Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The last queen of England

If I had a pound for every time I've heard Kate Middleton referred to as "the future queen of England", I'd have about 8 or 9 pounds by now which is 8 or 9 too many as it's a ghastly solecism - it's about as absurd as referring to Barack Obama as the President of Florida.

The last queen (in the K Middleton sense of being queen-consort, i.e. wife of the king as opposed to sovereign in her own right) of England - a role which can never now be reprised since the kingdom of England ceased to exist in 1707 - was this lady:-

Mary of Modena. She was the second wife of King James II who was the king of England (and of Scotland - of which he was James VII - and Ireland) from 1685 to 1688.

Her main claim to fame is having been the mother of the king's eldest son. That's normally a good thing where queens are concerned except this king and queen were Roman Catholic in Protestant countries and the birth of a son - and the threat of a Catholic dynasty - led to James II (VII) being deposed in favour of his Protestant daughter and son-in-law. They ruled as the only example in British history of joint monarchs, William and Mary. (This was William III, better known as William of Orange. He was Dutch and it's not a coincidence the Dutch national football team plays in orange to this day.) Being childless, W&M were succeeded in 1701 by Mary's sister, Queen Anne, and she was still the queen in 1707 when England and Scotland merged to form the United Kingdom. Thus, there would never again be a "Queen of England". (Ireland joined the UK in 1801 but a chunk of it seceeded again in 1922 and became a republic in 1949 - traitors: they needn't think we'll be bailing them out.)

For non-native English speakers, that cartoon involves jokes about how the Queen speaks - she pronounces proud as "pride", horse as "hawce", girl as "gel" and how as "high". Kate is, in fact, so common, her mother was an airline stewardess: the Royal Family's upper crust friends snigger and whisper "Doors to Automatic" behind her back.

There's been some speculation as to which dukedom William will be given when he marries. They'll have to sift the traditional royal dukedoms which are not already taken (i.e. Edinburgh, York, Kent, Gloucester) carefully to make sure there's no chance of an embarrassment due to the last incumbent having been one of Queen Victoria's numerous offspring who became a serial killer or worse.

 Pictured sitting next to the Fuhrer is the last Duke of Albany, grandson of Queen Victoria. It's a pity because the dukedom of Albany was the Scottish equivalent of the dukedom of York, i.e. the second son of the sovereign. The awkwardness over the last incumbent (above) was likely why the present Queen's second son, Prince Andrew, wasn't created Duke of Albany simultaneously with being created Duke of York when he got married in 1986. Just goes to show sensitive these things are. Perhaps they'd be safest making Prince William Duke of Heathrow, Earl of Gatwick and Viscount Stansted - Kate's lot would appreciate that.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Unsustainable sustainability #1

If there's one thing that gets on my wick ... I'll rephrase that ... Of the numerous things that get on my wick, one is government documents which could be a page and a half of foolscap but are actually 50+ pages of forewords, executive summaries, vision statements, overarching strategies underpinned by horizontal themes (can something which overarches be underpinned - abutted, perhaps, but not underpinned, I think?) outcomes, aspirations and general meaningless SHITE piled on in shovelfuls to disguise mother and apple pie platitudes as actual content.

Like police marksmen laying bets on how many song titles you can get into evidence to an inquest, I'm convinced civil servants these days have lines on how many times they can get the s-word (sustainable) into a consultation. Therefore, from time to time in these columns, I intend to expose some more egregious examples which come to my attention of what I call "unsustainable sustainability" - i.e. general government and public sector wank-speak.

