Friday, September 29, 2006

Driven to distraction

A friend sent me a link to VoipCheap: they offer free computer-calls to landlines, including Ireland, UK, & the US. I just tried it out, and the sound quality is great. Superb - thanks Craig!

Well that's another distraction all set up. The movie channel here is way too good for a healthy balanced lifestyle: in addition to the plethora of Woody Allen, Hitchcock & Coen Brothers movies, they also dig out gems that are hardly ever shown, like Diner, Prizzi's Honour, Gattaca...

It's not easy juggling it all!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

It's Official!

I got a call yesterday from the Dept. of Foreign Affairs to say that my certificate of residency was ready. I confirmed that I could come in and collect it today (that's a lot of alliteration - probably a leftover from the story...).

So off I go this morning, take a number and join a queue. When it's my turn, the woman says I'm in the wrong building, I need to go to another place, right at the other end of town (where I just came from) and up a hill.

I go have a beer, walk up the hill past the park where the guys are playing cards. By now lunchtime has started, so the office is closed until 2pm. I hang out and watch the guys play cards, then go back. And take a number, and wait. The woman there tells me the certificate hasn't arrived yet; I say I got a call; she says it's in the other building. I explain that I went there, they told me to come here; she says it's all very difficult. Anyway, she phones them to confirm that the document is there.

So off I go, past the card game, walk back across town to the first building. Take a number, queue. And when it's my turn, a different helpful woman explains that I should go to the other building.

"Really. You confident about that?"

So I explain the phone call, my little tour of the city, but she's sure I'm in the wrong building. She asks someone else, who pulls out a box with the document in it. At that point the woman realises that she was in fact the one who phoned me yesterday.

On the bus home we passed the park; card game still going strong.

But it's official: I'm official!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Alliteration galore

Just finished another short story. I wrote it as an entry for a radio competition, so it has ample alliteration to give it a nice reading-out-loud quality. I read a bunch of medieval alliterative poetry before starting, but none of it filtered through to the final product (at least, not that I noticed). Anyway, I'm very pleased with it!

Off to hand in my coupons and collect the traditional prize for completing a short story. I can only imagine what I'll get when I finish the novel - does Absolut Raspberri come in Jeroboams?


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Born free, free as the wiiiind blows...

Today in 1985 the first Baby Shamu was born. Well, the first ‘Shamu’ to survive was born - there were ten orca calves born in captivity before that, but they all died before they reached two months.

There are various aspects to the whole Shamu experience that I don’t get. A magnificent creature who’s super-smart with complex language skills jumps up in the air, and we think that’s the cool bit. Apart from the vastly reduced life expectancies and the forced social groupings, the poor guys suffer the ignominy of performing in Shamu Hollywood Night Magic and Shamu the Yankee Doodle Whale.

Anyway, happy birthday Shamu. And commiserations…

Monday, September 25, 2006

Coming soon to a theatre near you

I saw a trailer for Snakes on a Plane. Is that some kind of joke??? I could just about forgive Samuel L. Jackson for Deep Blue Sea, since he cleverly got himself killed off once it was apparent how terrible a film it was going to be (at least that's my theory) but really, this is too much.

Snakes on a Plane. Gosh I wonder what happens...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A black and white thing

Ramadan is getting underway this weekend. Although the idea of fasting all day is daunting, you can eat and drink whatever you want once the sun goes down. The Qur’an is really trusting: it says that you can eat through the night “until you can plainly distinguish a white thread from a black thread by the daylight: then keep the fast until night”.

I think I would need a fixed time set for me, to avoid taking advantage of the situation - “No, I still can’t see any difference between the threads. I’ll just have another muffin and give it a few more minutes. Tum de tum...”

Friday, September 22, 2006

All down to perspective

Weird weather day. Looking inland was like this...

...but if you turned towards the sea this was the view.

My fun with subtitles continues. I went to see The Sentinel: there's lots of Secret Service talk about the bad guys' position being "at 3 o'clock, 7 o'clock" etc. At one point Keifer Sutherland is about to burst in to a stairwell, and he tells whassername from Desperate Housewives that the villain is at "11.30 o'clock". Now that's precise!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A plague upon this howling!

Curled up sipping coffee after a night of raging wind storminess. Apparently there were 80km gales, which would explain the Tempest-like quality to the early hours of this morning.

It's lucky I wasn't writing about a Sumerian wind demon, cos that might have been kinda creepy.

