Canada Slim and the Harry Potter Fado

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Friday 11 October 2019

As you read what follows….

Download a fado piece.

Portugal’s most famous musical form, fado (Portuguese for “fate“) is urban music, of night and bars, of a yearning that is beautiful and melancholic, accompanied by guitarra and viola.

 

Above: Fado, José Malhoa (1910)

 

To the south, fado is feminine.

But in the north, fado is a man’s music, full of lusty lyrics and soaring vocals, and usually the most memorable fado of all is performed by the least advertised, the most anonymous, performer of all, where one’s identity is overwhelmed by one’s soul.

Fado is to the Portuguese soul as rich, deep and satisfying as a cup of Portuguese coffee or a glass of Porto port.

Fado is played on the radio, on buses, in taxis, cafés and restaurants, on TV and drifting down darkened streets from shadowy clubs.

Fado is fate and how fate has foiled the lover in love and in life.

Fado is the homeland that is missed or the longing for a lover that has left.

To sing fado, the singer must become fadista with an attitude that cries out:

I am a pessimist, a nihilist and everything that fado demands from me is me.”

It is the mourning of a devil cast out of heaven, a broken heart beyond repair, a spirit beyond redemption….

 

 

What the hell was she thinking?

This is a question that American Catholic theologians are asking J.K. Rowling the creator of the Harry Potter franchise….

 

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Above: Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington DC – the largest enclosed church building in the world

 

Religious debates over the Harry Potter series of books by J. K. Rowling are based on claims that the novels contain occult or Satanic subtexts.

 

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A number of Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians have argued against the series, as have some Shia and Sunni Muslims.

 

Above: The Kaaba, Mecca, Saudi Arabia – the Muslim destination of pilgrimage

 

Supporters of the series have said that the magic in Harry Potter bears little resemblance to occultism, being more in the vein of fairy tales such as Cinderella and Snow White, or to the works of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, both of whom are known for writing fantasy novels with Christian subtexts.

Far from promoting a particular religion, some argue, the Harry Potter novels go out of their way to avoid discussing religion at all.

 

The Harry Potter logo first used for the American edition of the novel series (and some other editions worldwide), and then the film series.

 

However, the author of the series, J. K. Rowling, describes herself as a practising Christian, and many have noted the Christian references which she includes in the final novel Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

 

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In the United States, calls for the books to be banned from schools have led to legal challenges often on the grounds that witchcraft is a government-recognised religion and that to allow the books to be held in public schools violates the separation of church and state.

 

Flag of the United States

 

The Orthodox church of Bulgaria and a diocese of the Orthodox Church of Greece have also campaigned against the series, and some Catholic writers and officials have voiced a critical stance.

 

Church of St. George, Istanbul in 2010

Above: Patriarchal Cathedral of St. George, Istanbul (Constantinople)

 

The books have been banned from all schools in the United Arab Emirates.

 

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Above: Flag of the United Arab Emirates

 

Religious responses to Harry Potter have not all been negative.

Rowling notes:

At least as much as they’ve been attacked from a theological point of view the books have been lauded and taken into pulpit, and most interesting and satisfying for me, it’s been by several different faiths.

 

Rowling in April 2010

Above: J.K. Rowling, 2010

 

From The Times, 3 December 2018

The Harry Potter books gave birth to a global franchise, provided steady work to grateful British actors and created millions of new readers, convinced of the magical properties of a good book.

 

A large crowd of fans wait outside of a Borders store in Delaware, waiting for the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Above: Crowd outside a bookshop awaiting the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

 

They also created a generation of Americans who are more likely to believe that they are possessed by the Devil, with Catholic priests reporting that they are overwhelmed with requests to perform exorcisms.

 

When I was appointed 13 years ago, I probably received maybe 100 inquiries a year.“, said Vincent Lampert, the official exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Now I receive about 1,700 inquiries a year.

He thinks the Harry Potter books and films, which spurred a broad interest in magic, are partly to blame.

Magic is the focus on the individual, rather than having to deal with God.“, he said.

It encouraged “the belief that somehow the power is within them.

Even within the world of exorcism, the premise would be that God is not a bystander.

God is the main actor.

Priests who conduct exorcisms say occult practices and symbols can serve as doorways for a demon.

The Harry Potter books “disarmed Americans from thinking that all magic is darkness“, one unnamed exorcist recently told The Atlantic magazine.

 

Above: St. Francis Borgia performing an exorcism, Goya

 

Adam Jortner, a historian of religion in American life at Auburn University, Alabama, said it was not the first time that members of the church had feared the influence of children’s books.

The church had a go at C.S. Lewis for the Narnia books, a powerful allegory of Christianity itself.“, he said.

 

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Jortner agreed that interest in the occult had grown.

Harry Potter is responsible for mainstreaming magic.“, he said.

Exorcism had a clear history within the church and it sought to treat magic with respect.