The first offering is the following extract from Western Isles Council's "Main Issues Report". This is a document to "encourage early engagement in" the process of preparing its Local Development Plan (the document against which applications for planning permission (building licence) are judged). The culprit is the reminder on page 4 that:-

Scottish planning policy indicates Plans should:

  • facilitate sustainable development of area, supporting increasing sustainable economic growth;
  • contribute to high quality sustainable places; and
  • protect and enhance environmental quality as an asset for that growth.
A couple of observations about that matchless prose: leaving aside the issue of whether there's an article, definite or indefinite, missing before the word "area" in the first bullet, I can understand the concept of sustainable economic growth but is increasing economic growth not, by its very nature, unsustainable? But that's a mere quibble in face of the question: what in the name of friggery is a "sustainable place"?

"Places" are fixed, marshy, have nice views, expensive, far away, enclosed, dangerous, dark or they're parking or birth places or even (and this was Carol's contribution when really pressed for things places could be) where otters breed. That came out of left field, right enough, but it only serves to underline that the one thing places are not is sustainable. Later in the WIC document there's reference to "a 'place-making' vision". These people are speaking a different dialect of English from the one I speak.

A place-making vision of a sustainable place near Stornoway
Actually, it's not all Western Isles Council's fault and a lot of the blame for this nonsense lies at the door of their political masters in Edinburgh, the Scottish soi disant Government. Remember what I was saying in Vende Se about planning being a bureaucratic nightmare in Scotland? Below are the hoops the SsdG makes WIC jump through to prepare its Local Development Plan - click to see it large:-

I like the injunction in the second column of the last row "Engage as necessary". Is that not the order between "Fix bayonets" and "Fire at will"?

And note how the whole process takes 3+ years and no sooner has it been completed than they've got to start monitoring and reviewing it again. Talk about the Forth Bridge. In the good old days, the Council left a deposit draft in the local library for 6 weeks, which nobody looked at, then it was sent down to London to be rubber stamped by the Secretary of State. An old man in a red cardy could do it in his lunch hour whereas, nowadays, the holders are likely to have impaled themselves on their own stakes before the end of Year 2.

"Is that Western Isles Council? I'm phoning to engage with your Local Development Plan ..." 

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Entente Incordial

I hear we've concluded a Defence Treaty with France.


Everyone knows that Italian tanks have four reverse gears and one forward (in case the enemy attacks from behind) but we also know that France's sole contribution to the defeat of the Third Reich was to scuttle their own fleet.

So while our chaps on HMS Hood were getting strafed from arsehole to breakfast table in the Denmark Strait by the Prinz Eugen and the Scharnhorst, the cheese-eating surrender monkeys were wading ashore at Algiers for a pastis before dinner and legging it to Vichy.

Apparently a key element of the new deal is that Royal Air Force planes will be operating off the aircraft carrier Charle de Gaulle. I trust there's a clause in the treaty whereby, in the event of the ballon going up again, we're given notice to get our planes off before they sink it themselves.

A quote from the communique on the 10 Downing Street (British equivalent of the White House) website is:-

"We will establish a bilateral Joint User Group to facilitate co-operation on the development of A400M training to inform operating techniques and procedures as well as exploring opportunities for synthetic and live training."

Which roughly translates as "Keep your eye on the bastards or they'll be down opening the sea-cocks before you can say Aboukir Bay."

As a friend of mine says "Arc de Triomphe? - which triumph would that be, exactly?"


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Vende Se

I'm obliged to regular reader Marisa for drawing my attention to an advertisement for apartments for sale on the sea-front at Faja Grande.

As Marisa is natural das Flores but presently resident elsewhere (too bad!), she'll be interested to know there's also a big banner on the wall of the developers', Castanheira & Soares, building in the Boqueirao industrial estate in Santa Cruz which I noticed for the first time the other day when we were shopping at Braga's.

Looks pretty cool doesn't it? This little slice of paradise is being offered for €245,000 (£215k/$345k). As someone said in a comment on the Forum Ilha das Flores blog, quite pithily (Cicely), I thought: "Is that €245k for all of them or each apartment?" 

