Monday, September 9, 2013

Name and address witheld

Why, oh why do those people who write complaining letters to publications sign off with a ‘Mr Angry’ or ‘Unhappy’ or even ‘Tim Portugal’ (which presumably stands for timid). If they hold certain views and wish to bring them to the attention of the public then why are they so afraid to stand up and be counted. Do they think that those of us who disagree with their views will seek them out in order to throw rotten fruit, poke them in the eye with a sharp stick or make a night time visit to their homes and set fire to their agapanthus?
If you look of the letters pages of our English speaking newspapers you will find dozens of such anonymised opinion holders with diverse gripes, the most popular being the police road checks; the fact that the pace in southern Europe is slower than we northerners are used to and the motorway tolls. Re the road checks, frankly I don’t know what the fuss is all about. In every country in the world the police are paid out from the taxes collected from the population – you and me.  So think of your fine as a tax but this tax is a tax which you can legally evade, unless you are stupid enough to drive around with a missing dust-cap from your tyre’s air valve or a windscreen cleaner jet that washes the car behind. In cases such as these you fully deserve to be escorted to the nearest Multibanco and made to pay up. Perhaps we should be applauding the police instead of castigating them for keeping those who are uninsured, over-the-limit or driving unsafe vehicles, off the road.
And isn’t it pleasant to sit and read a book whilst whiling away a few hours at Telecom in order to ask why your phone/internet account doesn’t work. What would you be doing instead, lying by the pool collecting melanomas? Ditto the Post Office and the Financas
As to that hoary old chestnut, the motorway tolls. C’mon, it’s a no brainer, you have three choices, use the motorway and pay the toll, use the motorway and find a large truck to tailgate so that your number plate will not be read as it approaches the gantries; or use the EN 125 coast road...
Personally I prefer the EN 125. It is the least boring option for it fully exercises the mind as you contemplate what caused that coach by the side of the road to finish up on its roof, why that car that was indicating right turned left and why there are skid marks on the roof of that house. Furthermore, should you be travelling between Fonte Boliqueim and Guia you have the added bonus of stopping for a rest and having deep meaningful chats with young ladies who seem friendly but appear to have no-one to talk to.  Most of them, well the ones on the right (if you are travelling westward) are obviously super intelligent and have a first class degree in marketing as their Point of Sale material is quite superb. Day-Glo colours and eye-catching styling; not to mention their USP’s (unique selling points which I can’t mention unless the country in which you reside deems you an adult) .However on the left there is one young lady who, seemingly, cut the lectures and sadly failed the course as she stands or sits, in the shadows wearing, what appears to be camouflage colours. I really have to low down quite dramatically as I near her area otherwise I’ll miss her. 
But back to the point in question …..  what was the point-in-question? Oh yes, my mind was becoming side-tracked – name and address withheld. Why do the letters editors allow this? This blatant pandering to wimpish cowards hiding behind the skirts of anonymity. Or, heaven forfend, could it be the editors themselves making their own views public?  We need to be told!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Lost in Translation

