It’s the rainy season in Portugal, which may have something to do with why we haven’t posted anything this year. They fooled us when we first came to the country last year because the season was unusually mild. Of course, that was all part of a drought that covered most of southern Europe, which in turn led to those terrible wildfires last summer. So, I guess we’re better off this way. Nevertheless, our brains have gotten waterlogged or something, because we’ve been unable to do anything but hunker down, watch TV, and hide under our blankets.
On several days we’ve had complete whiteouts, the rain so heavy it formed a solid screen covering our vision. Sometimes it tricks us — stops for awhile, the sun comes out in all that spectacular brilliance unique to Portugal. The birds start up, it gets warm. Then, just when the rain seems done with, the dark clouds swoop down and it starts again.
One day last week, Barbara and I went to our swimming pool right next door. We can see it from our veranda right below us, the glass wall faces us so we can tell before going over there whether anyone’s in the water or not. On this particular day, we no sooner walked outside before it started a downpour. In the five minutes it took us to walk there, we were completely soaked. “Oh sure,” you say, “you’re complaining about getting wet when going to a swimming pool.” But we hadn’t counted on having to wear drenched clothing back home when we were done.
In the rainy season, which has lasted about eighteen months so far this year, it can start off bright and sunny and then by two o’ clock a gray curtain has descended everywhere you look. Time to get inside because it’s about to get very very wet.
We lie awake at night listening to the rain pounding on the roof. I swear the raindrops must be the size of wrecking balls. Here, it doesn’t rain cats and dogs; it’s more like taxicabs and refrigerators. On the other hand, I take comfort we’re on the ninth floor. In the dark of night, I imagine that everyone below the seventh floor is completely submerged. They probably have to wear SCUBA gear to bed.
Meteorology is a pretty accurate science in Portugal, unlike most everything else. Probably because it’s a small country. In the USA, It’s hard to predict what will happen in your area, since the weather pattern is forming two thousand miles away. It can change all kinds of ways before it gets to you. In Portugal, the weather report doesn’t come in until it’s almost on your doorstep.
Having an accurate forecast is important in a country with a deluge almost every day for three months. You want to know when it’ll start and when it’ll stop. Just out of frustration we play this game of chicken in which we go out, maybe down to the river to touch base, pick up a few things at the grocery store — planning our trip to get back just when the weather report says it’s supposed to start raining. There’s about a half-hour fudge factor in the prediction, so we’re betting on getting back just in time. Like the man said, some we win, some we lose and some get rained out.
On a recent afternoon, we came out of a supermarket that’s a bit of a hike from us but we go to because they have things none of the others do. So, we were pretty loaded down with backpacks and tote bags. We walked out under direct and blinding sunlight, and guess what? It started to pour before we had gotten ten steps. We lucked out on that one because the bus going to our neighborhood was sitting right at the curb. We jumped on and settled in since it didn’t leave for another twenty minutes — but we were DRY!
You’ve seen photos of those kinky European clotheslines all the apartments buildings have. That’s because there are no clothes dryers in private homes here. Even people who could easily afford them do their washing at home and then take the wet laundry to laundromats to use the dryers while they sit and drink coffee on Sunday afternoons. Barbara’s gone a little psycho about the laundry since we now have to hang everything indoors and it takes 2 days for it to dry. It’s best for me if I don’t mention the effect of the humidity on her curly hair.
The other thing about this season is the cold. They don’t have central heating to speak of in Portugal, and the buildings are pretty much all made of concrete. Added to the damp kind of cold in this climate and it can feel pretty uncomfortable even in the low fifties (F).
We’ve discovered there’s a whole different winter wardrobe the Portuguese wear. That is, outdoor clothing for indoor use. We’d heard about people wearing knit caps and gloves indoors; in the past couple months, we’ve seen the proof when they open their windows to hang the laundry out. Of course, that was before the relentless rain.
We’ve learned a lot about space heaters in the past few months. We went shopping for them after the first cold snap when we got tired of walking around the apartment wearing every item of clothing we owned. Bought a couple and cranked them up. It wasn’t enough, we were still suffering. So, out we went to get a couple more. Still not enough.
In the process we were learning the differences in types of heaters and what we needed. The little blowers are pretty much useless. There are significant differences in types of radiant heaters, so we wasted our money on the first couple of those. Those with thermostats are the way to go. All in all, we bought about fifty of the darn things. By the time we finally began to feel comfortable in our own home, the coldest part of the season was over. Looks like we’ll just have to wait and try again next year.
Supposedly, places like Scandinavia and Seattle,Washington have the highest suicide rates because of their bad weather. Frankly, Portugal is also pretty depressing after three months of this. Everyone says the end of March holds the magic date when it stops raining. We certainly hope so. Otherwise, we might be booking flights out of here.
There are some really good deals to Sweden. It can’t possibly be any worse.