Gecko Poo and Hardcore Gardening

Gecko Poo and Hardcore Gardening

Here’s a question: If you buy an orange tree which has an orange on it and plant it in your garden, can you legitimately claim for have ‘grown’ that orange? Thought not.

There were two oranges on it, as you can see. Not anymore. The other one tasted fantastic.

The new orange tree (we have others already, but this is by far the biggest) brings with it hundreds of little orangelets and our great hope for them to transform into big ones. Oranges grow in abundance in the Algarve and as such are dirt cheap (€0.50 per kg) but they are not grown so far up here in the hills as its too windy for them and the soil is not their preference, so our hope may not be quite sufficient. Gotta be worth a try though. We already have an established lemon tree (as you know) full of ripening fruits.

And a grapefruit (which as you can see has some way to go) and a nespera which are fruiting, as well as a pomegranate and olive which are flowering beautifully.

We also planted a fig, tangerine and quince, so hoping to have a right little packed fruitbowl at some point in the distant future. They cost between a fiver and a tenner each, so not an expensive risk. Seems amazing to be able to buy these things so readily and so cheaply, and that they have a chance of growing. Too exciting.

We’ve been here almost a month now and the place is looking a lot better than it was. We have furniture, cushions and rugs but no telly. No Family Guy for Keith and no Place in the Sun for me. It’s a revelation; we cope. Our entire structure, routine and general way of life has gone out of the window and we’re alright. Perhaps we are cured of our *autism? If you remove enough stressors; a relaxed normality is possible. I feel like a different person here without that ‘life’ stuff that many seem to manage with relative ease and minimal fallout. Although it is fair to say we have barely spoken to a soul apart from ourselves, so hardly been pressed on the social front, which could be the true test or our ‘recovery’.

* NB. This is not a serious comment. There is no cure for autism and the amount of money spent on looking for one could be far better spent improving the quality of life for autistic people rather than in trying to eradicate future generations.

Moving on…

The person, apart from each other, that we have spoken to most since we’ve been here is Luis, our Portuguese teacher, and that’s hardly a social chat, concerned as he is for gender, verb endings and whether Maria’s house is green or yellow. The Portuguese lessons are a slow struggle starting from zero and having to unlearn all I know about other languages I have some familiarity with. Portuguese isn’t like any of them. They don’t have a ‘k’ in their alphabet for one thing so we have no idea how Keith says his name. For Keith having never learned another language even the jargon of ‘verb’ and ‘article’ is something that has to be understood before he can even begin. The only success I have had with my learning, apart from being able to order an espresso, decaf with milk and two Pastel de Natas with aplomb (frequently practiced), was when cycling up the 1:4 hill to our house today, an elderly country gentlemen asked me if I was tired and I was able to both understand and reply that I was. I’m practically a local now.

After becoming acclimatised to my environment after a few days of hayfever and general yuk at the beginning, I can report a drop in blood pressure (a very important kidney disease indicator), zero headaches – I had one for 4 months constantly before arriving here and no back (kidney ache). I am now going to live until I’m 103 and defy my cyst filled kidneys. Portugal is the cure for everything.

The streaks down the walls which we presumed to be rain have revealed themselves to be gecko droppings. They live in the roof except the one who lives behind the boiler in the bathroom and who poos on the washing machine, but you know, we’re new here and we don’t know anyone, so company is company. Beggars: choosers and all that. I did a Google on gecko poo and it’s a thing. Many people appreciate their appetite for bugs in the house and so feel that a bit of poop here and there is a fair trade and leave them be. Other people are not so kind… Ours are staying, especially Eric behind the boiler.

In summary the past month has been spent cooking, eating, doing DIY jobs, gardening and fixing or replacing all of the things that Keith has broken (washing machine, garage doors – two doors: both broken, toilet – 4 days and counting of using a bucket).

There are more but we tend to erase them from our memory in order to avoid them being resurrected during a future argument. Sometimes its just best not to know how much of a liability you’re love is. Keith breaks a lot of things. It upsets him more than it does anyone else, so he says, but how the fuck does he know??

For balance, and to avoid someone setting up Keithline to protect him from the horror of me revealing his failings to the world (he did remind me of extra things he’d broken so that I could include them here, so save your pity, he’s a media whore), I did this, whilst trying to ‘cleverly’ transport the paint, but ‘stupidly’ failing to check the lid was shut.

We’ve been doing a lot in the garden as its mostly way too nice to be indoors but still probably a bit too hot for our type of gardening, which is a bit hardcore by necessity of the environment. Our garden is made mostly of almost solid rock and every tree we have planted has required a pickaxe to break up the soil.

If the sight of pale Northern European flesh disturbs you, please scroll no further. If it excites you, please send £10 by Postal Order.

