Wednesday June 1
Today we have picked and cooked beetroot, beans, courgette and our first tomato – not bad for the first of June.
Friday June 10
I haven’t been able to keep the diary up to date since that horticultural update due to the fact that I have been working my clogs off. The disaster began during the French Open when Martyn nipped out to make a cup of tea – a cup of tea which he insists was for me, thereby, holding me responsible for what ensued. While he was out of the room, Nadal (rising Spanish tennis star) made a particularly brilliant passing shot. As it was about to be shown in slow motion, I called Martyn to come and see. Due to a combination of shoddy footwear, inattentiveness, dog slobber and a tiled floor, Martyn arrived at the lounge door somewhat quicker than either of us had anticipated – performing a double flip on the way. The gymnastic extravaganza would have been quite amusing, if he had not landed full weight on a mug of boiling tea which sliced through his arm – resulting in a thick spurt of beetroot coloured blood. A tourniquet, a mercy dash and an explosive entrance to Monchique hospital shouting ‘Esta’, resulted in some temporary bandaging and a journey to Portimão accident and emergency section, where Martyn received a carrier bag full of medication and 32 stitches! Since then I have been fetching, carrying, watering, digging and doing everything else farm life entails, during what must surely be the hottest June in living memory. As I charge up and down hills carrying pig food in a furious sweat, I occasionally pass the house to hear him on the phone to somebody or other, adopting a ‘woe is me’ voice, relaying the story yet another time. These exchanges invariably end with a victim-laden meek laugh and the words “…and all this, just because I was making him a cup of tea.”
Martyn’s aspirations for the title ‘World’s most incompetent rabbit breeder’ are still on target, surpassing even his previous best efforts. As you may recall, he tricked me into keeping rabbits by disguising a rabbit as a chicken (once cooked that is), and discovering an abandoned chest of drawers that would make a perfect rabbit hutch. Three years on, we have fed, bred and watered an assorted collection of these pitiful creatures and have yet to achieve any young that live beyond a week, let alone make it to the dinner table. After seeing off the latest batch, he has recently purchased a pregnant female from the ‘rabbit lady’ and has been feeding and caring for her (the rabbit that is) with tender loving care. Her due date came and went, but no young appeared. Her shape has remained unchanged so what that’s all about, I don’t know. He has bred her again this week, which she seemed to thoroughly enjoy, so we live in hope.
Thursday June 16
Anyone who knows Martyn, knows his Portuguese is not wonderful, but he can get by in everyday situations. Imagine my surprise then, when he had managed to relay the entire detail of his ‘cup of tea accident’ to the assembled crowd in the local café, in the time it took me to park the car and empty the rubbish bin (an impossible task with a bad arm – apparently). I entered the café to the sight of Martyn surrounded by sympathetic onlookers, one or two who I am sure shot me venomous looks. Incredulous, I heard Martyn in perfect Portuguese explain how he had had trinta e dois pontos (32 stitches).
This evening, sadly, we had to end the life of Bacon, our black pig who, sadly, contained very little bacon. She has never been a particularly healthy pig, not growing particularly well and retaining water. The problem was resolved by medication for a while but, in the past couple of weeks, she has started ballooning out again. The killing was as unpleasant as ever, but had a feeling of ‘mercy’ about it as well. Most pigs her age would give well over 100kilos of pork, she however only gave about 50kilos. We killed her in the evening and worked at skinning and butchering by lamplight. Fortunately, it was a cool windy evening and we were finished by midnight.
Friday June 17
Despite her poor size, Bacon is proving very tasty. This evening we had barbecued ribs, accompanied by chips and salad – the whole meal was home produced. While eating the meat, my mind does think fondly about her running around, but it is a sad fact of life for meat eaters – you can’t eat meat without an animal being killed (unless you intend to amputate of course).
Monday June 20
Martyn is well on the way to recovery now and I have been struck by shingles, an illness that makes me think of old ladies for some reason. I suppose this is what mid forties (muffled scream) is all about – yo-yoing from one illness to another until the stair-lift and walk-in bath are installed. I have told everyone I meet about my shingles scare, but seem to gain very little sympathy. Most people react by rattling out some old wives tale (is that a sexist expression, I wonder?) about dropping down dead if the rash travels all around your body to meet at the other side.
Thursday June 22
It is officially the end of an era – we have sold our Renault 4, and our house no longer looks like the forecourt of a dodgy second-hand car showroom. We put a very professional word-processed advert on the windscreen containing those familiar words Procuro novo dono – I’m looking for a new owner. Inexplicably, this wording has always irritated me; I think it is something to do with personifying inanimate objects. I used to get unreasonably irritated by London buses with the destination Sorry, I’m not in service – what’s wrong with Out of service for heaven’s sake? The reason no one puts a ‘for sale’ advert in their car, apparently, is that it is illegal to do so, but strangely it is quite legitimate for a Renault 4 to seek out a new owner. Anyway, we parked the car outside the petrol station in Monchique and two days later had an offer from our very own vet, who needs it for the bumpy Monchique roads; so now it is sold.
Tuesday June 28
Martyn’s mobile phone went missing about a week ago and has just re-surfaced on the driveway – crushed! This somewhat epitomises the ‘middle-age crisis’ I guess. You don’t hear it drop, you don’t miss it for three days, you can’t find it when you look for it and you don’t notice it as you repeatedly crunch over it. At least he will be able to buy one with a high visibility keypad now.