Wednesday, 31 July 2013

MrsM, Doom & Gloom Merchant

It was a good day for MrsM, purveyor of terrible but true stories about unusual accidents which have actually happened to someone who was either closely related to her or someone she knew personally.

In the morning MrsM was able to tell the world (via Knitsofacto) that flat irons are dangerous. This apparently alarmist statement is based on an incident when MrM stubbed his toe on a flat iron which was used as a doorstop, broke the toe and was incapacitated for a significant period of time. The world needed to be warned.

In the afternoon MrsM was part of a conversation at a supermarket till when arm wrestling was mentioned. MrsM could not let the opportunity pass to mention that not one but TWO young men that she knew on a first name basis had suffered disastrous breaks of their upper arms as a result of arm wrestling while inebriated. To ensure that the participants in the conversation understood the full gravity of the situation MrsM explained that in both cases there was a spiral break and nerve damage leading to long periods of rehabilitation and loss of motor function. It is safe to say that the participants in the conversation will not be arm wrestling.

In the evening MrsM told MissM that if MrM didn't stop talking about his new wifi enabled electric toothbrush with five brushing modes there would be a serious accident which would require attendance at the local A&E and would subsequently feature in her register of unusual incidents which have actually happened to someone who was closley related to her. MrM changed the subject.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

and in another part of the forest

MasterM has been travelling in South America
acting as translator and guide
for friends from South Africa,

Here they are in the silver mines of Potosi, Bolivia,
a place of noise, dirt and danger
which made a great impression on them all.

Tonight he is back in Stellenbosch
and messages to ask my advice on design.

What colour embroidery should he choose
to go with his maroon golf tie?

I suggest yellow for an 'unforgettable' effect.

I did not know what it would be like to have an adult son
but I did not expect to be thinking about golf ties.

In South Africa.

Monday, 29 July 2013


....MissM has been busy, busy, busy...

Four days of fun and 'intellectualness'
at a sunny Latitude festival
including an audience with Germaine Greer
in case you were wondering.

MissM is now an intern at Bradt Travel Guides
working on image rights from the Yukon and North Korea.
The good people of Bradt have been very welcoming
and MissM has been part of the winning Pub Quiz team,
fully involved in birthday cake management
and allocated a space on the company picnic blanket.

Tonight she sits next to me on the sofa
reading Euripides in a battered Penguin Classics edition
and I think to myself
"If this isn't nice, I don't know what is".

Saturday, 27 July 2013

how great is the world


The tiny village of Marvão is on the edge of Portugal,
built among granite boulders,
protected by the castle wall.

It is a pristine example of a medieval castle
built by the militant Knights Hospitaller,
to defend the border of the new state of Portugal.

Everything is designed to withstand attack,
with staggered entrances, raised doorways,
watch towers and a traitor's gate.

There is an enormous cistern
which will store six months of rain water
so that the castle is always prepared for siege.

Standing on the battlements
looking inwards towards the keep
the distance between now and then
seems vanishingly small.

Looking outwards across the landscape of Portugal
towards the vast heart of Spain
the words of the Portuguese writer, José Saramago,
capture the essence of the experience:

"how great is the world"

We will return to Portugal very soon,
to explore all of those places that we do not yet know:
the Douro valley, the city of Porto,
the vibrant colours of Sintra,
the landscapes of the Algarve.
So many new places to find!

And, one day, I hope we return to Marvão,
to wander through the streets
that wind precariously along the contours
and see again the world stretched out
beneath the high castle keep.

Thank you, MrM, for organising this wonderful holiday.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

A taste of Portugal

Let's talk food

Grilled sardines, of course.
Fresh from the Mercado da Ribeira.

Pasteis de Nata from Belém.
Flaky, creamy, utterly delicious.
It is a mistake to start with the best...
you are always disappointed afterwards.

A poached egg covered with gold leaf.
Please don't ask me for the recipe,
it is the magic of chef José Avillez
and his amazing Lisbon restaurant, Belcanto.

Delicious sushi for lunch,
soaking up the chic atmosphere of 'East, West'
after a visit to the Museu Colecção Berardo.

Pannacotta so velvety
that you dream about it.

Strong, hot Portuguese coffee
in cups to covet.

Sangria by the pool in Estremoz.
MrM thought it was an unpardonable extravagance
but subsequently agreed that citrus fruit
is packed with vitamins
and should be consumed regularly

My favourite restaurant in Évora:
Botequim da Mouraria,
a tiny bar with only 9 seats.
You leave with a sense that you have been cherished
from the moment that you stepped through the door.

We will gloss over the unexpected experience
of the stuffed goat's stomach salad.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

ancient walls of flowers


  • we stayed in the castle tower - thick granite walls and an arrow slit window is a recipe for claustrophobia - I have a new respect for Rapunzel
  • the streets were so narrow and steep - see above - that I got out of the car and walked - I'm cowardly sometimes
  • if your hotel receptionist looks like Noddy don't be alarmed - it's not normal but it may be because there is a medieval fair in town
  • it was a sheer drop from the battlements - not for the faint-hearted - but fun to watch everyone creeping around clutching the walls while drinking chilled beer outside one's tower
  • the local speciality is cherry liqueur in chocolate cups - a black forest without the gateau
  • so many tiny gardens to peep into and fall in love with
  • thank you to MissM who knew immediately which track I was talking about

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Boat Trip

It's a really hot day,
almost too hot to move,
but don't worry because
we can look at Lisbon from the sea.

It is a city of sailors and explorers

and these are the landscapes they saw
before they set out for new worlds

(gratuitous photo of sailing ship for my Dad)

the exquisite ivory Torre de Belém;

the multiple pinnacles of the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos;

the arcades and grand arch of Praça do Comércio.

The Lisbon waterfront is a mixture of history,
modern architecture and container port.

This is the Museum of Electricity
which you will be disappointed to discover
that we did NOT visit. My bad.

The imposing Monumento a Cristo Rei
is seen through the bridge on the hill opposite,
a symbol of compassion for a city
struggling with the effects of the global recession.

I am delighted to spot the bold statement
"Landscape has no owner."
I imagine adding the word "Discuss."
in bright red graffiti

which tells me that my exam responsibilities
were more deeply embedded than I realised.

Bring on some rest & relaxation.


Thank you all for your welcome yesterday.
Cake and kisses etcetera all round.

I'm a bit busy at work -
does anyone want to do the financial year end
so I can get on with replying to comments?

Monday, 22 July 2013

The Bowl from Marvão

in which MrsM demonstrates to MrM
that she was not exaggerating
when she stated that this bowl
would be an essential part
of her batterie de cuisine

lemon storage

peach and tomato salad

smoked mackerel and potato salad
in a horseradish cream dressing

lamb and red pepper casserole

cherry clafoutis

to be honest, after only a week
even MrsM is wondering
how she managed without it


We had such a lovely time in Portugal
and I have some photos to show you.

Same time, same place tomorrow?

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

MrM, Travel Agent

Pack your bags MrsM
we're going on holiday!

I've booked us a boutique hotel
with a view of Lisbon.

Take casual clothes for exploring
and smart clothes for eating out at night.

How do you fancy a boat trip?

We could take an open-top tour of the city!

Did I mention the night out in the Jazz Club?

And if that is not enough
we are going into the wilderness
where you can practise your driving
on perilous mountain roads!

Where are you going, MrsM?

Come back!

Please come back!

I was just kidding about the driving...