A sense of foreboding

news: A sense of foreboding

SUBSEQUENT TO our application to be connected to broadband for speedy and unlimited access to the internet, we have had nothing but trouble.

When Viatel – a branch of Portugal Telecom – came to switch our system from digital to analogue, we were given a new telephone number. This was unobtainable and we complained. Whatever steps were taken to rectify the problem added to the confusion when we found a message on answerphone intended for a neighbour. It transpired that we had been allocated their number on which, for a brief period, we had contact with the world outside.

After some head scratching at the exchange – or whatever name it goes by in the 21st century – we are again incommunicado and wondering who will be billed for the long distance calls made to our worried family before the line went dead.

Nine days later, we are dependant upon mobile phones to keep in touch with our nearest and dearest in England – a double whammy because we continue to be charged by PT for the privilege of their non-existent services. Day follows day, each with a renewed promise from PT that we may expect a visit that morning, afternoon or evening. And nothing happens.

One or other of us must be at home at all times in case a mechanic comes to put matters right. Jobs around the place, usually left on the back burner, are being done, however reluctantly; but, given the choice, we would rather be drinking coffee in a favourite watering hole, people watching and admiring yachts in the marina.

With summer arriving overnight and southern Iberia registering temperatures in the high 80s at the time of writing, yesterday we had a warning of what may lie ahead. A pall of brown smoke was rising lazily from a fire somewhere behind the eastern hills, teased into streamers on the dying breeze. With reports in the press of senior personnel resigning from local bombeiros and lack of fire-fighting equipment despite promises made, the beautiful evening was overlaid by a sense of foreboding.

Ongoing drought has reduced many barragens (dams) to a new low and it seems that aeroplanes, which in the past have carried out water bombardment, cannot be used this year because they will be unable to rise above the surrounding banks when loaded. Word has it that a number of suitably equipped helicopters have been bought to fill this gap and, looking back on the courage and persistence of those pilots who fought big fires in the past, we shall be relying on them to a great extent.

Now that the hills are warming up, some interesting insects are emerging from wherever they have over wintered. Armies of black ants are on the march, making wide tracks through the dying herbage. Looking like spaghetti junction, where several nests are moving house simultaneously, their roads are banked with dried vegetation. Individual ants can be seen humping fertile eggs, seeds and other items essential for furnishing a new colony.

By their earth shifting while tunnelling underground and because of their garbage disposal of both human and animal detritus of every sort, they do more to ensure land fertility than the entire human race. Eminent biologist, E.O.Wilson, claims that if all people disappeared from the planet, it would very quickly return to healthy equilibrium; but if the ant population was wiped out, it would result in disaster.

Country life is always full of surprises and the other day, seeking a quiet five minutes, I retired to the lavatory with a book, sat down and glanced to my right. Fixed to the white tiles level with my ankle was a magnificent relative of the Cicada family: wingless, with a big head, glistening eyes, one antenna at least two inches long and six hairy legs, four of which supported a very fat stomach ending in a big prong.

Not wanting to disturb it, I exit quickly and shot into a second bathroom. Returning with camera five minutes later to take pictures, I then placed the highly active bug outdoors for another photo call. In all, it measured four inches in length and three across from toe to toe. Releasing it into the bush, I hoped that it would find a safe haven for a while before being eaten by some hungry, nocturnal carnivore. Minus an antenna perhaps, its sense of direction was already below par, but, without doubt, it could still fiddle a fine tune upon those enormous back legs.

While the insect population survives on a minimum of water, during hot weather, people need to increase their consumption to compensate for evaporation. Especially if – like me – they have a tendency to suffer from gout, it is advisable to drink at least a couple of litres of water a day.

For the last two weeks, I have been handicapped by a vicious attack of this agonising complaint in one foot. Unable to walk the dogs and somewhat evil tempered, I visited a podiatrist who advised a session of reflexology. After an hour of soft music, dimmed lights and deep foot massage with oils, I felt rested and full of hope. Although the pain still lurks in the background, it is fading and I am becoming slowly waterlogged. Over indulgence in wine and spirits is not the cause, but aggravates the condition. How very depressing…