"My Favourite Island Church

- Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman CBE (1906-1984)




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St. Alban's Church, St. Alban's Road,

Ventnor, Isle of Wight, PO38 1DE

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Churchwarden Alan's Portuguese Adventure Continues ..


With apologies to any French people who may be reading this!


Hello Everyone,

Before I continue with the tale of our Portuguese adventure, I must comment on the super news that  the efforts of all concerned in the re-opening of Saint Alban's Church have been rewarded and everyone is welcome to attend Mass at 9.30am on 9th August when the service will be taken by Fr. Gregory. and of course, all the new rules on sanitising and distancing will of course be obeyed.   Thanks must go to those who helped with the clean up and repairs, especially to Paul, who has gone above and beyond the call of duty with his work to get the church safe to open.     Of course, the re-opening is only the first step, because we still have the ongoing problem of finding people to take services while we are still without a Parish Priest.


So, to carry on our Portuguese tale. On 1st July, rightly or wrongly I decided to take Dominic Cummings advice and go for a test drive!  Luckily my eyes were ok, but it did not matter because our good friend Mike took us in his car. It was essential for us to use the ferry as planes do not fly from the island. Interesting wearing masks on the ferry and if you bought a drink or snack it had to be consumed on the outside deck, but we gave eating a miss.  The airport was rather strangely deserted with all the shops closed except a stall selling drinks and biscuits and everyone in masks except a TV crew who didn’t seem to care what they caught or spread!  No temperature checks on departure and the plane was nearly full with only a few empty seats, so no room for social distancing. At least everyone kept their masks on unless the were eating or drinking ~ I suppose it was deemed impractical to make them go and sit outside!  Two and a half hours later and we were in the south of Portugal and poor Mike was still on his way back to the island to look after our house!


As England, the most dangerous country for Covid-19 in Europe had made arrivals from the safest covid-19 country, Portugal do two weeks quarantine we expected a hard time from the immigration officials, but, nothing more than a friendly welcome.  Outside, the evening was getting cool when we picked up our rental car and were driving westwards with the smells of sweet herbs and barbecues wafting through the open windows, unmistakably, this was the Algarve countryside. Nearly an hour later we were on the gravel driveway to our house. Tired, we were glad to get indoors but with the excitement of the day we stayed up talking far too late into the night, so overslept in the morning, but so what, there may be a lot of work to do getting the place ready for what summer tourists do want to come and stay this year, but work can wait, there is always amanhã (Portuguese: tomorrow) and we did need to do some shopping.


There must be something wrong with the sky here because it seems to be blue most of the time. There’s one, I thought but no it must have been an illegal bonfire. They are banned this time of year and because of the risks to the forests, you have to tell the Bombeiros, sorry fire station whenever you have one so they can be ready and know where to go it it gets out of control. It is now very hot outside.


The water in the swimming pool looks incredibly inviting, but I do have jobs to do as well as putting things Corinne has emailed me for this website, but there is always amanhã.  When we were here in February it was quite warm, but the pool water was straight from the Arctic and even dipping a toe was too much for me, but now, by the miracle of the Sun it felt quite warm but so refreshing. Too lazy to swim, I drifted around, watching butterflies of all shapes and sizes flutter by and the swallows, or are they swifts, does it really matter which, but it is fascinating watching them swoop down low over the water and scoop up a few drips. Are they, drinking, cooling their feet or just doing it for fun? I don’t know, but with 6 or 7 of them going round and round it is quite entertaining. The dragonflies are pretty and come down every so often. Do they bite, I wonder, but they don’t seem interested in me. Our house has a small river, more of a stream running close to it, which means that we get the occasional frog visit our pool. There are decorative stones at one end that form waterfalls but the frogs love to sit under the shade of a stone, close to the water and watch the day go by and the weird humans trying to swim with hats on so their heads don’t get sunburnt. I play a game with the frog and watch him, while he watches me, while….. and so it goes on until one of us dives under the water. That’s Froggy not me, I just bob about on the top these days.


I have had a few summer visitors complain about Froggy and his pals. “Ooo” they say, “I saw a frog in the swimming pool !”   I tell them not to worry, they are quite clean little fellows and quite harmless. In fact, if they are there, it is a good indicator that the pool water is in good condition and they do eat any insects that find their way into the water. In any case there are only one or two of the tiny fellows and they  don’t live in the pool as they have their lovely stream to go home to.  At times, people are odd and I guess we all are in our way!  One year a family complained to our manageress that there was a swallows nest on their window sill ~ And it had babies in it so would she come down and remove it! I am pleased to say she refused, telling them if they wanted to move it to do it themselves, but that it would bring them bad luck. Not only that, the birds were protected by law.


I have a lot more to tell you about our little adventure here in Portugal and I do want to add some photos’, but it is getting so hot indoors now that something tells me the pool and Froggy are calling.  Never mind there is always amanhã!


