Monday of each month.
When the square was in its original state, itinerant vendors hammered stakes into the grit to support their shelters and they may have a slight problem with the town council if they wreck the pavimentos.
In the past, there were seats round the mill, where retired village elders met to discuss this and that, and keep out of the way of their womenfolk. With great forethought, another place has been built for them alongside the Growers’ Market. This is fitted out with tables and stone benches, which, being rather chilly to the nether regions, the men have lined with sheets of cardboard and it is their new social centre. There, they enjoy a game of cards and watch the world go by. The women, who, a few years back, gathered daily in the fruit and vegetable area next door to gossip as well as to buy fresh supplies, must be catching a bus into town for their fresh produce.
Some vendors have left and the place feels deserted, but I gleaned one item of interest from the only other Portuguese customer present yesterday. A heavy fall of snow on Serra da Estrela, further north, had covered the mountains in a thick blanket and would account for the bitter north wind that has stripped the leaves from our bouganvilleas. There might be a white cap on Monchique by Christmas, according to our old neighbour. She remembers their smallholding buried under white drifts some 50 years ago.
Knowing the inability of EDP to maintain a steady supply of power during wet weather, recently I bought a UPS (Unlimited Power Supply) from my indispensable computer guru. This is a large storage battery, permanently connected to the mains, into which all electronic bits and pieces are plugged. It provides about 20 minutes of current, sufficient to save work in progress, and irons out power surges that might wreck the delicate systems. However, it does not protect against lightning strikes and, for that, spike protection must be added. A few years ago, the house was struck and our telephone suffered meltdown, so perhaps I should upgrade now that the weather in general is becoming more aggressive.
The tempest of November 19 and 20 will have taken a heavy toll on any birds heading south for the winter. Caught in mid-Atlantic by severe winds and torrential rain, they fall out of the sky to drown in their hundreds. One fell into a busy road as we passed. Taking the saturated bundle of wet feathers home, we lay it in a warm box and slowly it emerged as a young House Martin. Hatched late in the season, it was unprepared for the journey and although it flew from my hand during a lull in the downpour, it only covered a few feet. Returned to the warm resting-place in a quiet room, it lived until the next day.
Aggression seems to be the name of the game in this 21st century, where wealth becomes more polarised and many of the disenfranchised and poverty-stricken seek a way out of the wilderness through drugs and criminal activity. While the media head up their bulletins with reports of violence and terror, and good news is no news, this small corner of paradise is fast becoming ‘paradise lost’ for a minority of expatriates.
During the last few months, several decent, quiet living people known to me have been victims of robbery carried out stealthily and at night. Their houses were entered while they slept and one couple appears to have been doped with a spray while items of jewellery were removed from their persons.
The loss of confidence caused by invasion of privacy, and the knowledge that local police rarely manage to catch those responsible, tarnishes life with an undercurrent of fear. Some will sell up and leave the country; others on a limited income cannot afford to do this. What is certain will be the knock-on effect as it percolates through to people on holiday and is retailed back home. With new holiday venues opening up, albeit further from Britain, but equally as beautiful as Portugal and still unspoilt by unbridled development, there is likely to be a move away from the Algarve to set up home elsewhere.