Flares and frogs.jpg

Flares and frogs

By: Margaret Brown

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AS A diversion for the geriatric remnant, holidaying down Lagos way during January, the câmara laid on a firework display from Meia Praia, which attracted quite a crowd, despite the chill wind. In fact, to be truthful, it was a morning set aside for the voluntary testing of flares, rockets and smoke canisters, by owners with yachts berthed on the marina.

Out of date distress signals were to be handed in for the safe keeping of the local police, who were also present to ensure nobody strayed into the path of a rogue ball of fire during its slow descent by parachute from a great height. We retreated to the comfort of a nearby coffee bar to watch two of our friends take their turn on the front line. No problem with the smoke canisters, but their rockets, although held in the correct way, failed to rise and went skittering along the beach at a great rate of knots, before fizzling out and no harm done. One thing is certain, when they cast off and sail away later in the year, their safety equipment should be of the finest.

It is easy to ignore something that should have been done a while ago, but ends up in the dead files tray until the powers that be send a wake-up call. Such has been the case with the Boss’s old Citroën hatchback – it was written off in Lagoa many years ago by a juggernaut that jumped a red traffic light. First the ambulance and general upset, followed in a few days by an extended visit to the Police in Faro, the crumpled vehicle was left with a named garage and life went on.


A recent letter from the Direcção Geral de Viação (DGV) requested a visit to its office in Faro, where the crashed car has continued to be registered to the Boss. What should have been a simple matter of form filling took four hours and included a dash to the local kiosk for photocopies of several documents. Just as we thought to escape, the Boss was asked to write and sign a hand written statement in Portuguese, affirming that our old banger was no more. A horrid way to spend a morning … but, on the plus side, there were padded seats in the waiting area, no smoking and a lavatory for those in need.

To be an octogenarian and a motorist becomes more difficult each year, especially when trying to hire a car in Britain, although one cannot blame the owners for a degree of caution. With holidays in mind, we have contacted a variety of agents, and only Alamo will accept clients over the age of 75 years with no supplement.

It is now or never, because the European Union proposes to force vehicle manufacturers to reduce in stages the carbon emissions of their product – as much as18 per cent by the year 2012. The rise in car prices will be reflected in the cost of rentals which, added to higher air fares, should have the desired effect of keeping some of us at home. Whether this will slow the warming of the planet is a moot point, in view of the tons of carbon emitted by China and the United States, but at least we can claim moral high ground, if nothing else.

Already in danger of becoming a crotchety old cynic in a world where change is not always for the better and good news is no news where media vultures gather, it is a comfort to walk among the gently rolling hills between our home and Monchique. A place of refreshment where birds sing sotto voce and those remaining after the winter shoot keep a very low profile.

One morning this week, a heron was breakfasting on fish from our neighbour’s barragem, hidden in a stand of bulrushes, until it flew up without a sound, circled and headed for the Bravura reservoir. The following day, a pair of ducks took flight, with much noisy quacking and I thanked God it wasn’t Thursday. Frogs breed there every year and a sudden rise in temperature had shaken their hormones into song.


While there is enough food in that patch of water to rear a brood of ducklings, if the hunters don’t get them the foxes will.

Over the years, there has been a steady reduction in the number of species on our plot of land. The variety of colourful lizards and snakes that greeted us when we took possession is rarely seen today and, apart from one dead mongoose and maybe a rat or two, other indigenous mammals seem to have disappeared.

Recently, we had a thorough clearout of rough ground behind the house. This produced a vast amount of organic rubbish and, knowing that hibernating animals favour such places to sleep away the winter, we asked the local câmara to remove it before some homeless insomniac dropped in. We had expected a long wait, but within a few days, three men and a large lorry rumbled up the drive, complete with crane and grab.

In two hours, the heap was loaded and the outfit left – a thoroughly satisfactory service and at no cost to us. The dumping of garden waste at the roadside could be avoided if more use were made of this facility and another motoring hazard removed.