What a wonderful world.jpg

What a wonderful world

By MARGARET BROWN [email protected]

Margaret Brown is one of the Algarve Resident’s longest standing contributors and has lived in the Algarve for more than 20 years.

Like day follows night so ticks follow the first hint of spring and from now until they retire for the winter, Millie the shag pile bitch will bring home a daily harvest from our morning walks. She is not alone, and despite tucking trousers into socks and shirt into trousers, my personal crop adds to the numbers as the sun advances.

Unfortunately, humans cannot wear medicated collars as a deterrent. Able to detect an approaching host some distance away by its exhaled carbon dioxide and body heat, these repulsive eight legged relatives of spiders and scorpions perch with extended front legs on the tops of grasses and bushes patiently awaiting a hot meal. Long before we settled here, the hills and valleys were extensively grazed by sheep and goats and drovers moved small herds of cattle along local tracks. Each animal might shed a number of female ticks glutted with blood and ripe with eggs, which could then start another generation on its lifecycle, the adults being able to survive for up to three years while awaiting a suitable host.

In preparation for the next generation, ants have started to spring clean their underground nests, the workers carrying accumulated rubbish to a nearby dump and keeping hard at it from dawn until dusk. While their endeavours are entirely necessary for the health of the colony, the same cannot be said of the gangs of construction workers employed to erect blocks of flats and new hotels wherever there is an open space in and around Lagos.

Meia Praia having come into the clutches of developers is one long scar on the beautiful coastline of the Barlavento. Extending from the Yellow Submarine by the Marina to the gentle slopes of Palmares and beyond, most of that coastal zone has been scraped clean of its natural flora and fauna. With many blocks of accommodation already lying empty and a deepening recession forecast to last until at least 2010 the future looks grim for construction firms and the environment. And the charm which has drawn so many people to this area will be lost if it becomes a facsimile of Torremolinos, or other such towns on the Costa Brava.

Work proceeds slowly along the Avenida and from time to time there are traffic jams, but when finished the increased parking places will be a great improvement, especially when the holidaymakers come back again in droves and every bed is occupied.

Meanwhile, the GNR traffic police have been much in evidence with more road blocks on the approaches to roundabouts in the area. As we drove across the bridge and dual carriageway leading to Lagos, they were diverting a mixed assortment of vehicles into the football stadium access road. Of the eight or nine officers, two were standing on the rotunda, one of which was armed with a double barrelled shotgun: an intimidating sight, no doubt essential in the fight against drug running which, according to the local press, is on the increase.

Life in the sticks seems a world away from the nastier aspects of the 21st century and having just returned from a short retreat held at the Pastoral Centre in Ferragudo, it is a joy for which I give grateful thanks. Although while there we were asked to keep silence at all times including during meals, I found the absence of conversation and two days filled by worship and talks from leader The Very Reverend Richard Eyre most satisfying. Like the Musical in 1961 said “Stop the World, I want to get off” even for a brief interval. Such time out is offered to people of all faiths or no faith at all, and inclines one’s thoughts to look at where we are heading and why.

But returning to how it is and not as we might like it to be, the continued encroachment of town into country combined with some as yet unknown environmental problem, is seriously affecting the migration of European birds. According to an unpublished survey by The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds their migration to, and return from, Africa is severely challenged resulting in the loss of some species. We have noticed a reduction of arrivals in the spring during the last few years, so it was all the more wonderful to hear the song of a nightingale the other morning. Not a choir of assorted melodies that used to fill the valley when we first came to live here but a single chorister and, among other absentees, the Cuckoo which has never failed until this March.

However, all is not doom and gloom. Despite expecting a long wait, we received new driving licences within five weeks of submitting applications and may now look forward to our holiday. But where are the cheap fares the airlines advertise so widely that never show up on the Internet?

At first glance, everything looks rosy until the use of credit card, fuel tax, boarding and luggage charges are added and the total cost bears no resemblance to the bargains publicised in the press. We choose to fly and must pay, but our daughter who lives in Bolton has an expense for which she did not budget. Unlocking her 17 year old car, she sat down in the driver’s seat to start the engine. The steering wheel and column had been stolen during the night, the thief entering without breaking a window and making very little noise. Having recovered her wits, she phoned a scrap yard, located a similar replacement and arranged to collect it in a couple of days. By the time she arrived at the yard, the wreck had been crushed along with the spare parts she needed. Oh what a wonderful world!

Margaret Brown can be contacted by emailing [email protected]