It never rains, it pours

news: It never rains, it pours

WHEN WE FIRST came to live in Portugal, skirt hems were on or below the knee, only holidaymakers wore shorts and local men kept their shirts on, even in the hottest weather. Roads in general were atrocious. And although not widespread, there were some drug users dotted about the Algarve, who received their chosen drugs in the post. However, at no time were we conscious of an underlying threat to our personal possessions, nor were we afraid to walk alone after dark in town or country.

Today, drugs arrive by the kilogram, users are more discrete and one might think that the problem has diminished because it is less visible. But, unfortunately, addiction is an expensive habit and casual thieving is on the increase, which is why, a couple of Sundays ago, the Boss thought he had been victim of a pickpocket. Having sailed for two days in the Campeonata do Algarve, he joined a crowd of people waiting for the prize giving. There was much pushing and shoving on the town beach and it was not until he came home that he found his wallet was missing. Frustrated, after competing against helmsmen who ignore international yacht racing rules and sail their dinghies as they drive their cars, this was the last straw. Maybe their ‘me first’ attitude was the spur that drove 15th century explorers on the voyages of discovery and still lies deep within the marinheiro’s psyche?

Returning immediately to the Policia Segurança in Lagos to report his loss, it took over an hour to list the contents of the wallet. Everyone was courteous, patient and helpful, but nothing made up for the fact that vital documents had disappeared, together with a week’s spending money. The officer explained to us that to drive without a licence would be illegal and the Boss must go to DVLA in Faro to obtain a replacement.

Early next day we headed east in monsoon conditions aggravated by a southerly gale. Driving safely was more an art than a science, with powerful sideways gusts and visibility down to a few feet. Keeping my own speed between 70 and 90kph, other traffic sped past us into a wall of water that obscured their cars completely. The first accident happened as soon as we hit the Via do Infante, followed by two more on our side of the motorway and a fourth on the westbound side. A low loader was winching scrap from a fifth crash beyond Loulé, by which time drivers had got the message and were taking greater care.

As we entered Faro, there was a shunt between a 4×4 and a van, but most of the casualties had spun after hitting the central barrier, perhaps blinded by spray while overtaking at high speed. Thoroughly chastened, we waited in the crowded DVLA for a substitute document, the whole process to be repeated in six months time when it expires. A few days later I was rooting round in the back of the Citroen for a magazine and out fell his wallet. Slightly embarrassed, but greatly relieved, we informed the PS and that was that.

The previous Sunday the Boss had been to BliP where he had been offered a quick ‘while you wait’ blood test. He was told that the sugar content was too high and that he should see his GP, so two days later we found ourselves in the Clinica Analise de Sangue in Portimão. This marked the beginning of a week we could have done without, during which our drains overflowed all over the place – a serious matter with two dogs on the loose to whom foul smells are like nectar to a bee. After six weeks of visitors unused to water conservation as well as a slow build up of grease underground, our luck had finally run out. Unable to use water in the house, we phoned the nearest drain specialist and also arranged for the Fossa to be emptied.

We spent a difficult 24 hours before the plumber brought his pressurised hose to clear the system. Then a large tanker arrived. With much shouting the crew assembled a train of pipes, broke open two manhole covers that dodgy builders had sealed with concrete and started to suck. After extracting two tanker loads, they left. The emptying, together with a blow through, set us back 200 euros. It was worth every centimo as we showered, started the washing machine and ‘took five’ in the lavatory with a good book.

Trouble comes in threes and that week was no exception – a lost wallet, two miserable days on the sea and dodgy drains, things could only improve. Now, after much heavy rain, the hills are greening over and patches of autumn crocus announce the coming of winter. Fred has hung up his swimsuit until springtime and taken to rolling in the rich red mud for that little bit of extra warmth. Today the hunters were out in force and the valley echoed with gunshots, sending shivers down my spine as our dogs ranged far and wide. There is little left alive after last year’s fires and any creature that moves will be fair game. It is not a happy time for country dwellers nor lost dogs – two German Shepherd puppies are missing from the Monte Ruivo area and a post operative Border Collie type, wearing a plastic ‘lampshade’ has been wandering the open countryside close by – let’s hope she survives.