Wednesday 10 June 2015


Hoje é dia de Portugal! [today is Portugal Day]  I'm hoping that someone close to me will be delivering a Torta de Noz to the mountain.  This is a confection made from ground walnuts, condensed milk, eggs and a glass of port [recipe and method and an elementary lesson in spokjen Portuguese] which my gaffer and I used to consume almost every night when we were on our last field trip to Portugal.  Portuguese cakes are a bit on the robust side: their bolo de berlim donut is the size and weight of a baseball and beats madelaines or petit-fours any day.  Failing a Torta, I shall for sure be tucking in to a tuthree bowls of caldo verde when I get home from work tonight - that is a different stick-to-ribs sort of delicious.

Why today? Because it is the anniversary of the death of Luis de Camões, their equivalent of Shagsper, in 1580. They celebrate his death, partly because Iberians tend to be half in love with easeful death but mostly because nobody knows where or when he was born. English people call him Camoens giving the tilde above the õ the nasalisation that Portuguese requires on that accent.  Actually Camões is known outside of Portugal, if at all, only for a single epic poem Os Lusíadas which bundles the history of the Portuguese explorations of Vasco da Gama into 10,000 tum-de-tum-de-tumlines starting:
As armas e os barões assinalados,
Que da ocidental praia Lusitana,
Por mares nunca de antes navegados,
Passaram ainda além da Taprobana,
Em perigos e guerras esforçados,
Mais do que prometia a força humana,
E entre gente remota edificaram
Novo Reino, que tanto sublimaram;
It is in conscious imitation of the start of the Virgil's Aeneid "Arma virumque cano . . ." [I sing of arms and the man] which served a similar patriotic purpose for the Romans. It was 'Englished' by, among others, Richard Burton the interesting chap who translated the Arabian Nights and wrote a treatise on pederasty. Camões was an interesting bloke as well having lost an eye while having all good fun fighting the moors at Ceuta. Legend has it that he saved the manuscript of poem by holding it above water with one arm when he was shipwrecked. I guess there are unfortunate Portuguese people of my age and older who can even now recite chunks of Os Lusíadas because they were compelled to do so in school before the First War.

Every year, the President of the Portuguese Republic denotes a city to host the principal celebrations on the day.  This year it is Lamego the antient capital of Trás-os-Montes, the most remote and isolated province in the country.  Lamego is a 'city and municipality' but, with a population of 25,000, is only the size of a small Irish town.  Nevertheless, I'm sure the celebrations will be mighty there today and into this evening.  I've always wanted to go to Trás-os-Montes because it has such a romantic name.

ANNyway, this is all by way of giving you a heads-up to give a Portugoose and hug today to show you care.

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