Sunday, 31 January 2016

Gentle way of life

I am slightly surprised by the lack of drama in my blogs from Madeira. In fact, almost everything we've seen has been so gentle, so well-mannered, so bloody English, it's hard to pick things out to write about. The whole way of life is just terribly English. Polite. Soft spoken.
I did see, today, a woman evidently sleeping rough - living in fact - in a sort of tourist gimmick shelter down on the promenade, hanging her pitiful laundry out on a bit of string, and that wasn't too long after we'd sauntered round the English Church, of which more in a moment, where there was a begging bowl asking for coppers to help the homeless..... And we've seen a few, just a few men crashed out in doorways. To be honest, the street dogs appear to get a better deal, as many cafes have water bowls out for the canines, and sometimes food too.
As for other animal life - there are small lizards about every 18" once you get to quieter or rockier environs. Hardly any small birds. Quite a few gulls, and flocks of pigeons, and the very occasional blackbird, but no sparrows. (Why not?)
The shoe-shops are absolutely not English. At the moment, for women, the fashion is very wintry, clumpy, very awkward looking - and very heavy looking, and/or metallic. Me no like.
We hauled up a bit of a hill this morning, to an old fortress dating from the time of Vauban, but not so exciting. A trip down a Bico (alley) afterwards was quaint but it was a dead end. We felt sorry for two dogs chained up on watch but all alone. Once again, someone had a lot of old rags drying or abandoned on a washing line. Why do I notice these things?
The English Church experience was hilarious. I was hard-put not to be chortling out loud, while telling myself off very severely at the same time. It's a time-capsize, of course. All these sweet, whit-haired ex-pats and retirees, huddling together as no doubt the English do worldwide, shared values, a nice cup of tea, you know where you are, etc.  Where you are is the 1920s.  We wandered up the entrance alley, adorned as it is wth a few blue and white tiled Stations of the Cross (one paid for by Michael and Val Blandy, nice of them). Holy Communion was nearly over. A man in white blazer and boater was very convivial, manning a stall with ghastly cards, knitted tea-cosies and pots of jam for sale. He said there would be a reception after the service, with soft drinks or something stronger, right after the service. We peeped inside the square/classical church - it was stuffed to the gunwales with grey heads. We didn't stay, but I did buy a history ... Also very funny, with various contretemps in detail. (More anon).
We also called into a Quinta Museum which we thought would be shut but which was open (ground floor only, no cafeteria, no photos). A stunning, breathtaking display of 16th and 17th c Portuguese furniture, and silver .... Staggeringly beautiful.
Lunch was back in the tourist quarter (past the gauntlet of greeters), and dull. We should have known better. (Supper back in our apartment was much nicer - an avocado, some peasant bread, watercress, an onion tortilla, and then a custard-apple. If you pick carefully you can get lovely things family the market - and this shopping was done yesterday. What forethought!)
The beach is packed with large black pebbles. Hard to say if it's natural or landscaped.
The town was doubly-quiet being Sunday and the day of the marathon, with few buses running and many roads closed. We saw two runners. Missed the rest.

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