Friday, July 28, 2006

Quote of the day

A balanced diet is chocolate in both hands.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Captain's log stardate 27/07/2006

1. Smooth sailing towards objective.
2. Separated and donated about 10 Kg of clothes in pristine condition to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.
3. Went out with sis and kids: dropped in on hubby at work to have lunch with him and show sis around. Clara insisted on shaking hands with everyone we met: very outgoing and very polite.
4. Went shopping for groceries and last minute buys at Tesco's under a frightening thunderstorm. Clara kept repeating that her teacher said that the safest place to be during a thunderstorm is inside a car (and it IS: it's a Faraday cage).
5. Came home and watched film "Pride and Prejudice" with Keira Knightly with sis and kids(it was raining cats and dogs outside). Not as good as the BBC series from 10 years ago with gorgeous Colin Firth...
6. Continued washing, ironing and packing (the last of it before departure, hopefully).
7. Supper: leftovers (yea! no cooking!), in order to empty out the fridge.
8. Evening: Sis and Ana played Monopoly for a couple of hours while Clara watched Shrek and played games on the computer. Hubby's working like mad (as always before a holiday). As usual he'll go on working even while we're away.
9. The plumber still hasn't fixed the shower in the en-suite: he'll only be available in the beginning of September (I'm envisioning the first week of September as absolutely mad, with the decorator, gardener and plumber around at the same time and when school and after school activities start...).
10. I need a holiday!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Getting ready

I've been ironing all day in scorching heat. I only stopped to cook - yes, cook, hob, oven and all! -lunch and supper for the family and to talk to the plumber about the infiltration that has stained the ceiling of the dining-room and which is coming from behind the shower in the master bedroom en-suite bathroom (it will be 220 pounds just to replace the leaking shower "torpedo" cartridge, whatever that is!!!).
Why is it that getting everything ready for the family to go away on holiday always leaves me more dead than alive? I feel like an overheated zombie!
Still, just the happiness stamped on everyone's face for going back to Portugal for a month of fun is worth it all...
PS - Who would ever believe that it is actually cooler in the Algarve than it is here!

Heated gloom

Am I getting senile or are we really accelerating towards self-annihilation? Sometimes I regret having had children such is the price they'll have to pay for our stupidity.

Boiling alive

"The 2003 heatwave killed more than 30,000 people. It was the biggest natural disaster in Europe on record. [...]If it had been a freak occurrence, northern Europeans may have been able to rest easy. But the latest climate models paint a very bleak picture, suggesting that the summer of 2003 will be the norm in Europe by the 2040s."
"The gruesome effects of overheating have been largely forgotten as Europe swelters under record temperatures, from southern England's 36.5C to Bosnia's 41C. When weather forecasters predicted that the heat would get more intense across the continent today, most of us heaved a sigh at the thoughts of stuffy trains, sweaty buses, parched lawns and boiling offices. But perhaps we are being complacent."
"When the human body gets to 42C, it starts to cook. The heat causes the proteins in each cell to irreversibly change, like an egg white as it boils. Even before that, the brain shuts down because of a lack of blood coming from the overworked, overheated heart. Muscles stop working, the stomach cramps and the mind becomes delirious. Death is inevitable."
"Throughout its life, the human body battles to keep its core temperature at a steady 37C, whatever conditions it finds itself in. This is the temperature at which the organs function normally and there is little tolerance to change. To prevent overheating, the body starts pumping blood to the skin's surface when it senses that things are getting warm. This places extra strain on the heart and, as the water from the blood evaporates, it thickens the blood, leading to an increased risk of clotting - which can cause strokes or heart attacks. If the core temperature continues to rise, muscles stop working properly because of the amount of water and salts being lost through sweating. Eventually, when the brain reaches 38.5C, the body suffers a heatstroke. If the temperature is not brought down quickly at this stage, death soon follows."
Another chilling (yet not refreshing) wake up call in today's Guardian.

