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.