Well, I got to the pool and the air temperature was somewhere in the high 30's and the water was 28 degrees C, so not bad as it is only heated by the direct sunlight. However to my tender toes it still took a few minute to get in, although I am not sure what was hurting most, the water feeling a touch cooler than I would have liked or the incrediblly hot sun beating down on my thinning hair.  Some may say balding would be a better decription but I do have to admit to a little vanity!  Anyway,  I was in and the head, still roasting I put on my trusty hat.  Froggy was waiting, so we played our little game of I Spy and I managed to get some photos of him and the butterflies as well as some video of the swallows.  I have been trying for ages to get them from the camera onto here, but so far alas, without success.  I have to get a little adapter which should do the trick but not until tonight or possibly amanhã!


We got into town but it was too hot to do very much shopping, so met up with a Portuguese friend at a pavement café in the shade of some trees.  The town, is Portimão, normally a bustling fishing port, but there is not much bustle going on at present. Maybe it is the virus or more likely it is too hot even for the locals and with quarantine on return to the UK there are hardly and English tourists around. I did get the gadget for the pictures and will find out later if it works!


IT'S SUNDAY! I Should be at Church, but too many in the congregation here for us to feel safe.   Well that's my excuse but of course I can't hide it from Him.   Maybe that is why I'm  having  such  a  job  getting  the  photo thing to work,but it's nearly there now.  We went out late last night and had a curry at a restaurant we know.  Very nice staff and excellent food eaten outside where it was reasonably cool. Social distancing and sanitising was well observed. Well I think I have fixed the photo problems and am going to put some at the bottom of this page and then continue the story tomorrow.


No, it's not tomorrow, it's Friday.  Work caught up with me so I had to do some other things and I still have more photo's and a video to put on here.  I might end up doing them when I get back to the island and am doing my 14 days quarantine.  It has been getting hotter eachday here.  Yesterday the pool water went up to 32 degrees, fantastic. Also, yesterday wen went up to a little mountain village called Alferce, to visit 'Tibbles,' our name for a stray cat who lives in roadside layby on the edge of the village.  We first spotted him a couple of weeks ago when we went for a picnic in the mountains.  Luckily we had a tin of cat food that we were taking to friends who have adopted a stray pussycat.  We decided that Tibbles need was greater and he woofed down a tray of Whiskers as quick as a flash, so we filled the empty tin with water so he had a drink. Yesterday, was very much a repetition of our first visit and sure enough, the little fellow was there when we arrived and he certainly seemed to enjoy his feast and a little bit of love and attention. I suppose we will have to make one more visit before we leave next week.  Photos of Tibbles will be here soon, but not yet.

corinne pic corinne photo 2 alan

We have just returned home from another visit to Tibbles layby with some food for him but he is nowhere to be seen.  A Portuguese couple are there having had a barbeque in the picnic area.  Maybe they have frightened him off or perhaps they have given him a hearty meal of BBQ scraps and he has returned to his den with a filled tummy.  For whatever reason he is not there, the Portuguese couple give us some odd looks as we call out out for him in silly voices and make miowwing sounds.  I expect they have told all their friends about the crazy English people who were making funny noises.  Tomorrow is our last day and we have lots of jobs to do to leave the house ready for clients, but somehow we must find time for one more trip into the mountains to look for our little pal.


The Monchique mountain range reaches to about 3000 feet and there are roads to the very top, where there is a big handicrafts and gift shop. A lot of radio masts and on the western end of the mountain there are three huge wind turbines. On clear days you can see the coast to the south and west with Cape Saint Vincent, the most westerly point in Europe to the southwest. To the north it is possible to see as far as the Alentejo region of Portugal. All around the mountain are vast areas of forest which are frequently damages by huge wildfires, often ignited intentionally by vandals and crooked wood dealers.  Being so high, this is also one of the few places in southern Europe where there are winter frosts and at times people will drive a hundred miles or more to see a couple of inches of that white stuff we call snow! Our house is in the foothills of the Monchique Mountains, only about 350 feet above sea level, but surrounded by dozens of of small hills, each five or six hundred feet high and covered with woodland, although recent fires have done a lot of damage.  Luckily, with the climate here, things are quick to re-grow although the damage to wildlife is very sad.  Somewhere in these hills, are the recently re-introduced Iberian Lynx. These large cats were native to the area until hunted to extinction, but now seem to be thriving again. There are also quite a lot of Javelinas, a small wild boar, that digs up peoples lawns but are quite rare to see.  Trees in our area are mostly Mimosas which are very pretty in winter, along with cork oaks, Arbutus (Srtawberry trees) whose fruit is gathered around Christmas time and used to make Medronho, a clear white firewater that is very strong and of course the citrus trees that are everywhere. Eucalyptus and pines grow at slightly higher altitudes and smell lovely, but they are also a high fire risk owing to the oil content.   A little closer to the coast there is a huge colony of storks, but more on them when my tale continues.  

But first some good news. "Tibbles" is back!  We went for one final visit to the little roadside park that is his home and he came straight out to greet us.  He ate two cans of cat food in as many minutes so he must be very hungry, the poor little fellow.  We go back to England tomorrow, but somehow we  are going to find a way to get more food supplies to our little furry friend.            Alan

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Me enjoying a swim in my trusty hat and

looking as happy as ever ...

And here is Froggy looking as happy as me.....

This is Froggy's other friend ...

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