By: PAUL McKAY
Teacher Paul McKay left London to live a self-sufficient existence in the Monchique hills with his partner Martyn. He keeps an assortment of animals and grows a variety of crops in an eco-friendly way – all on a limited income.
Monday August 4
THE QUEEN Mother’s and Martyn’s birthday. Whereas the former has sadly passed away to that great steeple chase in the sky, the latter is still clinging to life.
Martyn threw an early birthday party last night which finished at about four o’clock this morning. A whole baby pig was roasted for the occasion and a little bit of salad was thrown in for decoration.
I spent most of the evening driving around the surrounding hills looking for lost guests. One of these mislaid visitors had the surreal experience of stopping at a lonely house for directions only to discover the occupiers were friends of her mother’s.
Another guest had a little too much to drink and insisted on sitting on Martyn’s lap, canoodling for most of the evening. This was all the more surprising given that he was supposed to be a hale and hearty young man with an enthusiastic interest in the fairer sex.
I treated Martyn to a pair of linen trousers for his birthday (who said mutton?), and a sports vest, both bought from a Chinese owned clothes shop in Portimão. The vest was too small for him (XXL = small apparently), but fits me perfectly – c’est la vie.
While Martyn has spent most of today sleeping it off, I have spent the entire day washing up, scrubbing floors, finding discarded bottles and making barbed comments.
Wednesday August 6
Martyn has finally awoken from the birthday bash, and has been involved in a little investigation on the pig terrace. When I say terrace, what I really mean is territory.
Nine months ago, we moved Eggs (mummy pig), from a small terrace to a larger piece of sloped land that was covered in brambles and wild herbs. We wooed her to this new locale with tasty morsels and a brand new brick house. She arrived and immediately gave birth to 12 piglets. By May this offspring had been reduced to six and by July to four. We still have four of the piglets who are now quite a size and have been working diligently and enthusiastically to extend their territory.
The land has been quickly cleared of undergrowth and an old fence at the bottom of the territory has been trampled, making an exit to the big world beyond. We considered repairing the fence and enclosing them once more but a combination of lethargy and curiosity has lead to nothing happening. The land immediately beyond the fence, is covered in thick bamboo, which they seemed to enjoy chomping their way through, so we decided to leave them to it as it was causing no problem.
Today Martyn called me down to the ‘land beyond the fence’. Not unlike Narnia, stepping through the fence, one enters a new Kingdom. A narrow pathway has been made through the bamboo that leads through to a bigger clearing further on. This is a type of crossroads, where one has a choice of paths going off in various directions. Along each of these paths are a series of dens, some containing sleeping pigs, others left uninhabited.
These pigs are living the most natural life imaginable. If they wished they could walk to Portimão, but seem happy with the acre or so land they have created into pig heaven. They come up to the old house for the daily feed and seem incredibly content.
Monday August 11
In a bid to get fit, we have joined a local gym. We visit twice a week and do a combination of cardio-vascular exercises and some weight training. I have joined gyms in the UK before, but have become fed up with them after a while. This time though, it really is proving quite enjoyable and is rewarding to see the data on the machines, clearly showing we are getting fitter. At the end of September, I am entering a half marathon in Lisbon, which starts on the new bridge. I ran my first half marathon back in April, and do not feel as fit now as I did then, so need to get myself trained up ready to compete.
Wednesday August 13
Martyn believes that two of the piglets may be pregnant. They are only eight months old themselves, but we did witness some amorous goings-on with a brother before he became barbecue fodder. Eggs is also pregnant, having been inseminated by Martyn earlier this year (you know what I mean). Seems that a whole maternity wing will need to be built.
Friday August 15
With visitors imminent, the car has begun playing up. All sorts of attention seeking behaviour issues are surfacing. The old trick of ignoring negative behaviour and rewarding good behaviour does not seem to be working. One major wind-up is refusing to turn off. In order to disengage the engine, one has to put it in first gear, put one foot on the brake, then remove the other suddenly from the clutch, causing it to stall. This manoeuvre has to be performed on the brow of a hill because the next little ruse is refusing to start. For no apparent reason, every so often the engine will turn and turn, but refuse to ‘catch’. Then, usually in the presence of a mechanic, it starts first time as if there has never been a problem.
A friend of mine is over here and begun driving for the first time. Every time I see him, he looks incredibly anxious and seems to be practising gear changes with his right hand. They went shopping in Portimão last week and having only visited in the winter before, were amazed to see it chocker-block with tourists and cars. They spent 25 minutes and heaven knows how much on petrol driving continuously around a supermarket car park, before giving in and coming straight home again.
Saturday August 23
Piglet one has given birth to two pretty babies. Piglet two is looking rather heavy and Martyn, who is an expert in such matters, informs me her teats are beginning to swell. Eggs is extremely heavy with child but is not due to give birth until early October. I have withdrawn into the comfort zone of daytime TV while Martyn deals with the products of his labours.
Monday August 25
While queuing in the bank, Martyn dropped his car keys. As he bent over to pick them up his birthday trousers ripped. An elderly lady gasped and another giggled. Martyn felt the refreshing blast of the air conditioning where the sun doesn’t shine. All my fault, apparently.