Monday, August 27, 2012

Dry, dry and dry again

Sometimes I forget that there's a thing called rain. We've now been back from Ireland for just over a month and we haven't seen a single drop of it for the whole of that time. Every morning I wake up to a beautifully clear sky (even though I'm normally up before the sun) and it stays that way for the whole of the rest of the day. It's been a fairly constant 24-26 degrees for most of that time as well, which is pretty impressive when you consider that we're still technically in winter out here.

But boy, is it dry. Dry and still. You don't really notice it at first, because you're too busy topping-up your tan in the winter sunshine and secretly enjoying the fact that when you Skype your parents they're stuck indoors in the middle of summer because it's chucking it down outside. And dry days have the added benefit that they keep the smell at bay. Out here it's the rainy days that bring the smell of sewage wafting up from the river - at least at first. After a few days of biblical-scale rainfall, however, even São Paulo smells pretty fresh.

But eventually it's the little things that start to remind you that there really isn't much moisture in the air - the fact that you're always thirsty, that sandpaper feeling in your mouth when you wake up, and the fact that both your children have started having regular nosebleeds (in the swimming pool in James' case). The ubiquitous dust and the brown air you can practically eat with a knife and fork also help.

Apparently the other day was the driest in São Paulo since some time in the 1990s, with humidity at a staggering 8%, although I'm not sure whether this was absolute, relative or specific humidity - and yes, I have just been looking it up on Wikipedia. A state of emergency was declared (not exactly sure what that means though) and the news channels were recommending draping damp towels around the place to remoisten the air.

Thankfully, the drought has not led to a hosepipe ban however, and the usual army of domestics is still out there every morning, watering their pavements and washing their cars with merry abandon. I can only think that most Brazilians know perfectly well that the dry season is only going to last for another month or so, after which the rains will come again and all this aridity will be forgotten overnight, washed away in a perpetual downpour that will no doubt have me blogging about how wet and miserable it is out here!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The storm before the calm


Well, we've been back in Brazil for almost two weeks now and what a busy time it's been. It's not that we've done anything spectacular or been anywhere exciting, it's just that everyday life seems to be so much more hectic out here. There was, of course, a lot of catching up to do after four weeks away, starting with working our way through the large pile of damp post that was waiting for us. We have a tiny little post box built into our garage door, and as there's no garage behind the door, post gets squashed in to it until there's no more room and then just tumbles out onto the floor. Then the rest just gets pushed under the door if there's no one around to answer the bell. To avoid this while we were away I came up with the clever plan of taping a bin liner around the post box and propping it open from the back so all the letters would sit safe and dry in the bag until we got back. Well, it half worked. Water clearly got in from somewhere, but only enough to make the post soggy and difficult to open and not enough to turn the whole pile into an unreadable mush. This treat was saved for all the newspapers that were casually thrown over the top of the door every morning, despite Helen having cancelled the order while we were away.

Sunny day - dry post for once.

Then there was the fridge to restock. With no car and only two arms, this usually involves one or two trips to the supermarket every day for three or four days. This time, however, we've all come back determined to eat a lot more healthily and to lose a bit of weight (and by all I really just mean Helen and me - the kids will just get what they're given and stop complaining unless they want to go and do the shopping themselves, and carry the bags back as well!) And I've discovered two interesting facts. Firstly, fruit and veg weighs an awful lot more than pasta and pizzas. And secondly, no matter how full the fridge appears to be, it will be empty again two days later. So two weeks later, and I'm still going to the supermarket every day. Still, I shouldn't complain. I've already lost several pounds and all the carrying is good exercise as well. But new diet or not, we still need to find space in the fridge for the three-and-a-half kilograms of Marmite we brought back, as well as our 'modest' selection of English chocolate - which is going to last us all the way till Christmas. Honest.

One for you, three for me. One for you...

And talking of exercise, we're doing plenty of that as well. Another of the things we brought back with us this time was a rowing machine, which is now proudly taking up all the spare room in our lounge. I had visions of spending the next two years rowing my way across the Atlantic in nice little ten-minute sections but sadly, being an old man with a bad back, I had to spend the first ten days doing my back exercises in order to build up enough strength even to have my first proper go on the machine. And then sure enough, the day after my first session, I injured my back. Not, I should point out, by rowing. That at least would have been understandable. Instead it was by skipping!

As David is too small for the rowing machine, he's decided to get his exercise from running up and down the driveway and from skipping - which he hasn't quite got the hang of yet. So after watching him tangle himself up in the rope over and over, I took it upon myself to show him how it was done. Skip, skip, skip... I made it to twenty before I realised it was an absolutely perfect way for me to destroy my lower spine and hobbled upstairs to take an emergency dose of Ibuprofen and spend the rest of the day in bed, feeling both cross with myself and sorry for myself in equal measures. Fortunately, it was exactly the right thing to do and I was up and about (albeit rather tentatively) by the following morning.  But it means no rowing for another two weeks or so at least. Ho hum.

I call it, "The Beast". And here it is on the rowing machine!

Monday morning has come around and the boys are back at school. The house is strangely silent and peaceful after two weeks of the pair of them getting on each other's nerves and bickering at every possible opportunity. Although to be fair, it's probably not been that much fun for them. They were so desperate for entertainment they even took to coming out to the supermarket with me, and one day, for a special treat, I took them to a different supermarket that was even further away. I did give them a fair amount of my free time though, and the three of us spent large chunks of several days playing highly-complicated board games, arguing over the rules and getting cross with each other all over again.

"Right. I have a strength of seven, a Sword of Might and a magical Tee-shirt of Curious Design..."

And while I have the place to myself, I'm going to make the most of it. I'm off now to make myself a nice pot of coffee and a pile of Marmite toast and I'm going to sit and enjoy them outside in the glorious  18 degrees of winter sunshine we have today (going up to a more manageable 27 by the end of the week). And after that I think I'll use my tired back as an excuse to lie in bed and have a nap until it's time to go and collect the boys. Perfect.