By: MARGARET BROWN
ARRIVING IN Portugal with two dogs, two horses, an English registered car and a nine foot six inch caravan that was illegal, we have spent the last 21 years trying to keep on the right side of the law.
One of my first encounters with bureaucracy involved the licensing of my two mature Border Collies. I was fined 1,500 escudos (7.50 euros) on the spot for failing to register them at six months old. That was back in 1986 and once again, the brick wall of officialdom has come between me and a licence for Millie the bitch, our recent acquisition.
Her export papers from the UK were correct down to the last detail and her passage through customs went without a hitch: passport and health records being in order.
These were presented to our local freguesia where I was told a vital three figure number was missing. A second visit to the câmara vet was necessary to have the chip between her shoulder blades re-read and it agreed with the number on her import documents. Again the papers were rejected at the local seat of officialdom so back we went to the kennels in Lagos for a third time to wait nearly two hours, while half a dozen packs of hunting dogs were seen to.
It was their day to be vaccinated and groups of up to six at a time, roped together and noisily entangled, were injected and their papers filled in. Besieged by flies and host to a newly acquired tick, at last it was my turn.
Patient as ever, the veterinary surgeon wrote out another form, gave me two carbon copies and accepted his fee. We went back to the seat of village government where a clerk, muttering that there was still something
missing, finally stamped my application form and more euros changed hands. Although the bitch is now legal I have yet to receive her licence.
To avoid queuing at Lagos finanças for a car licence I thought to do it over the Internet using my new password (senha) and identity number provided last year. After wrestling with the system for a while, I chickened out feeling ashamed of my incompetence, and later that morning joined a long line of hot, sweaty people waiting for their number to come up.
Strangely, it was not long before it was my turn. Again something was missing from the documents for my new car but this time every effort was made to sort it out there and then thanks to the kindness of the woman behind the counter. As for the stamp to stick on the windscreen, I should expect that to arrive by post in a few weeks.
Back in the agricultural belt which diminishes with each passing year, finally what passes for animal fodder has been bailed after lying cut and wuffled for many weeks under a hot sun. The coarse mixture of perennial weeds, wild oat and other indigenous grasses has become bleached and denatured. It will be fed as maintenance rations to cattle and any remaining mules and donkeys for their basic winter diet. But nowadays fodder for quality horses comes mainly from the Alentejo and is more like English hay.
The promised desertification of the Algarve seems to be one step closer as drought begins to bite in our valley. The leaves of a neighbouring vineyard are already brown and crisp in patches – perhaps the result of blistering winds that have blown across the western region, desiccating the hills and making life difficult for small birds as they seek food for their nestlings. The daily toll caused by sudden gusts that have blown them into the path of speeding cars is marked by small bundles of broken feathers, especially of this year’s fledglings, which have not yet learned of the danger of passing traffic.
Flying of a different kind was on the minds of many people of all ages who flocked to see and take part in the Algarve Air Sports Spectacular at Lagos Aeródromo on Saturday July 7. Organised by micro-light record holder Gerry Breen and event director Philip Gilbert, also a micro-light pilot, it was to raise funds for Lagos Bombeiros and for the orphanage Lucinda dos Santos.
There was a successful attempt to break the World record of 31 micro-light aircraft flying in formation, 50 pilots having signed up to take part. Other attractions on offer included rides on Harley Davidson motorbikes sparkling with chrome, short flights, high-speed rides up and down the runway in a classic Corvette and a display by radio controlled model aircraft.
Entrance was free for children under 12-years-old, the cost of flights and rides kept as low as possible to make them accessible to families, and refreshments were on sale all day.
This air day was a first for Portugal, helped by the generosity of several sponsors and because Gerry made his Algarve Air sports centre freely available on the day. Next year, together with Philip Gilbert, he hopes to bring the World Micro Air Racing Championship to the Algarve, which would be another first.