28 March 2011

Reunions - good or bad?

Disley Primary School

Today, in my email inbox via Friends Reunited, I found an invitation to a school reunion.  Apparently Disley Primary School is celebrating its 100 year anniversary.  What an amazing thing.  I quickly clicked on the link to find out more details.  27 June is the date and requests for photographs and stories are wanted.  It says that 600 invitations have been issued but so far, there do not seem to be any confirmed attendees.  It started me musing.

Are these things a good idea? For a start, how will we recognise each other after nearly 50 years?  Hang on, does that mean the school was only 50 years old when I went there - blimey - it felt ancient.  There again, a lot of what I learnt there stuck over the years, so it was a good thing that I went, even if it was only for a year. 

Looking at the photo again in detail, it brings back a completely different time of life.  Fashion for school kids in those days was mainly Clarks sensible shoes - mine being a particularly fine 'slip on' - others in the regulation Clarks sandals - still sold to this day and a secret hankering of mine.  Girls and boys wore hand knitted jumpers or cardigans without any embarassment - imagine that today!  Sensible haircuts for the boys making sure that their ears could be seen and harsh, sharp fringes for girls or pony tails with wispy bits in my case.  We look so sweet and innocent.  Do black and white photographs evoke happier memories because we can't see the colours of our clothes and make judgments?  Nothing worse than an old colour photograph showing you up in your bad taste clothing that you thought was so trendy at the time.

When I was at school we had satchels which we stuffed with whatever we needed in them.  Usually a pencil case, ruler and other vital oddments along with homework.  Last week I tried to lift young Katherine's school bag - trendy black rucksack variety - and nearly gave myself a hernia.  What on earth is going on when children from the age of 6 are expected to lug hundredweights of books around with them.  No wonder they all have back problems.  When I enquired as to why she had so much in her bag, it's because they do not like to leave their stuff in lockers (security) and because teachers now sit and wait for children to come to them, they are forced to carry everything they might need around with them.  How stupid.  What was wrong with the old way of teachers coming to the class and the children having their own desks to leave stuff in? The only time we left our desks was for games, science and domestic science - who remembers that one then? I also find it very bizarre that the modern way of teaching seems to involve kids sitting at tables - ideal for ruining concentration - instead of good old fashioned desks in lines? 

Thinking back to my High School days and Domestic Science, I remember pestering to get the right shopping basket to carry home my cookery results safely tucked under a teatowel.  We learnt cheese and onion pie, treacle toffee, Victoria sponges and parents bravely tried the results.  I had the added bother of making sure no-one attacked my stuff on the school bus I used to catch between Macclesfield and Kettleshulme.

A similar basket to one I had - think mine was darker

Another subject in Domestic Science, believe it or not, was Laundry.  I saw my first 'twin tub' in these lessons and was also taught how to starch a pillow case using Robin Starch - the powder that is and not the spray used today.  I reckon I could still do it if pushed too.

Mix with water

Domestic Science also taught us to get everything together before we even started anything.  All your implements for cooking, ingredients etc, should be lined up neatly before starting and when you had finished, you had to scrub down the big wooden tables.  All good advice - some of which I still adhere to but not all (oops).

We also had many hours of 'sewing'.  The High School had a Sewing (or was it Needlework) Room with a fascinating mix of early sewing machines with moods and attitudes to match the pubescent girls forced into using them.  We had to make our own aprons for Cookery, a games skirt (nightmare) and probably other things that have vanished from my memory.  However, the one thing that scarred me for life was 'french seams' - to this day I shudder at how I managed to successfully bugger these up on a nightdress!!!!!  The choice of sewing machines was either Singer (still my favourite) or Jones (loathed due to difficult 'shuttle' problems).  These were all manual ones and some of the Singers harked back to much earlier days by having beautiful brass plates and floral decorations.