Oh wait now...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Afternoon naps rule

I have a CD of yoga from the Om Centre in New York, which ends:
This last yoga pose is not a nap, but a meditative relaxation period.
That's right, you just keep telling yourself that sweetie :)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Creativity plummets as post arrives

Oodles of cryptic crosswords arrived this morning - a treat from Dublin. I adore the Crosaire from the Irish Times.

So I've abandoned writing, and am sitting out on the terrace trying to think laterally. Let's face it, if you had the choice between writing a story populated by a depressive and a Sumerian demon, or doing a crossword designed by 'Guy with brain the size of planet', you'd go for option B.

The sun is creeping across the terrace; in about 45 minutes it'll hit the spot that marks 'beer time'.

Happy happy happy!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Media frenzy

The K Club has taken over BBC World. Every time I turn on the tv there's a special on the club, the course, the double dogleg on the 4th hole (Arnold's favourite). They interview golfers, the club pro, Bertie, random hikers who are just lost in Kildare... what happened to the world news?

I shall go back to relying on The Onion as my new source.

May God help us all.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Fish out of water, and in, and out, and in...

I got some goldfish yesterday. Now, the important thing to bear in mind is that they're still alive.

It may be true that I flaunted every rule for settling in fish; there may have been a couple of deluges in the kitchen; and it's possible that the fish have been taken out of their bowl more times than is entirely healthy.

However, they're settling in now. They like to play in the filter bubbles - which is coincidentally what I do with divers' air bubbles when I'm snorkelling. You position yourself above the divers, and you get this fantastic stream of bubbles; it's like being in a glass of champagne.

Anyhoo, they're ensconced in the kitchen happily pootling around to Athlete. All is well with the world :)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Handle with care

It was stormy here yesterday, which brought to mind a half-remembered poem: a blonde comes in from the rain, lights a fire, and well, there's a surprise ending.

It was driving me nuts, so I went online to hunt it down. It occurs to me that we need to take more care with poetry online. I guess I'm a bit pernickety anyway (why would anyone put Keats in Times New Roman) but shoving a frame of 'sponsored links' into the middle of a poem is just criminal.

Anyway, I found it: Porphyria's Lover, by Browning. It's kinda depraved, but with gusto!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Lost in translation

Portuguese subtitles are good fun.

Numbers are often wrong, which is not much of a problem if it's a phone number in The Sopranos. However, in Malcolm in the Middle the parents were saying that Francis moved 3000 miles to be far from them - the subtitles read that he relocated '5 km' away. Not quite the same effect.

You know in Jaws when they catch sight of the shark and say "20 feet, if it's an inch... 25 feet. And three tonnes of him there". Here Richard Dreyfuss is all scared that the shark is 3 metres long - now, you'd hardly need a bigger boat for that little guppy.

Madeirans must think we're sissies.

Titles of songs have a tendency to go astray as well. Here Nelly Furtado sings 'Manheater', but my favourite is Bananarama's 'Look at the Hoor'.

Then again, maybe someone in Translation Land knows exactly what they're doing...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Absolutely fabulous

Well, it's been a simply heavenly day.

I'm very pleased indeed to say that I finished the latte art short story.

And you know what the prize is for finishing a story...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Pretty patterns on the sea today.

It's forever changing colour and texture. Sometimes it seems to be made of ice; other times it doesn't even look like water, more like a wasteland, or a land covered in snow.

I can only imagine the photos that Yann Arthus Bertrand
would take of this place.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Some art with your caffeine?

A guy came to read the water metre today. Sending someone to take readings and issue water bills by hand is just pointless if the bills are only for 2 euro. The water board would be better off setting up donation boxes at regular intervals.

In other news, I'm on to the next story, which is set in a coffee house. My eyes were opened to the world of latte art today - who knew! Man I used to be happy just getting chocolate sprinkles...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Less is Mor(ales)

So I made my peace with the short story, poisoned pope and all. Sometimes, an album fits really well with the atmosphere of a piece, and I end up listening to it whenever I'm writing. With this story, it was an album of early 16th-century sacred music by Cristobal de Morales and Jean Mouton.

There's only so many times you can listen to it in a week without losing your mind.

So today was a Morales-free zone. I revelled in a bunch of different stuff, then investigated what corresponding videos were available online: Counting Crows, Talib Kweli & Mary J., Faith No More, Sugar, Hootie, Hothouse Flowers, and this beautifully-filmed video from Blackstar, with the sweetest melody...

If you knew you were going to sit beside Elvis Costello and play his signature song, you'd learn the lyrics right??? I feel such relief as Elvis takes over the song! Oh Billie Joe...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Perfect pet found for HR Giger's Alien...

