Wild flower meadows

A Red-legged Partridge in our back garden. Its 'chuck-chuck-chuckah-chuckaaah' woke us up. I just had time to grab the camera before it flew off

A Red-legged Partridge in our back garden. Its ‘chuck-chuck-chuckah-chuckaaah’ woke us up. I just had time to grab the camera before it flew off

I finally have a potted hibiscus on the veranda; this is its first flower (für meine Schwiegermutter: alles Gute zum Geburtstag!)

I finally have a potted hibiscus on the veranda; this is its first flower (für meine Schwiegermutter: Alles Gute zum Geburtstag)

Wild gladiolus

Wild gladiolus

I love the Gum Rock Rose: it's all over the hillsides where we live right now

I love the Gum Rock Rose: it’s all over the hillsides where we live right now

Every now and then a Gum Rock Rose with paler spots appears

Every now and then a Gum Rock Rose with paler spots appears

This has to be the Annual Rock Rose, though a tiny version of it (anyone know better?)

This has to be the Annual Rock Rose, though a tiny version of it (unless anyone knows better)

A house in the Algarve: but not ours. Meadow in front; last Sunday's black clouds behind

A house in the Algarve: but not ours. Meadow in front; the black clouds of last Sunday behind

 

Wild flower meadows are all around now. The eye focuses on the spots of colour: blues, reds and purples in particular, while the soothing green background is lulled out. To the camera, however, the flowers recede and the green dominates. The only way to appreciate a wild flower meadow is to be right in it, so I can’t share it with you easily. We went for a walk on Sunday with friends and picnicked amid wild gladiolus and lavender. The next day, in Tavira, we saw that the bridge and the churches had been strewn with lavender in lieu of palm. Even after a day of being rained on and trodden on, the sprigs were still fragrant.

Last Friday the biggest lorry I’ve ever seen in our valley arrived and wedged itself – remarkably, without any harm done to walls – between our house and the neighbours in front. A vast arm extended itself over the carob tree – again, without damage to a leaf – and the pouring of the concrete into the framework for the pool began. I was a little horrified. I’ve begun to feel slightly uncomfortable about the pool. It seems rather indulgent. And then all the noise and mess involved in building it. Well, I decided to cross the river and visit the two houses on the other side: to explain what was going on, and to apologise for the noise in case it was amplified over there. This is not the first time ‘sorry’ has been on my lips, but I chose to go for a new phrase I found on Google translate, just in case it was better/politer/nicer. However, on the way across the river two of the consonants switched themselves around in my head. The first conversation, with a Portuguese old lady in a hat, fit as fiddle by all appearances, went something like this.

‘I agolopise for the noise.’

‘Eh?’

‘I agolopise for the noise.’

‘I’ve got no idea what you’re on about. Do you live across the river?’

‘Yes.’

‘Are you English?’

‘Yes.’

‘I’m the only Portuguese left here now. Everyone’s English. I’m only here to feed the cats.’ At this point she took a stick to an orange tree. ‘I get the oranges as my reward.’ She stooped to the floor and filled a bag with the fallen oranges, then left the house and went away up the path, reminding me – in a cheerful and only slightly disgruntled way – that she was the only Portuguese left.

The other house is indeed occupied by English, so communication was easier. The inhabitant of the first house, they told me, was very old and ill in hospital and unlikely ever to come home. The old lady I met, Silvina, looked after the house; she lived further up the lane. And along this particular lane, which goes from the right bank of the river down to the nearest village, Santa Catarina da Fonte do Bispo, the exit of the old Portuguese population does now seem to be entire, Silvina excepted. Thankfully it’s not so on our side of the river. Portuguese still outnumber foreigners in our little community, but rural evacuation is nothing new, and the Câmara (the town/county council) wants to do something about it. I know because I’ve been reading, slowly and painfully, their policy documents ahead of a public consultation. It seems to me they seem to fail in one of the most obvious things they could do: raise the status – and value – of local food. Make it easier for people to bring their produce to market by reducing the paperwork involved, so that oranges, pomegranates, quince, cactus fruit and so on have a value in the marketplace and don’t get to fall neglected to the ground here in the serra, while supermarkets sell imported fruit in sealed plastic (including, irony of ironies, imported cactus fruit, marketed as ‘exotic’, when in a matter of weeks we’ll be knee-deep in the prickly things right here). So I’ve got to find a way of saying that in Portuguese, in writing, as my contribution to the debate.

While I try to poke about in the Câmara’s business, they’ve been poking about in ours. No sooner had the building of our pool begun than a Battleaxe from the Câmara turned up unannounced. Unannounced apart from the phone call five minutes up the lane wanting to know where on earth we were exactly. The Battleaxe, and her more pleasant sidekick, got out their measuring tapes and stomped about the building site in a rather officious way. The thing is, the pool is totally legal. We have a building licence, the pool is being built according to plan, we’re even taking up the back terrace to reduce our built area, all exactly as we’re supposed to. It’s only a little pool, for Heaven’s sake. The Battleaxe couldn’t find anything wrong but she warned us she’d be keeping a close eye on the whole process and we’d better do it right or we’d be fined. Of course, if we were Portfuel, and wanted to lay waste to the entire serra with a hydraulic fracking operation, that, apparently, would be absolutely fine.

Now, I’m being slightly unfair here. The Câmara don’t want this any more than we do. It is the imposition of the previous national government, and the current one isn’t doing anything to stop the oil companies. Now the combined mayors of the Câmaras of the Algarve are looking into a legal route to try to stop the madness. I hope they succeed.

Rolie playing his part in the anti-oil protests (stickers from Asmaa)

Rolie playing his part in the anti-oil protests (stickers from Asmaa)

10 Comments

  1. Hazel

    Morning, Edie! Love it all this week! Perhaps especially the photo of the partridge minus its tree — you should send it in to a nature photography comp: the BBC does one every year in its Countryfile programme. The pool is not an indulgence: it is an ESSENTIAL!!! Need I say more?! xx

    Reply
  2. BeckyB

    You’ll be so grateful for the pool come July and August if it is anything like last summer . . . . will it be chlorinated or ‘au naturel’? If latter could always share it with the frogs!

    PS Looks like an annual rock rose to me. If the flower is really small though could it possibly be the Tuberaria bupleurifolia? The leaves do look like they turn down at margins.

    Reply
  3. Clare
    1. Edith (Post author)

      I must read that book!

      Reply
      1. Sue

        Even later to the fray. It was one of my childhood favourites. The original illustrations are magical.

        Reply
  4. Janet M

    Lovely photos (and Happy Birthday to your mother-in-law).

    Reply
  5. JerryG

    We came from the water and we like to go back to it occasionally, no guilt trip there!

    Reply
  6. Madeleine

    Totally fascinating. Have to say, if Ed were around he would probably be licking his lips at the partridge!

    Glad the Portugese is coming along and thanks for all the beautiful pics xxxxx

    Reply
  7. fatma

    Late to the fray again but thought I’d add my two pennyworth anyway! Interesting blog this week (when is it not?) regrading the pool officials and their attention to individual application rather than the corporate – reminded of the latest ‘breaking news’ wherein some Panama based company has allegedly helped hundreds of very wealthy people hide their true income from investments in tax avoiding offshore accounts. Nothing new I suppose but we are talking millions and millions… David Cameron’s own father named as a happy beneficiary. It’s never fair, is it?

    Reply
    1. Edith (Post author)

      I always love your twopennyworth, Fatma!

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: