By Paul Mckay
Wednesday, October 4
If at first you don’t succeed, get a professional in. With this in mind, we had Ana, the Monchique vet visit this morning to inseminate Eggs, our reluctant pig, who is now at the height of her season. Eggs behaved immaculately – stood patiently (you could even say serenely) during the act itself and limited her thrusting to a few violent backward jerks.
After five minutes or so of the forbidden fruit, she began to look doe-eyed and dribble profusely. I may well be a novice at this malarkey, but I know a good insemination when I see one … and that was good. I am certain she will be pregnant. The vet agreed that if the pig is not pregnant this time, then it is a problem with the pig, not us.
Saturday, October 7
I have begun jogging … again. Years ago I was quite an accomplished jogger and have had various half-hearted attempts at beginning again. The excuses for not continuing are endless, but like anything in life, they can be overcome if you have the will. Monchique, it has to be said, is not ideal terrain for a novice jogger, one is never far away from a 1:10 hill. Nonetheless, I began two weeks ago – stuck up my little record chart – and set off for my first three minute jog. I am now up to 15 minutes and feeling quite proud of myself.
Tuesday, October 10
We have decided that Eggs needs to have a sturdier, warmer house for the duration of her pregnancy and motherhood.
If this pregnancy is successful, she will give birth at the beginning of February, never a particularly warm month in Monchique. As well as a little insulation, she may well need a warmer area with a heat lamp for when the little ones arrive.
We have decided to build a house from bales of straw, reinforced by wooden stakes and to re-use the corrugated iron from the old house for the roof. The bales were delivered to us at 11am this morning and, by midday, the heavens had opened. Fortunately, we had more corrugated iron lying around near the house protecting an old bath and a pile of manure. If all this is conjuring up imagery of a reclaim yard, then the imagery is a little too enchanting. A poorly organised municipal dump next to a clapped out Renault 5 is rather more fitting.
Wednesday, October 11
Alan, a long-standing friend of ours, arrived from Britain yesterday for a 10-day sojourn in the sun. We drove through torrential rain last night and woke up to a dark overcast sky this morning. Before venturing on the great Algarve tour, we roped him in to helping us build the new pig house.
Somehow the weather managed to be blistering hot while we were doing the heavy carrying work, and then wet and windy while we were erecting the house. We have a fence (more corrugated metal) separating Eggs’ area from that of the geese. I had the cunning plan to build the new house on the goose side of the fence and move the appropriate panel upon completion. The completed house looks snug and warm and, more importantly, strong.
Thursday, October 12
The pig house has collapsed. More to the point, it has been vandalised by Eggs, who is turning out to be something of a Luddite. She appears to have wilfully destroyed the new house before laying down defiantly under the remaining fragments of the old house. The morning was spent re-building and reinforcing the new house between intermittent showers. Alan keeps looking up at the sky and stating that it looks to be clearing up. This, it has to be said, is a very positive outlook coming from someone who grew up in South Wales.
Saturday, October 14
The jogging is now at 20 minutes, but is quite tiring. A few friends have given me tips on stretching, but I do seem to ache, especially along the shins. I am quite overweight so this is extra strain on the joints, but I am determined to persevere – Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Sunday, October 15
The new pig house was built in a day … and destroyed in two minutes. Around lunchtime today, a good deal of crashing was heard, when Eggs decided to walk through the back wall of her house to play with the geese. Today’s new build involved a slight change so that the house is now like a long tunnel, allowing Eggs access to both the goose terrace and her terrace.
Tuesday, October 17
Monchique was hit by a huge storm last night and has left us without a phone line. The lightning seemed to light up the whole of the inside of the house, which was quite useful as the electricity had been cut. My neighbour tells me he is certain that lightning came through the power points and into the house. This is somewhat worrying, because I have a power point immediately behind the headboard!
By some previously unheard of good fortune, I had purchased a surge protector for the computer on the very day before the storm, despite Martyn’s protests that it was not necessary. Not only did I save the computer, I also get a few months supply of gloating in too. Alan has put his shorts back in the suitcase and seems to have accepted that the weather will never clear up.
Wednesday, October 18
Last night’s mini hurricane whistled through Monchique, blowing over trees and electricity poles, rattling shutters and destroying at least one pig house and a chicken house. Alan asked to be driven to Lagos to spend the rest of his holiday in an area with phones and electricity, away from the danger of wind-propelled corrugated metal.
Thursday, October 19
Today we removed the fence separating the geese and the pig and rebuilt the pig house to an even higher specification with a roof beyond the reach of the pig’s nose.
Friday, October 20
The pig house is standing! An unintended benefit of this system is that both pig and geese eat from the same bucket, providing cute animals in harmony scenes. The geese seem more than happy to share their terrace with Eggs, which is quite out of character, as it usually takes a year for them to get used to any change. Perhaps they enjoy the nightly house wrecking cabaret.
Saturday, October 28
My jogging is now at 26 minutes and I seem to have to get beyond 10 minutes before it stops being a struggle. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that, after this point, I am in ‘the zone’, not least of all because I would sound absurd, but I am definitely enjoying it and feel I could go on for longer. The stretching also seems to be helping and I have no pains the following day.
I find that jogging, like swimming, frees up my mind somehow and encourages me to daydream and to mull over things. In some strange way it is very therapeutic and, after jogging, I feel incredibly relaxed, refreshed and positive. As I finished jogging today I leapt across the river (okay – stream), strode up the stone steps (built by me), admired the sturdy pig house (still standing) and thought what a wonderful place the world is.
Sunday, October 29
Today’s jog was an absolute nightmare, I thought I was going to pass out. My shins ache, my head is spinning, I’m wheezing like an asthmatic and I’ve developed jogger’s nipple!