30.9.04

Where the heart is


Crack of dawn job today. Up at 5am to get ready to get to the airport. Got a taxi straight away, and what a nice taxi driver too. He was going off shift, so we agreed a price that was less than I would have to pay had he switched on his meter. Had a nice chat, he was asking me about Scotland - apparently he could tell I wasn't Portuguese on account of my accent! I took the bottles of olive oil and cachaça out of my bag, since I didn't want them to break. I got to the front of the check-in queue when the carrier bag fell over. The cachaça and one bottle of olive oil were gone, and all there was was a strange puddle. The woman at check-in told me not to worry about the mess, and she gave me the best seats on the plane - the ones that go down flat! Boy was I comfy! Got home safe and sound at about 5pm. It's nice to be back.

29.9.04

No Metro


Don't have much time today. I'm hot, sweaty, needing a shower, fresh clothes, upload my photo, write a blurb and get to the other side of town - and all within the next 45 minutes. Why the rush? I hear you all ask. Well, today something important is happening. Something so important that I had to leave the National Library at 3.40pm, rush to the supermarket to get two bottles of olive oil and a bottle of cachaça (caipirinha for the making of), then I had to jump on the Metro to the Colombo Centre at Benfica to get a holdall and something to eat, and to take a photo of the Estádio da Luz (home of Benfica FC). Then I had to jump back on the rush hour Metro to Cais do Sodré, then catch a tram to Alcântara to do the aforementioned showering, changing, uploading and writing. I did note on my travels, however, that the weather has not yet broken, unless 32ºC is 'broken'. The trains were packed, but at least someone was thinking about us, because when we got off at Cais do Sodré, there were people from Coca Cola handing out ice cold cans of Cola Light to all and sundry. Hit the spot. Oh, yes. The important thing I have to do... I have to get over to the Irish Pub to watch Celtic versus AC Milan. Fingers crossed!

28.9.04

Tristeza


Today all inspiration left me. All that was left was this excerable effort. Imagine! I'm in Lisbon, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and all I can manage to dish up is this piece of miséria absoluta. Car lights on an anonymous street. Pathetic, that's what it is. Now for the excuse! I worked hard and late at the National Library. I spent all day reading 90 year old copies of O Século and Diário de Notícias. I read about riots, and about potatoes, and about presidentialism, and about the war. I slaved over a hot microfilm reader... every now and again glancing out of the window at the heat haze rising from the melting tarmac on the road. Seeing all the young barely dressed meninas and rapazes soaking the sun in their carefree manner, while conducting their important conversations about who's seeing who and why on the mobile phone that seems to be grafted to Portuguese teenagers' heads at birth. While I, a poor researcher from a cold climate - o bárbaro do norte - am stuck inside Lisbon's ugliest building reading projected pages from very old newspapers. I miss my family, my cat and my home.

27.9.04

Fora da janela


I read a funny and true story today, and this photo just reminded me of it (because Alcântara looks as if it hasn't changed much in the past 90 years). Way back in April 1918, Portugal was a country at war, fighting alongside the Allies in Flanders. One direct result of this was food rationing at home. Three army sergeants went to the fruit market that then existed on Praça da Figueira, and bought 45 kilos of potatoes. When they got back to their barracks at the Castelo de São Jorge, they realised that they were 1.5 kilos short, so they went back to the market and complained to the stallholder who claimed they were lying. The soldiers called on two market inspectors who informed everyone that while they had been cheated, the law quite clearly stated that no-one was allowed to purchase more than 5 kilos of potatoes per day, and that the sergeants would have to return the excess, and the trader would have to refund them. This pleased no-one. The soldiers called the police, who took their side, and arrested both of the market inspectors. A short time later, a third market inspector was sent to straighten everything out. He presented his identity card to the police, who confiscated it and locked him up with his two colleagues. Lisbon's Depute Chief Food Distribution Inspector, Ruy Vecchi Celestino, promptly made his way to the police station, where he was "verbally abused, kicked and pushed to the ground" by the two police officers. A phone call from the Minister for Food Distribution, Admiral Machado Santos, was required to get the inspectors and their bosses out of prison. The two police officers, Constable 897 and Corporal 100, who were undoubtedly poorly educated and illiterate country folk (as most Portuguese police officers of the time were), were apparently the subject of a strongly worded complaint from the Ministry of Food Distribution to the Police Commander. It is not known what happened to them [Diário de Notícias, 4 April 1918]. Who says history is always boring!

26.9.04

Trafaria


More important decisions were made that were to have a major effect on how the day progressed. First of all, Linda phoned to let me know that I had resolved Liam's problem with his fuzz pedal with the advice I gave over the phone (i.e. get a new set of batteries). I seem to be becoming a bit of an expert with battery powered equipment nowadays! Back to the tale, however. I was humming and hawing about whether I really wanted to cycle around Monsanto today in this heat. Charles suggested going to the beach with him and his daughter, Isobel. I thought and thought, then I went down to the cafe and thought some more over a cup of coffee. Then I decided. When I come back at the end of October it will probably be too cold for the beach, and it will be just perfect for cycling in Monsanto. Then I hummed and hawed some more, because the bicycle hire shops in Monsanto close at the end this month. Charles then said that I could borrow his bike whenever I want. Well... it was in the mid-30s celcius, and I am going back to Scotland on Thursday, so the beach won out. Tram to Belém, ferry across the Tagus to Trafaria, then a bus, and voilá, we were at Costa da Caparica, where the sun was shining and the waves were... Well, the waves were big, and just perfect for diving over. Caught this beautiful sunset through the grain silos from the Lisbon ferry at Trafaria.

