Nature has its ways …

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.

Everything has a life span and, in view of its age, I should not have been surprised when my Personal Computer crashed. Coming on the back of other problems, to this old camel it was the last straw. Fearing the loss of precious data, I took it to my trusted electronic engineer who, in no time, diagnosed death of the hard disc.

By 4pm that day, like Phoenix rising from the ashes, I had a virtually new PC with all data intact and 139 gigabytes at my disposal. Now my fingers have a job to keep up with its eager response to every command.

Looking to the future, perhaps a similar transplant will be possible for the human brain although not in time for me, whose brain is running out of disc space. While some room remains, a thorough cranial defrag might assemble what free space is available and extend its use for a little longer. As it is, with the main topic of conversation in the village market, the local grocer and farmácia being about foul weather and more to come, one can get by without much mental effort.

And indeed, our plot of land has been under water for weeks now and Millie the bitch wears her long curly trousers like a hippy. Matted dreadlocks the colour of red earth after a thorough towelling are still loaded with grit, and for the next hour assiduously licked clean. Her digestive system thus receives a regular sanding and one wonders if it all passes through harmlessly or lurks somewhere inside to cause trouble in the future. While anything a dog eats follows roughly the same route as that ingested by a human being, perhaps a canine’s need to deal with the indigestible would be solved if it had a similar set-up to a cow.  

Experience gained while working with cattle, sheep and goats suggests that dogs would benefit from a small internal compartment like that possessed by all ruminants. In their complex digestive system, there are four stomachs; the second, called the Reticulum, is a screening device solely for accommodating things like wire, bits of rubbish, nails et al.

When foreign bodies bypass this drop-off point, sometimes they puncture vital organs resulting in what farmers call “Hardware disease”. As a preventative, a small magnet can be placed at the back of an animal’s throat, which is then swallowed and should end up in the Reticulum where it will attract any rogue metals present in the Reumen (first stomach).

After slaughter, the now loaded magnet may be retrieved, cleaned and used again. Alright for small bits and pieces but not of the kind thrown on to our land in Somerset where a right of way passed beside the boundary fence. Beer cans, bottles and a broken lavatory pan were among the more common rubbish, which is one reason why the “Right to Ramble” law in England makes a mockery of agricultural endeavour.

Such irritations pale to insignificance alongside present natural disasters of which there have been an increasing number of late. Since the year 2000AD, major earthquakes and extreme weather, such as cyclones, hurricanes and tornados, famines and tsunamis, have claimed over two million lives. While dwarfed by losses incurred during Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward” from 1958-61 and the associated famine that killed up to 70 million native Chinese, this present decade has been both violent and out of kilter in so many different ways.

Weather forecasters warned of an intense and life threatening storm due on February 27 across Iberia and on into France. Having warned our neighbour, we closed all shutters, tied down anything liable to fly about and expected the worst.

No.1 daughter, due on the first ‘plane out of Faro in the morning and a nervous flyer, had a sleepless night. No wind or rain disturbed us despite turbulent clouds rolling by overhead as they travelled eastward pregnant with destructive forces.

The next afternoon a mini-hurricane blasted across our plot undoing shutters and dumping gallons of water before roaring north into the hills. Small wet birds, powerless in the angry blast, were carried down wind in a chaos of twigs and leaves to an uncertain future.

Maybe it was coincidental but our congregation in Luz on Sunday morning filled the building to capacity. Cynics might say that those present who were on holiday had come in to escape the elements, but unpleasant happenings outside human control often send people in search of a source of comfort beyond their understanding. Help and reassurance are best found in the company of the like minded and when calling upon a greater authority to intervene on our behalf, where better to go than to Church?

Today, the sun shines as a woodpecker hammers the tree outside my window before swooping off in a bubble of laughing song, to drill elsewhere in search of breakfast and a mate. Other birds are squabbling over choice of female, the third looking on as referee before she decides which to honour with her company – and the usual gang of sparrows is locked in a rugby scrum. These every day country matters suggest …”God’s in his Heaven and all’s right with the World” at least for the time being.