Monday, July 24, 2006


How can the people who survived the horror of the holocaust so cruelly inflict such pain and misery on innocent civilians (most of them children)? How is the World to "understand" such inhumane acts of proclaimed "self-defense"?!!
Some 380 Lebanese (civilian and mostly children) and up to 40 Israelis (most of them soldiers) have died in the 13 days of this conflict which befell the people of Lebanon with no warning whatsoever! The mothers torn away from their infants, the wide-eyed horror and shock indelibly written on children's faces, the gruesome despair of at a situation which went out of control in a blink of an eye and which no one is seriously trying to do anything about?
How can we all just watch and do nothing?
Read this. You must!
Do something!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Waddesdon Manor

Today we paid a visit to Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild's old shack, Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire (Buckinghamshire was once known as "Rothschildshire" because of the many properties the Rothchilds had here). I had to work on the girls' enthusiasm a bit (they wanted to go to an amusement park instead but the weather was too unstable) by telling them beforehand about the rich Baron's tragic love for Evelina, who died giving birth to a stillborn son just a year after they were married. He loved Evelina so much, he never remarried.
The palace's interiors, as I had half expected already, surpass in opulence, elegance and style any others we've seen in England so far (Woburn, Leeds, Blenheim, Windsor, Hampton Court, etc.). A true gem. Sis was flabbergasted and the kids behaved wonderfully out of sheer admiration and respect for such richness and beauty.
The day didn't turn out perfect, however, because a tremendous thunderstorm caught us in the middle of the visit and we didn't get to see the gardens except from inside the palace (rotten luck, as we had already paid to see them..). We left under diluvian rain, soaked to the bones, and with every intention of going back on a finer day.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Last day of school

School's out. Ana's Year 6 class had a particularly painful and tearful parting because its students are moving on to different schools in September. Everybody signed everybody else's shirt as a memento of their time together, which I think is a pretty cool idea. After school, Clara joined in the crying when she saw her sister and her sister's friends in tears. I brought them home feeling as if somebody had just died.
My girls are going to miss seeing each other at school everyday and a bit of my peace of mind is being lost with their being apart from now on. Ana and her friends have always been very protective of Clara and very caring and loving towards her. Clara fully returns this affection and adores them.
Yet another step in the process leading to their independence.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Too hot to blog

P.S. - But not too hot to vehemently condemn Israel's actions against Lebanon. Roughly, at present, for every Israeli soldier who is killed in this conflict, ten Lebanese innocent civilians are being murdered. Israel's power is such that no one dares intervene.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Clara's Sports Day

Clara did us proud, in spite of the almost intolerable heat! She even won a "gold" medal, running against Max! I'm glad hubby was able to attend after all!


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Summer music

Playing on the iPod is Juan Luis Guerra singing Burbujas de Amor, undoubtedly the song Ana most often heard while she was still inside my belly. Maybe that's why she loves dancing so much and is always in such a good mood...
It brings back such good memories!

Another Claudia

Two good posts from another Claudia: the memory of a gossiper and stereotyping portugueseness.

Saturday, July 15, 2006



Friday, July 14, 2006

One Art

Paul Delvaux (1897-1994), Trains du soir, 1957

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Poem by
Elizabeth Bishop


1. Israel's attack on Lebanon and the murder of more than 50 innocent Lebanese civilians.
2. The publication of a photo of Diana as she lay dying in her car.
3. The latest "honour killing" of a 25 year-old woman by her brother and her cousin (horrifically!) because she wanted to marry a man from a lower caste.

Family report

Blue eyed sis is here! It was a complete surprise for Ana and Clara, who didn't suspect a thing and were overjoyed when they saw their aunt standing with a suitcase outside the train station. She'll be staying with us for a couple of weeks and we're all hoping that being with her nieces for a while will work wonders.
Sis arrived just in time for the girls' end-of-year school events (there's just one more week of school left). This morning it was Ana's class assembly for parents, where my daughter read one of her poems and did a dance routine. From 1pm to 3pm, it was her Sports Day, where she won a "gold" medal and a "silver" medal under a deep blue sky and scorching sun (both me and sis got quite sunburned but Ana was alright because she put some suncream on).
On Monday it will be Clara's Sports Day and she's participating in a lot of races. She's not as athletic as Ana but I'm sure she'll do fine: she just loves participating and doesn't much care about winning. Still, she has be practicing a lot and is really excited about it.
Hubby, unfortunately, has been missing out on all of this because he's been really, really busy at work and has no time for anything else.
No plans for the weekend (isn't it great not to have plans once in a while?). We'll just enjoy the good weather and eachother's company.
Feels like we're on holiday already!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Another carnage

Coordenated, highly planned, bomb attacks on Mumbai's train network killed 183 people and injured 714 (with horrific injuries!). The attacks happened during rush hour and the trains were packed. Mumbai is one of India's most important financial hubs.
Another slaughter of innocents.

