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The animals in our lives

By Margaret Brown [email protected]

Margaret Brown is one of the Algarve Resident’s longest standing contributors and has lived in the Algarve for more than 20 years.

The change of temperature from April 29, when my breath was steaming on the chill morning air to 30º centigrade almost overnight has proved to be quite a challenge in the struggle to adjust.

Other members of the animal kingdom which depend on the power of the sun are also stirring from their winter sleep. The first to appear was a big and beautiful ocelated lizard (Lagarto Ocelado) that glided from under our woodpile on to a plateau of hot sandstone, the bodily activities and muscles of which depend on the sun’s heat for movement, the energy to find food and to digest what it eats.

These reptiles live mainly on a diet of small insects like beetles, some vegetable matter, certain fleshy fruits especially those of the caper and where available, snails.

A second one showed up a few days later minus part of its tail, but still a good 14 inches in length and with the same brilliant green patterning along the back. Ten years ago, while watering some wall plants, I hosed down one of its predecessors which vanished, never to be seen again.

A wide variety of snakes inhabited our neglected plot of land when we first bought it. Perhaps they too may come back and help to keep the rat population down which is a constant threat to the wiring and plastics of our cars.

Meanwhile, there is a minor plague of small black beetles in the house as well as outside, their busy feet raising goose bumps on bare skin and emitting a foul smell when handled – a bonanza for reptiles but, as of now, not welcome half way up inside the leg of my jeans as I write.

The other day, my mobile phone suffered an experience similar to that of the lizard 10 years ago, only much worse. Having lost it somewhere in the house, I noticed an unusual noise coming from the washing machine, stopped the cycle half way and there was my missing mobile, squeaky clean, soaked and silent.

The components lay for days drying out but once reassembled the PIN number was accepted and after charging up the battery, all systems functioned quite well if a little slowly. My original phone took a dive down one of the lavatories at Faro Airport and after dehydration also continued to give good service.

Meanwhile, Estradas de Portugal, the agency whose job it is to keep traffic moving and the road system in reasonable condition, seems to be crumbling under the weight of its responsibilities.

Allowing a lot of extra time for a trip to Faro last month, we took the Boss’s car, which has no transponder, along route EN125. A most unpleasant experience for passengers and vehicle, the tarmac patched and patched again making for a rough ride and long slow queues headed by the inevitable accident.

Finding a short term car park at the airport was just another frustration, signposting inadequate and confusing. Having consulted two policemen we were none the wiser and after two circuits of the new lay-out we ended up parking ‘long term’. Taking visitors back a week later on a deserted A22, we used the last free concession and to date have no concrete facts about future toll plans.

Whoever cooked up this chaotic system must have been under some malign influence intent on spoiling the Algarve experience for tourists.

It is hoped that they keep well away from the excellent bus and train services which run on time, are comfortable and comprehensive, covering local, national and international routes.

The Boss’s 18 year old car broke down in the middle of Lagos a couple of weeks ago and needed an overnight stay while it was being repaired.

Thinking ‘taxi’, we took a leisurely stroll to the Avenida rank stopping for coffee on the way. A cluster of drivers lurked near their cars, the first in line already approaching as we stopped to consider our options. Always one for adventure, the Boss disappeared into a nearby shelter to consult timetables and found that a bus for Odiáxere was about to leave. There it was.

We sprinted across the dual carriageway and hopped aboard, paid €3.20 for two and sat down on clean, comfortably upholstered seats. It was a magical mystery tour and anything but direct. With tremendous élan, the driver slung his large vehicle about like a Mini round narrow country roads, through small villages and under three motorway bridges before reaching a familiar lane half a kilometre from home.

Time taken about the same as that driven in a car on busy main roads, but this trip was such a pleasure. The taxi fare would have cost at least €20.

Having collected his car from Lagos, so say ‘repaired’, it broke down twice in the rush hour traffic while still in town, the second time by the ship water sculpture with a large long distance coach practically up its exhaust pipe.

Moving to neutral ground by winding on the starter motor, somehow the pair made it home where the motor coughed and died.

No doubt a mechanic who knows about classic cars will give it the kiss of life, sort out the trouble and our much loved old buggy will continue for a few more months until spare parts run out, or this hospice which is our garage runs out of money.