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The laws of nature


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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.

THE DEMON of the Internet struck again last week. First my PC and then the laptop which lives indoors and is a useful back up. An urgent visit to Computer A & E, a new part supplied and hopefully, total recovery. Nothing had been amiss with the Boss’s PC and he was a little twitchy because we share radio links.

On my return, wires were connected, machines booted up and neither of us could access the Internet. Big trouble and long faces because the annual Palos de La Frontera yacht race was in progress from Lagos and having taken part in it a couple of times, the old marinheiro was with them in spirit via the website.

There followed a restless night, but thanks to a flying visit by Sr Marco from the local emergency unit, all was well again by 10.15am. I think ailing computers sometimes have quicker and more effective treatment than that supplied by the National Health Service in England.

Because we were unable to use our PCs, after a short sulk we took out any frustrations on jobs long overdue. The Boss overhauled and cleaned the rotary mower while I mucked out my office. It was disgusting, peppered with Gecko droppings, dead flies and rolls of hairy dust. Beneath the carpet enough red earth had filtered through to fill several plant pots. Having swept, dusted and minced up a pile of used papers I spread the floor covering on a south facing slope of sandstone and hosed it down until the original pattern and colour were visible again.

A glow of self-satisfaction was matched only by Millie the bitch’s delight at having an expanse of cool tiles on which to lie. With regard to the general mess, I share premises with several Geckos as well as my dog, who never wipes her feet and enjoys nothing so much as a good scratch. In theory the small reptiles should keep the fly numbers down.

Meanwhile the heat is taking its toll on all of us. Always warmer away from the coast and aggravated by reflected heat from bare rocks, the field surrounding the house where once our horses grazed is burned pale beige.

It is a mystery how breeding birds find enough food for their young or what the plague of pigeons find to eat, because they seem to be reproducing exponentially.

Apart from one fully feathered baby sparrow, pecked about the head and apparently flung from a nest on the television aerial, all look very fit. This fledgling was alive but raw from the neck up and plainly had no future. Unable to give it the coup de grace, I tucked it under an overhanging log in the woodshed and by next morning it

had disappeared.

While sparrows seldom produce more than five babies, partridges go for bust and lay up to twenty eggs, seldom rearing more than half that number.

On my way into Lagos this week I saw a partridge standing in the middle of a lane, waiting. With a sudden explosion of wings at the roadside nine babies, no more than four inches long, flew up and made remarkable speed across to where their mother waited, disappearing at once into the bush.

Hunting season

The hunting season is due to start soon and juveniles may be used for target practice although hardly worth a cartridge. I hope commonsense prevails and they are allowed one year of life before being shot. Under cover of darkness, other thieves are raiding partridge nests even while the eggs are being brooded. This morning two neatly opened shells were lying empty on the valley track not far from where a Mongoose had emerged last week. Relatives of The Meer cat, they are particularly fond of raw eggs and are known to raid poultry sheds where possible.

While the Laws of Nature continue to operate as they have since time immemorial despite interference by the human race, we continue to struggle with modern rules and regulations in Portugal, breaking them by default rather than intent. So it was for friends who were on a visit to Lisbon. A visiting relative drove them there, and reaching the 25 de Abril bridge having followed ‘Tom Tom’, the digital pathfinder’s instructions to the letter – they took the far left hand Via Verde.

Being for prepaid users only, when they stopped they were urged forward by a cacophony of hooting. Enquiring of the Lisbon police how to rectify their mistake they were told to pay at the bridge office on their way home to the Algarve. No payment being necessary by southbound traffic, this was impossible. It appears that passing through the Via Verde without pre-payment incurs not only a fine, but compulsory payment of all tolls for the entire route, not just the section on which they had travelled. They await the outcome with trepidation, CCTV cameras having recorded their misdemeanor.

I was a couple of weeks overdue re-licensing Millie and expected to be fined by the local Freguesia. As it was, not only had the whole process been speeded up taking ten minutes compared with three weeks last year, but no comment was made about my late appearance and there were smiles all round. Is it too much to hope that the renewing of one’s driving licence will also become less stressful, even for the Crumblies who still retain their faculties and have their wits about them?