On Sunday, when Eder scored a goal in extra time, I got up and put my head out of the door to listen to the sound of the world outside. I wanted to know if the cheers reached down to our valley. They didn’t. Nothing but the warm wind gusting about. Ten minutes later, when Portugal became European champions, I did the same: still nothing. Only the sounds of our own cheers. We are remote here. This proves it.
The main story here at the end of the world remains that of two swallows building a nest. Gobbets of heart-shaped mud have been arriving at our veranda roof at intervals as regular as a London bus: every ten or fifteen minutes and in pairs. They are brought in tirelessly by the two Red-rumped Swallows. Each gobbet is pushed out with the tongue and drilled into place with horizontal movements of the head and sprays of tiny droplets of saliva. (Do birds have saliva? They must do. Or else it’s the moisture in the mud that gets forced out.) They choose their material from various spots in the land around where we live. It can be red, brown or grey. The nicest-looking stuff, the red mud, comes from a place by Eleuterio’s water tank; he told me so. He looked quite chuffed about the swallows too. They have built their upside-down dome gobbet by gobbet, layer by layer, like potters who eschew a wheel. Plant fibres make up part of the building material.
As the days went by it became clear that the tunnel entrance wasn’t to be at the back after all, as I had assumed. The buttress sticking out at the rear is an architectural or engineering feature impenetrable to the human mind. Perhaps it’s a veranda. At the other side of the nest, ‘our’ side, they gradually narrowed their dome to a tiny bottle-neck, facing our front door.
By Sunday, it was done. The last of the mud had been spat out and driven into place. Stalks of dry grass were taken inside for padding. Now, in the morning, I look up at the nest to see one or sometimes two pairs of round eyes, under blue-shiny crowns, at the entrance to their home. And they look down at me.
I read somewhere that the birds don’t mate on the wing or on the wire, they wait until their home is built and mate inside. The first egg might already be laid. Incubation takes a couple of weeks. You can hear the birds chattering to one another inside. It sounds like they are zooming through the stations on a tiny analogue radio, the sound muffled by the chamber. They never seem to find the station they want.
No blog next week because of another work-related visit to London. Back by the time of the first hatchlings.