25.9.04

Palácio do São Bento


I had a choice this morning. I could either stay in Lisbon, or go somewhere else. I decided to stay in Lisbon. This left me with another choice. I could either spend the weekend in the flat, or I could make the most of the hot weather and go out. I decided to go out. Where to go, I thought. I could either go into town, and brave the Saturday crowds of tourists and shoppers, or I could head up to Monsanto, hire a bike, and cycle round the park. Time dictated that I head into town and brave the crowds. Anyway, I wanted to have another look at the Earth from Above exhibit, and get some blank CDs out of FNAC. These things I did, and I also bought a new Vinicius de Morães CD for Linda (shhh... don't spoil the surprise). I had my lunch in the Armazéns do Chiado, then walked up to the Largo do Camões, stopping off at the second-hand book fair, where I bought a book by one of Portugal's first presidents (what can I say... it's my job). I caught the tram from Camões up to Graça... the #28 tram that was jam-packed full of tourists. It brought back memories of nightmare journeys home when I lived in Graça. The trams were always full, and always late because someone always left their car parked on the line. Anyway, after a dreadful journey I got off at Graça - my favourite part of Lisbon - and looked at my old flat, had a coffee in my old local cafe, and went to the Miradouro like I used to do at night. Caught the #28 tram back up to São Bento - another old haunt of mine, and also the home of Portugal's parliament (pictured). Had another coffee in one of my favourite cafés, then caught the bus back to the flat - stopping off to take a photo of the Navy barracks I mentioned a couple of days ago. Tomorrow I'm off up Monsanto to hire a bike.

24.9.04

Prédios pintados


The women who work as security guards at the National Library are very friendly and chatty. Every day they search my laptop case in order to prevent me smuggling in the day's newspaper... and every day they take the newspaper out and let me on my way. Hey, they don't make the rules, and they even laugh at the ridiculous nature of this task with which they are charged. During the past couple of days we have got to chatting about news stories, and especially the particularly horrible story of little Joana, who was murdered by her mother and uncle, apparently for the 12 euros that the little girl's grandmother had given her to spend on food for herself. The two security guards were very angry about it... "Monstros. Verdadeiros monstros" was their conclusion. As a parent myself, I can only agree. How can anyone deliberately harm a child, not least their own child. It is beyond my comprehension. On a lighter note, I spent my lunch break reading the newspaper from 7 October 1972 - the first day I spent in Portugal. As I expected, there was nothing about this momentous event printed. Instead, we were told that the Prime Minister had published a book of his speeches (yes, that was the headline!) and the Foreign Minister had told the United Nations General Assembly that the wars in Africa were internal Portuguese matters that were none of the international community's concern. There was an advert for an 8 bedroomed mansion with sea views and double garage in Cascais, all for £5,500, or, if you preferred, you could buy a 4 bedroom flat in the centre of Lisbon for £2,500. Someone was selling a one-year old Alfa Romeo Spider for a phenomenal £92, and a Triumph Spitfire for £102. After work I went to Belém, where I saw these colourful buildings. I overdid the photos of the Torre de Belém, so please look at them and tell me which two I should keep. Have a nice weekend.

23.9.04

Calçada do Livramento


Just the same old same old. The more things change, the more they stay the same. How many more clichés can I use here? Finally cornered my employer, and things just continue 'na mesma'. On a brighter note, I finally figured out how to operate the air conditioning in my office. Where I was going wrong before was in using the remote control that had no batteries in it... all I needed to do was use the other one, the one that does have batteries. Amazing thing, technology. I had lots of fun with it, setting it to 19 degrees celcius at full power. That really upset the people who are squatting in my office: "Epá, podemos fechar o ar condicionado? Está frio", they pleaded. I turned a deaf ear, and told them that they could always close the door or leave. I didn't really, what I actually did was hand them the control (yes, the one with batteries), and leave myself for the National Library, where I read about an attempted military coup at the Portuguese Navy barracks that are 200 yards from my flat. The attempted coup was in 1918 - I thought that I had better add that before you all wonder why there was nothing in the news. Once back at the flat, I thought I would take a stroll up to the former Presidential palace of Necessidades (it is now the Foreign Ministry), where I took some pictures to add to my expanding Lisbon collection. I like living in Alcântara: as a historian, I love being in the middle of an area where so much that I have studied actually took place - I recognise the street names, and can picture all these people of 80-90 years ago walking where I now walk. Isn't history a wonderful thing? I think so - it's almost as good as Celtic.

