Week 46: Easter egg
Here and there in our valley, orange trees drenched in blossom are saturating the air with exquisite scent and competing with the hitherto dominant amber tones of the gum cistus. Even our own little mandarin tree is making a good showing.
On Easter Saturday I dropped in at Flaviano’s to check for post, and was met by three persons standing in a row: Father Christmas, Flaviano and a pleasantly round-faced woman of uncertain age. I greeted them. The woman returned the greeting in a very friendly way; Flaviano was reserved, as he sometimes is, usually just before breaking into a broad smile or a cackle. Santa was silent.
You might wonder why Father Christmas (see Week 31) is still in the picture at Easter. We did ask Flaviano a few weeks ago, and he said that Santa only lived next door in the store room – which is where we go through the piles of envelopes for any addressed to us. I had never noticed Santa lurking in there before he came out for Christmas proper, but never mind. The reasoning went: since he would only be in the next room anyway, he might as well stay out here in the front.
As I was checking for post, the friendly woman came and offered me a wedge of something to eat. With its cross-section of hard-boiled egg, it looked like pork pie. I rarely say no to food, so I took it and bit in. It was cake, with a rather bread-like texture, a hint of aniseed in the flavour and enclosing a boiled egg. Disconcertingly, the egg was still in its shell. The texture of the cake gave it away as home-made, which is always a pleasure, but grinding through the eggshell was less so. It’s a traditional Easter cake, folar de Páscoa, she said.
Back at home research revealed that a hard-boiled egg in its shell is part of the folar deal. In some versions the boiled egg is put on top of the cake and held in place with strips of pastry; in others, such as the one I had, it is buried inside the cake. My main question went unanswered, however. So I turned to the owner of a restaurant we went to on Sunday night – a beautiful place in the hills, traditional Portuguese with a fine-dining flair and one of our favourite places to go out to.
‘Are you supposed to eat the shell?’
‘No,’ he said immediately, smiling. It seems that this is rather like asking an Englishman if you are supposed to eat the sixpence in a Christmas pudding. Though how you delicately and discreetly avoid eating shell, I’m still not sure.
Early on an overcast Easter Sunday we went to São Brás de Alportel to watch the streets being laid with flowers for the Festa das Tochas Floridas. After Mass the men process from the church through the decorated streets, lifting their flower torches in response to the call, ‘Ressuscitou como disse’ – He has risen, as He said – and shouting three times, ‘Aleluia!’ The flowers on the tarmac soon get scattered, and by the end of the day are swept away. (With thanks to Fiona for the photographs; I had a camera/competence malfunction that day.)
Guarda Nacional Republicana
Easter festivities end on a Sunday; on Monday it is back to work. And on Monday we had a visit from a policeman. The GNR vehicle rolled up outside our front terrace and stopped. Unsure what else to do, I said good morning. The policeman smiled and returned the greeting. He asked for Mr Sensible; of course, we explained that we were now the owners, then he asked if he could come in.
Handshakes all round and first-name introductions. Our rising concerns were quickly dissipated. The purpose of his visit was to explain about the Programa Residencia Segura, the safe residence programme. All remote houses are allocated a reference number and a GPS setting so that they can be quickly and easily found in case of emergency. We now have a record of our number so we can quote it if needed.
Friends have been staying with us this week. One of the great things about having friends to stay is the collective enthusiasm that gets generated. With Fiona and Mike, we did two things we had never done before:
- We finally swam in the river. It was lovely.
- We bought a chandelier.