Similar machine to those I used at the High School

Singer shuttle

A Jones sewing machine

The dreaded shuttle

I must admit that these lessons gave me a love of sewing I have to this day and after having learnt more skills on the Singer treadle machine of my Godmother - nothing beats the soothing rythmn of treadling away - I asked for my own machine which my father got for me and I loved to distraction until the day came when I upgraded to an ELECTRIC!

Very similar to my beloved manual sewing machine

This machine was guilty of providing me with so many dresses, skirts etc during the late 60's.  I used to rush to either Ellwoods fabric shop or The Fent shop in Macclesfield, choose a pattern, the material etc then rush home and make whatever it was so I could wear it on the same night or on Sundays.  I even went so far as to make some office dresses for my mother.  Heady stuff.  Eventually though, it had to be replaced and off we went to Stockport to find a new, modern machine.  My lovely Singer was displaced in favour of another Singer with all the latest bits and bobs - exciting things like a buttonhole attachment - still prefer to do them by hand though, far too fiddly on the machine.  This machine was a nice off-white colour and I thought it was the bees knees - guess what - it was as I still have it to this day and it's still going strong.  It had to have a new pedal a few years ago as after 30 years it gave up the ghost in a spectacular smoke-fest, but luckily I found a universal replacement which a friend brought over for me and it gets an outing once or twice a year - what amazing value for money as I think it cost about £70 to buy new.

The trusty Singer Capri

However, I have gone off the subject of reunions.  I did have a reunion, after a year, with some of the girls from the Intensive Secretarial Course I took at Macclesfield College of Further Education, which was quite good as it was only a short time since we had all started our working careers.  What would it be like now I wonder?  Sadly, I do not seem to have found any of the girls that were on this course via Friends Reunited or Facebook - it's hard with tracking girls as they change their names on marriage usually, whereas the lads keep theirs.  Everyone had got a job - so much easier then - and it was a reunion mainly of comparing working conditions, salaries, bosses, travel etc etc.

Another reunion I took part in was very different.  At the end of the 60's myself and other friends all used to go to a very special pub in Macclesfield.  The Castle Inn was parked inbetween Back Wallgate and Church Wallgate.  This pub was a haunt of musicians and had a wonderful landlord - Arthur Oldfield - who took great care of his clientele.

The Castle Inn

The left hand window was the long main room with a centre fireplace, the right hand window and shuttered window, was the Tap Room, frequented by elderly gentlemen and the occasional elderly lady - I say elderly because everyone over 24 was old to us.  What you can't see is that there was a wonderful back room behind the bar, again with a fireplace, and old fashioned wooden bench seats, covered in red leather.  This was the room frequented mostly by my friends but if there were too many of us for any reason, we would move into the larger room.  This was normally when there were too many guitars and not enough elbow room!  I met many wonderful friends here, and am happy to say a good few of us are still in touch.  Most of the lads played guitar, others played harmonica or paper and comb, and hours of wonderful music was played.  None of us were particularly wealthy and we didn't drink to the excess that youngsters do today.  We could have fun and enjoy ourselves with talk, jokes, music and quite often a half pint of something could last most of a night.

The resident band were The Purple Gang who recorded Granny Takes a Trip and we would happily go off to gigs to cheer them on.  When they recorded their first album, The Purple Gang Strikes, they used some of the girls from the pub as well as shots around The Castle, as the front cover.

The Purple Gang

Christopher Joe Beard - founder member

Anyway, back in about 1999, I re-connected with Joe and his lovely wife, Lesley, and went up to Higher Poynton to stay with them, take in a gig and have a reunion with some of the other people I used to know.  The obvious place to meet up was obviously The Castle.  How strange the feeling to feel that door latch under my fingers after about 30 years.  Obviously there had been changes, not least in the landlord.  The back room now had an opening through to what had been Arthur's private accommodation and there was a lot of brass ornamentation going on, but it felt just the same.  It was a brilliant night because of the people - it might have been 30 years, but it felt like yesterday.  Sadly, one of the guys from that evening has since died - something that affected me more than I ever thought possible.  Friends from your formative years make impressions on you in a way you probably do not realise until you meet them again many years later.  This is a reunion I cherish as a memory and I am happy to say that I did not feel anyone of us had changed that much, apart from obvious things like hair, teeth, weight - the sense of humour, the shared memories of our carefreeish youth, were still very fresh to all of us.

