all 3 of them – had to go shopping for the full ensemble: trousers, shirts, and, for Jake (whose feet are far bigger than anybody else in the house), shoes.

They didn’t scrub up bad, if I say so myself!

(Bolero not being worn here due to lovely mid-November sunshine at the time!)

We met up with some friends beforehand and headed to the church in Guia for midday, as instructed.

The groom (to his credit!) turned up with much of his party just before 12, with the bride traditionally (whether a wedding tradition or a Portuguese one is debatable!) about 20 minutes or so later.

There was a short part of the ceremony in the doorway to the church before we all moved inside for the main service. Thankfully, no singing because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have managed anything in Portuguese! It was all I could do to recite an English version of The Lord’s Prayer alongside their Portuguese one (and yes, I still remember it from school!).

After the church service, there was some standing around while the photographers did their bit with the church as their backdrop before we all headed off, in a convoy of cars, through Albufeira. This is apparently a tradition. The wedding party all attached ribbons to their car aerials and follow each other in convoy, beeping their horns loudly and persistently in celebration.

Many passing cars beeped back and lots of people came out to wave. It was great – even if Nik was too embarrassed to beep back and I had to keep reaching over to do it for him!

On arrival at the reception venue, we were greeted with drinks and snacks while the photographers took many more photos of the couple and guests in the beautiful grounds of the restaurant.

Both bride and groom are blessed with beautiful families, so I am sure their wedding photos will be stunning. Out of respect to all present and the photographers, however, I am not going to post too many photos here on this blog. It’s not the place.

The weather was lovely, considering it is mid-November. The sun mostly shone, the temperature was pleasant, and the rain definitely held off when it mattered.

When photos were done, we all headed inside for the reception and party. Fortunately, we were seated on a table with friends (English – no, English-speaking! Respect the Scots!) and the bride and groom’s friends and family were so lovely to us, ensuring that we understood what was going on at all time.

(Please excuse my moronic children!)

There was fabulous food, of course, plentiful drinks, and a very talented musician who not only sang beautifully, but also fully accompanied herself on the accordion (sometimes as she wandered around the room) and interacted with her crowd. She was fabulous.

A little later on, after the main food service (and much alcohol, of course), party games began and provided much additional amusement!

The food – and I feel I should give it a particular mention – was endless! The usual soup, fish and meat courses, followed by a huge selection of desserts (I wish I had photographed them!) and, a short while later, an even bigger selection of fresh hot and cold buffet! And just as we were leaving at around 9.30pm, more soup came out! I suspect the party continued on without us LONG into the night!

The whole day was fabulous and, as they head off on their short honeymoon to Italy today (me? jealous?), we wish Antonio and Ana Rita all the happiness in the world and thank them from the bottom of our hearts for inviting us to share in their special day.

You know how school terms seem long in the UK?
Well, I don’t think I ever actually truly appreciated the point of “half term”… until now. They don’t have half term breaks here in Portugal and the Christmas break seems like a lifetime away.

It must seem like only minutes since our two went back to school after their 3-month-plus summer break, but I am so over it already. With both boys having early starts (El starts at 8.25, and Jake has to catch a bus at 8), I’m finding out that I don’t function well, if at all, on 7am starts!
The worst part is that the mornings go…on…for…EVER! We’re child-free from 8.30, more or less, and that extra hour of “work” time in the morning means I’m reaching for the kettle for my “elevenses” when it’s barely 9.30!

Mind you, even Eliot experienced how interminably long a day was here when he was off sick last week. By 11am he was looking to the clocks, swearing that they were moving backwards in time. It does feel like that sometimes!

(Eliot is fine now, btw. He had some sort of throat infection or laryngitis which resulted in his being quite unwell and without a voice for an entire week! Eliot being silent is actually quite disturbing, it turns out!)