He added:

The Catholic church has some of the most stringent rules about exorcism in the world.

Most Catholic exorcists are required to go through this long list of things to ensure that it is not a neurological problem.

Father Lampert said that all who sought his help were required to undergo an assessment by a medical professional, which ended most applications….

 

Above: St. Francis exorcising the demons of Arezzo, Giotto

 

When I read an article like this I am shocked to find that this sort of folly is taken seriously.

Putting aside for the moment the question of the existence of God, for which the largest defence is that God’s non-existence cannot be proven, and grasping with the notion that God possesses a team (angels) to battle another team (demons) led by His most bitter opponent (the Devil), then to further suggest that demons possess people….

This pushes rational credibility.

 

 

But then to blame the author of a series of children’s books for the rise in exorcism applications is utter poppycock in my opinion.

 

To play the Catholic advocate for a moment it can certainly be argued that children are gullible, easily influenced and misled.

But it insults the intelligence of our young people to suggest that they cannot discern the difference between a clever storyline and reality.

 

Could they believe in magic?

Sure, for there is much about existence that is difficult to explain.

But it stretches my incredulity that children, those poor deluded Muggles, would assume from a story that they too possess magical powers as the alumni and staff of Hogwarts do.

 

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Above: Model of Hogwarts, Warner Bros. Studio, Leavesden, England

 

Nonetheless, let us humour these men of the cloth for a moment….

Let us imagine (if that is even possible) that Harry Potter leads to the need for exorcism.

Over the years, some religious people, particularly Christians, have decried Rowling’s books for supposedly promoting witchcraft.

 

Rowling identifies as a Christian.

She once said:

I believe in God, not magic.

 

Early on, she felt that if readers knew of her Christian beliefs they would be able to predict plot lines of characters in her books.

In 2007, Rowling said she was the only one in her family who went regularly to church.

She was an adherent of the Church of England.

 

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As a student she became annoyed at the “smugness of religious people” and attended less often.

Later, she started to attend a Church of Scotland congregation at the time she was writing Harry Potter.

Her eldest daughter, Jessica, was baptised there.

 

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Above: Logo of the Church of Scotland

 

In a 2006 interview with Tatler magazine, Rowling noted:

Like Graham Greene, my faith is sometimes about if my faith will return.

It’s important to me.”

 

Greene in 1939

Above: Graham Greene (1904 – 1991)

 

She has said that she has struggled with doubt, that she believes in an afterlife and that her faith plays a part in her books.

In a 2012 radio interview, she said that she was a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church, a province of the Anglican Communion.

 

In 2015, following the referendum on same-sex marriage in Ireland, Rowling joked that if Ireland legalised same-sex marriage, Dumbledore (Headmaster of Hogwarts) and Gandalf (of the Lord of the Rings series) could get married there.

 

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Above: Flag of the Republic of Ireland

 

The Westboro Baptist Church, in response, stated that if the two got married, they would picket.

Rowling responded:

Alas, the sheer awesomeness of such a union in such a place would blow your tiny bigoted minds out of your thick sloping skulls.

 

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Above: Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka, Kansas

 

Is Rowling then guilty of intellectual or spiritual manslaughter by unintentionally killing children’s beliefs in God?

Or taking the concept to its ultimate crazy extreme….

Was this death of the divine within our children pre-meditated by Ms. Rowling?

Is she guilty of spiritual murder?

 

To answer this question with any certainty we must ask ourselves how and why did Rowling write the Harry Potter series.

To answer this question, come with me, back in time, both in Rowling’s past and my own….

 

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Joanne Rowling (born 31 July 1965), better known by her pen name J. K. Rowling, is a British author, film producer, television producer, screenwriter, and philanthropist.

 

Above: J.K. Rowling, 1999

 

She is best known for writing the Harry Potter fantasy series, which has won multiple awards and sold more than 500 million copies, becoming the best-selling book series in history.

The books are the basis of a popular film series, over which Rowling had overall approval on the scripts and was a producer on the final films.

 

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She also writes crime fiction under the name Robert Galbraith.

 

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Born in Yate, Gloucestershire, Rowling was working as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International when she conceived the idea for the Harry Potter series while on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990.

 

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The seven-year period that followed saw the death of her mother, birth of her first child, divorce from her first husband, and relative poverty until the first novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was published in 1997.

 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Book Cover.jpg

 

There were six sequels, of which the last, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was released in 2007.

 

Since then, Rowling has written five books for adult readers: The Casual Vacancy (2012) and—under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith—the crime fiction Cormoran Strike series, which consists of The Cuckoo’s Calling (2013), The Silkworm (2014), Career of Evil (2015), and Lethal White (2018).

 

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Rowling has lived a “rags to riches” life in which she progressed from living on benefits to being the world’s first billionaire author.

She lost her billionaire status after giving away much of her earnings to charity but remains one of the wealthiest people in the world.

She is the UK’s best-selling living author, with sales in excess of £238 million.

