I’m currently nursing the kind of chest pains that might normally be associated with heart trouble.
I think it’s more about hillside strimming and the pulling up of esteva plants (rock rose) than the continuing stress of bureaucracy and waiting to hear if our tourism project has been approved.
Either that or it is actually heart trouble. But it seems to be improving slightly each day…which can’t be said for the stress levels.
There are ups and downs in this lifestyle, and yesterday was a bit of a down.
But it’s good to reflect on a week filled with spring flowers, basket-loads of mushrooms, great wine and a strange discovery about lupins and beer.
But first the stress…
Some of you will know that we own a Land Rover Freelander called Millicent who is a little…temperamental/cheap/rubbish/Land Rover.
As a 4x4 she does a lot of off-roading – and sadly she is once again off the road.
Just after we dropped off the recycling the other day, and thankfully very close to the mechanic, she started struggling.
Same issue – our old friend the red battery warning light pinged on just as the power steering failed – another alternator issue.
Ana sighed, looked at me, and said “you know what we need to do, don’t you?”
“We need to stop recycling.”
Wise words indeed.
Obviously Ana was joking about the recycling (yes, we have started looking for a proper car…but they are so expensive here), but there’s a serious point to what she said.
We were watching a great misinformation take-down on the BBC the other day about an Indian alternative medicine practitioner whose videos encouraging steam inhalation as a COVID-19 prophylaxis have gone viral.
My former colleague Sima Kotecha’s brilliant video is well worth watching as the extremely convinced Nilesh Jogal explains he has been inhaling steam for months and hasn’t caught the coronavirus, so therefore steam inhalation prevents infection.
That would be fine…were it not for the hundreds of thousands of people following his crazy cause/effect logic.
The whole thing about people making stuff up and lots of people believing it has been called the infodemic, but that’s not a terribly elegant word.
Perhaps it’s better to call it a secondary psychological pandemic, fuelled by social media, where more people than even seem to be embracing stuff they wouldn’t have believed a year or two ago.
For someone whose life has been dedicated to truth and accuracy, it’s hard to comprehend why the “mainstream media” formerly known as “the news” is now being replaced as a source of facts by some bloke called Nilesh who Aunty Doris shared on WhatsApp.
And what is it that makes people who aren’t scientists think a cattle de-worming drug (Ivermectin) which hasn’t been approved for use, is safer and more effective than a number of well tested vaccine drugs that have?
A friend calls it the exponential growth of the tin-foil hat brigade, and their R number is certainly well above one.
So here is some bedtime listening for friends on both sides of the, erm, debate?
If you blame Land Rover and think we should get a new car and keep recycling, please listen to this great programme about trolls and QAnon (it’s the latest edition of the podcast Digital Human).
But if you think we should stop recycling to protect our car, please listen to this fabulous immersive podcast about a fictional conspiracy theory. It may inspire you to move to Phoenix, Arizona, which is lovely at this time of year.
Back to our new-found isolation, courtesy of Millicent’s energy problem and I came up with a madcap plan involving a new form of transport, and no it’s not a horse/some horses (yet).
The plan was to use the last of Millicent’s waning power to pick up the bikes, get them repaired and add some rugged tyres so we could get home – and abandon the car at the garage.
And dammit, it almost worked.
But they didn’t have the right tyres at the bike shop.
We got the old road tyres pumped up and the brakes re-aligned, as it’s been years since we last used these bikes.
Triumphantly we dropped off Millicent and headed home: independent, self-powered transport; fresh air, exercise, but yet utterly impractical for sand, brain-shaking tracks or the mud which has returned with a downpour.
We could now make the 11km trip to Odemira for another piece of overly bureaucratic bureaucracy required the following day…but rain was forecast, and the town hall is at the bottom of a gigantic hill.
Not wanting to slide under a truck while competing for the Tour de Alentejo king of the mountains polka-dot jersey, we borrowed our neighbour’s car and left the bikes at home.
And we’ve no idea when, or if, the garage will fix it*.
Bye-bye dentist appointment, Algarve trip and take-away crab and oysters (first world problems).
But it does give us more time (between showers) to wield our new weapon of choice – a pair of secateurs.
Our new victim is the line of old grape vines which have inspired us to begin a long-term quest to make wine.
We’ve started recording our podcast and pondering the best angle, but in short it’ll be a travelogue around Portugal and its vineyards on a quest to learn how to make our own wine while meeting fun people and hearing great stories along the way.
And it all starts with the pruning apparently
Thanks for the feedback last week, but we have no idea what kind of grapes they are, except that the raisins left over last year looked red.
The man in charge of pruning at Vicentino vineyard laughed when he saw the photos of such wanton neglect (but did offer help), the Spotswood winemaker in Stellenbosch sketched a few digital cuts on the photo…and so we set to work.
Inspired by watching how brutally the Pinot Noirs up the road had been hacked down to nothing we didn’t hold back (and Ana now wants a pair of electric pruners).
Some may struggle to recover, and let’s face it we’re not expecting much from the two dozen or so plants…depending on how many survive the night of the long secateurs,
We had a bit of a massacre over at the table grapes too…but they produced a load of good bunches last year, so we were a bit more restrained.
Ana’s made a start on pruning the pines and the cork oaks, and I’ve been increasing my back and chest pain by nibbling away at the mass-cutting that’s required to fulfil the legal requirements to clear land that’s 50m from any building before the end of March to prevent fires.
The esteva (rock rose) have an amazing flower, but they grow fast and as fast as you cut them down they spring up again in even more places – and they’re very flammable when dry.
The advice has been to pull them up while the soil is still soft and they come out easily by the roots.
I say easily, but it’s not that easy for the ones that are already more than a metre high.
It’s a shame, because of all the spring flowers that have been springing up, they are beautiful and have a great smell…but there are plenty of them left that are more than 50m from the house!
We’ve been discovering so many amazing flowers on our recent lucrative mushroom hunts where the bright orange chantarelles and hedgehog mushrooms are now in season.
The sweet tooth, or wood hedgehog mushrooms (hydnum repandum), are known as lingua de vaca in Portuguese – cow tongue – because of the tiny spikes that cover the underside of the cap.
They are fabulous…as are the cantharellus cibarius…in fact as I write the latest batch are bubbling away in butter waiting to be served with cream on spelt toast.
With spring coming earlier in southern Europe I hope you don’t mind us posting lots of flower photos…a preview of what’s to come elsewhere.
The yellow lupins are not only beautiful, but their Portuguese name – tremocilha – helped Ana make a connection with my favourite local beer snacks which are called tremoços.
They’re little yellow brined beans with tough skins that you break with your teeth and pop into your mouth – and they go extremely well with Sagres or Super Bock beer.
It turns out I’ve been snacking on lupin fruit. Well, there’s a thing.
Late edition update: Millicent is back on the road, the bikes are back in the shed, the crab is in the fridge (it was too late to get the oysters), and although the Algarve trip is back on I’ll have to re-schedule the dentist…well, isn’t that a pity.
Those orange flowers are amazing!!!