Whatever the value for money, the fact these apartments are now being marketed is good news because it means - doesn't it? - that C&S will come under some pressure to finish them. (For the avoidance of doubt - as we lawyers are wont to say when actually we're causing lots of it - these apartments aren't finished yet.) They were started more than two years ago and progress on the construction has been leisurely to put it mildly and caused a right eye-sore along the sea-front of Europe's west-most village.

They'll have nice views when finished, though:-

And perhaps completion may also encourage the Camara Municipal of Lajes das Flores to tarmac the Avenida Marginal (which sounds like one of those great sea-fronts of the world like Nice's Promenade des Anglais or Havana's Malecon) to access these new apartments. The Camara was at pains to advertise before the election last year that it was going to be doing the Avenida muito em breve but then seemed to lose interest shortly after they won the election.

O progresso acabou ...

And on the subject of holiday apartments with nice views, no sooner have they not finished one lot than they've started on another:-

That would just be so not allowed where I come from!

In Scotland, that site would be in a National Scenic Area, Conservation Area, Croftland (protected agricultural smallholdings), Site of Special Scientific Interest, Ramsar Site (did you know that Ramsar, as in "site", is not an acronym but the name of a place in Iran?), Natura 2000 Site, Special Area of Conservation, Special Protection Area, Limestone Pavement, Smokeless Zone, Inside Leg, you name it - it would be easier to get planning permission to stick up a chalet on the lawn of Buckingham Palace. The site in the picture above is probably within all these designations on Flores (it's definitely within a UN Biosphere Reserve), it's just that the authorities here have a more flexible interpretation of "local subsidiarity" and "regional adaptability" than we do in Britain.

Both of these developments are being built by the same contractor who also happens to be doing our neighbours' extension:-

Now I don't want to sound like some awful NIMBY ("Not In My Back Yard") incomer telling people round here how they should run their island. (That's what all awful incoming NIMBY's say, isn't it?) In fact I remember, a while back, getting quite ventilated with a local telling her I thought it was great that round here you could build with little obstruction from the powers-that-be compared with how it works in Scotland where it's practically impossible to get permission to build outside the zones decreed by the powers-that-be (and not that easy even within them). A couple of years on, I've moderated my views somewhat and would say that there's a balance that's not being struck either on Flores or in Scotland.

So there. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Whitehall 1212

I thought it was the phone number of the Foreign Office but I find from googling it's actually (or was) the phone number of Scotland Yard.

For non-British readers, SY is the headquarters of the Metropolitan (i.e. London) Police. For all readers, British included, the name Scotland Yard comes from the fact that the building is on the site of the London residence of King Henry VIII's sister Margaret who was married to the king of Scots, James IV. That's a good factoid, isn't it!

Now I've digressed already - how did I get on to King James IV? Oh yes! The phone number of the Foreign Office - reason being I was on the point of having to ring it this afternoon. Let me explain.

Residents of the Azores qualify for discounts of about 10-15% on the fares of SATA, the airline which flies between the islands and to Lisbon. The horrors of dealing with Portuguese bureaucracy are such that I could never hitherto be bothered with obtaining the necessary proof of residence but the introduction of a new fare offering a 50% discount to residents (that's €150 off the return fare to Lisbon) meant this was something that could be put off no longer.

So it was with a rather "Abandon hope all ye who enter here" attitude that we went into the Camara Municipal at Lajes this afternoon in search of the required paper work. As it happened, the lady was friendly - spoke immaculate English and it appeared that we were by no means the first expats lured in as a result of SATA's new promotional fare. But as usual we were destined to succumb to "Computer says no" syndrome.

In particular, the computer said I didn't have a UK passport! Yes, that's right - I don't have a UK passport! This is despite the fact that the document in question is sitting 6 inches away from the computer in question and, if I folded it in half , I could stick the passport in the computer's disc drive. As I was feeling very tempted to do. Or in any other orifice that had presented itself ...