22.9.04

Sob o ponte


Better late than never! Today was a better day. My email is working again, I got my new ticket for the National Library, and I had lunch with my colleague, Diego Palacios, with whom I spent some time in Madrid last February as we co-wrote an article that will be published by Routledge sometime next year. So, not only was it productive, in the sense that I got some real research done, it was also productive in the sense that I got the chance to speak to a kindred spirit in the world of Portuguese academe (i.e., we are both foreigners - Diego is Spanish). After work, I decided to "matar" a few "saudades". I wanted to go down to the Docas do Santo Amaro to photograph the very first Portuguese building I ever set foot in - the old seaport. Now, my flat is in Alcântara, a mere 5 minute walk from the Docas, and I have been to the Docas several times (although I must admit that it is not my favourite place); however, several people have recently asked me why I, a Scottish lad, am so passionate about Portugal. I have no real answer for this, but here is a true story from October 1972, which I believe may explain a lot. Way back then, I was a 9 year-old lad who had never been out of the UK, and only rarely off of the Isle of Bute. For adults, this was a terrible time to be living in Britain, what with powercuts, three-day-weeks, petrol and sugar rationing, etc. Anyway, our school had organised a trip on the SS Uganda, leaving Greenock for La Rochelle, Lisbon and Vigo. The cost was £60 - about one month's wages for my Dad. I desperately wanted to go, so my Dad scraped the money together and off I went on the adventure of a lifetime. I remember La Rochelle because of the shutters on the windows, and Vigo because of an anchor on a hill overlooking the bay. Lisbon, however, grabbed me by my tomatoes. It was big, brash, bright... It was so foreign, so different from anything I had ever known. To me, the people all looked strange, and they had strange looking money, and they spoke in a strange way, and the sun was shining, and there were old fashioned trams, and there were soldiers with machine guns, and the air was filled with new and exotic smells, and the pavements were works of art... We were waiting at Praça do Comércio - outside all the government ministries - for a tram to Belém, when an army truck stopped and a group of soldiers jumped out. I couldn't take my eyes off of their guns - it was the first time I had seen one for real (I was only 9, and loved Commando comics and war films). One of the soldiers noticed me staring and came over, muttered something, patted my head, and then went into the building. Who knows, perhaps he was one of the soldiers who, 18 months later, overthrew the fascist dictatorship. I certainly like to think so.

I chose this as my PaD, because it is under the Ponte 25 de Abril, and as a nod in the direction of Bruce Berrien, who is one of my favourite Pbase photographers. When we came into Lisbon on the Uganda, we all wanted to be on deck as it passed under the bridge, which was then called Ponte Salazar - after the dictator who governed from 1928 to 1968. The others that almost made it are here and here.

21.9.04

Lisboa vista de Monsanto


What a terrible start to the day I had. I got up, full of enthusiasm, and was determined to get lots of work done - I even managed to catch the 8.48am train, and arrived at ISCTE at 9.30! My troubles began while I was walking up Av. das Forças Armadas to the uni: it was very hot, and my shirt was sticking to my back. On arriving at the university, I had to fight my way through a horde of caloiros (freshers) dressed as kindergarten children who made their way in a crocodile to the quad. The quad that is directly below my office in which I don't know how to operate the air condicioning. It was then that they began to sing, and play games, and loud music and fire water pistols, and make every possible noise imaginable. I persevered until noon, and decided that there was no possiblity of them leaving or shutting-up any time soon, so I left instead. I went to the other university I am attached to, the ICS (which is just next door, in the Edifício Novo), and managed to get something done, although the person I really wanted to see wasn't in. Undeterred, I went to the Biblioteca Nacional, only to find out that I had to renew my ticket. By this stage I was dripping wet and weary, and desperately needed a litre of Água das Pedras, something to eat and a nice soft chair in air conditioned comfort. This I found in a café next to the council's offices. I sat for a while, then decided that I would be better off back at the flat. So off I went, and actually got some work done. By way of reward, I walked from the flat in Alcântara to Monsanto (yes, I walked!). I waited until about 5pm before heading off, because I didn't want to climb that hill in 35 degree heat. Not wanting to be caught in Monsanto in the dark, however, I did it in 32 degree heat. Back in 1994, when I first lived in Lisbon, Monsanto was a virtual no-go area full of prostitutes, drug addicts and muggers. Now, however, it is well patrolled with its own special police unit, well lit, and is a nice green space full of wonderful views and excellent recreational facilities for families. I found a cafe at an 'international radio controlled car racing circuit', and sat and watched the model cars going through their paces (boy can these things shift!). Beautiful views, the wonderful scent of pine and eucalyptus, and lots of shade. Great end to an otherwise rubbish day.

20.9.04

Alcântara á noite


I didn't get back to Lisbon until about 1am this morning. Elsa, Sílvia's cousin, gave Alexandre and myself a lift to Alexandre's flat. Rather than get a taxi, Alexandre offered me his spare room, which I gratefully accepted as I was too tired to continue my journey. Didn't stop us sitting up talking until 3am, though. I was wakened at 7am by the sound of a bus revving its engine right outside the window of the room I was sleeping in. I thanked Alexandre, and headed out into the Lisbon rush-hour. I managed to squeeze onto the train to Cais Sodré. I didn't have to wait long for the bus either, which was just as well, because I was beginning to fade at this point, and I desperately wanted to get into the shower. Back in the flat and all was well... nice cold shower and nice clean clothes. Did some work on the computer in the flat, and a colleague asked me to translate an article of his - so at least the work isn't drying up (fingers crossed). A while ago Charles told me the story of a brand new state-of-the-art swimming pool that was built less than a mile from our flat. Apparently, the pool was an election gimmick dreamt up by the previous local administration as a way of getting votes. As soon as they won, the pool promptly closed down, and remained closed until last year, when the new administration re-opened it. However, it is in a part of the city that for years was renowned for being drug central - Casal Ventoso (they demolished the district a few years back and moved the addicts on) - they actually toyed with calling the pool 'Piscina Casal Ventoso', but they eventually settled on naming it after a famous Portuguese long distance swimmer from the 1950s, whose name presently eludes me. And to the point of this story... Charles and I went there today, and boy was I impressed: a competition size pool with all the necessary facilities. Cheap, clean and warm. Best thing, though, was that it was practically empty - people just don't seem to want to go to a modern public pool near where Casal Ventoso used to be. One thing is for sure, with daily tickets costing 1.45 euros, and a monthly pass costing 10 euros (including lockers), I will be back.