Quote of the day

One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.

Wolfgang von Goethe
-- German dramatist, novelist, poet, & scientist (1749 - 1832)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Is weight the new race?

A must read article in the Observer about the fight for equal rights and non-discrimination for overweight people. The birth of a new Civil Liberties movement.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Best Time Of The Day

Painting by René Magritte - L’Empire des lumières, 1953–54

Cool summer nights.
Windows open.
Lamps burning.
Fruit in the bowl.
And your head on my shoulder.
These the happiest moments in the day.

Next to the early morning hours,
of course. And the time
just before lunch.
And the afternoon, and
early evening hours.
But I do love

these summer nights.
Even more, I think,
than those other times.
The work finished for the day.
And no one who can reach us now.
Or ever.

poem by Raymond Carver

Zizou, what came over you?

I'm not going to dignify Zinedine Zidane's headbutt to Materazzi's chest with much of a post. Anyone in their perfect senses who saw it was shocked and immediately understood that Zidane's career had ended in the most profound disgrace (even the despicable BBC commentators who kept saying over and over again, up to that point, that France should win de World Cup because Zidane was the best player in the world and that he was retiring and that HE just HAD TO go out in glory, and that France had played better than Italy during the tournament(!!!), understood that there was no excuse possible for such madness and they just had to shut up - good rinse!).
I am, however, writing this because I'm truly appalled at the fact that Zidane went on to win the Golden Ball in spite of it all (it's a prize awarded by journalists, but still...). I know that the voting for the trophy (best player in World Cup 2006) took place before Zidane's insanity, but desperate times deserve desperate measures and the Golden Ball should have gone to whoever came in second in the vote (did this not happen just because it was an Italian, Fabio Cannavaro, who came in second??).
Anyway, everyone (again, journalists...) seemed to be so utterly convinced that France was going to win the tournament, I'm really beginning to wonder whose "big game" was spoiled when they didn't.
And another thing, by the way: Italy DID deserve to win the World Cup.
P.S. - And once again it was demonstrated that no other goalkeeper in the world stops penalty shots like Ricardo.

Schumann - From Foreign Lands And People

Playing on the iPod is Schumann's beautiful From Foreign Lands And People (Scenes From Childhood Op.15 No.1). Because of - and for - my daughters.
Click on the picture of the CD cover to listen.

Schumann was a precocious child who began playing piano at the age of six and gave his first public performance when he was eleven. He attended Leipzig University to study law, but music was his real love. He studied piano under Friedrich Wieck from 1830 and eventually married Clara, Wieck's daughter, herself an accomplished pianist. Schumann had envisaged a career as a concert pianist, but permanently damaged the phalanges of his left hand because of a device he had invented to hold the third finger motionless during practice. Thereafter, he devoted himself to composition. His first piano works, the Abegg Variations, date from 1830. After his marriage in 1840, Schumann produced 130 lieder (or songs) during that year alone. He was to go on to produce more than 250 songs, four symphonies, numerous piano works and chamber music. His mental health began to fail him by 1844 and in 1854, in a state of mental depression, he threw himself into the Rhine. Thereafter, he was confined to an asylum until his death in 1856. Schumann was one of the greatest of the Romantics and an outstanding genius in the history of music. --- from eBooks-Library
When Schumann wrote Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood), he was deeply in love with Clara Wieck, his soon to become his wife over the objections of her overbearing father. The composer worked at a feverish pace, composing these pieces in just several days. Actually, he wrote about thirty small pieces, but trimmed them to the thirteen that comprise the set. They are fairly simple in terms of execution, and, of course, their subject matter deals with the world of children. Schumann, however, pointed out that they were not intended for children. ---from SibeliusMusic

Knock on wood!

I didn't blog about it on Friday, but I can no longer sustain it: I'm extremely proud of my daughters' final school reports and at Ana's SAT results (all level 5's and a level 4). Especially considering that they didn't speak a word of English before we moved here not 2 years ago!
Add their good performance at school to the fact that they are healthy, cheerful, popular, caring and gorgeous and you've got everything a mum needs to be on cloud nine.
Please indulge my pride, just this once, and knock on wood.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Portuguese literature

It's such a gloomy, rainy, windy and cold day, I feel I woke up in a late Autumn morning. As usual on weekends, Clara got up and woke me at 7am, much earlier than on school days, and I didn't get much sleep because I stayed up late last night reading.

