I asked for rain, and I got it. It thundered on the roof and danced on the fragrant earth. It was at its heaviest on Monday night, when lightning flash-lit the valley and we decided to light the fire to burn off the chill. We had friends visiting us over this wet period, whom I’d promised swims and sundowners. Luckily they had read the weather forecast and arrived clad as though for a weekend in the Lake District, which was appropriate.

By Tuesday the rain had caused tongues of red earth to slither down the hillsides on to the dirt road, but Rolie had no problems driving along. He’s still running like a dream. Don’t quite know how Costa’s Olhão-based mechanic worked the magic he did.

The rain came just in time. The water man hadn’t been able to deliver his water to the garden cisterna. He couldn’t negotiate the track up the hillside, nor did he have pipes long enough to reach from the dirt road. The garden tank had almost run dry; our external water supply was looking precarious. This primarily affected the swimming pool. Being in possession of a swimming pool is like looking after a rare and precious beast. It snores and rumbles. It requires regular inputs of water and salt. It swishes insects away with its skimmers. It likes having its sides brushed.

But then you get to swim, which is heavenly.

Now, with the rainfall, the citrus trees got saturated, droplets hanging off their yellow and green-orange fruit skins, and Eleuterio’s well started giving up water again. Perhaps the well had simply become too dry. Water is so precious.

A meeting about the future of fossil fuels in the Algarve was held in the Clube de Tavira. On the panel were the baby-faced town mayor, an admirable and precise lawyer and the writer (Lídia Jorge) whom I quoted a few weeks ago. All three were there to make the case against exploration and exploitation of oil and gas in the Algarve. Local government and local people remain lined up against central government and vested interests. Questions were sought from the audience after the panel had made their speeches. The silence that might fall over a British audience at this point, who would shrink in their seats and shuffle their feet until someone was brave enough to raise a hand, does not happen here. Instead, there is a clamour for the microphone. (A microphone!) Those who get the chance to speak will not merely stand up and introduce themselves, but quite often exit their seat in order to pace the aisle and be seen from different angles by the audience during their peroration. They might start off quietly, but as they limber up, their voice finds its rhythm and rather than ask an actual question of the panel they might be declaiming their point of view for ten whole minutes. Soon I lose my dim and hopeful grasp of Portuguese. The language ceases to be a collection of discrete words, some of which I understand, and returns to being the torrent of plosive pops, zhuzhes and rasps that it was when I first arrived here. Eventually those for whom this is the opportunity to read out an entire mission statement, which might run to several sides of A4, will get their turn at the mic. The moderator’s request for succinctness is ignored. Most of the audience, like the panel, were against the oil and gas plans, so this was not so much preaching to the converted as drilling them into the ground. The panel hardly got another word in. The wonderful passion of the people of the Algarve to protect their environment sometimes gets drowned in a sea of words.

But there are actions to come, and actions speak louder than words.

A young Common Toad squatting on our covered pool. Toads are emerging all over, enticed by the wetness; on the roads their eyes shine in the car headlights like cat’s eyes, which makes it easier to avoid squashing them

A young Common Toad squatting on our covered pool. Toads are emerging all over, enticed by the wetness; on the roads their eyes shine in the headlights like cat’s eyes, which makes it easy to spot them and so avoid squashing them

A road in Buckinghamshire announcing the post-Brexit world (seen in England last week)

A lane in Buckinghamshire announcing the post-Brexit world (seen in England last week)


  1. Husband

    No rain isince Tuesday afternoon, and the valley is filled with the scent of ‘estevas’ (gum rock rose). Opening the front door is like walking into church at Christmas mass. The call of a single Tawny Owl being answered by the cockerel further down the valley. The sky is still a sea of stars at this hour, garnished with a sliver of moon…

  2. Fatma

    A few thoughts come to mind. 1. When it rains, do you have to cover the pool up? 2. I hope your guests got some sunshine. 3. Your description of the Q&A after the set pieces was enlightening. It raised memories for me of a time I spent in Spain when I diligently attended language school. During my time there, I managed to converse in very poor Spanish with those who were patient enough to pace their sentences, and use simple words. There came the time when upon leaving, people being used to my presence by then, an excited rush of farewell left me in exactly the same position as you describe: a torrent of suddenly incomprehensible words that seemed to have no beginning and no end left me a linguistic novice again, finishing my sojourn as I had begun!

    1. Edith (Post author)

      Hi Fatma. We always cover the pool when it is not in use to help keep it clean, keep beasties out and to conserve the water against evaporation. The cover isn’t sealed, however. It lies on top of the water. So when it rains, the pool starts to fill and the overflow comes into use – when we remember to unplug it (which we did); otherwise we keep it plugged to prevent water wastage. It’s a complicated creature!

  3. Hazel

    Swimming in the rain is good! Your valley clearly maintains its idyllic perfection even with torrents hammering down. Lovely toad piccie — haven’t seen our frogs lately but we live in hope for next year. Neighbours had forty or fifty in their pond, which puts our five to shame! xx

  4. Edith (Post author)

    Hi Hazel. Swimming in the rain would have been very good were it not also rather chilly . . . even you would not have swum, I’m sure. Though Husband did! Albeit not during a downpour. xx

  5. Peter Bunker

    We landed on Monday night in the middle of the storm. Had to circle half an hour before it was safe to land. Arriving at our little home from home in Aldeia De Marim, we found the water meter had been nicked. No water, no shower! Went to AmbiOlhao next day. They said it was because of a nine euro bill we didn’t pay in April because our euro account had dipped too low. Instead of taking it from our account the following month they sent a registered letter, which was returned as we weren’t there to receive it. Whilst home in Blighty they pinched our meter! Only cost forty euros to have it put back. We have learned our lesson! Sun out now and all the seeds are germinating. We love it here!


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