At this point you have to imagine Basil Fawlty telling the un-married couple they couldn't have a double room ("it's the law of England!") when I spluttered "I think you'll find I DO have a British passport, right here, and that it says Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State requests and requires you to afford such assistance as may be necessary! Let's give him a ring, shall we - what's that number again? Whitehall 1212?"

Of course I neglected to mention to the lady or her computer that Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs is a nasty little Yorkshireman recently embroiled in allegations of homosexuality and I was so busy thinking about how there would probably be a British Consul in Ponta Delgada from whom if necessary we could appeal to the ambassador in Lisbon, Britain Portugal's oldest ally etc., when the computer decided to play ball and accept I had a UK passport after all. Right, well, that's OK then, I'll stand down the gunboats ...

So as well as being in the phone book, we're now officially resident on Flores and have a Certificado de Registo to prove it


Wednesday, 13 October 2010


If I did tweetering or twittering or whatever it's called (and thank heavens I don't, said in the same tone of voice as "and thank heavens my house isn't built on contaminated land"), today's twit would be:-

took tumble dryer to shop in SC might be ready by weekend not holding breath

Experienced twats will doubtless be rolling on the floor laughing (ROFL-ing, I expect) at the unhipness of that putative (dare one say purported) twitter due to its residual nods in the direction of English grammar as taught 40 years ago (such as "to" instead of "2") but this is simply by way of introduction to the fact that autumn has hit Flores with a bang this year as witness picture below.

Consequently not a good time to be without a maquina a secar as I learnt today tumble dryers are called. In fact, describing the symptoms of the maquina's malaise was another example of extreme sports in Portuguese for which there is no guidance in any of my phrase books. These are replete with such unhelpful banalities as "Senhor Tavares goes into a cafe and orders a coffee" and "Joao stays off school because he has a sore tummy" but annoyingly thin on things that do actually happen to me in real life. In the end I had to cannibalise "Ana-Lurdes pulls over into a gas station because her windscreen wipers aren't working" (as limpa para-brisas nao funcionam) in order to attempt to convey "Neil's tumble dryer is fucked."

I'm just grateful I wasn't called upon to express to a non-English speaker what we found ourselves privately remarking upon entre nous the other day, namely: "My dentist's waiting room smells of shit" (nothing even in the sore tummy conversation to assist with that.)

Anyway, I've digressed, where was I? Oh yes - the very sudden onset of autumn, this year. Not with a whimper but with a bang in the first fortnight of October. 

That perfect storm last Thursday raised a salmoura (salt spray) which has trashed the vegetation more effectively than a squadron of B-52s over Dien Bien Phu and also brought in its wake the full gamut of the Azores winter experience such as SATA flight numbers beginning with 3 (these are extra flights sent out to clear up after weather related cancellations) and prolonged (2+ hours) power cuts. I've a notion it was one of these outages that did for the dryer but even more seriously one of them interrupted the episode of Eastenders in which the Queen Vic is torched and Peggy Windsor gets written out.

The more I watch Easties, the more I become convinced that the only characters with a shred of credibility are Charlie and Patrick for just every now and again saying "Actually it's my house ..." (although I do emphasise the word "shred" meaning a very very small amount of something because usually in the next breath they say bizarre things like "Of course I don't want you to go, Stacey/Denise [complete as applicable]"

Him off "Love Thy Neighbour"

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

In days of old ...

... when knights were bold
and women hadn't been invented
knights drilled holes
in telegraph poles
and had to be contented.

I was reminded of that ditty when I had to make a hole in a telegraph pole today. Not for any improper purpose, I hasten to add - that would have been impractical anyway given the hole was about 4 metres above ground. No, it was to install something I learnt the Portuguese word for today as well: roldanha - one of these:-

This reminds me of the round on Ask the Family where they had to identify a familiar household object photographed from an unusual angle. For non-British readers, AtF was a long running 70s BBC quiz, each show being a contest between two families of mum, dad and two teenage children who were usually spotty, precocious and highly unattractive - a bit like a Labour leadership election really.