19.9.04

Mercado de Santana


As you all know, I met up with Pedro Libório in his home town yesterday. I had a great time, with Pedro showing me around his beautiful town of São Martinho do Porto. I took lots and lots of photos - none of which are up to Pedro's standard - which I will be putting up here as soon as I get a chance. Anyway. After I posted yesterday's PaD, Pedro took me to a restaurant near his home where all they serve is leitão (roast suckling pig). It is a bit of a Portuguese speciality, and it was the first time I had ever eaten it. Sílvia had loaned me her car, and I had to get it back to her, so I had to take my leave of Pedro and make my way to Santa Catarina along winding Portuguese mountain roads in the pitch dark and in an unfamiliar car. Those who know, know that Portuguese drivers are far from the best, and Portuguese roads are close to the worst. The driving was not the problem... the lack of road signs was. The 30km journey took me two-and-a-half hours, as I went down one blind alley into one small deserted village after the other. I eventually found someone to ask: 'Sigue sempre à frente', she said, 'straight ahead'. Far too simple. I was sigueing sempre à frente when I sped past a sign pointing to the right that said Santa Catarina 1km. If I hadn't been admiring the eucalyptus trees in the car's headlamps, it is possible that I could still be wandering these country lanes looking for the lost village of Santa Catarina as I type. Managed to find my way to bed, and was up at the crack of dawn. I went for a walk with my camera, and was speaking to Linda on the phone when Sílvia passed me. I jumped into the passenger seat of the now all-too-familiar car, and off we went to the Santana Market. After a wander through the throng, we went back to the house and had frango assado (barbecued chicken) for lunch before heading off to Foz do Arelho to see the sandcastle competition that never was. Nevermind, at least I got to swim in the sea and lie on the beach. Pedro passed by to say hello, but unfortunately, he couldn't stay long. FInally managed to make my way back to Lisbon, ready for the challenges of a new week.

18.9.04

Encontro com Pedro


Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I've got a beautiful feeling, everything's going my way! Up at the crack of dawn to make sure I did not miss my train. Out the door at 8am, phoned home on the hoof. Caught the tram to Cais Sodré, then the underground to Entrecampos where I had to catch the train to Caldas da Rainha. The railway company's internet page told me that I would have to change train no less than three times; however, the man at the ticket office said I didn't. I checked the signs in the station... a direct train to Caldas was due to leave platform 3 at 11.16am. The problem was that platform 3 is reserved for the southbound Fertagus trains (the ones that cross the bridge), and the last I checked, Caldas was north of Lisbon. Confused, I asked again at the ticket office, and was assured that a train for Caldas would leave platform 3 at 11.16am - the other platform 3. A station with two platform 3s!!! I ask you!!! Anyway, it was still only 9.20am, and I realised that I hadn't yet eaten, so I walked to a cafe and had breakfast, then strolled in a leisurely fashion back to the station to await the train. When it arrived, I noticed that it did not offer any refreshments, so since I still had an hour to kill, I went to the supermarket and bought a picnic. Got back to the train with half-an-hour to spare, and collapsed in a pool of sweat into the airconditioned carriage. A beautiful, if uneventful journey, and two-and-a-half hours later I was disgorged into the Caldas heat, where I waited an hour for Sílvia to pick me up. A quick trip to say hello to Sílvia's parents, and then I borrowed her car to come to São Martinho, home of Pedro Libório. I am now in Pedro's house, and we are just about to go out for something to eat. He said hello!

17.9.04

Não está a funcionar, pá!


I was determined to get an early start today, so I set my alarm for 7.30am, which would give me plenty of time to get myself ready for the day. I was off to a good start, as I woke up at 7.00am. I was lying in bed reading a two day-old copy of the Financial Times when the radio went off, and I was treated to Englebert Humperdink asking to be released. What seemed like a few seconds later, the phone rang. I looked at the clock: 8.16am. I spoke to Linda and Liam for a while, then went for a shower. No sooner was I out and almost (but not quite) dry, than the phone rang again. Instead of hearing Linda's voice, I was treated to a rendition of Happy Birthday by my flatmate's parents. I didn't want to interrupt them, so I let them carry on to the end: "Happy birthday, dear Charles. Happy birthday to you", before thanking them and letting them know that Charles was still in the land of nod, but that I would be happy to waken him up for them. After a couple of minutes of embarrassed laughter as they remembered that their son doesn't have a Scottish accent afterall, Charles came through, and I went into my room to continue getting dried and dressed. By now it was almost 9am... so much for the early start. I took in the washing and put some more in the machine, and then made a pot of tea. I couldn't leave for work without wishing Charles a happy 46th birthday now, could I. So I made his breakfast for him (i.e., a pot of tea), and we sat and chatted for a while. It was 11am before I got out, and I just managed to miss a train, so I had to wait 30 minutes for the next one. Managed to get to the office without any further incident. Once there, however, I noticed that all of the letters I had sent since the beginning of August (including my invoices), were unopened in the absent secretary's in-tray. A few phone calls shed some light on the situation, and there is a meeting planned for next week to discuss matters. Much more pressing, however, is the fact that I do not know how to work the air conditioning, and it steadfastly refuses to come on for me - even when I throw things at it. The office windows open a little, but my office faces onto a quadrangle that multiplies the heat, with the result that opening the window only lets more hot air in. So, here I am. Melting. Never mind... tomorrow I'm off to the beach for the weekend with Silvia and Alexandre!