The 2016 Sunday Times Rich List estimated Rowling’s fortune at £600 million, ranking her as the joint 197th richest person in the UK.

Time named her a runner-up for its 2007 Person of the Year, noting the social, moral and political inspiration she has given her fans.

In October 2010, Rowling was named the “Most Influential Woman in Britain” by leading magazine editors.

She has supported multiple charities, including Comic Relief, One Parent Families, and Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain, as well as launching her own charity, Lumos.

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Joanne Rowling was born in Yate, Gloucestershire, the daughter of science technician Anne (née Volant) and Rolls-Royce aircraft engineer Peter James Rowling.

 

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Above: View of Yate, Gloucestershire, England

 

Her parents first met on a train departing from King’s Cross Station bound for Arbroath in 1964.

They married on 14 March 1965.

 

A platform on the London Underground.

 

One of Rowling’s maternal great-grandfathers, Dugald Campbell, was a Scottish man from Lamlash.

 

Her mother’s French paternal grandfather, Louis Volant, was awarded the War Cross for exceptional bravery in defending the village of Courcelles-le-Comte during World War I.

Rowling originally believed Volant had won the Legion of Honour during the war, as she said when she received it herself in 2009.

She later discovered the truth when featured in an episode of the UK genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? in which she found out it was a different Louis Volant who won the Legion of Honour.

When she heard her grandfather’s story of bravery and discovered that the War Cross was for “ordinary” soldiers like her grandfather, who had been a waiter, she stated the War Cross was “better” to her than the Legion of Honour.

 

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Rowling’s sister Dianne was born at their home when Rowling was 23 months old.

The family moved to the nearby village Winterbourne when Rowling was four.

As a child, Rowling often wrote fantasy stories which she frequently read to her sister.

 

Above: Duck pond, Winterbourne, Gloucestershire

 

Aged nine, Rowling moved to Church Cottage in the Gloucestershire village of Tutshill, close to Chepstow, Wales.

 

Above: Church Cottage, Tutshill, Gloucestershire

 

When she was a young teenager, her great-aunt gave her a copy of Jessica Mitford’s autobiography, Hons and Rebels.

Mitford became Rowling’s heroine and Rowling read all of her books.

 

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Rowling has said that her teenage years were unhappy.

Her home life was complicated by her mother’s diagnosis with multiple sclerosis and a strained relationship with her father, with whom she is not on speaking terms.

Rowling later said that she based the character of Hermione Granger on herself when she was eleven.

 

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Above: Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, poster for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

 

Sean Harris, her best friend in the Upper Sixth, owned a turquoise Ford Anglia which she says inspired a flying version that appeared in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

 

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Like many teenagers, she became interested in rock music, listening to the Clash, the Smiths and Siouxsie Sioux, adopting the look of the latter with back-combed hair and black eyeliner, a look that she would still sport when beginning university.

 

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Above: Siouxsie Sioux, 1980

 

As a child, Rowling attended St Michael’s Primary School, a school founded by abolitionist William Wilberforce and education reformer Hannah More.

Her headmaster at St Michael’s, Alfred Dunn, has been suggested as the inspiration for the Harry Potter headmaster Albus Dumbledore.

 

Above: Richard Harris (1930 – 2002) as Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

 

She attended secondary school at Wyedean School and College, where her mother worked in the science department.

Steve Eddy, her first secondary school English teacher, remembers her as “not exceptional” but “one of a group of girls who were bright, and quite good at English“.

Rowling took A-levels in English, French and German, achieving two As and a B, and was Head Girl.

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Above: Logo of Wyeburn School, Sedbury, Gloucestershire

 

In 1982, Rowling took the entrance exams for Oxford University but was not accepted and earned a BA in French and Classics at the University of Exeter.

Martin Sorrell, a French professor at Exeter, remembers “a quietly competent student, with a denim jacket and dark hair, who, in academic terms, gave the appearance of doing what was necessary“.

Rowling recalls doing little work, preferring to read Dickens and Tolkien.

After a year of study in Paris, Rowling graduated from Exeter in 1986.

In 1988, Rowling wrote a short essay about her time studying Classics titled “What was the Name of that Nymph Again? or Greek and Roman Studies Recalled“.

It was published by the University of Exeter’s journal Pegasus.

 

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Above: Crest of the University of Exeter

 

After working as a researcher and bilingual secretary in London for Amnesty International, Rowling moved with her then boyfriend to Manchester, where she worked at the Chamber of Commerce.

 

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In 1990, while she was on a four-hour-delayed train trip from Manchester to London, the idea for a story of a young boy attending a school of wizardry “came fully formed” into her mind.

When she had reached her Clapham Junction flat, she began to write immediately.

 

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Above: Clapham Junction Railway Station

 

In December, Rowling’s mother, Anne, died after ten years suffering from multiple sclerosis.

Rowling was writing Harry Potter at the time and had never told her mother about it.

Her mother’s death heavily affected Rowling’s writing and she channelled her own feelings of loss by writing about Harry’s own feelings of loss in greater detail in the first book.

 

An advertisement in The Guardian led Rowling to move to Porto, Portugal, to teach English as a foreign language.

JK Rowling moved to Porto in 1991.

 

A panned out image of city buildings.

Above: Porto

 

This was a difficult time in her life, as her mother had recently passed away after a long battle with multiple sclerosis.

And to rub salt in the wound, her house in Manchester had been burgled, and everything her mother had left her was stolen.

 

Eager for a change of scenery, she accepted a job teaching English as a second language in Porto at a private language school on Avenida de Fernão de Magalhães called Encounter English.

 

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Rowling spent her evenings teaching English to young teenagers, business people and housewives and spent her days working on the manuscript of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

 

The time Rowling spent in Portugal was in many ways a dark and painful period of her life, and one that she rarely talks about.

For this reason, it’s hard to know for sure exactly which elements of the Harry Potter saga were inspired by her experiences in Porto.

Nevertheless, the influence is clearly there.

 

Many people have speculated that Rowling took inspiration from certain Porto landmarks, shops and cafés.

Some of these supposed inspiration locations almost certainly did inspire her, while others require a stretch of the imagination.

Rowling may have been subconsciously influenced by them, even if she didn’t recognize it at the time.

She taught English-as-a-foreign language at the Encounter English School at night and began writing in the day while listening to Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.

 

Above: Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893)

 

After 18 months in Porto, she met Portuguese journalist Jorge Arantes at a café and found they shared an interest in Jane Austen.

Arantes would later tell London’s Daily Express newspaper the story of his whirlwind romance and doomed marriage to the then-unknown Joanne Rowling.

 

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Above: Jorge Arrantes

 

It was a sexually passionate relationship that ended in violence and bitterness.

She was a 25-year-old teacher, he was a 23-year-old journalism student.

He spotted her drinking with some friends in a café, was drawn to her piercing, aquamarine eyes and tried to pick her up.

Immediately there was a connection between us.“, Arrantes said.

Joanne could not speak any Portuguese, but my English was good.

We both realized we had a great deal in common with our love of books.

I remember her saying she was re-reading Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, which I had also read.

 

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Arrantes said she told him about an affair she had had with another Portuguese man and about a love affair with a man in England.

When the night ended, they exchanged telephone numbers – and a kiss.

 

Two days later, he said, they had their first date – and ended up in bed.

Before we knew what was happening, she was back at my flat and we spent the night together.

There was nothing sordid about it.

We were simply two young, independent people enjoying life.

After that night, Joanne and I saw each other two or three times a week.

It was an intense and passionate relationship.

 

It was also tempestous.

Their frenetic lovemaking was punctuated with furious arguments.

We were always either in Heaven or in Hell.

 

They moved into his mother’s apartment, a shabby two-bedroom flat with a tiny kitchen, on Rua do Duque de Saldanha.

 

Casa onde morou depois de ter casado com Jorge Arantes. Foi lá que Jessica, a filha de ambos, viveu os primeiros meses de vida e foi de lá que Rowling foi expulsa numa madrugada de Novembro de 1993

Above: Entry to Arantes flat, Rua do Duque de Saldanha, Porto

 

Arantes later claimed he had helped her come up with ideas for the Harry Potter novels, though she denies this.

Among the belongings she brought to their home, according to Arantes, was a well-thumbed copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic The Lord of the Rings.

 

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Several months later, Joanne discovered she was pregnant.

It was unplanned and both were afraid of the responsibilities parenthood might bring.

 

According to Arantes, Rowling began writing her first Harry Potter book during this pregnancy.

She kept her writing secret for a time, then showed her work in progress to Arantes.

I am proud to say that I was the first person to read about Harry Potter.

It was obvious to me straight away that this was the work of a genius.

I can still remember telling Joanne:

‘Whoa! I am in love with a great, great writer.’

Even in those days, Joanne had a great talent for structure.

I never doubted it would be a success.

 

Arantes says they discussed the stories, which Rowling found helpful.

We studied each other’s work and made suggestions.

When I told Joanne to change something, she would usually make an alteration.

He claims she had planned the full series of seven books, because  she believed the number 7 has magical associations.

 

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But just as they had begun to look forward to the birth of their child, tragedy struck.

Joanne miscarried.

 

They married on 16 October 1992 and their child, Jessica Isabel Rowling Arantes (named after Jessica Mitford), was born on 27 July 1993 in Portugal.

 

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Above: Joanne and Jorge Arantes with baby Jessica

 

Two months after Jessica’s birth, Arantes admits, he ordered Joanne out of their apartment.

She refused to go without Jessica and, despite my saying she could come back for her in the morning, there was a violent struggle.

I had to drag her out of the house at 5 in the morning and I admit I slapped her very hard in the street.

