I thought it was all going well, but Lionel knew otherwise.
The man with 30 years of lumberjack experience could tell by the sound of the chainsaw that I was trying to bite off more than I could chew.
I had bitten off quite a few eucalyptus trees from the hillside – all without incident (this week) – but I was scalded for the bluntness of my chain.
He demonstrated how his machine cut through tree trunks like they were butter while mine cut like it was the butter.
I had been diligently sharpening every little blade each time I filled up with petrol and oil, but he taught me how to sharpen it properly.
And then when the machine spluttered and stalled Lionel shook his head, tutted and said “tem o coração partido.”
It has a broken heart.
And when I took it to the Stihl shop, they confirmed it had somehow managed to burn out its piston.
How on earth did that happen? I can’t have used it for a total of more than 10 hours…surely there’s a warranty?
Off grid and ignorant, the spending curve is once again outpacing the learning curve.
At least with the chainsaw in the repair shop I am no longer getting in Lionel’s way asking amateur questions while he tears through the eucalyptus forest at a fearsome pace.
We can now see the view from the road and are starting to work out where the new buildings will go and just how great their vista will be.
The next step is bringing in a big machine to dig out the roots and level the ground for building.
We had a couple of meetings this week with the bank manager and the architect, engineers and builders…and things are becoming increasingly real!
The lack of wood cutting also means that I have just about shaken one of the two new ear worms I recently picked up.
There are good reasons I shouldn’t admit to having had Monty Python’s Lumberjack song on my mind pretty much all the time I have been felling trees and cutting them up into little bits (it’s very much of its time).
Suffice to say, on Wednesday we did go shopping, but São Teotónio was fresh out of buttered scones for tea.
And as for hanging around in bars, sadly they are all shut again in our area after a little setback in the pandemic re-opening plan.
The other ear worm revolved around a trip to the big and distant mountain we can see from the house.
Monchique (c’est chic) is a beautiful hour’s drive away along steep winding mountain paths and through narrow terraced valleys.
The top is just shy of 3,000ft (900m) and creates a natural border between the Algarve and the Alentejo.
Fóia is one of the two peaks, dominated by communications masts, closed tourist cafes, a military post and amazing views.
It’s on the Via Algarviana walking path which meanders 300km across the Algarve and links to our own Rota Vicentina up the west coast
From the top we could see the sun setting over our wild west coast of Portugal, and shadows lengthening on the resort towns of the south.
It was the first time I had seen the Formula One racing track – the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve – jutting out from the landscape.
(I just Googled it and the next Formula One Grand Prix race is next week…now that would make a good blog post...!)
Portimão was laid out in the distance, with the sun catching the Arade River which flows up and down with the tide to Silves – the old capital of the Arabian Algarve.
And there are so many layers of history surrounding that river.
Remnants of Neolithic tombs date back to the Cynetes – the inhabitants contemporary with the Celts – and the river served as a sheltered port for the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Carthaginians and the Romans.
One historic name was “Hannibal’s Port” after the great Carthage general who famously drove his North African elephants over the Alps to attack at the heart of the Roman Empire.
Three hundred years of Visgoth rule preceded the Moors who ruled for nearly six centuries before being driven out by the Order of Santiago in 1242.
The market town of Monchique (c’est chic) is a beautiful little town of narrow cobbled streets and boy do we Freak Out over the wild boar (wild boar) restaurant in town that Richard and Pauline took us to a while back.
Donna Paula was in top form once again – her husband is the wild boar (wild boar) hunter and currently is averaging a kill rate of one per night.
(There’s talk among the mountain pigs of a serial killer on the loose).
With the restaurant closed by the lockdown she had time to go on one of his hunts and her phone is a slideshow of the dead pigs that now line the freezer.
Their place is a traditional tasca restaurant – simple, amazing food served in the traditional way.
It’s a neon-lit sports bar that the uninitiated would walk straight past, but after ordering a few days ahead you can feast on javali stew and the famous black pig cheeks for a steal.
When we arrived, it was full of older gents in flat caps watching Portimonense getting hammered by Benfica 5-1 on the telly. Most left in disgust.
Starters, more meat than it’s possible to eat, flagons of house wine, every dessert on the menu, coffee and a splash of medronho for less than €15 a head.
And no, I’m not telling you where it is.
And yes, I am showing my age. Ear worms brought to me courtesy of Monty Python (1975), Chic (1978) and Duran Duran (1984).
And regular readers will be glad to hear Garfunkel is recovering well from his knee op and had his stitches taken out this week.
Obviously, it’s going to be a long road back to full fitness – his coach still thinks he’ll be out for the rest of the season – but he is easing back to work with the occasional night shift.
The forced rest has transformed him from the must-sleep-outside vicious night-guard of Alentejo.
He’s now a trip-you-up-for-a-tummy-rub lounge rug – and a bloody big rug at that.
Where are the photos of you wearing suspenders and a bra.... I’ve got the ear worm now
I'm thinking of asking for a loyalty card from my local repair shop, the combination of hidden stones and tree stumps is playing havoc with my mower and brush cutter. Regarding tasty food just south of Monchique is Caldas da Monchique, there back in the day, were made in an open wood oven, the most delicious Pao Chourico. To eat one under the canopy of the huge eucalyptus shaded from the heat of the day was divine. On the south heading one way road in Monchique there is/was a woodworker who sold typical Algarvian furniture. We purchased several pieces including a personally signed folding chair with matching table. Glad Garf is on the mend and will be soon resuming his duties...