Robalo and nespera

Flamingoes over the salt marshes of Olhão, on a gloomy day

Flamingoes over the salt marshes of Olhão on Saturday

Not far away from the flamingoes, a Black-winged Stilt, whose reflection makes its legs look longer still

Not far away from the flamingoes, a Black-winged Stilt, whose reflection makes its legs look longer still

Common Vetch blazing like a fire in front of the old mill

Common Vetch blazing like a fire in front of the old mill

Down on the ground, away from the glamour of the big blooms, are tiny plants like this Hop Trefoil, whose flowers are 3–4mm long

Down on the ground, away from the glamour of the big blooms, are tiny plants like this Hop Trefoil, whose flowers are 3–4mm long

Another, tiny flower, a few millimetres long: the Lesser Snapdragon

Another tiny flower, a few millimetres long: the Lesser Snapdragon

Nespera (loquat): we do eat them, but we are making little impression on the volume

Nespera (loquat): we are eating them, but making little impression on this great abundance. I cut them in half, slip out the shiny brown seeds, of which there might be one, two, three or four, then peel off the skin, which I find tough. The resulting semi-circle of almost translucent yellow flesh is juicy and tender, with a sweetness that is cut through by a hint of acidity. My taste for them is growing . . .

 

On Saturday we visited the salt marshes at Olhão, before going to the fish market. It was an overcast day. Black-winged Stilts and Flamingoes cast pale shadows on the grey waters. Low-flying House Martins and Barn Swallows knitted the air around us along the path, as though closing us in an invisible net.

In the market we bought stout, firm, shiny robalo (sea bass). They came to 27 euros, and we gave the man forty. ‘Vint’-sete,’ he repeated, holding the money we’d given him back out towards us. We explained we didn’t have anything smaller, but he just looked at us. Puzzled, we abandoned talking and resorted to gesture, a lifting of the chin to encourage him to check again the money we had given him. The penny dropped: he realised we’d given him two twenties. His expression softened, and he drew the forefingers of his raw, red hands in circles around his face to indicate tiredness and confusion. Nor does it look like an easy life, to be a fishmonger. I wouldn’t last thirty minutes with my fingers in crushed ice, guts and scales.

Since the weekend, it has turned warm. There is no longer any need, or excuse, for a fire at night. The wild flowers are still dazzling. It’s been an exceptional year for them, we’re told. Certainly they are more impressive than last year’s. Lordy is given to lying in the meadows, his kohl-rimmed eyes above the flowers, looking even more louche than ever. Alternatively he makes himself comfortable in the road and isn’t in any hurry to move when you drive up. Such a cool character.

The two dogs hadn’t been to our veranda for a while, so the slices of old bread we keep for them had become rock hard. I couldn’t even snap them into pieces. I gave them to the enquiring dogs this week regardless and they tackled them with the enthusiasm, and the dentition, they have for bones. Husband’s bread is eternal. If exposed to the air, it doesn’t go mouldy, it just slowly desiccates: a sign of very good sourdough bread.

The other visitors to our veranda are a pair of Red-rumped Swallows. They fly in and out all day long. They swim over us while we’re at breakfast, and cut in front of my study window – which looks through the veranda and down the path to the river – all the rest of the day. On the wire, they babble; in flight they call to one another with little bird barks. They fly right up to the mark left behind by the old nest, even seem to bump their faces on the wall. We’ve seen them fill their beaks with mud from the building site of the swimming pool, but it hasn’t been deployed on our veranda yet. They are sleek and shiny in the sunlight, such elegant and beautiful birds.

Lordy chomping through very dry, old bread

Lordy chomping through very dry, old bread with gusto

 

12 Comments

  1. Hazel

    Lordy looks to be in very good nick! His paws are so neat and somehow . . . aristocratic! London is very, very cold — around 2C at night and not much more during the day — so we’re envying your Portuguese warmth in a very deep and meaningful way. And I LOVE the pic of the flamingos — maybe we can go to see them when we come?! xx

    Reply
    1. Edith (Post author)

      Yes, we can certainly visit the flamingoes. Ah, now I think maybe I prefer your chosen spelling: flamingos.

      Reply
  2. Robert Brown

    Oh to be in Olhao
    Now that April’s there….

    (Apologies to Rupert Brooke)

    Really miss the salt pans!

    Reply
    1. Edith (Post author)

      We thought of you two, of course. And thanks to Becky for all the great shopping tips: especially Silvia and the organic veg.

      Reply
    1. Edith (Post author)

      Oh yes! Hadn’t occurred to me . . .

      Reply
  3. Madeleine

    All sounds so idyllic, as per usual. I am so lucky to have shared some of the time with you. Enjoy! As always xxx

    Reply
  4. Janicem

    I love the photos of the flowers. They are so beautiful.

    Reply
  5. Patricia Roberts

    What a lovely view from your study window ,Lordy on guard and your visiting swallows ,inspiring.

    Reply
  6. Julie Gaukroger

    your photos are exquisite Mari. and how have you learnt to distinguish all the bird song? i really feel inadequate that at such an advanced age i still don’t know which bird is which.

    Reply
    1. Edith (Post author)

      Thank you, J. It’s so quiet here that the birds have command of the airwaves, so you do learn their songs quite quickly. Not that I know them all yet …

      Reply
  7. fatma

    And now I feel sad for the red rumped swallows! swooping and diving and returning to the mud nest spot that is no more……I have very fond memories of that nest!

    Reply

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