This was Sunday:
And this was Monday:
Isn't it supposed to gradually over a few weeks get warmer to colder? Wait a minute... that's going from Summer to Winter, we're almost at the end of Winter, so we're supposed to be going from Winter to Spring... fekkit! Upsidedowny extreme weather! Not only has it gone the wrong way, it's gone the wrong way in one day!
That was one mutha of a split infinitive.
PORTO ALEGRE has gone from sub Antarctic temperatures* through humongous downpours up to today's Saharan Desert heat, in a space of a week. Okay, I'm exaggerating a little, but it was freakin' cold last week then it Rained a Lot on Friday and it didn't stop 'til today when the sun put his hat on, hip-hip-hip-hurray and it became a reasonably warm 21c.
Bugger can't think of owt else to write.
*(what the blazes is "sub Antarctic"?? Isn't it, by its geographical nature, already "sub"? Perhaps I mean "Antarctic sub-temperatures", which is quite normal there I do believe. Sorry but just "Antarctic temperatures" doesn't sound quite so exciting. Anyway, it was cold.)
While the rain continues through the morning as I'm listening to the bells of the cathedral, one of Britain and Brazil's most talked about crooks is within weeks, if not days, of going to the Great Train Robbery in the Sky. Ronnie, 80 years old yesterday - late Happy Birthday Ron! - has been released on compassionate grounds, "being released" in this case actually means the two prison guards at his hospital bedside have been relieved of their duties. I don't suppose Ronnie was a zillionaire living in Rio, he made money from being famous mostly, a churrasco with Ronnie cost around 70 quid, bloody expensive that, I tell you what, I'll charge around 20 quid, on my terrace, sunset views. It's probably well known in Britain that Ronnie got away with not being extradited by having a son with a Brazilian lady here. What not many in Britain know is Ronnie's son, Mike, became very famous here in the 80s as part of a children's pop group and TV programme "Turma do Balão Mágico", he's the young fella in yella in THIS clip, don't know what he does nowadays, he's appeared a lot on the news while Ronnie was in Britain, I remember a while back reading that the FO had refused his residency visa, I guess he got it in the end though 'coz the recent news reports him as living in North London.
Some years ago I bought Ronnie's autobiography, "Odd Man Out", in a book store here in PoA, it was on offer at a good discount price and shrink wrapped, when I got home and unshrink wrapped it, I was pleasantly surprised to find his autograph and "Rio, 1994"biro'd in the title page, might be worth a bit on e-bay that.
Good Luck Ronnie.
Deluge! It wazzed down so hard and so much last night that PoA became almost completely under water. Okay I'm exaggerating a little, however it did rain heavily in a short space of time so the drains were unable to cope, a lot of the roads became flooded, I had to take several detours and also risk driving through over a foot of water in some places, hoping my car wouldn't chug to a stop like other cars scattered about, adding to the chaos of the traffic, their owners in despair. It took me 40 minutes to make a normal 5 minute trip .
Still on the subject of water, I spotted this on the Guardian site and further investigated the "new television advertisements in Brazil" via youtube (as I don't watch the box) and found THIS. I didn't quite understand the joke of the figure of (after "Brazilians!") - "or not", until repeating several times and realizing that it's a silhouette of Liberty, yes, peeing in the shower, even Stephen Hawking there, amazing! I love the last message - " Pee in the shower! Help the Atlantic Forest!". Go on, admit it, hands up who's been helping the Atlantic Forest for years? Back to the Guardian article, it's amusing to see how many readers comments have been "removed by a moderator", whereas some suggestions such as "defecate in the dustbin" and "pee on your girlfriend in the shower to see if she notices", passed moderator censorship. Then there's mention of etiquette for garden peeing, what if you don't have a garden? A friend of mine once peed out of a third floor flat window onto the cars parked below, it was about 3 in the morning luckily.
It's stopped raining! Guys are swimming, guys are sailing, playing baseball, gee that's better!
Consideration for other car park users? What?
And this is only two mild examples, at the same time in the same car park, just one car between them, I've seen much worse.
