Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Mr C has been poorly lately, so I spend some time with the Codebreakers every day. I popped in around 11am and they were just opening a bottle of Madeira wine - I may struggle this afternoon...

Conversation is always eclectic, as one topic spawns another two at least: today's included Sappho (quoted in the Greek; I had to ask for a translation), Troy, Joan of Arc, Dorset archaeological sites of interest, the Black Hills of Dakota, and the rule of Ataturk in the 1920s.

My brain hurts. Off to watch something by Joss Whedon I think...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Challenge the programming

And while we're on the subject of mind control, a package arrived this afternoon.

Opening it up, I had three thoughts:
  • Maggie is a darling!
  • How adorable; I've never owned anything by Cath Kidston™.
  • I must forward on the parcel immediately to my sister.

That third one just popped in out of nowhere. I pondered over my reaction for a minute. Then I unwrapped the individual items, and yes even opened some so that I wouldn't be able to post them on (they smell of lemon & geranium - yum!). I shall use them for me - for me I tell you. I know my sister adores all things CK™, but it's my present. End of story.

Monday, February 26, 2007

A hat for all seasons

Aah, the aluminium foil helmet people. I think I'd choose the centurion model for me.

What I don't understand is that if the US government had super-effective mind control devices, wouldn't they just programme the helmet folk not to suspect anything.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The crosses we bear...

Big weekend for the English community here. Someone noticed that the first recorded holder of the Victoria Cross is buried on Madeira.

So, they figured they'd put up a plaque, but then they thought "Why not get the most recent recipient of the VC to come over for the ceremony". From there plans began to spiral out of control: next thing the UK ambassador is coming over from Lisbon, they're selling tickets for the show, the English Church has to be repainted, oodles of extra chairs brought in...

I haven't heard yet how it went. I spent the afternoon in the cinema: saw The Wicker Man, which here is called O Escolhido - The Chosen. Wicker is one of the top industries on the island, and it might ahem ... strike close to home to translate it literally (see photo of grass man from the carnival; who knows what goes on up that mountain). Nicolas Cage is heavily medicated throughout the film, but I gotta say, I'd have started punching the locals earlier. I had the theatre to myself, which was heavenly, as opposed to the chockablock screening of Baby Hannibal, with two other people in the cinema.

I feel I'm 'nearly' finished the radio play, which normally means there's a way to go. Lovely weekend :)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Opus seeks the truth

For those fans of Berkeley Breathed, and for Craig the Anagram King...

The story so far - arcane knowledge has been revealed to Opus the penguin-thing. Our cosmic destiny may be visible in our very names:

If you reshuffle Clint Eastwood you get Old West Action
George Herbert Walker Bush ... Huge Beserk Rebel Warthog
William Jefferson Clinton ... Jail Mrs Clinton Felon Wife
With Opus, well you just get Soup. He's out to understand more:
(A larger version of the strip is available here.)

The Washington Post publishes the strip; more fun here. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Radio is the sound salvation...

Stunning day today. I'm enmeshed in writing a radio play (yes we all know I'm easily distracted). It turns out that writing for radio presents a whole bunch of new challenges; most enjoyable.

Speaking of which, for those folks who have not yet encountered the lovely D4 couple - Dan and Becs - here's a snippet (the full episode is here):

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Bunglers' Parade

Okay, first the pictures, from the top left:

1) Killer from Don't Look Now/ Bread Dog/ Streamer War Runner-up/ Umbrella Lady
2) Grass Man/ Snow White levitating/ Guitar-Playing Condom Man/ Streamer War Winner cutting a deal with pirate
3) Bus Ticket Thing/ VIPs/ Chick in awe of balloons/ Male Bride
4) Hunting Snow White/ Spidey plays nintendo/ Stubborn as a goat/ Beatrice

So far, a recognisable parade. The real lost-in-translation bit came with the floats. Since I couldn't understand the slogans shouted or the placards brandished, my reaction is all visual.

