Winds of change in the Algarve.jpg

Winds of change in the Algarve

By MARGARET BROWN [email protected] i>Margaret Brown is one of the Algarve Resident’s longest standing contributors and has lived in the Algarve for more than 20 years.

As a keen follower of motor racing over the years, it had not registered that some people might suffer while others enjoyed the racket.

Now fully operational, Autódromo do Algarve is akin to the distant buzzing of angry wasps on race days, irritating but bearable from a distance of eight kilometres and absolute hell for those living nearby. As the saying goes, “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen” – such advice falling on deaf ears where properties have been blighted and devalued.

Now a new Aeródromo may be located within the same area, apparently being kept under wraps until planning is complete, leaving locals very little time to lodge their objections. Living four kilometres from the site and under the proposed flight path if it goes ahead, our only comfort is that we are likely to be dead by the time the airfield is operational.

So many things have changed since we became residents in this beautiful country and mostly for the better, yet the secrecy, and development of good land by stealth with apparent disregard for Protal (Plano Regional de Ordenamento de Território do Algarve) and its restrictions, indicates a somewhat catholic interpretation of the Law passed in 1993.

The large amount of financial assistance pouring in from the European Union in order that Portugal may upgrade its infrastructure and enhance tourist hotspots is obviously a great incentive. Information from the internet claims that Portugal received  25 billion euros between the years 2000 to 2006 from the EU and 30.6 billion euros from the World Travel and Tourism Council with an added 53 billion euros expected from the WWTC by 2016 and the incentive is plain to see.

Perhaps the highways and byways of the Algarve may be upgraded if anything is left after other major projects are completed. Meanwhile, the peace of the hills and valleys is balm to the soul, the more so because of its ephemeral nature and certainty that one day it will be shattered.

On a mundane level, recent rainfall and a drop in temperature suggest it is time to sweep the chimney of our wood burning stove and we must trace the set of sweep’s brushes in which we have a share.

Alternatively, we might do as Margarida, our Portuguese neighbour, suggested many years ago and use part of a Cistus bush instead. Easier said than done with a heavy chimney pot to be lifted off while sitting on the roof ridge and the Boss not getting any younger – but worth a try.

The wood man dropped in last month with a load of logs cut to manageable size, not the usual chumps too heavy to carry.

Being unable to manage by ourselves a dead oak tree felled a couple of months ago, we asked him to take a look at it when he came for our order, thinking he might put us in touch with a log splitter. After a quick check, he pronounced it to be a load of rubbish – only to be expected as he is in the business of selling firewood.

Because summer weather has lasted well into autumn, the resident gekkos appear to have reared late broods. They are hands-on parents, the female sticking her monthly clutch of small hard-shelled eggs on to a solid surface which is then guarded until the eggs hatch.

While the sun continues to shine, they lurk inside door jambs and window hinges waiting for something edible to come along, and appear to change colour to suit the environment. From time to time, one is trapped and squashed, leaving a ghostlike outline as a reminder to take greater care when closing up for the night.

Today there was a gathering of ants on the floor of my office in the centre of which was a newly shed juvenile gekko’s tail, sad evidence of my forgetfulness.

Further signs of autumn have been percolating houses along valley, local people taking advantage of recent rainfall to burn an accumulation of vegetation as well as other, more harmful rubbish.

As I write, blue wisps of carcinogenic smoke from a neighbouring farmer’s bonfire turn the air blue as he adds more plastic to the foul pyre and, at dawn this morning, nearby hills were vague outlines through a similar haze. South or south-easterly breezes being responsible, the best place for a lungful of clean air is by the sea.

An added bonus two weeks ago was the spectacle of a large fleet of dinghies assembled for the first race of the Campeonato do Algarve, a series of five competitions held along the coast from Lagos to Vila Real de Santo António. A mixed fleet of 103 Lasers, Europes and Optimists was being rigged on Caixa de Sol, a small beach alongside the Fortaleza and in front of the sailing club.

While the Optimist Class is open to children of up to 15 years of age, in the infants’ division some as young as eight years old, and very small in stature, put to sea and were as fiercely competitive as any of the adults or teenagers.

On this occasion, the breeze varied around Force 3, but the same small fry race when the wind is strong and the sea rough with no apparent fear at all, but always supported by several rescue boats. Excellent tuition and every encouragement are offered by Lagos Sailing Club and at least one youngster has been selected for the Olympic trials in the past.