Friday, 22 July 2011

Loja Macau

In Britain, they're usually owned by Indians or Pakistanis and have names like "Ali's Cave" - shops that sell everything from screwdrivers to binoculars through flip-flops to handbags via artists' canvasses, plumb-bobs and washing baskets - all piled high and sold low at prices in direct proportion to the per capita GDP of the countries the stuff is manufactured in.

In Portugal, such shops are owned by Chinese people. In Ponta Delgada on São Miguel, every second building is a chinese shop (where it's noticeable they all have exactly the same stock) and there are now even two in Santa Cruz das Flores.

We went in to the chinese shop in SC yesterday to buy a cheese grater and were somewhat flabbergasted to find out they didn't stock them - pencils with flashlights in the bit which is normally the rubber on the end and all sorts of other goodies I'd have been thrilled to find in my Xmas stocking as a 7 year old (indeed, as a 48yo) yes, but cheese graters, no.

There were, however, some consolation prizes to be had in the chinese shop. I got a very nice wee set of spanners for 3,50€

If you zoom in on that a bit, it'd be a great entry on the "familiar household article viewed from an odd angle" round on "Ask the Family". As it happened, I wanted them in order to tackle the nut faintly visible at the top of this picture ("Mother and younger child only") underneath a sink and only accessible with the degree of wrist and finger co-ordination normally reserved to gynecologists:-

Anyway, I've digressed, where was I? Oh yes - things bought at the chinese shop apart from the cheese grater we went in for. Exhibit 2 - a pair of lightweight cotton summer shorts, a snip at €7.95, and possibly the best aspect of which, worth twice that easily, was the washing instructions:-

I was also interested to discover yesterday that what we call just "the chinese shop" has a name. Shops on Flores are very difficult to find because they don't have signs outside. I suspect it's because the owners take the view that everyone knows where the shops are so why waste money putting up useless signs advertising what everybody already knows. The same syndrome probably explains why, when a new shop opened up recently, they put flyers in everyone's letterboxes which informed you it was a butcher's but not where it was. ("Everybody knows where José João's cousin's going to be opening his shop ... Tsk! Tchoh!")

Anyway, despite the fact it's in a building which used to be a residencial, the only outward marking on which is the crossed knife and fork restaurant symbol usually seen at motorway service stations in the 70s, the chinese shop in SC is, in fact, called Loja Macau:-

What is the article depicted bottom right next to the dismembered body parts - a pair of sunglasses or a bra? Whatever, loja is the Portuguese word for a shop and (for anyone who doesn't know) Macau is the Portuguese equivalent of Hong Kong - a small Portuguese territory in China handed back to the PRC at the same time as the UK surrendered HK. Gambling is Macau's thing - it is to China what Vegas is to the States.

There's another shop in Santa Cruz which, in fairness, does have a sign with a name although it's so small that it doesn't register and we call it something else. Can you guess what that is? 

Sunday, 17 July 2011

That article

Well done to David for spotting this on the Express' website (I didn't know you were an Express reader.)

Not only is the population of Flores actually just below 4,000 as Marisa correctly points out but I am now 48, not 46. This is due to the fact that journalist Richard Webber hacked my phone for this scoop two years ago and I gather it's been languishing in the property editor's basket awaiting a day of nothing better to report ever since.

I expect property prices in the Azores have moved a bit since he wrote the article as well. But I don't care - we didn't buy this house as an investment and I ascribe a value to it of £0.01 (= €0.01 and $0.01.)

There's the inevitable story about the photo of us in the article. The journo asked for a picture of us by the house back in December. Of course, he never visited the Azores in the course of researching the piece and I think he had visions of deck chairs by the pool on Christmas Day. In fact it was feckin parky (British English for "a touch on the cool side") on the day we grabbed a neighbour to take a couple of snaps.

The results produced the usual female response to photos. Here are the ones the readership of the Express didn't get to see:-

1. "You can't send that, my hair looks mental"

2. "Nope. You look a fat bastard"

 3. "Delete that, I look a right spaz."

So it ended up being "I suppose it will have to be that one although I'm not happy about it".

Of course, the star of the show is the house. The picture printed in the Express was one I took about 3 days after we arrived here in May 2006. It seems so long ago now ...

"My back door looks too fat ..."