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So, just so you know….

The new place.

That town name really is “St John of the Little Blacks” although there’s a rumour that in the Beja version of Portuguese that really means “Elm Trees”.

We faced a couple of interrelated problems. We wanted a garden. But a house in town with a garden isn’t really a Portuguese thing. Townhouses are like Bath – they’re townhouses. And everyone, historically and still to a large extent, has access to the countryside in Granny’s country cottage etc. But we didn’t want to be out in the country, we wanted walking distance to fresh milk, bread, and that quick and common snack meal, the bitoque (minute steak, fried egg, chips, rice, small salad, costs €7/€8 anywhere in the country). We’d, previously, been in the country with 4 bedrooms and a garden, but country without the walking distance. We’d also more recently been in town in a flat, big one, no garden.

We wanted what this country does really do, the suburban desres that is.

Interrelated, we didn’t have as much money as we thought, expected or wanted. The flat didn’t sell well – but then another way of looking at this is that a flat you cannot actually bear to live in has a near zero value, so anything above that is a bonus.

To gain our compromise – all is tradeoffs, as we know – we had to accept living out in the boonies of the Alentejo. So we’re on the last line before the country of a 2k people town, a house with a garden, outbuildings etc. A 5k people town is 10km away, the regional capital (25k people) 40km. But we’re “in town” in that milk, bread and bitoque sense.

Which is the best we could do – looking forward to completion (and the writing of a large cheque) next week…..

#Now the game is to find some €15k of work from somewhere so that I can extend that pool to proper swimming length…..

35 thoughts on “So, just so you know….”

  1. In 2005 or so I put a large six figure sum into a plan to develop a golf course in the Alentejo, probably a bit noorth of where you are.

    I say I put it in, I lent it to my mate, unsecured, as seed capital for the whole thing, which he was putting together with a very well connected Lisbon architect (I was one of a number of investors).

    We got flown out there and shown the land, which was a vast farm on a rolling plateau, with some dilapidated farm buildings which you could see were going to make a lovely club house etc.

    Beautiful. Perfect for a golf course (and I fucking hate golf).

    Just one thing: water.

    I pointed out to my mate that everything was dry as tinder and golf courses need water.

    They never did solve this problem.

    It took me a while to get the money back, and we’re no longer mates.

    Looks like there’s a supply near you though Tim.

  2. Image without huge bloody sticker across it.

    5 Bedroom with 4 toilets (presume at least master and second bedroom are ensuite?)

    Seems spacious enough with lots of exterior buildings for either conversion into additional rooms, office space or just workspace.

    Is the garage big enough to fit a modern car, though? difficult to gauge the width?

  3. minute steak, fried egg, chips, rice, small salad, costs €7/€8 anywhere in the country

    Don’t tell the “Chicken King”.

  4. Looks good! Plenty of space, a pool and enough lawn for a ride on mower. All for the price of a 3 bed semi in Ormskirk….

  5. We have an answer for him too. The stadard takeaway in this country is “frango piri piri” – essentially a Nandos. For €7/8 again.

  6. ‘That town name really is “St John of the Little Blacks” although there’s a rumour that in the Beja version of Portuguese that really means “Elm Trees”.’

    Even so, I’d check out the local crime stats.

  7. It looks like some of the stuff where I am, a farmhouse that has gradually sold off land which has been built on leaving the farmhouse in its own nice little island.

