Written by Sarah Hendrickx

Lifestyle

Turning Portuguese? Fools with Tools

In her regular column, Sarah Hendrickx shares with us what it’s like living part-time in Portugal. This month she’s been inspired to conjure a cracking new computer game for the middle aged.

Something need strimming? Of course it does, and Sarah's your woman.

Something need strimming? Of course it does, and Sarah’s your woman.

The difference in the price of rural Portuguese property means that we can live in a property where the size of garden we have could only be an affordable reality for us in the UK somewhere really wet. Not only that, but this cheap overseas living has given us life’s greatest luxury, and that is time.

That’s ‘time’; not ‘wine’, although to be fair that’s pretty cheap out here too so we get through a fair whack of that whilst meandering through our ‘estate’ of an evening.

Our new time abundant schedule means that we frequently find ourselves conjuring up many plans for things that we can do on our land. When I say ‘we’, I mean, ‘I’: Keith mostly pooh-poohs my plans on the basis of their total lack of functional purpose.
‘Why do we need a yurt? We don’t want anyone staying with us’.
Darn it, he has a point. How about a compost toilet so we can save our poo and grow vegetables in it?
‘Why would we pop down the garden for a No.2 when we have a perfectly good indoor lavabo’?
Yup, fair enough.

My love and I don’t need to engage in imaginary battles to inflict physical damage on ourselves; we can do that in the normal course of activities in our unruly, drought-ridden garden.

But fear not, for I have found a way to lure him into my world of dreams and schemes: I have discovered that all I need to do is to invent projects that involve the need for a tool. Mr Practical loves a tool. He is especially fond of the pickaxe, which he likes to wield with uncharacteristic manliness (he’s a ginger former software engineer, a rare breed formally identified by their pallor and weedy arms).

My favourite is the strimmer: a loud, vibrating piece of kit which rips shrubbery and anything in its path into oblivion while simultaneously hurling up earth, stones and the odd rock into the operator’s legs. I don’t complain because, if I may confess, I quite like the kudos of the battle scars. It makes me feel like I’m hard and outdoorsy. What a pathetic pair. (I would so beat him in a fight with my weapon of choice, mine involving petrol and spinning blades, his just a stick with a lump of metal on the end.)

“Keith wouldn’t even qualify for a Darwin Award, given to those who kill themselves in the most ridiculous way possible. He couldn’t even manage that.”

In my mind, I see a computer game designed for the as-yet-untapped middle-aged gaming market: World of Horticulture: League of Garden Implements, where a set of aged characters with a variety of ailments, such as lumbago, hearing loss or piles, wage war against each other with garden tools in bloody battles set to a backdrop of an English cottage garden.

Heads are brutally sliced off roses and hedgehogs run for cover (killing a hedgehog is penalised by the loss of your diabetes medication rendering you effectively useless until you can find a slow release carbohydrate snack in the undergrowth).

However, it transpires that my love and I don’t need to engage in imaginary battles to inflict physical damage on ourselves; we can do that in the normal course of activities in our unruly, drought-ridden garden.

Keith and Thor do some damage.

Keith and Thor do some damage.

In the space of a single afternoon a couple of weeks back Keith almost killed himself twice with his trusty pickaxe. I had begun to unsuccessfully dig a hole in our rock hard ground, which Keith, helpfully said he would continue with his beloved pickaxe – he probably calls it Thor and sleeps with it next to him when I’m away.

With his first strike he managed to slice through an underground electric cable somehow failing to electrocute himself. Once he recovered from this near miss, he set off undeterred to dig more holes with ‘Thor’. I heard a scream and turned to see Keith clutching his head. He had attempted to strike the ground but the pickaxe had hit a wall, bounced back and hit him full force on the head with the pointy end.

I immediately envisaged the contents of his skull only being contained by his hands (self-inflicted skull damage would definitely result in additional game points in ‘Stupidity Rating’), wondered who was going to do the washing-up and what a mess that was going to make in the car.

Luckily, no chores by me were necessary: Keith has very thick, fluffy sticky-up hair and this had completely shielded him from the effects of a pickaxe point: not a mark, not a spot of blood. He wouldn’t even qualify for a Darwin Award, given to those who kill themselves in the most ridiculous way possible. He couldn’t even manage that.

His hair, I suppose, will have to be his character’s superpower once I get this gardening game off the ground, unless I sell samples of it for use in the development of armour.  

A couple of days later, I started a course at Portuguese language school. The teacher looked surprised when I asked her the word for pickaxe and where exactly our local hospital is. Health and safety, risk assessments and all that. Time, as they say, is a healer. Too much of it apparently makes some people a liability.

Read all of Sarah’s Portuguese adventures here. 

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Written by Sarah Hendrickx

Sarah Hendrickx is a writer, author, autism specialist and occasional standup comedian. She lives part-time in rural Portugal where she tries to make friends with geckos and grows broad beans. Her book about moving overseas, How to Leave the Country is available on Kindle/e-book. She blogs at www.bicyclesandbiscuits.com.