* * *
There comes a time in a man's life when he has to buy new shoes, several times in a man's life actually, one of those times is almost upon me once again. My finest brown leather pair are almost at the end of their useful lives*, just the left one actually, the right one still has a lot of Umph, I wonder if I can get away with wearing just the right one and a left flip-flop, think anyone would notice? I could could put a bandage on my big toe, that would justify flip-flop usage. The wear is manifest by a small split on the left side, this, in fact, is only visible by the appearance of my white sock. So I had another genius idea, I don't think I'll get away with the flip-flop gag, too cold anyway, all I need to do is buy several pairs of brown socks! A lot cheaper than buying a new pair of shoes anyhow.
*Useful as footwear that is, when they're completely scragged I can throw them at an infidel.
WTF?? They told me Brazil was a Tropical country! Brazilians don't seem to have grasped the concept of central heating. Any heating in fact. I have one electric/oil radiator that takes at least 20 minutes to begin getting hot and another 20 minutes to heat the air in my bathroom, a space of about 6 metres cubed, any bigger space and the radiator's about as useful as an Incredibly Useless Thing at an Incredibly Useless Thing World Convention (paradox, if the IUT were at an IUT convention, then surely it would be UseFull?). I also have a two-bar "Quartz" Heater (what the blazes does that mean? Is it supposed to tell the time as well?) that's fantastically effective. If you're sitting at a distance of no more than 30cm immediately in front of it.
In the Great Outdoors, Real Gaúchos wear ponchos. I haven't quite got the cojones to go out with my head poked through a hole in a stripy woolly blanket, I have a big shaggy coat made in Nepal, probably from a skinned Yeti, bought in Oxfam, if it's good enough for Everest, it's good enough for PoA winters.
Today I have to enrol for next semester's subject at the university, I've chosen Medieval II (having successfully completed Med. I - Charlemagne and the Pippins) and Theories of History, wonder wot that is then? I survived the first semester pretty well and even got a 10 for my review of Marc Bloch's The Historian's Craft.
As I've previously mentioned, I've landed the job of Quiz Master at the Shamrock on Wednesday nights, actually it's nothing so fancy, I don't get to wear a tuxedo, but I do get a microphone. Hours of difficult study, research and dedication are spent in order to comply the list of 20 demanding and challenging questions ("What is the capital of Scotland?"). Actually I don't prepare the questions, I just ask 'em and fool around a bit, I've discovered in myself a bit of a talent for fooling around with the microphone (OOOOOEEERRRRR!!!), actually years of facing groups of grumplesome teenagers and serious Middle Aged Business Persons in English classes have honed my skills of banter and wit, so it's not so difficult.
Back to work, just pull on my Arctic Blizzard Fisherman's Friend Yeti Skin Overcoat.
P.S. Am I allowed to drink Twinning's Earl Grey with powdered milk?
...and writes. Things have been HAPPENING. Porto Alegre has been going through a relatively rigorous winter, relative to PoA standards that is, while we've not been having blizzards and minus 30 temperatures, it's been cold enough to justify my using three layer apparel when venturing out. Believe me, three layers is a lot for me; and, due to lack of an efficient heating system in my Groovy Little Hippy Pad, two-layer home apparel, including Cornish Chunky (not very fashionable for Outdoor wear), plus Guinness Bobble Hat (without the Bobble). Fact is, it's so cold in the GLHP that I can quite easily leave the fridge door open for hours with no defrosting effect. The butter on the table remains solid enough to rip up my slice of 7-grains wholemeal.
So what has been happening? Since my last post, the fun rugby afternoon at Applebee's, I've gone back to university, this time to study history, I've finished one relationship, always a sad affair, and began another, no details here, suffice to say I'm big happy; I've hoovered under my bed, now THAT'S an event; AND I've become Quiz Master at the Shamrock, quiz night on Wednesdays, Si the Boss bought a posh microphone and speaker set up, now I'm more famous than Silvio Santos and people flock from Miles Around.
One question I'm often asked here is what I miss most from the Land of My Fathers. I recently met one of Rio Grande do Sul's motorcycle brethren who proudly showed me is immense Honda something-unpronounceable-in-Spanish, V-twin. THAT is what I miss most, not only the bike itself, but the whole biker lifestyle, going to shows and festivals in the summer (yes, pissing-down rain an' all, I miss it!). Doesn't have the same feeling here, anything over 500cc is absurdly expensive (import tax of 60%). Here are the last 3 bikes I had.
These are digital photos of prints (I don't have a scanner) so the quality is not the best.