Went snorkelling today: the idea was to fin over to the Cristo Rei statue, but the sea was a smidge choppy. I tend to gauge risks by what I imagine my mother would say if I died under those circumstances. Today imaginary-mom was quite scathing:

And are you telling me that she kept swimming farther out with the sea that rough? Idiot. [Stubs out cigarette harshly]. Well, I'm not saying anything.

So I turned back and started my battle against the current. It was very slow going, which gave me ample time to consider scabbard fish. Apart from being a local delicacy, they're one of those fish that live way down under immense pressure. Apparently their entrails are spat out when they're being reeled in because the decompression is too much. Charming...

But my point is, on my slow heaving paddle back along the coast, I was particularly grateful for the knowledge that no scabbards could be tootling around at my level!

Friday, September 08, 2006

So good they named it twice

So apparently it was on this day in 1664 that the Dutch surrendered New Amsterdam, which was then renamed New York.

I've been working away on that short story I was 'practically finished' a week ago. Spent much of yesterday trying to find a suitable pope who had died of poisoning. It's fair to say I was off on something of a tangent.

Anyway, nearly there now, for real.

Have a lovely weekend :)

Thursday, September 07, 2006


There are days here where you can't tell which way is up.

The horizon blurs, and there's no longer any boundary between sea and sky.

And when the horizon disappears (in Bagpuss fashion), so too does all sense of distance and space. Perspectiveless, you're left with a floaty feeling to the day which is quite surreal.

And not altogether unpleasant!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Burnin' Down the House

Yesterday some Captain Clever decided to torch a nearby field. It was probably the owner of the field preparing for the foundations of another 10 zillion apartments to be laid, but it just trashed the neighbourhood. The air was filled with burning debris; like something from 'When the Wind Blows'. I can tell you, it was a race to close shutters and protect my precious Liberty bedlinen from the grey sooty bits.

My landlady went to scope out the fire last night (it burned all day & evening). She said the people whose homes were adjacent to the field were just terrified.

You'd think if you were planning such an extravaganza, someone would need to be informed at some point before you started the blaze. Well, them's the super-bendy-stretchy Madeiran version of EU regulations...

Neighbourhood back to normal today. And the dolphins are in, which is stunning.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Hands up!

The counter-espionage folks next door call my place 'the gallery'. That's fair; I kinda do have a bunch of art...

Anyhoo, they were in the other day looking at stuff. There's an embossing by Mike Tingle called 'Art is...', which has lots of people in different stances (art being different to each individual). The neighbours thought the stances looked like semaphore, albeit without flags.

So I went online to where the semaphore folk hang out, and lo and behold, the stances spell 'meaning'.

It certainly helps to have codebreakers next door!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Residency Permit

I tried again to apply for my residency permit this morning. A sweetheart of a guy went through the process with me: first he sent me off to get photos taken, while he started filling out the form. It was a regular photo booth, but members of the public aren’t allowed to operate it themselves: you go to reception, and from there they call an overseer who puts your money into the machine and presses the button for you. You know, just in case…

So I get back, and he’s just getting started on the form. He fills out by hand four pages of personal details, stamping, dating and initialling each page with different combinations of the four stamps on his desk.

When I said that I thought it was going pretty quickly, he said that this was the easy part. The long part was issuing the receipt.

And so it came to pass, the receipt was another form to be completed by hand, which duplicated all of the information already given. So, he writes it all out again and hands me the carbon copies of the form. As I’m about to go he says that the receipt is valid for three months - would I like it stamped? I said ‘Well if you have a stamp, I guess we should use it.’ He then produced a fifth stamp and happily stamped, dated and initialled each page, declaring, ‘This is Portugal, we have many stamps!’.

So the bureaucracy turned out to be fun after all :)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Busy busy busy

This weekend, the world mostly looked like this...

...or this.

In other news, I've decided that if Jamiroquai were a cartoon character, they'd be the blonde from Captain Caveman. Remember, she'd say 'zowie' and little sparkles would appear all around her. I feel she captures that cosmic quality of Jamiroquai's music nicely. Just a thought...

Friday, September 01, 2006

Orlaith in Getting-Stuff-Done Shocker

Yep, this week I am actually accomplishing things. I finished a short story and sent it off on Monday (thanks to my sister, who submitted it for me). And I'm almost finished drafting another short story. Frankly, I'm pretty stunned at myself.

If that doesn't call for a vodka martini, I don't know what does :)