AtF was hosted by Robert "Wrapover" Robinson who holds a record for having hosted three game shows all of which lasted for longer than 15 years. The other two were Call My Bluff and Brain of Britain. The latter, a radio show known as "the perennial general knowledge quiz", is still running and I was very sorry to hear in August that RR had announced he will not be returning to host it. At least the new host, Russell Davies, maintains the RR tradition, unlike Peter Snow, of addressing the contestants by their surnames ("Mr King"). We need more of that sort of thing nowadays, not less, especially since Wimbledon gave it up ("Game, set and match Miss King").

I can vividly recall listening to BoB while beating up Loch Dunvegan (Skye) in a yacht after a testing passage across the Minch from Harris (as in tweed) in inclement weather in the early 80s when RR introduced it by saying "Hello! Hello! And welcome to the sunnied uplands of the cerebellum ..." Timing of going about (you have to be a nautical cove to know what that means) was dictated by the gaps between rounds rather than the usual meteorological or navigational considerations.

I went off on one there - where was I?

Oh yes, roldanhas, and what are they? Well the difference from Ask the Family is at least they knew the word for the familiar household object photographed from an unusual angle once they'd identified it, e.g.  potato peeler or tin opener or mum's vibr ... but with my thing in the photo I didn't even know the English word for it, never mind the Portuguese.

What it is, is a pulley at one end of our clothes line. All clothes lines on Flores are on pulleys so that, once you've hung the clothes up, you can haul them out to an appropriately sunny and draughty elevated spot of the garden to dry. It's remarkable how many British people have remarked to us what a good idea this is and how they're going to install one when they get home. And all such pulleys make a croaking sound such that, when I first lived here, I thought it was the call of some exotic wildfowl - a cross between a corncrake and a barnacle goose, perhaps.

Anyway, the far end of our clothes line is a pulley screwed in to a telegraph pole high up and it was obviously broken because it was making a sound more like an extra in Jurassic Park and Carol was getting a sore shoulder pulling it. The problem was how do I describe the object in question - which I don't even know the English word for - to senhor in Movipesca, the best hardware store in the WORLD which just happens to be in Santa Cruz das Flores?

I hit on the idea of taking a photo of it so I could show it to Sr. MP on the back of my camera: the conversation went like this:-

NK (brandishing camera) - Queria um - oh shit, I've accidentally cleared the camera
Sr. MP - ?
NK - OK, Ta bem, queria uma coisa, cuja nao sei a palavra portuguesa certa - nao sei a palavra inglesa, ha hah! - mas e uma roda com um parafuso para colocar num ... arvore telefonica (???) ... para pendar uma corda de roupa     
Well the penny must have dropped with Sr. MP (Marisa knows who I mean - he always means business when he's got his shorts on) because he said Nao diga mais (say no more) and within seconds he was back with a roldanha

And to add to my delight, the item in question was a mere 2,06€ - that's my kind of roldanha. Here it is installed (top) next to its predecessor in office just below and an even earlier one about a foot (30cm) further below:-

I wonder what, millenia from now, archaeologists will make of this hierarchy? That roldanhas had to be mounted progressively higher up arvores telefonicas as the waters rose due to climate change? I wonder if they'll guess the simple truth: "Nelly, go and put it a bit higher up so it's in the sun for longer ..."

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Fan mail

Thank you. You know who you are.

Monday, 13 September 2010


I remember thinking we'd arrived here when, about two years ago, my name appeared in the Azores phone book.

The event was tempered slightly by the fact that the address was wrong - they'd put me in a place called Morres-Cima which I still don't know where it is and even José Antonio at the shop was a bit hesitant in pronouncing it to be "near Lajes". However, they got the phone number right which is the important thing for a phone book, I suppose.

Anyway, I cut out the correction slip and posted it off, never imagining it would actually be actioned, but a new phone book came in the other day lo and behold with the correct address! So, being "second generation phone book", as it were, I feel that not only have we arrived but can probably afford to take our jackets off now as well.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Yes First Minister

The Scottish soi disant Government has just published its legislative programme for 2010-11.

