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It’s been a hot one

By Jenny Grainer

MAYBE IT’S my age, but after over 35 years of living here, I honestly do feel it has been the longest and hottest summer I can ever remember, and the frantic activity close to my home has been really, really annoying.

I live on a new estate and there was still a lot of bare ground for the developer to develop when I moved in last year. I came to terms with this and, over the winter, kept the windows closed to the constant clouds of dust, as similar homes to mine reached completion. The main construction work was over by the end of spring, roads had been surfaced and the trees planted outside my bedroom window had taken well with strong trunks and thick green bushy leaves. Even more trees were planted around the estate before the heat truly set in, including the back of the building where I have my terrace.

The gardeners arrived one day and, to my sheer delight, planted three of my favourite Jacaranda trees outside our surrounding wall. By next year, they will be pleasing my eye line with their lilac blue blossoms, framing my own multicoloured range of flowers and shrubs.

So, apart from the cement machine that churns out an early morning batch for the building still being finished on a piece of land further up the road, and the odd new proud owner wielding a drill as he tries to penetrate the impenetrable concrete of which our new buildings are made, everything in the garden was looking proverbially rosy. But then, as summer set in for its longest run ever, a new sound broke our relative silence – the caterpillars had arrived.

Now, I am not referring to the little squiggly things that magically morph into beautiful butterflies, I am talking about the mean machines. These massive monsters kicked into life one morning and worked all day, every day until late afternoon throughout the summer, pushing and shoving, clawing and breaking up a previously harmless piece of land dividing the EN125 and the road leading to Estômbar from Lagoa.

Initially, they created high mounds of loose, red soil that rose up into the air and travelled with the wind, settling on hapless neighbours such as me, a considerable distance away. Everything in the garden, including the roses, was covered in a thick layer of red earth. Then, they started dumping tons and tons of earth into hungry, empty trucks that trundled off to deposit their ill gotten gains somewhere, spreading the red dust further and further along the way.

The entire hill was demolished, exposing the now flat land to passing traffic. Along with this, a number of ancient trees, that had shaded and provided nourishment for generations of people, were uprooted and destroyed, instead of being replanted. While they were at it, they also broke up some concrete picnic tables Lagoa Câmara had thoughtfully provided by the roadside many years ago for travellers. They then moved in with modern day steam rollers to flatten the earth, making the very foundations of ours, and the surrounding buildings, vibrate beneath us.

The lower lip of my neighbour trembles now as she stares bleakly out of her first floor window. Where once she saw a green field with trees, she will now gaze on the splendours of a new hypermarket and its car park.

All our lives will be affected. One neighbour loses her view, another is delighted because she already works for the company in Guia and, with a transfer, can work nearer her home. Once the dust has settled and the construction is complete, it will not affect my view and will certainly save me petrol. I will either become a walker, who will dutifully stride healthily to this new monument to modern living, or I will lazily get into my car and feel guilty about driving such a short distance.

The petrol station up the road from the new store lost most of his clients a few years ago when, what was then the EN125 got moved over to its current route. He will now have to employ some new members of staff to deal with an expected increase in returned trade and the only other supermarket in Carvoeiro will finally have some much-needed competition. Time will turn the new Modelo into something we will hardly remember living without. Lives will be adjusted to accept the new, just as they have over the past years that I have known the Algarve as my home.

I like my creature comforts nowadays, but everything comes at a price. Who can remember the previous name of Modelo when it first opened in Portimão and how long ago? No prizes – just wondered.