Summer in the Algarve

news: Summer in the Algarve

YEARS AGO, a silly story circulated about some American tourists who were on a tour of Windsor Castle. “It’s a beautiful place,” one of them commented, “but I wonder why the Queen, with all her money, would build a castle in the flight path of Heathrow Airport?” Perhaps, he had not taken on board that when William the Conquerer started construction in 1070, nobody had heard of aeroplanes…

I was reminded of that a couple of weeks ago, when I read in The Resident that Quinta do Lago property owners are complaining about the noise from planes using Faro Airport. True, the airport has expanded enormously since it first opened in the Sixties, but it has not just suddenly appeared on the landscape.

Even a decade ago, it was obvious that the villas in certain areas were on the flight path. It was no secret, not like creeping mould on a wall that you can cover up with a bottle of bleach and a pot of paint. Potential buyers saw the planes: indeed, how many have peered out of the windows of their plane as it comes in to land, to point out Quinta do Lago to their friends? And, is it not one of the plus points of the resort that it is only a 20 minute drive from the airport?

Another story in a recent issue of The Resident told of a financial adviser who has vanished with a million euros. If he has run away, how do we know it was a million euros? In these cases, there are always people who do not come forward because they feel silly for having been duped – so if those who have held up their hands account for a million, it could be considerably more.

It sounds a lot of money, doesn’t it? One million euros… But, actually, for someone who has to now be looking over his shoulder for fear of being found out, it isn’t. The people who are hardest hit are, of course, those who are left with nothing. They trusted this man with their life savings and now – perhaps at a time in their lives when they are not in a position to start all over again – they find themselves with no savings, no capital and no cushion against the future. It is a mean, nasty thing to do, and it does not do the Algarve any good, at a time when its reputation is already tarnished.

There was a feature on Portuguese TV news last week about the increasing number of Portuguese people who are choosing to take holidays across the border in Spain, rather than in the Algarve. Holidaymakers at Islantilla were interviewed and they all said that their choice was based on cost. One man said he had saved a thousand euros on a holiday for him and his family by going to Islantilla instead of the Algarve.

To make a comparison, reporters checked prices in Quarteira and Vilamoura. Year-round residents can confirm that prices of food and drink seem to magically rise around the marina in Vilamoura during the summer months, and that does not help, but Quarteira is hardly the most expensive resort in the region.

Then there is the crime wave. It seems to have gone very quiet again, hasn’t it? Are the thieves themselves on holiday, perhaps, or is it just that it’s something we don’t want to talk about while there are tourists here?

I was recently asked to translate a statement written by a Portuguese friend of John Turner, the man who died during a robbery at his house in Loulé. The statement has been published by many Portuguese and English-language papers in the region and it reflects the concerns of many residents of the area, Portuguese and foreigners alike. The statement makes the point that the postmortem carried out here put the cause of death down to heart failure, while the postmortem which was subsequently carried out in England found broken wrists, broken vertebrae in the neck and marks of abuse. It is more than a little worrying that an official postmortem here did not find broken bones and, as the statement says, just as worrying is the apparent apathy of the police in this case. It took a death to make anyone sit up and take notice – what does it take for anything to actually be done?

Not a happy picture, is it? And that does not include the severe water shortage and threat of serious fires that hang over the whole region. I wonder if there are notices in all hotel rooms and rented villas and apartments to explain the situation and ask tourists not to waste valuable water. If not, there certainly should be.

Leaving taps running, messing around in a running shower for half an hour and playing with the hose pipe in the garden are all wasteful and are just not acceptable at a time when livestock are dying, crops are failing and farmers are watching their lives literally drying up in front of them.

At times like this, each one of us has to observe and do what we can to help, without getting caught up in the negativity that is so destructive. “If worrying can achieve something, then worry; if not, there is no point worrying,” as the saying goes. I wish you all a happy, relaxed and positive summer!

By Judy Sharp