One of the statements below is a quote from "Yes Minister" and the other is an extract from a summary of one of the bills to be put before the Scottish Parliament. Can you tell which is which?:-

"a series of proposals which on examination proved to indicate certain promising lines of enquiry, which when pursuit led to the realization that the alternative courses of action might in fact, in certain circumstances, be susceptible of discreet modification, leading to a reappraisal of the original areas of difference and pointing a way to encouraging possibilities of compromise and cooperation which if bilaterally implemented with appropriate give and take on both sides might, if the climate were right, have a reasonable possibility at the end of the day of leading rightly or wrongly to a mutually satisfactory resolution they'll give it the most serious and earnest consideration and insist on a thorough and rigorous examination of all the proposals, allied with detailed feasibility study and budget analysis, before producing a consultative document for consideration by all interested bodies and seeking comments and recommendations to be included in a brief, for a series of working parties who will produce individual studies which will provide the background for a more wide ranging document, considering whether or not the proposal should be taken forward to the next stage"

"improve record keeping across the public sector, strengthening governance, transparency and accountability supports a key recommendation on records and record keeping of the historical abuse systemic review will provide a framework for improvements in record keeping across the public sector, encompassing existing guidance and best practice will provide a framework for improvements in record keeping across the public sector, most stakeholders are a positive step towards lasting improvements in the management of records by public authorities will be required to produce and implement a records management plan to be approved by the authorities engage private or voluntary organisations to deliver public services on their behalf to form a foundation on which to build improvements with guidance and good practice while minimising additional burdens on authorities will improve record keeping across the public sector, strengthening governance, transparency and accountability, and fulfilling a key recommendation ..."

For non-British readers, "Yes Minister" was a classic 80s BBC sitcom about the relationship between a government minister (in the last two series, the prime minister), Jim Hacker, and two of his civil servants, Sir Humphrey Appleby and Bernard Woolley, pictured above and played by, respectively, Paul Eddington (The Good Life), Nigel Hawthorne (The Madness of King George) and Derek Fowlds (The Basil Brush Show).

What's that jacket all about Mr Derek? 

Margaret Thatcher was a fan (of "Yes Minister", not Basil Brush although having said that I've no reason to believe she disliked BB, who could?) and even penned a brief sketch in which she appeared playing herself as the prime minister along with Eddington and Hawthorne in their YM roles. (Hawthorne, being an uber-lovey, I imagine was appalled by this stunt but refusing the Iron Lady in the 1980s was as unthinkable as refusing the Empress of Russia in the 1760s.) A recurring theme of YM was Sir Humphrey's pompous circumlocutions and in British English government gobbledegook is still referred to as a "Sir Humphrey-ism".

Anyway, the Scottish soi disant Government's proposed Public Records Bill could almost be a product of Jim Hacker's fictional Department of Administrative Affairs. As could such racy legislative offerings as the Local Electoral Administration Bill and the Health (Certification of Death) Bill - someone must have been having a laugh with that last one, combining the words "health" and "death" in the name of a bill.

Absent from the list is the much touted bill to authorise the holding of a referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom. So the point of the SNP is what exactly ...?

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Football again ...

No sooner have the vuvuzelas fallen silent than we're off and running with the qualifiers for the next international footballing extravaganza, Euro 2012.

An executive summary of all you need to know from the opening night is that the team not so long ago branded "Drab Fab's Flops" beat Bulgaria 4-0 sending the short memoried English media off in an orgy of prediction of Ingerlish glory to come.

Scotland struggled to a draw against Lithuania - but it might have been Estonia or the other one - Vilnius? Anyway, that prompted Presbyterian hand wringing, cautious optimism for more than a point from the next fixture (Liechtenstein - could be vital for goal difference in a three way play off with the Faeroe Islands) and facial expressions regularly seen on Scottish players' faces:-

Both of the Irelands won and I don't know what happened to Wales (does anyone care? I don't.)