So, a reunion of primary school friends - would it have the same impact on me?  Sadly I do not think it would because I was only there for a year, basically to pass my 11+.  I did not live in Disley therefore I did not play with anyone on a regular basis or share parts of my life with them, apart from the occasional sleepover, because I lived in Kettleshulme and relied on my father for transport.  I am glad that we all briefly emailed each other from the early Friends Reunited days, and that two of them are still in touch on a regular basis, but this time I will not be attending but I hope that it is successful for those who do and will be waiting for the report from Richard and Janet later in the summer.

18 March 2011

Cooking and Reading in a foreign country

On my first ever visit to Lisbon, my eye was caught by a paperback in a bookshop window in the Rossio.  It stood out because a) it was English and b) because it was about food.  This little paperback has become one of my favourite sources of recipes for portuguese food.

An old photo but this was the shop and it was in the right hand window round the corner of the shop

Portuguese Cookery by Ursula Bourne

First published in 1973 it gives an overview of the country, the ingredients, flavours and suggestions for alternatives to items that would not have been available in those days.  How times have changed in the culinary world.  She gives a potted history of the link between the English and the port wine industry which is very interesting for those who know nothing about the long standing friendship between our two countries.  She gives hints at the life of the poorer portuguese and how they make the best of what is available to them to make nutritious soups and meals.  She talks about the legendary 'varinas' of Lisbon - the lady fish porters - I wish I could have seen them in action in the old days - must have been quite a sight.  Where there is a story to a receipe, Ursula tells it.  Some are quite amusing, especially in the 'Cakes, Sweetmeats and Conserves' section.  Apparently there is a famous cake in the Douro region shaped like a rude part of a gentleman's anatomy, which is given by young men to their girl friends during the June and September festivals for Sao Goncalo, the patron saint of marriage.  It is a leftover from the fertility rites in the past. 

I have no idea whether the book is still in print, but if it is, it is a good, simple introduction to portuguese cuisine as is another excellent book is by Carol Wright, simply titled 'Portuguese Food'.  This was actually printed in 1969 and is more of a guide book with recipes than a cookery book.  Sadly, a lot of restaurants she refers to in this area of Cascais and Sintra, are no more, but it is still very interesting to see what was around and how much a meal would have cost. The guide book element is also worth reading to see what the country was like in 1969 under the control of the dictator Salazar, and still a few years away from the revolution.

Both books cover the portuguese love of salt cod.  I know it sounds vile, but it is not as it sounds.  The cod is soaked in water overnight or longer and when cooked, has a lovely creamy texture.  The British have the standing joke of '101 Ways with Mince', the portuguese have '365 receipes for salt cod'.  I can't say I 'love' it, but cooked well, it is delicious. 

Balcalhau a Gomes de Sa

My favourite dishes are quite simple.  'Iscas' or Lisbon liver is my all time favourite.  Nothing like the old liver done under a grill until you could sole your shoes with it, this is marinated with wine and vinegar and garlic and served with either boiled or fried sliced potatoes and is beautiful. 


Another one is something that is about to hit the restaurants about now.  'Favas' is a dish made with broad beans, garlic, bacon and other ingredients.  Now broad beans and me have never gone together.  Remember those disgusting grey, wrinkled things with a parsley sauce that were always with a bit of tired, white fish? Well this dish converted me and now I am a born-again broad bean fan.  It might not look very pretty, but the taste is something else. Try boiling them, then strip off the skin and you are left with a beautiful green bean that is a wonderful addition to salads or soup.  I find that the simplest of receipes are the most flavoursome here, probably because of the amounts of garlic added to them!  Our garlic bulbs are huge!

