Week 50: Dia do Trabalhador
Just as Maria said, on May Day our valley filled with people picnicking. Not too far away was an organised festa, with vans serving food and beer, and a singer on a small stage in front of a dance floor. The place was recommended to us for our first May first, so we went, and on the way we passed various bonecos dos Maios, lauding – and sometimes making fun of – the worker. During the dictatorship, festivities on Labour Day were suppressed; the revolution forty-one years ago saw a new flowering. My Portuguese teacher enjoyed seeing these pictures. She hadn’t seen bonecos for a while. She said you used to see more a few years ago, and sometimes they were a means of making a political protest. I believe these bonecos were made by the local freguesia (parish), which makes them quite tame, but I’m still charmed by them.
May Day has gone through a lot of rebranding over the centuries from its original pagan celebration of survival and renewal. Whatever the excuse, this May Day felt special. It was hot and bright; the air shimmered, seeming to feel its own weight. Intimations of real summer to come.
I met Costa outside the local cooperativa agricola. We drove in through the gates until we got to the workshop of his mechanic friend, a stout, silent man. Inside, various tractors were being patched up and – heart-liftingly – a Renault 4 body was being resprayed, its chassis propped up against the wall behind. I left Rolie in his huge, capable hands.
I got a message a day later that the car was ready, so long as I didn’t want a complete respray of the back. If I did, I’d need to leave it longer. But Rolie was perfect. Nothing more was required. The chrome bumper was straightened out and refastened; the damage done to the bodywork patched up; the scratches spotted with matching paint. All for a few euros. I drove back home very happily.
We have hatchlings. We hear their tiny cheeps coming from the bottom of the mud enclosure. Their parents are busy feeding them. Each parent bird has a different modus operandi. The female arrives with her beakful of insect life, pauses on the mouth of the tunnel, casts a few glances around, then dives in. The cheeps rise in volume to greet her. The male arrives with his beakful of insect life, but he doesn’t dive into the nest. Oh no, far too dangerous. Instead, he lands unsteadily on the washing line below and wobbles. Then he flies off again, serpentines a bit, ducks and dives, checks all around, throws a few more diversionary moves in, and still doesn’t go in the nest. By this time the female has delivered several more beakloads. Eventually he deems the ground to be safe and goes in. The chicks get their feed, then he’s out like a shot to resume his commando role.
The swallows are leaving the sparrows alone. I wonder if they might retake the nest after the squatter fledglings have flown. I don’t know if that kind of thing happens.
We put in an application for a swimming pool. Everybody we know – except our architect – advised against this. Nobody has a legal pool; the rules are vague anyway; they’ll only be on your back for ever. Go for a fibreglass pool, for which you don’t need permission. (Theoretically.) And then we went ahead anyway. We decided that if we were to have a pool at all, we’d like a proper, built one.
Our application has passed what is arguably the most difficult part of the process: approval from the Agricultural Department. Next it goes to the council. Our architect, who is managing the process, is another in the long line of pleasant, smart, intelligent Portuguese professionals we have dealt with. In her holidays, she goes to India to work on behalf of street children. What can I say? People here are nice.