There were two yes two dramatic executions of Saddam Hussein. When the first killing-float passed it was followed by figures dressed in white sheets, who all knelt and praised Allah, as though that was really funny. Throughout there were placards about abortion (it's been much in the news lately), but none beat the 'Abortion Funeral Cortege' which processed by. Eerily, there was no reaction at all from the crowd; they just watched.

However, then the Volare Man showed up, and with the grace of a swan led us in song...

And in other news, I have a zillion crosaires to stretch my brain sideways...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Carnivalling along

The carnival continues in an erratic fashion: costumed bands appear out of nowhere and wander randomly through the town. On Sunday we saw a jazz-cum-steelpan band (dressed as clowns) stroll along the harbour. A little girl was fascinated by them, so they just stopped on the street and gave her a mini-concert, while she did that little waddley-swaying dance that three-year-olds do.

Clowns playing jazz: that's probably my sister's worst nightmare.

Anyhoo, the big finale is this afternoon: it's called the Bungler's Parade, and the official description is "a free for all". Should be good!

Snippets of Saturday's parade here (what costumes - there must be a lot of bald ostriches out there) and here (love their long streamers - SO muppetty).

My favourite picture is of the girls in baby-ballgowns playing in the streamers and confetti:

Monday, February 19, 2007

Allegoric Parade

Hello, I'm Maggie, friend from Devon.

I have been staying with Orlaith this past week. From the highs of the mountains - up in the cable car to Monte, also to Santana - to the lows of the sea we have fit it all in this week.

After yesterday's epic walk from Funchal out to the hotel district and then up, up, and up more steps on to the city Levada walk, my legs feel pretty tight today.

In honour of my visit it seems, they put on the grand carnival parade in Funchal on Saturday night and that certainly was a sight to behold.

So it's Monday morning and time to go home to Devon - where has the week gone?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Questioning sanity in Santana

Just in between cava and red wine. A bizarre fun-filled day in Santana. Yes the central photo is a woman hanging to a tree. I guess it's almost carnival time...

Santana's new theme park was very very quiet, except for the piped music throughout the 17 acres. Here's a little clip:

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Laid back in a horizontal kinda way

Walked half of the island this morning, and exhaustion finally caught up with us this afternoon.

There should be a new word for 'extreme chilled'.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A walk in the clouds

Just in between wine and more wine. Walked through the clouds today :)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A birthday for Maggie

Busy busy busy; pictures paint a thousand yadda yadda...

I always like to ask permission before I mention anyone's name on the blog, so now I can reveal that Maggie is here!

We're about to go out for a birthday dinner (to Figos, for those who have visited before - let's hope they still have some stash of the Chocopana wine left! And yes I imagine I shall be indulging in the tiramisu).

Monday, February 12, 2007

Pride goes before a shopping trip

I spent much of this morning feeling pretty smug. My friend gets in at lunchtime, and the place is clean, her bed is made up, I not only bought a birthday present but wrapped it - I even wrote her a card. Sorted!

I just opened the fridge. Oh dear.

Engage rationalisations:
1) I buy fresh stuff most days.
2) We'll probably eat out lots.
3) I haven't seen her for months; her food preferences may have totally changed in the interim.

Still, there probably should be some token food in there. They should make Monopoly-type food that takes up fridge space and looks fresh. You wouldn't even need to dust it...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Saved by the bus

This morning I met the nice elderly lady who lives upstairs; she was waiting at the bus stop as I wandered out for breakfast.

I took off my little ipod headphones, and we muddled through a conversation using bits of Portuguese, French and English. She said she wasn't doing great: her sister died last week. I was shocked, and was offering condolences when I realised that my ipod was blaring There She Goes by The La's.

It was one of those hinge-moments that can just tip either way. (It turned out that fast-forwarding wouldn't have helped: next song was I can't stand up for falling down). But as if by magic, her bus arrived. Praise!

In other news, the sunsets have been stunning of late. Last night a bank of cloud snuggled along the horizon to make a little mountain range. It was odd to see enormous cruise ships sailing out of the hills.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Ambassador's Reception

Back from a boozy lunch with the Codebreakers, filled with stories of Alan Turing and enigma-type things (during WWII Turing used to cycle to Bletchley Park wearing a gas mask - he wasn't afraid of chemical warfare, it was just that he suffered from hayfever. And he kept his mug chained yes chained to the radiator in his office. Whaddaguy!).

