Wednesday May 5
Every now and again, I catch myself in mid-thought and realise that slowly and scarily, I am turning into Alan Titchmarsh. As I was transplanting the last of the tomatoes this evening, I felt a wave of satisfaction and completeness; a sort of at-one-with-nature-and-oneself feeling. Maybe this type of thing happens to everyone in their early (okay, mid) forties… Who knows? But, on reflection, this ‘satisfied’ feeling is a bit scary. I don’t have anything against Alan Titchmarsh – I just don’t want to be him. Perhaps I should develop a drug habit before it’s too late. Anyway, back to the vegetables (I feel better already). I have had a wonderful couple of days tidying everything up, planting lettuces, cucumbers, tomatoes, pumpkins, okra and peppers. The recent sunny weather has encouraged the beans to begin galloping up their poles. I’ve dug some early potatoes and my onions are beginning to swell! If things carry on like this, I shall begin feeling smug.
Friday May 7
We tried out a new garage to prepare our car for its annual test. The garage looked tidy and organised. They were expecting us to arrive and they only take an hour for lunch! We agreed for them to call us if the bill is likely to exceed 200 euros (we’re poor), and they said it should all be done by Monday. Have I moved country?
Sunday May 9
Two goose eggs in the incubator have hatched, so the chicks have been given to our recently widowed goose. Ever so gently, she touched them with her beak, then raised her wings and invited them to come underneath. She has some of her own eggs under her, so who knows what will happen?
Monday May 10
No news from the garage, so we gave them a call at 11am. They had decided it would probably cost more than 200 euros to prepare our car. So thought it better that we take the car for its test, to save us money – pity they didn’t think of it earlier, or bother to call us.
We dutifully set off (luckily we have the use of our neighbour’s car), collected the car and made our way to the test station. They close for lunch at 12.30pm – we arrived at 12.32pm. We needed to return at 2.30pm. Stoically, I kept a stiff upper lip, resisting all urges to yell abuse. Cunningly, we returned at 2.20pm, thereby arriving before anyone else, or so we thought. As soon as the office opened, we entered and were joined by about 20 other people, all of whom insisted they were first in the queue. There appeared to be as many queues as people, including one in the café next door.
A silver-haired man with a pointy chin insisted he had been there before anyone else and proceeded to list everyone else’s car and arrival time. A broad moustached, brigadier type insisted the queue was at the office door, not in the car park. Pointy chin argued that, as it was raining, no one with any sense would leave their car – he won unanimous support. In the meantime, a tubby ‘jack the lad’ type had zipped his ‘foreign plates’ car to the front of the line, insisting he had been promised first place after lunch.
Pointy went apoplectic at this, causing a momentary aghast silence in the room. At this point, the lady behind the counter announced that, when we had agreed positions fairly, she would begin processing us. We finally got put into our rightful place, tubby was forced to move his car and we were tested and failed within 45 minutes. We then returned the car to the garage with the fail list and they estimated the cost to be 250 euros – just above our ceiling, funny that!
Wednesday May 12
The goose now has three goslings and is hissing frantically at anything that moves. All three goslings are snuggled under her, chirping away, bright yellow against her grey and white feathers. They are so cute, like tiny fluffy toys. I have removed the other eggs and placed them in the incubator. It’s all very complicated.
Friday May 14
I have spent most of the morning goose watching. Every move that mother goose makes is instantly copied by her goslings, often quite maniacally. They can swim across their pond at a terrific speed and enjoy the run and jump in method. No sooner had I left the geese, than I noticed some unusual activity in the rabbit hutch – she had given birth to three kittens. One was already dead and, going by her track record, the rest don’t stand much chance. I didn’t even know she was pregnant.
Saturday May 15
Second rabbit dead, one to go!
Sunday May 16
It’s still alive!
Monday May 17
Myra the rabbit gets the hatrick. I dunno why we bother. She may not be producing milk, or if she is, she doesn’t know what to do with it.
Tuesday May 18
During my afternoon inspection of the goats, I stumbled across Peter (three months old) fast asleep with his head inside an empty food bucket. Immediately afterwards, I encountered one of the goslings swimming inside a dog water bowl. If only I had my camera, I could launch my own greetings card empire. I am off to the airport to collect my parents tonight. They are staying in Carvoeiro for a few nights before they slum it here.
Friday May 21
This morning at eight, the sun shone gloriously. Not a cloud in the sky and only the merest breath of a breeze. Inspired by such promise, I felt the Alan Titchmarsh thing again and rustled up a sumptuous picnic, sped off to Carvoeiro to take the folks for a cliff top picnic, followed by an afternoon on the beach. As I hit Portimão, some grey clouds gently rolled in from the sea. Ever the optimist, I left the sunroof open and hoped for the best.
By Carvoeiro, the sky was ‘threatening’ and the sea looked menacingly choppy. By the time we arrived at my picnic venue, a minor hurricane was blowing up. In the mirror, I observed both parents huddled in the back, shivering nervously inside their matching pac-a-macs. After the second downpour, I closed the sunroof and cancelled the picnic. With the aid of an umbrella, I began serving my chilled tuna salad through the rear windows to the victims in the back.
Already feeling like an unappreciated ‘meals-on-wheels’ volunteer, I was wounded still further when it was disclosed that they had pleasured themselves, somewhat gluttonously, at the buffet breakfast and were not particularly hungry anyway. After a further 10 minutes of watching mother push a black eye bean around the plate, whispering about slugs, I snatched everything back and the meal was over. Without a trace of the Alan Titchmarsh feeling, the afternoon was rounded off fittingly, by me choosing the only beach bar in Portugal that does not serve tea.