 

The couple separated on 17 November 1993.

Biographers have suggested that Rowling suffered domestic abuse during her marriage, although the extent is unknown.

 

In December 1993, Rowling and her then infant daughter moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, to be near Rowling’s sister with three chapters of what would become Harry Potter in her suitcase.

Seven years after graduating from university, Rowling saw herself as a failure.

Her marriage had failed and she was jobless with a dependent child, but she described her failure as liberating and allowing her to focus on writing.

During this period, Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression and contemplated suicide.

Her illness inspired the characters known as Dementors, soul-sucking creatures introduced in the third book.

 

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Rowling signed up for welfare benefits, describing her economic status as being “poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless.”

 

Rowling was left in despair after her estranged husband arrived in Scotland, seeking both her and her daughter.

She obtained an Order of Restraint and Arantes returned to Portugal, with Rowling filing for divorce in August 1994.

 

She began a teacher training course in August 1995 at the Moray House School of Education, at Edinburgh University, after completing her first novel while living on state benefits.

She wrote in many cafés, especially Nicolson’s Café (owned by her brother-in-law) and the Elephant House, wherever she could get Jessica to fall asleep.

 

 

Meanwhile Arantes’ life was falling apart.

He lost his job as a television journalist and descended into a nightmare of drug addiction.

 

His 70-year-old mother, Marilia Rodrigues, told the London Daily Mail that Arantes stole family heirlooms and jewellery to feed his drug habit.

He still loved her very much and was heartbroken when they parted.“, Rodrigues said.

He still believes they could get together again and he would take her back at the drop of a hat.

He just wants her and his daughter.

 

Arantes says he has recovered from his drug addiction and lives in a small apartment in the Paris suburb of Clichy with his brother Justino, a travel agent.

 

Rowling rarely talks about her first marriage, but once told the Times of London:

I married on 16 October 1992.

I left on 17 November 1993.

So that was the duration of what I considered to be the marriage.

Obviously, you do not leave a marriage after that very short period of time unless there are serious problems.

I’m not the kind of person who bales out without there being serious problems.

My relationship before that lasted seven years.

I’m a long-term girl.

And I had a baby with this man.

But it didn’t work.

And it was clear to me that it was time to go, and so I went.

I never regretted it.

 

In a 2001 BBC interview, Rowling denied the rumour that she wrote in local cafés to escape from her unheated flat, pointing out that it had heating.

One of the reasons she wrote in cafés was that taking her baby out for a walk was the best way to make her fall asleep.

 

In 1995, Rowling finished her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone which was typed on an old manual typewriter.

Upon the enthusiastic response of Bryony Evens, a reader who had been asked to review the book’s first three chapters, the Fulham-based Christopher Little Literary Agency agreed to represent Rowling in her quest for a publisher.

The book was submitted to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected the manuscript.

A year later she was finally given the green light by editor Barry Cunningham from Bloomsbury, a publishing house in London.

The decision to publish Rowling’s book owes much to Alice Newton, the eight-year-old daughter of Bloomsbury’s chairman, who was given the first chapter to review by her father and immediately demanded the next.

Although Bloomsbury agreed to publish the book, Cunningham says that he advised Rowling to get a day job, since she had little chance of making money in children’s books.

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Harry Potter is now a global brand worth an estimated US$15 billion and the last four Harry Potter books have consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history.

The series, totalling 4,195 pages, has been translated, in whole or in part, into 65 languages.

The Harry Potter books have also gained recognition for sparking an interest in reading among the young at a time when children were thought to be abandoning books for computers and television, although it is reported that despite the huge uptake of the books, adolescent reading has continued to decline.

 

On 26 December 2001, Rowling married Neil Murray (born 1971), a Scottish doctor, in a private ceremony at her home, Killiechassie House in Scotland.

Their son, David Gordon Rowling Murray, was born on 24 March 2003.

 

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Above: Joanne and Neil Murray

 

Shortly after Rowling began writing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, she ceased working on the novel to care for David in his early infancy.

Rowling’s youngest child, daughter Mackenzie Jean Rowling Murray, to whom she dedicated Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was born on 23 January 2005.

 

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Regarding Jessica’s career, she can best be described as an Instagram model who posts beautiful photos of herself as well as videos with her family and friends.

Jessica started her Instagram account in 2013 and instantly started sharing photos.

She has now managed to gather almost 7,000 followers.

Apart from that, Jessica owns a clothing line called Jc.closefit.

She also loves travelling and taking photos while on her exotic tours.

 

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Above: Jessica Arantes

 

Rowling’s life in Portugal clearly influenced aspects of the books:

 

Many of Potter’s spells can be easily understood by Portuguese speakers:

  • aguamenti (bring out water)
  • duro (make things hard)
  • protego (protect people)
  • silencio (to silence people)

 

One of Hogwart’s founding professors was Salazar Slytherin.