Since none of these works are (yet) available in English, I'm not writing about them in my Codices blog (which always links to Amazon for further reviews and the possibility to purchase). However, I must say that they are excellent products of brilliant and exceptional minds.

Saramago's tortuous but genial mind usually delivers works that are streaked with powerful philosophical and sociological considerations and sublime, surrealist moments of revelation.

A.Lobo Antunes IS a genius with an unmatched balance of intelligence and sensibility in contemporary Portuguese literature (I especially enjoy his chronicles, far less demanding than his novels... I'm a bit lazy sometimes...). The compilation of letters he wrote, daily, to his wife during the two years (1971-1973) when he was stationed in Angola during the colonial war (and which were written long before he had published a book) are a compelling tribute to love and courage and provide an exceptional close up of what the colonial war must have been like for those directly fighting in it. A. Lobo Antunes had just finished his medicine degree and got married when he went to Africa to serve as a doctor near the Angola-Zambia frontier. His wife was a couple of months pregnant when he left. A touching and extremely interesting book, put together by the couple's two daughters after their mother's death.

I haven't finished reading Vasco Graça Moura's novel yet (I'll post about it when I have, at the end of the week) but, as with most anything he writes, I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

I've started, but won't be able to finish before the holidays, Eduardo Prado Coelho's Ph.D. thesis, Os Universos da Crítica (1987). It's demanding and slow reading but it's been yielding its rewards. Found interesting blog entry about EPC here.

Friday, July 07, 2006

For The Anniversary Of My Death

painting by Georges de La Tour(1593-1652) - Detail from The Penitent Magdelene (c.1640)

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveller
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

poem by W.S. Merwin

July 7: one year on

One year on, the BBC has put together a comprehensive site about the July 7 bombings in London, where these 52 people died and many more were left injured for life. For them, the nation observes two minutes' silence at noon. These memorials are also planned for throughout the day.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A quieter Wimbledon

Maria Sharapova, aka, Shriekapova or the-101-decibel-shriek-woman, is out of the tournament, beaten by Amelie Mauresmo on Centre Court today (seems like France is everywhere this summer...). It will be a lot quieter from now on but not as pretty to watch...

Glenn Gould - Bach's Goldberg Variations - Aria


Maria Callas vs. Renata Tebaldi

"Comparing Tebaldi with me is just like comparing coke with champagne," Maria Callas is reported to have said one day. Both sopranos have long been dead but the rivalry between the highly partisan fans of the two divas is still very much alive and kicking: while working on my new YouTube opera links (on the right side of this page), I've stumbled across some very recent and extremely incensed comments about Callas and Tebaldi here (press the "View all comments" button on the YouTube window). It's worth the read.

Dad, weren't you here?

The arrival of Maria Callas in Lisbon in March 1958.

Great photos

I very much enjoy looking at good photographs. By good I mean original, technically well taken, interesting, captivating and capable of transmitting some kind of pleasant thought or sensation.
Here are some of my favourite photo blogs and sites:

Tosca at Royal Opera House: a review

Good review by Gert, one of my favourite English bloggers, of the latest production of Tosca at the Royal Operal House (I moaned about not being able to attend it, here...).
I'll take the opportunity to throw in some of the media's reviews of it: the Telegraph's, the Times' and the Guardian's.
Also from Gert (she seems to know everything about Plácido Domingo, whom she adores...), I learned that our favourite tenor is singing at half-time during the World Cup Final on Sunday (my kiddos will much prefer to see Shakira, though, who is singing before the match).

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A soothing Chopin waltz

Playing on the iPod is Chopin's Waltz in B minor, Op. 69 No. 2, which my father used to play on the piano. It's lovely.
Chopin composed this waltz at 19, in 1829.
He died at my age but what a legacy he left!

Portugal 0 - France 1

So, after reaching the semi-finals for the second time in 40 years, Portugal is once again out of the World Cup at this stage. In 1966 it was England, now it was France that ended the Portuguese dream of winning the world's most important football tournament. Scolari is to blame for having Pauleta on for most of the game (when was the last time he scored? he is a shadow of his former self...) and both Deco and Figo were extremely disappointing. Cristiano Ronaldo carried the match on his shoulders for Portugal. Twinkle-toes, as he is known around here, does deserve a lot of praise for carrying on as brilliantly as he did in spite of the public's hostile reaction every time he had possession of the ball.
The penalty that led to Zidane's goal was pure bad luck for Portugal.
Anyway, it's only a game. Better luck next time.

