Week 76: The river is back
Much of October felt like a second spring. Showers were plentiful – such a relief, after all our anxieties about the aridity. Patches of bright green appeared on the hillsides. Tiny white snowdrop-like flowers emerged: Leucojum autumnale, the autumn Snowflake. Blue-winged Grasshoppers flew up from the riverbed and the paths around at approaching footfall; as good as invisible on the ground, it is only the flash of blue wing when they take flight that lets you know they are there. In our garden, it was possible to sit out in the warm sun and be surrounded by birdsong. At the front veranda, the sparrows flew in looking for the mud nest, as though ready for another brood. But the nest is gone. We took it down to get ready for painting the walls, and a smelly, wormy thing it was too.
But this is a spring in reverse, a spring heading for winter. On Sunday 1 November we woke up to thunder and heavy rain, and read of an extreme weather alert for the Algarve, especially between the hours of noon and 3 p.m.: up to 20mm of rain per hour, and gusts of wind at 80 kph. Here in our house at the end of the world the outlines of the hills dissolved and the sky vanished. The rain came down in torrents but we were safe and dry inside, and cosy with the fire lit. Flaviano and the nice round lady at our shop/letter-collection centre were very happy about the rain when Husband saw them two days later. People in local towns didn’t fare so well, especially the tourist developments on the coast, where streets ran with water and bars and shops and houses got flooded. The emergency services have been praised for their interventions. An Albufeira SOS page has been set up on Facebook: self-help for the families and businesses affected by the flooding. One visitor to the page lamented in Portuguese: It’s just sad that we are in Portugal but everything on this page is in English. I know nothing of Albufeira and its ilk; I’ve never been there. It is another side to the Algarve than the one we know. I am sorry for the people there, while I can’t help wondering what part the planners and developers played in creating the conditions for storm and heavy rain to turn into flood.
Monday saw more and more rain. It was intermittent, as though the sky takes a huge in-breath, then spews out rain until it needs to draw breath again. Husband had been out shopping. He was happy to arrive back in a dry spell. He got out of the car, picked up the shopping, then, in walking the few yards to the front veranda, got drenched. I opened the door to see him dripping wet, a surprised look on his face.
The river, having started as a trickle on Sunday, was in full flow by Monday. Its reappearance is a month earlier than last year.
Other news, besides his being caught in a sudden surprise downpour: he’s baking more bread than ever, and is also standing in as projectionist for Tavira’s Cine-Clube for a couple of weeks. In summer the club puts on the wonderful outdoor film festival I mentioned before (see Weeks 61 and 64), and the rest of the year maintains a weekly showing in the town’s cinema, a down-at-heel, atmospheric place, which could do with a few more visitors.