Dr. António de Oliveira Salazar was Portugal’s notorious dictator for much of the 20th century.

 

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Above: António de Oliveira Salazar (1889 – 1970)

 

There are also many similarities between Porto’s most colourful buildings and elements of Hogwarts, and as my wife (Ute) and I explored the city of Porto, I found myself trying to imagine Joanne Rowling’s life pre-Harry Potter fame and fortune.

I also found myself marvelling at her choice of a dictator’s name for one of the school’s founders.

Was her deciding to take the name of Salazar suggesting that despite his  nature he was partially responsible for making the place possible?

Without a Salazar could it have become what it eventually became?

Rowling’s relationship with Arantes did not end well though their union resulted in Jessica’s birth.

Perhaps Arantes was Rowling’s Salazar?

Perhaps the rumours of domestic violence are true, but perhaps Arantes’s claims of inspiring Rowling’s ideas are also credible.

What would Porto, through a Rowling lens, tell me about writing and inspiration?

What would it tell me about myself?

 

From the top left corner clockwise: Clérigos Church and Tower; Avenida dos Aliados; Casa da Música concert hall; Ribeira district; Avenida da Boavista business hub; Luiz I bridge and Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia

Above: Images of Porto

 

Porto, Portugal, Thursday 26 July 2018

There are a number of sites in Porto frequently mentioned on Potterhead blogs that my mentioning will surprise no one.

The only difference I can offer is my perspective of them.

I shall briefly list them here and then offer my perspective:

  • Livraria Lello
  • Escovaria de Belomonte
  • Universidade do Porto
  • Café Majestic
  • Fonte dos Leones
  • Torre dos Clerigos

 

The Livraria Lello, Porto’s famous galleried Art Nouveau bookshop, with its neo-Gothic exterior and inner staircase just begging for a grand entrance, is a visual delight beyond words.

It was founded by the well-to-do Lello intellectual brothers in 1906 and specialized in limited edition books – many of which are still here.

The brothers now appear as bas-reliefs on the walls, alongside busts of great writers, including Eca de Queiroz and Miguel Cervantes.

The Lellos commissioned an engineer and fellow bibliophile Francisco Xavier Esteves to design the interior, which is simply stunning.

The ground level even has rails set into the floor for transporting book “carriages“.

 

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The impressive double, freestanding staircase (actually made of concrete) lures people upstairs where you can admire the extraordinary plasterwork ceiling, which resembles ornately carved wood.

Columns and a stained glass roof light add to the air of something far grander than a bookshop, the whole design having an almost organic feel, as if the walls and ceiling are the ribs and bones of a living creature.

 

 

The first floor was the traditional meeting point of artists and intellectuals and was frequented by Rowling during her time in Porto in the 1990s.

It is this, and the similiarity of the shop’s decor to some of Hogwarts’ more outlandish design characteristics, that has put the bookshop firmly on the tourist circuit, with up to 4,000 people visiting daily.

There are often queues to get in, but if you come first thing in the morning or in the evening shortly before closing time, you may be able to experience the place more as a bookshop than a tourist site.

 

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Porto’s famous galleried Art Nouveau shop has become a tourist site in its own right, but behind the crowds this still remains one of the city’s best bookshops.

There’s general fiction on the ground floor (including the Harry Potter stories in many languages), much of it in English, with reference and non-fiction (including travel) on the upper floor.

 

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You can also find rare editions of Portuguese books.

 

Look out for the original till, made in 1881, the first in Portugal to issue paper receipts and with prices in reis (the currency before the escudo and the euro).

 

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You get your €5.00 entry fee back on any purchase.

 

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In 1869, the Livraria Internacional de Ernesto Chardron was founded, from a shop on Rua dos Clérigos by the Frenchman Ernesto Chardron.

Following its founder’s death, at the age of 45, the firm was sold to Lugan & Genelioux Sucessores.

Alternately, in 1881, José Lello along with his brother-in-law created the firm David Pereira & Lello.

But, the following year, after the death of David Lourenço Pereira, the establishment began to be operated as José Pinto de Sousa Lello & Irmão, when he partnered with his younger brother (António Lello).

The brothers both became prominent members of Porto’s intellectual bourgeoisie by the turn of the century.

The brothers hired engineer Francisco Xavier Esteves (1864-1944) to construct the new bookstore on Rua das Carmelitas.

In 1906, the Livraria Lello was inaugurated.

By 1919, the bookstore was simply designated as the Lello & Irmão, Lda.

With the 1930 addition of José Pereira da Costa, the bookstore began to be known simply as Livraria Lello.

But, between 1930 and 1940, it once again became designated Lello & Irmão.

Beginning in July 2015, the bookstore began requesting entrance fees for visitors.

On 21 April 2016, an artistic mural was erected to conceal the scaffolding placed on the facade of the building, during its restoration, by graffiti writer Dheo and colleague Pariz One.

