Week 61: More heat
Rolie, my lovely Renault 4, is of course a stranger to air-conditioning, and also has plastic seats. The ways around this are to have all the windows open and the seats swathed in towelling. But up here in the hills, having the windows open serves only to allow hot air to pour in, like driving with hair-dryers on all around you. The temperature gauge on our front veranda read 39 degrees in the shade in the early part of this week, for most of the day. By midnight, it had cooled to 34 degrees. It’s dropped a few degrees now; it’s only reading 36 degrees at midday. The heat is no doubt more powerful up here in the hills than down on the coast. This is slightly unexpected, slightly counter-intuitive. So is keeping windows and shutters closed during the day to keep the heat out and the cool in, but it seems to work. The house is cooler inside, though not hugely so. Because I have a lot of work on I’m using the air-conditioning unit in my study, which was installed by the Sensibles, to maintain a steady, cool 28 degrees and facilitate brainwork. Funny how one cannot think in the heat.
The mystery of the tiles
Over the past few weeks, maybe longer, a few tiles on our roof have been gradually displaced, even broken. It happens at night and we’ve heard the sounds of scrabbling. One night Husband got up and looked out in time to eyeball a creature, a mammal about the size of a cat. Whether that’s the creature that makes the roof noise at night we don’t know, but we were hoping it was, and we were hoping it was a genet, because you do get them around here. (Then again, it might just have been a cat.) Genets are their own distinct genus (Genetta), but they look like cats: only leaner and meaner, with a longer neck, a beautifully spotted back and a thick, hooped tail. They are better known in Africa, and probably made their way over here from Morocco at some point.
But early this morning, early enough to avoid the worst of the heat, Eleuterio came over to help us place our marker stones, and while we were at it we pointed out the roof. (I say ‘we’ but I was still very much asleep at this point.) He offered to help fix the tiles, and he did so, and he told Husband what was causing the damage. No genet, he says it’s an owl, and it wants to eat the wasps that are nesting there. A roof full of wasps and a nightly visiting bird that’s big enough to shift the terracotta roof tiles – perhaps not the best news I’ve ever woken up to. But love one, love all – can’t just admire the cuter aspects of Nature . . .
It would be impossible not to love the bee-eaters, though their collective calls do sound like a child’s toy instrument, such as an ersatz piano, one on which a bunch of children are repeatedly going plink plonk. Around seven in the evening is a good time, heat-wise, for a walk up the hill behind our house, and also a fabulous time to spot the flocks of bee-eaters. Their calls fill the valley, and they swoop along the riverbed and up over the hills so from a good vantage point you can see them from above and below, and watch how their colours change as they flap and then glide, turning into and away from the sinking sun. To have a bee-eater float directly overhead, to see its sharp, geometric, double-pointed outline and its beautiful turquoise belly with black throat stripe against the deep blue of the sky, is wonderful. And then to see it twist against the light, or fly down into the valley, and flash the vivid blue, yellow and red colours of its back and head – just joy.
Another joy, of a more human cultural nature: in Tavira an open-air film festival is taking place. European films are shown in the cloisters of the Convento do Carmo, each screening at 9.30 in the warm star-studded night. In August is the second film festival, this time non-European films. Reasons to love living here . . .