Friday, July 28, 2006

Popcorn Maker Inches Closer...

So I´m almost afraid to type this for fear of jinxing it, but I got a call this morning from someone who says that he has my stuff. On the island. Within a 13-mile radius of me, right this minute.

Of course he can´t deliver it today - are you mad! But he did say he´d phone on Monday to confirm when he would bring it over.

Now, presuming this is true, it does raise questions: ´will he break open the crates for me?´, ´will he even bring it upstairs?´. Obviously I still haven´t heard from the Stay Puft Brothers in Devon, so I think I´ll just sort it out direct.

Fingers and toes crossed...

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Yesterday was spent mostly being a Birthday Girl.

In many ways it was an archetypal Orlaith-Birthday. The morning was spent sipping coffee and chilling out. The afternoon saw a purchase of art (a gorgeous mermaid sculpture) and me enjoying a good Cosmopolitan. Was fed & watered by the neighbours in the evening, complete with lovely fizzy, much laughter and swapping of stories.

I went to Reids Palace Hotel for the Cosmopolitan. It was unchanged; the place is filled with C-list royalty (the kind that pad the pages of Hello - not that I read it you understand). The overheard conversation is typically "What was the Japanese ambassador´s wife´s name again?" There was probably an ambassador´s reception going on somewhere. Filled with people being spoiled with ferrero rocher.

In any case, the cocktail was fab, as was the view. A lovely day!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

An abrupt halt

It´s funny the way driving standards always seem worse when you go to a new country. Here they´re more suggested guidelines than rules of the road. But boy do Madeirans have razor-sharp braking reflexes.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Hope springs eternal

Another lovely day here.

Although my margarita glasses are still on the high seas, I bought those brightly-coloured little drinks umbrellas.

Birthday season is open!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

One year ago today...

...this photo was taken. My little niece & her brother were a whole day old. Happy Birthday guys!

The laptop is hooked up to an IV unit, surrounded by machines that beep and track its heartrate; it even has one of those squeezy-uppy-downy things to pump air in. And so we wait...

This week I´m getting stuck into learning portuguese. I´m starting with vocab, learning it room by room. I´ve made good progress with the kitchen, so in the event where I´m called upon to identify the filter coffee machine or the colander- no problem.

Contacted The Marshmallow Brain Brothers to see if my shipment is in the right hemisphere. It´s probably safely arrived in Andalucia... (They haven´t responded to me, just in case you were waiting for an update).

However, I managed to uncover why my ATM card hadn´t arrived yet. The bank hadn´t ordered one. All is revealed! The guys in the bank are really nice, and took me through all the colours I could choose for my card. At least, I think I was choosing a card... in any case something´s going to be delivered in 8 days!

Monday, July 17, 2006

I miss my laptop!

Still waiting to hear from the techies about my laptop, so I´m back in another internet cafe.

It was actually cloudy this morning when I woke, so I rushed into jeans and black clothes; I miss wearing black! Anyway, the clouds only survived an hour, so now I´m sweltering.

Test drove my new walking sandals on Saturday with an easy-peasy, in-no-way-dangerous levada walk. All went well. And so what if the sandals were bought in a children´s footwear dept? My feet try so hard to grow...

Had a mish mash of identity conversations over the last couple of days: the Slovakian thought I was Finnish, the Madeiran thought I was Portuguese (apparently cos my accent is SO good), and this afternoon a Russian thought I looked... Russian.

Maybe it´s something they put in the water.

Interestingly, if you don´t say`Irish´ (in portuguese) with perfect pronounciation people either think you´ve said ´Holland´ or some country near Venezuela which I haven´t figured out yet.

Anyhoo, I also managed to get my hair cut, which was less traumatic than expected. I had tried to learn the portuguese for ´just a trim please, I don´t care about your goddamn vision´. The hairdresser was like a capeless Phantom of the Opera: all dramatic poses and sweeping gestures (can you tell I´ve never seen Phantom?). I tell you, I was glad to have my nylon hairdressing cape to hide my sniggers under.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Put that sponge down...

This comes to you from a little internet cafe in Funchal. My laptop is poorly: yesterday it didn´t want to talk to the outside world, and today it doesn´t want to wake up at all. I had almost finished that short story as well :( I just backed up all the writing yesterday, so at least that´s safe.