 

 

Dheo painted the central area of the mural with a pile of old books, a lit candle and a bottle of Port wine, while the rest was painted by Pariz One with geometric shapes, referring to the stained glass inside the bookstore.

The work took two months to produce.

On 31 July, following the restoration, the main facade of the building was uncovered, showing the laboratory-tested recovered primitive gray.

 

 

There is no denying that the woodwork and the glass art and the red winding staircase do make the Livraria Lello a beautiful place to visit and certainly there is a good case to argue that Hogwarts’ moving staircases and the interior of the Diagon Alley bookstore Flourish and Blogs were inspired by the Livraria.

 

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Above: Hogwarts’ moving staircases

 

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But therein lies the problem.

It attracts too many tourists and it knows it.

 

As a passionate bibliophile I certainly admire the architecture, but for me a bookshop should in some ways resemble a library, a sanctuary of literature, a temple of tomes, rather than a marketplace for mobs.

A person cannot linger in any one spot too long before some impatient patron will jostle and push you about the place.

One could make a grand entrance if the store were a little less crowded, but one loses one’s regal bearing very quickly after enduring long queues to get in, for the indignity of paying an entrance fee just to view the shop, down each and every aisle, up and down the staircase, and at the cash register….

This is not the place for those who dislike crowds in enclosed spaces.

And though the Livraria does offer rare Portuguese books I am not so certain the Lello brothers would have liked the changes that time and fame have wrought, for as wonderful as it is to see people eagerly seeking books to read in this awkward age of automation and animation, a sense of intellectualism no longer pervades this establishment.

The place feels like a souvenir shop at one of Walt Disney’s magic kingdoms of artificiality than it does a sacred reminder of Portugal’s literary past.

 

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Above: Disney World, Orlando, Florida

 

I doubt the American tourists who came to or left the Livraria had any conception of, or compassion for, the existence of a Portuguese literary history.

For the place is populated with Potterheads and nothing else seems to matter.

But suggesting such sacrilege to these Rowling fanatics is akin to being Cervantes’ Don Quixote tilting at thick stone windmills.

 

 

Pointlessly defending an honour long gone.

 

The Livrario made me think of St. Gallen’s Stiftbibliothek (Abbey Library) with its hefty admission fee and cramped interior when crowds congregate.

It is my hope that Rowling (or those of her ilk) never visit the Abbey Library and over-popularize the place with their writing, for the Library at least still maintains an aura of the sacred which the Livrario has long ago lost.

 

Above: The Abbey Library of St. Gallen

 

I was seeking a Porto version of Paris’ Shakespeare & Co., but got instead an amusement park souvenir shop.

 

Shakespeare and Company bookstore, Paris 13 August 2013.jpg

 

It was worth a visit for the heart but at a cost to the mind and soul.

 

The Escovaria de Belomonte (Brushes of Belomonte), founded by Antonio da Silva on 29 January 1927, is not, at present, part of guidebook description, but it is most definitively part of Potter lore and appears on every blog where Rowling and Porto are mentioned in the same breath.

Though the Escovaria de Belomonte has only existed for 82 years, they excel in the manufacture and restoration of industrial brushes.

Why buy new brushes when you can have your old ones renewed?

The Escovaria de Belomonte replenishes and renews any type of brush.

They create brushes for every kind of customized applications for all types of industries, including industrial factories, textile production, footwear producers, jewelry stores, cast moulding manufacturers, grinding establishments, water treatment plants, car washes, typographical firms, gastronomy, and the list goes on….

They make any and every kind of brush and broom.

Whatever your needs, Escovaria de Belomonte will help you find a solution.

 

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The handsome Belomonte brooms with their rustic luxurious look, many of them hanging from the store ceiling, handmade with high-quality wood and natural fibres, bear a striking resemblance to Harry Potter’s flying broom, the Nimbus 2000.

 

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It has also been suggested that the name of Harry Potter that graces the front cover of every Potter novel bears a striking resemblance to the lettering and design of Escovaria de Belomonte‘s street sign.

Visually it is a great store to visit, but I wonder whether Potterheads actually make a purchase here.

There is no entrance fee and I am certain the place is much photographed by Potterheads, but whether the Escovaria is pleased with being a tourist attraction more than a serious business establishment is debatable.

 

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It has been suggested by Potterhead blogs that the outfit worn by Universidade do Porto (University of Porto) students was the inspiration for the outfits that Hogwarts students were required to wear during academic hours.

The wife and I were not able to fit in a visit to the University, saw no one on the streets dressed in such attire and found very few photos of students dressed in this manner.

