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A letter from the Alentejo

A LETTER FROM THE ALENTEJOHad Booster and flu jab today.  Isn’t it wonderful how they don’t hurt nowadays? Or do we get more leathery as we get older? I remember a jab in Nigeria in ‘78, bloody thing as long as yr arm and half as wide …  

The affair today took hours, but I got the Booster and the Flu jab so that was a success. 45 minutes outside, (a small mercy it wasn’t raining), and then it was going to be another hour and a half inside an ice-box and I’d forgotten to wear my jersey, had no book, (should have known better), and no coverage for the phone. But, Lady Luck was on my side and they made a mistake, calling me 45 minutes early! Wicked! I suggested that it wasn’t my turn, but the “Matron” insisted so into the cubicle I bolted before the 30 people in front of me realised. Sure enough they cottoned on quick enough, but by then I was in and too much trouble to pry me out again. Can’t expect an ex Despatch rider to miss that opportunity.

Then it was only another half hour and on to a meeting with the Câmara. 

I’ve finally started calling them out. 

One and a half years waiting for the last meeting, and promised the minutes so we could continue the process of legalising the existant structures of our home, about 100 mts sq still outstanding.

This official planning process is at least 17 years old, an offshoot of a previous planning process that was partially concluded after 18 years, so an on-going process of 35 years and counting. 

Anyway, six weeks waiting for minutes of the meeting that took 18 months to take place, despite an email every week reminding them we’re waiting for the minutes. This on top of three separate trips of 90 kms each, 270 kms in total and three mornings “wasted” for the sole result of a promise of an email the same day that we’re still waiting for three weeks later. 

The problem is that we’re in “The Difficult Pile”. 

The primary root of the affair is that the Câmara officially confirmed prior to purchase - and have re-confirmed over the years - that we could be here in a legal building … but they failed to get the Regional Planning Board to acquiesce back in ‘87. 

Now we have this extra 100 mts and the permission for it to exist legally has to be given by the RPB which is referring the Câmara back to their previous judgement of ‘87 and saying “Não!” again. 

By all rights we should’nt be here, but here we are, we’re an asset to the deprived interior and they, the Câmara, want us here. 

There is a way, but no-one wants to take responsibility for pushing the button, a hangover if ever there was one to the evil effects of the Salazar years reaching their icy fingers down the years.

A couple of days ago I responded to a post the President published on Facebook. He was praising the connection of the Alentejo via an underwater fibre-optic cable with S. America. I commented that it was no earthly use having a connection with S. America if emails to the 45 km distant Câmara remained unacknowledged for six weeks in a process that has been on-going for 35 yrs. 

Whaddya know, I got a response this morning!

He said he’d look into it. 


 “I’ve got a picture like that - hang on, that IS my picture, I’m sure of it!” However, I played it safe with this visit to them this morning, brandishing his reply on my phone.

Things moved. Rather than having to wait 30 minutes to be seen down came Patsy within 5 minutes full of apologies and expressions of misunderstandings, and now, at last, I have a written confirmation of a date and time with certain named participants, (the President, the Councillor responsible and the Chief architect), for which I am truly grateful. 

Of course there’s many a slip, but at least we have something concrete … maybe.

Then, on the way, on a road I seldom use, I noticed a huge great roadside placcard that looked oddly familiar. As I whizzed past I thought, “I’ve got a picture like that - hang on, that IS my picture, I’m sure of it!” So I parked the car and walked back up the hill and there, up on the rhs, was my name.

I had no idea - I offered them a selection of pictures for free months ago as they’re a local organisation fighting to have a say in the environmental decision making process hereabouts.

These decisions include water resource management, currently solely in the hands of big Agro. This ridiculous fox and chicken-pen arrangement is combined with a 40% loss due to poor management and maintenance of the canals leading from the main reservoir to the coast.

During the summer 400 lts per second is wasted, 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week, slightly less in the winter. However, enough is used even during the winter that the recent rain has failed to see a single mm rise in level.

Added to which we can see, every day, right in front of our noses, climate change in action. It simply doesn’t rain like it used to.

We’re now into January with the lake level currently at 42% max - though it must be less as wash-in deposits since its construction over 50 years ago must be substantial, but are an unknown, (and therefore unaccounted), quantity. 

Got carried away … where was I? Oh yes, I had no idea this placcard was planned. I’m well chuffed. It was a lovely surprise.

Then it was back home to dig out a new rodding access point for the kitchen soakaway, a stinky job that Paul, a mate staying the winter, attacked with admirable gusto, thank heavens. Jobs like that are so much easier with two of us. 

Then, for me it was a nice soak and for Paul a struggle with an enormous splinter … and so to bed.


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