This is a place of two worlds. They live side by side but somehow never quite meet. In the supermarket car park there will be someone packing their shopping into the boot of a BMW. Nearby someone will be hanging their bags from the handles of an old moped. And behind them an old lady will be placing her bags into a wheelbarrow. I don’t know which world the moped rider would place themselves in, but between the BMW driver and the wheelbarrow lady I think there is no confusion. They might shop in the same place but their lives are worlds apart. Where I live the cars are mostly shiny and they start leaving about 8 in the morning as people head off to jobs in Lisbon and elsewhere. It gets very quiet when they are gone so an hour or so later when the ladies come up the hill I usually hear them. There are three of them pulling strange trolleys behind, the wheeled remains of prams and shopping trolleys that squeak slowly as they walk up the hill towards the forest. If they talk, they must talk quietly because I never hear a word.
Some time later they come back down with the trolleys filled with firewood. There is still no conversation, just the sound of branches scraping along the road. I know where the wood goes – there is an old shed in the valley and when they stoke the fires up in there the smoke comes out from beneath the tiles like dragon’s breath. I guess they are smoking meats or cheeses but I doubt I will ever know. Somehow I don’t think I will find them on the internet or in the phone book. By the time my neighbours return from work the fire is out and the smoke has gone. And this is the way it is in this strange and familiar place. We have broadband, mobile phones, designer outlets and Italian kitchens; and we have old ladies who still push their shopping home in wheelbarrows. We hear the hiss of BMWs; and we hear the sound of branches scratching on stone as the silent women pass by.