The almond has blossomed. Here and there, dotted across the landscape, trees are announcing themselves as almond with fingertip offerings of pale pink flowers. The one I photographed is quite fully clad; it’s at a lovely local restaurant a few hundred metres higher up than us, which has views of the sea. I guess this almond is purely ornamental. We are in the serra, the mountain, and this isn’t proper almond territory. Our defining trees are the carob, the arbutus (whose fruit, the medronho, our car salesmen liked so much), and the holm and cork oaks. The farmed almonds, the trees with as yet fewer flowers than this, are found a couple of kilometres further south.
The restaurant owner told me that almond is known as Neve do Algarve, snow of the Algarve, which is a very pretty idea. An elaborate myth tells how the almond was planted here by a Moorish prince to give his homesick Nordic bride the impression of snow, and I don’t know if that’s a truly old story or a more recent spinning. It is certainly true that the almond is not native here, although it is naturalised. Its origins are in Western Asia, so it’s not native to Northern Africa either.
It was time we registered at Tavira town hall as residents. We collected as much paperwork as we thought might help the process: passports, deeds to the house, bank statements, utility bills, marriage certificate. Husband carried the document bag to the town hall and we climbed the stone stairs lined with blue tiles. We came to a large open office with a long wooden counter.
A woman jumped up from her desk and came to the counter to assist us. We told her our aim and she asked for the one document we didn’t have, and hadn’t heard of: the Atestado de Residência, the certificate of residence. (I had thought that was what we were here for. But no. To register as residents we have to first prove we are residents. Makes sense.) She gave us a form to fill in and we left.
To obtain the atestado we went to our nearest junta de freguesia, parish council. We handed over our passports, which were photocopied, and we were given more forms to fill in. Our forms had to be counter-signed by Portuguese residents of the same parish. We relied, as ever, upon Maria and Eleuterio. Maria rolled her eyes at the amount of detail they were asked to supply to the junta de freguesia. She also told us something we hadn’t suspected: only she is from the Algarve. Her husband comes from another part of Portugal, and when he came here he had to go through a similar registration process himself. I know she didn’t mind us asking for help with the forms, but I think the Portuguese are more irritated by bureaucracy than we are. For us, it has a novelty factor. And it’s part of living here, and living here is what we love.
A couple of days later Maria and Eleuterio, accompanied as usual by Lordy and Estrela, kindly delivered the filled-in forms to us. We took the forms to the parish council and the next day we collected our embossed and signed atestados, the fourteenth and fifteenth such documents issued this year. That’s interesting – a lot of new people for a small area. On Thursday we’ll go back to the town hall and find out what happens next. (The owls are noisy tonight. I look forward to the time when the nights are warm enough to sit out; the dark is so beautiful here.)