Week 42: Nesting
This nest, under the ceiling of our front terrace, was built by red-rumped swallows (before we moved in), and we are hoping they will take it up again. We have no way of knowing when it was last occupied, but it looks quite invitingly spruce and well-made. Barn swallows, swifts and martins are filling the skies, but we’ve seen no sign of the red-rumped swallow. They arrive slightly later than the barn swallows, I’ve read; perhaps there’s still time. We have to wait and see.
New life is bursting out all over the garden. A bewildering array of flowers is filling up the terraced area and the wilder land beyond, and just trying to find out what they are could take up all my time. There are asphodels, spurreys, spurges, vetches, ericas, pimpernels and rock roses, and so much more. There is a school of opinion that says the need to name things is the desire to assert ownership or mastery over them, and we should simply enjoy them with respectful ignorance instead. But to hell with that, I want to know what they are. In particular, I want to know if I can eat them, or use them in some other way. The wild rocket we recently discovered has made a heavenly sweet and peppery addition to a number of salads, and I’d like more of that. But I need to be patient. I have to remind myself that I cannot know everything all at once, and nor should I want to.
Our Portuguese builders couldn’t understand why we wanted to dismantle the old kitchen. Almost everything they took from it has been rehoused somewhere or other (and I’m very pleased about that). It does seem extravagant, but the old kitchen wasn’t right: the storage space wasn’t enough, the worktop was too low, it just wasn’t to our taste.
Late yesterday evening a van rolled up and two lanky young men unfolded themselves from the cab, having driven 2,800 kilometres in two days. The new kitchen and its installers had arrived from Erfurt in Germany. It’s the first time we’ve seen the pear tree (written about in Week 39) for real – it looks as though a silken scarf in shades of brown and honey has settled and spread itself over the surface of still water. It’s incredibly beautiful.
For Husband’s friend Gero, creating a kitchen for a house in Portugal has its own resonance. At nineteen he went travelling, south from Germany, in the days before mobile phones and the internet, when you could set off and your family and friends would have to wait a few weeks until they got a postcard to find out where you were, by which time you’d have moved on. I remember travels like that myself. Gero wound up in southern Portugal, near Évora in the Alentejo (see Week 33), and found work helping with the olive harvest. Then a kind farmer gave him a house. Yes, gave him a house. He lived there for several months. His first earnings bought him an axe and a saw, and he built himself a sleeping platform. Its prosaic purpose was to raise him and his food from the floor, which was overrun with mice, but it also sparked what was to become his career: working with wood. When the olive harvest was over, he made bread, to live on, and to sell and live from: another nice connection. When it finally came time to go home, he passed the house on to someone else. Now, many years later, he and his business partner and colleagues in Erfurt make beautiful, bespoke pieces for interiors.
Next week: the kitchen will be ready to show you.