Dozy dogs and rampant rodents  

news: Dozy dogs and rampant rodents  

“Stop the world I want to get off” – sometimes it begins to feel like that and then I look from my office window into a stand of eucalyptus trees. Against a sky bled white by the noonday sun, their green fingers smooth away all knots and cares and common sense returns.

Likewise, our mongrels are balm to the soul in their attitude to life spent mostly dozing: untouched by 21st century cybernetics yet communicating silently and immediately with their own kind. Young Fred, close to death when found last summer, falls asleep wherever his legs buckle and nine times out of ten lies right where one wants to work. Inert, ears closed and barely breathing, in an instant he will leap up and demand to go out having picked up a silent message from the dog next door. Once their repertoire of mock fights is exhausted, they disappear into the hills. Hours later, Fred comes back home filthy, exhausted and soaking wet from a quick dip in the local lake, strolls through a flock of collared doves and flops to the ground close beside them.

Attracted by the seed scattered for small birds during this time of drought, the doves forget to watch their backs: and end up losing their heads, their denuded bodies left untouched. While regrettable, it is the natural order of things and anything that helps to keep their numbers down is welcome. As many as 20 perch nearby overnight and sleep becomes impossible at dawn as they pipe their penetrating song.

A matter of no consequence when set against the joys of life in the countryside – although it does have its disadvantages – is the presence of rats with a predilection for any sort of insulated electric wiring. Cars have been disabled, underground telephone wires munched and when friends living nearby returned from holiday last week their water system was out of order. They had to have a new borehole pump and 40 metres of conduit fitted to replace what had been eaten. Many rodents had been at work in their absence and it is almost impossible to keep these voracious creatures from paying a second visit. In one year, a couple of rats can lay the foundation for over one thousand progeny. Under optimum conditions, they are able to give birth to a new litter of four to 10 young every four weeks. These babies mature rapidly and reproduce at a similar rate –the whole sequence mimicking pyramid selling.

Putting this aside and turning to the natural beauty of southern Portugal, it is possible to visit exhibitions of paintings and craftwork throughout the holiday season, many of which are an outlet for the work of local artists. Passing the old Slave Market in Lagos three weeks ago, I was stopped by the sculpted head of a man standing at the gate. Inside there was a stunning collection of oil paintings by Timo Dillner, a German national living with his young family near Bensafrim.

Covering a wide variety of country, town and coastal scenes the richness of his palette brought out all the dust and heat of an Algarve summer, the cool shade of a narrow street or the robust curves of a working trawler. Some pictures were allegorical and imaginative, one or two gave me a frisson of foreboding, but all made the viewing satisfying and memorable.

Also on show were examples of Timo’s pottery, highly individual polished slate jewellery and sculptures. His next shared exhibition is on June 21 at the Armazém Regimental near to the Slave Market where the subjects will mainly be of his craftwork.

There was little if any publicity given to the collection I chanced upon and it is worthwhile walking past the Slave Market on the off-chance that some other talented individual is offering their art work to a wider public. Everything is likely to be for sale and I would like to have bought one of the pictures; it showed a dusty lane, an old farm building and a purple bougainvillaea asleep under the sun.