A rude awakening.jpg

A rude awakening

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.

THIS AUTUMN there has been a plague of the common mosquito in our area and having read that Aedes Aegypti (a member of the same family) has been confirmed on the island of Madeira, we shall be taking every precaution.

Despite applying repellent to any exposed flesh before walking in the country, I have been bitten both on eyelids and ears.

Safe in the knowledge that, to date, the human parasite and vector for Dengue Fever has not been seen on mainland Portugal since 1956 and those caught on Madeira were free of viruses, at the moment there seems to be no reason to worry. However, it is good to know that the health authorities over here are taking the threat seriously.

Meanwhile Millie the shag pile bitch continued to scratch and lick her paws to such an extent that we had to take her to our local Vet, for the second time. Anti-histamines were prescribed but the itch continued to bother her to such an extent that she worked herself into a state of panic. With Leishmaniasis endemic in the Algarve and knowing that farm dogs in the area are infected, we do all that is possible to protect her, but there seems no way to avoid mosquitoes. Seeking further advice it was suggested that we reduce the protein content of her diet and this seems to have done the trick. More pasta mixed with boiled chicken and less proprietary brands of dog food from now on, and another job for a reluctant housewife. As a result of the constant irritation Millie has drawn a wide stripe along the walls of the house where she has been rubbing, following in the footsteps of the late lamented Bess.


Having remarked upon the exemplary conduct of this season’s hunting fraternity, we had a rude awakening last Sunday morning. What sounded like a railway sleeper being banged against the house was, in fact, double explosions of a 12 bore within about 50 yards of our back wall. By the time I went outside three sportsmen in camouflaged fatigues were searching for whatever they had bagged, just beyond the dry stone wall encircling our property. Taking photos as I walked toward them, we eyed each other for a couple of minutes: then they retreated over the hill. Because my hands were shaking, none of the pictures was clear enough to take to the GNR and make a complaint. If it happens again, I shall ask the Boss to do the filming.

On a happier note, next spring’s Easter Lamb has been arriving two by two on a smallholding  not far away, born just as the newly sprouted grass had grown long enough to feed a small flock of sheep. The ewes having plenty of milk as a result, within a couple of weeks the skins of the new arrivals no longer hang round their legs like empty sacks. Curled up together or jumping about in the sun on spring loaded legs, their today is full of joy because tomorrow never comes, and what a lovely way to be.

With farming in mind it is good to hear that the present recession is likely to benefit agriculture, the weak pound discouraging importation of food while making farm exports more competitive. Since 2001, there has been 27 per cent decline in the sale of lamb from Britain to Europe, especially to France, which was our biggest customer.

There are nearly 24 million sheep on the British Isles and in a bid to re-educate the French palate, a tripartite campaign has been launched by Britain, Ireland and France called Agneau Presto (i.e. Fast Lamb!). Sixty French restaurants will highlight special menus incorporating lamb, and four training establishments in Paris will offer cookery lessons demonstrating the Cordon Bleu potential of this tender meat. Recipes for TV snacks, quick meals and formal dinners are to be incorporated in 700,000 downloads on an interactive website.

Griffon Cultures circle overhead
Griffon Cultures circle overhead

Animal welfare

To achieve the end result involves transporting live animals to the continent of Europe under close confinement and for many hours, which in the past has caused much suffering. If half the attention given to waking up the market were applied to the welfare of animals in transit there might be benefits all round.

From the confines of factory farming to the freedom of the skies and, as usual at this time of year, birds are migrating in large numbers from northern and southern Europe to sub-Saharan Africa, following a mainly western coastal route to avoid having to cross mountain ranges. The other day a very excited neighbour telephoned from her home at the far end of our valley. Apparently a great flock of Griffon Vultures was circling overhead, having swooped down from the range of hills behind their house. It was a very warm afternoon and the large birds remained there for several minutes soaring on thermals rising off the steep hillside. Being able to lock their wings when spread wide, they soared and side slipped making minor adjustments to primary and tail feathers in a harmonious display of perfect flight control. Their numbers are declining along with those of other carrion feeders, a major reason being the widespread treatment of livestock with steroids and painkillers, particularly in India and Asia where carcasses are left outside. Further west the burial of dead animals has reduced available sources of food, and electrocution as a result of an increase in the number of power cables is common.