Subject: Potential for rust

Dear Mummy, 

Thank you for depositing the money into my account. I shall use it to buy myself a tiny, very old rust bucket. When you come to visit, I shall drive you around and show you the sights.

I would buy something roofless, but godammit, it hasn’t stopped raining in weeks. I am happy to relate that the weather is as big a topic here as it is in Britain. No, correction, it’s worse. It’s not just a conversation opener. It IS the conversation. 

In Britain: 

“Oh god, the weather’s shit, isn’t it? 


“Want a coffee?”

Here, it’s more like: 

“Raining again” 

“I know, god, isn’t it awful”

“It’s beginning to get to me, really”

“Oh, me too, I haven’t been able to dry any washing for days”

“Nor me! and even the clothes I hang inside the house never dry”

“It’s the damp”

“Well, it’s a very damp area”

“When it’s like this, I get really depressed”

“Me too”

“It’s so grey and miserable. It makes me so sad” 

“I miss the sun”

“The rain is embedding itself deep into my very soul”

“It’s just like England”

“It’s why the English are a very depressed people”

“Absolutely. Have you ever been there?”


“Nor me”

“I hate rain”

“Me too”

I hope it’s not raining in Luxembourg. I imagine your wing of the castle is well heated. I must talk to Mimi about installing central heating in their tiny, dark, damp house. She’s in a bit of a funk, at the moment, though. Don’t know why, can’t get it out of her, but best to steer clear of difficult subjects like the basic human right of central heating. 

toodlepip, Mummy. 

I’ll send you a picture of the car, when I find one I can afford. Might be a while. 



Subject: Men of your age

Mummy, dearest. 

Well, I’ll wait for you to have a good think about it. 

I’m afraid I won’t be able to tempt you here to the suburbs with the lure of the men of your age. 

Of course, I can’t be sure (yet) whether or not they have any gratifying sexual habits (I rather wish you hadn’t told me that) but I do know that they like to hang around on street corners, watching the world go by. And talking about football. And watching the world go by. And fixedly watching women parking cars, waiting for them to crash into something. And watching the world go by. And watching the world go by. And smoking. And watching the world go by. 

My cheque finally arrived this morning from William III and his hyenas. Bloody hell, it seems that he will be hitting skid row sooner rather than later… there’s only enough in my account to keep me in wine for the next month… and considering how cheap the wine is here… THAT’S NOT VERY MUCH. Help! 

Love from your dearest, dearest, loving Jen. 


Subject: Lisbon


Maybe you could pop over to Lisbon? I think you’d like it. I imagine it’s pretty different from when you were last here in the sixties. I adore Lisbon, from the little I’ve seen so far… I really must spend more time there, instead of the boring ‘burbs. 

Mimi and I took the Moth-in-law and Mafalda out for the day last week. Moth has been on at Mimi for weeks about needing to get something in the city, so Mimi finally gave in, waiting for a day when Mafalda was available, so she could entertain her grandmother in the back of the car, and Moth is always moaning about not seeing her grandchildren enough and that she misses them terribly (she hadn’t seen them for about three days). 

Moth got in the car… 

“Meeeeeenya foofeeeeenya! commek shtA a meeeeenya Mufaldeeeeeeenya??” she said. 

“Meh” said Mafalda, and that was the end of that. 

For the rest of the journey into Lisbon, Moth only spoke when Mimi and I were in a conversation, or when Mimi was on the phone to Drippy Teacher. Moth hasn’t understood yet the magical theory of earphones and thinks Mimi is talking to HER about filling in his tax return, and what does he want for dinner… 

We wandered around Lisbon, took the Moth to the special shop with her special sausages from “meeenya terrrrrra”, went to McDonalds for lunch because there are only two of them in a three mile radius of Mimi’s house in the ‘burbs and got stuck in plenty of traffic, all the while Mimi getting progressively antsier with Moth for her irritating habits of stating the extremely obvious and reading out advertising hoardings, as if she is performing a public service. 

On the way home, with Mimi translating, Moth called from the back of the car “Jennifer, are you really a bank robber? Of course, I keep telling the ladies in the village that you AREN’T a bank robber, but I’m not entirely sure WHAT you do. THEY said that even if you ARE a bank robber, you are very beautiful for an English woman, very like your sister, and that she is very nice and not at all vain. Of course, all the Portuguese like the English very much. The English are very nice, and polite. Even though they are very very cold.”

Mimi’s eyes rolled heavenwards all the way home. I’m not sure if she saw much of the road. 

“By ‘not at all vain’,” she said from the side of her mouth “she means that I am a slob and all the ladies of the village think so too.” 

I let out a loud “HA!” and Moth jumped… and then shut up for the rest of the journey. 

We dropped her at home with her special sausage, and Mimi and I went home and got drunk. 

