Friday, 29 January 2016

Street life

One very endearing thing about street life in Madeira is that you can cross the road any where and any time you want. Obviously, it's up to you to avoid being run over, and there are very helpful green 'men' on the traffic lights to show you when you have precedence, but basically - it's like home. In England, regardless of what the lights say, if there are no cars coming, you can cross when you like. This is a blessing, as far as I'm concerned. In Germany, the U.S., Denmark etc, this careless attitude is deeply frowned upon. You have to be obedient, whether there's any traffic or not. Obeying the rules is more important than anything else, so you can see crowds of people standing waitingfor the light, when there is no earthly reason why they shouldn't amble across. Cars are effectively more important than pedestrians - the little people. I guess there will be howls of righteousness against this laissez-faire approach, but the daily experience of millions of Brits and Madeirans proves that 'health and safety' regulations are not always necessary.
Another wonderful thing about the streets here is - the amazing pavements. There are various styles.
Millions and millions and millions of small black pebbles have been used to create pleasing patterned walking surfaces.  The pebbles are mostly laid in general alignment, in rectangles or zigzag stripes. They must have been bedded in by hand - and the archaeological digs here and there - sometimes quite deep below the present surface, show that this has been a tried and tested method of pavement-making for a very long time, maybe centuries.  It gets used for courtyards, car parks, terraces.....
Another favoured - and very attractive - pavement surface is the use of small flattish fragments of 'white' or black rock, about an inch it two across, set down in simple but eloquent patterns, like mosaics. The sections are usually a foot or two in width. Some are geometric, maybe simple stripes or squares, but others are graphic and representational - showing the old human-pannier method of ferrying people around, or trees, or boats.  These are very nice indeed - although very slightly nervous-making in the wet. The surface can be surprisingly slippy.
Lastly, there are the setts or rectangular cobbles of granite in other very hard igneous rock, arranged in patterns, and not unusual, but they are a pleasing grey-black, and conservative, and plain. About one in several thousand has a marking of concentric rings - presumably the mark if some ancient fossilised tree. There is a single example of exactly this kind of stone in Faversham, among some coloured granite blocks, a bit of a mystery in Kent, but presumably carried as ballast long ago, and set down as a matter of chance.
My last observations today are about the Internet. Every cafe or resto has Wifi, but you have to ask for the password. These ciphers are sometimes very long and difficult to copy onto one's phone, being a mix of lower and upper case letters and numbers. They reek of paranoia and excessive needless security. At least, we have to be grateful that the wifi exists.... Just a few short years ago, it was impossible really to find anywhere with a connection, and you had to pay extra to use it.  I guess in another year or two, access will be universal and need no passwords.  I have already discovered that ready access to the Internet (and autocorrect is capitalising that word, not me), has changed my blogging experience, as I am in happy and useful dialogue with friends who comment on Facebook about our travels, thus diminishing the distance between us. I have decided to go in wth the blog, however, as the means to producing books in due course.
Today we walked, and went by bus, to Camara de Lobos. We ate at the Vila de Peixes on the recommendation of friends at home (sent via FB). Nice views. Came back, had a quiet sunny afternoon resting in our very nice central apartment, and later strolled around before coming home again for a bread and cheese supper. Once again, we ran the gauntlet of the polite, soft-spoken greeters in the many cafes and restaurants we passed. Can't help it - I find it unsettling. 

No comments:

Post a Comment