And my fridge died. It was the Fridge that Time Forgot, so no huge surprises there. However, my landlord is away for two weeks...

I think I see a pattern: I had just scrubby-cleaned the fridge (which was manky!!) and had done a defrag on the laptop. This may be the Universe telling me to stop tidying up.

The temporary replacement for the fridge is a lime-green mini-cooler, so it´s not all bad. Kinda feels like camping.

I´m in possession of spurious directions to a laptop repair place, so fingers crossed. My spidey-senses tell me that I shall neatly evade all problems by meandering through stationery stores buying notebooks (suitable for a writerly-type don´t you know), and checking out Pirates of the Caribbean.

And then... you guessed it! A beer or two in the sunshine :)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Just the facts ma'am

I’m not really a facts & figures person. I get asked about Madeira quite a bit, and I tend to just make stuff up. This is an attempt to set the record straight:

The Basics
> The island is 35 miles long, 13 miles wide, 459 square miles (741 km2).
> If you were in Morocco and hung a left, 378 miles later you’d find me.
> The population is around 250,000, with half living in the capital of Funchal.
> The island was formed by volcanoes 20 million years ago. The last eruption was 1.7 million years ago. They're pretty much extinct.
> It’s basically on the same latitude as Bermuda and Los Angeles (we’re in good company then - the lost and the delusional).

> Discovered in 1420 by the Portuguese; no signs of any indigenous population (they would say that, wouldn’t they).
> It was smack in the middle of major trade routes between Europe, Africa, the Indies and the Americas. Loadsa money to be made.
> Christopher Columbus came here in 1478 and married a local girl.
> The island spent the 16th century being attacked by pirates: mostly French, with a peppering of Algerian, Moorish & English.
> Funchal was shelled by German U-boats during WWI.
> The whaling scenes from Moby Dick (1956) were shot here. Gregory Peck and John Huston set up camp at Reid’s Palace Hotel.
> After his defeat by Castro in 1959, Cuban dictator General Batista lived at Reid's. Winston Churchill was also a regular here. Coincidence?
> Scott visited Madeira on his way to the Antarctic (interestingly, Scott’s mom gave his flaggy-pennant-thing from the Antarctic trip to Exeter Cathedral – I noticed it right before I left. But I digress…)
> George Bernard Shaw learned to tango here (pictured). He called resident dancing instructor Max Rinder "the only man who ever taught me anything". Whaddaguy!
> I arrived here one month ago today :)

And that's all the news that's fit to print. Off the record, on the QT, and very hush hush!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A life on the open waves...

So the nice local removal company phoned: they were worried as the ship that arrived this morning had nothing a) in my name or b) destined for Funchal.

Phoned Flaffer, Fuzzy & Sons. Turns out my buccaneer ship won't even reach Portugal until Thursday; it'll probably be here next week. You know, or not.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Movers & Shakers

I've been trying to organise a removal company for the stuff that's arriving... tomorrow. The UK movers (Vague, WishyWashy & Sons) seem to have arranged for the handling agents to bring the shipment in front of my building, but not actually up the stairs to my apartment. Clever that.

I explained the bizarre situation to a local firm, who are hopefully sorting things out. It may be delivered at some point this week.

My neighbour wisely said 'Remember, it's Madeira time'.

I guess that's like Miller Time but slower?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Easy like Sunday morning...

Today was entirely lacking in adrenalin, I'm happy to say!

Sipped coffee, watched dolphins playing, and worked on a short-story during the morning.

The afternoon consisted of shopping for housey-things (sales sales everywhere) and walking along the seafront in the sunshine, complete with some fabulous ice-cream. Then retreated to the cool of the cinema. Saw The Break Up - it contained a horrible amount of arguing, but I guess I should have predicted that...

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Levada Walk # 2

This morning I headed out on a levada walk to the Socorridos valley, west of Funchal. It starts out going through banana plantations and small vineyards - all very pretty.

So I bounce along picking bougainvillea flowers and letting them float along in the levada. After an hour or so the land on the left hand side gradually slips away and the levada follows the line of the hill. It's carved into the rock, so you have to go through small dark tunnels at times.

And at the end of one of the dark tunnels the gammier of my two ankles gave way and I slipped.

