Close Encounters!

One morning I left the apartment earlier than usual. Id decided to make a curry for dinner that evening and I wanted to buy fresh chicken from our local butcher. I have never, to this day, tasted chicken as good as the free-range corn fed chicken I bought in Algarve.

I walked across our side street and was brought to an abrupt halt on coming face to face with the flaring nostrils and bloodshot red eyes in the head of a huge white bull! The large beast stood there, his size completely filling the paved walkway. He was alone and unattended. I looked around me and there was no one insight. I did not move but then saw, with relief, that he was tethered to a nearby bollard, albeit with a rather fragile looking piece of rope. This gave me some confidence and I moved very carefully round him, then took of at speed to the butchers opposite!

Relating this to my friend Maria later that day, she told me that the bull was brought to serve the butchers herd of cows that grazed in the meadow behind his shop.
I made the curry that evening and the chicken was wonderful as usual. But the rice was truly awful. It was lumpy, sticky, stodgy and absolutely revolting. We all pushed it to one side and "filled up" with bread and butter.
Once again, I told Maria when she came to tea the next day. She looked at the rice packet and laughed out loud and said "You have used arroz for cao (dogs)!"

I didn't know that this was used as dog food and it was one of the many mistakes I would make in my early days in Algarve.

Hub came home one evening with a tale that even now, I'm not quite sure of. He had been out that day with Carlos to take measurements for a new kitchen. It was a long drive to an area that neither of them knew very well. Hub was in the driving seat of the truck as they took a country road towards Senhora da Verde. They were searching for a newly built villa and suddenly found they were completely lost. But taking a chance they drove along a wide dirt track hoping it would lead to the villa.

Suddenly, Carlos shouted out loud for Hub to stop, nearly giving him heart failure, saying
"Stop Hub stop. Look, Look!"
Hub said his heart was pounding thinking he'd hit somebody but staring to where Carlos pointed, a few metres ahead, he saw stretched out and half-filling the roadway, the long furry body of an obviously dead animal.
Carlos was out the truck and crouching beside the corpse and beckoning Hub, saying "Look Hub, See? Ele Lobo!"
"Lobo?"
"Sim. Lobo. You say er"
He proceeded to throw back his head and howl!
Hub said "Wolf?"
"Sim sim. Lobo!"

Hub told me it definitely wasn't a German Shepherd dog.The body was longer and leaner; the legs too were longer. The fur was grey, but it was the head that had him believe that Carlos was right. The jaw was long and pointed and in the poor beasts final agony the lips were drawn back revealing its fangs. The eyes were only half closed in death; they were yellowy and slanted. The tail was grey and bushy.
They eventually found the villa and did the measuring but on the long journey home all they talked of was "Lobo". Hub said he thought wolves were only found in north Portugal and Spain. But Carlos, who was originally from the Alentejo region said no, they had them there and sometimes these wild creatures would venture further south!
I'm still not sure, all I know is it was the talk of the workshops for days; the other lads accusing Carlos of drinking too much brandy but Hub backed him up on it.

We went to pick up a repaired tyre at the garage that used to be opposite Lagoa's old cinema. Parking our van in the street nearby, Hub got out and started to walk. He'd gone just a few paces, when suddenly, for a moment a large shape blotted out the brilliant sunshine. Son and I watched in amazement as an enormous bird literally skimmed Hubs head, its wing span a good metre and half wide. We jumped from van calling out and as we all looked up we saw the huge brown eagle dip down and swooping low flew straight into the garage. As we followed it came to rest on a large perch situated by the office door. It was the garage owners pet! We watched as he welcomed it with fresh water and pieces of dead rabbit.

One day during the "monsoon" weather with rain pouring down in leaden sheets, it was decided i couldn't do my garden work and Hub volunteered to go and check villa to see that all was okay.
He returned hour or so later with face that was ashen and he looked quite ill. I said,
"What's the matter, don't you feel well?"
He replied,
"Its ok. Just had a bit of a shock!"
As I've mentioned before, I have a terrible phobia of snakes. Well Hubs is frogs and toads!

He'd walked round the garden and villa checking everything, then, he stepped onto veranda by kitchen annexe. There was an awful squiggling, squelchy sound and to his horror, on looking down found the floor to be alive with literally hundreds and hundreds of tiny wet green slimy frogs. The stuff of his nightmares!
To say that he made a hasty retreat would be an understatement. Needless to say I had to treat him with black coffee and a large brandy!
Our life was certainly turning out very different to that in London. But it was never ever dull and always exciting and a challenge!

Very best wishes,
Ellie.