All work and no play.

There is something special about formal gardens and marble sculptures in fountains

2nd December 2020

Portimão, Portugal – Portimão Marina, Portugal

All work and no play make jack a dull boy. Now Ruffian is tucked up in a Marina the winter jobs list is being tackled we’re trying not to be dull and mixing work with play.

For months we’re been compiling a winter to do list. This list has stretched pages and pages and whenever we’ve wanted to put off a daily job, onto the winter jobs list it goes and we can then happily tick it off the daily list. Now however it was time to tackle the list get some ticks going. The first thing to get ticked, to enable us to tick off all the sewing jobs, was getting the sewing machine serviced.

Like all things on Ruffian getting the sewing machine serviced was no easy feat. Instead of taking the easy option of a taxi we took a Brompton, a length of rope and a whole heap of bravery. We found that loading 20kg of sewing machine onto the back does nothing but make the Bromptons handling ‘exciting’. If you then mix this with potholed roads, cars trying to escape Portimão due to a lockdown and Garda, complete with guns, primed to enforce the lockdown, you turn the exiting handling into something much more entertaining.

As the clocks around the town struck 1 the weekend lockdown came into effect.* Cars that had plagued the roads were parked and stationary, police who’d been busy ‘educating drivers’ sat silent and bored and this left the Bromptons, now free of their cargo, to scoot the wrong way around roundabouts, through no entry signs, and the wrong way down one way roads. Well this is how Iain took the lack of cars, Fiona however took a different law abiding approach.

Being attached to power gave us access to a luxury that previously we could only have dreamed of. Limitless hot water, produced by our new calorifier, and enabled by a simple flick of a switch. Unfortunately, the flick of that switch produced only luke warm water, disappointment and despondency.

Fiona and Iain took to their usual roles in troubleshooting this sort of problem. Iain got out the screwdriver, took the locker to bits, contorted into all sorts of pain poses and stared menacingly at the calorifier. Fiona however took to the internet, found the manual, watched a couple of videos and then calmy directed Iain. With the simple flick of a swich and the turning of a dial, the calorifier was warming and our investment was worthwhile. This was yet again a case of both brains and brawn working in perfect harmony.

The work continued and pencils were being worn blunt by their list ticking. We cracked on with jobs and got to a big ticket item of engine overhaul. While Iain cracked on with the usual changing of oil and spraying it everywhere and changing of filters and spraying it everywhere Fiona took to a much more challenging job. Making the water pump, pump.

Through bitter experience we’ve learnt that over time a tiny amount of wear on the water pumps cover has a marked impact on its performance and so Fiona took on the job of fairing it smooth. This is the sort of job that makes your soul want to leave your body. Round and round in circles you push the cover on fine 1400 grit wet and dry. Fiona’s fingers become one with the sandpaper and felt fused to the cover as she went around and around. Then finally, after feeling like she’d not been making progress for hours the cover suddenly become smooth, the brass shone and she felt like she’d won a medal.

With all this work we were worried that we were becoming dull and so had to have some play, unfortunately this play also involved a little bit of work. The work centred around getting some dangerous gas and more painfully and indeed more dangerously a visit to IKEA for a new mattress.

As we approached the big blue and yellow store Iain could feel his life force ebbing away, his sense of humour fading and his tolerance of Joe public, which was already famously low, becoming even lower. We played the IKEA maze game, where they lead your around every corner of the store, we then played the ‘search for the illusive product game’, where the product is not in the obvious location and finally, we played the ‘out of stock’ game where everything says the thing you’re looking for is right in front of you except for the reality of the situation.

Seeing IKEA in the rear view mirror and fade into the distance, although unfortunately not the abyss, the play proper could start. Play was going to happen in Estoi and as we walked down an unassuming road and then through an unassuming gate and then along an unassuming path play really started. Infront of us was the hidden palace of Estoi.

Outside the palace every surface with adorned with intricate mosaics, every corner housed some sensational sculpture, and every view of the castle utilised perspective to frame busts in perfect symmetry. Scaling stairs that had seen the feet of the great and the good the formal gardens opened up in front of us. The fountains shielded a naked Venus to save her modesty while cooling the air and watering the surrounding hedges that were so square and so neat they looked man made.

The palace was in a commanding position looking down on the lagoon of Faro and this was exactly why the Romans had also built on this land 2000 years ago. We wandered around the ruins in awe of the huge temple that still stands to this day complete with its mosaic lined plunge pools and intricate walkways. To build something this big, this significant and this timeless is testament to those who lived all those years ago.

Having had a balance of work and play, we don’t feel that we’re being too dull, but with the play complete the work will continue. The winter is really setting in and so we have no excuse but to blunt those pencils and tick off jobs list.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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