Portugal: the October fires and an update on my life.

I thought it was probably time I updated readers here and on Facebook about the October fires in Portugal and our personal disaster.
Anyone who follows me on Dreamwidth or LiveJournal need not read the LiveJournal material – skip to the text below the link.
Rather than writing everything all over again I’m giving a link to my posts on LiveJournal. I left those unlocked so that people who don’t use social media could visit them. I locked the similar ones on DW because that’s where I chat with most of my close online friends and I didn’t want them to feel suddenly in the ‘public’ eye. There are three long posts, all uploaded on the same date.


Since then, we’ve had the full insurance pay-out plus some compensation for the fruit trees, though that’s on hold until they see which (if any) have survived, in the spring. We are still bringing things home, or at least my husband is. There’s a limit to how much weight he can get in the van on each trip. He is taking stuff out for people there and acting as a one way courier is helping to pay for the travel, which, of course, insurance doesn’t cover!
I don’t go with him because he stays in an apartment which belongs to a friend who is in America. The apartment has bottled gas and running water but no light, and no adequate heating. Certainly no hot water unless he boils a kettle. However, for him, it’s a cheap and convenient option.

It’s been five months now, and I have been in a state of shock, and was unable, at first, to write. All thoughts led back to the disaster, which skewed everything and made normal writing impossible. It also impacted on my social interactions with people both online and offline. I was unable to stop talking about it and felt I should retreat rather than impose my emotions on others. Recently, things have improved and I have been able to start writing again. I have fewer nightmares and my sleep patterns are settling. Someone pointed out that because everything is still in a state of flux I have no real closure, so the disaster has remained and remains very current for me.

Our UK house is in chaos with boxes everywhere – our own, and deliveries for my husband’s next trip. We had, of course, replaced our furniture and now have to decide what to keep, what to move around, and what to dispose of. The boxes, as well as containing books and china, tend to have a liberal sprinkling of rat dirt, wasps nests and ash. Not pleasant! And most of the time I’m on my own. Not easy!

Needless to say, it’s more difficult than that for many of our friends in Portugal (a mixture of Portuguese, English, Dutch and Belgian). Internet and phone contact is still erratic and I can only guarantee contacting my husband on the days he goes into town to see the council or the estate agent. Some of our friends are rebuilding. Some are looking elsewhere. Some are trying to keep their businesses going while the area gets back on its feet. So I’m living through all that vicariously as well as through our own problems.

There are ‘trivial’ problems, too. We have had to employ someone to remove trees that are still standing from our land, though we are not allowed to remove olives. The electricity was, of course, cut off, and we are not being charged, but the electricity board refuses to believe that there are still live wires which are in fact making part of the ruin live. We need electricity, to filter the pool which was undamaged but filled with ash. We are thinking of solar panels. The banks – in Portugal and UK – are making a fuss about moving our insurance money from one country to another and we have to prove we are not money laundering. With no phone service everything needs a trip into town. The road to town and the longer road to the border were badly damaged and repaired too quickly so are now miles and miles of potholes.

I have just read a novel set in Portugal (and have reviewed it here, separately from my monthly reviews) that made me feel a lot of emotion connected with the countryside there. But as well as triggering some distress it made me acknowledge that it is still a lovely country and its people are worthy of admiration, not least for the way they have coped with the tragedy of last October.

The photograph at the head of this is the view from what was our house. Now, we have a view and a ruin for sale.

I don’t believe in ghosts, but…



One of my writer friends posted a true ghost story of her own for Halloween so I thought I’d apologise for my long (inadvertent) absence by doing the same thing.

She presents her story very simply and leaves it to her readers to decide whether or not there is or was anything supernatural going on.https://louiselyonsauthor.com/2016/10/30/creepy-halloween-true-story/

My own story is similar in that I know there are all kinds of subconscious effects that might well have influenced what I am about to tell you. I am not a believer in any kind of afterlife but I do think there are a lot of unexplained things in the world. One day, some of them will be better understood.

A few years ago we went on a long trip that took us from Harwich in UK to Hamburg in Germany and then along the Baltic coast into Poland until we reached the eastern border. We alternated between camping and staying in small hotels or B&Bs. At the border we turned inland and decided to visit the Wolf’s Lair, Hitler’s military headquarters on the ‘eastern front’ where he planned a lot of his campaigns. At the time, I knew very little about it, being more familiar with Berchtesgaden in Bavaria and the V1 and V2 launch complexes in northern France.

We found ourselves booking to stay on the campsite inside the complex. This meant we got the campsite ‘free’ as part of our ticket and could explore the site before the main tourist influx in the morning, both of which benefits appealed. However, once we had registered, the gates were locked and we were stuck with the bar etc. they provided. We could have walked out of the site but the car was effectively imprisoned overnight. The nearest village was quite a distance and of course we had no idea whether it would be worth the walk. It wasn’t a particularly good campsite (inadequate hot water) but we settled down after eating at the bar. Poor food but we didn’t starve. I still knew nothing about the place other than the fact that it existed.

During the night I awoke several times, aroused by noise. I am virtually certain I was actually awake and not dreaming, though I have no such certainties about the actual source of the noise. There were two types of noise. One was very loud barking by a group of dogs – large breeds judging by the pitch of the sound. The other was the noise of trains, arriving, slowing, stopping, and then leaving. Neither sound was accompanied by anything else – no ‘visuals’ and nothing to suggest any kind of story. Nor did I hear any kind of conversation.

In the morning, I complained about the dogs and we realised that there were none on the site and that the nearest farm was too far away for me to have heard their dogs so clearly under any kind of weather conditions. As we walked around the site I saw rail tracks and thought fleetingly that they might explain the trains. But they were overgrown with grass and ended at the border of the complex. There were no railways in use anywhere near the site.

I read about the site and how it was used later, both on the way round through the explanations at each of the ruins, and in booklets we bought and were given. Yes, there were guard dogs, and yes, there were trains. I suppose I might have thought of both in advance but neither were things I would necessarily have associated with headquarters of this kind. Most of my reading had suggested Hitler’s staff travelled by car and that guards would have been soldiers. It was only when we learnt how massive the headquarters was that I realised that the dogs and trains made sense. And that only happened when we toured the complex after a broken night’s sleep.

A nice finishing touch to the experience was seeing and hearing a (very live) raven sitting on a tree opposite the ruins of Hitler’s bunker. He seemed to be expressing an avian opinion of the entire thing.

You can see photos and information about the site here: http://www.thirdreichruins.com/wolfschanze.htm

We took a lot of photographs (including one of the raven) but at the time did not have digital cameras. Rather than trying to find old albums and scanning in pictures I have merely used and photoshopped one of my more recent photographs of summer trees. My abiding memory of the site is of trees encroaching, softening, and eventually hiding all evidence of this ‘wolf’s lair’.

Ghost noises? I have no idea! I just know I heard them.