By: MARGARET BROWN
Margaret Brown is one of The Resident’s longest standing contributors and has lived in the Algarve for more than 20 years. As well as Country Matters, she also writes Point of View every week
FROM OUR house on the edge of the foothills of Monchique, there are just two walks of reasonable length if we are to avoid public highways and be home in time for breakfast.
As a result, the dogs know every inch of bush and where to find the most interesting smells.
The overriding pong of the moment is fox, of which either there is more than one or a solitary male marking a wide area.
Redolent of dirty dish cloths and Chanel No 5 to any vixen within a mile or two, a successful mating spells trouble for the few brooding partridge that have survived the shooting season.
Other nocturnal creatures have been ploughing the moist ground for grubs and choice plant bulbs, tossing large stones like pebbles as they work their way toward human habitation.
When we first bought the old farm, we had a visitation of wild boar within 100 yards of our front door, great slabs of stone having been overturned and thrown aside in their eagerness.
As a result of indiscriminate hunting or trapping none have been seen for a couple of years. These large family orientated animals have learned to hide from human predators, retiring to their secret hideaways before dawn.
Taking the easterly hill climb last week, a place rarely visited by strangers, the dogs took great interest in a widespread litter of plastic bottles, paper tissues and empty cigarette packets among the cistus bushes.
Dazzled by the rising sun, we almost fell into the bottom half of an electricity pylon. More sections lay beside four deep square holes into which the legs of this martian meccano set will be dropped.
Others will soon be marching across the rolling hills which, apart from two properties built beside a trig point some years back, had remained unsullied by the encroaching demands for building sites and uses other than agriculture.
Carried above ground, the high tension cables disperse a low frequency electromagnetic field within a known area which may or may not have an adverse effect on animal health but for sure, nobody wants them in their back yard.
The cost of taking high voltage wires underground being prohibitive, we look set to have a network of these towers, of which no prior notice was promulgated.
With the building of a tourist complex and Formula One racing circuit near Mexilhoeira Grande as well as rumours of another international airport not far away, this peaceful haven for animals and a scattered population of locals and immigrants looks set for disruption.
Having ruined the coastal strip with indiscriminate and ugly building projects, the developers are to be let loose inland.
The goose that laid the first golden egg and brought tourism to the Algarve is breathing its last. Rue the day because eventually discriminating people will go elsewhere.
On the bright side, if we are still around when everything is up and running either we will be too deaf to hear the racing or too old to care anymore.
Water being the conflicting element in the equation, it is to be hoped the powers that be have figured their calculations correctly. The word on the local grapevine suggests another barragem is to be built.
On the subject of water, our borehole, sunk and licensed in 1997, has never been used for drinking until recently.
Having looked at a water purification system demonstrated in last year’s Better living in Portugal (BLiP) exhibition, we decided to have one fitted.
On analysis, our underground source proved to be heavily contaminated and the water extremely hard. After it had been running a few days, the primary filter turned black.
We have not yet examined the second (reverse osmosis) filter but while looking clear, the taste of the end product leaves a lot to be desired. Now that a second filter has been added between cisterna and house to eliminate some of the sludge perhaps the flavour of the water will improve.
The smoking ban that is now in operation appears to be having a dire effect on trade in some of the smaller watering holes we frequent, particularly coffee shops and bars.
Where there are tables outside, the blue fug hovering at head height on a windless day ensures that smokers and non-smoker get their fix just the same.
It seems that the Portuguese people have accepted this legislation with a surprising degree of grace, apart from one man up north who refused to put out his cigarette and when tackled by a policeman, bit him on hand and leg.
The pleasure of eating out is much greater in a restaurant full of happy people whose chatter and general goings-on enhance the herd experience that is part of our inheritance.
The downside among a party of friends is to have nicotine addicts disappear for a fix between courses while the rest of us talk across their empty chairs.
However, the joy of coming home with clothes and hair not smelling like a smoked ham and not rubbing red and sore eyes far outweigh any sympathy for the habituated.
At one place on the way to Monchique, well-known for its home cured presunto, the restaurateur has always kept haunches of pork each with its own drip-cup hanging in the dining area.
Until now their unique flavour has been acquired partly from the tobacco fumes supplied by grateful patrons.