Portugal drew 4-4 with Cyprus - Goodness knows what was going on there: I'll need to read up about it but Portugal are one of these countries (like Scotland) who ought to beat countries like Cyprus comfortably but don't and give you palpitations and then (totally unlike Scotland) pull it out the bag at the last minute.

Am I the only one who thinks Ronaldo is almost certainly gay?

But the best news of the evening was undoubtedly France getting gubbed 1-0 by Belarus (might have been Moldovia or Tatarstan but the effect is much the same).

Merde alors!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Anything to report?

Every day around noon I walk down to Joe and Linda's shop for the bread and every day when I get back Carol asks "Anything to report from downtown?" And every day I answer "No."

But today I answered "No. ... Er, well, actually, YES."

The reason was today, 1st September 2010, was the first day of the new bus service on Flores and I walked past the new bus in the village square - at the bus-stop, in fact - on the way down to get the bread.

It was very big and new and shiny and had a driver with a uniform (well a shirt, tie and name badge anyway, if not a cap) and an illuminated digital sign thing in the window saying "04 FAJÃZINHA".

I shouldn't be at all surprised if, inside, there weren't a synthetic voice saying "The next stop is [then different voice said in tone like recording your name for a voice mail message] Fajãzinha [back to original voice] please remember to collect your personal belongings ...". (In Portuguese, of course.)

Unfortunately, there were no passengers on the bus but to make up for that there was a laminated timetable pinned up in the bus shelter. That would have ensured that, had there been any passengers, at least there wouldn't have been a disappointment if anyone was wanting the "05 LAJES".

Of course I didn't have my camera with me so the following is a pic from the Governo dos Açores website of the new fleet of buses at Sta Cruz:-

I went down later to at least get a pic of the timetable pinned up in the bus shelter but on the way down I was halloo-ed by Marianna down the road to tell me our bucket (balde) had been blown down the street the other night in the storm and was outside Pierluigi's house. So I picked that up and when I got to the bus shelter José Agusto's father was sitting there, as is his wont (and his right), and I would have felt a right plank photographing a timetable holding a balde. So I didn't.

To explain, there have been buses on Flores before today but they're geared round the school run and have generally been a bit, well, crap. There was a story recently that all the drivers were off sick and the kids couldn't get get to school. I'm sure something got lost in translation on that one but if you couple it with the fact that the nearest they got to publishing a timetable was a handwritten scrawl in the shop window "because some German tourist asked" then you can see how name badges and laminated timetables is a great leap forward.

We don't yet run to the timetable on a website or a reply to an e-mail requesting a copy but it's early doors yet. Carol said "Let's go to Lajes on the bus because we can". Sounds like a plan except I hope it doesn't turn out to be like the disappointment when we decided to go to Corvo because we - supposedly - could. 

Saturday, 28 August 2010


The view from our sitting room window is not supposed to look like this in August:-

As I type this, it's now dark and the rain is lashing down and the wind howling round the house. The culprit is the very deep depression right-most on the satellite picture below from the excellent Portuguese Meteorological Institute website (choose "Oceano Atlantico" from the drop-down where it says "Seleccione Área" on the right) which is sitting right on top of the Grupo Occidental (i.e. Flores and Corvo)

Note the three (as yet) smaller depressions out to the west following in its wake.

For those of you who prefer pictorial smiley sun type weather depictions, I can tell you Carol's website of choice is long on big frowning black clouds, zig-zaggy lightening bolts and umbrellas blown inside-out and short on smiley suns for the next few days. 

Is that the sound of hatches being battened down I hear? No - it's a hatch blowing down the street. 