Mummy, let me know what you think about nipping down south for a few days, I’d love to see you… and gosh, there are some super little apartments going for cheap in Lisbon… maybe you could get yourself a little pied à terre here. I could look after it for you, if you liked. 

Lots of love, 


Subject: Getting it all over the world

Oh, Mummy! How on earth did I not know you were back in Europe? No, you didn’t tell me. I would have remembered the mention of a castle in Luxembourg and a “Count with gratifying sexual habits”. I shudder at the thought. Mummy, you are almost seventy, for heaven’s sake! Where do you find these men? How did you hook up with a Luxembourgian aristocrat from the middle of the Peruvian rainforest? 

Here’s an example of two kinds of women of your age that you see in the village…they are both extremely respectable (see photo attached. I assume this new castle of yours has a good broadband connection). You wouldn’t catch any of them running around the world, “getting it” from random rich gauchos and aristos… well, as far as I know… 

This village has an aura of the fashionable about it (though I’m still to understand why) and has several *old* families living in it. One doesn’t spot them at first, as their houses (ruddy great mansions) are hidden away, above and behind the main village — and god, you should see some of them… vast, beautiful things, the houses, that is — and as I spend more time in the old village (as opposed to the yucky suburban bit where Mimi lives) I notice the older women from some of these houses, popping out in their ageing four by fours and camel coloured clothes.  They might take a coffee in the village, wave and kiss several people from across the street, and then go back to their busy lives, doing whatever it is they do in their big houses, behind big gates. 

They are mostly several feet taller than *the villagers* and are invariably blonde. There is an awful lot of blondeness in Portugal… it’s quite shocking. There are even people with blue eyes, who are a magnet for attention, even if they are, in fact, quite ugly. 

The *village* ladies of your age are a different kettle of fishwives. They spend their days at the market and the supermarket and the Chinese stores filled with crap (there are SIX in this village alone), they look after the toddlers, feed everyone in the family, watch telenovelas and gossip loudly on the street, and occasionally you might hear a dirty guffaw come out of one. I don’t know what makes them laugh yet, because I don’t understand what the hell they’re saying. They generally don’t smile very much, though, and watch fixedly and blankly as one approaches. I’ve taken to waiting till the last second, as I near a gaggle of be-bata’d ladies (bata: housecoat), letting them eye me up and down as a stranger in their midst, and when I’m right by their ears, I shriek “BOM DIA!!!” with a huge grin on my face. They don’t like that. Hilarious. 

Mummy, I wonder… I HATE to ask, but I am a little strapped at the moment, and I’d like to help Mimi out with the bills and things, WIII’s cheque still hasn’t arrived… and as you sold the Peruvian ranch to a logging outfit, I imagine you’re rather flush at the mo (well, let’s face it Mummy, you’re always pretty flush)… I wonder, if you could lend me a few thou… I really rather need a little runabout, as well, because Mimi’s car is a. crap and b. she needs it. Then maybe, I could fly over to Luxembourg for a weekend? To see my lovely mother, her lovely castle abode… and the Count with the gratifying sexual habits.

Lots and lots of love, from your loving daughter,

Subject: Hello Mummy!!!!!

Dearest Mummy. 

It has been a HUGE while since my last email. Sorry. You haven’t said anything either, so I hope you’re alright over there in darkest Peru and haven’t been eaten by something nasty. You won’t know my news… 

My London flat burned to a crisp (a bit of a candles and vodka incident) so I took advantage of Little Sis’s (Mimi, that is, not one of yours, one of Daddy’s) open invitation to pop over to stay with her in Portugal sometime. So, I popped over, while Bridget (next door neighbour, landlady and best friend, you remember her, don’t you?) was to get the house rebuilt. 

Well, after a few bits of bad luck, Bridget came to the conclusion that she couldn’t afford to rebuild, the insurance wasn’t going to cover EVERYTHING, so while she saves up and “gets over the trauma of it all”, she went to stay at Jolyon’s (my on-off beau for the last few years, you remember him, don’t you?) mumsy’s house (I think you met her once… dreadful old bag, was entirely disdainful of you, until she worked out whose daughter you were, then she softened a little… shame it didn’t extend to me… she loathes me). 

Well, the upshot of all this is that I’m homeless for the foreseeable. I won’t be going back to my adorable little flat, now that Bridget and Jolyon went and got hitched over Christmas in Vegas (probably by Elvis in a drive thru), which has thrown me, I must confess, but Jolyon is a terrible drip and so is Bridget, so they’ll probably be nauseatingly happy, especially once Mumsy dies and leaves them with that enormous Highgate house and all the money she has stashed away somewhere. I’m stuck in Portugal, waiting for my next cheque to arrive from the States (from William III and his pack of loyal hyena-lawyers. WIII…first husband, you remember him, don’t you? I’m sure you saw the photos of the wedding, Vegas, Elvis, drive thru, etc.), a cheque with significantly fewer noughts on it, these days, after the hyenas took advantage of a clause in the pre-nup that they had over-looked, but are rigorously upholding now that William III’s in a bit of a financial mess (divorce nº.4 and the bottom has fallen out of the rubber band market, apparently). 

