Forecasting showers and penguins.jpg

Forecasting showers and penguins

By: MARGARET BROWN

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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.

WITH A strong south easterly wind churning up the waters of Lagos Bay recently, few boats have ventured from the Marina: the narrow harbour exit being no place for a weak hand on the tiller.

Coming in at an angle, the breaking waves could prove difficult for larger boats and downright dangerous in a dinghy.

There is also an added hazard beyond the river mouth. A hidden and so far uncharted sandbank of considerable size is building up in the bay.

It has been suggested that the construction of a new mole off Alvor may have altered the currents and certainly the silt, which was washed down by heavy storms a few weeks back, will not have helped.

From the hill above Lagos fortaleza, there is a clear change in the

 ‘A small Penguin was seen wandering along the main street in the village of Odiáxere!’
‘A small Penguin was seen wandering along the main street in the village of Odiáxere!’

colour of the sea especially at low tide.

Sailing in at dusk and unaware of the danger, a visiting yacht could easily become grounded there.

Several years have passed since the approaches were last dredged, so perhaps something may be done sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, with the wisdom of experience, surfers have resisted the urge to ride the turbulent and disordered waves off Meia Praia beach.

The forecasted rains a few weeks ago never materialised and our bit of countryside began to lose its freshness.

After January’s thorough soaking, the wide and colourful variety of flowers that bloomed were being shrivelled in the wind, the valley stream had disappeared below ground and there were cracks in the dried mud.

Frogs’ eggs laid in many small pools had little chance of growing into tadpoles let alone adults, but no doubt there will be plenty coming on in a nearby lake.

Local wildlife struggles against the odds, keeps a low profile and is seldom seen by day, although evidence of a presence can be found among the stones and bushes.

The smell of fox and wild boar occasionally hangs in the damp morning air after the animals have retired to bed.

On Carnaval morning, we took a drive among the foothills of Monchique and saw two beautiful foxes.

In full fur and with long bushy tails trailing, it will have been a vixen and her mate, this being the middle of the breeding season.

Unfazed, they stood and watched us for half a minute before following a zig-zag track and disappearing into the hillside.

With a gestation of two months, the cubs will be born and fed within the den for several weeks.

Once they have emerged, the parents continue to feed them for a while longer and teach them how to forage but they remain in a family group until autumn or later unless destroyed.

In the absence of large birds of prey, their main threat is from human beings.

Despite being classified as red foxes, the pair we saw was more of a golden-grey with pale undersides.

Before our horses died, we rode out regularly from the farm and never once saw a fox that could be described as red, as seen in England.

Washed ashore

Strange creatures pop up from time to time especially during early February and this year was no exception.

On Monday, February 4, a small Penguin was seen wandering along the main street in the village of Odiáxere!

Being a day of strong winds and foul weather, no doubt it had been washed ashore and was trying to find its way back to the sea. I hope it made it!

As I write, my biweekly good fairy is working her magic in the accumulated dust and dog hairs of our comfortably untidy home.

Her small scooter chuffs up the drive on the stroke of 9am and she breezes in, kisses us warmly and pats the dog before setting to with a vigour and enthusiasm for house cleaning that is in inverse proportion to mine.

During four hours, with a short break for coffee, she goes at it like a gale of wind.

Every corner, the front and back of all the rugs and carpets, nothing is passed over and the smell of polish permeates outdoors.

By 1pm, the whole house is glowing and immaculate.

Today, having a little time left over, Maria was on her knees turning out cupboards full of china, which had not been excavated since we moved in 10 years back. Amazing and there is only one grumble.

It takes a couple of days to find items that are in daily use, which have been tidied away neatly in some unexpected corner.

Never having employed someone to tidy up after us, it is a humbling experience, made more so by the assurance that this Portuguese lady thoroughly enjoys coming here. She is a gem.

Valentine

And so to St Valentine’s Day celebrated on February 14 and which, in 1969, was removed from the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints on the grounds that nothing was known of him apart from his place of burial, north of Rome.

While several mediaeval priestly martyrs were named Valentine, 11 of which were allotted Saints Days prior to 1969, it seems that Geoffrey Chaucer first brought love into the equation when he wrote his Parliament of Foules poem in 1382 AD.

Translating the text from old English, it reads something like this: “For this was on Saint Valentine’s day, when every bird comes to choose his mate” written for the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia.