Dona Ilda, by David Butler-Cole

Sue and I sat on a pile of red boulders that had once formed the walls of a rustic dwelling. We were looking at plans for our dream house soon to be magicked into this bucolic heartland. We suddenly heard a piercing whistling sound and looked around for its source. An old lady dressed all in black was peering at us from under the leaves of rambling fig tree. She emerged and came towards us with uncertain step. A lovely big smile spread across her face that threatened to break it in twain.

“Vizinhos. You are the new neighbours.” She screamed at us at a distance of five meters, the piercing sound sent a shiver down our spines. This was a lady that could easily have schooled army cadets on a training ground. “I am Ilda” she said.

We assumed that her personal high volume was not intentional. Either our Portuguese needed to be augmented, or she was profoundly deaf. We then discovered the source of the shrill whistle. It was her hearing aid. From where we stood it was bad enough to set our teeth on edge – but imagine that going on inside her ear.

Ilda then came up to me with a welcoming kiss. Her kiss was not one of the perfunctory sort – a swift peck on each cheek where contact is hardly made. Ilda’s kiss was something else. She reached up and drew me to her holding my head in place. The kiss she gave was intimate, on a sensitive corner of the mouth, then on the other side. When Dona Ilda kissed, you knew you had been kissed.

There were tears in Ilda’s eyes. She had been praying for a neighbour and God had answered by giving her us. She took us round our ruin and told us where the kitchen used to be, now taken over by a flourishing olive tree. That room behind the ‘sala’ – was where the cow lived. Immediately in front of the entrance was the piggery. “Very handy” I agreed. The previous owners had abandoned the property some thirty years before – ”but I can help you make sure you rebuild it just as it was”, said Ilda.

“That bit was added after” Ilda pointed out. “When the son got married.” For some reason this ex-room went off at an odd angle. A Friday afternoon build, after a large liquid lunch. And it was the only house I knew with buttresses to hold up the outside walls.

Ilda wept a tear , “Until you came, vizinhos, I didn’t know if I was alive or dead.”

Thus the character of the granny Felicidade in The Right Juice was born.


The character of Felicidade was played wonderfully by Corá‡lia Moreira.

If life gives you oranges, make The Right Juice.

The film is a comedic drama about Oliver Fellows, a failed city banker, pursues his dreams farming oranges in Portugal. With his neighbour Manel, he fights unscrupulous developers in a romantic and amusing quest to save their valley.

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