Week 62: Sunshine and water

The riverbed

The riverbed

The ever-reducing spot in the river where we have bathed, paddled and gone turtle- and frog-watching

The ever-reducing spot in the river where we have bathed, paddled and gone turtle- and frog-watching

You looking at me?

You looking at me?

 

First Friends’ neighbour keeps a temperature diary, and confirms that this July has been fully 10°C hotter than July 2014. Last July was unusually cool, we were told; this has been unusually hot, and dry. Eleuterio and Maria don’t like it, and no wonder. Their workload doesn’t let up. They are also running out of water, as are we. Our well, the one that serves the house, is running dry. The next time we fill the cistern under the front terrace will probably have to be by tanker.

We have the use of a second well, which fills the cistern in the garden, and which is purely for the benefit of the garden. This is the well on a patch of Eleuterio’s land by the riverbed, and it is still going strong. So although the river itself has disappeared but for a few vanishingly small pools, rich in frogs and tiny turtles, the underground water seems to be reasonably plentiful – so far.

I love the heat and the light, even though above about 36°C it can be debilitating. Not only do I love it, but now we are also about to make use of it: we are investing some money in having our own solar power. So far we have solar panels that heat the water for the house. (In the height of the winter, however, we had to use the back-up of a boiler running on bottled gas.) Now, we will use solar power to generate electricity. It won’t supply all our needs, but it will supply some and – perhaps more importantly – should the mains electricity ever give out for any reason then we will have our own source. We need electricity to pump water around the house, so being without electricity would also mean being without water – we’d have to haul it up out of the cistern using a bucket.

We can’t be fully self-sufficient because we are limited in the size of the batteries required to store the power. The limitations are mostly financial. Otherwise, it’s looking good. Second half of September is when this happens.

As for the pool, we currently have an engineer supplying a report to the council, after which we will get – i.e. pay for – a building licence. In addition to generating our own solar power, we are going to have a solar-run pump for the pool, and solar-powered heating so the pool is usable for more of the year.

Obrigada

Funny how things work out. Last week I described the calls of the bee-eater as like the plink-plonk of a toy piano, and then we went at the weekend to Sines on the Atlantic coast for a world music festival, where we fell in love with a Japanese band who played, among other instruments, a toy piano – and rubber ducks with bells on, and a fat man’s belly (he was one of the band), and other brilliantly bonkers stuff. They are called the Pascals (homage to Pascal Comelade, I believe), and here they are:

The Pascals: the leader of the orchestra

The Pascals: the leader of the orchestra

Toy piano visible behind the leader

Toy piano visible behind the leader

Here's the fat man, who played a tune on his belly

Here’s the fat man, who played a tune on his belly

The leader, who spent most of his time with his back to the audience, wore oversized culottes in a sprig pattern and home-knit socks. From time to time he turned to the audience to share a few words, and quite often they were words of thanks in Japanese and Portuguese: ‘Arigato! Obrigado!’ He was clearly getting fun out of the fact that the two words sound oddly alike. In fact, ‘arigato’ sounds exactly like ‘obrigado’ given a bit of Japanese treatment, which has given rise to the idea that the word was adopted from early Portuguese explorers (being possibly the first Europeans ever to reach Japan).

This idea struck me as both delightful, and plausible. For a culture with such elaborate, formal social rules, a one-size-fits-all* ‘thank you’ might have seemed rather useful, especially for dealing with this odd bunch of characters who’ve landed on your shores. And why not adopt it for home use, perhaps for situations outside the normal social structures?

But no. It seems the similarity is coincidence. Arigato has its own Japanese etymology, and existed in written records long before the time of the Portuguese arrivals. Oh well. A puzzle . . . but one I shall not give up on.

* Not strictly one-size-fits-all since ‘obrigado’ is a past particle (from ‘I am obliged to you’) and agrees with its subject, which is why women say obrigada, and men obrigado.

8 Comments

  1. Hazel

    The difference in the river pond from when we saw it is marked! Hope the little animals in it are surviving and not too breathless. Am envying you the heat — Scotland last weekend, Dad’s 88th birthday, was beautiful but oh-so-cold and London today isn’t much better. Early autumn nip in the air … xx

    Reply
    1. Patricia Roberts

      what pioneers you are,and so full of spirit,and joy as I see it,so good to read all you are doing and achieving ,great little creature,what is it?keep cool!love Ma.

      Reply
  2. JerryG

    A tip on the water, which I think might work for you as I think you’re on a hill.
    Our builders in Australia told us that we had to use electricity to pump the water but I wasn’t happy about that, nor did I want the expense and maintenance associated with batteries.
    We installed a relatively small (10K litres) catchment tank down-slope from the house to harvest the water from the roof. We then put a couple of big (33K each) tanks up the hill above the house and hid them. We worked out that quantity would give us six months of water supply without rain, at normal consumption rates.
    We have a small and cheap solar panel which goes direct to a pump in the lower tank (no batteries). When the sun shines it grinds away sending water up the hill. It does it very slowly, no more than a trickle, but who cares if it takes a few days?
    In this way the big tanks up the hill are constantly topped up after rain, provide a good pressure head and we don’t have to use any electricity to pump the water when we open the tap. The trick is a thin pipe going up hill (around 1/2 inch) and a thick one coming down the hill (2.5 inches).
    Works a treat!
    As long as you don’t need speed it’s amazing how far up a hill solar will pump. Ours is about a 60m climb.

    Reply
    1. Edith (Post author)

      Brilliant. Thank you, Jerry. The possibilities are growing all the time. Do you get all your water via rain catchment?

      Reply
      1. JerryG

        Yes we do. It rained last week for only the fourth time since 1st Jan but we are nearly full. Even dew collects.
        You have to do a little calculation of roof size versus annual rainfall versus your usage to work out tank sizes needed. 1mm of rain over 1sq m of roof = 1 litre.

        Reply
  3. fatma

    Just back from a trip abroad myself, Spain where the heat was, almost, overwhelming. Same story…. Unusually hotter than norm this year; closing windows etc to keep the heat out (we should be so lucky!). Catching up on the blogs and very enjoyable they are too – week 60 full of wonderful nature (would love to see the bee eaters although don’t we need our bees?? Do they really eat them?) And week 61 somewhat more energy focused. Fascinating stuff!And so well delivered. Keep it coming!

    Reply
    1. Edith (Post author)

      Haha – yes, the bee-eaters do eat bees! But only a few at a time. They don’t wipe them out by the thousand like neonicotinoids do. (Nice to see you back on here. I was missing your regular comments. x)

      Reply
  4. fatma

    Ooops, got the weeks wrong. I meant 61 and 62.

    Reply

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