Favas com chourico

Portuguese olive oil is also a well kept secret.  I buy mine from the market and the smell when the heat hits it, is glorious.  The best smell in the world is onions and garlic stewing in good olive oil.  You can't beat it.  Well I suppose fresh bread and roasted coffee come close.

A lovely old tin of olive oil

Not having access to Waterstones means that my reading list has been influenced by what I have been able to find in the British Library on Wednesdays and the odd buy in a second hand bookshop or the big FNAC shop in the Cascais shopping centre.  This was how I discovered the portuguese writer, Eca de Queiroz.  He was born in 1845 in the north of Portugal and although he studied law at Coimbra University, he went into the diplomatic service and was a Consul in Havana, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Bristol and finally, Paris.  The first book I read was, in fact, his last and partially unfinished - "The Tragedy of the Street of Flowers".  I enjoyed this and actively searched out the other ones.  The next one, and the one that the portuguese regard as his finest, is "The Maias"- my thoughts on this book were that there were a lot of similarities still around today!  I then read "The Crime of Father Amaro", which was very powerful and was made into a film in the early 2000s.  I recently read "Cousin Basilio", which again, could have been set in today's world.  A wonderful writer - to me in the same category as Zola. 

The hardest part about trying to read genuine portuguese works is the fact you have to rely on it having been translated well and sometimes this does not happen and you lose certain elements because of it.  However "Equator" by Miguel Sousa Tavares was a recent find and a very moving book.  I had heard about this a few years ago as it was made into a mini series for television but I never saw it.  The story is set at the beginning of the 1900s and follows the life of a man asked by the King to become governor of Portugal's smallest colony, the island of Sao Tome e Principe.  I learnt so much about the cocoa plantation trade, much of it not very pleasant and the English do not come out of it very well.  The ending is truly shocking but I would recommend it wholeheartedly.

The Tragedy of the Street of Flowers by Eca de Queiroz and Equator by Miguel Sousa Tavares

If you are interested in history, "The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon" by Richard Zimler, is a rollercoaster of a book set against the background of the auto de fe (the portuguese equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition) and the horrendous time that the people went through.  A modern book is Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier, which is also very good. 

The Last Kabblist of Lisbon by Richard Zimler

Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier

For serious students, why not try this one?  Written in the days when Sintra was spelt with a 'C' as in Cintra, it is a wonderful piece of writing about life in the 1700s.  William Beckford  -rumoured to have been the richest commoner in England  - having been a rather naughty boy in England, had to leave the country hastily after a scandal.  After going to Italy he eventually came to Portugal and rented Monserrate Palace.  He also built Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire and the Landsdown Tower in Bath but he is best known for his gothic novel, Vathek.  There is a rumour that he brought sheep from Fonthill to Monserrate, but I am not sure whether that is true or not. 

The Journal of William Beckford in Portugal and Spain 1787-1788

Another writer to look out for if you have not ready anything by him, is Robert Wilson.  He has written two books about the Lisbon/Cascais area and are both very good reads.  The first one 'A Small Death in Lisbon' is set during the present and flashes back to 1941 and the second, 'The Company of Strangers' is about a female spy caught up in the brutal fascist regime of 1944 Portugal.

A Small Death in Lisbon by Robert Wilson

The Company of Strangers by Robert Wilson

He also has a series of books set in Spain which are equally brilliant and on that theme I have to recommend, because it would be naughty not to mention it, a Spanish novel - 'The Shadow of the Wind' by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  An absolutely brilliant read.  The sort of book you cannot put down and read into the early hours of the morning.

16 March 2011

Was it better then?

Love or hate Facebook, it is a wonderful way to connect with schoolfriends, old work colleagues and family.  Skype too, is a great way to keep up to date with the happenings of everyone even if the video calls are quite dodgy.  I had a chat with a friend once, who seem totally unaware I could see them doing something their mother would have smacked their legs for! 

