The end of winter chores

The official first day of spring was on March 20 this year beginning at 12.54pm. It ushers in the vernal equinox when day and night are approximately equal in length and the Sun rises due east and due west. It is said also that on that day if you balance a newly-laid egg on its base it will remain standing upright. Having been tried with some success, the same cannot be said of a boxed egg of indeterminate age and if the experiment fails, the mess can always be made into an omelette.
The countryside in which I live did not wait for the official date but was bedecked overall with flowers and an outburst of young vegetation as soon as the clouds rolled back. Now the air is sweet with the smell of wild pear, mimosa and blossoming olive trees as well as the feline stink of wild white narcissi which promise much but are better left unpicked. Best of all is the end to lighting fires, of hauling ash out and logs in, and offering an extra hour to idle away.
The down side is a black and dead stove on a par with the silent television screen, mute in the absence of BBC TV. To enliven things, sometimes a sparrow drops in while attempting to build its nest in the chimney, takes an involuntary dust bath and frightens the living daylights out of Rusty the dog. Once liberated the bird exits an open window scattering dust everywhere.
During the past few weeks, it has been necessary to visit Portimão regularly, an experience that reminds me of the 1980s when roads in the Algarve were not much better than those found in poor third world countries. Parts of the EN125 are rapidly reverting to type, being patched, repatched and disintegrating into potholes.
Nearer the town areas of subsidence offer an interesting drive, rather like sailing a flat bottomed boat on a rough sea and there being no visible progress made with promised repairs, road surfaces will only continue to deteriorate.
A small car like mine continues to suffer grievous bodily harm with front axles grumbling, tracking out of true and a necessary stay in the repair shop – which means that together with an hour freed up in the absence of fire duties, there is no excuse not to get down to outstanding jobs around the house.
Seduced by coffee and a seat in the sun watching life go by, before I know it there is lunch, the afternoon siesta and Bingo! hardly worth starting after checking my emails and feeding the dog. There is always tomorrow.
Our local lanes make the EN125 look state of the art with their pre-nascent sink holes rather than potholes, hard core the size of hen eggs spread generously by tractors, trucks and a thrice daily bus and a trap for unwary motorcyclists.
I was late for an appointment the other day and hurrying round a corner on the way to Odiáxere came across three matronly Muscovy ducks enjoying a stroll in the sun. With ABS brakes engaged, we slid sideways on a bed of stones, missed them and sat, waiting for five minutes, amazed by their sang-froid and calm dignity. In contrast, when a neighbour’s hens took to the tarmac they were all flap and feathers, the few not yet taken by a local fox. Evidence that he has dined well comes in an occasional pile of feathers on my land.
It is a sad fact that what should be a safe place for families and their dogs to walk can be anything but on a public footpath. Alongside the sea there is a designated walkway on cliffs between Lagos and Luz Bay where, on one stretch, rolls of razor wire reminiscent of a prison camp line the path. Sharp enough to shred the legs of a child, animal or anyone unlucky enough to trip and fall it raises the question why anyone should enclose their land by such dangerous means unless something sinister lurks within.
On a brighter note, it is a joy to welcome the first of the spring holiday-makers, seen in Lagos and on the beaches. Stripped to shirts and shorts in search of a tan a few were already turning pink while others braved a chilly wind sporting goose pimples.
Some hardy souls were swimming off the town beach complaining of the cold in loud English voices, stiff upper lips firmly in place backed up by true grit and a masochistic streak. That being said their stoicism is nothing compared with that of a member of St. Vincent’s Church in Luz who swims every morning before breakfast all through the year.
We are a resilient people but in the presence of a new hazard on the roads of Portugal, speed of reaction is essential if we are to remain unscathed. A new law promulgated on January 1 this year lays down rules on the correct use of roundabouts. Now, when driving accordingly, infringements are rife and dangerous with an ever-present danger from motorists incorrectly on an outside lane choosing to turn left and in doing so, almost remove one’s offside front wing.
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.