Mimi’s family is tolerable. She’s married to another drip, a teacher, who has about as much initiative as a dead slow loris. They have two children, Bernardo (I know), 11, who is an insufferable hyperactive wise-arse and Mafalda, 8, who is slightly less insufferable. They are growing on me. It’s the extended family that’s a hoot. The in-laws are maddening, but entertaining. Mother-in-law is like a mother-in-law you might find in Coronation Street in the 1960s, but on crystal meth. Father-in-law is quite fun, because I can drink him under the table, and he enjoys that. The brother is another drip, and his girlfriend and her family… SNORESVILLE. I had no idea Portugal was populated with anything but donkeys, peasants and the occasional dictator, so all these people are a delightful surprise. You live and learn, Mummy. I know you’ve been around the world a dozen times, but you know me. London girl, through and through. 

However, you’ll be proud of me. I’ve been learning Portuguese, whose principal feature is that it’s not Spanish. I think I’ll be around these parts for a while, as I have no home to go to in London and, well, I’m rather miffed about my beau and my best friend getting it together, and I don’t want to see them… for a LONG time. Let me know how your internet connection is these days on the ranch. Are you up to receiving photographs? I only have my crummy phone to take piccies with at the mo… here’s a tiny one of me attached (I’m the one in the photograph… you remember me, don’t you?). 

Anyway, Mummy, DO get in touch. It would be lovely to know if you’re alive or dead. Hope your sexy ranch manager is still “doing it for you” as you so delicately put it, the last time I saw you. 

Lots of love from your loving daughter, 



Subject: OVER


Now that I have calmed down, stopped crying and drunk a large glass of wine, I am writing to say that 

a. you are an idiot, 

b. I hope you enjoy Mumsy’s money, 

c. I hope she lives forever and kicks her commode at you every day,

d. HOW did you get Mumsy to Las Vegas? 

e. I don’t know of any Las Vegas marriages that have lasted (mine and William III’s, perfect case in point), 

f. I hate you,

g. We will never be friends again. 

h. I suppose that means your passport arrived, then.

ex-love from

JENNIFER. hurt, angry, upset and getting very drunk.

Subject: Post-Christmas

6th January 2014

BRIIIIDGEEEEEET! Happy New Year… or rather, Feliz Ano Novo, I think. 

I haven’t been able to write for a couple of weeks. First, I was never left alone for a minute, things to do, friends and relatives to meet, children to entertain, and then over the last few days, there was a big storm, and the electrics were blown out. Finally this morning, Little Sis has allowed me to plug my computer back in. 

Christmas was odd. First, it’s not remotely cold enough to be Christmassy. It’s not barbecue on the beach, Australian style, or anything, but it’s not properly freezing, and this Christmas it just rained a lot. I know I complain an awful lot about Christmas every year, but there is so much lacking in a Portuguese Christmas. No carols, no bells, no potential for snow (here in the south, at least. I did see snow on the telly somewhere in the mountains. That’s a bit odd, too. I had no idea it snowed in Portugal), and crucially, no mince pies. 

Instead of mince pies there’s an awful lot of fried egginess… sonhos which are sugary pumpkin fritters and rabanadas which are pieces of eggy bread, but they’re dipped in sugar and cinnamon. I prefer mine dipped in brown sauce, thank you very much. 

Christmas is pretty much held on Christmas eve, which I was hopelessly confused about. Everyone goes to work that day, or does their last minute shopping, just like us, but then Christmas dinner is held that night. Everyone is exhausted already. Dinner is, can you imagine… boiled salt cod! Most of the people round the table (at Moth-in-law’s house, OF COURSE) were slathering over the idea of it, but there were, I was interested to note, a couple of dissenters, who find salt cod revolting AND they are Portuguese. Moth made them some other slop or other. I ate the boiled cod, with its boiled potatoes, boiled cabbage and boiled chickpeas (in some ways, the equivalent to the sprout, in its popularity and in its wind-inducing properties), all doused in copious quantities of olive oil. It’s growing on me. 

I was bored out of my mind for most of it, but it was a tiny consolation to observe all the people round the table. The in-laws, brother-in-law’s girlf and her aged parents, who knew not how to smile, not once, all night with the mother staring at me the whole time, as if I were green in colour. I grinned wildly at her a couple of times. She didn’t know where to look. Hilarious. 

