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Posted by portugalpress on July 11, 2018
Maria dos Reis (seated) and Clarice
‘Greening’ our valley
10 Years ago; from left: Manuel, Peter, Maria dos Anjos, Maria Laurentina and Maria da Fé. Seated is Maria Adelaide 

“Time flies if you are having fun” is a well-known proverb in England and the Portuguese equivalent is “tempo bem empregado, curto parece”. Somehow the years have flown by and Peter and I find it hard to believe that in October this year, we shall have been living in the Algarve for 20 years.

Our original plan was to spend 10 years in Portugal and then move on. What attracted us then and what keeps us here are the same beautiful scenery, the pure air, the weather, the clear night skies, but, most of all, the people. In previous articles (‘Home from Home’, Algarve Goodlife, November 2010 and ‘Living as Part of an Algarvian Community: Facing Disaster’, Algarve Resident, July 2012), I described our life in the Algarve.

On our first visit over 20 years ago, as I emerged from the aircraft, I felt that I had come home. In Tavira on that visit, we gazed at the reflection of the moon in the river Gilão and knew that we wanted to live here. We were immediately drawn to the ruin and the land in Morenos and were certain that this was the right place for us. Deliverymen unkindly describe our location as “the back of beyond”.

We were the second British couple to move in to the village and we have seen many changes. We British are now outnumbered by French and Belgians. Our Portuguese neighbours know that the British come to the Algarve for the sun, and they maintain that the Belgians are escaping the unsafe streets of Belgium.

In common with other hamlets in the Algarve, Morenos is gradually losing its Portuguese nature through natural wastage or because villagers are moving to more convenient towns, or even abroad. Maria da Silva left for the United States to live with her daughter. She liked me to cut her hair short and spiky - just like mine.

Sadly, my Portuguese ‘mother’ Adelaide died on July 19, 2012 - the day that fire engulfed our village and turned the landscape from green to black. Manuel, her widower, is looked after in turn by each of his three daughters, and he will turn 90 on July 17.

Our friends Jorge and Catarina long ago left their house and restaurant and returned to Lisbon to live with their daughter. Catarina’s stroke has left her unable to speak. João Gonçalves is now at a Lar da Terceira Idade (old people’s home) and Rosarinha is left unhappily alone in their farmhouse.

Avalino, husband to Maria dos Reis, died five years ago. His joke was to compare our new house with the Palace at Versailles. Maria dos Reis has incipient Alzheimer’s and her daughter Clarice is moving back into the house to care for her. The house, she says, will need modernization, but she luckily adores living in the countryside - working the land and breathing the fresh air.

Clarice was at school in France until age 20 and returned to medical school in Lisbon. Qualified, she worked at Faro hospital and now enjoys more free time at the private hospital at Gambelas. Her husband and son now drive Avalino’s green tractor and care for the farmland.

The bar (or tasca) run by Maria Judite is the centre of village life and on Sundays and Thursdays in the hunting season, the hunters drift away from the Clube de Caça e Pesca and congregate at the bar for more conviviality.

The thunderstorm in May brought her a shock. It was raining hard and, with a loud bang, a lightning bolt struck the canes in the stream behind her house. The dry canes caught fire, and only a remarkably quick response from the fire service with their helicopter confined the fire to a small area. This event does not augur well for the coming dry season.

The travelling vendors are gradually disappearing. Even in “the back of beyond”, we had regular visits from the frozen food man, the fishmonger, the baker. On occasion, we found our loaf hung outside the house and it often seemed that the baker was not interested in being paid. The haberdasher and fishmonger still make their rounds, but for how much longer?

Sidónio is now crippled and has sold his house (to Belgians) and will soon move into Tavira. He asserted that until the seventies, the whole area around our village was cultivated and sown with wheat. There were few trees, he said, except around the houses. During Salazar’s time, farmers were forced to grow wheat (hence the need for the concrete grain silo in Santa Catarina), and each family owned donkeys, mules or even cows for the work of ploughing. Twenty years ago, Manuel still had a donkey, the last one in the village. The land was in any event quite unsuitable for wheat and, during those years, the farming people were very poor. Everyone used to have a pig, and some even came to collect our acorns for pig food. The winter “matança” (killing of the pig) was an occasion of great festivity. There are now few pigs.

The law now requires landholders to clear their land and prune their trees around their houses and we spent some time on this activity before the original deadline of March 15. On the morning of March 16, we were astonished to be visited by Carlos, the President of the Freguesia, accompanied by two bombeiros, two GNR agents and a man from the forestry commission. Their advice was valuable, particularly in how to deal with our protected oak trees.

Since we arrived in the village, we have planted many fruit trees, fire-resistant cypresses, pepper trees, grevilleas and native oleanders. We have significantly greened our valley.

Every day, we find time to sit on our hill and observe the changing colours of the countryside. A highlight of our year is the arrival of the golden orioles and the swallows, but strangely this year we have yet seen few bee-eaters.

In the 20 years of living in the Algarve, we find that we miss England very little. The traffic there is congested, the weather can be cold and unkind. But here we have found a peaceful existence, and never for a moment regret our decision to stay.

By Lynne Booker

Lynne Booker, along with her husband Peter, founded the Algarve History Association.