A Close Encounter

snake, Cr-news.nationalgeographic.com

snake, Cr-news.nationalgeographic.com

I was staying in Albufeira, on Portugal’s Algarve coast for the winter with my partner. We had escaped the awful British weather for the balmy climes of the Iberian Peninsula and had a self-catering apartment. The day began as usual, but my partner wanted to go out and collect his own breakfast and wanted me to accompany him.

On previous days we had noticed people with large bags collecting wild asparagus in various locations, and my partner wanted some. I should say that he is a chef, and quite particular about the ingredients he uses. There was some land at the back of the hotel complex which looked as though it might have some asparagus growing on it, so he decided that we would go and look for some. It was too early for me to argue, so I had a shot of caffeine in the form of an espresso and off we went to get the elevator.

We were on the fifth floor and the elevator came quickly – most guests were undoubtedly still snoozing. (How I wished I had been!) We got in the elevator and I waited for my partner, let’s call him Bill, to press the button to take us down. Then the lights went out and he grabbed me in a passionate embrace, muttering “We’ll go down together!”  This outburst was unusual for Bill who was not one to show emotion. I calmly extricated myself and pressed the button. The lights came back on and Bill had a sheepish grin on his face.

Safely on the ground floor we strolled off to where he thought there might be some asparagus. He had clearly thought the whole thing through as he had a knife with him so that he could cut it, leaving the roots intact. We worked out that it grew in clumps protected by thorny plants, so I absolutely refused to get scratched scrabbling for asparagus. He had brought a pair of leather gloves for the purpose so he was the one who was down on his hands and knees searching for the delectable green stuff.

We had enough for breakfast – he was going to make an asparagus omelet – but he wasn’t about to leave until we had filled the bag. There was just one last likely-looking clump, so he moved toward it and started to part the thorny stalks, looking for the asparagus they were hiding.

I have to say that there is one thing that Bill is terrified of and that is snakes. He was on his knees reaching into the clump of vegetation, when something moved in the middle of it. Bill did a backward bunny hop and almost knocked me over. I was howling with laughter as the “snake” was actually a very young rabbit which was possibly more terrified than Bill had been.

That was the last time we went on an asparagus-hunting expedition. Unfortunately, Bill’s misfortunes didn’t end there. We got back to the apartment and he cooked the omelets without any mishap and I have to say that they were delicious. Whether it had been worth the early morning expedition was a moot point. However, as we were eating them, there was an explosion and the water heater blew up.

We left the hotel that day and took a train to northern Portugal, returning to Albufeira three weeks later, by which time the hotel staff had fixed the apartment.

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