The cycle begins again

Having languished under a blanket of wet mist and mean drizzle for the past week or so and the blue sky Algarvian sky nowhere to be seen, Odiáxere Carnival passed through the town in the dry.
Despite a government edict that there should be no national holiday, banners announced the festival period from February 28 to March 4 and some businesses shut their doors – perhaps a polite message that the ruling powers should get their act together and come clean with the true state of the nation.
Meanwhile, when driving round the countryside, bearing in mind how Britain has fared during its recent inundations, I checked out a few local watercourses. Back in the late 90s, when the Algarve suffered in the same way, rivers and streams were scoured clean by the force of rain water coming down from the hills and for a while afterward machines ensured free passage to the sea.
With the passing of time and mini-droughts, vegetation has taken over; small trees have put down roots in river and stream beds, and bridges have become partially dammed.
Present shortage of cash in the country’s coffers and an endemic laid-back attitude that makes the Algarve such a relaxing place in which to live does no favours to countryside behind the coastal strip.
Although the tourist industry is more profitable than scratching a living from the land, some smallholders continue to keep their sheep flocks going, with December lamb being brought on for the Easter market. Because it is late this year, some of the recent arrivals may also be ready, eating their way through a few months of life in happy innocence of what lies ahead.
The 40 days of Lent that precede the first major holiday period began with the service of Ash Wednesday, celebrated on March 5. Palm crosses from the previous year were incinerated and used to mark a cross on the forehead of each person present.
For active members of the Christian Church, this is a time for reviewing their past 12 months in depth and to do the equivalent of a thorough behavioural spring clean, leaving no corner unswept.
Sins go into the bin and resolutions are made to keep one’s spiritual house in order, sometimes denying a special pleasure for the 40 days. Regrettably as the months go by, pressures of daily life take over, old transgressions creep back in unnoticed, and the cycle begins again.
Easter Day comes on April 20 this year; for Christians the Easter lamb that we eat having relevance to the sacrifice of the ‘Paschal Lamb of God’ crucified in 33AD. In Old Testament times, animal sacrifice was made so that a person’s sin was transferred to the animal, dying with it.
But we believe that Jesus took the sins of the world on his shoulders and died once for all time, for us. This is often forgotten in nominally Christian countries during the heady time of the first holiday of the year, family gatherings and a cornucopia of chocolate treats.
Through the highs and lows experienced, daily life rumbles on much as usual punctuated by occasional power cuts and loss of internet access. Latterly there have been fewer outages, but being badly supplied with broadband in this area disconnections are a way of life – bad for the blood pressure and detrimental to work deadlines.
It happened at a crucial time the other day and as pressure built up I received a text on my mobile phone from Portugal Telecom. It said “There is a failure of the internet service in your area owing to a theft of cable. We hope to resolve this within 55 hours. Thank you”! It took the heat from the situation as well as being the first time any apologies have been offered, and it was up and running by that afternoon which is amazing.
With the strong winds blowing over my patch from all points of the compass, the bird station given to me for Christmas continues to be blown over. After two months and with a variety of food hanging from hooks and on a tray, I have yet to see a bird taking the slightest interest.
A ‘charm’ of goldfinches landed by it, thrushes, starlings, blackbirds and hoopoes dig nearby feasting on worms the wet weather has brought to the surface, while seed starts to grow mould and must be thrown out.
Rusty entertains and keeps me on my toes, going absent on occasions when I need him. His wellbeing is factored into everything I do and he accompanies me in the car, hoping for a walk around the town where every sort of canine scent and message sends him into ecstasies.
With poo bag at the ready, the Lagos Câmara providing free ones at various points, we are amazed at the excrement left unattended on pavements. Owners with dogs on the lead look anywhere but down while the animal relieves itself, then walk off ignoring the steaming pile left behind.
Beyond such concerns, the world holds its breath while power games play out between the Eagle and the Bear, and Cameron and the UN whimper in the backround. There is an uncomfortable feeling of déjà vu. Hitler’s troops marched into Austria in 1938, Poland in 1939 and World War II broke out within a couple of months. The cutting off of natural gas supplies by Putin will be the least of our worries if he seeks to reassemble the old Soviet Bloc.
By Margaret Brown
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Margaret Brown is one of the Algarve Resident’s longest standing contributors and has lived in the Algarve for more than 20 years.