‘Ne’er cast a clout till May be out.’ I didn’t realise this old saying was about the Algarve. A week ago I cast a clout in the form of a thick, winter duvet, replacing it with a light one, and woke up cold the next morning. The sky was dark and a storm was about to discharge itself all over the valley. By midday we had the fire lit and the lights on. The rain came down in sheets all day, and the next day, and one week later it is still raining.
‘We’ll be all right for water in the summer,’ said Eleuterio with a smile.
‘It’s like gold in the bank,’ said an acquaintance in the village.
The river is wide and flowing fast, its colour turned to brown. We can’t ford it in this condition. It even deterred Horse. We got a phone call from his owner to say he’d gone AWOL again and I went down to the river to look for him, but no sign. He returned to his stable later the same day. I think he must have got to the river and been spooked by the swirling torrent, so decided to pass up on his holiday for a while. I do feel sorry for any tourists who picked this week for their dose of sunshine. And much as we love the rain, I hope it eventually eases off for our next guest, my mother, who is arriving on Thursday.
São Brás de Alportel
We attended another open meeting on the prospects for the Algarve if the oil industry arrives here. This one took place in the museum of our local town of São Brás, and was well attended, all seats taken and some people standing. Most of the audience were Portuguese, only a few foreigners were there, one of whom, a disgruntled Scotsman, identified himself very early on. The presentations were given by a solar energy expert and two hardworking members of the PALP group (Plataforma Algarve Livre de Petróleo). The no-brainer energy solution that solar is for the Algarve is clear – a week like this one notwithstanding – and it was the solar engineer who spoke first. It was uncontroversial material for the audience, except for the Scotsman, who, only five minutes into an event that was to last three hours, stood up and declared it was all rubbish, all lies, and he knew what he was talking about because he used to work for the oil industry. He marched out, his stout frame quivering with indignation, and the presentation carried on without a hiccup. If he felt he really had a case, why didn’t he stay to make it?
Many passionate speeches were made by members of the audience. One or two went on longer than seemed to me entirely necessary, but that’s how it goes. I was moved by the man who spoke up for the natural industries of the Algarve: its world-beating cork, its super-carbon-soaking carob trees. And I was impressed by the town mayor who stood up at the end of the presentations and promised to put himself physically in front of any machines that come here with the aim of exploring for oil. That’s going to be harder to do at sea, mind you.
Our solar energy production at home has carried on without any hitch despite the weather. The electricity company (EDP) have been to disconnect their meter, though we are not entirely free of them yet. We have a second meter, put in to supply three-phase electricity for the bread oven; we are going to switch this to a greener provider. As well as being needed for the bread oven, it’s also a back-up for the rest of the house, but we have little recourse to it. Through our photo-voltaic panels and battery storage, we are supplying about 90 per cent of our own energy: free after the cost of installation, renewable and clean. All thanks to the blessed sun, even on cloudy days.