The black one (and that's me looking cool twenty years ago) was the last, Kawasaki ZL1000 Eliminator, went around Israel on that bike (ferry boat from Cyprus where I lived at the time), and from Wales to Madrid, excellent cruiser, very comfortable, could go for miles in the saddle without rest. The red one I had at the same time, BSA A10, 650 twin cylinder, Bertha was her name and a temperamental bitch too, couldn't go over 60mph without something falling off from the vibrations. The Mean Green Machine, Kawasaki Z1100 "Eddy Lawson" replica, also great for touring, went to a few show on that one.
Whilst St. David's wasn't quite the huge celebration here as I would have wished, still, a pleasant evening was had by all at Applebee's, St. Patrick's found your intrepid (does that mean "between 3 feet" ??) reporter, that's me, at the highly publicised event of Shamrock's St. Paddy's Night, an' I'll be a Fried Pumpkin if I wern't jammied into being M.C. for the night. Viv the Boss, thrust a microphone (OOOeeerrr!) into my Phissog, and there I was a-talkin' like blazes, could be a future profession innit for me.
I spent the rest of the week wondering where I could get to see the Wales v. Ireland match, well truth be told, I did a whole bunch of other things too, like work, eat, sleep and go to the toilet but we needn't go into that, BUT the rugby was on my mind A LOT, especially so as the espn programme schedule showed nuffin but football football football poker football football football (see previous post), however on Friday last this all changed and it was football football football RUGBY football football football, and YES the Six Nations Wales v. Ireland match!! Snatch up, did I, the telephone (sorry I've been watching Star Wars over the weekend, I'mon Yoda Speak) to get in touché with Mr. Applebee to reserve the best seats. Best Seats gotten, a great afternoon was had in the company of good friends, REAL Rugby Fans!
Last Friday 5pm local time found me frantically chasing around the neighbourhood in a vain attempt to find a bar which had cable and would show the Wales v. France match on TV5 the French channel. Not a chance. Football (or soccer, for my N. American readers). If you want to see a football game you'll find any street corner shibeen will sure to be tuned in to any championship from around the world. The Brazilian ESPN channel programme schedule reads something like this:
14:00 Futebol: Campionato Inglês
16:00 Futebol: Campionato Italiano
18:00 Futebol: Campionato Espanhol
20:00 Futebol: Campionato Alemão
22:00 Poker (Poker ?? A freaking SPORT?? PUH-LEEEEEZZ!!)
22:15 Futebol: Campionato Inglês (highlights!)
23:00 Futebol: Campionato Sub Sahara
00:30 Futebol: Campionato Outer Mongolia.
ad infinitum, ad nausium
Upshot was I missed the game on Friday and had to make provisions for a second chance, 7pm Sunday evening on ESPN International, the trick was to try and avoid all homepages which would show the result. Failed miserably.
Still, St. David's Day evening came round and I was in a very smart bar watching the game and explaining what was going on to a curious barman ("NO, it's NOTHING like AMERICAN FOOTBALL!!").
Lots of crisscrossy beams and upright pillars at the topdeck of the public market.
The Shrimp Man.
The beermat says,
"Temperature between 0 and 3 degrees C. Brahma Draught must arrive at the table chilled to the perfect temperature. Thus all Brahma Draught arrives at the table at a temperature between 0 and 3 degrees C."
really Crappy Uncreative Portuguese (which translates into Crappy Uncreative English) their ad agent definately should be fired. Also it's bullshit for a GOOD lager but absolutely true for Brahma. A good lager can be served at 5 - 8 C. Brahma want you to drink it almost frozen because if it's served any higher than 3, you'll taste it.
The Illegal Top Secret Photo of Santander Cultural's Café Doors. (with the Good Lady, who protested to the posting of this photo due to an inoppertune open mouth).
The sign says, "It is prohibited to throw fruit skins or leave rubbish in the walkways and corridors of the market. Fine $20,000", God's Ribcage!! That's a pretty hefty one! (actually in the day's exchange rate, probably about 20p).
During the past few days, thanks to the country-bumpkin-in-big-city enthusiasm of the Good Lady who's not From Around These Parts, I've been rediscovering the wonders of PoA. In this previous post I wrote a little about the river front's potential and privately funded partial revitalization. The city centre, generally neglected by middle class Porto Alegrenses as being "dangerous and smelly", is actually quite a surprise when you really get onto the streets (and get used to the smell).
