The last of the summer wine.jpg

The last of the summer wine


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Margaret Brown is one of The Resident’s longest standing contributors and has lived in the Algarve for more than 20 years. As well as Country Matters, she also writes Point of View every week.

AFTER A week of rest, the first of our autumn visitors flew home to Somerset anxious to find out whether, following a dismal spring and summer, the agricultural contractors had been able to take this year’s hay.

With a herd of pedigree beef Shorthorns and a flock of sheep to feed through the winter, her permanent pastures were ready to mow last June. Tangled by harsh northerly winds and laid by continuous rain, the crop will bear no resemblance to the fragrant, tender meadow hay of past harvests. Back in the late 1950s, together with her much older husband, she helped run a herd of Dairy Shorthorn cattle. During my time with the now defunct Milk Marketing Board, I called on the farm each month to check their milk quality and to keep breed records of the hand milked cows, one of which, Kingsey Musical, produced a world record 211,656lbs of milk during her lifetime.

On the death of her husband, this small, determined woman kept the farm going and now at the age of 76, breeds beef bulls which she has graded up from the original dairy stock. Those having Kingsey Musical in their bloodline, after more than 20 years selective breeding are in great demand and earning their keep at stud and for artificial insemination.

Her reward for a lifetime of patience, endeavour and back breaking hard work is the knowledge that young stock from her prize bull Stonmour Thundercloud, both in southern Ireland and Britain, is in great demand and of first quality. Also, with a collection of cups and rosettes won at local shows as well as at the Bath and West, she is after Best of Breed at the Royal Show this autumn. If the British parliament, with its urbanised mindset, continues to follow present agricultural policies, not only will farmers become an endangered species but there may be no one left to ensure that British livestock remains some of the finest in the world.

Prize bull Stonmour Thundercloud
Prize bull Stonmour Thundercloud


Meanwhile, the Boss, whose veins run with sea water rather than blood, spent every free moment chasing the final leg of the AudiMedCup from September 14, sailed in Transpac 52s, stripped down monohull racing machines designed for speed and reliability and of specific dimensions. While every hull must fit into a standard box 52ft long, 14ft 6ins wide and 10ft 6ins deep, the rules allow variations of shape, sail design and rigging.

The fleet competes in seven different centres throughout the Mediterranean from May 12 to September 20, a final week long Regatta raced from Portimão. With the USA and Spain finishing first and second overall, the British team could do no better than 11th with Portugal 16th in their yacht Bigamist 6.

The Sunday before the MedCup, Clube de Vela de Lagos held its annual three hour race round the cans in Lagos Bay. Fresh from two weeks holiday in Wales noted for an absence of any real exercise, the Boss took part in a fleet of which the average age of helmsmen was about 20 years old. Arriving home with the usual cuts and bruises, bloody and certainly bowed, he failed to mention that he finished an honourable second. The first I knew of this was when I found a dainty little trophy on the dining room table. The last of the summer wine seems never to run dry.

Now, like winter migrants, a few yachts in Lagos Marina are about to be lifted onto the Hard at Sopramar Boat Yard. They will be checked over, some refurbishment carried out and there they will remain until the following spring – as much harbingers of winter as falling leaves and longer nights. Some hardy souls continue to snug down on board, taking advantage of all the necessary facilities available within a secure compound while hoping that no one borrows their access ladder and forgets to return it.

Dog talk

With clocks going back one hour at the end of this month, our morning walks will begin before sunrise, offering an opportunity to catch a glimpse of nocturnal dwellers of the hills as they return to their daytime refuges. To date, local hunters have been very moderate in their shooting during Thursdays and Sundays which offers hope that some species will survive to breed next year. However, from the first shot of the season, Millie, the shag pile bitch, remains convinced that every gun within miles is aimed directly at her comely backside. On these days, she will not join me in the hills, refusing to leave the house until after lunch when all hungry sportsmen have their feet under the table, most likely at Bella’s restaurant in the village.

Until recently, two canine friends have accompanied us each morning much to her delight, but with one having gone to the happy hunting grounds and the other choosing to hunt elsewhere most of the time, she has lost her sparkle. There are grounds to believe that dogs communicate by other means than voice or physical contact. The day her big gentle friend was put to sleep, she wandered round the house with tail and ears at half-mast, then lay between a sofa and the wall of our sitting room until bedtime. The reason became clear the following day when we were told of the other animal’s euthanasia.