The office has been closed for a couple of weeks with Monday Books temporarily relocating to the Algarve for sun, sea, sand, sardines, Sagres and Super Bock. So apologies for our limited response to those readers who have submitted manuscripts, wanted stuff or just emailed/called during that time.
We were staying at Praia da Luz, and that’s not a mistake we’ll make again. The place was heaving with fat, tattooed Englishmen in football shirts; the local bars served Magners cider, Carling Black Label and ‘full English breakfasts’; Sky Sports’ Premiership coverage was ubiquitous (we did get to watch the Monday of the last Test, though, which was brilliant). After the West Ham vs Leeds game, we walked as a family into town and met a group of five or six young English boys coming the other way, singing football songs. When they spotted us, they immediately started pointing at our daughters (10-year-old twins) and chanting (in the style of ‘Here we go’) ‘Mum and dad, mum and dad, mum and dad!‘ The girls were mystified as to why it should be a matter of embarrassment to be out walking with your parents. Luckily, they’re made of very strong stuff, but I found it rather sad. (The contrast between the appearance and behaviour of British tourists in Luz, generally, with the Dutch and Germans who also seem to like the area is embarrassing, by the way.)
Further west towards Sagres,and east to the small villages around Lagoa, it was much better. On our last day, we went dolphin-watching off Lagos, and a large pod of common dolphin chased mackerel alongside our boat for 15 minutes. That was (overused word) magical. Later that evening, I met up with the libertarian economics blogger Tim Worstall, who lives not too far away. We discussed a number of projects, which we’ll talk more about in future.
The fish market at Lagos was excellent:
Portugal’s a very poor country, obviously. The average wage is around €7,000 per annum, and the cost of living is not cheap. I spoke to lots of locals about the economic situation there; to a man and woman, they were convinced that they needed to get out of the euro and go back to the escudo, but equally terrified of the consequences of so doing. Of course, this would enable them to devalue and suck in money from outside, but doubtless more obese, gobby Brummies, Geordies and Cockneys would flow in on the tide.
Despite this real poverty, there was no hint of the trouble that France, Germany, Greece and Britain have recently seen and which in the UK was blamed in some quarters on the alleged poverty in our slums. The fact that most of the British rioters have been educated, housed, clothed, fed, kept warm, and provided with free healthcare and a free pension at the expense of others, and co-ordinated their actions using BlackBerrys, and didn’t steal food but plasma tellies, seems not to matter. Maybe it’s there in Portugal, too, and we just didn’t see it. There is graffiti everywhere, mind you, and the usual new European insistence on replacing perfectly decent old buildings with modernist rubbish, the old then being left to rot and decay.
Here’s the old train station at Lagos, built in 1922 and covered in beautiful relief tiles:
Dalrymple was busy while we were away; he wrote seven articles on the riots, and probably made more money out of them than any of the rioters. It’s an ill wind etc.
Winston ‘Generation F‘ Smith also made a number of radio and newspaper appearances in our absence.
Steve ‘So That’s Why They Call It Great Britain‘ Pope appeared in various newspapers and TV/radio shows, too. The focus was on his run across America to raise money for Help for Heroes, which he recently started. There’s a good piece in the Yorkshire Post here, and Steve’s event website is here. It’s a monumental effort, and he deserves support – please mention it to friends, and sponsor him if you can afford it.