Travels With the Crazy Cat Lady ‘Yesterday’   

                                                                                                                                     Junebug Jorgensen

    The hit song was born on a trip to Portugal. It was May, 1965, and Paul McCartney had a melody to a song playing in his head, and during the long chauffeured ride from Lisbon to Albufeira, in the Algarve, southern Portugal, with his girlfriend Jane Asher, he scribbled on a brown envelope the words to Yesterday, the iconic song of the Beatles.

     In 1968, Paul came a second time to southern Portugal with Linda Eastman, near Praia da Luz, a half-hour drive from Alvor. The famous Beatle didn’t pen a famous song, but he did write ‘La Penina,’ about a resort he unexpectedly showed up at 1:30 in the morning, playing impromptu piano with the band. He did propose to Linda on his holidays here, and around the same time, they found out Linda was pregnant with their first child, Mary.

     In those days, most of Portugal was a relatively unknown tourist place, full of fishing villages and quiet beaches.

     British and other Europeans holidayed for the warm weather to escape the damp, cold winters. The road from Lisbon to the Algarve was a five-hour drive on a dusty, narrow road. Nowadays I takes two hours on a modern double lane highway.  There were tourists in the ’60s and ’70s, but it was not until the ’80s that tourism started to grow with better infrastructure, promotions, investments, and Portugal’s entry into the EU. In 2002, the euro replaced the escudo as the currency.

Many other celebrities live and invest in Portugal, Cliff Richards, Bonnie Tyler, John Malkovich and Madonna, George Clooney, Princess Eugenie, just to name a few.

    Paul also loved animals. When he married Linda, the woman who was to be his soul mate, they moved to a farm in the Scottish highlands and had loads of different animals, sheep, goats, dogs and cats, to name a few.  It wasn’t unusual for him to slosh around in the mud milking one of his goats and balancing a toddler in his arms.

    “Sir Paul was my favorite Beatle, you know,” I said to my friend Julie.

    “Mine too, although George was really cute too,” she replied, as we sipped vino verde in a Portuguese restaurant one warm afternoon in Alvor. My new friend from Winnipeg, Manitoba, had already lived here for over twenty years, but still had the accent of a Canuck. Julie learned the language by helping her three children with their homework in Portugal and working part-time.

    “Do you want me to pick up the girls after school tomorrow?” I asked, as we both dug into our chicken curry.

    “Yes, thanks. Maya is finished at 2 o’clock and Taliya at 4:30. They can go to David’s place until I finish work.”

     Besides speaking Portuguese, the girls learned English at a young age in school, as did most children and adults. Struggling to learn the local language, I joined a group of newbies Thursday’s at 4:30 pm in a little restaurant in the village. Between noisy local chatter and children running around, us ex-pats did our best to learn Portuguese with our very patient teacher Rebecca. And learn we did, some more, some less. I seemed to fit in the latter category, even though I found writing the language easier as it was similar to French. Anyone who tells you it sounds like Spanish is bullock’s!  At least to me. The little Spanish I knew didn’t compare to Portuguese, well maybe ‘cerveza or por favor!’ When I first heard it on the television, it sounded Slavic to me. What did I know! Luckily, there was always, it seemed, a local amigo, who was willing to forgive my laziness, and it was quite easy to slide back into my old habit of speaking my native tongue.

   I still try to learn though, practising with the cashiers at the supermarket or with the locals at the charity shop on Saturday’s, out of respect for this lovely country.


By the time I got here, it was a fairly quiet haven of sunshine and bliss in the winter. I settled nicely in the camp in my own caravan, and easily made friends.

One Easter Sunday in 2019, I had my first encounter with feral animals in Portugal.

 I was sitting on my deck-covered patio recovering from a duel hip operation when a neighbour came over and asked if I would speak with two ladies about some kittens. I said sure, and I met Sally and her sister Penny. They said they were walking nearby and had seen two baby kittens in a ditch with no mother around. Not knowing what to do, they tucked them in their coats and asked at the camp for help. They said ‘try the cat lady,’ and were directed to me.  Overnight I was ‘mama,’ bottle-feeding a three-week-old brother and sister every two hours. Their eyes had barely opened, and they wouldn’t have lasted another night. And if this wasn’t enough, a friend from the other side of the camp told me there was a litter of kittens born under a caravan and asked if I could help.

 Now I was the surrogate mother of six!

Thankfully, I had help from my new friends, Sally and Penny, who bought kitten milk and helped with the bills. One little ginger was so sick we didn’t think he’d survive and went several times to the vet for meds. They all had the cat flu and I nursed them round the clock. After two sleepless months, they were ready for adoption. Remember the brother and sister? I put an advert online with a local animal charity and a very nice young Portuguese couple came and immediately fell in love with the two kittens, now called Ben and Billie; they happily went off to live with their new family.

 The four little brothers were old enough to be adopted. Asking around, I was put in contact with a dedicated Portuguese woman named Zélia, who helped me sterilise and re-home them.

  After sterilization, the mother went back into her environment. It was time to say goodbye, but I just couldn’t part with Bo-Bo, the little ginger kitten who was now a playful, healthy, and oh-so-cute boy. One of his brothers, a black-and-white, looked at me with big green eyes as if to say, ‘take me’. It’s true that cats sometimes choose their owners— he puffed out his little chest and smiled at me, and that was that. Bo-Bo and Scooter were my new fur-babies. They joined Bella, a sweet female who I rescued from the colony in Lagos. All three were vaccinated.

The remaining two brothers were adopted into loving families. I organised a fundraiser with Zélia’s help and raised enough money to cover most of their costs. The rest came from private donations and out of our own pockets.

 I haven’t been a ‘surrogate mama’ for a while, but I make my food rounds and do my best, following the example of many.

“The kindest thing you can do in life is to give selflessly of yourself


     I befriended Barb and Jamie, a retired couple from Ottawa. Barb is a talented dancer and teaches us dance on Thursday’s. After Covid, more of my fellow countryman made this beautiful country their winter retreat, bypassing Mexico and Florida. There is Gerry of Irish descent who worked in Jasper and Vancouver and was proud to call Canada her second home; she now lives part time in Alvor. Diane, a retired nurse and sailor from Vancouver, who also discovered Portugal by chance and now makes it her winter home. And Amanda from Toronto who married a handsome Portuguese man.

     Almost overnight it seems, Canadians and Americans are discovering Portugal, not just in the Algarve, but in Lisbon, Porto, Madeira and Azores.

     It’s called the New California because of the similarity between the two countries – scenic landscape and beaches, warm, sunny climate year-round, first-class golf courses, cuisine and wine, and friendly locals.

     In 2022, 35% of real estate was snapped up by the US and Canada is expected to invest 1 billion euros by the end of 2023. The UK makes up around 40% of the ex-pat population and invest billions in real estate. A great many French live here for the tax incentive, Brazil for the opportunity to work in the same language, and EU members for the quality of life.

     Because there are no restrictions for foreigners who want to buy property in Portugal, including the UK after Brexit, the market is hot and burning brighter every year!

Move over Sir Paul!

The Calvary’s on it’s way!

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