So anyway, we’re adjusting to new work schedules, I suppose. Earlier starts with earlier finishes. It’s all compounded by the fact that my eBay account has recently been banned from selling (long story: my fault) so we’ve lost a source of work/income along the way. That’s been a whole other challenge that is still ongoing and yet another thing to which we need to adapt. I can only be thankful that I had finished our Christmas shopping before it happened. Now, if the boys could just stop growing and requiring new clothes…

Speaking of Christmas, I am looking forwards to it. Not just the lie-ins, but the whole break from the norm. Work will be scaled back in general (there will be no dispatch from Jesters which invariably means fewer orders. Great for Christmas and New Year, less so for January income!) and we will ALL have a bit of time off. We’ve (well, I’ve) decided I am not doing a full turkey dinner this year. Quite honestly, it’s a pain. We’re going to do an all-day party food/snack buffet type Christmas. I like that idea much better. I can bake stuff (which I LOVE!) instead of cooking (which I LOATHE). Sounds like a plan. We also have Nik’s sister, Donna, here for the week, so that’ll be a change too.

We did look into eating out for Christmas dinner instead. You can imagine how that panned out!

A lot! That's how much!

It is difficult to think about Christmas while it still feels like summer some days. Sure, the weather is changeable at the minute, but, when the sun shines, it’s warm. Still over 30C in the sun some days, depending on wind direction. Having said that, there is a definite weather shift at the moment and, although I’m still getting my laundry dried outside most days, it’s definitely cooler once that sun goes down. We’re looking forwards to being able to light our wood burner. The dark evenings just make the fire seem right, don’t they?

We’re holding off at the moment though.
There’s something definitely NOT right about lighting the wood fire in the evening when you’re still sleeping with the balcony doors open and no duvet on the bed!

I think that’s all our news really. Nothing much is happening at the moment. We’re struggling a bit with work being a bit quieter this time of year (sales from the countries that are enjoying their Spring/Summer season right now never quite make up for the fact that it is Autumn/Winter in the Europe!) so I guess we’re not going to be doing anything mind-blowingly exciting any time soon!

If anything does happen, I’ll be sure to let you all know!


Changes all round

Well, it’s all change here Chez Hand.

Firstly, or most importantly, the boys are finally nearly back to school! They have a pre-term reception meeting on Monday, and they start properly (probably. I’m assuming we’ll find out for certain!) on Tuesday. It’s been such a long time coming that I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to have the kids in a school routine. They’ve been home since 3rd June!

School itself is an “all change all round” also, of course. Eliot is moving from Primaria into Jake’s (old) 2/3 cycle school, and Jake is moving out of it into the Secundaria the other side of town. That’s the biggest move, I think.
Actually, that’s unfair. Cycle 2 is a huge leap from where Eliot has been for the past 4 years, and at his level, he is going to really struggle. REALLY struggle.

Having said that, he is very excited to get back amongst friends and actually to NOT be bored. I’m sure that will soon wear off 😀

Jake, on the other hand, despite the complete change of school, and going from biking 5 minute to school to taking the bus to the other side of town, is at least in familiar territory from a study point of view. As he is repeating year 9, he is completely familiar with the routine, mostly familiar with subject matter (most of his books are different being at a differing school) even though he is being thrust into a completely alien environment.

Once he finds his way around, I’m sure he’ll be fine.


Apart from the whole “Back to school” thing happening, there have been other changes here too. Nothing ground-breaking or particularly interesting but significant for us.

Firstly, Eliot had a bit of an epiphany recently. He suddenly (and I’ve no idea what exactly triggered it) made a connection between eating junk and being unhealthy. Now, in our defense, nobody in our house actually eats really badly, but certainly there’d never been a big emphasis on eating really well either. After much (much!) discussion with him, he understood what foods were good and how bad foods can affect you, both from a health and a weight point of view, and he realised that the salads and vegetables that he was (already) getting every evening were there for a reason. There’s been a big shift in what we ALL** eat, and in addition, there’s a new arrival in our home. (**ALL does not include my underweight teen who I am still trying to persuade to eat more…or at all!)


Now, it’s not a great photo, but what can you do when you have sunshine in the background, eh? I know, I know, I could have stood the other side of it to take the photo, but it’s much prettier with outdoors in the background 😀

It’s not a bad view to be cycling next to though. We came to a group decision that an exercise bike would be more beneficial for us as a family for various reasons. Firstly, none of us are very fit. Or fit at all. Or actually, we are very unfit. So an exercise bike is a more viable option to enable us to build some level of fitness up before we brave “the great outdoors”. Nik and Eliot do go out on their push bikes sometimes, but this leads to reason number two: traffic. More specifically, foot traffic. It is still so busy around here that getting a decent cycle in is almost impossible. Hopefully, by the time our fitness levels improve, the number of people everywhere will have dropped too and outdoor cycling will be easier.

