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"