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Trials and tribulations


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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.

THAT WEEK of heavy rain at the end of February has worked wonders on our plot of land, most of which is devoted to scrub, trees and an assortment of wild flowers and grasses.

Once the dry weather of late spring begins to bite, all but the trees and indigenous bushes will die and disappear.

The refurbishment of the land is an annual miracle that never fails to fill me with hope and just to hang out the washing on a sunny day is a joy – especially after such hopeless drying conditions a few weeks ago.

Along with the exuberant foliage has come a variety of butterflies and much to our relief, a toad left its trademark in a small heap of sand. The latter is especially important because the patriarch of our small toad population was run over.

We were driving home one dark night at the end of last year and it wandered in front of the car from a nearby hedge.

Being of the same colour as the driveway, it would have been hard to see.

In fact, the dry and flattened body was not found until several weeks later.

Because toads mate in winter and their eggs are not laid until springtime, perhaps this old and warty night wanderer had already ensured the next generation before his untimely death.

Meanwhile, a pair of swallows returned to their old nest in the middle of February and several more were hunting flies just outside Odiáxere.

This is something we have seen every year since we came to the Algarve and is a most encouraging sight when so many seasonal signs are disappearing.


The Boss, having spent nine days in Barlavento hospital, in Portimão, being fitted with a second replacement knee, could not wait to come home. Not a moment too soon for me either, the daily trip into Portimão being made more tedious by diversions and heavy thunderstorms.

There were also two encounters with the prestigious Tour of the Algarve cycle race held during that week, which caused hold-ups and long queues on the EN125.

Preceded and followed by motorcycles with howling sirens, ambulances, vans and cars carrying spare machines, it was more like the Tour de France than a regional competition.

As soon as the Boss arrived, the sun came out.

It will be a while before he has a spring in his step but regular tours round the outside of the house are working wonders.

As for the care received while an in-patient, it was as good – or better – than that offered by various private medical institutions.

There were only two criticisms. Firstly, the meals, although of good quality, were invariably cold and did nothing to tempt someone feeling below par.

The resultant weight loss could be seen as a fringe benefit and I must be careful not to overdo the between meal snacks during his convalescence.

The other grumble was morning until night loud and continuous television.

Two other occupants sharing the three-bed ward seemed impervious to its constant racket, often dozing except during football matches, while keeping a firm hold on the programme control gadget.

Although anxious and a bit lonely, I was ably consoled by Millie, the golden haired bitch.

She came to live with us 12 months ago and is a great companion. Sleeping on the floor beside my bed, she snored throughout the night about which, had it been the Boss, I would have complained long and loud: very strange. Then I found the first tick of the season firmly imbedded on her back. It came to light only because she had rolled in something nasty and needed a shampoo.

The small parasite was dead, which proves that her expensive tick and flea collar still works after three months.

But perhaps a bedroom is not the best place for a dog during the high season of these stealthy parasites.

Earth tremors

England was shaken by an earth tremor measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale last month, which was felt as far north as Dundee and as far south as Paignton with some damage in Lincolnshire.

This reminded me of our early introduction to shakes and quakes across the Algarve.

Having bought a semi-derelict farm and nine hectares of equally neglected land, there being no water available, we sank a borehole. Within two years, a fairly strong terramoto (earth tremor) swallowed the pump and collapsed the well.

Mild wobbles responsible for cracks in tiles and internal rendering became an accepted way of life and since moving into our present house in 1996, which is built on the same land, the same signs continue to appear.

From time to time, as the house shifts, small pieces of concrete break off where ceiling beams join the walls and timbers creak as the building settles.

Designed with this in mind, every new property, as required by law, is reinforced.

According to the Instituto de Meteorologia, from January 1 to March 1 this year, Portugal had several minor tremors, the majority of which were recorded in the Algarve and off the south west point as far as Madeira.

The Institute web site provides a mine of information on immediate happenings as well as about past events and it seems that the Barlavento area, in particular, is constantly on the move in an unobtrusive sort of way.

However as North Africa, the Middle East and Iberia are closely connected, if one has a major quake, the effects are felt in ever widening circles throughout the entire area.