Our Saturday touristic itenary proceded thus: bus at 11am direct to the centre (I didn't want to be worried with parking spaces or spending a short spell in jail for having a glass or two and driving), slap bang in the centre is the 19th century public market, restored with splendour and a roof in the 90s, there are some excellent rustic traditional bars and restaurants that serve a good cheap lunch to accompany your chilled draught lager (be sure to ask for "pouco colarinho" or you'll get half a glass of foam). PoA has a goodly number of second hand book shops, we managed to spend a few hours in two before they shut up for the weekend. I found a "Reader's Guide to 'Finnegans Wake'", by one William York Tindall. Professor Tindall apparently wants us to "see that it is less formidable than it seems, and to see the fun.", hope it works. Pub. Thames and Hudson, London, 1969, in excellent condition and still has the price in Pounds Shillings and d. AND a 1951 book of "The Physical Sciences", which, in the chapter of "Man and His Machines" has a photo of "The Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator" which occupies a room four times the size of my living room and has a storage of "400,000 digits in punched tapes and contains 12,500 electronic tubes"! All amazing stuff! Zillions of books!
Next stop, two separate exhibitions in Santander Cultural by Brazilian artist/writers Gilberto Freyre and Ariano Suassuna. One criticism I have of the place is that photos are not permitted inside, while I understand this with respect to the exhibitions themselves, this is a standard rule in any art gallery throughout the world, It dumfounds me why they don't allow photos in the café, the corredor area, entrance and shop, which has some beautiful decoration and arquitecture. The building is an old bank, one of those massive city centre banks from a hundred years ago when real money and gold bars were kept in huge safe rooms in the basement with doors a foot thick , these safe rooms are now a cafe and a cinema, cool eh? There'd be some photos here, but... (actually I did manage to sneak a couple in before a guard saw me).
We ended the afternoon with a few more beers in the public market.
I don't recall Y Pant's history curriculum including a large slice of specifically Welsh history, apart from an annual pilgrimage to the namesake battlefield of one's House, in my case Caerau, perhaps it did but the only thing I remember from Miss Jones' class more than 30 years ago is Henry VIII and 1066 and all that. Since that time, I've learned more about medieval Welsh history through Sharon Kay Penman's Here Be Dragons trilogy and a tiny but interesting snippet just recently from Ken Follett's World Without End (backed up by Wikipedia and Simon Schama), that being the origin of the Prince of Wales' three feather symbol and Ich Dein motif.
At the Battle of Crécy on the 26th August 1346, the English, or perhaps I should say the mixed British forces, for there were Welsh and undoubtedly other nation's mercenaries amongst the ranks, were led by Edward III, the grandson of Longshanks (Hammer of the Scots). Edward II was the first English "Prince of Wales", the title bestowed upon him by the aforementioned Longshanks, Ed the first. Longshanks' great grandson, Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince (he never became the fourth but also held the title of Prince of Wales), was also there commanding one of the three divisions at only 16 years of age.
At the end of the battle the Black Prince had been so impressed with the deeds of another (mercenary) commander, John of Bohemia, who despite being blind stood his ground bravely on the British side. Blind?? How the blazes can someone fight in a battle of 30 thousand tightly packed screaming men in armour if one's blind?? I wonder how much "collateral damage" (a US defence secretary's euphemism) he caused. Well, apparently it was so. In an act of honour to the dying blind man, the Black Prince took John's sheild and symbol for his own, and it was thus incorporated as the symbol for generations of English Princes of Wales.
The three ostrich feathers and Ich Dein then are a symbol of the English (or half German, half Greek??) "Prince of Wales" and not of Wales itself. However, as I have already mentioned, amongst the forces were Welsh mercenaries and many of them making up a large part of the Longbowmen force, one of the main factors for the ensuing victory. Had one of the Welsh longbow leaders got to the dying Bohemian first perhaps we could have claimed the three feathers really for ourselves. This would be unlikely though I guess as the humble bowman wouldn't be allowed probably even to talk to the noblemen. Here's our real three feathers, courtesy of The Red Dragonhood (with kind, er..permission, thanks).
