You will eat chicken

Thursday March 10 2005

It has become increasingly obvious to us that our stag turkey (male to me and you) seems a rather poor lover. The will is there but the ability is sadly lacking. As the girls sit for him (note the technical terms), he goes all shaky and does a ’cock of the walk’parade around, feathers aloft. This is then followed by the act itself, where he mounts any available part of the bird, jostles manically and then retreats leaving his lover a little shaken but decidedly unstirred. To give him his due he does usually get the correct end of the bird, but that is about as accurate as it gets. Two clutches of eggs have been incubated so far and found to be infertile after a fortnight. This rather crucial inability has signed the death warrant as all five turkeys are a decent size now, so they shall be heading for the deep freeze very soon. No room for incompetent impotents here.

Our sick pig ‘Bacon’, who you may remember was retaining water, is now on heart tablets and seems to be on the way to being cured. She has lost the water she was retaining and is much more active with a healthy appetite. She is still underweight but will hopefully begin to get fatter soon. It is not advisable to kill pigs in the warmer months, so both her and ’Eggs’ have a reprieve until at least November when they will be about 17 months old and huge. The worrying thing is that the longer we have them the more we realise what extremely likeable creatures they are. We are keeping our eyes firmly on the size of their hams, lest we should be tempted to turn them into pets.

Monday March 28 2005

Easter in Monchique has literally washed over us with sporadic cloud bursts interspersed with torrential downpours – at last. On Good Friday, we went to see the evening Easter procession in Monchique as the cross and numerous statues from the church are carried up and down the steeply cobbled streets accompanied by sombre music and a subdued gathering of churchgoers. The cool rainy weather guaranteed a sober occasion with very few onlookers.

We first stumbled across this event about five years ago, by accident, during a particularly extraordinary evening out in Monchique. For many years,we had passed a rather bizarre looking restaurant, where every surface within the place is adorned by scribbled messages in a wide variety of European languages. Many of these messages are faded, some contain drawings and all seem rather at odds with an unpretentious café in the centre of Monchique. Not quite understanding the situation, we had spent many years completely ignoring the restaurant, averting our eyes as we passed by. For some reason, five years ago on Good Friday, we ventured in. The restaurant was cosy, some may say cramped and literally plastered from floor to ceiling with these scribbled messages. Apart from a German couple at the table next to us, the place was deserted, with no sign of any cooking activity. We quickly became aware of the German couple glancing in our direction and smirking to one another. To avoid an international incident we rose above it, marvelling at our tolerance of cultural differences.

After some 10 minutes with no action in the ‘service’ department, we grew restless and began reading some of the messages. The first had a cartoon image of a glamorous Hollywood temptress with the words ‘she’s got Betty Davis eyes’. Another simply said ‘You will have the chicken!’. We were beginning to appreciate the surrealism of the situation when the deathly silence was broken by a rasping ‘Boa noite’ from an octogenarian who materialised ’Star Trek style’ in the middle of the restaurant. Dramatically backlit by afluorescent glow from the kitchen stood this elderly lady with startling peroxide hair, thick black eyeliner and blood red lips which looked almost sewn on to her powder white face. A tight black sleeveless woollen dress hugged her thin body allowing her snow white arms to gracefully wave a leather bound menu in our direction, her nails dripped blood the same shade as her lips. Rather taken aback by this disquieting apparition, we scuttled back to our seats and perused the menu in silence as ourhostess watched over us. Feeling under pressure, I rashly asked to have the pork and Martyn went for the fish. We looked expectantly at our hostess who now wore an unsettling frown. “Try the ‘poulet’,” she hissed, demurely. When she said ‘poulet’ she had a way of stretching out the word in a sensual way so it sounded like a sexual act in a risqué French film. “The ‘Frango’?” I countered, deliberately. “Yes – pooooooooulet is good,” she smiled seductively. “Oh, how is it cooked?” I persevered. “Good – the poulet it is then.” She then turned to Martyn who said he wanted fish. “Pooooooooulet?” she confirmed, leaning closer to him. “What’spoulet?” he whispered to me, looking like a terrified rabbit. “Chicken is poulet!” snarled our hostess, tiring with our stubbornness.

“Tell her I want fish,” Martyn stammered to me. I looked into the middle distance, vaguely aware of some sniggering Germans. Martyn made one more attempt. “Faz favor, eu pref…..” “Poooooooooooulet. Good, you will like.” She smiled, spun around and glided into the kitchen.

Forty-five minutes later, the Germans had paid for their poulet and left and we were still somewhat dazed. We gave up declining the cake we were being offered and accepted the compulsory coffee and digestivo. We were just beginning to relax, knowing that all menu confrontations were behind us, when a thunderous clapping sound broke the silence. Martyn by this stage was like a coiled spring and almost shot through the ceiling, our hostess glided past apparently unmoved by the machine gun fire outside. This clapping was quickly followed by a rhythmic solitary drumbeat and then through the mountain mist appeared a large wooden cross, some flickering lanterns and a huddle of hooded worshippers. We paid, left a big tip and ran for the car.

• Paul McKay offers private home tuition in the Algarve for primary aged children in all National Curriculum subjects.You can contact Paul on 282 912 857 or by email on [email protected]