By: PAUL McKAY
Email: [email protected]
Friday, December 8
I have been jogging since September. Not continuously, you understand, but five or six times a week. When I first began, three or four minutes exhausted me. Things have improved since those early days and I can now manage to run for 90 minutes, albeit not particularly fast. I am beginning to recall the elation I used to feel from jogging many years ago, a sensation of what can only be described as happiness. The initial 10 minutes or so is a struggle, but this soon gives way to a pleasant, almost dreamlike state, where I don’t need to focus or think about the running, it just happens by itself. This frees up the mind in a way which I think is quite therapeutic, resulting in an experience that is relaxing, liberating and, at the risk of sounding a little self indulgent, quite spiritual.
Jogging, of course, is not without its pitfalls. The average dog seldom sees the point of jogging and demonstrates this by chasing, snarling and snapping. I tend to do most of my running on the unmade roads in Monchique, which although inspiring in their natural beauty, tend to go up and down with monotonous regularity. Pot holes are also a local Monchique hazard, particularly after a downpour (the last one lasted two weeks), as it is impossible to ascertain the depth of a puddle until it is too late.
Most people under 40 now accept joggers with either complete indifference or a nod of the head. The elderly, on the other hand, tend to stare, point, laugh or call names, which can be a little harrowing. While jogging in a manner which I believed to be graceful, past a gaggle of old folk near a bus shelter, I foolishly made eye-contact and commented that it was hard work. One jovial old chap replied that it would be because I was so fat.
Another elderly neighbour who doesn’t quite get the point, starts a conversation with me each time I attempt to jog past her horta. This necessitates me stopping and joining in the conversation as I do not wish to appear rude. Once I tried telling her that I was out for a run and couldn‘t stop, however she simply ignored the comment and carried on talking. Being English, I stopped and chatted as if this had been my intention all along. The conversation ended with me struggling home with cuttings and roots of plants I didn’t really want – that was the end of that run.
Monday, December 11
I have spent the last few days industrially constructing a calçada path to lead from the house to the car. I am not particularly good at practical work, especially where levels of accuracy are required, but tend to be better near stone or cement than wood. I have a proper little calçada hammer and sit on the ground with my legs crossed digging into the soil and hammering the granite blocks in place.
Once in place, the gaps are filled with powdered stone and the path looks as if it has been in place for 100 years or more. I must say the work really is quite enjoyable (a little like playing on the beach as a toddler) and very rewarding, as the path slowly begins to snake its way along. The end product, to date, looks good, but is not what you might call level. In fact, the disingenuous among you might say that it is an accident waiting to happen. I am sure as the path progresses the leveling issue will sort itself out – here’s hoping.
Thursday, December 14
Two of my cats, known for their malevolent personalities, have begun using the gaps between my calçada blocks as defecation points. The whole path is now akin to an army assault course that any masochistic corporal would be proud of. The rickety nature of the path plays havoc with the ankles and leads to the occasional life-saving leap, now made more perilous by the liberal peppering of cat faeces.
Friday, December 22
The non-stop torrential rain has finally given way to some sunshine, so we have sown some garden peas. I will be working in the UK for the first three months of next year, so will hopefully return just in time to eat them.
Both sets of parents are due at the humble abode for the festivities, so we have spent a couple of days ‘tarting up’ the house and making the garden look presentable. All five cats now use the calçada litter tray with gay abandon, so regular poop scooping is the order of the day. It will be horrific enough if one of the folks stumbles on the path and, if they are forced to take a dive, the least I can do is ensure they don’t land in feline sewage.
Eggs (pig), now heavily pregnant, has upped her appetite a little and is back onto two feeds a day. She is quite large, very vocal and waddles in a most becoming way. She has indulged in a little more home renovation work, so we did our best to rebuild it today and added a wind break in front of the door for when the little ones arrive.
I am sorry to have to tell you that the pig and her destructive behaviour is not the worst example of farmyard delinquency we have to endure. One female rabbit (unnamed) has taken to ram raiding her hutch door until it swings open, abseiling to the ground below and, as I write, is running amok on the turkey terrace, refusing to succumb to any inducements to lure her into a cage. The first few times she escaped she was easily caught, but used this experience wisely. She is now faster than any whippet, avoids eating in the presence of humans and knows every nook and cranny of the turkey terrace. Martyn believes he will discover a way of catching her but I am convinced she will live her days out running free.
The Christmas dinner was a gut-buster affair involving guinea fowl, duck, pork and turkey, cooked to perfection by Martyn. While he cooked, I entertained the parents, spending most of my time explaining how to use mobile phones, TV remote controls and foreign light switches.
No sooner had they taken up residence on the sofa than the satellite reception went on the blink, showing a blue screen and a message about searching for a signal. One of them was heard to mumble, without a trace of irony, that it was all rather strange because this is exactly what happens at home too!
While attempting to fix my mother’s mobile phone, I was somewhat amused by the first few entries in the address book: casino, chiropodist, doctor, MOW. Upon further enquiries MOW turned out to be ’meals on wheels’. Why I find this funny I don’t know, I just know I do.
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