Mr & Mrs C also talked about life in Madagascar in the 1960s, including one swanky ambassador's reception they got roped into...

So, the Archbishop of Canterbury was visiting, and a formal dinner was duly held by some high-up Malagasy Minister. The US & UK ambassadors were there, with their aides and wives in tow - a big deal all round. Trying to make conversation, Mrs Canterbury asks Mrs Minister how rice is grown.

This is an error.

Growing rice is peasant work. People like Mr Minister keep the nail of their little finger long and talon-like to make the point: they don't do manual labour. Asking someone about rice work is like asking what cleaner they use to scrub the kitchen floor.

So Mrs Minister declares that she has never grown rice in her life. She's obviously peeved, and silence descends as she plots. Then she's ready.
'How many children do you have?'
'Unfortunately I don't have any', says Mrs Canterbury.
Mrs Minister smiles. 'I have eight.'

At least nowadays there's ferrero rocher to take the edge off.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A gay state of mind

Ted Haggard is all better now. Honest.

I don’t know, people wouldn’t make such a big deal about it if he hadn’t been so adamant in the first place. There's a good Jesus Camp clip of Pastor Ted: someone that flippantly self-righteous, you just know it's a recipe for disaster.

So, it turns out it was all in his mind. Which brings me to Nobel prize-winning neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal, who was quoted here as saying:
As long as our brain is a mystery, the universe, the reflection of the structure of the brain, will also be a mystery.

It’s a fabulous thought. I think I'd take out the ‘as long as’ - it’s a mystery forever, full stop.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

At the round earth's imagined corners...

Another white day. The tree outside the window is barely visible, and the rest of the world has disappeared entirely. This must be what the inside of John Donne's head looked like: the earth drawn in until it took up just his room.

But what care I! There's music in the air (gregorian folk chanting), the writing is going well (famous last words) and there are glasses to be raised for the day that's in it.

Another year wiser. Just how wise is that?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Festive times ahead

My next visitor arrives in under a week. As if by magic, it turns out there's a massive carnival during her stay - you can see pretty pictures here.

Unless there's a heat wave expected next week, people must drink a powerful amount before donning those costumes and stepping out. (At present the locals typically wear three layers of clothing). Brrr...

In other news, the six-month waiting period to see if my orchids flower is over. (You may recall my sister's kidlets planted the bulbs upside down for a time, so that was one setback. Of several.) I bought one of the here's-one-we-prepared-earlier variety. Purdy :)

Monday, February 05, 2007

Blink and you'd miss it

Manky rainy day here. A bank of thick cloud crept towards shore, eating up the seaview on its approach.

However, the colours of the world last night as the sun was setting were unspeakably beautiful.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Let me not to the marriage of true minds...

The Codebreakers are celebrating their 54th wedding anniversary this weekend. Mr C commented that even if he'd murdered someone, he would have been granted a reprieve after 30 years.

Anyway, I was looking for the symbol for the 54th, but anniversary lists seem to skip from Gold (50th) to Emerald (55th). You would think if you make it that far, every year should be a big deal.

I may need to make something up...

In other news, I put up a short story on the website, here. The Latte Angel is a glimpse of someone who makes a brief appearance in the final part of the trilogy. I was just pleased that I managed to write several pages where absolutely no-one died.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Christmas over for another year

Today marks the official end of the Christmas season.

In days of old, this was the day when all the Christmas decorations were burned. Such action is not recommended in these days of plastic tinsel and baubles made of god-knows-what; can you imagine the toxic chemicals released? I guess in the Middle Ages they mostly had greenery with some berries. And a big yule log.

The book I'm working on is mostly set on 2 February; so it makes super-sense for me to spend the day tapping away at that. Off I go...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The three seasons?

Madeira appears to have opted to skip over Spring and land smack dab in the middle of Summer.

You're absolutely right; it is well past beer-in-the-sunshine time. I'll get on to that right now...