Oh, and thirdly, me? On two wheels? Not a pretty sight!

Nik and I are both losing weight gradually with the combined food/activity changes, so long may that continue.

Anyways, more changes around here include generally turfing out unwanted stuff, both for charity and for sale, and, more excitingly, a new car. Well, by “new”, I mean new-ER. We are now the proud owners of a 307 Diesel Estate which is lovely, especially in comparison to our “bus”.

The “bus”, which in reality is a 7-seater diesel Volkswagen Sharan, has served us well though. We’ve just discovered that we really don’t need the space as often as we thought we would, and we’d prefer something smaller. So if you know anybody in the market for a 7-seater…

What else?

I had a haircut! In fact, we ALL had haircuts, but mine was the most dramatic. After having a fringe put in earlier in the year (having not had a fringe for about 6 years), I braved having it cut short! It was scary, but I love the result.

Also, Eliot decided he wanted his ear pierced. In fact, now he’s had one done, he wants the other one done too, so once number 1 is healed, we’re off back for the other side.

I’m on countdown to my trip to England. So is Wendy. She is definitely ready for (and excited about!) her week off work. And seeing me, of course! We have plans for busy days and lazy days and it’s going to be fun. I just hope the weather holds out. We’ve had a cool week this week (OK, by “cool”, I mean mid 20s instead of 30s and a few showers!) and it’s been a refreshing change. I think the forecast is for it to calm down a bit in the next few weeks, with the return of sunny days and no rain though. Back to summer for a bit longer then which, seeing as we have quite a few people visiting in the coming months, is nice. It’ll be good to have a few social outings again. We’ve almost felt like hermits all summer (well, aside from our almost-daily trips to The Lighthouse anyway)

That’s not to say we’ve done absolutely nothing all summer. Nik and El did a snorkeling trip and have also been out snorkeling by themselves when we went to the beach the other week. We spent a nice few hours “chilling” (as much as one can “chill” in mid-30s, of course) on the beach and I enjoyed some quiet time while they both swam off and snorkeled for a bit.

Heads in the sea

Father and son drying off

So, we’ve a busy few months coming up. People coming here, me visiting there, kids back to school (whoop!) etc etc.

I’ll do my best to update!

Boy, these summer holidays seem to be lasting forEVER! It seems like Christmas was more recent than my boys breaking up this year. My two have been off for 11 weeks already and they still have 4 left!

On the plus side, even El seems to be ready to get back to school, and anybody who knows him will know that this really is quite something! He’s missing his friends and, quite honestly, just missing something to do with his days. He’s a social kid and he needs school so much, especially the change of school. It’ll be great for him and he’s really excited about it. I honestly never thought I’d use the words “Eliot, Excited and School” in the same phrase. There ya go!

On the subject of school, I’ve just added a bit of information about school reports when moving from UK to Portugal. It’s neither gospel or exhaustive (different schools have different interpretations and levels of jobsworths, unfortunately) but it’s a very definite guide based on our and others’ experiences. If it helps someone, it’ll be worth the type up.

We’ve had a fairly uneventful summer really. Not too many visitors and pretty much just sunny weekends and working weekdays (with the occasional** obligatory trip to the Marina for a “business meeting”, of course).

Tapas at The Lighthouse on the Marina

A quick trip to Meia Praia beach

Lazing around by the local pool


Apart from back-to-school (can I get a “woohoo!”?), we do have a few other things to look forwards to too. At the beginning of October, I’m visiting my little sister in England for her birthday so that’s nice for us both! When I return from the UK, my Mum and Rod are flying back out here to Portugal for 8 days, so we’re all looking forwards to that also. Oh, and before I go, we have friends coming to the Algarve for a few weeks, so we’ll hopefully get to see them once or twice, which is always lovely.

By the time Mum and Rod go back, it’ll be mid-October! How the heck does it get to be two months until Christmas so soon? Good thing I’ve started Christmas shopping or it’d be homemade ginger cookies all round!

** in the loosest sense of the word.

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