16.9.04

No restaurante


The Portuguese are a funny people. I mean, they have a peculiar world view that even now, after more than one decade of working with them and living amongst them, I have some difficulty coming to grips with. On the one hand, they can be a very taciturn people, and it can be quite difficult getting them to accept you. On the other hand, once they take a shine to you, they will do almost anything for you. There is no real middle ground with them. Take today, for instance. This morning I was early for the train, so I got my camera out and whiled away the time by taking photos of the train station. After about 5 minutes, an official came out of the station master's office, wagging his finger at me and telling me that I couldn't take photographs in the station. As I had already taken all the photos that I wanted to take, and since the train was just about to leave, I just mumbled an apology and put my camera away. I later thought that I would challenge this officious little man to show me the railway bylaw that forbids fare paying passengers from taking photographs of things that can be clearly seen from the road. But then, why bother, I thought. In contrast, this evening I went to another cheap restaurant near my flat, where I had one of the best meals I have ever had in Portugal - Picanha a Pedra, with green salad. The staff were exceptionally friendly, and even gave me a free glass of beer while I watched the Sporting v. Rapid Vienna game - and took this photo. The total bill for a starter, a large main course, dessert, two bottles of mineral water and a coffee - all served with a good natured smile (and with linen napkins and table cloth)? 17 euros... or £11.50... or US$21. I'll be back - possibly as soon as tomorrow.

15.9.04

A fonte no Rossio


Boy, but it was hot today, the kind of hot that makes it difficult to even think about doing anything more than sit under the shade in a pavement cafe. So that's exactly what I did. Before that, however, I went into the city centre to buy a few things that I will need for the coming fortnight. When I got off the tram, I was amazed to see the Earth from Above exhibition in the Praça do Comércio. I remember watching a documentary about this exhibition on BBC a couple of weeks ago, and thinking that I would love to see it, and cursing my luck for living in a provincial city that is always bypassed by these exhibitions. Well, it's going to be in Lisbon until the 30th, so I will be able to have another good look before I come home. After perusing the exhibition for a while, I arranged to meet my friend Silvia for lunch. After lunch we went for a stroll around the centre of Lisbon, while she looked for a birthday present for a friend. We talked about arrangements for the weekend, and I told her that I would like to go to São Martinho do Porto - which is quite near her parents' house. Went for a walk, taking photographs, and being offered hashish, sun glasses and cameras from the dodgy looking geezers who prowl the centre of Lisbon preying on unsuspecting tourists. Eventually got back to the flat and spoke to Linda and Liam for a while before going out for something to eat in one of the cheap restaurants that are ten-a-penny in this part of Lisbon. I watched the highlights of the Celtic v. Barcelona game, and can only say that Celtic contributed to their own demise. Celtic's goal was excellent, but I can only say that our defenders must have thought Larsson was still a Celtic player, the way they passed the ball to him in the penalty area. That said, I don't think I've ever seen a player so upset at scoring - he looked as if he was about to burst into tears... A bit like the other 60,000 Celtic supporters in the stadium!!!

14.9.04

Finalmente chegei


An uneventful trip was had. I got to Edinburgh with a couple of hours to spare, and decided to go up Calton Hill to take some photos. The tourists eventually got out of the way and afforded me a view of Princes Street, the Castle, Holyrood, etc. I have the photos on disk, and will aim to post them sometime soon. Got to the airport and went through the usual routine of boredom followed by tedium: it wasn't helped when the plane showed up 45 minutes late. Still, I could either wait in Edinburgh, or I could wait in London. As it transpired, I got to wait in both, since the plane for Lisbon was also 45 minutes late. The flights were... well, I'm sure you all know what short-haul flights are like: not long enough for a movie or a meal, and too short for a decent snooze. Got to Lisbon safe and sound, and am coping admirably with the 15 degree difference in temperature. The trip to the flat was uneventful - I caught the #45 bus to Cais Sodré, then the #15 tram to Alcântara. Spoke to Linda and Liam and was looking forward to watching the highlights of the Celtic game on Eurosport tomorrow, until a certain former Kangoo driving person from Rothesay, who shall remain nameless (Zak, you know who you are), told me the score and spoiled it all. Now I am just upset at how badly we were beaten. Nevermind. It's only football, and I'm in a hot country for the next two weeks!

