I’m an old romantic me. I am a gazer at starlit skies, a lover of flowers, a cryer when one of those songs comes on the radio unexpectedly, a weeper at happy endings, a believer in fate.
Do you believe in fate?
I didn’t used to. I think I had my belief in the mystical educated out of me. But as I’ve got older and things have happened, I know life is magic.
The reason I’ve got all reflective is because I’m having my bathroom re-done. I have asked if the tiles can taken off the wall intact so I can keep them. They are pretty tiles, but it’s not so much that as what they represent.
Many years ago we lived in Portugal, in Cascais near Lisbon. My husband had been sent over there to work, so myself and our two daughters followed.
We were very lucky – not only because Cascais is a beautiful place but the three years we spent there allowed us to breathe. To look up and see what life could be like. You know how you get when you’re younger – everything is about work and getting your life on track, and bringing up your children. For a few years we had our heads down and just worked to build foundations for the future. But the foundations never seem firm enough, do they, so you just keep trying to make them more solid.
Then we were allowed three wonderful years in a gorgeous little jewel of a town by the sea, with cobbled streets, beaches, bars, restaurants and big, big skies.
We learned to enjoy ourselves again. We learned to live without constant pressure, and appreciate doing things rather than having things. So, the plan was, when we returned to the UK, we wouldn’t try to buy the most expensive house we could afford, we would buy a more modest one, and use our money to enjoy our lives, do things as a family, and enjoy every day as it came.
That was the idea.
When we were finally told we had to come back, I did not take it well. I loved my life and really did not want to return to the real world at all. We lived in a house with terraces and balconies and a lemon tree in the garden. The lady over the road used to iron outside in her pyjamas under the shade of her pomegranate tree, and we could hear the constant roar of the Atlantic from every room. The family next door owned an alsation called Elvis, and I had learned to speak Portuguese. We were not the same people who had left for Cascais three years before. The way we saw life had changed. And I didn’t want to give it up.
And I was being very childish about it.
We had intended to rent somewhere when we came back, but on our visit home to look around schools, we checked out a few new housing estates.
And we came upon this house. The house we live in now. The one that is about to have a new bathroom. An ordinary, modern house on a small estate. Nothing special. And instead of the constant movement of the sea all we could hear was the roar of the nearby road. We looked around. It seemed fine. I was underwhelmed, but prepared to put a small deposit down just to keep the rest of the family happy.
But as far as I was concerned, our time in paradise was coming to an end and I was desolate.
We went up to the sales office to do the paperwork, and I whiled away the time going through the various tile patterns available. Our house already had all the carpets and tiles installed, but in Portugal I had taken up tile painting and was always looking for new ideas.
I flicked through in a desultory way until I found the pattern that was in in our bathroom. The pattern was called – Estoril. What a coincidence: Estoril was next to Cascais. We used to go for a Sunday morning coffee and amble round the little park in front of the casino with our daughters.
Estoril in the bathroom, I thought. How funny…I continued to flick through until I came upon the pattern which was in our kitchen. It was called Cascais. Cascais. The place I had fallen in love with and was being dragged away from. Cascais in our kitchen, Estoril in our bathroom. Then I got mildly freaked out, now I want to cry just thinking about it.
It was at that point that gave in. Obviously that was supposed to be our house. I mean, what would you think?Of all the houses on all the estates in our little town, we had to walk into that one!
It transpired that the salesman had chosen the carpets and tiles. He was an astronomer and often went to the Algarve to stargaze…another gazer at stars…and loved Portugal.
So, we moved back. We settled back as best we could into our lives. Our families lived hundreds of miles away – so it was just the four of us plus our two new kittens in our house with the Portuguese tiles.
Then eight months later my husband got diagnosed with cancer, ten months later he died. So there were just the five of us – me, my girls, and our two cats in the house with Estoril in the bathroom and Cascais in the kitchen.
And its no longer an ordinary modern house. It’s the place we were supposed to be.
Its time to move on. The tiles have to come off because the bathroom is not functioning – otherwise they would be there forever! But I’m going to keep as many of them as I can, and use them for something else. And when i finally have to move on, they are coming with me. And the Cascais tiles too.
That’s why I believe in fate.