I love a fairy tale with a happy ending and this one is just so appropriate for Valentine’s, (which it is today guys…..just in case….)
We live in Loule, just outside actually in the hills, and every day an ancient old man of at least 357 passes by with his flock of sheep. a very bossy dog and a couple of goats. The other day I was putting the washing out and the old guy came by and had a sit down on one of the strategically placed chairs on his route home. He was sitting under an almond tree and the blossom covered him like gentle snowflakes. I always take him a glass of wine when he stops for a rest and would love to be able to speak to him but the language thing doesn’t help – I am so rubbish at Portuguese. Anyway, the following day the old guy’s great-grandson was with him, who, luckily for me, speaks fabulous English. The young man, Carlos, told me that his grand pops (who is actually 94!!) would like to tell me a story about the Almond Blossom and the great happiness it brings. So, I found another couple of chairs and opened a bottle of wine. Are you sitting comfortably? Right now, let’s begin.
A very long time ago when the kingdom of the Algarve was ruled by the Moors and was called Al Garb, a young Moorish Prince by the name of Ibn-Almundim who ruled from the capital of Silves, fell madly in love with a Nordic Princess called Gilda. Princess Gilda came from the wintry lands of Northern Europe which we now know as Scandinavia. The Prince married the young Princess and they went to live in the sun-kissed lands of the Algarve.
The smile of the beautiful Princess caused great wonder among the folks of that southern kingdom, they admired her fair skin and her golden hair. They admired the softness of her voice and the color of her eyes.
The princess herself was very content to be in the warm lands of the south. Every morning, the Princess enjoyed tranquil walks along with the sleepy villages and sunny paths. She was awestruck by the whitewashed houses with doors and windows trimmed in hues of blue. She cherished the juicy oranges and the scarlet pomegranates. She enjoyed the sweetness of the strawberry tree, the aroma of the figs, and the cool shade of the carob trees. She treasured the cry of the hawk, the nightingales, and larks. She seemed happy in that hot and distant realm.
In spite of living far away from her cold land, the fair Princess was truly in love with the dark-skinned Prince who smelled of sweet fruits and spices. However, despite the true love she felt for the prince, when Winter came she pined away because she longed for the white soft fields of her native land, covered in ice and snow. She missed the whiteness and the mantles of snow of the northern distant lands. Tears ran down her fair face and she was sad.
One day, having found the delicate Princess in tears, the Prince inquired about the reason for such sorrow and grief. She confessed that she missed the white snow-covered fields of her far-away kingdom. Determined to bring joy to the heart of his Princess, the Prince assembled all his men and ordered them to plant fields of almond trees as far as the eye can see, so that when they were in full bloom, they would give the Princess the illusion of snow. The almond blossom would warm her heart and she would be cured of her longing.
Spring soon came and one morning when the Princess approached the window of her palace, she could not believe her eyes! The almond trees were covered in bloom and the fields were white like snow shining in the sun. Again tears ran down her fair face, however, these were tears of joy.
And so year after year, the Moorish King and the Northern Princess eagerly waited for the wonderful miracle of almond tree blossom and …finally, they lived happily ever after.
Isn’t that just marvelous? Senor Carlos told the story whilst young Carlos translated. We finished another bottle of wine, chatted about the area when Senior Carlos had lived all his life – he owns all our adjacent land and was born in the house up the hill where he still lives. Young Carlos told me that Grandpops like to have a rest whilst the English lady has a swim because she tends not to wear a swimsuit. I knew it! The old ratbag has been timing his sheep walkies just right!
Anyway, it was an absolute delight to listen to the story, meet our neighbours properly and get slowly slozzled in the sun whilst listening to a traditional Portuguese fairy story. I’ll try and find some more for you. Especially if there’s a handsome young man and a glass of wine in it for me.