As I drain my first cup of tea of the day and go to collect the warm egg laid in the cat basket (yes that’s where our hen lays her eggs these days), the sun rises slowly over the cork forested hill in the distance it seems a good time to reflect on our ‘gap year’.

So, was it worth it?



Yes, the hens did nick my tea when I wasn’t paying attention..


And are all the cats batcrazy?



The second is easy to answer, yes, definitely, having watched one of the cats exploring raindrops and puddles this morning, then chase his own tail..

And the former? Well, I think so, the cats are now full grown and almost tame, the remaining hen lays her egg every day and dominates the 3 cats and the teens have grown into caring, responsible young men.

And boy did they grow! 4 shoe sizes and about a foot in height this last year and I’m even now still adjusting to their newly booming deep voices.

Watching them is mostly amazing, and though these months have not been without stress and tension as they find themselves I do believe this transition would have been so much harder under the spotlight of social media and intense peer pressure. Whereas here, in Portugal, these young men are welcomed and greeted with warm smiles and compliments to me, our trips back to England have shown that teenage boys are by default under suspicion, barred from entering shops without an adult to chaperone them, accused of smoking when an asthma attack took hold, and of stealing from a shop when one of them ran back to our car, to check what drink their sick father would like.

It was just yesterday, seeing my teenage sons plan their day around our surviving hen that what they have gained was really brought home to me. A bird of prey took the life of one of our hens just after Christmas, and they organised their morning activities so they could take shifts to watch over her, as she ambles oh so freely ranging over an acre or two. It was this, and that they would not consider for a moment that this hen’s freedom that should be curtailed, that my heart swelled with pride. Protective and respectful of the life under their care and organised too. Sim,  sem nenhuma dúvida, I love these boys and the men they are transitioning into.


The year was mostly for my boys, though also for me, and I loved, loved, loved being in a forest that stretched as far as my eyes could see, living lightly, growing my own food and being powered by solar energy. And I needed that. My body shed it’s bored under-stimulated pounds, my senses reinvigorated, I made new friends from different countries, I wrote and photographed and I laughed, I laughed a lot, in short, I fell in love with life again.

As for what happens next? Well, I’m really not sure, life is never quite how I try to plan it, even if I’m just trying to go with the flow.


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