Thursday, 11 June 2009

Santa Cruz Church - my stake in its future

... 2 Euros as a result of having bought a couple of raffle tickets this afternoon. Let me explain.

The renovation of the church in Santa Cruz, the main (indeed only) town on this island, is the obrasprazotory to end all OPs. I've been meaning to add a post on the subject but now I have a personal stake in it, this gives it added urgency.

The church is a huge landmark in SC. I believe it has the third largest church façade in the Azores (a rather big fish/small pond claim to fame) and I gather they started work on it in 1783 but didn't finish it until 1859 due to the project keeping running out of money. Anyway, despite all that provenance, it's been looking decidedly scruffy recently.

So I was very pleased to see when we were in town a couple of weeks back that a comprehensive renovation of the church (inside and out) had begun with signs of quite quick progress. Let the pictures do the talking:-

Above is that third largest facade and you can see how tatty it's looking although note the right hand tower dome for a sign of things to come.

Above, you can see the back of that tower all freshly painted and also how all the plaster has been taken off the gable pending reapplication.

It was also rather piquant for us that the local building firm doing the work on the church is the same firm who did our palheiro - i.e. our little studio apartment in our garden (see So it was funny seeing the same guys who'd been round our house for four months in 2007 involved in a rather larger project.

Allow me a quick digression into Senhor Lucino Lima's building company. We'd heard he was the best on the island but difficult to get hold of due to being so much in demand. We bearded him in his den a couple of times where he expressed a willingness in principle to do the job but when it came to the fatal "w-question" (when?), there was much sucking of teeth, lighting of cigarettes, shuffling of paper, scratching of foreheads and the utterance of that phrase which should really be Flores' motto: em atras (delayed).

Long short, we eventually managed to coax Senhor Lucino round to a site visit and a few weeks and phone calls (made on our behalf by the ever kind Jose Antonio and Linda down at the shop) later, we even got an estimate for the works. That led to a meeting in Senhor Lucino's office. (I should say "Senhor" is pronounced "Soo" on this island and people like Soo-Lucino call me Soo-Neil and vice versa). It was an epic encounter involving Linda the Shop along as translator and led to two memorable conclusions (1) Linda saying "Soo-Lucino wants to say he has learnt his first words of English which are "which option is cheaper?""; and (2) we asked the W-question and try to get me pregnant (an uphill struggle, I can tell you) if Soo-Lucino didn't suck his teeth, light a cigarette (the 15th of the encounter - particularly vexing as we'd just recently given up), shuffle some papers and say "Next Tuesday".

And next Tuesday, at an ungodly hour of the morning, Soo-Lucino's boys duly appeared, lugging in bricks and cement and stuff and promptly got to work.

When I think back on this two years ago now, it was almost surreal because - due to the language barrier - I had no real idea as to whether these guys truly understood what it was we wanted: did we know ourselves? But much as it would be amusing to do a "Year in Provence" type rave against the horrors of southern European builders, I'm going to have to disappoint you and report that Soo-Lucino's guys were just amazing. They almost seemed to be able to read our minds as to what we wanted communicating by a combination of gestures and thumbs ups. Never once did we have any of the problems traditionally associated with builders like leaving a mess or not doing what we asked or going off the job or charging too much etc. OK, it took a month longer than expected but the final bill was actually less than the original quote. And the quality of the craftsmanship was superb. This is the guys putting the velux window in the roof of the palheiro:

At the end we were almost sorry to see them go. In the last few days of the job, Cesar the painter was around a lot, not because there was painting to be done but because he spoke immaculate English and he'd been sent by Soo-Lucino to co-ordinate the last jobs and be sure that we were happy to sign the job off.

The only picture I have of Soo-Lucino is this one of him pirhouetting (sp) at the top of a ladder by our palheiro. Like the good boss of a construction company that he is, he came round to the job every now and again to get his own hands dirty. I can't remember what exactly he was doing at ours this day but I do remember when I took this picture he was asking down, not for a screwdriver or similar but for a cigarette lighter!

I've digressed a long way from where I started this post - buying two 1€ raffle tickets in aid of the restoration of Santa Cruz church. It's a cause I'm happy to support whether or not I win the top prize of a Colcha em Lã, whatever that is (I just hope it's not a piglet or something like that).

But I couldn't help thinking about Soo-Lucino - does he know the church hasn't yet raised the money to pay him for the job? Will the Colcha em Lã, whatever it is, be enough to raise the wind to pay his bill? Having bought two 1€ raffle tickets, does that make me almost like a debenture holder? I feel another meeting with Soo-Lucino coming on ...


Kathie said...

Do you want me to tell you what a "Colcha em Lã" is, or would you rather wait in order to be surprised?

I'd hazard that "Soo-Lucino" is probably "Seu Luisinho," where "Seu" is an abridged form of "Senhor," a term of respect. Luisinho might be the diminutive of Luís (or Luíz, before one of the several Portuguese orthographic reforms, specifically the replacement with an "s" of the terminal "z" in many names, designed to cleanse the Luso tongue of dreaded residual Spanish pollution).

I admit to being shocked at how much the Santa Cruz church's façade had deteriorated in the past seven years since I visited, but it's good that you have such skilled workers to repair it (as well as your palheiro and other authentic structures on the island). I don't know when my next Azores trip will be (not this year, alas), but I'm determined to try to get out to Flores again next time!

Sarah Milteer Paintings said...

If you do get a piglet, I've got a recipe in a Cajun cookbook that I can type up and send to you if you'd like.