Week 64: Greasy pole
It’s getting ever harder to ignore the fact of August. If we go into town the roads are full and it’s difficult to park. Many of the new road-users are hire cars who, naturally, don’t always know where they are going; others are expensive cars driven in from richer places, who are inclined to think that small cars – such as my dear Rolie – don’t have quite the same road rights as they do. We do not let it get to us, because we live here and we will have it all back to ourselves soon. Besides which, the valley in which we live remains absolutely peaceful.
Among the good things about high summer are the non-stop festas and events, and the restaurants and shops that have miraculously appeared from behind wooden doors and dull facades, absorbing the excess population and adding new life to the towns.
We went to the Festa dos Pescadores at Santa Luzia to see the boat race and got unexpectedly caught up in the contest that preceded it, the pau de sebo, or the greasy pole. Not caught up to the extent of taking part (maybe next year . . .) but we were enthusiastic spectators. It’s surprisingly entertaining to watch willing participants attempt to traverse a lard-smothered pole suspended from a fishing boat over the water. The object is to grab a flag from the end of the pole. You are going to land in the water whatever you do, but if you take the flag with you, you’re a winner.
Best of all was seeing Os Cavalinhos, the restored fishing boat I wrote about last week. Here is the beautiful boat, tuning up and getting ready for the race:
And here is the team with an unassailable lead, soon to cross the finishing line in first place:
Another of the pleasures of the summer has been the starlit film showings in the cloisters in Tavira. We returned home this week after one such film, a two-hour one, in the early hours of the velvet night. Along the dirt track to our home, Rolie’s headlights picked out a bird in flight, which at first we thought was an owl. The bird came to the ground and we stopped the car. It sat in the dirt like a tiny, slightly rusty boat. It was a red-necked nightjar. We watched for a while, then turned off our lights so as not to alarm the bird any more than we already had. The night became very still.
After a while we faced up to the inevitable. We had to get ourselves, and our vehicle, home. We turned the engine on again, and pulled forward slowly to creep around the nightjar. Not waiting for us to go by, it took off, lifting and turning its long wings, their bright white patches like broderie anglaise, scooping and beating away the air until it had disappeared.