13.9.04

Back to yoonie


Boy was I furious with Liam today. First of all, he gave me a fright when he came home from school: he sneaked in the back door and then crawled in behind the dining-room couch. I was in my study working, and I could hear lots of noise coming from the back; first of all I thought it was Mizzie running around, then I thought that she could never make so much noise. I went to investigate, now believing that there was an intruder. I saw the couch move, then heard him giggling. What a fright I got. Later, he opened his school bag and dumped several soaking wet school jotters and homework assignment sheets onto the coffee table - along with a soaked personal CD player, a very wet pullover and a raincoat. He had gone out of school at lunchtime (when the school has told him that he is not allowed to) and got caught in a downpour on the way back to school. Of course, Liam takes off his wet coat and pullover and just crams them into his bag, causing such destruction. He went upstairs to do his homework, and came back down 4 hours later. I think he was just keeping a low profile. On another note, Linda officially began her post-grad course today. She has rejoined the great unwashed, and is a student once more. I expect her to start wearing black clothes and listening to independent music up at the Union with her fellow students. No doubt she will be marching to protest against student loans and library closures. Or maybe not. Here she is, seated in her new chair in front of her new laptop, under her new desk lamp on her new desk. Just out of shot is her new bookcase. I am very proud of her. Tomorrow I fly to Lisbon. I will try to put up a picture when I get there, but it might have to wait until Wednesday. In the meantime, I would like to wish Celtic all the best against Barça, and hope that Henrik (who is now a Barcelona player) has a very, very bad game. Hail, hail!

12.9.04

Another computer


A combination of events led me to this. Firstly, my old PC has begun playing up on me (although removing the graphics card seems to have made an improvement). Secondly, I am on the move quite a lot, and I have often found myself bored on the aeroplane, and using a pencil and paper in the library, when everyone else is sitting tapping away. Thirdly, Linda returns to university tomorrow to complete a post-graduate degree, and she will find it useful having one at her disposal. I am, of course, talking about our new laptop - making us a three PC family (we've now got one each!). Liam was fascinated by its ability to play DVDs (of course his own PC can play DVDs too, and he has never been bothered about it before - but then he can't sit with his PC on his knee). We decided that we had better buy it now while we can still afford it, because our income will drop for the next 17 months. We also bought a new desk and chair for Linda to use for studying (my office is too cluttered for her - her words, I did offer to make space). One thing I have noticed is just how bad my PC's monitor is... maybe that will be the next purchase...

11.9.04

Peace and quiet


Liam went into town this afternoon to mill about the city centre with his friends. His plan was to look in the guitar shops for a new guitar that we can get him for his Christmas (yes, I know, it's not even October yet). He came back all excited... he has seen the one he wants - a Les Paul something-'tang'. I don't have a clue about these things, but he did say that it was in the £500 range. He has been practising his guitar quite a lot recently - kneeling on his bedroom floor beside his practice amp, making sure he's getting enough feedback. He swiped my camera batteries for his fuzz box, and he is using both computers to download Tabs from the various guitar sites. The two computers are in different rooms - so don't ask me how he manages, I just know that he seems to. Linda went into her office for a while to finish off some paperwork before she starts her post-graduate course on Monday. All of this left me with peace and quiet to listen to the footie and my beloved Celtic beating Dundee 3-0. Now we're 8 points ahead of Rangers - I'll be cheering on the Jam Tarts tomorrow in the hope that it stays that way. After the footie was finished, I went out onto our front balcony (such as it is) and took a few photos of Craigowl Hill and the TV masts thereupon, reminiscing about the good old days when Celtic's games used to be broadcast live on the telly - before the powers that be thought that it would be a good idea to make a deal with a small pay-per-view company whose charges are too high.

10.9.04

Frustrated SP


I enjoyed another lazy, if somewhat frustrating, day today. I began the preliminary work for the forthcoming fortnight I will be spending in the Portuguese National Archive and National Library. I need to know what I am looking for before I begin looking, don't I? The frustration was caused by the non-appearance of the builders, and the continued absence of a fence separating my property from the developer's. I don't imagine that they will be there over the weekend, and they won't be able to erect the fence on Monday - the most I can expect is that they will have put the posts up before I go to Portugal. Another cause of frustration is this PC of mine. It is an old machine - I bought it in 1999 when I started the CPHRC. However, it has been substantially upgraded over the years - so much so that the only original thing is the processor case, 3.5" disk drive and the monitor. It has a new motherboard, processor, upgraded memory (to 1025Mb RAM), a new 80Gb hard-disk, new power unit and fan, firewire and USB2 ports and a 256Mb 3D graphics card. It has the engine of a Ferrari in the body of a Renault Clio! However, as even Michael Shumacher will admit, Ferraris break down now and again. My problem is that the PC just keeps freezing - sometimes it will not even switch on, sometimes it works for 10 minutes and sometimes it will go for hours without stopping. Today I had to reboot 6 times while downloading photos from my camera. I traced the problem to my graphics card, which I have now removed. I will soldier on for a while using the motherboard's inbuilt 64 Mb graphics chip to see if the problem has been resolved, but it is looking promising. Computers, pah... it's only when it starts playing up that you realise just how much you have come to rely on it.

