By PAUL MCKAY [email protected]
Teacher, Paul McKay, left London to live a self-sufficient existence in the Monchique hills with his partner Martyn. He keeps an assortment of animals and grows a variety of crops in an eco-friendly way – all on a limited income.
Saturday 3rd January
In two days time, I am beginning a new job. I have been fortunate enough to secure a teaching post in a wonderful school in the west of the Algarve. For the first time in many years, I am looking forward to beginning work. The only slight concern I have is our car. As well as the lights behaving in a peculiar manner, the diesel gauge malfunctioning and the radiator leaking, it also has the distinction of being a rather tatty looking carrinha, a pick-up. Although a person is not judged by his car alone, I do not wish to appear any more like a Monchique hillbilly than is absolutely necessary. It would also be good to arrive on time, in one piece.
Today’s journey to the co-operative in Monchique, a mere two kilometres, did little to enhance my confidence in the carrinha. After topping up the water, Martyn cracked two of our hen’s eggs and dropped them into the radiator. This self-sufficient solution was suggested to him at the local café. As the water heats, the egg cooks, is circulated around the system and clogs up any fissures – problem solved.
On the way home, we had to top up the water twice.
Upon arriving home I was greeted by two knights in shining armour – my neighbours. They have offered to lend me their spare car, a Volkswagen Polo, for a few weeks until I have enough money to buy a reliable vehicle.
Sunday 3rd January
We visited friends near Salema today for Sunday lunch. Just after the main course, we received a rather manic call from our neighbours informing us that the aforementioned Polo was acting strange. A friend of ours was about to use the car and had left it running on the track in front of our neighbours’ house whilst he nipped in to collect something. Bizarrely, as the door clunked shut, the central locking whirred unexpectedly and locked all four doors. The car was now on a public road, engine running, doors locked with the key in the ignition.
We returned speedily with the spare key.
Saturday 9th January
The Algarve weather is doing its best to remind me of the UK. Hail, rain and frosty starts have been the order of the day. Any illusions I had of escaping the worst of a UK winter seemed to have been put on hold as I start every day scraping the ice off the windscreen. The journey to school, however, is a wonderful contrast to the greyness of London. The Monchique hills, silhouetted dramatically in the rising sun, slowly give way to the gentle green undulation of the Barlavento countryside.
The first week at work was wonderful. The Polo behaved impeccably and the school is a rewarding place to work. Class sizes are small, the teachers hard working and standards high.
Saturday 24th January
A weekend of farm management lies ahead of me. We have a number of chicks pipping in the incubator, who will need to be relocated to our pintos house. There are a number of other tasks awaiting dry weather: a little pruning of the fruit trees and some weeding.
Saturday 31st January
Chuva, chuva, chuva. The rivers are thundering and all that is growing are chanterelle mushrooms.
Paul has recently published his first book entitled “A Year in Monchique” which can be purchased online through our website by clicking on the link to the right of this page. Paul John McKay can be contacted by emailing [email protected]