Week 61: More heat

Good morning!

Good morning!

Our red-rumped swallows still visit us every day: they swim in the heavy air under our veranda at the front, and over and under the sunsail we had put up at the back

Red-rumped swallows still visit us every day: they swim in the heavy air under our veranda at the front, and over and under the sunsail we had put up at the back

The meditation hill, early evening

The meditation hill, early evening


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 . . .

Broken tile, taken from the roof

Broken tile, taken from the roof

Wasps on an overhang at the edge of the veranda: live and let live

Wasps on an overhang at the edge of the veranda. They aren’t aggressive and haven’t given us any bother. They let me stick my camera (standard lens) in their faces like this . . .

Putting the marker stones up on our land, to meet the demands of the new regulations (and bit late, too). Next, the stones will be painted with our initials and numbered clockwise

Putting the marker stones up on our land to meet the demands of the new regulations (and bit late, too). Next, the stones will be painted with our initials and numbered clockwise


  1. Hazel

    Made me smile! At least with Wol you won’t need Rentokil. Nature red in tooth and claw — what a kindly, thoughtful bird. Am looking forward so much to when the genet arrives to make its first appearance in your writings. Next week? xx

  2. Clare

    Heat…Warm Nights…More Heat…I sense a theme. Open air cinema?…in a cloister?…showing European films?…lucky you.

  3. Fiona

    Fascinating story about the owl removing your roof tiles, do you have idea which kind of owl it is?

  4. JerryG

    Your blogs are giving me goose bumps. How totally appropriate it is that on moving to another environment we don’t immediately begin noticing the politics, the stock market indices or the price of fish but focus, instead, on the extraordinary things we see within our immediate environs.

    Sara and I, just yesterday, were talking business stuff when a massive Echidna (a cross between an ant eater and a hedgehog in Australia) ambled its way across the veggie patch, nuzzling around for insects. We stopped talking, went to join him/her (how do you sex an Echidna?) and then reverted to our conversation with a little extra joy in our hearts.

    I think it’s the way it’s supposed to be.

  5. Vic

    I love image of the wasp eating owl, clambering about your roof! As for the heat; thankfully we have air conditioning here and even in my crappy old truck, as the 39-43 we’ve been experiencing, along with the 90%+ humidity, makes life almost impossible. It was even 27 degrees at 8am today, while I sat sweatily on the porch realizing why folk in the south sit in rocking chairs all summer, saying little and moving even less. xox

  6. Vic

    Was just telling a friend who used to live in the mountains in NC about your owls. They had carpenter bees drilling in the roof, followed by woodpeckers widening the holes to get the larvae. Nature, eh?!

    1. Edith (Post author)

      We have carpenter bees! Don’t know if they do any drilling in the roof though.

  7. Patricia Roberts

    How beautiful are your descriptions of life in Portugal,it is a different way of life,love the Red Rumped swallows,how lucky are you.


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