More and more people seem to be doing what we all swore we wouldn't when we were teenagers - talking about the 'good old days', remembering things from our pasts that gave us pleasure, pain or embarassment. Photographs start appearing with 'tags' which are slightly worrying but usually because you either can't remember the names of the people you were with or the fact you were wearing some monstrous outfit that was 'cool' in the 70s. 

The best ones are school photographs - preferably primary school - where everyone seemed to be sat on benches with matching haircuts, shoes and socks and smirks.  For me, the High School photograph (now residing with a friend) showed everyone with matching fringes thanks to the Beatles and strangely serious expressions - probably told to behave or have a detention!  My photo on this is vile as I was at the stage of wearing glasses which, in retrospect had something in common with Dame Edna Everage, and after hiding at the back, was told in no uncertain terms by one of the teachers (or were they called mistresses in those days) to move to the front where I appear to have put on an even more sulky expression.

My favourite school photographs though, are the ones taken when I was at Kettleshulme Primary School.  One shows me grinning with a super hand knitted jumper and a pony tail and in the other one I  remember I was wearing my 'best' dress for the occasion (a hand-me-down from my sister) and sitting astride a bench with my arms around another girl - possibly Pauline Boothby - and again, with a smile.  I wonder when the idea of serious faced children became fashionable. 

Talking of Kettleshulme Primary School reminds me of such a happy time.  It had two classrooms and two teachers.  Mrs Fidler looked after the little ones and when you moved into the big room, you got Mr Nixon, who was also the Headmaster.  This school taught me so much.  We did growing beans in jam jars with blotting paper, learnt to play musical instruments - in my case the triangle - learnt to embroider, were given instructions on how to reply to formal invitations and how to write 'thank you' letters, got introduced (giggling) to National Geographic, made knitted dishcloths for our mothers, calendars out of old Christmas cards, mastered punching leatherwork for purses, plus our nature rambles learning about trees, leaves, flowers and pond dipping.  I googled it on the internet and was thrilled to see how it was still going and had been expanded.

St James' Primary School, Kettleshulme

When I was there, the playground was brilliant.  In winter we used to build long slides on the ice and cause havoc racing up and down them.  No idea how we didn't hurt ourselves.  The girls had skipping and games of 'may I?', 'statues', 'tag', 'hopscotch and the boys had cricket, football and making the girls cry.  Occasionally the girls would be allowed to join in the boys games if they were short of players.  In winter, fierce games of snowballs would take place and we would dry out on the big, fat radiators.  They were very hot and you could not sit on them for long.    One way of keeping warm was to suck on Victor V's - they got so hot you always had to take them out to let your tongue calm down.

Victory V's

To heat the school, we had an enormous coke heap round the back of the school that we had strict instructions to leave alone.Obviously this was the ideal thing to race up and down getting filthy.  The toilets were outside and the girls were separated from the boys by a tall brick wall.  We all knew what the boys were doing the other side though - can't remember who got the highest!  The toilets were pretty awful being Elsans but it never seemed to bother us.  We were much hardier in those days than the kids today.  Played out in most weathers and Peter Kay's sketch about dinner ladies shouting kids inside from the playground because "it's spitting", reduced me to tears of laughter.

School dinners were cooked on the premises by lovely ladies who dragged us in to stir the sixpences into the Christmas puddings.  We sat at long tables next to the big windows at the back of the big room and Mrs Fidler and Mr Nixon sat watching us carefully for misbehaviour.  Can't remember if the boys got caught when they tried to set fire to one of the tables using the sun and a magnifying glass!  Christmas was special - we had the Nativity play of course - I was Mary one year and spoilt the effect by sucking my thumb happily all the way through it.  We had games of musical chairs but the best bit was making all the paper decorations to decorate the classrooms.  One sad aspect was that we had a lovely family of Jehovah Witnesses at school and although they helped make the decorations, they were never part of the rest of the celebrations.  Sad.

