April is indeed the cruellest month. I wonder what T.S. Eliot would have thought of the first lines of his most famous poem being presented as a Facebook status. That is where I last read the poet’s opening lines, and was hence reminded of The Wasteland, a book I read once through a few years ago, and didn’t really understand. Probably time I return to it with more care and attention. I think poetry is the art I find most difficult, even music, in spite of my ignorance on the subject, I seem to find easier to ‘get’.
Portugal is a land of poets, and this April the Douro valley seems fit to act as muse to one writing about the sad things in life. The chill, the drizzle that can’t quite make up its mind to turn into rain and so makes the use of an umbrella seem silly, the deep greens, the low-lying clouds (or is it high-lying mist?) following the curves of the river. Not being a poet I can’t turn the uncomfortable physical facts into lyrical metaphysicality. The cold, numb tips of my fingers remain just that, and only make it harder to type. The house has no heating, and the boiler isn’t working, but I am grateful for warm clothes, mugs of freshly brewed tea, and log fires – luxuries whatever the circumstances.
This visit to the north frames my first month living in Portugal. You hardly need to be a meteorologist to know that down south it’s warmer, but even a month ago when I was here it didn’t feel this cold, or perhaps it was the bursts of soft yellow from the mimosa trees warming things up. I arrived Thursday night, on the coach from Lisbon, and travelled with many others and their dispersive plans for the Easter weekend. The main reason for my trip was to see my dentist uncle who looks after my braces (it felt ridiculous to have braces at 30, but so many adults have them in Portugal, it must be the fashion). That duty done, I went to see my grandmother, who said I looked so-so, and then entertained me and herself with stories about family members represented in old photographs - a recent discovery of hers – which she keeps displayed around her room and stored in boxes and albums.
My pretensions to a certain degree of luxury insisted that I spend the night at Casa da Eva rather than at my grandmother’s, and in spite of my house’s shortcomings, it still feels more comfortable, although it might just be the comfort of solitude. One of my cousins and her friend gave me a lift here, while I bored them with my tales of woe about how hard it has been to find employment in Lisbon. Their response was surprisingly stiff-upper-lip, which was probably the metaphorical cold shower I needed to shut up and get on with it.
In the winery I found my cousin Francisco (Terrus enologist) and his brother To Zé sorting out their own wine Aneto. Decanting Aneto 2008 from wood barrels to metal ones to be bottled soon, washing the wood barrels out and filling them with Aneto 2009, the water and the wet enhancing the miserable weather outside.
[N.B. I am having some trouble with my images, but I shall upload some as soon as I solve the problem.]