I’ve become very interested in permaculture over the past few months in preparation for our new plot. Permaculture is the idea of working with nature and what you’ve got in your surroundings, rather than working against it in all aspects of your plot (and your life, if you like) – design, practical use, using existing resources rather than introducing new ones. So, for example, instead of chemically blasting your aphids, you introduce and encourage native plants which attract insects which like scoffing aphids, such as ladybirds and lace wings. Keith thought it sounded like a load of hippy guff when I first told him about it, but that’s not so and he is now converted. It is about efficiency, multiple functions and resilience (multiple solutions to each need/function) and so is right up our logical systemised street, as it were. It also means we get more food grown for less effort and we don’t do any digging, so it’s a Good Thing. There are a multitude of websites, books and courses to become properly knowledgeable about it, but my reading has, I hope, allowed me to understand the basic principles, which we are, and will be applying to our life here. We’ve started by weeing on all of our trees (nitrogen producing and save water on flushes), leaving patches of wilderness for the bug eating bugs, composting and making raised beds from the abundant rocks already here to mention a few. We have longer term plans for solar powered showers, compost toilets and veg companion planting methods, but they’ll have to wait a while. It’s my new favourite thing.

Bamboo mulched raised bed with rock border and rock path. We got a lot of rocks.

The dry stone (rock) wall compost bin. Still got a lot of rocks.

We have also tooled ourselves up for our horticultural adventures. This is a chipper which turns all your tree and grass choppings into mulch. It has a sign on it which tells you not to put people in it. It would be good for getting rid of people, but the blade gets a bit gummed up if the leaves are too wet, so I imagine a people would be quite wet and require some manual ungumming. Best stick to the leaves.

We also have this little beauty: a brushcutter; that’s a hardcore strimmer to the uninitiated. This is my job as Keith doesn’t really like to get smashed to pieces by bits of flying stick, grass and rock, and I do. I like the battle scars. It’s a deeply satisfying job; totally locked away in your own little world behind your ear defenders and mask making so much noise that no one can speak to you, turning the scruffy wilderness into something tidy. What’s not to like? Oh bugger, I’m still autistic, aren’t I? Not cured after all. No multi-million pound retirement for me once I have relocated all autistic people to Portugal to live a calm, warm and peaceful life with their own brushcutters.

*NB. If this does turn out to be a bloody brilliant idea, I’m claiming copyright and 10% minimum.

It’s a glorious rural environment both harsh and vibrant at the same time. Some days we have woken up and a new tree or shrub has burst into blossom from what we had presumed to be a half dead stick.

The novelty of almost wall to wall sunshine – apart from the night that it rained so hard on every single pair of shoes we have that it filled each and every one to the top with water – doesn’t wear off.

It’s a continual delight that every day is mostly warm and mostly sunny, to the point that when it does rain we don’t really mind because we know it won’t stick around for long, and anyway, we need it if we’re going to make that rendezvous with those oranges later this year.

Algarve Malted Milk Crisis

Algarve Malted Milk Crisis

 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

So, less than 36 hours after we departed from Greece, we find ourselves in Portugal. It’s all a bit much. We have no idea where we are, life has no structure and feels pretty surreal. Not expecting sympathy here, but it would be quite nice to be at home for a bit. Sadly, that’s not to be for me, as one day after we arrive home I’ll be off on the road for work for 3 days. At some point mental status quo will have to be re-established or something will go horribly wrong. But since we are here, I suppose we’ll have to struggle on. Pastel de Nata, dear? Oh go on, then.

We hadn’t planned to be here so soon, but things escalated on the house buying front and we were required to enter the infamous and terrifying world of Portuguese bureaucracy sooner than expected. All of the expat forums abound with tales of administrative indifference, confusion and downright bonkersness, so expectations are well and truly managed. We’re mostly hanging around Tavira, in the Eastern Algarve, which is the nearest town to our new house. Pictures of new house to follow when the deal is complete; superstitious? Maybe.

We decided to make the most of our time here, not spent with the lawyer and other official people, by undergoing reconnaissance about what foods we may struggle to find in Portugal, or which are extortionately expensive; there is quite a market for ‘British’ foods here, but they come at a premium.

Things that you cannot buy in Portugal (research gathered from visiting one supermarket, so may not be entirely accurate):

  • Bread flour
  • Yeast
  • Decaffeinated teabags in boxes any larger than 10.
  • Big tubs of plain yogurt
  • Malted milk biscuits
  • Bold Crystal Rain and White Lily Washing Powder

On the biscuit front, you can buy a considerable range of both ‘British’ varieties, such as the Digestive along with the Portuguese favourite; the Maria, which is a smaller version of the soggy, undippable for more than a nanosecond, and deeply unsatisfying Rich Tea. They sell them in huge packets and there are many varieties, but Portuguese people are not natural tea drinkers, so what are they doing with them? Who eats biscuits without an accompanying cup of tea? No one, that’s who. Or weird people. I’m not sure we want to live among people with such a different culture to our own; that sort of thing starts wars, you know. Keith starts his day with a Malted Milk; I’m not sure what he’s going to use instead. Cocaine?

