We can’t receive mail because we have no post box. Our neighbour can’t either, but as he can’t read and write it is less of a problem to him than to us. We have to return to the villa three hours away across the mountains to pick up our mail and parcels. We saw the postmaster-general in Fundão to request deliveries, and he visited us on our farm. He said that post vans aren’t permitted to use dirt roads (although we have occasionally seen one post van blasting over the rutted track in his red van leaving a plume of dust like a rocket trail) to deliver to rural houses but that they would put a post box at the edge of the village for us and for our neighbour.

Janet went into our local post office to ask when the Fundão headquarters will provide the postbox they promised in mid-February. The office occupies one of the three rooms in our local Camara Municipal (town hall) and President Marco, his secretary and a third man were present i.e. the full local government. Marco recognised Janet, she’s danced with him at our local community meals and he asked if we would be at home that afternoon as it is census time.

In mid-afternoon a van arrived and out jumped the two council staff. They interviewed us on the veranda and filled in the forms. This is how the census is done in rural Portugal as so many people can’t read or write. Not very long ago the country kids were needed at home and left school when they were about ten years old as did our close friend JJ who is ten years younger than us. Once the census return was done, one of the two interviewers asked if we had any questions. As they were from the Camara I asked about the condition of the dirt track which forms gullies in winter. The lady smiled broadly and accusingly told us that the man’s usual job is that of Public Works and with a sheepish look he promised to come back and inspect the track. Oddly, although it has no proper surface it has street lights for first hundred yards.

Some time ago I needed to post a letter to England so we took it into the post office and asked for stamps to the UK. The nice lady weighed it on her balances, then asked “England – that’s in Europe, isn’t it?”