There I was, in the middle of breakfast (toast and marmalade for those interested) when Filomena arrived. Nothing unusual in that for she arrives every weekday morning at the precise time of 9:07 and, knowing us Brits are interested in such things, presumably to the exclusion of all other things, proceeds to give me the daily weather report.
I knew something was wrong, seriously wrong, when the morning’s opening line was not the usual ‘Bom Dia, muito calor’, followed be the weeks forecast,  the time of high-tide at the nearest beach and the fact that parts of the uk were in flood. But what really gave it away were her shoulders which were in rapid repetitive Gallic shrug mode, the beating of her ample breast and the tears that were coursing down her cheeks.
Immediately jumping up and placing a sticky hand on her arm I asked what the problem was. Between hyperventilating sobs the only words I could make out were meu, marido and morreu my, husband and died. Now although over the years I had only met the man on perhaps a dozen occasions, I really liked him. Whenever I saw him and whenever he spoke to us he was smiling – a proper smile, a smile where  the eyes also smile, he was charm personified, even when he pruned our two-hundred year old olive tree just before winter set in and the need for firewood was at its height.
I called Sophie in and explained, she was both upset and horrified that Filomena had come in that day and would not take the day off. No she couldn’t do that as she ‘needed to work as usual’. “Stay with your daughter” said Sophie and let me do something for you, can I make you some food?” Now Sophie’s answer to any crisis is to make food. Someone’s ill, make food. a failed eye test, make food. The dog’s been run over, make food, but Filomena was insistent that only she makes the food. Just as well as for I don’t think Sophie’s signature dish of Salade tiede of mousserons. mussels and crosnes would have gone down too well with the natives of our village.
Eventually I managed to understand that the funeral was at 10:30 the following day at the church in the old town and knew that I needed to be there to show my respect to the family but never having been been to a Portuguese funeral and come to that, not many church funerals at all, I needed a quick update on procedure. Flowers to the house, flowers to the church, flowers to the undertakers, no flowers?
I telephoned my Portuguese neighbour/language teacher. “Anthony, are you ok?” she said. When I said yes she shrieked at me to get off the phone I was costing her a fortune - she was in New Zealand. This was not my day and I hadn’t even managed to finish my breakfast.
The following day at ten fifteen and flowerless I, with approximately one hundred others, was at the entrance to the church and watched the coffin being taken in. I took a seat at the back and stood and sat when everyone else did and scanned my fellow mourners. I saw Filomena up near the front with her son-in-law but they were the only people I recognised. After the service I followed everyone out of the church and, hatless with the sun directly overhead and the temperature in the mid-thirties prepared to dutifully follow the cortege to the outskirts of the town. I looked at the hearse bedecked in flowers, to which I had not contributed and did a double take, for there, directly behind the hearse with his nose almost touching the rear window was Philomena’s late husband’s twin brother. I never knew he had a twin but he had to be as he was identical. He was even wearing the same watch with the red and black fabric strap, the only difference between the two brothers was that this one wasn’t smiling but then I reasoned, he wouldn’t would he, following his late brother’s body.
 I dodged behind a parked van and made my way back to my car thinking, well between all that breast beating and sobbing anyone could miss a few words from the phrase ‘A mae do meu marido morreu’  My husband’s mother died.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The've Gone

They've gone. They've gone; they were only here a short time but now they've gone and life can continue as normal. Goodbye toast rack. Cheerio cut crystal Au revoir glass domed individual butter dishes with twee butter knives. Until the next lot arrive I can be a slob again and enjoy my ninety second breakfasts with a book. I can once again drink water from the bottle and put sugar in my cup before pouring the coffee. No longer do I have to shut the bedroom door before walking naked into the bathroom because, did I tell you - they've gone. They were amusing, they were fun, they were nice but the nicest thing about them is that they have gone. They are, now, as John Cleese might have said ex-visitors, they are no more.  Now don't get me wrong. They were lovely people but in this last case I now have to buy more butter. I find it quite astounding that there are people who, at breakfast when faced with a pristine container of butter insist on digging a huge chunk from the centre. Do they not understand that, in order to butter warm toast without the slice finishing up looking like a Glastonbury field after the festival it is necessary to hold the knife horizontally and slice of a sliver at a time and lay it on aforesaid toast - obviously not. Philistines, they even wanted sardines - in February??
Ok, ok, I'll hold up my hands and admit I have become Victor Meldrew; in fact I'm more Victor Meldrew than Victor Meldrew ever was. Never mind art imitating life - this is life imitating art. Yes, I'm settled in my ways; I no longer like change in my habits, particularly in my own home and why is it that others are more than happy to stay in someone else's house when I prefer not to? Why can't they be more like me and when invited say "Yes love to but find me a little hotel nearby and we'll sleep there". I say this and add 'then we are not putting you out and we can meet up after breakfast and spend the days together". What I actually mean is, my habits are different to yours, my needs are different to yours, the structure of my day is different to yours and the bottom line is my quirks and your quirks don't mix. You cannot bring two families together 24/7 - well you can but not without tension - hence first paragraph.
But now I have three glorious weeks until my sister-in-law arrives and when she does the first thing I am going to do is teach her how to put butter on toast.


