I’ve always been a bit accident prone – or perhaps clumsy. I’ve got a very poor sense of balance (possibly because of being deaf in one ear) and my son tells me I have absolutely no spatial awareness (of course I protest, but he’s probably right). As a kid I was always covered in grazes and bruises but in recent years I’ve managed to rein it in a bit and haven’t had any major catastrophes.
Bearing that in mind, what could possibly go wrong on a working farm?
Hmm. Yeah …
It started small. I burned my hand on the oven of the wood burning stove, scratched my arms and face on brambles, got a few splinters and attracted all the biting insects in the region. My legs are covered in scabs because the bits are so itchy and I just can’t help myself scratching!
I also had a whole series of nosebleeds over the first few weeks, potentially because I wasn’t used to the heat or atmosphere – especially as we are 800m above sea level. On the whole, they were annoying more than anything, but I did have one that lasted for ninety minutes and dripped down the back of my throat. That wasn’t fun.
There’ve been plenty of times when my general clumsiness and lack of spatial awareness has got me into trouble. I twisted my ankle in a hole, tripped down a stony path and bashed my knee, slipped down a ladder, hit my head (more than once) on a bucket holding a sheep skull, scalded myself when filling my hot water bottle, hit my head on a shelf, hit my head on a beam in the duck shed, walked into a fence, tripped over a bucket … the list goes on.
Then there are the inevitable accidents that happen when you’re working with animals. I’ve been bitten by Mr Goose – twice. Trodden on by a sheep. Bitten and scratched by a cat. Knocked over by a goat. Nibbled by a pig. I’m sure there will be plenty more of those.
But perhaps the “best” accidents are those with pure comedy value, those that wouldn’t look out of place in a TV sitcom. Like the time I grabbed a bucket of pig food, turned, forgot there was a step behind me and fell sideways, majestically, into a pile of watering cans. Or the day I slipped down the swale while carrying a full bucket of water and spilled it all over me. Or the time I tripped while carrying buckets of wet pig food, spilled the food on the path and fell straight into it. I got so much on my jeans that one of the geese began eating it. Coincidentally, I’d been wondering at the time whether my jeans were clean enough to wear into town for Portuguese class … so perhaps it was just the Universe giving me a helping hand.
My hosts’ personal favourite happened about an hour after I’d been to Casal da Lapa for my weekly shower. In the kitchen are some shelves and one one shelf, just above head height, is a bucket for compostable food scraps. I ate a banana and pulled the bucket forward a couple of inches to drop the skin in – not realising that shortly before Jeroen had drained some boiled potatoes into the bucket. Being now off balance, the bucket tipped forward, showering my newly washed hair with hot starchy potato water ….
Fortunately I haven’t seriously injured myself … yet. The closest I came was when a goat I was leading out of the shed moved the opposite way to what I expected, and my hand was pulled and smacked into the shed door. My thumb was throbbing and really really painful and for a while I wondered if I’d broken the tip of it. Fortunately a good night’s sleep and some painkillers sorted it out and all I have to show for it now is a black nail … but owww, did it hurt!
And then yesterday I managed to twist my ankle and fall down some steps in Pampilhosa. I was with Ro (my hosts’ 12-year-old son) at the time. He did ask me if I was okay … but not before sighing and rolling his eyes in a kind of “oh gawd, here we go again” way …
So it’s been an action-packed two months … I wonder what else I can do to myself while I’m here!