9.9.04

Black Earnside


This time I am really having difficulty choosing today's PaD. Today was a lovely day. The sun was shining and the bees were buzzing. I tired of 'supervising' the builders (well, making sure that the fence is put up on the developer's land and not mine, actually), and decided that I ought to go out. I dropped Linda off at her office, and spied activity around a building I had long assumed to be derelict. There was a pigeon race. I whipped out the camera and asked the assembled people if they minded me taking pictures - they did not. I must say that they were an extremely friendly bunch. Following this, I still had time to kill before picking up Liam, so I headed up to the Black Watch memorial because this regiment is in the news just now - it is to be abolished as part of MOD cutbacks. Liam and I both had appointments at the dentist for our six-monthly check-ups. Liam got a clean bill of health, and the dentist told me that I had the cleanest teeth that she had seen in a long time. I was very pleased with that, because my teeth were once in a very sorry state, and it took eight months of treatment and several hundred pounds to repair the damage caused by neglect. After the dentist, we were in no real rush to go home, so we went down to Discovery Quay for a look at the RRS Discovery. We then decided that it would be nice to cross the river and go for a drive from Wormit to Newburgh to have a look at the Rail bridge, the river, Ballinbreich Castle and much, much more. As a special (and very rare) treat, our supper was chips which we ate in the car whilst parked at Black Earnside, the site of one of the important battles between Sir William Wallace and the English invaders that Mel Gibson forgot to mention in his travesty of a film, Braveheart. Anyway, back to the picture. This is the very first time that the pictures I took are those that I sought to take: consequently, I am unable to choose a PaD. The one you see here was chosen on the toss of a coin; the alternatives can be seen: here, here, here, and here

8.9.04

Rowan berries


Another day with beautiful weather and builders in the garden. The hawthorn tree at the corner of my garden only got half of a reprieve as one half of it had to be cut down to make way for the new driveway. The remaining half has been overwhelmed by ivy, which has since been cut at the roots, so which will soon begin to wither on the vine. The hard part in saving the hawthorn has yet to come, as I will have to pull all of the dead ivy out of the tree and hope that the hawthorn, once freed from the strangulation, will be able to recover. I think that I may have to call on the services of a tree surgeon. The man charged with mutilating the tree was reluctant to do so, although I think that his reluctance had less to do with superstition than it had to do with preferring not to have to bother. Nevertheless, it is said that it is bad luck to cut down a hawthorn tree, unless doing so for medicinal purposes (apparently the berries, flowers and leaves all have medicinal qualities). The fairies, who are reputed to favour hawthorns (which are reincarnated witches, so it is said) for their homes, according to ancient Celtic folklore, don't appreciate their homes being destroyed to make way for fences. The berries on display here are from another tree in my garden - one that is not so useful medicinally, but which, nonetheless, has much Celtic folklore and superstition attached to it. The rowan's berries are amazing things: they start off bright yellow, then turn bright red, then black, then they fall to the ground. This is my PaD because the hawthorn pictures didn't turn out too well.

7.9.04

Open plan garden


Yesterday's PaD certainly seems to have been a success. This has left me with a problem, however - how to maintain that standard. Well, this occupied my mind for all of a couple of seconds as I whipped out my camera to capture the images that are to make up today's PaD. No golden sunset; no silhoutted fishing rods; no reflections off of cars and no sunbeams. Instead, you are getting a building site, or, to be more accurate, images of my back garden. You may recall me mentioning before that a developer has built houses on a piece of land behind my house, and you may also remember me telling you that they seem to have forgotten about them. Well, today they remembered, and they came and ripped down my old fence and all the Russian Vine that was holding it up. Tomorrow they return to erect an 8 foot fence along the property line, and will also build a driveway into my garden. The fence I am getting for free (along with regaining about 100 sq ft of my garden from the vine), the driveway I have to pay for. The best thing about it, though, is that they will not need to cut down the hawthorn tree at the end of the garden (even although it is on their land). They say their decision to leave the tree is a goodwill gesture to protect my privacy - I think it has more to do with the large cheque they are getting for providing me with an access point and right of way. Still, whatever their motive, I get my driveway, a new fence and more garden. Not a bad deal, I say. click here to see what it was like before the digger hauled my fence and vine away.

6.9.04

Fishing


Spent most of the day trying to sort out my computer and my photographs. I have been having problems with my PC, so I wanted to make sure everything was backed up before I opened the machine out for a damn good vacuuming - it's amazing the amount of dust that accumulates inside these cases! Had to phone Liam's school and talk to his guidance teacher about some problems that he seems to be having with some older children: I had to break Liam's confidence, but I couldn't leave it. Hopefully the situation will be resolved soon. Fingers crossed. Liam brought Joe over today, which was okay, since it gave me the opportunity to go down to the riverside and take some photographs and talk to Liam about his day. We discussed his problem, and he seemed quite relieved when I told him I had spoken to the school - it was what he wanted me to do all along.

5.9.04

Books are for reading!


Despite the reasonable weather we had today, I never managed to set foot outside the door. The reason was simple: Linda had things to do, and Liam didn't want to do anything. Rather than drag him, kicking and screaming, for a walk, or, God forbid, expect him to come cycling with me, I took the easy way out and went nowhere. Instead, we sat and watched The Passion of the Christ. I am not a particularly religious person, but I was impressed with the film, and the way that it portrayed Christ's humanity. I managed to tidy my study, and came across some books that I am supposed to review. The rest of the day was spent trying to help Liam with his maths homework. All I can say is God help me when he starts doing algebra... I had enough problems with his long divisions!

