Sewage and Citroëns .jpg

Sewage and Citroëns


SUMMER’S HEAT is beginning to bite, and the levels of lakes that remained low after the winter rains are falling again, which does not look good if the hoped for influx of visitors arrives. With apartments shooting up like mushrooms and more golf courses under construction, the forecast of desertification of the region within the next 50 years looks like fact not fantasy. The grandiose dreams driving the building industry do not seem to include adequate infrastructure, with dire consequences once there is full occupation.

We are only half way through the month of May and, at the time of writing, there appears to be a spot of bother in Lagos. A large pumping tanker and two maintenance vehicles have been parked on the water side of the Avenida for a few days, directly across from the underground sewerage works. Two large pipes attached to the tanker have been laid side by side along the pedestrian way, parallel to the river and going away from the town centre. At the end, they disappear into a manhole on the EN 125, reducing the carriageway to a single lane: one can only assume that the liquid being pumped is town sewage, for which there is no more room. Where it is going is anybody’s guess.

Twenty years ago, raw sewage was discharged directly into the river through a series of underwater outlets, easily identified by shoals of fish gorging there and unsavoury items found sailing out with the tide. Today, the river is crystal clear, but on the beach beside the Fortaleza, there is a notice in English and Portuguese that forbids swimming. This small backwater used to act as a repository for anything still afloat after its trip downstream and the sign suggests that, even now, there are undesirable agents present in the apparently clean sea. However, nothing deters youngsters from bombing off from the port hand mole when conditions are right, nor sailors from jumping out of their dinghies after a sweaty race round the cans.

Cleanliness being next to Godliness, this urge to eradicate even the smallest threat to health looks like becoming a new religion. Unless the infant immune system is exercised through contact with dirt and infective material, it may cease to act as a protective barrier against disease: leading to trouble in adult life, the over use of antibiotics and a drain on State health services.              

Meanwhile, driving round the Algarve certainly keeps other senses alert, and the ability to react in the face of danger remains more or less acute through constant practise. While speed and dangerous manoeuvres take their toll on motorways and the open road, for a variety of other hazards local country lanes take some beating. At any time of the day or night and on any blind bend, you may find a farm dog asleep under a shady tree where the tarmac is cool; perhaps a snake crossing from one side to the other or a partridge leading a dozen balls of fluff to safety. Be wise and expect a herd of goats or a phalanx of stately cattle, each weighing more than half a ton, round every corner. That way, it may be possible to arrive home with car and reputation intact, but not always. Last week, driving with his usual care, the Boss almost met his ‘Waterloo’.

Under the motorway tunnel, close to home, where the carcase of a small car has now lost all its wheels, windows and bonnet, he braked sharply and took to the overgrown grass verge. A fine Lusitano stallion was parked broadside on to the traffic, its Portuguese rider in deep conversation with a local farmer. Not wanting a pair of iron hoofs etched into the driver’s door, there was no alternative but to take to the country. Unfortunately, the dense growth of wild oat concealed two large rocks and the stump of a eucalyptus tree. Bouncing from point to point with an expensive clatter, the car bottomed out, finally coming to rest on level ground. Unperturbed, the horse remained where he was and his heavyweight rider continued talking as if nothing had happened. We sat for a moment gathering our wits then climbed out to inspect the damage.

The best thing about old cars is the strength of their components – none of this paper thin stuff that dents if breathed upon heavily. The rear bumper was hanging off on the passenger side, one tyre and wheel hub was a little bruised. It took only a minute or so to boot the fender back into place, and we continued on our way, but carefully just in case there was invisible damage to the tyre, enough to cause a blow-out. Several cars, held up by the horse, which hadn’t moved to the side, went on their way.

A few years ago, the Boss, driving an identical Citroën, was waiting at a red light in Lagoa. A maxi flatbed juggernaut, coming the other way, jumped the red and ploughed into his car, pushing it into a white van behind, writing off both vehicles. The Boss escaped with a bloody nose and one less of his nine lives. They don’t make cars like that any more ….