After the rain

Click on the pictures to enlarge.

Stormy weather

We were under some mighty thunderstorms yesterday in the evening and again this morning. Some houses in this area got hit by lightning, there were flash floods that caused some schools to be closed and some fool who was playing golf also got hit by lightning. At first the girls were scared. After a long while, however, they were just bored they couldn't watch the telly or use the laptop (I always switch off the mains power supply to TV, microwave and computers during electrical storms). My flowers got a bad beating, the rain was so intense... I tried in vain to take some photos of the lightning but had no luck, so the above picture is not mine, although it was taken in this area.
More storms are coming our way.
Summer thunderstorms, with very hot and humid weather, hail and wind, always remind me of tornado weather in the USA. Coincidence or not, I had just watched Twister on TV on monday night.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Wimbledon live

Wimbledon's Centre Court. Maria Sharapova is now playing against Elena Dementieva in the Ladies' Singles quarter-finals. She's playing brilliantly and she's winning. But... must she really shout so much??? Even though she's a joy to watch, the game sounds like a torture session...
Her serve speed is not even the highest in the tournament: she's served at 182 km/h but Venus Williams served at 193 km/h ...
Wow! A naked guy just ran in and out of centre court!!! I guess the Wimbledon streaker is a classic! Maria was looking away...
05/07/2006 update - Maria won, she is now in the semi-finals, Elena complained about Maria's noise and liked what the streaker had to show.

The 4th of July

Today America celebrates its Independence Day! It's time for barbecues and fireworks. Nostalgia ...

Ladies and gentlemen, the Star Spangled Banner!

Monday, July 03, 2006


Rem Koolhaas's plans for the new Serpentine Pavilion in Kensington Gardens, London, are simply fascinating. The pavilion's roof will be "a giant, helium-filled, translucent canopy, which will rise and fall depending on weather conditions. When it is cold and windy, it will lie low; but on fine days, the cables holding it down will be loosened, and its bulbous form will rise like a balloon, higher than the gallery itself. There are some climactic justifications for this bizarre structure [...] but it is essentially a joyous extravagance that stretches the definition of built form a little further." Read the Guardian's article: The Gas Ceiling.

It's only a game

No crisis at school with the kids because of Saturday's match. A couple of bitter comments about Cristiano Ronaldo's wink after Rooney's red card but closing remarks were mostly "oh well, it's only a game". No friends lost. You never know with kids...

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The flight of the bumblebee

Particularly adequate listening for this time of year, Rimsky-Korsakov's The Flight of the Bumblebee is playing on the iPod. The orchestral interlude, composed around 1900, was later transcribed for piano by Sergei Rachmaninoff, with a few enhancements to the harmony. It's the piano transcription that's playing.
"Although the original orchestral version mercifully assigns portions of the sixteenth-note runs to various instruments in tandem, in the century since its composition the piece has become a standard showcase for solo instrumental virtuosity, whether on the original violin or on practically any other melodic instrument." -- Wikipedia


My blue-eyed sis has been going through a bad time lately and I haven't been able to be there for her. Physical proximity isn't possible with me still having the kids at school here in England and with her unwell in Portugal. The rest of the family, however, has come together for her and is trying to support her during this troubled time. Life is sometimes difficult and cruel but I'm sure she'll pull through.

The Aliens

you may not believe it
but there are people
who go through life with
very little
friction or
they dress well, eat
well, sleep well.
they are contented with
their family
they have moments of
but all in all
they are undisturbed
and often feel
very good.
and when they die
it is an easy
death, usually in their
you may not believe
but such people do
but I am not one of
oh no, I am not one
of them,
I am not even near
to being
one of
but they are
and I am

poem by
Charles Bukowski


I guess the roses in the garden becoming my favourite bloggable photo subject...

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Portugal 3 - England 1

Portugal 0 - 0 England aet; Portugal wins 3-1 on penalties and England is out of the World Cup. And to think that Sven Goran-Eriksson was paid £4m a year for the last few years (that's English Pounds, not Euros or Dollars) for this!
Big Phil Scolari was, as usual, great fun to watch during the match because of his colourful display of emotions. Ricardo, Portugal's goalkeeper, was fabulous, with 3 penalty saves! He's already a national hero!
I have my doubts about Portugal beating France next Wednesday, however. Zinedine Zidane is in great shape and is undoubtedly the best player in the tournament.