  8. Hope you’re happy there, Tim. But not for me. I prefer one end of the two extremes. Either the middle of nowhere where there aren’t any neighbours to annoy. Or the centre of city where they accustomed to putting up with most anything. Anywhere with even a whiff of suburbia sends cold shivers down my spine. I do sometimes regret leaving my final UK res, 10 minutes stroll from Mayfair. This city on its overdeveloped coast has all the sophistication of Butlins. But Madrid’s not much better.
    Indeed, the Brits do like their piri-piri. Personally, we stick with the churrasqueiras. There’s a great one in Loule.
    On the water thing. Currently here in short supply. For the last month the mains pressures being turned down from 10pm to 7am to encourage conservation. Not a problem to me. My gaff’s close to the beach at sea level. And the building has a pump enhances pressure at the taps. But the suburbs at higher elevations essentially go dry.
    It is indeed a drought. There wasn’t much rain the last two winters & this winter I doubt we had 5 days. Much is being made of Climate Change™!!! But ever since I’ve lived here the rivers have essentially dry at the point they reach the sea. All the rainfall’s captured in the reservoirs, up country. Which are now nearly empty.
    Thing is, if you actually look at the climate records, the recent past isn’t particularly unusual. This place is semi desert. We’ve a real one up the road. It’s because it’s overdeveloped for the long term supply of water. It was always going to happen, it’s just happens to have happened now. And they are still developing. There’s another new urbanisation going up on the hills behind the coast. I’m really starting to think this place isn’t sustainable. And I’m certainly not of the Spanish mentality & going to wait for Dio to intervene. Enthusiastic God-bothering or not. So fuck-off planning is well underway. Probably Salvador de Bahia in Brasil. At least they have water there. And decent food & entertainment.

  9. @BiS – Spain’s building on semi-desert and blaming climate change for droughts reminds me of the UK propensity to build on flood plains and blame climate change for flooding.

    I googled Salvador de Bahia in Brasil. Got a few articles warning about safety for travellers! I know you’re not exactly wet behind the ears, but even so….

  10. Looks nice, Tim. Good road connections too, with the A2 quite close. An easy trip to Lisbon or the Algarve.

    Do you get to keep the pool table (if you’re into that)?

    The commentariat assumes you’ve checked the interweb pipes . . .

  11. @Marius
    I’m a Londoner. Lots of people, plus a wealth gradient equals crime*. It’s normal. One can regard it as added entertainment. And stay away from areas blighted with tourists.
    My other half’s Bahiana from the favela of Salvador. We’re going home.

    *Algarve Portugal. My cousin has a house at Val Do Lobos. Possibly the most expensive place on that coast. It got turned over while we were there. But. Widely separated detached houses. No proper fences. Glass patio doors with no internal locks. No bars on windows. No automatic lighting. No alarm system. I wouldn’t live like that. I don’t expect everywhere to be the Home Counties suburbia of the 50’s.
    Post event conversation with the captain(?) of police at the local nick about crime. House invasions. Family members being held hostage whilst one is escorted to the an ATM. Even incidents of torture. (Tim might remember about one?) Copper’s suggestion was get a gun. Cuz’s response was “What happens if I shoot someone?” Copper “You’re not going to tell us are you?”
    Here it’s pussycatsville. Odd argument between Russians using automatic weaponry. But at least you can walk around town at 3am without continually looking over your shoulder. I couldn’t do that in most of London.

  12. Bloke in the Fourth Reich

    I am with BiS, but have lived a form of tolerable suburban compromise for some time now. Given the money, I can see the reason people would have a house in London and another in the boondocks.

    It looks like you have the nicest house in town, so beware of natives taking it out on those incoming forriners pushing prices up.

    Enjoy your new pad!

  13. Stay away from crowds. Build relationships with the right neighbours. Live in property with plenty of clear ground between you and your wall.

  14. Pool table. So, we’re sporting out what stays, what goes. I say “If it’s nailed to the wall, it stays, if it can be picked up, it goes”. So, fridge goes, oven and hob stays etc.

    “But what about the pool table?” says the Missus evacuating.

    “Well, I don’t mind, do you want it to stay?”


  15. I think I remember you mentioning grandsprogs, so they’ll probably love that. And the arcade games . . .
    And the complex layout with multiple entrances and nooks and crannies, and the pool and places to hide . . .

  16. Moving a pool table is tricky, worth getting someone who knows what they are doing to help out. It’s one reason they sell cheaply second hand as you have to pay someone to take them apart properly and move them and reassemble them

  17. Pool is something I try to stay away from. Or rather try & stay away from the people who play pool. There’s always a subset to who winning is important. And they’re insufferable if they do & insufferable if they don’t. Better not to suffer them in the first place.

