john-clare books -- the algarve


Another Day in the Algarve by
            John Clare

From my window I can see the cat sitting in front of an empty bowl. Every so often she gets up and sniffs all round the area, then sits bolt upright guarding her sacred space.

Great wafts of scent billow down from a hillside further along the road. The smell of the cistus is pungent and almost alcoholic, like a rich honey being turned into mead. I have found an early sprig of orange blossom. It's scent gently drifts over the top of my laptop computer. An occasional small green frog in the river belches into the clean air, another chirrups from the top of a lemon tree

That reminds me, I need my belated elevenses.
I walk back across the river and pick a ripe lemon. In the kitchen I slice it, drop a wedge into a glass, and tip in some tonic water. On the shelf is a hunk of queijo de figo (fig cake) that I bought yesterday from a charming little shop that reminds me of a cream tea emporium in deepest Dorset. I cut a slice, and add in a small Alfarroba (Carob) cake.
Outside my study is a patio facing a fig tree which is just coming into leaf. Beyond is the river, with white and mauve flowers tumbling down the old stone walls that line the banks. Behind the low wall, the peach and almond trees create a light pattern of fresh green leaves splashed with small white and pink blossom. Beyond that is the pond and the vine arbour. I make a mental note to prune the vines next week before they start to shoot. Further away is the orange grove, then the field, and the trees in the distance.

My eyes glaze over. The view is almost heart-rending, and yet there is an even finer view from the roof terrace, as from there I can see right across the marshes down to the estuary and the sea.

The clouds are still shunting around the hills of Monchique. Perhaps they wont come down to worry me today. I get out the heavy duty clippers and walk down to the orange grove. Yesterday I pruned my first orange tree. Today I'll attack the second.

The tree is dense and the leaves are covered in some black substance. There is mould growing on the main trunk. This tree needs air. I attack it surgically, stripping the tangle out to leave a pattern of branches that will allow the sun and the air to get to the growing fruit. Around the tree is a tangle of discarded branches. I hope I have done the job correctly. Armindo, who sold me the farm, said he would come back to show me how. But I'm impatient, and he hasn't been round.

I'm pleased with my day's work. It is one o'clock. I have done my office work, uploaded pages to my websites, done some writing, pruned an orange tree, and that should be enough for anyone for one day. It is time for lunch.