My guess is that our stretch of the riverfront has been revitalised with the finances from the enterprise of the newly opened shopping centre, BarraSul Shopping, as opposed to the city council whom it appears won't pay for anything that seems to improve the potential tourist magnetic qualities of Porto Alegre, oh yes the Porto Alegrensies will rave about theirs being the Best Sunset in the World - and it is pretty impressive - but to win such accolade to my mind there must be someplace from where to appreciate this Best Sunset ITW, after all a sunset is a dazzling display of pinkbluepurplecrimson anywhere around the globe; a safari tent shade, with an ice bucket and a few chilled bottles of Castle Lager in the Serengeti; a snowy peak in the Himalayas (with perhaps a bottle of Talisker?); a harbour-front pub in Kenmare, County Kerry (pint of Guinness); Porto Alegre has (FANFARE!), the (garbage strewn) banks of the (stinky, oily, polluted) Guaíba River (or lake, depending on your point of view), by Belenos, that was a long sentence! At the end of the 80s the former gas power plant, operational until 1974, was restored as a Cultural / Crafts Centre / museum. The large edifice has an immense terrace atop facing the river/lake (and therefore "BSITW") and a smaller lower floor terrace facing the city, tall ugly apartment buildings and bums sleeping under the disused concrete monorail. Where did they put the café/bar? Go on, guess...
My apologies, I rant, back to my stretch of the river/lakefront that I began with. Yes, it has been improved, restored and cleaned up, as has another stretch from the "Sun Set Amphi-theatre" to the gas plant (paid for I guess by Pepsi, judging from the advertising splashed all over), but where are the bars with decks, terraces, dockside tables and benches?? I want to enjoy a cold beer whilst watching the sunset, it appears the only way is to take your own beach chair and an ice box. Ipanema? Far out of the city centre and there are just a few crappy over-priced bars. WAKE UP YOU DUMASS CITY PLANNERS!!! PORTO ALEGRE HAS THE POTENTIAL TO ATTRACT TOURISTS!!!
The stretches that I refer are quite wonderful for a stroll or jog. The other day I came across this little fella. Before he hopped over onto the wall, closer to see me, he was perched on one of those white posts in the near background, before I had the camera ready, a Lapwing (here known as Quero-Quero) made a spectacular dive bombing attack and knocked my friend off with an audible resounding THWACK! Bugger'd I missed that photo opportunity. It was a warning shot, my little plump chump was standing around a might too close to Quero-Quero territory, lots of baby Quero-Queros were wandering around on the grass around there.
There's a wonderful sunset view from my terrace, I should open a bar. I'd make a bomb.
After 17 years in Tropical Climes, Christmas with air temperatures in the 90s is still something that impedes me from getting into the HOHOHO spirit of things. Actually I'm not sure at all if it's the high temperatures, the way Brazilians celebrate (well, more like "when" not "the way") or whether it's just that I'm getting to be an old cynical bugger. The Shopping Centres of Porto Alegre of course are having a grand time, despite the world crisis. What Credit Crunch?
Christmas here is celebrated on the night of the 24th. Families get together for the traditional Christmas Supper, which varies a little from the British turkey, roasts and cooked veggies with gravy. The turkey is still a part of the main dish but there lots of salads and cold dishes. Dessert differs a lot too, no steamy rum soaked pud in custard, instead there are sweets made of sugar (DUH!), milk, chocolate, whipped eggs, caramel (the thick stuff we find in mars bars and such, here called doce de leite and available in jars by the kilo, not the burned sugar variety). The family night thing I find a little irritating, boring, stressful. The matriarch commands the night's procedings and, in many cases, insists that the main meal be served and presents exchanged only at midnight. What happens is, everyone gets bored, tired, irritated, HUNGRY! Nibbles are allowed so we end up stuffing ourselves with peanuts, crisps, bread and dips; when midnight comes around, no-one's hungry anymore. Then there are the kids, crazy to open the presents which are in full view under the tree, how on earth Father Christmas leaves them there without being seen, I have no idea, that's another thing to try and explain for the kids.
Christmas in Aberbachgenbach with the blazing fireplace, friends in the pub singing carols that nobody knows the words to excepting "we wish you a merry christmas and Happy New Year!", "When Shepherds Wash their Socks" etc. Rolling home drunk at night and shouting Merry Christmas at the good humoured and patient Old Bill on Eve duty (are they still good humoured and patient?). Waking up to presents IN THE MORNING, Father Christmas having passed through during the night when everyone is sleeping. Turkey and roast spuds, Real Ale and Hot Noggin (OOEERR!).
Speen a long time!