I don't know if these happy days gave me my love of history but certainly we learnt all about the ghost stories of the village and surrounding areas and one day we were taken to Lyme Hall (the scene of Mr Darcy and the wet shirt sequence) and learnt about its history and the superstitions that went with it.  Lyme Cage was particularly fascinating as we learnt about the escape route from the house that led to it.  We wanted to go inside and see if we could make it to the house, but obviously were not allowed.  It was rather rundown then but nice to see it in good condition now.

Lyme Cage today

Unfortunately for me, I did not stay on at the school to take my 11+ due to the fact that when my father enquired one evening what I had learnt that day, I stupidly told him we had been pond dipping in the village and judging from his expression, this was not what he had hoped to hear.  Very shortly after that, I was removed and did my 11+ year at Disley Primary School, which was a bit of a shock but turned out to be equally enjoyable in a completely different way.  It was a much bigger school with a huge playground and best of all, an old air raid shelter at the back - obviously we were banned from playing in it.  It was nice to have more children to be with and everyone was very friendly to me considering they had all been going up through the school since they were five.  My favourite teacher was a Mr King who had the awful task of coaching me in extra maths. 

Modern Disley Primary School

All the time I was in the 'big' class in Kettleshulme, I notoriously got nought out of 10 in mental arithmetic and goodness only knows what I got in the rest of the subject.  It was my most hated subject - still is - and when I got to Disley it was pretty obvious that I was completely out of my depth with it.  My 11th birthday present was unforgettable.  Sitting at breakfast thinking happy thoughts, I was immediately reduced to floods of tears because I was informed that in future, every Thursday after school, I would be having extra classes of maths with Mr King.  It is due to him that I can:  add up, subtract, multiply and divide which I can still do faster than modern kids with their calculators.  His patience with me was immense and it was only due to him that I passed my 11+.  He even whispered an answer in my ear during the exam - bless you Mr King!

Here in Portugal, it is quite common for children to have extra help from someone with their homework, which does beg the question about the standard of teaching.  When I help my students I am astonished at the way maths is taught these days.  It makes my students laugh when I look totally blank but then I fascinate them by doing 'sums' on a bit of paper and getting an answer in seconds or even more shocking, in my head.  They have to do myriad calculations that are completely beyond me and take - in my opinion - far too long to do. 

The downside of tutoring for me, is having to repeat things - I never, ever thought I would have to suffer Jonathan Swift and Gulliver again, nor 'the Scottish play', but two years ago, I did.  I have to say that Gulliver had not improved in the slightest for me.  I always hated the book and time had not altered my viewpoint on it.  Shakespeare I never have a problem with and that was quite enjoyable.  Science can be a challenge plus the fact that most of the separate subjects I remember, all seem to be grouped together under new titles.  French, I am pleased to say, is still the same but instead of a textbook, my student gets a photocopied booklet and they don't have to have a dictionary - something I cannot understand - or do a vocabulary book - Miss Worsley, my French mistress at Macclesfield High School, would have been shocked.

Another huge difference is homework.  I seem to remember (I hope), that we had homework set each night and gave it in the next day.  My student has a diary in which she writes her homework and there is a pattern to it which can vary from being given in after 10 days, 3 days, 2 days or next day.  This is fine for her as she is a good student, but others that I know, tend to leave it to the last minute or totally forget and get their marks reduced for it.  Modern children also seem to have a lot more homework each night than I remember and I always feel sorry for the amount of stuff they have to lug around.  In my day the teacher came to the class, these days, the kids have to go to the teacher.  Another big problem is the fact that because they have so many things to cart about, it is quite common for them to forget to pack books for lessons, or forget to put them in their bags for homework.  Another modern trend is to do homework online!  My student does maths homework on a special school site which she accesses with a password and can practice her answers - quite often we do 'best of three' so her mark goes up.  Weird.

