I’ve been a bit quiet lately but there’s a good reason for that…
I’ve been on a writer in residence scheme which allowed me to write every waking moment (but only if I wanted to): I set my schedule and my goals. My time was my own. I could sit outside under a Portuguese sun and read or dream or people watch in the shade of palm trees. Across a green and pleasant square was a market bursting with fresh fruit and vegetables and, when I didn’t want to cook, there were numerous restaurants serving roasted cod and baby octopus, tender pork and prawn, black pudding and garlic-rich rice, orange drenched sponges and cream filled cakes and things that I didn’t recognise when I ordered them and still couldn’t name after I cleared my plate. The river Tagus was five minutes away and Lisbon a 20 minute ferry ride. It was heaven.
A selfie taken by mistake while listening to fado music in Lisbon
I thought I would be in a solitary paradise but I shared a luxury two bedroom, two bathroom flat with a gifted writer from Ireland. We bonded within minutes of meeting over a cup of tea when we discovered a mutual love of Barry’s. It is a little known fact that the Irish have a way with tea. We not only drink it in vast quantities, we also have a talent for blending it and Barry’s is the best…and I had brought a stash with me.
And then my students arrived. After breakfasting together on freshly squeezed orange and toasted sandwiches at a local cafe, we worked from 10am to 5pm. With such a small group, it was a wonderful opportunity to tailor-make the course to suit the individual needs of each student and what a talented, interesting lot they were. Stories poured out of them. They did everything I asked and more… they came up with striking ideas and expressed them in language that sang on the page, they shared work, took risks with their writing, made mistakes, and wrote some more. There was a lot of laughter and sunshine. There was a lot of good food and a reasonable amount of wine too…
It wasn’t all work. There were opportunities to visit Lisbon
And there was a day trip to an extraordinary city in southern Portugal. Évora is full of Roman ruins and well-preserved medieval houses. History is around every corner and it has more than its fair share of beautiful churches. In one, covered floor to ceiling in 18th century blue and white tiles, we found an exhibition of designer wedding dresses.
It was a memorable stay in Portugal and it’s going to happen all over again next April. I’ve fallen in love with a place and a country and a way of teaching. If you would like to be part of it you can book HERE