THE FACT that the weather has cooled down a few degrees is not in doubt. In my office, our bedroom, and even skulking under lavatory seats, hungry female mosquitoes are queuing up for a slug of blood before accepting the amorous overtures of prospective mates. A few nights ago, torrential rain was the stimulus needed to set their reproductive cycles in motion. Any pool will do in which to lay their eggs and, within a short time, the water will be alive with little wrigglers. Those that escape their natural predators emerge as adults ready for a repeat performance.
The bumps are a minor irritation: it is the mosquitoes’ saliva injected under mild anaesthesia that does the real damage. Depending upon where one lives in the world, it may either cause no further trouble, or come loaded with malaria protozoa, viruses and a variety of bacterial agents with dire results.
Dogs in the Algarve are subjected to local canine diseases transmitted in the same way, as well as by sand flies and ticks. The valley in which we live has a fluctuating population of mongrels, many of whom have been ‘recycled’ from the lanes and hills that are a local canine waste bin. Strays are few, because most of the expatriate householders are suckers for a hard luck story and give them shelter. Each pair of hungry brown eyes melts someone’s heart and bingo, there’s another mouth to feed!
The responsibility does not end there. Incubating an endemic disease or hidden pregnancy, by the time one’s suspicions are confirmed, the new member of the family has tapped a hidden reservoir of love and there is no going back. Castrating, spaying and vaccination against an assortment of conditions, of which only Rabies is mandatory, would be prohibitive if it were not for a few compassionate animal shelters that foot the bill from veterinarians willing to give their time. Unless a male is standing at stud, it would be better castrated and bitches spayed to prevent the misery of unwanted puppies. It seems to me, that it is the macho attitude of some Portuguese men that ensures dogs are not neutered. As for the hungry bitches lumbered with a litter of babies for which they have no milk, it appears not to be their problem.
But here’s another problem being ignored … for two weeks, there have been leaking mains in Lagos, of which the authority responsible is surely aware. Streams run along the sides of roads to the delight of strays and small birds, wasting vital supplies of water at the busiest time of year. Lakes and aquifers are very low and who knows what the coming winter will bring in the way of rain.
Britain has had more than its fair share lately, but, by springtime next year, will probably be declaring another drought. On the bright side, according to one English daily paper, a growing number of people are expected to take their holidays at home rather than abroad, to avoid airport chaos and because England is becoming more Mediterranean in climate.
If the present generation of Britons still has that streak of defiance that sustained us during World War II, the threat of terrorism is unlikely to keep them at home. With the dilution of our Anglo-Saxon heritage by an influx of immigrants from all over the Third World, this attitude may well be strengthened by their inherent fatalism.
September cannot come a moment too soon. Lagos has been gridlocked on a daily basis, partly due to the volume of traffic, but also as a result of numerous minor accidents. Hired cars, recognisable by their absence of wheel trim, removed at source as a precaution, look more dented than usual and this will surely cause a rise in rental fees. Nevertheless, the Algarve still has clean beaches, reasonably safe streets and plenty of nightlife to attract those who prefer short haul flying.
There may come a time when temperatures are so high down south in Portugal that expatriates will return home for a break. The idea has great appeal, especially because number one daughter lives on the Isle of Wight, where everything moves at a slower pace. It still has one foot in the 19th century, when Queen Victoria used it has her chosen hideaway. Being an island, the climate is equable, and it has its own ecosystem in which rare flora and fauna flourish. There are a couple of working vineyards and it is a world centre for yacht racing.
One beach not listed on the island’s website has, for some years, been a quiet spot where our daughter finds rest and recreation. Access is steep and tricky, which ensures a degree of privacy. The other day, she went there to sunbathe and use her bodyboard. Just as she left her pitch to have a swim, there was a noise and, turning round, she saw a cow hurtling down the 50 foot cliff nearby.
The poor beast died instantly when it hit the sand exactly where she had been standing a couple of seconds earlier. Everything including the rug was smothered in animal fragments and she had escaped death by a miracle. Severely shocked, it was up to her to report the incident and find her way home. Later, the farmer’s wife apologised and offered to replace her possessions. The field above the crumbling cliff was of “great scientific interest” and not fenced on the seaward side.