It’s funny how a programme like Dancing With The Stars can garner such praise and adulation. Have we really become a tribe of people who like to crash on the sofa and watch other people exercise for entertainment?

Last night I was walking back home to the writing retreat in the dark and the stars were exceptional; the night was pitch black, there was a stunningly clear crescent moon and Venus (I think) was shining like the lights had been left on! To look up and see the constellations must be one of the many joys of living in rural Central  Portugal. We don’t suffer light pollution and the mysteries of the night sky takes me back to my childhood when nights really were black and full of magical possibilities.

There is just one problem about living here at present. We are suffering a drought and it is pitiful to see the neatly planted rows of crops beginning to fail as there has been virtually no rain for months. The local flood plain is dry, the little hamlet called 7 Fountains is more like 7 Trickles and everyone is worried. The lack of rain has become THE trending topic in the area.

However, worse has happened today. At and around midday a forest fire broke out in the mountains just close to where I live. We were all sitting in the garden chatting about plots and publishers when a small plume of smoke started to rise in a china blue sky. Someone mentioned it and we kept an eye as we continued our conversation. Blustery gusts of wind, tinder dry vegetation and high temperatures equated to an approximation of the rule of 3 required for a forest fire. This is when humidity is less than 30%, wind speed is above 30kms per hour and the temperature is above 30 degrees. Added to this there are a huge number of eucalyptus plantations which exhale ethanol and a forest floor littered with pine cones, you have a heady cocktail.

I went home and watched as the sun was almost blotted out by the smoke. The black rolling plumes transformed the sun into a fiery red ball and as I type this the smoke is still belching across the mountain and the sirens are wailing periodically. I doubt that we will be Dancing WithThe Stars tonight, I guess that sadly, they will be blotted out. But there is much to write so I shall keep the windows closed and start dancing across the page.

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