One website we both enjoy is a BBC one where we can revise subjects for her school level.  It is pretty effective and I have secretly played this on my own at home to test my knowledge.  If you fancy testing yourself try www.bbc.co.uk/schools/ks3bitesize/game/questionaut.  Good luck.

15 March 2011

Seek and you might just find something you want

The sun re-appeared this morning and a trip to Mucifal, one of our great local villages, was on the cards for a re-stock of cat food for Pansy and Pompey, dog biscuits for our puppy friends, Sado and Pinhao, plus a rummage in the local household shop and best of all, as the sun was out, a chance to investigate our local junk shop.

Mucifal is a very well served village.  It has umpteen corner shops or mini supermarkets, bakeries, frozen fish shop, wet fish shop, butchers, market, a selection of household goods shops (large and small), a fabulous jewellers, a generous sprinkling of coffee shops, a couple of tiny clothes shops, a fishing tackle/horse tackle shop,a couple of newsagent type shops, an electrical shop, a shop catering for the disabled, a couple of odd shoes shops (one does repairs), a funeral director, a takeaway bbq shop (the grill is in the alley next to the shop), a florist, a beautiful linen, towels, bedding and material shop, a gift shop, an embroidery/tapestry/baby clothes shop and a pet shop - who needs supermarkets?

The pet shop is a small building stuffed with everything you need for your pet, be it a rabbit, hamster, dog, cat, parrot or fish.  Claudia is incredibly helpful and speaks beautiful English.  Today, after pointing me at the 'special offer' section on dry cat food, she let me cuddle a rather gorgeous baby bunny - no, I did not get to bring it home unfortunately.  In her fish tank are two enormous fish which are orange and black striped and are usually in darkness otherwise I believe they fight.  There are two cute parrots - the portuguese love their birds in cages which takes some getting used to - a selection of brightly coloured budgies and the odd hamster.  The thing I love most, is that she sells the wet food sachets my cats have at the same price as the supermarket and I would rather give her the business than travel for 20 minutes to a supermarket.  She does not have a website, but if you live anywhere near Mucifal and want to speak to someone who really knows her stuff, please do visit and she stocks all the necessary toys and flea products too.  The shop is called Chocalho, Loja de Animais, Rua Almerindo Lavrador, n13, Mucifal.  21 928 0911/96 301 89 49.

After stocking up on provisions for the animals it was off to investigate the junk yard.  We found this place totally by accident last summer.  I had walked past it frequently and never thought anything about it other than it was a large, white, metal sliding garage door.  One day, as we walked past, the door was open and low and behold it was the most amazing junk yard you had ever seen.  A narrow pathway leads between a covered area with wardrobes, bookcases, chest-of-drawers, tables etc and an area open to the elements with everything else.   

The uncovered, miscellaneous section

Lighting and wardrobes

Crockery anyone?

Rummage section

Bed frames and chairs are in here somewhere

We were looking for a desk at first and after the lady rummaged around a bit she said she had nothing in the yard but her husband was due back any minute, so would we wait because he might have something.  We did.  The next thing is that we have been bundled into the ubiquitous white van and driven round the back streets of Mucifal to their home.  A large bungalow with a paved front garden covered in tarpaulins.  After much muttering and lifting of tarps, he pulled out a few examples of desks for us to examine.  Unfortunately they were not what we were looking for, but Glenn suddenly spotted something tucked away and got him to pull it out.  A lovely coffee table appeared.  A big of haggling and it was ours.  So an unscheduled visit for a desk, resulted in a coffee table we had not even thought of.  Glenn cleaned it up and polished it and it is now a key part of our decor.

Not bad for 45 euros!

Needless to say, we have become quite regular visitors and here are more of our bargains from last year, which Glenn has very successful given a second lease of life to.

Great kitchen table doubling as a desk

We got a desk eventually

One day, again without wanting anything, we spotted a beautiful little side table.  We enquired about it only to be told someone had already said they wanted it and she had put it to one side.  I offered her cash on the spot when she told me that the other person had not put a deposit on it.  She hummed and hawed a bit, grinned and agreed and said that she would say someone else sold it behind her back!  I think we got a great buy.

