Patience will achieve more

news: Patience will achieve more

MOTHERING SUNDAY or Mother’s Day – it doesn’t really matter what name it is given, was in past centuries one of the few times that domestic servants were allowed to visit their parents. They gleaned what flowers they could along the way to take as a gift. For the well-to-do, it was traditional to bake simnel cakes rich in fruit and with a heart of fragrant almond paste.

Even now, younger children make or buy little gifts for their mothers, but as they grow older the habit seems to die out. Instead, one receives an illustrated musical e-card by computer or profuse apologies over the telephone for failing to catch the post.

There is a longstanding Biblical connection, however. The 4th Sunday in Lent also commemorates the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 by Christ on the banks of Lake Galilee. Through good marketing, the original connotations have become sacrificed to the Great God of Commercialism and are widely celebrated in the US on the second Sunday in May.

In the Algarve, several ladies from Luz Church managed to find enough flowers to put up several trays of small posies. Not an easy job because, in the absence of rain, very little is growing in the denuded countryside. At the end of the service on March 6, several children came forward to help Father David bless the brightly coloured bunches, one for each lady present and some for absent friends.

That drop of rain earlier this month has worked a small miracle in the hills toward Monchique, where I came across a swathe of Petticoat Narcissi. Facing north, where the early dew lies late at this time of year, these tiny yellow daffodils, the leaves of which emerge later, were nestled in groups, flush against the short grass or hidden under cushions of golden gorse. There was evidence that wild pigs had been digging nearby, probably for the succulent bulbs of the Starry Asphodel or something similar.

It seems that plants that over winter underground are able to survive both fire and drought. Paper Narcissi are plentiful and I have come across small groups of wild Grape Hyacinth with no perfume, not at all unlike the cultivated variety. In a few weeks, wild pink Gladioli, Iris and an occasional brown ‘bluebell’-like flower will replace the predominant yellow and white of early spring. Every one of these is a member of the family Liliaceae and grows from bulbs.

What puzzles me is that, without exception, there is a narcotic present in the storage system of plants of the Lily family that causes diarrhoea and vomiting – how do wild pigs avoid this?Could it be there to prevent roots from rotting below ground and also to deter insects during wintertime? Perhaps the narcotic, which is also present in marijuana, is what attracts the animals in the first place and gives them a quick ‘fix’ as well as nourishment. Next time I come across a wild pig in the early morning – which happened not so long ago – I shall check its eyes and general demeanour before shinning up the nearest tree. Having said that, it is well to remember that animals, as well as people, can have a bad trip and react in various ways.

Once, when having tea with an old school friend, No.1 daughter took a fruit cake she had baked to which was added some cannabis resin. The friend’s mother was having a whist party in another room and, seeing the cake on the kitchen table, she assumed it was for her guests. The cake was cut and handed round, after which the game of whist fizzled out into a gentle Mad Hatters Tea Party of four elderly ladies!

There is a touch of the Mad Hatters in bureaucrats everywhere and none is more evident than when trying to renew one’s driving licence in Lagos. A biennial event for senior citizens, at a stage in life when patience may be shorter than it used to be and the quick grasp of detail becomes slower. This is our year and, on enquiring at the appropriate Centro de Saúde (health centre) when we might have the obligatory medical inspection, the Boss was told to report on any Wednesday between 9am and 10am – the doors open at 8am for early risers. From past experience, there is always an undisciplined gaggle of hopefuls waiting and scruples fly out of the window. Orderly queueing has no place in the Portuguese ethos. While middle Europeans with sharp elbows and a strong Valkyrie streak are unfazed, little old ladies from Britain have a tendency to shed tears of rage at the unfairness of it all. We take a good book and give thanks that we have another five years before our Residência runs out, now that renewal is a nightmare unless one is prepared to pay someone else to do the work. Be at the Bureau de Estrangeiros by 9am with all essential documents, take a seat at the bottom of three flights of steps and spend the rest of the morning sitting on cold marble looking up the noses of the folk above. Having gained the inner sanctum, if one’s papers are in order, the pleasant woman behind the desk completes everything in five minutes. Weeks later, the ordeal must be repeated in order to collect the finished Permit: this is the Portugal I love.