Week 31: Boas festas
We had another visit from a telecoms engineer, this time wanting to check that everything was OK with the installation; also to tell us that three telegraph posts will at some point have to be replaced because of woodpeckers. We asked him about how to pay – we hadn’t had a bill yet. ‘Oh, one day it will come,’ he said. ‘As we like to say here in Portugal, when it comes to paying and dying, the later the better.’ Since then we have had a bill, and mysteriously it is in credit.
All is well at our other centre of communications: Flaviano’s shop. We picked up a nice fat bundle of post and were treated to his singing, dancing Father Christmas model. I caught some of it on my phone. The background chuckle, which should belong to Santa, is Flaviano’s.
Husband bought a second-hand four-wheel-drive car a few weeks ago, a silver Suzuki jeep. He loves it. It had one tiny problem, however: it needed a spare key, which was ordered by the salesman from the relevant supplier but never arrived. Husband chased up and the salesman, Marcelino, was full of apologies. The only way to get the new key, it seemed – because it involved a microchip in the steering column – was to take the car to the key supplier. Marcelino offered to do this for us, and so two used-car salesmen were among our visitors this week. They arrived in the dark and needed some help to find us, here no fim do mundo, at the end of the world. ‘You want to hide, don’t you?’ they said. They returned with the Suzuki the next day, and this time, seeing our valley in the daylight, they were enchanted, I could tell. They were two boys on an outing and they loved it. It must be very different here to the built-up area they live in by the coast.
Some half an hour after they’d left our place, we got in the jeep to run some errands and caught up with them. We couldn’t understand how it had taken them so long to drive up out of the valley. We saw them pull into a layby and, thinking they’d done so because we were behind them, we stopped alongside: in the road, as the custom is here. The pair of them looked up in surprise. They had handfuls of perfect, tiny, red medronho fruit and were eating them with guilty relish. That Portuguese people can find our place so special was very pleasing to me.
Our friend Mike, who is vastly knowledgeable about birds, emailed me after the last blog and confirmed what I wasn’t sure of, that the redstart I wrote about is a black redstart (for any bird-lovers out there). He also told me something I hadn’t known about the azure-winged magpie, so exotic in its colours and so commonplace here. (Husband counted thirty-two in one noisy, twittering flock a couple of days ago.) It seems the bird has two points of distribution, one on the Iberian Peninsula and one in China, but nothing between. Are they two outposts of a once continuous range, or were birds brought over from China by Portuguese sailors and merchants in the sixteenth or seventeenth century? Recent fossil evidence from Gibraltan caves has begun to suggest a natural distribution and an ice-age separation but isn’t conclusive.
All is calm in azure-winged land. In town (Tavira), there is no sign of pre-Christmas panic-shopping. Here at the end of the world, just in time for Christmas, we have mastered the water (filling up the cistern from the well) and gas supply: more on that next week.
Wishing everyone a very happy Christmas. Boas festas.