As I write I'm taking a little bit of time out in Portugal. For a short time today the weather was actually quite fiercely warm, then the sun disappeared behind a series of clouds and suddenly it was February again, albeit a Portuguese February.
I've received a few negative comments about the fact that I spend a week here most years during the low season, even one or two from people I like to consider friends. I think I've remarked before that others seem to be able to tour the world month in and month out and yet when I board my humble easyJet A319 all of a sudden I am Roman Abramovich. If only they knew!
In actual fact this year has been particularly spartan. Thus far, since Saturday, I've ventured from the complex twice. Once to the supermercado to spend €20 on my provisions for the week (trust me, it's not easy being a skint vegetarian in this part of the world) and on the second occasion to purchase some credit for my local broadband connection. Other than that it's been just work, work, work - no restaurants, no souvenirs, no excursions, no beer.
Okay, skip that last one. When one spends all day punching a keyboard trying to catch up with casework, organising election stuff and attempting to eke out a living there is no way I'm not going to enjoy a caneca or two at the end of the evening. It's when I do most of my thinking. The difficult part, of course, is remembering the next day precisely what it was that I had thought.
For some peculiar reason I like the familiarity of seeing some of the same people year upon year. There are a couple of guys here who like to get up onto the stage and sing. I've barely said half a dozen words to either of them in the four years that I've been coming here and yet I feel reassured by the fact that they keep coming back. It can't be my imagination, this must be a nice place.
Last night I found myself reflecting upon what kind of courage it requires to do a thing like these fellows do. I have spoken at meetings with two or three thousand people present and I've not been in the slightest fazed. I mean not nervous at all, it's as perfunctory as cleaning one's teeth or taking a bath. I knock on the doors of complete strangers and talk to them about things they often don't want to talk about, until the "Go away I'm watching telly" vibe overwhelms. And yet could I climb onto the stage in Amanda's Bar at the Clube Praia da Oura and sing a song in front of fifty people? Not a chance mate.
Tonight is Happy Hour but if anything I'm feeling slightly morose. I've had half my time here and yet 95% of the work I'd intended to do still seems to lie ahead of me. I guess it's time for me to do some thinking.