Lagos, august and parking

By Margaret Brown

Parking in Lagos at this time of year is a lottery, one of the few irritations due to a large increase in population. With only a short season the more the merrier, to put cash in the pockets of those who serve holidaymakers in whatever capacity, and to see the workers through the winter months. The downside has to be lack of car space and a few manic drivers that seem to have left their manners at home.

Lagos Sailing Club was holding a three-hour race the other Saturday and their parking space was full to capacity. With permission I parked in front of some other vehicles while joining a friend for coffee in the bar, ready to move as soon as required. Returning to my car after a happy half hour I found it in another place. Having left everything locked perhaps some visiting sailors had lifted it up out of the way: but no, a rear passenger door had been forced. As a result this interfered with the electronics and neither windows nor doors would lock. Knowing that no Club member would do that I put it down to experience, learning the hard way the vulnerability of Fiat Pandas to a determined thug and no one to blame but myself.

The previous week No.2 daughter,while riding her 22-year-old motorbike back to Bolton UK on a devious route through Portugal, Spain and France, had the misfortune to break down near Madrid in open country. She made her way to a village and found accommodation for the night. Ducati in Madrid showed no interest in the matter but people at a local garage and small hotel were most helpful. Using a borrowed computer No.2 contacted her agent in Bolton who mailed back details of repairs needed. These, with the help of Google, were translated into Spanish and by 5pm the following day bike and rider were on their way, the bill being €36.

Somehow two days’ riding was crammed into one and they caught the pre-booked Caen ferry to Portsmouth without further trouble. Having had a similar experience last year when the duo was touring Europe perhaps the Gremlins, so active among all things mechanical, will go back into their box until another ageless adventurer comes by.

With two more birthday parties come and gone and a friend’s 80th celebrated last month, the unfailing kindness of people is an inspiration. This helped to compensate for the fact that 90% of officialdom shut up shop and disappeared into limbo during the month of August, including my respected local GP who was not back until September 9. If in need of a consultation the alternative was one of the Centro de Saúde in Lagos, places to be avoided if one has difficulty explaining medical problems in Portuguese. A working grasp of the language for daily use grinds to a halt when confronted by quick-fire instructions in the native tongue, from harassed officials dealing with a milling mass of patients. At least some nurses speak a little English, a luxury unlikely to be offered to a foreigner in the UK if the situation were reversed.

There is always the village Farmácia where highly trained staff offer immediate and wise advice in relative peace and which remains open all year round. At the bank next door the staff is equally pleasant despite my pidgin Portuguese and an absence of English on the other side of the counter rendering all but the simplest transaction a bit of a struggle. As today when I went to buy five cheques and the computer system was down. Slowly being phased out, cheques continue to have their uses under certain circumstances but at €5 for one or €8.50 for five there seems to be some disregard for customer service, especially because they become invalid after one year.

Across the EN 125 from the bank Paula, my cabeleireiro, was waiting to cut my hair and very good she is for a quarter of the cost in town. Then a few metres up the EN 125 the local costureira had relined my heavy winter coat, again for a relatively small sum. In just over an hour, my needs had been seen to, by the Chemist, Bank, Hairdresser and Dressmaker in a stress- free atmosphere. Recently the village was granted ‘Vila’ status, a source of pride and celebration for a growing population and a big annual party that continues well into the night.

Up in the sticks this hot dry weather has produced population explosions among both Sparrows and Azure Magpies, the latter squabbling in and around three drinking bowls like women at a jumble sale. Then they drink their bath water. As for the sparrows, which I decoyed from the patio by scattering birdseed on the drive each morning, the bushes are alive with them by 7am. Unafraid when Collared Doves dive in for their share of the feast, some 50 parents and nestlings seem blissfully unaware that they are being watched by yellow eyed cats, tucked back in the shadows awaiting their share of the food kitchen. Indoors, last year’s few Gekkos must have enjoyed a riotous spring up in the rafters because every room has a new crop of tiny replicas, delightful to watch but very messy in their habits and with no predators other than their own kin.

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