The final item on the list: the Bold Crystal Rain and White Lily Washing Powder is more of a deal-breaker: it’s the only washing powder ‘flavour’ that Keith will use. It was a compromise that had to be made when we moved into together, which was tough for me, but sometimes in love and washing powder, someone has to take the hit and this time it was me. To quote the oft repeated words of the lovely Portuguese woman who patiently assisted us in opening our Portuguese bank account under the onslaught of my incessant questions issued forth before she had a minute to tell me herself: ‘I shall explain’:

I buy washing powder (and most things) on the basis of value; price and quality calculated in a non-existent algorithm (whilst searching for how to spell algorithm – I swear it was a ‘y’ – I discovered that the origin of the word comes from the name of the mathematician, Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khwarizmi, who was part of the royal court in Baghdad in AD750. That is cool). It physically and mentally hurts me to pay more than necessary. My chest gets tight and I feel agitated. This is because it is simply illogical to do this. Totally illogical. Why would you pay more money for something when you can get an equally good, or better, product for less? Actually, now I’m sitting here thinking about it, it actually makes me angry. Anger, as we know, is reputed to come from fear, and I think the lack of sense about this frightens me because I don’t understand it, and therefore don’t understand the motivation of a person who would behave in this way, and therefore people are scary. And mad. The other side of this is that when I do find a bargain, I get a sense of euphoria, achievement and winning at life. Properly chuffed, like I am a clever bugger who cracked it. I’m just being honest with you here; judgement is not necessary.

Algarve Malted Milk Crisis

Now, Keith makes his consumer purchasing decisions based on other factors; cost does come into it and quality is important to him, but when selecting toiletries and household products, his No.1 criteria is smell. Seriously. Keith, and he won’t mind me telling you this (well, he might but he’s asleep so we’ll just go for it), is an excessive talcum powder user. He likes to douse his underparts and feet with the stuff on a daily basis, so much that if he sits down, he is know to leave an arse-shaped shroud of talc accompanied by a little cloud as its escapes through the fabric of his jeans. He only uses one brand of talc (Johnson’s Baby Powder). A few years ago, Johnson’s altered the formula of their talcum powder, which resulted in a change in the smell. I am confident in betting one of my kidneys (worth about 27p on the black market). Hang on, that would be funny if I got drugged and had a kidney stolen like in those tales you hear of that happening to people and then when they opened me up they found out that my kidneys look like this:

Algarve Malted Milk Crisis - 05

That might a stop to their illicit kidney-stealing shenanigans. And also shit them up a bit. The cysts are not just on the outside, they are all the way through, having taken over the tissue of the kidney in a kind of genetically mutated invasion. I think this means I am an X-Men; without my tweezers, Wolverine is only a week’s worth of chin-plucking away.

Anyway, I digress; back to the Johnson’s,as it were. I bet that the vast majority of the population did not notice that the smell of their talcum powder had altered, but Keith did. Keith could tell if I’d been smoking 48 hours after I’d had a cigarette despite numerous showers, teeth cleans and efforts to conceal my shady addiction. He was right, and I couldn’t handle it. Bastard. Keith smells all his food before eating it, he smells books, phones, boxes, wallets – pretty much anything you can think of. In autistic terms, it’s just utilising a different sensory sense to process your world: most people look or touch as their primary data gathering source; Keith smells.

So… the point of this lengthy explanation, is that Bold Crystal Rain and White Lily is very important to Keith and not easily substituted and hence when we go shopping and there is a phenomenally good deal on some other flavour I have to walk past it and buy the FULL PRICE Bold Crystal Lily and White Fucking Rain or whatever it’s called, reconfigure my screaming brain (‘Does not compute, does not compute, avert, avert’ etc.), and know that I am a good person. And know that being a good person is a ‘Good Thing’. Apparently. ‘Compromise’, I think they call it, or some other shit that means you don’t get your own way. He’s worth it; every penny of the money we have wasted on FULL price washing powder which might extend our working lives and force us to live in poverty… I’l stop now.

We’ll just have to sneak individual sachets into our Easyjet hand luggage (less than 100ml, officer) to meet my beloved’s washing powder ‘habit’, or pay €20 a box, if we can find it in the Iceland store which opened last year in the Algarve to supply the expats with all things Heinz. Love conquers all.

Relationship advice, anyone?