By: Margaret Brown
WITH SUNDAY, April 8, still two weeks away and Easter eggs in glorious technicolour whichever way you turn, those who have foresworn chocolate during the 40 days of Lent must be having a hard time.
Eggs we can resist, but the soldierly ranks of rabbits dressed in silver and gold tinfoil have been our downfall this and every other year. Several bunnies gone and more in the fridge: first eat the ears, then the tummy and last of all the dense hindquarters, a ritual that takes me back to my childhood.
My paternal Grandmother supplied our chocolate treats, but gave the parents boxes of succulent crystallised fruits, one of which I would have swapped for half a rabbit. Eventually greed overcame my healthy fear of her. She looked and dressed like Queen Mary, wife of King George V. With a well corseted figure, endowed after the style of a Pouter Pigeon, she was also a widow, wearing black overcoats fastened top to bottom with rows of tiny ebony buttons and extravagant hats. Awesome was the word had I known it.
I must have been around six-years-old when I crept under the chenille covered dining table with an unopened box of sugared fruits. They were missed and so was I, but no-one thought to lift the table cloth until the lot was gone. The punishment that followed was mild compared with the dreadful overload in my stomach, the nausea and the shame. Perhaps the sweets were made in the Algarve.
Back to the present day and, after a gap of seven months, the Boss has been sailing again. Out in Lagos Bay for an hour-and-a-half with enough wind to lift his Laser dinghy up on the plane from time to time, the new knee did well. Crouched within the shallow cockpit when tacking was certainly different, an artificial joint not feeling as comfortable as living bone and his spine creaking a bit, but the future looks promising.
Racing may take a little longer, although that is the target perhaps sometime later in the year. Thanks to a skilled surgeon, an excellent McTimoney Chiropractor and plenty of work in gymnasium and pool, he has rebuilt lost muscles, limbered up calcified joints and there is a twinkle again in the marinheiro’s eyes.
Otherwise country life carries on as usual. Having taken advantage of an exposed area of raw soil, the result of land clearance by a JCB two months ago to make a firebreak, I have planted an assortment of salad vegetables. Bearing in mind what a Portuguese neighbour told me 20 years back when I was broadcasting oats and vetches for horse feed: one for the ants, one for the birds and one (if you are lucky) to harvest, I was heavy handed this time round.
To sow at the time of Full Moon is also an advantage according to local farming lore – knowledge gleaned through centuries of observation and struggle not to be discounted lightly. However, another factor has come into the equation that could change everything. We have another dog – a medium sized bitch of 10 years, whose first language is Welsh.
Her present family will be off sailing for weeks on end and, being a little old for that sort of caper, she needed a loving home. Knowing that we had lost an animal friend recently and were suckers for anything with four legs and a cold wet nose, her owners came to us for help. More shag pile than silk carpet from Samarkand, Millie has a long golden coat and trousers of the same. With eyebrows in the style of an Old English Sheep Dog and grey ears, her parentage is a matter of speculation: she has a great turn of speed over short distances and it is thought a Whippet figures in her ancestry.
Whatever her mixed breeding, she has nice manners, is good in the car and behaved quite well when having her toenails clipped. It seemed wise to introduce her to our vet and his wife while she in good health. As for my gardening efforts, there is a 50-50 chance that she may be tempted to dig up the role rat colony in our plot and the young plants with it, but “não faz mal” as they say here: I would sooner have a dog.
Not being house proud has its advantages, especially when her hairy boots collect old grass cutting, wet cement from the back of the house, where builders are making a wood store and red mud that leaves daisy foot prints throughout the house on a wet day.
As two previous pets died in fights with neighbourhood dogs, it has been an anxious few weeks. However, Millie has made friends with two of them after some initial aggro and appears to have taken over from the late lamented Fred.
The traffic police have also been enjoying this good weather, monitoring local roundabouts and netting a fair assortment of the good, the bad and momentarily distracted. One motorist was fined 120 euros when he failed to second-guess the route of a driver who failed to signal his intentions. It happens all the time.
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