Friday, August 4
Along with the late Queen Mother (God rest her soul), August 4 is Martyn’s birthday. The disingenuous among us would draw further comparisons, but I prefer to leave it at that.
Martyn is one of those people who steadily gets younger (in his own mind) as the years pass, making birthdays quite fraught occasions, as everyone tiptoes around, not knowing whether to risk being scolded for saying “Happy Birthday” or suffer an attack for forgetting the occasion. Indeed, the very words can assure the day is anything but happy, particularly if one teeters close to mentioning his age (real as opposed to official).
We decided a few years back that we would only buy each other small gifts, as generally, we buy things we need (or want), as and when the need arises. Given this agreement, I am a little mystified at Martyn’s reaction to the battery powered, multi coloured, flashing fish key ring I procured from a street vendor, on our way home from the Sardine Festival in Portimão. Admittedly, it was purchased at three minutes to midnight and perhaps it wasn’t the most personal of gifts, but hey, it’s fun!
The flashing fish was the icing on the cake of an evening, already somewhat soured by a 30 minute queue for our quota of sardines, and then being filmed eating them by an RTP camera crew, possibly exhausted with the hopeless search for someone still smiling once they finally got their food.
Wednesday, August 9
Whether senility has kicked in early, or Martyn is actually a very well preserved 90-year-old, I can’t be sure, but forgetfulness is definitely becoming the norm. Visits to the shop regularly end without the intended purchase being bought, and items regularly go missing between the checkout and the house. Huge bottles of bleach, barbecue coals and luxury bathroom tissue all have a bewildering habit of vanishing on the way home. A pack of 10 alkaline batteries went AWOL a couple of weeks ago, accompanied by the usual protestations and categorical assurances that they were picked up at the check-out.
What sets these apart from other disappearances is the fact that they re-surfaced weeks later, albeit in the freezer with a bag of bread rolls. I said nothing, although I did ensure that he didn’t try to defrost them in the microwave.
During a foolhardy moment of relaxation on the veranda, I was reading a report that this year’s weather is remarkable for the length of time of uninterrupted high temperatures, when suddenly I became aware that the low humming sound of the electric pump had ceased – all we need. Sweltering hot, surrounded by flies and sweating profusely, Martyn toiled away in the pump house, raising the feeder pipe from the well to find the cause of the problem. The pipe had become blocked by a 40cm adder that had decided to end its days in the well and use our pipe as a coffin.
Thursday, August 17
Mother, who, after years of abstinence, became an IT fiend five years ago, has signed up to a new broadband provider in the UK, which offers free phone calls to Europe. A garbled message on our voicemail told me to call her, allow the phone to ring three times, then hang up. This way we can communicate without any extra costs.
I hadn’t managed to speak to her for a while, as my three rings were never responded to, so decided to e-mail her to see what was going on. Needless to say, she had completely forgotten the whole scheme (fortunately, I had recorded evidence) and was becoming fractious with constantly sprinting to the phone, only for it to stop ringing before she picked it up. Like everyone else in the UK she blamed the whole debacle on call centres.
Sunday, August 20
Did I mention we had a pregnant pig? Well, we haven’t anymore. Either the pregnancy was phantom or she had a miscarriage and ate the evidence.
Phantom pregnancies are not unusual in the animal world, and the phenomenon seems to be rife this summer. We met a couple with a heavily pregnant dog, only to be told that the dog was not pregnant at all and has a phantom pregnancy every year. Moreover, a resident of Marmelete has told us of a goat in the area that had a phantom pregnancy and then set about kidnapping (an apt term if ever there was one) the young from other mothers, producing the milk to feed them.
Wednesday, August 23
It’s all go with the animal husbandry again, I have been dragged around Aljezur market, this time to buy young chickens. Eight ducklings have hatched in the incubator, so the chicks have been introduced to a broody duck, which has been mothering away to her heart’s content. Two of the chicks, that may have had an inclination of the life to come, decided to end it early, by diving into a bucket of water. The area has since been tidied of all such dangers (good job we never had children).
On Monday, Martyn informed me that Eggs was showing signs of coming into season. This morning, I made the mistake of ignoring her advances, so she charged through the metal fence and chased me around the goose compound, seeking love. After a stern talking to and a bit of stick waving, she was encouraged back into her own area. The sperm is on order and, if all goes well, we should have a very content pig by this time tomorrow.
Paul McKay can be contacted via e-mail at [email protected]