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.