The large crystal vase was also a 20 euro bargain

Today, because we can't resist, we dropped in again and picked up these beautiful hand painted bowls for ....wait for it... 10 euros

Beautiful, traditional painted bowls

It also looks like there may be an extension to the yard directly opposite - but we have not explored it it because we are worried about what else we might decide we can't live without.

So if you are in Mucifal keep a look out for this Aladdin's Cave of goodies (closed on Thursdays) on Travessa dos Lavadouros, 18, Mucifal and see what you can come up with.  Good hunting.


14 March 2011

Are we ready for this?

Sitting in the hairdressers recently, leafing through the magazines at leisure wondering who the hell these 'celebrities' are, I was amused to see how much retro is back.  I only get to read the 'low and high end' magazines at my infrequent visits to Babara at Hair Lobby in the marina in Cascais as they are far too expensive to buy here - the cheapest is around 6 euros and the majority over 8 euros - so it is my catch up with the outside world!  Barbara is always amused at my giggling at fashion or lack of it in the cheaper magazines but she does have Good Housekeeping which is a good antidote to the orange, gold and 'inflated' people in Hello.

Her salon, although small, is light, airy and modern with a beauty salon incorporated. It is in a lovely position at the side of the marina and in windy weather, you are serenaded by the clanking of all the masts of the gorgeous boats moored up here.  It is rumoured to have the most expensive fees in Europe!!

Hair Lobby Salon in the marina in Cascais

The view from the salon

Juding by the amount of 'retro' being featured in the magazines, we might well be seeing things we thought might have vanished (hopefully) all over again.  I know that fashion goes in cycles but the idea of wearing tank tops and loons again does not thrill me.  It would be nice to see a well dressed holidaymaker rather than the 'blobs' - male and female - that seem to be a sad feature beachside all over the world.  It would be lovely to see a return to when people seem to have a care in their appearance - the fashion for scruffy is not a good look on young or old and the tracksuit/football attire look, has never, ever worked on anyone.  However, I have wandered from my original topic of retro.

Remember these, which were on everyone's hit list for mothers one Christmas?

Get those onions chopped

No need for missing buttons with one of these

What else might come back into our lives. If we are going back in time, how about going back to this?  No good dinner party was without one being proudly pushed into the dining room with panache.

The Hostess Trolley

For all aspiring hostesses - the trusty fondue set

I then mused on.  Would certain odours return in full force?  Would women be throwing themselves across crowded rooms and across streets in search of the man wearing

Splash it all over!!!

I thought I was really sophisticated when I wore the following which I believe is still available but probably to elderly spinsters!   In my defence, I was under 10 at the time.

As I got older I moved to Yardley and Goya

Yardley's Sea Jade

Goya's Aqua Manda with its lovely orange scent

False eyelashes never really go out of fashion but I see the 'elf and safety has caused the demise of the 'spit' mascara!

.Now drinks-wise, what about these lovely concoctions?

I seem to remember this being a ghastly port colour and pretty vile

Another headache inducing drink marketed as 'wine'

A brandy and Babycham was the height of sophistication for some.  I thought it was like brandy and Andrews!

Anyone for a snowball with glace cherry?

The boys were more likely to be drinking such wonders as

Not if you drank 10 pints of it - I am told by a man in the know. Or there was


Watney's Red Barrel - rumoured to keep fish alive!

What about a return to frothy coffee as served up regulary in my coffee bar, The Cavendish on Queen Victoria Street, Macclesfield.  I suppose that would be a capuccino these days.

One thing about getting older is the way you can annoy younger people by telling them that you either wore it first, heard it first or knew the person who performed it first.  Best of all, being old enough to tell a 4 year old portuguese child, that Noddy was around when I was her age!  Bliss.