4.9.04

Boy Joshua


The mini-heatwave continues. It was very warm today, so I was informed that I would be mowing the lawn at the earliest opportunity. Knowing my place in the pecking order, I decided that I ought to cut the grass one last time - or at least one more time - before winter descends upon us. It was heavy work, because not only was the grass wet, it was also very long. It had been some time since it was last cut, and we've had a lot of rain since then. Following the exertions, I collapsed in a heap onto one of the garden chairs. Linda did not believe that I had sunstroke, and told me not to go back into the house without changing, and not to leave the lawnmower out overnight. Later, while Linda was making fish pie for tea, I managed to slip away unnoticed and drove the 20 miles to Arbroath, which is famous for its smoked haddock (known as Arbroath Smokies). A quick walk round the harbour, and a look at the fishing boats and some smokie houses, then the beginnings of a plan to walk along the clifftops to Red Castle tomorrow, then it was time to head back before I was missed.

3.9.04

Taking the lead


The strangest things do sometimes happen. You know how it is: you have resigned yourself to seeing your team getting taken to pieces by one of the best teams in the world. You switch the TV on, more in hope than expectation. Things do not auger well when the hosts misplace the CD with the national anthems - 'is this mindgames?' you think (you flatter yourself that the top ten ranked opposition feel they need to engage in psychological games with a team that barely scraped into the top 100, slightly above the Bahamas). Then the game begins and the tackles are flying in as your team scrap for every ball and refuse to give their greater-skilled opponents any time to settle on the ball. Soon two of your players have picked up yellow cards, but the opposition is rattled: they are not used to such physical challenges. Soon they are making mistakes: they rush their passes and give away possession. Slowly but surely the screw turns, and the ball seems always to be moving in the direction of their goal. First one cross ball, caught in the wind, passes untouched through a ruck of players in the six-yard box, only to be cleared off the line by the last defender. Next a player is pushed off the ball near the corner flag, and the referee awards a free-kick. The ball is floated in with pace at head height. The wind makes it difficult to determine the flight of the ball. The defender doesn't want to take any chances, so he puts his head on it, steering it away from his goalkeeper and into the back of the net. GOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLL. Scotland take the lead. In the second half, the opposition bring on their top player. Soon all the play is in Scotland's half as they creep closer and closer to the inevitable goal. Then, out of nowhere, PENALTY to Spain. Raul never misses, and this is no exception. It's all square. Spain now look like they are going to kill us off when, unexpectedly, the park is plunged into darkness. Powercut. The referee tells the players to return to the dressing-rooms. The heavens open and heavy rain falls on the dark pitch and the fans begin to leave in droves. The match is abandoned after 60 minutes. The score stands at 1-1. Now, if this could happen at all of Scotland's games, we would be world champions!

2.9.04

Taking notes


Thanks to everyone for their kind words... I wasn't depressed, just fed-up! I know how fortunate I am, and I know that there are many, many people much worse off than me. So thank you all, but I must let you all know that I wasn't feeling sorry for myself; as I said, I was just a little p*ssed off at things in general. Now with that out of the way, let's get to today's photo. Like I said yesterday, I have had to work hard today on an article that I was supposed to finish about 2 months ago. That I hadn't done it is no-one's fault but my own, and now the publisher has got angry and stamped her feet and told me that I am a naughty person who is holding up the entire process. So, knuckles duly rapped, I got down to it, and have spent the whole day slaving over a hot internet link to the fount of all information on Portuguese politics - Expresso [www.expresso.pt]. I only have to write a few paragraphs on why Durao Barroso appointed Santana Lopes as his replacement as prime minister, and why President Sampaio didn't call for early elections, and what will happen to Antonio Vitorino now that Barroso is EU President, and if he will run for leadership of the Socialist Party in November... OK. Your eyes are glazing over... too much information... (I'm euphoric! - talk about mood swings !!). Keep swaying between this one and this other one. What do you think?

1.9.04

rubbishgarbage


First day of the ninth month, and this is how I feel... Four birthdays to negotiate, a potentially difficult trip to Portugal on the horizon, a fairly substantial drop in family income at the end of the month, and still no sign of a not inconsequential wad of cash that I was due in July. Still, it's not all bad. A government run cultural agency in Macao has engaged me as their official translator, to translate their news articles from Portuguese into English and vice versa. They asked me to visit their website to determine how much work is involved - unfortunately, the website is in Chinese, and all I saw were several rows of question marks - so, come to think of it, that was pretty rubbish. My trip to Portugal looks like being a bit of a disaster. I will be there from 14-30 September, and my collaborator, academic supervisor and ally will be in Washington from 14-30 September - so that's pretty rubbish too. Look on the bright side, we might meet at either Lisbon airport or Heathrow! I have to submit an article for Friday, so it has to be researched tomorrow morning, and written in the afternoon - that's pretty rubbish too. If all that wasn't bad enough, I made the mistake of getting involved in a "discussion" with Don Northup: his attitude could fill several of these sacks! And just to top it all, the photo is both subject and object: rubbish! Better tomorrow (I hope).