24 August 2011

Summer festivities

Cannot believe how long it is since I last blogged. This is not due to an over excess of sunbathing on white sand in front of blue seas, far from it.  This has been the most bizarre summer I have ever experienced.  We had rain on 1 August and again the following week and then thunderstorms and grey skies and hints of dampness.  Very unusual and precludes visits to beaches.

In June and July I had problems first with the internet and lack of signal.  Various excuses given over a period of nearly a month until it returned and then the phone vanished.  Reasons for this ranged from copper thieving from nearby villages, to trees!!!  The trees were dealt with a couple of weeks ago and guess what, the phone has died again.  The internet is always wobbly when we have large cloud formations coming in from the Atlantic as they like to perch on the top of the Sintra hills, covering our side with a lovely mystic mist and the other with rolling clouds that look like melting 99 icecreams minus the chocolate.

We have been busy on our garden bits and pieces and although we were given a piece of the estate for an allotment, we had to give it up as the battle against weeds inevitably beat us, but we salvaged what we had planted and transplated to large bins close to the house, where everything has taken very well.  Our tomatoes were not as good as last year but that could be because we used a different variety or the weather - who knows.  I have sourced some wonderful tiny currant-sized ones to try next year.

It is the season of village festivities.  The hills are alive with music is an understatement.  Living on a hillside we get the full benefit of the evening entertainments from across the valley.  Some is very good, some has extra loud bass lines, and some is downright funny.  All of this music does tend to start with rehearsals about 4.00pm with the usual "testing one, two" etc and then you get a minor blast about 8-9.00pm and then peace whilst food is consumed and then it starts in earnest around 11.00pm, getting louder until about 2.00am and if you are really unlucky and a light sleeper, you can get blown out of bed again around 3-4.00am.  The latest this year, so far, was an extra loud session at around 6.00am.  Good job we both like music and can manage to sleep through it although we often comment on how people who live opposite the social centre and surrounding houses cope - they must all be participants!

This coming Sunday is the Fruit and Vegetable Auction in Almocageme, that we went to last year.  This time I intend to be much more organised with what I want to bid on.  The car will also be coming with me.  Last year, because we did not know how busy it would be, we took the bus and then had to carry a large tray of tomatoes back with us!  Not this time!  Annoyingly it clashes with a festival in Praia das Macas which is a religious ceremony, where the Madonna is carried into the sea.  I really wanted to see this but will have to wait until next year.

Last Wednesday we went to visit the Sao Mamede de Janas Festival because we had been told how interesting it was.  Wednesday was the day for animals and a blessing and recommended by my friend in the pet shop, so armed with her directions on how to find it, we set off about 3.00pm as the blessing was due at 4.00pm.

Typical street decorations at Festa time

As we approached the road blossomed with decorated arches and lamps which most villages have for their festas.  One side of the road was a traditional fair with various rides, roundabouts, dodgems (and yes they do the same - stand on the side and check out which is the fastest), doughnut vans, cherry brandy stands (a shot of cherry brandy from Obidos in a chocolate tasting cup for 1 euro), and a couple of stall selling clothing, pottery and electrical bits and pieces. 


The other side was given over to serious stalls of clothing, pottery, cake and bread vans, ice cream stands, food stalls etc.  Parking was down the sides of the roads (for early birds) and organised fields for the rest of us - all good humouredly monitored by the local police.

Bread and cakes to one side, clothing to the other

Very jolly and smiling police

Amongst the stalls were speciality food stalls like this one selling suckling pig, which is a much loved delicacy here and found on most markets.  You can have it in restaurants, and some shops specialise in takeaways of it.

A roast suckling pig stall

Could not resist a fartura - extremely tasty and no doubt very fattening but there are times you just need one.  They are like a doughnut mixture which is rolled into a large curled round and then chopped into pieces which are rolled in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.  You can also buy other versions which have a line of chocolate or jam up the middle, but the original are the best.

Naughty but nice

We wandered down to where all the animals were penned and bumped into our butcher and his wife.  He has English pointers which he was showing although one of them was making a concerted effort to tunnel his way out of the pen to meet and greet the people.  There were some beautiful goats - this one actually posed for me - some with pretty baubles attached to the ends of their horns. 

Ready when you are Mr de Mille

Some of the cows and sheep were sporting fetching multi-coloured ribbons - whether this was an award or just purely for cosmetic use, I really don't know.  There were cages of ducks, rabbits, a large trailer of exotic birds also selling animal feed, a cute donkey and cart, horses, cows (looking somewhat bored by it all) and the noise level was amazing with people shouting to each other, animals making animal sounds, and on top of this, was a rather impressive stack of speakers around the stage with an accordion player and keyboard player, blasting out.

He seemed very calm in all the confusion

Not impressed with her ribbons - perhaps wrong colourway

Good sound system

People seem to have either come for the week or the day and were camping all over the fields around the fair.  All very well organised with blankets, picnic or dining tables, chairs and even a sunbed or too.

Resting in the shade of the trees

There was a small area roped off for the mass with a set of bleachers for people to sit on and as it got towards 4.00pm, they started to fill up and people started to congregate around the area.  The priests were in beautiful robes and were led into the ring by a man carrying a large cross.  There was a lovely little choir who sang beautifully and then various ladies read pieces from the bible.  One priest in particular appeared to be rather shy and was mouthing the words to hymns.  The service continued with the backdrop of mooing, baaing and general chattering but it was a really nice thing to see.

Awaiting the start of the Mass

The priests following the cross onto the dais

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