As we walk into the unknown…

TWO WEEKS AGO I mentioned how troubles often come in threes and in the space of five days we had encountered just that many setbacks to our comfortable existence – then, within the next 24 hours, our freezer went into total meltdown.

Needing something for supper I opened the door to find a limp mélange of raw meat and fish. The contents ended up in the lixo, except for a quantity of raw chicken, which was well cooked and fed to the dogs – they lived like kings for the next 10 days. As so often happens after a down patch, matters can only improve and the next day we went to Portimâo to buy a replacement, the old one being beyond repair. Browsing through various supermarkets we settled on what we wanted, and while the Boss measured it for fit I had a look at some new cookers. For months there had been rumblings on the domestic front about the condition of our present oven. It was 17 years old, neither thermostat nor grill worked properly and I had given up baking cakes after a series of failures. As we opened oven doors and considered prices, I hinted that I would make him a cake, if only we could have one of these.

Two days later the replacements arrived. A gas fitter turned up at 7pm to connect up the cooker and we were in business. Now, every time I see large white kitchen equipment dumped in a ditch, I wonder if it was ours. As for the cake, well, Christmas is coming! Meanwhile, we are enjoying a brief Indian summer, warm and windless after the rain and gloom of last week and it has brought forth a fine crop of mushrooms. Gathering a hatful for supper I had second thoughts about their parentage and gave them to a knowledgeable friend. Thankfully, he suffered no ill effects, so if any more come up we really must try them ourselves, but I am left with twinges of guilt about using a neighbour as taster in the royal mode.

On the plus side, after many weeks during which nasty weather and other diversions intervened, at last Fred’s kennel is finished – a luxurious doghouse with double planked insulated walls, a porch to keep out the rain and enough room to swing a cat. I started to climb inside hoping to encourage the dog to do likewise, but became stuck at the hips and had to make an undignified exit encouraged by sharp teeth and a cold wet nose.

Now for more serious matters. Sunday 14 was the official Remembrance Day service across the Algarve, we left home in good time to find a parking place.

We continue to meet in the Salâo da Luz, a pleasant airy hall in town used for sport, theatre and any other function needing plenty of space, while builders carry out renovations to Luz Church. As our Catholic friends left, the Anglicans arrived in considerable force until every chair was filled, and there was standing room only for latecomers. Old friends met up with others rarely seen in church and the chatter was rowdy and enthusiastic, until the Reverend Dr. David Kirby entered and we fell silent.

An introduction from Psalm 98 settled us to the occasion and favourite hymns reminded us not only of what we had lost through war, but lit the way ahead with hope as we walk into the unknown. A wreath of poppies was laid at the foot of the altar while we sang O Valiant Hearts, bugler Tony Jordan played The Last Post and we stood for two minutes’ silent recollection and prayer, followed by the reveille and remaining verses of Valiant Hearts. After taking the Eucharist, we made an act of commitment to serve God, to seek peace between nations and to support those working for the relief of all suffering people whatever their needs. Then we sang God Save the Queen and went out into the glorious sunshine.

As we headed for home, Lagos Bay was calm and serene, Optimist dinghies whistled for a wind beyond the moles and yachts in the marina were resting quietly at their moorings. Then we spotted a new arrival among the racers and sleek gin palaces. A converted fishing trawler from a bygone age, it was timber built with a long low counter, wooden mast and very little above decks to hamper the hauling in of laden nets. Judging by the amount of washing hung out to dry along the boom, she had tied up after a long passage, perhaps encountering some rough seas en route. Nothing could disguise her pedigree or graceful lines and she reminded me of work boats I had watched as a child, chugging up and down the River Torridge, or out across the bar into Bideford Bay.

At night I found the rhythm of their diesel engines comforting when I couldn’t sleep. From my uncle’s house high above the water I watched them returning under a cloud of screaming gulls, the deckhands either gutting fish or sorting their nets ready for the next sailing. Back in the early 1930’s, Bideford Quay was lined with motor-sailing vessels bringing coal from Wales to the town and loading outgoing cargo for coastal deliveries elsewhere. Now, like Lagos, the town economy relies mainly on tourism and leisure pursuits.