Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Positively portugal... the blog post that started it all

First posted in May:

You’ve probably heard. Portugal is having a rough time at the moment. The IMF and the European Union are bailing the country out of a spot of financial difficulty and - all being well - will be providing 78 billion euros of cash to get the country out of a very tight squeeze. If you listen to the Portuguese news, and to the international news for that matter (I heard Jeremy Paxman refer to Portugal and Greece as “feckless Southern European nations,” last night), Portugal is a miserable place to be right now and we should all be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves.

I won’t try to pretend that measures imposed on the country by the IMF will lead to what in Portuguese is called, ” a sea of roses.” It’s going to be tough and there will probably be a lot of hardship. In Portugal this does not mean that some unfortunate people will have to do without a foreign holiday this year, or won’t be able to refurbish the kitchen. What this means is that the huge number of people who already live on less than the minimum wage (485 euros per month) will have to choose whether to pay the rent or eat. Feckless or not the social dangers are very real.

On a beautiful, sunny day in May like today, though, these worries seem a world away. The sun never shines more beautifully than on this glorious corner of Europe. It is a place worth living in for many reasons. The food is fabulous, the people even more so and for every financial negative that can be railed at us there is a non-financial positive.

I, through no fault of my own, am no longer able to get a new mortgage. Because of the financial situation here all the banks seem to have shut up shop to freelancers like me. It will not stop me enjoying my little piece of Portugal, though. The IMF cannot stop the poppies growing in the fields around my house, take away a free afternoon at the beach, ground the peregrine falcons swooping overhead as I drive to the supermarket or stop my neighbours from leaving gifts of fresh vegetables at my door. Portugal is wealthy indeed.

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