Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's life, but not as we know it...

Well, here I am, stuck indoors on a fine winter's day where the outside temperature is a chilly 22 degrees or so. The boys and I are housebound today while three guys are outside replacing our front door - well, it's more of a garage door really, with a little side door built-in for pedestrians, and this one should be a nice automatic one I can control from the comfort of my car... so now all I need is the car!

Anyway, I'm actually sitting up in the office watching them on the security monitor and they look like they're about to finish so I'll just pop down and try and talk to them about it in really hopeless portuguese and see if I can learn how it works...

Well, that was easy. We now have a huge white electrically-powered iron wall along the front of our property. I get two different views of it from the external cameras, as well as two views of the driveway and one of the back roof, all from the comfort of my armchair thanks to our high-tech security system. The cameras, by the way, are linked to motion sensors so they record every movement (be it car, bat, wind-blow leaves or, I presume, thief) and record them all on a dedicated hard drive for later perusal.

Added to all that are the following intruder counter-measures... the upstairs windows all have roll-down metal shutters; the back bedroom, because it has access onto the roof, also has a very tasteful metal cage built around it; all the downstairs doors are (of course) alarmed and there are motion sensors in all the rooms. There is a three-foot high electrified fence running right around the top of the entire property and, to cap it all, there is a bullet-proof metal door at the top of the stairs so we can be extra safe while we're asleep.

Oh, and if the alarm ever does go off, the security company will send some people round straight away and they're situated about 500 meters away (because the boss of the company lives just around the corner apparently).

I feel very safe. And important. Let's just hope we never have to need any of it.

And now, because security systems don't make for interesting pictures, here's some photos of the nice colourful plants we have in the garden. Helen can probably tell you what they are, and I'm not going to embarrass myself by having a go, but I do like a nice bit of colour in among all the wires and walls and metal doors!

This is my current favourite. Actually, it's not even planted yet. It was a present from our first (and so-far only) dinner guest - another Economist correspondent called John Parker - who was treated to a fairly uninspiring pasta dish, served on a child's plastic plate, wine in a tiny glass tumbler and chocolate roll on a knapkin. (The rest of our kitchenware should reach us in about six to eight weeks). And all the while during the sumptuous banquet, poor old John was bombarded with an endless stream of monologues about Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Bakugan and 'Plants vs Zombies', the last of which, in case you were unsure, is a computer game. And talking of plants...

This one is James' favourite.

And this one is David's favourite... because it's purple!

And finally, this one was here when we arrived.

Click on them and you can see them up close... go on, you can almost smell them...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Here at last

After a year of thinking about it, planning it, dreading it, looking forward to it and organising it, we've finally done it.

We said goodbye to Cambridge on Saturday, leaving behind an empty shell of a house which really didn't feel like a home any more, struggled down to Heathrow with enough luggage to build our own house with, and finally left UK soil at about 10.30pm. The flight itself went as well as could be expected, with both boys falling asleep pretty much straight away. What a pair of stars! Because of my back, I've been told not to sleep on long plane flights, so I spent most of the night wandering up and down in a tiny stretch of cabin, getting in the way of the staff and envying all the scrunched up piles of humanity all around me. The only other "stayer-up" I saw was a girl of about twelve who spent the entire night playing on a Nintendo DS... good for her!

Anyway, we arrived early and then began the long slow process of getting out of the airport. Even at 5.00am on a Sunday morning, we had to queue for about an hour to get through immigration, then queue for another twenty minutes or so to get through customs. Once outside though, the traffic was incredibly light and we were at our new home within about 45 minutes - it can take up to three hours on an average day.

And then, suddenly, there we were... home. Home is a very nice house in the posh part of town. It belongs to a guy who works in banking and has just spent a huge amount of cash doing up the place - only to be sent over to England for a few years to work there. We're fortunate it's furnished as most of our possessions will be waiting in England for a while now, until we can sort out the monstrous pile of paperwork needed to bring it into Brazil... more about that another time. For now, we have just what we brought with us on the plane - admittedly quite a lot - but it's funny how you never realise how important things are until you don't have them any more...

A saucepan, a microwave dish, a cafetiere. In most countries it probably wouldn't matter because you could just pop out to the equivalent of Argos and pick up everything you need for a few pounds, but out here the whole concept of Argos has yet to be invented. I saw a cafetiere yesterday - half the size of our old one mind - and it was only £35. The only saucepan I've seen so far, £30. At that sort of price, I think I'll hold out until the ship arrives from England.

The other thing we're really missing is a fast broadband connection. We are connected at least, but in a race between a slug and our internet connection, it would probably come third! Still, I can't really complain. If I get bored waiting for pages to load I can just go and sit outside in the garden where the mid-winter temperature is 26 degrees.