A refreshing change.jpg

A refreshing change

By MARGARET BROWN [email protected]

Margaret Brown is one of the Algarve Resident’s longest standing contributors and has lived in the Algarve for more than 20 years.

There is nothing like a sunny day to put the spring back in one’s step. After a period of frost followed by fine rain falling relentlessly from clouds hanging among the tree tops and hills weeping into the valley stream, it was a ray of hope after a dark twenty four hours.

Unaware of the damage to our few perennial plants and bushes caused by low temperatures that froze a hosepipe solid and laid ice on water buckets, the sudden warmth revealed Hibiscus, rubber tree and three large stands of Canna Lilies reduced to brown mush. The Lanterna to all appearances dead, once cut back will revive like the Phoenix after a fire, it being almost impossible to kill.

Of prime importance in an area which only a few years ago was popular with Monarch butterflies and Hummingbird Hawk moths, the honeyed flowers were for them a source of sustenance for many months. This summer we are hoping to attract these beautiful insects back.

A knowledgeable reader of the Algarve Resident sent me some seeds from the Goose Bush, one of a variety of milkweed plants essential for development of the insect’s caterpillars. Frequent cleaning of grass verges along our local country lanes using herbicides or mowers has destroyed many of the Goose Bush plants on which their eggs would be laid, and will have contributed to the Monarch’s dwindling numbers. Having sown patches of the special seed all over our plot as well as close to the Lanterna bush, taking advantage of the land at its best after a thorough wetting and a day of warm sun, we await developments with interest.

Although weeding is not a job I enjoy, cutting back and digging things up gives instant satisfaction so I pruned the roses and dug out the dead Pelagorniums – something I should have done last year. What we laughingly call our garden, ten feet long and five feet wide, is now looking a mess and must be replanted before all enthusiasm disappears. Because the house backs on to a rank of hills, we look to the wild flowers and Cistus for a spring display, mowing what used to be the horses’ field to make a lawn in winter. This dies back during the heat of summer, regenerating in autumn once there have been a few days of good solid rain, something of which we have had more than enough this January.

How good that the inauguration of Barack.H.Obama was blessed with fine weather on January 20 and, as millions of people stood packed like sardines all down The Mall listening to a Pastor from California praying on behalf of the Nation, it illustrated the difference between British political correctness and American patriotism.

Unafraid of offending those of other faiths, proud of their country, united and full of hope, at that moment they offered an example which the government of the ‘United’ Kingdom might do well to encourage. With so little good news on television, it made a refreshing change.

Meanwhile the days roll by and like an old motorcar I was booked in for my annual MOT, something I have done for many years on the premise that it is better to anticipate a major medical breakdown than wait to be towed to the nearest repair shop.

Although overstretched, the Portuguese health service (Serviço Nacional de Saúde) appears to knock spots off its British counterpart. It helps to be able to make oneself understood in the language of the country, an occasionally sharp “fala Portugûes” to be expected if unable to do so, unless the client is a tourist. Otherwise, we have been grateful for the patient kindness that is their normal approach when dealing with the elderly. With regard to the MOT, it appears I am good for another 1,000 miles but must tune up my muscles and get rid of a burgeoning spare tyre.

So may yet live to see the run of pylons erected behind our house last year completed and in operation. Nothing has happened for weeks. Some of the lattice work towers have power lines, others stand alone and one is lacking a top half. The general layout looks Heath Robinson and haphazard. If electricity is to come from the wind turbines on the far horizon, there is still some way to go, the propellers of the tall Martians rarely moving and rather a waste of space. Only two of a long line are displaying bright flashing lights but the rest have no hazard warnings for low flying birds or aircraft.

Bearing in mind the speed with which the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve has been built, it was assumed that the grid lines were there to supply the racing complex near Mexilhoeira Grande which appears to be managing very well without it. While I believe the race track will bring much income to the Barlavento district, if there were any money left in the coffers for other matters, the EN125 could do with a complete facelift. When the Via do Infante was constructed, it was intended to relieve pressure on the old road but having driven to and from Portimão a lot lately, the EN125 looks to be as busy as it ever was. The surface is covered with cracks, potholes and stones scattered where the tarmac is disintegrating, aggravated by heavy rain and constant traffic that is in no way slowed down.