At midnight, presents were opened, which were apparently delivered by both the Ikkle Baby Jesus AND Father Christmas, and all in the plain light of day. No chimneys were bothered in the process… and then Christmas day was rather nothingy and no presents to open. Some different faces at the lunch table, some joviality, but some more people with no sense of humour. God, I need to get out more. Well, actually, I did get out a bit last week… and New Year is a blur… as I was taken care of by Little Sister’s Bestie, who is rather becoming MY bestie… something that is oddly pleasing to Little Sis. I thought she’d be pissed off, but seems, instead, to be relieved. We went to the house of a friend of hers and she knows a whole bunch of people who are a lot more fun than Drippy Teacher and Little Sister’s lot. At least, they drink and shriek with laughter more. I like them. 

Yesterday, a old footballer died, and the country has gone into three days of national mourning! All day yesterday and all day today, on the telly, on all of the channels, they’re were showing thousands of people milling past his open coffin which is lying in state at Benfica, and now the stadium is filled with people as they walk the coffin around the grass. As ever, I am mystified. I got a VERY cold stare from Father-in-law when I sniggered at a reporter asking an old lady how she felt about it. 

love from Zhennifed! 

p.s. William III’s lawyers and I have come to an agreement, and they’re going to send me my cheques here in Portugal. I may even open a bank account here. I imagine your passport arrived safely as you haven’t said anything since before Christmas. 

p.p.s. You haven’t said anything since before CHRISTMAS! 

p.p.p.s. What on earth are you up to?

Subject: revenge

Bridge, I imagine my cheque is lost in the post… this morning, I’ll call William III’s lawyers. *shudder* They’re like a bunch of rottweilers, that lot. William III is probably holed up on his island, hiding from that dreadful wife of his. Oh, for a Caribbean island right now. It has stopped raining here, and returned to the freezing setting. I sometimes wish that I hadn’t divorced him… just for the lack of Caribbean islands in my life (joking! Best thing I ever did was get rid of that pillock and his tartan trousers… I wonder if he wears tartan shorts on the island?).

The weekend was très amusant, with Little Sis getting her revenge on the Moth-in-law while the Moth stayed in bed for two days (after her terrible near death experience on Friday, at Father-in-law’s insistence… I suspect he rather enjoyed Sis’s super hot enchiladas and wanted her in the kitchen for a bit longer). Sis rearranged the Moth’s kitchen cupboards (every time Sis goes away for a few days, Moth lets herself in, and reorganizes Sis’s whole house) with the excuse that it would make it easier for her to use, now that she’s getting on a bit, after her terrible accident.

The aftermath won’t be pretty.
I can’t wait.

You haven’t told me how things are at mumsy’s house. I am amazed you’re still there, really.

Look out for your passport in a box. I’m sure it must be almost there.

I’ll let you know how I get on with the American rottweilers.
pip pip
Jen jen.

Subject: my first HOSPITAL experience!!!!

Don’t panic, Bridget!!!! IT’S NOT ME.

You’re never going to believe this, B, but, as I predicted, cupboard fell on top of Moth-in-law!!!

Little Sis and I went round to return a ton of her tupperware. The back door (they don’t use the front door, except at Christmas, apparently) was open and before Little Sis could start to unpack the bags of tupperware into the wrong kitchen cupboard (on purpose, because it makes Moth CRAZY), we heard moans and tinkling from the dining end of the kitchen, almost a death rattle. There was the Moth under a pile of tiny coffee cups, glasses and broekn figurines, with the top half of the dresser that houses them on her belly… oh, Bridge, the moaning! You never heard a thing so melodramatic. She was feigning concussion (I know acting when I see it) pretending to get Little Sis’s name wrong, and calling me a nossa senyoora.

It was hilarious. I had to pretend that a snigger that erupted from me was a sneeze.

We pulled the not very heavy cupboard off her, and brushed away the glass and ceramics from her torso and I sadly got a glimpse of her big support knickers. This image will stay with me forever (diagram attached)


Father-in-law appeared from his shed, eventually, and between he and Little Sis, it was decided that Moth wasn’t at death’s door, but should be seen by a doctor, and we stuck her in the car, still groaning as if she was sitting next to the Grim Reaper himself, and took her to the hospital, twenty kilometres away.
My first impression of the hospital? It was very brown, and very full. We waited an hour to be seen (it would have been far longer, but the Moth’s feigned death throes were putting the other customers off their genuinely grave illnesses and injuries) and they whipped her in and sent her out again, with a couple of plasters on the minor figurine induced cuts to her hands and some ibuprofen for her headache.

When we got them back home, Little Sis offered to make THEM dinner for the next few days, which made Moth’s groans stop immediately. She said she was suddenly feeling much, much better.

All in all, a hilarious day. Right, I’m off to help Sis make a huge exotic dinner that Moth will hate.