  18. It looks like you have the nicest house in town . . .

    There are posher places but mostly in the Portuguese style of being right against the street, so not as nice for Tim’s needs.

    18 R. Dr. Sousa Branco could be spectacular but needs a shit tonne of money from the looks of it.

  19. Sorry BIS but I cannot help with the water crisis. It is a problem that has been building in Spain for at least the last 50 years. I bought a guide in the late 80s that said that the Guadiana basin was not replenishing and that’s before they started putting polytunnels and golf courses everywhere.

  20. @Diogenes
    I do have this suspicion that things are going to go seriously tits up around here. We’re now going to be going into a tourist season with water use restrictions. And that’s if we get some decent rain before end April. If we don’t, there may not be any. Who in their right mind’s going to take a holiday in a place you have to wash yourself down with a cupful of bottled water? If you’re extra lucky or rich, daily. And tourism’s about 25% of our economy. Damned if I can see a solution. Certainly won’t be desalination plants. I can actually see this place collapsing altogether. I certainly don’t want to be here when it does. Thank heavens I don’t own anything. Money’s portable.
    But as you say, they’ve done it to themselves. Doesn’t surprise me. I really don’t think the Spanish get the hang of second order consequences. Let alone third. They never go on as if they do.

  21. Just thought. Maybe we should take refuge in the shack up in the mountains. We haven’t got mains water but we do get agricultural. Which is basically one of Spain’s premier bottled waters running down a ditch. So we get at it before everybody else. Spring snow run-off comes fizzy with ice crystals in it.

  22. No sense of second order effects, eh?

    Sounds like just the place for that renowned caballero andante, Don Patata de la Ciénaga.

  23. BiS

    It’s not only the Spanish who have problems with second and third order consequences.

    Oz is pushing forward with its noble crusade——-oops jihad to decarbonise its power supply.

    So the Indonesians have built some nice dirty polluting coal burners. And are now undercutting the Australian nickel refining industry.

    WAH, WAH. IT’S NOT FAIR!!!!!!

  24. On the other hand I also suspect he may have been hired as the UK governments economics guru, judging by its policies. How he finds the time’s the question

  25. I can’t get as on board as others in respect of Don Patata, on the basis that I think he’s just telling people what to hear (ie he’s driving nothing, but following, and is thus entirely unimportant other than as a mirror to the times), but I must confess that the idea of the government implementing everything he wants and paying him no credit, nor money, is amusing.

    Obviously I’d rather we had sane people in charge, but imagining the Rumpelstilstkin of Ely stamping holes in his floor is a slight compensation.

  26. Bloke in the Fourth Reich


    Whereabouts is that? It puts into perspective the sprawling luxury 200 sq ft apartments I stay in when in HK.


    Our current regime doesn’t even understand zeroth order consequences.

    Or it does.

    I’m not sure which possibility is more concerning.

  27. @BiS…

    We had a place on the coast not far from Nerja some 40-odd years ago and were amazed to find out that the entire area hadn’t, at that point, had a solitary drop of rain for over 18 months. Water was piped down from the Sierra Nevada in sufficient quantity that there were no shortages but looking at the amount of development that’s occurred in the intervening period it’s no surprise that there are problems.

    Still, I suppose that it’s easier to blame it “the climate catastrophe” (or whatever it’s called this week) rather than inadequate planning.

  28. @BJ
    At Nerja I guess you were getting your water from the reservoir up near Lanjaron rather than the one north of Velez. That’s fed by the river runs through Orgiva, near where I used to live. Carries the snow run-off from Mulhacen, the tallest mountain in Iberia.
    I was first there in 2011 & actually drove down from Valencia through a deluge didn’t stop for a week. The river rose so high it scoured a caravan site away. The following summer you could walk through the same river in a pair of shoes without getting your feet wet. That is the normal. Driving from here to Nerja on the autoroute one passes over a bridge crosses the Rio Seco. Dry River. Get the idea?
    You lived in Nerja did you? Didn’t realise it was a German baronetcy… 🙂

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