I skinned hands and knees and my water bottle went over the edge but I was okay. Having rested for a bit, I saunter on to the end of the trail and then turn around to back-track.

That's when I get a fully-fledged attack of vertigo.

By this point I'm on a path about 20 inches wide, there's a sheer drop to my right of about 60m, and no railings. I stopped dead. As it turns out, this is a mistake, as you lose all natural momentum, and spend some time taking two-inch steps while clinging to the rock. I couldn't understand how I had trippy-dippy strolled out there without a care in the world. If I could have crawled along the levada on my hands and feet I would have, but there wasn't enough room.

So, I focused on the levada instead of the sheer drop, and very gradually tried to build up a walking rhythm again. The panic subsided and then disappeared, and I was okay to make my way back.

Got to Funchal, bought a deckchair and a six-pack. And during the late afternoon, a sense of order was restored :)

Friday, July 07, 2006

The More-than-O.K. Corral

Yesterday evening the sea looked choppy - little white horses everywhere. Then I realised they weren't behaving like normal baby waves...


It turns out the sea around my area is a nature reserve. No fishing boats are allowed, the fish flourish, and pods of dolphin come in to feed.

I bounced down to the big JC statue (it was on the cusp between tourist & reprobate) to have a closer look.

There were hundreds of dolphin barrelling around. The sea was just alive with movement. As you can imagine, the real action was going on underwater; I was catching the trace of their backs as they turned around to corral more fish.

And even though there was no co-ordinated spinning or daring rescue attempts like on tv, it was truly awe-inspiring.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A lot of hot air

I met Herman the neighbourhood three-legged dog today. Even if he had four legs, he'd look kinda stumpy, so having three legs is ideal.

In other news: my stuff is supposed to be arriving at Funchal port next Tuesday. Which means my hot air popcorn popper is nearly here. Breakfast of champions...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Lord of hosts

It's not Rio de Janeiro or Lisbon; this is Madeira's own Cristo Rei statue.

It stands on the edge of a small cliff in Garajau, a few streets below my apartment (I can see it from my terrace).

The statue is host to throngs of tourists by day, and at night it becomes the dominion of the wayward youth.

There's a certain symmetry to that.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Spectacular, Spectacular!

Happy 4th of July to all the guys in Grand Haven, home of what is almost the World's Largest Musical Fountain.

Each night during the summer the 'fountain' gives a concert. It selects a bunch of music, shares some wisdom, tells a few jokes, all the while patterning hundreds of water jets in a co-ordinated light show. The 4th of July concert is the season's highlight: tonight will end with a huge fireworks display which has occasionally... ahem... gone awry (locals call it 'the burning of Dewey Hill').

You couldn't make this stuff up.

Best of luck tonight guys!

Monday, July 03, 2006

My money in safe hands... in Spain

So there's a problem with the money I supposedly transferred over last week. It hasn't arrived, and I have about 70 cents left.

Anyhoo, so I went into my (new) bank here to double check their Bank Identifier Code. The cashier looked a bit puzzled, asked the cashier beside him, who got up, went to a desk at the end of the room, pulled out a hardback notebook, and written on the back leaf of it was the code.

The BIC is a code in a standard format by which the bank is recognised throughout the world. This is the equivalent of scribbling the bank's address on a single post-it and keeping it under a chosen desk for staff to reference.

So with that settled, I phoned my old bank. They were quite defensive, and told me that the money was sent exactly where I asked, to The Bank of Andalucia.

Now, unless I had multiple personality disorder and was playing a really mean joke on me, I don't see why I would send money there. So we talked things through for a while, and they're going to see if they can't transfer my money to Madeira instead.

Luckily, 70 cents buys me a beer in the sunshine; must avoid the incident pit!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Why would you do that?

Some neighbour somewhere is playing Christmas carols - Oh Come All Ye Faithful and Noel and Good King Bloody Wenceslas. And not the normal versions, but big pompous orchestral renditions with heavy string sections that suck any life out of the poor songs.

Let's see how they stand up to Elvis Costello.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Absolut Heaven

The place is going absolutely nuts - horns beeping constantly, people cheering and roaring everywhere...

I guess we won the football then.

Time for some Raspberri Absolut.

As though anyone needed a reason to drink that...