Sunday, December 2, 2012


I know I’ve myself this question before but until now I never had an answer. However I now know why I am sitting here writing this, this blog which started a while ago after coming across other life-style diaries. The only reason I am continuing is because now I have a follower, yes a follower, just one but I’m sure she’s lovely. I know she is interesting because of her personal blog of which she is prolific and I also now have someone who actually reads my nonsense and follows my inanities. And this is, as I understand, the be all and end all of blogging. Not having a following is akin to spending your entire life talking to yourself. There is a downside of course and that is I now have to continue and even worse, should my follower un-follow me the rejection could be quite painful. So dear follower, I beg you, when you stop reading my drivel, don’t tell me.
I have to write this down, for if I don’t I may forget how I spent a totally bizarre two hour chunk of my life. It was one afternoon last week and had you walked into my kitchen at that time you would have found a somewhat bemused man standing next to a carefully placed blob of marmalade on his white floor tiles while his eyes swept  the room’s perimeter as if they were surveillance cameras in south London. Why, I hear you ask, why would reasonably sane man place marmalade on the floor?  A fair question and the answer is that I was trying to trace where the ants were coming from. Ants black, floor white, they should stick out like the proverbial thumb even if they are minute. You know the ones; they are approximately 2 millimetres long and meander across surfaces in a conga-like fashion. Actually, if you think about it they don’t meander, they are pretty quick on those tiny legs, in fact, size for size I reckon they are all little Usain Bolts’ and Mo Farahs’.
After approximately ten minutes of standing over my marmalade blob without Usain or Mo appearing the mind starts to wander. Should I have used fine cut rather than coarse cut, after all you can’t expect a 2mm ant to carry off a heavy piece of peel. At this stage I realised that I was verging on the ridiculous or probably already passed into it. I binned the blob thinking perhaps they prefer Marmite or peanut butter I could set out a row of delicacies for them to choose – oh hell, madness is setting in I should be looking out for men in white coats not ants.
As I raised my binoculars (ok, it’s a big kitchen) and surveyed the granite worktop the blinding flash of realisation hit me like a thunderbolt. Slapping the side of my head and shouting Eureka (as one does) I looked at the worktop. The granite is of mixed colours, grey, beige and black, yes black. Do you remember as a child playing musical chairs? When the music stopped you had to find a chair to sit on, well that’s the answer – when someone walks into the room the ants rush to the nearest black bit and play statues – they hide on the black bits.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Algarve Rock Choir

The blog-meister has metaphorically wrapped my knuckles and castigated me for not having written anything in yonks. It’s all very well for him, he is probably sitting in his minimalist office facing a floor to ceiling window overlooking a beach full of bikini-clad blondes whilst sipping good white burgundy. He doesn’t understand that we hillbillies have a tough life up here. Between the constant weeding of the vegetable garden, the uphill battle to stop the pool going green, the weekly dosing of pesticide that the date palm has to have to keep it alive and the never ending wall painting, not to mention a plumbing system… ok I won’t mention the plumbing system. But the bottom line is – hillbillies are, during the day, busy people and in the evening we are what the newspapers like to call ‘tired and emotional’. So Sir, that’s my excuse plus the fact that I am the procrastinator of procrastinators and always have been. And frankly I have always felt that if you cannot write something either of interest or humour then don’t write at all. But now I have something that I think I should share – well at least share with the Algarve community.

There is a little known group of like-minded people down here who call themselves ‘The Algarve Rock Choir’  This thirty something group consisting mainly of Brits but also some Swedes, Germans, Dutch, Irish and Portuguese have one thing in common – they are all delusional. They are delusional but delusional in the nicest possible way for although they all believe they cannot sing and most can’t they come together and meet weekly to belt out (in four part harmony) rock and pop songs from the 60s, 70s and 80s.

A while ago I was invited to one of their concerts (whoops, sorry you rockers out there, gigs) held in a restaurant in Sao Bras and came away impressed, for what they lacked in professionalism was more than matched by their fervour. They have an incredible backing band (unusual in a rock choir) consisting of lead, bass and rhythm guitars and keyboard, with synthesised percussion tracks. The atmosphere was amazing; the audience of 150 plus were jumping up and down in their seats and trying to sing along. (The last time I saw this was when I at a screening of Jailhouse Rock in 1957)

A few weeks later I went to a 50th birthday party where the choir were singing, they had added a few other numbers and had improved by leaps and bounds. Two of the female choir members, with seriously good voices, took some of the solos with the choir doing the usual  ‘woo bob de boop’ type backing. Their repertoire opens with Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ and continues, amongst others with Abba, Billy Joel, The Carpenters, The Supremes, The Beachboys etc.
Enthusiastic they are – if you get the opportunity go and see them, go, even if it’s for just the chance to see a group of people singing songs you love whilst all moving in different directions. It’s a hoot but it’s fun.



Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Fifth Season

The months have yet again passed quickly, the croci are coming up, starting their annual battle against the weeds and as they appear I know that our peaceful autumn/winter has drawn to an end and that a new season is upon us. This oncoming season is unfortunately, a season that spans two seasons and is known only to a few. It is a fifth season recognised to ex-pat’s worldwide as the ‘Visitor Season’ which this year runs, for us, from end March until the last of the buggars go home. I use the term buggars hesitantly as it does not include my immediate family (well, perhaps some of them).

These intruders into my well-ordered private space can be categorised in various ways and the following examples have all been our guests at one time. But only one.
The no-car brigade - will not rent a car but expect you to show them the ‘sights’.
The sun worshippers - lie by the pool all day while you bring drinks. 
The parsimonious - you feed and water them for two weeks and they magnanimously give you 25 euros at the end of their stay to go towards their upkeep
The morons - insist on having the TV on all day whether they are in the room or not
The thoughtless – leave the air-con on and open the windows – also sit on white sofas when covered in sun cream
The sanctimonious - tell me I’m drinking too much wine with dinner
The Germans - spend an hour having breakfast and want fresh orange juice, cold meats, cheeses, toast and both scrambled and boiled eggs and bring their own coffee.
And one couple who, when we were about to split a dinner bill, complained that they only ordered one dish to be shared between them.
The problem is that you only find out that they are like this after they have arrived and by then it’s too late. Our first guests this year arrive shortly and I see problems ahead. The main problem being the fact that I only know her and Sophie hasn’t met either of them. We have never been out with them, never been to each-others homes and never had a meal together – this could be disastrous, thank G-d it’s only five days. Why did I invite them? Don’t ask, I don’t know. And if you add to this the fact that they lean, politically speaking, slightly to the left of Lenin and Marx, certain conversations are out of the question, we shall not be able to watch the news together without a major heated discussion, which they would win as they are both highly intelligent and used to debating. I suppose it could be worse …… no it can’t, I’ve burned my boats, I’ve  made my bed, I’ve crossed the line, there is no going back. My guests shall arrive later this month and I/we must greet them with smiles and bonhomie because if it doesn’t work it’s not their fault – it’s mine.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Anyone you like

I’ve been here a while now and the more people I meet the more I realise that ex-pat’s can, and often do,  re-invent themselves to create personas that are far removed from their actual selves. I’ve met ex bankers who used to have a single figure golfing handicap until they “did their backs in”, ex ‘computer gurus’ who decided they had had enough of jetting around the world and instead now want the simple life of living in a motor home and ladies who decided to eschew their designer handbags, Michelin starred restaurants and Louboutin shod feet for a more simple, down to earth life – think big fish, small pond. I’ve come across obviously gay men who insist on talking about their ex-wives and cast off girlfriends and major players in almost everything who can get caught out on the simplest question. I know singles that live together but pretend to be married (why is this so important).  I’ve met doctors who aren’t and men who can’t wait to tell everyone that their divorce cost them a million. Strangely enough I haven’t met anyone who admits to a life in Blighty that was not up there with the movers and shakers of Brit society.
In fact I would go so far as to generalise that if someone insists on bragging about their past it’s probably not true.
But we can all play this game. Perhaps I could say that I came second in the qualifiers for the men’s downhill in the winter Olympics of 19?? (try to check that in Google)  in fact second place in qualifiers is generally difficult to check so in future I may well use this ruse to top these Walter Mitty’s. I could claim second qualifier place for James Bond stand-in, just missing being the stunt double for Mark Damon but was an Oscar red carpet walker for Emma Thompson and fathered a love child with Michelle Pfeiffer (well if you are going to dream you might as well dream big).  Oh, I nearly forgot, Lloyd George ‘knew’ my grandmother but she was obviously too ‘vanilla’ to be granted a title.
However I was a) presented to  the late Queen Mother – b) danced with a woman who danced with Fred Astaire – c) had Beatle George Harrison, after asking him for an autograph, tell me to p*** off (apt as we were side by side in a discothèque’s urinal), and d) chatted with Richard Chamberlain, who played Dr Kildare in the television series (showing my age here) at our mutual tailors - and e) can finish up with the fact that shortly after Joan Collins went to Hollywood I gave her author sister Jackie (of international chick-lit/crap book fame ) a lift to Edgware, Middx.  So I’m not altogether unknown, whoever is reading this is one click away from a man who has LIVED A LIFE. Google my name and you will get 869,000 results and, if you want to risk ‘repetitive strain injury’ (aka RSI) I’m there somewhere.