Alternative festivities, but not that alternative.

Time for some ‘artyness’.

25th December 2020

Portimão Marina, Portugal

The story of the modern Christmas usually includes conspicuous consumption, excessive consumerism fuelled by the marketing machine of 1st world economies. Those marketing machines sell the idea of eating yuletide logs in front of roaring fires while sheltering from the crisp cold after opening present after present. On Ruffian we’ve welcomed the festive period by shunning the marketing machines, basking in the sunshine, working tirelessly on Ruffian and getting close to nature.

The normal festive season would have us freezing cold and partaking in activities that conclude with either a warm shower or a hot fire. Instead of those cold activities the paddle boards were launched. The flat water of Portimão masked the rolling seas that bashed into the breakwater outside the harbour and so with confidence brimming Paul, from Calista, and Iain took a punt to head offshore. Their confidence quickly ebbed and it reached the low limits of their capabilities as the first of the surf rolled under them. Suddenly the flat waters father inshore looked much more interesting than the white foamy, choppy waters ‘outside’.

The sunny, non-festive, non-cold activities continued as we walked on beaches, scooted to deserted shores on Brock, took in sunsets and climbed through impossibly thin tunnels under the cliffs. The skies above us were pure blue during the day and black as soot at night. Those soot black skies held a secret that’s not been seen for around 400 years and we were lucky enough to see it.

In the middle of that inky black sky lay 2 shining beacons. Saturn and Jupiter were very close together and looking down on us, forming the Christmas Star, or star of Bethlehem. We marvelled at the rings that surrounded Saturn and felt tiny when we thought that Jupiter is 318 times bigger than the earth.

Those little lights in the sky were not the only beacons to be seen on Ruffian. Iain had been working tirelessly on the deck, chipping off the old treadmaster, glue and paint painful mm by painful mm, making the marina hum to the sound of ever finer sandpaper, revealing a deck that was asking for a fresh coat of deck paint. There was light at the end of his tunnel.

The march of time was making the festive season get closer and closer and we (ahem Iain) finally succumbed to its pleasures. In the age of social distancing Portimão town, had literally, gone to town on lighting everything that could be lit. Along every street we found majestic buildings framed by lights, shining baubles the size of houses, and fountains that played games in the reflections. The rule seemed to be that if it didn’t move you put lights on it and if it did move, you stopped it and put lights on it.

Finally, the big festive day was upon us, but we were not beholden to conspicuous consumption or excessive consumerism. We were heading for the hills, getting far from people and trying to disappear into the splendour of nature, and we were not alone in this escapade, Calista were also hip to our non-festive activity.

As we scaled the hills the majesty of nature unfolded far in front of us and under foot. The distant hills bristled with lush green vegetation while the ground we stood on oozed mushrooms and toadstools. For all the moisture, babbling brooks and charming villages we could have been in the depths of Wales or Dartmoor.

Returning to Ruffian the festivities suddenly got into full swing. Fiona opened her main present and we were off to the beach to play Frisbee (Yes Iain really did buy Fiona a Frisbee) and then it was onto Calista for a special dinner involving no Turkey, no bread sauce, no sprouts, no crackers and no silly jokes.

We’ve tried our hardest to avoid conspicuous consumption and excessive consumerism but still found festive spirit in those around us and in the splendour of nature from the amazing beaches with their sunsets to the hills with their towering trees.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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