Bougainvillea, bursting with life

Bougainvillea, bursting with life

The red-rumped swallows have been checking out the 'ghost' nest again. We still hope they will rebuild it. Plenty of mud by the river . . .

The red-rumped swallows have been checking out the ‘ghost’ nest again and, what’s more, carrying mud to it in their beaks. Spots of the mud have fallen to the ground. I guess it takes a while to get the foundations to stick

A closer look. You can clearly see the red rump that gives the swallow its name

A closer look. You can clearly see the red rump that gives the swallow its name


We wake up to birdsong. We get up to find the kitchen covered in thrumming wires of ants. They crisscross the floor and travel up the walls. It doesn’t matter that we leave the kitchen spotless at the end of the day, it only takes a homeopathic trace of something sweet in an overlooked spot to bring them in overnight. Confident in nature’s sustainable surplus, we vacuum them up, the sound of the hoover drowning out the birdsong. This goes on for half an hour as they continue to stream in. Not only are we confident that the species will survive whatever we do to it, we are also confident that our own colony will survive whatever we do to it. Somewhere beneath the soil in the garden is an ant volcano, spewing ants.

After four days, they stopped coming in. The lava flow dried up. The message filtered back to the colony that the house was out of bounds.

Another distinctive note in the house’s soundscape this week has been a snake throwing its body against the garage door. I heard the strange bumping noise before I saw the cause. At the moment our eyes met, it stopped what it was doing and shot off to the other end of the garage wall to disappear around the side. Dark silvery grey on top, pale silver underneath, about 120cm long; I don’t know what kind of snake it is, but I did later discover what it had been trying to do. It had been trying to get back inside the hollow of the garage door.

The snake must have had a few days of calm when we weren’t using the garage. Probably thought it had made a very clever choice, this thoroughly modern dwelling, all angular and metallic. Then the solar engineers arrived and needed to use the garage space, and up and down, up and down went the door, the poor snake’s tail protruding from one side, its home turned into a hideous fairground ride. I think it’s gone somewhere else now. Human beings – we’re not easy to live with, are we?

These speak for themselves

Aljezur protest crosses

Human chain

We travelled east to west, to Aljezur on the other side of the Algarve, to take part in an anti-oil human chain. Aljezur is close to where the first offshore oil drilling is due to take place in July. The meeting time and place was three o’clock outside the town hall. It was quite a long drive but we arrived in good time at about twenty to.

Will we never learn? There was nobody there. Really, not a soul. We went away to drink coffee and came back at five past three, rather guiltily late, and now there were three or four souls there, quite a long way off the amount you’d need for a decent chain. So we hung around, and kicked our heels, and got into a conversation or two, and over the course of the next couple of hours the other links in the chain rolled up. It ended up as a very good solidarity event. Several hundred people, including the local mayor and other dignitaries, and plenty of press too. We made a good display, waving banners and singing and dancing.

It has to be said, it was not a risky chain. We were not surrounding an oil drill or heavy machinery or hostile operators. The only risky part was when two ends of the chain were instructed to move and set off in different directions, and Husband and I and our immediate neighbours somewhere in the middle got stretched out slightly more than was comfortable. The problem was resolved with the help of a loudspeaker, and the chain began moving with more singularity of purpose. We probably need to take chain lessons from ants.

The petition I mentioned last week needed at least 4000 signatures to give rise to a debate at the Assembleia about the west coast drilling plans. It has exceeded its minimum target.

No blog next week because of another kind of overstretch – workload. This means that the next time I write, the results of the UK’s referendum over its EU membership will be known. My postal vote has already been returned to Tower Hamlets in east London. I’ve voted to remain, but in two weeks’ time I might find myself out of sync with my countryfolk, and be typing through a veil of tears.

At Aljezur câmara

At Aljezur câmara

No to the destruction of the Algarve. Yes to the suppression of predatory monopolies

‘No to the destruction of the Algarve. Yes to the suppression of predatory monopolies’

Protest song in Portuguese and English. Set to Mozart

Protest song in Portuguese and English. Set to Mozart



  1. BeckyB

    Humans are definitely not easy to live with but then at the same time we do offer lots of opportunity such as garage doors, verandas and kitchen splotches!!
    Hope you catch up with work and that our fellow countryfolk see sense on 23rd.

  2. Hazel

    Nature red in tooth and claw this week! We’ve got four baby frogs in our garden — maybe should bring them to play with your snake . . . Loved The Tale of the Ants (and the drollery within the update on Oil) — reminded me of those dear dead days of long recall in 1972, hitching through Italia and camping, with ant motorways marching day and night thru the tent. Rather them than the giant spiders with huge hairy bellies, which also favoured us with their dubious company. Fingers here so tightly crossed for an In result on 23 June that they’ve stuck like that. xx

  3. Fatma

    How very accommodating of the Portugese protesters to pen such a fine composition for the benefit of the English readers.Love it! At last the red rump of the red rump swallow! I was beginning to think it was just a fanciful nomenclature. And yes, what a wonderful time of year when plants really begin to come into their own, and birdsong is strong and deep. Another consequence of this season it seems is the battle of the ants v man, being played out in kitchens far and wide.I have struck the same balance: sacrifice the few, and spare the many! That snake in your garage was 4ft long! (yes, I’m still converting to imperial!). Talking of Imperial, you mention the imminent upcoming opportunity for those aspiring to restore the UK to those good old Empire days. Been watching many of the TV featured debates on this subject and slowly becoming more despairing as the ‘spectre’ of the immigration issue takes centre stage above all other common sense truths and concerns,and ignoring the anomaly between the ill perceived effects that immigration has had on this country, and the contrary supportable facts.If you are typing your blog in two weeks time through a veil of tears, I shall be reading your blog through the same.

  4. Patricia Roberts

    Lovely to see the swallows. Returning ,also the ants.going! You are working hard in regard to trying to prevent the fracking ,don’t give up hope l am very proud of your efforts ,you have quite a determined snake in your garage,hope you are finding time to swim.yourself that is the snake.

  5. Fiona

    Beautiful photos of the swallows xx

  6. L

    A veil of tears and fears given our position, committed to this country? But before, was greatly entertained – but perhaps one needs to have experienced the ants and snakes to laugh so much – still, we survive? I feel a great sympathy with the ants but one does need boundaries! Ours haven’t arrived yet!

    Thought of one of your sentiments Life does not get better than this when I was in the sea this morning, the only human around on a deserted beach

  7. Janet M

    “No thank you” on your protest crosses? You all are very polite protesters! (This is very nearly the sum of my knowledge of Portuguese 😉


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