Hunting, wildlife and moments of reflection

By MARGARET BROWN [email protected]

Margaret Brown is one of the Algarve Resident’s longest standing contributors and has lived in the Algarve for more than 20 years.

Following so many weeks of heat and dehydration, our plot is now closer to a desert than the green paddocks and roses for which we hope once the autumn rains begin – if they do.

Until then, it will remain dormant awaiting this annual miracle. Weekly visits from our ‘man about the place’ and his partner, willing to attack any outside job and very hard workers, have been put on hold, there being nothing to do in the bushwhacking, mowing and wall building department.

Even perennial weeds have been shocked into submission and what little irrigation needed to keep essential shrubs and trees alive is my department, the idea being to use as little water as possible on inessentials.

Yesterday morning, I was disgusted to discover I had left a hose turned on overnight. Having parted company with its rainbird, the flooded area round was already turning green and as I watched, a rabbit hopped from the rockery into our neighbour’s derelict meadow.

Good to see some local wildlife putting its head over the parapet despite minor ravages to a few green plants. However, this morning, a small bunny lay dead near the house. Well fed, very healthy and no sign of myxamatosis, bright eyed and clean but with a puncture in its chest.

Neither our neighbour’s dog nor Millie showed any interest in the newly killed animal. Bagged up and ready for the Lixo bin, it weighed half-a-kilo.

One less for the hunters whose sporting calendar has already opened for migratory species, while, according to the internet, indigenous creatures may be shot throughout the year.

Bad news for this season’s hatching of sand martins, swallows and swifts currently feeding from dawn until dusk along the valley behind our house.

Nesting in sandstone cliffs cut by a seasonal stream, the martins find plenty of flies in the vicinity of a small lake. From time to time, one after another swoops down, flattens in flight and drinks, leaving concentric ripples all over the surface.

These young migrants must feed well before going south for the winter. Repeated over and over, their aerodynamic skills suggest real joy in the business of living. A performance that brings to mind the firefighting Canadair CL-215, a water bombing plane first built in the 1960s, which is seen at work in Portugal wherever there are forest fires.

Taking 10 seconds to scoop up 5,000 litres of water, it can deliver that amount in one second. Now superseded by a Canadair turbo-prop 415, the earlier model continues to operate successfully despite being out of production.

Never mind the inconvenience of traffic confusion and heaving restaurants, it is a pleasure to see Lagos and Luz filled with holidaymakers, their beaches awash with people and the smell of sun lotion.

As long as this hot weather continues, Anglican congregations on a Sunday appear to shrink in direct proportion to the increase in temperature and when a local jazz combo begins its lunchtime session at the nearby Fortaleza in Luz, church doors are shut.

Those inside must sweat it out in the rising heat, fans having been dispensed with when the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Luz was repainted and given a face lift a few of years ago.

Coinciding with preparation of the Eucharist which is the nucleus of our worship, a period when one should be able to hear a pin drop, the delightful sounds are hard to ignore.

An added distraction is the foul smell of barbecuing sardines, equally penetrating and in inverse proportion to the pleasure of the music.

Meanwhile, the Boss fits in a couple of outings a week in his Laser, the schools being on holiday and children in Lagos Bay receiving regular instruction in their Optimist dinghies.

This small monohull has only 35sq.ft of sail, is 7ft 9ins long and 3ft 8ins wide with minimum clearance beneath the foot of the sail and the bottom of the boat.

One Sunday a few weeks back, the Clube de Vela de Lagos held a Veterans’ Race, to be run as a series of heats in Optimists. As usual, the Boss took part, the baseline being 35 years old which gave him a head start in age if not agility.

The main hazard, challenge tacking, which required helmsmen to bend double beneath the boom while avoiding the tiller.

Already bleeding from two cuts on the head, eventually he became jammed in the cockpit. Because of language difficulties, his rescuers assumed he had become exhausted, repeatedly trying to pull him into the rescue boat.

The penny dropped eventually and the Boss was freed, having decided that it is the last time he will race an Optimist.

Some problems that come with advancing age are more easily solved, in particular that of hiring a car when on holiday in England.

Most agents consider that at 70 years, a driver is a liability and we are grateful that experience and a clean licence still count with one firm which has no upper age limit.

Aware that as one grows older more care and concentration is needed, the main hazard will be driving on the left as well as fishing round for the gear lever with the wrong hand.

While at the same time trying to keep my lips firmly zipped up, my back-seat driving will be working overtime.

Should anything untoward happen, The Boss is unlikely to claim “The car lost control”, which was the excuse of a young Briton who hit a wall near the city of Braga.