BY: MARGARET BROWN
Margaret Brown is one of The Resident’s longest standing contributors and has lived in the Algarve for more than 20 years. As well as Country Matters, she also writes Point of View every week.
IT STARTED on the evening of September 27 with distant and continuous rumbles, the clouds brilliant with sheet lightning, the atmosphere pregnant with promise.
Having ordered a load of firewood to be delivered in two days time we hoped rain would hold off until it was stacked undercover. Sunday morning was wet and by the time we set out for Harvest Festival just after 5pm, things were not too bad at all. Entering Lagos along a flooded EN125, we debated the wisdom of continuing but with a box of assorted food for the children’s charity selected to benefit from this year’s donations, we pressed on.
Luz Church was awash, the Churchwarden barely stemming the flow with mop and bucket as brave souls carried their offering up to the altar. After a service traditional to the occasion and enhanced by glorious singing from the choir with a loud backing of thunder and inundation, we left in monsoon conditions. Stepping up to our ankles in rushing water to reach the car, the return trip was a nightmare, the Boss unable to see much at all through a Niagara of rain.
Left alone in the house for a couple of hours, Millie the Bitch, who is fearful of storms, was in a bit of a state and during our absence had chewed through two electric wires and a rubber pipe joining untreated water to a filtration unit in the kitchen. There are sure to be similar storms this winter as weather systems alter in keeping with climate change and for certain, we shall try not to leave Millie on her own again.
The wood man arrived next morning having sheeted over his loaded truck in good time and the logs were dry.
A covering of grass and first leaves from a variety of broadleaved plants appeared almost overnight, giving a green fuzz to hill and valley which, all through the summer, had been dried to a crisp. While some small insects may have been washed away along with top soil and stones, others are emerging as usual at this time of year but in smaller numbers. The day after the storm we found a brilliantly coloured Scarab beetle outside the kitchen window close beside a clutch of eggs, fingerprint style, on the glass. On looking up the family it was clearly identifiable as the flower beetle Cetonia aurata right down to some pale horizontal markings on the wing covers. The place for its eggs should have been deep under damp earth but perhaps it was caught short, the land being waterlogged, and had to lay these wherever it could.
The annual mass mating of Portuguese Millipedes is going ahead although in reduced numbers on our patch. Having been imported accidentally into southern Australia in 1953 they have reached plague proportions over there, devouring seedlings, fruit and vegetables and, if handled, some produce a nasty skin irritant.
As the recession begins to bite and doom watchers rack up the agony of things to come with regard to climate change, concerned individuals are taking steps to reduce spending and to minimize their carbon footprint. Combining outings where there are two cars in a family and if only one car, better planning and fewer shopping trips would be the ideal approach, suggesting a change in the lifestyle of country dwellers.
Perhaps not as radical as that adopted by a highly respected local expatriate who has taken matters to the other extreme? Only possible for the very fit and dedicated masochist and rare among the over-70s, he either takes Shank’s Pony or a cross-country bicycle, walking or pedalling for miles rather than drive anywhere. Having hiked solo as a septuagenarian from west to east across England and along the 177 miles of Offa’s Dyke which runs from near Chepstow to Prestatyn in Liverpool Bay, it is as nothing to cycle to Portimão and put his bike on the train to Faro. After dashing round the city attending to various matters, he returns by rail and cycles home to his long suffering wife. When asked how he found the energy, he put it down to an excess of hormones but also a passion to do something, however small, to help the planet. Such dedication makes me wonder where my get-up-and-go has gone, and having just received the annual vaccination against flu viruses I feel more like one foot in the grave. Every year a similar reaction lasts for several days. I wonder why I bother, but as with paying for insurance against which one never makes a claim, it is difficult to opt out. The price of a vaccine is minimal with a Health Service prescription and is painlessly administered by a nice nurse at our local Centro de Saúde.
Now that the countryside has had a good soaking, it is bonfire time on a small scale. The local Câmara, having removed a six foot pile of vegetation accumulated over several weeks, we will enjoy cremating the leftovers, taking care to keep a hosepipe close by. In the months ahead we will be without the thin winter song by which a succession of Robin redbreasts has charmed us because, almost as soon as it arrived, our welcome visitor flew into the closed kitchen window and broke its neck. Gently laid on top of a pile of burning leaves the small corpse was soon reduced to red hot ash, to mingle with the soil at the next fall of rain.