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Monday, January 21, 2019 ARCHIVES  |  SEARCH  |  POST ADS  |  ADVERTISE  |  SUBSCRIBE   |  LOGIN   |  CONTACT US

Day of the cabbages

By Mike Gaunt

It appears that we managed to buy a plant pot that was not the right size.

I wasn’t especially au fait with the vagaries of plant pot design, but even I could appreciate the umbrella plant I was looking at would be unsuitable for the rather small plant pot sat next to it on the ground.

In any event, we set off for the garden centre to negotiate a swap, or at worst a new purchase that would be sufficiently capacious.

It was a gloriously bright morning: cold, but clear with a promise of warmth later, if only mid-teens.

As we drove across the hilltops on the EN17, en route for Villa Nova Poaires, autumnal colours were vivid on the eye.

A strange, greyish, silvery ribbon of fog lay ahead, in the valley bottom.

It stretched from the far left of the view across to the far right.

I couldn’t imagine it being smoke. Not in such a seemingly organised way.

It looked almost as if it was nestling in the valley bottom.

Then I realised what it was: it was the mist from the river Alva rising and condensing.

We were lucky enough to see a lot of the valley and it was a striking sight, like a long, thin cloud which was trapped along the base of the hills.

We motored along, dropping down to cross the river and passed through many small villages.

The pleasant morning had brought many folk out and there were little groups, mostly of ladies, all silver-haired and wearing a sort of housecoat-cum-apron thing.

They all carried a cabbage. Everyone!

Then it dawned on us; it was Christmas Eve and all these women were preparing for the evening meal: consoada.

Cabbage is a key ingredient, as is bacalhao, or salted codfish.

The groups of women were nearly all complemented by a group of men, similarly silver-haired and sitting at a small café’s table by the roadside enjoying a small cup of dark bitter coffee called bica.

It was a typically pastoral, perfectly Portuguese scene.

It rolled by our car’s window like a tourist guidebook photograph.

Clear, bright air, slightly pine-scented, with impossibly green fields rolling down to the plucky river Alva, which boiled and tumbled over long-abandoned mill-races, as if attempting to vainly turn the absent wheel.

Having arrived at the garden centre and sourced an alternative, more commodious plant pot, time was spent almost inevitably buying more essential gardening paraphernalia.

Items such as battered watering cans, chipped terracotta ornaments and yet another type of trowel were all considered before common sense took hold.

Why is it that there is such appeal in items that look past their best, whereas a modern, plastic version is looked down on?

There were green plastic watering cans aplenty, cheaply priced; but the battered, no doubt leaky metal version was more desirable – and priced accordingly.

We finally bought a sort of complicated lopper with extendable handles, which will reach higher up than we currently can without recourse to the ladder.

And the umbrella plant fits. Result!

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