Thursday 30 April 2009

Espirito Santo

Espirito Santo - Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost?) is difficult to explain but I'll try.

It's sort of the Church of Rome meets the Masons. Every village in the Azores has one or more imperios which look like churches but are actually meeting houses of brotherhoods of the Holy Spirit. Each imperio has its day a year for its brethren to march up the street with flags and carrying a crown (you can see the flags in this pic but the crown had already gone past). Someone's also banging a drum and there's chanting.

In a big town a Espirito Santo march is a traffic stopping major league event but here in Faja Grande, it's fairly low key and note how it doesn't prevent the march past pausing to have a chat with guys loading a cow into a truck.

Other aspects of Espirito Santo are that the imperio has a party night in the evening mostly involving playing bingo (of all the ungodly activities) and portions of freshly slaughtered beef are distributed to all houses in the village.

Apologies in advance if I've not explained this properly and/or caused any unintentional offence by wrongly describing it due to my ignorance.

Wednesday 29 April 2009

Spelling again

Ref. the bean spelling disappointment referred to two posts below, it's been pointed out to me that the French version is also wrong. Rather than Haricots Cuites dans sauce de tomate it should be Haricots Blancs (note, incidentally, masculine, not feminine as implied by cuites) a la sauce de tomate. Just how wrong could they get it? The beans were canned in Valencia so presumably the Spanish rendering is correct.


Eastenders' Stacey Slater and Portugal's King Joao V bear such an uncanny resemblance to each other you have to wonder if they're not related ...

For anyone not familiar with Eastenders, it's the UK's most popular soap opera. Produced by the BBC, it's set in the East End of London and Stacey Slater plays a "tart with a heart" character. (For anyone not familiar with Portugal, it's a small country in western Europe in which Joao V played a king with a crown role between 1706-50.)

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Spelling mistake

I'm also a wee bit iffy about the Portuguese rendering on the bottom line. Feijoes looks like an attempt at pluralising the word feijao meaning beans. In Portuguese, beans are a singular thing as if in English we would say "bean" like we say bread, sheep etc. irrespective of the quantity involved. So to my mind, it should be just Feijao Cozido. Also, I've never seen two dots above an o in Portuguese ...

EDIT - I've just looked up my Portuguese dictionary and it does offer a plural of feijao which is feijoes with a tilde (squiggle - can't do it on this computer and don't know the HTML for a tilde) above the o. However, I wonder if this is only for very small quantities of beans (as in Blackadder "If I have two beans and I add one more bean, what does that make?" Baldrick "a very small casserole") as opposed to a whole tinful of them. Why else are tins of green beans labelled just Feijao Verde?

Saturday 25 April 2009

Street names

There aren't many streets in Faja Grande and, until recently, only one of them, the main street, Rua do Senador Andre de Freitas, had its name up. (Incidentally, the main street in Santa Cruz, the main town on the island, is called the same suggesting Andre de Freitas must have been quite a big cheese around here but I don't know who he was - I must find out and I'll let you know.)

Anyway, this has been remedied and street names have now gone up all round the village. It has had some curious results, though, with some streets now having two names:-

and some streets having the same name twice:-

The lady who owns the house the above street name is affixed to refused (quite correctly in my view) to allow them to take the old sign down as it referred to the date 1920 - although she didn't know the significance of that year.

Next time, I'm going to tell you about the house numbers that have been going up.


The main street in Faja Grande is cobbled and late last year they pulled the cobbles up. At first I was fearful that this was going to be another example of "modernisation" by the Camara Municipal and the street was going to be replaced with asphalt. But, no, the cobbles were duly replaced. They weren't laying new drains or water pipes or anything - apparently, the cobbles get relaid at 50 year intervals.

The road was finished last November but at the same time as taking up the cobbles they also drilled up the pavements, mostly concrete. We have been waiting ever since to see how they were going to be replaced and, in the meantime, the village has been looking a bit of a state.

It was the usual story - waiting for the pavement cobbles to arrive on the island - pode ser no proximo barco - "maybe on the next ship" as is said so often on this island.

Anyway, they're now here and work has started.

Work proceeds by some sort of grey sand stuff - I imagine it has some proprietory qualities - being spread and then two lads tap the cobbles into this surface one by one with hammers. So the village resounds to the sound of plink plink - just as it did when they were re-laying the road last year except the road cobbles were bigger so it was plunk plunk.

Here is a picture of a pavement cobble which I picked up as a souvenir:-

There's a container full of these down in the car park. Which makes me think about two things - 1. what sort of machine chops rock into nice small chunks like that (don't know); and 2. how do you transport large quantities of them around (now I do know - in a container like everything else).

This is one of the lads tapping the pavement cobbles into place:-

He crouches tapping away from about 8 in the morning to past 7 at night with only about an hour break at lunch. Being in that position for longer than 3 or 4 minutes wrecks my knees and back!

The final stage of the process is that cement powder is thrown over the cobbles by the spadeful and then the whole is hosed with water so that the cement between the cobbles will set and the excess is washed away. 24 hours later, you have a fully set pavement!

The progress is such that they started work at the top of the village on Monday on the opposite side of the road from us and worked their way down to the village square on that side. We were a bit fearful they'd go the whole way down to the sea on the other side before working their way back up our side meaning we'd be about the last in the whole place to get our pavement done - not the greatest hardship except it's a bit of a hole outside our front door (a health and safety nightmare which wouldn't be allowed further north in Europe). Anyway, I'm pleased to say they've stopped at the village square and are now working their way up our side. So they should be plink-plinking outside us by about Monday or Tuesday, I reckon.

I'll keep you posted and also let you know about the other great excitement which overtook Faja Grande recently - street names and house numbers. We are being dragged kicking and screaming into 19th century!

Friday 24 April 2009

A Privilege

In the last post I was maybe a wee bit dismissive when I said "Someone commented on 29 Jan ..."

Actually it was Joe who said "ello! I am so jealous...i was born in Santa Cruz,Flores and lived in Caveira until i was 3. My parents brought us to the USA in 1980. When i was younger we would often visit every other year for a month or so. I have not been back to the island since 1997 but plan on returning soon. I can't even begin to tell you how much i miss it."

It's nice to be reminded that someone out there envies your situation and I must say this has happened a lot since we've been on this island. It is a privilege to be here and I will think about you Joe next time I get a bit irritated about some aspect of life here (like that very bumpy bit on the road to Santa Cruz - that minor sort of thing).

... I'm sitting here trying to think another minorly irritating thing about this island and I can't think of one. They do exist, obviously, but nothing big enough to get under my skin that I can remember it now.

It's a privilege to live here.

Thursday 23 April 2009

Hello Again!

Well it's been two years and two days since I last wrote in this blog and I doubt if anyone bothers to check it anymore - although I see someone left a comment as recently as 23 January: thanks for that.

Since I last wrote, the palheiro in our garden has been renovated into a nice holiday studio apartment if anyone's planning a visit. More details on my website -

I've also got quite a lot of pictures of the island (mostly Faja Grande, inevitably) on my flickr photostream which you may wish to have a browse through - This also has some photos, old and new, of Scotland where I'm from and used to live.

I'll try and write something more soon. The big thing going on in Faja just now is they're at last laying the new pavements (sidewalks - passeios). Does that sound interesting? Well it is to us!