Weeks 56–7: Animal families
We celebrated the longest day of the year by making it even longer: we got up with the birds to take a daybreak walk upriver. The orioles in their family groups filled the valley with calls, which after a short while started to sound to us like recognisable conversation. The adults giving food to the young: ‘Here you go!’ The youngsters’ ungrateful response: ‘Whaddya mean?’ The irresistible urge to anthropomorphise. Another family group out that morning was the turtles: the big, old turtles slid quickly into the pools away from us but the little, fresh ones took longer to move: curiosity, or inexperience. Our very own sparrow family is closer to fledging clutch number two, and continues to be highly, almost comically alarmed every time we step out on to our front veranda. They don’t seem to have become accustomed to us yet. I wonder if it’s a new female. (I’m pretty sure it’s the same male.) She’s anxious and voluble. Perhaps it’s her first clutch. Altogether less in-your-face have been the Sardinian warblers, who nested in one of the rosemary bushes in our back garden, and whose young have now fledged.
Our fig tree hasn’t let us down. Those early, mysterious (to me) ‘buds’ turned into beautiful green fruit which we’ve eaten – and shared, whether we like it or not, with azure-winged magpies, orioles and blackbirds. Husband made delicious fig mustard, like a sort of piquant jam, which is superb with mature cheese. Many more tiny new figs have appeared on the tree, so it seems we shall be well supplied for weeks to come. Our three apricot trees have finished fruiting; now the peaches are ripening well, and they will be followed by plums, then apples. But our lemon trees, so heavy with fruit for so long, have no more ripe ones. I am not above stealing from a nearby ruin which has a prolific tree, but Husband prefers a more legitimate route. So we went to see Flaviano, in case he had lemons for sale, and also in case we’d heard from the town hall about our swimming pool. There was no post for us of any description. As we stood at the bar drinking beer and port, I said to Husband: ‘E limões?’, and he replied that there appeared to be none. Flaviano heard. He disappeared into the back and returned with a plastic bag heavy with sharp scented lemons, about twenty, for which he would receive no payment. Lemons he had plenty of, he said. We paid for the drinks we had had, and the new fly swat selected from his goods on display.
On the evening of the shortest night (assuming that’s the night before the longest day) we had watched the setting sun highlighting the few, scattered clouds in colours of gold, pearly-pink and – most surprising – blue. Blue clouds against a dark blue sky. Magical. But colour is deceptive, isn’t it? Husband and I often disagree about it. Neither of us is ‘colour-blind’, so far as we know, and yet we don’t agree about anything in the transition from violet and blue to green. We do agree, however, that colours are deeper here in the Algarve than they are further north. When I arrive back in England, I am still surprised at the change in the light. I assume the difference to have been temporary, or temporal, or seasonal, and yet there it is again. Several wavelengths of light seem to have been removed from the sun, making England a watercolour, whereas here the medium is oils.