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

FG on the TV #2

Well we weren't betrayed by EDA this time but by RTP Açores themselves because one page on their website said it was on at 20.45 while another said it was 20.40. I therefore took the precaution of turning on at 20.37 and the programme was already on - Gah!

I think it may be possible to watch it online at some point in the near future via this link which seems to carry the first 19 of the 35 villages in the Azores with less than 500 people. Hopefully, they'll update that soon to carry the remaining 16 including all those on Flores (and Corvo).

It's Fajãzinha tonight. The RTP-A website is being pretty consistent across all pages in saying it's 20.45 but after last night's performance, I shall be taking the precaution of setting the vid to run from 20.25. And if the power doesn't go off at 20.26, then there will probably be another cloudburst which will make the satellite dish go all wonky - there was one of these earlier: they frequently happen in the middle of Holby City which is the BBC's answer to Dr Kildare. Carol watches it, I don't.

Anyway, for those who won't be seeing Fajãzinha on the tellybox later (myself included possibly), here's a library picture of it as they say:-

Monday, 23 August 2010

FG on the TV

Oh dear, an awful long time since I wrote anything on here, in fact since the power cut in the middle of the World Cup Final.

Well my psychic vibes tell me the next power cut (for there hasn't been one since) will be at 20.45 on Monday 23 August because that's when there's a 25 minute programme about Faja Grande on RTP Açores (so don't get too excited as anyone who doesn't live in the Azores won't get to see it.)

Anyway, as part of the celebrations for RTP Açores (which is to the Azores what BBC Scotland is to Scotland) being 35 years old, they're doing a series about the 35 villages in the Azores with fewer than 500 inhabitants.

I wonder which 40 villages they'll celebrate for the 40th anniversary? Or the 45 for the 45th? You probably have to be less than 10 years old and have a gift for geometric progressions verging on the autistic to work that out. Indeed you probably haven't born yet and RTP Açores' plans are on hold pro tem.

But I digress. The TV cameras were here on Wednesday. José Teodosio and his team from the junta laid on a nice display in the village square and the tuna played. Tuna is Portuguese for a string band (which doesn't translate at all well into English)

There was only one slight unpleasantness to mar the general bonhomie - a group of film-makers were innocently going about their business when a traditional basket weaver invaded their space with a traditional basket in the making in a quite unnecessarily intrusive fashion ...

Quite deplorable sort of behaviour and a symptom of the times we live in I'm afraid to say. It didn't spoil the kids' fun though ...

RTP Açores, Monday, 8.45pm, - you'll know when it's on because the lights will go off.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Electricidade dos Açores

The image above is plucked from the website of EDA, Electricidade dos Açores, our electricity supplier. It depicts a contented young couple about to switch on a TV set powered by electricity delivered to the socket by EDA. He is saying "Oh, Maria do Carmo, aren't we lucky to have our electricity supplied by EDA! It means we can watch the final of the World Cup!" And she is saying "Yes, José Manuel, it's a bit of a stroke that they deliver electricity so beautifully because we've no choice but to get it from EDA!"

Yes, well such scenes of blissful contentment might have been typical on other Azorean islands yesterday evening but not on Flores where there was a POWER CUT in the 115th minute of the final. Yes, that's right, the winning goal was scored in the 116th minute. But those heroes at EDA redeemed themselves by restoring the juice in the 123rd minute - right again: the game lasted 122 minutes.

I blame the ref.

Power cuts are quite frequent here (about once a month) but they seldom last long (about 10-15 minutes although what they make up for in brevity is often lost in terms of unfortunate timing as witness last night). For those interested (did I just say that?), Flores' electricity is generated by a hydro-electric power station ...

(With apologies to Paul Camilli)

... and when the water runs low, an oil fired generator comes on line ...
(With apologies to Isabel & Colin Sharp)

And to back all that up, there are two windmills ...

A new thermic (whatever that means) power station is in the course of being built near Lajes. Can't come soon enough. Let's hope it's fully in commission by the time Euro 2012 kicks off.