 

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What can be said about the University:

  • Founded on 22 March 1911, it is the 2nd largest Portuguese university by enrolled students (after the University of Lisbon) and has one of the most noted research outputs in Portugal.
  • It is ranked among the best Portuguese universities, is among the 100 universities in Europe and ranked 328th of the best 400 universities in the world.
  • Today, about 28,000 students (11,000 postgraduates) attend the programmes and courses provided by the University of Porto’s 15 schools (13 faculties, a biomedical sciences institute and a business school) each with a considerable degree of autonomy.
  • It offers 63 graduate degree courses, over 160 master courses and several doctoral degree courses and other specialization courses, supported by 2,300 lecturers and a technical and administrative staff of over 1,600 people.
  • Of those who can call themselves alumni or staff of the University are:
    • Richard Zimler (journalist / writer / professor)
    • Julio Dinis (1839 – 1871)(writer)
    • Jorge de Sena (1919 – 1978)(doctor / writer)
    • José Neves (billionaire businessman / founder of Farfetch)
    • Marisa Ferreira (artist)
    • Camilo Castelo Bianco (1825 – 1890)(writer)
    • Agostinho da Silva (1906 – 1994)(writer)

(This last mentioned I find inspirational:

What you need, above all, is to not remember what I said. 

Never think for me. 

Think always for yourself. 

Be sure that all your mistakes that you commit are, according to your own thinking and deciding, all more valuable than all your correct actions made according to my thinking, not yours.

If the Creator wanted to put us together we perhaps couldn’t have two different bodies and two different heads.

My counselling should serve you to confront it.

It is possible that, after this confrontation, you come to think like me, but, at this time, your thought is yours.

My disciples, if I have any, are the ones who oppose me, because in their deep soul they guard what truly animates and what I most want to transmit to them.

The wish is to not conform.“)

 

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Above: Agostinho da Silva

 

It is more likely that Rowling was inspired not by the University of Porto, but rather by the University of Coimbra – 1.5 hours south of Porto – whose students do indeed wear academic robes similiar to those of Hogwarts students.

We did not get to Coimbra.

We did not need to.

 

Above: University of Coimbra students in ceremonial robes

 

There are hundreds of places to eat and drink in Porto, from old town tascas and Art Nouveau cafés to riverfront designer restaurants.

Of these, the one place that attracts the Potterhead is the Café Majestic.

In 1916, Rua de Santa Catarina 12 was built on a paved shopping street.

Opened in 1921, the Café Elite was designed in Art Nouveau style.

The then Bohemian quarter of the city did not think the name “Elite” was appropriate as it was not part of the Zeitgeist that was the post-1910 revolutionary Portuguese Republic.

The coffee house was subsequently given the name it is still known by.

The Majestic became over time a place frequented by intellectuals and literary legends, including Gago Coutinho, Beatriz Costa, Júlio Resende, José Régio and Teixeira de Pascoaes.

 

 

(Carlos Viegas Gago Coutinho, generally known simply as Gago Coutinho (1869 – 1959) was a Portuguese geographer, cartographer, naval officer, historian and aviator.

An aviation pioneer, Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral were the first to cross the South Atlantic Ocean by air, from March to June 1922, from Lisbon, Portugal, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.)

 

Above: Coutinho (right) and Cabral (left) on the Lusitánia

 

(Beatriz Costa (born Beatriz da Conceição; 1907 – 1996) was a Portuguese actress, the best-known actress of the golden age of Portuguese cinema.)

 

Fotografia de Beatriz Costa, com dedicatória a António Cruz Caldas (Porto, 1934).png

Above: Beatriz Costa

 

(Júlio Resende is a Portuguese pianist and composer.

He is active as a jazz musician (both as a bandleader and as a sideman for other artists) and is also involved in the Fado scene, having recorded a solo piano tribute to Amália Rodrigues and collaborating with singers like António Zambujo, Ana Moura and Aldina Duarte.

He is also the leader of Alexander Search, a rock band fronted by Eurovision Song Contest 2017 winner Salvador Sobral and inspired by Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa.)

 

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(José Maria dos Reis Pereira, better known by the pen name José Régio (1901 – 1969), was a Portuguese writer.

José Régio was the author of novels, plays, poetry and essays.

His works are strongly focused on the theme of conflict between man and God and between the individual and society, a critical analysis of solitude and human relations.)

 

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Above: José Régio

 

(Joaquim Pereira Teixeira de Vasconcelos (1877 – 1952), better known by his pen name Teixeira de Pascoaes, was a Portuguese poet.

He was nominated five times for the Nobel Prize in Literature.)

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Above: Painting of Teixeira de Pascoaes

 

In the 1960s, the Café experienced a decline, parallel to the increasingly repressive social situation of Portugal under the authoritarian regime of António de Oliveria Salazar’s Estado Novo (“New State“).

In 1992 the Barrias family decided to extensively restore the Majestic.

Using old photographs as their guide, the restoration was completed, a new floor laid and the Café reopened in 1994.

In the year prior to the commencement of the Majestic’s renovations, Rowling often visited the Café, writing her thoughts for her first Harry Potter novel on Majestic napkins.

The Majestic today is the best known of Porto’s belle époque cafés, with a perfectly preserved decor of celestial cherubs, bevelled mirrors, carved chairs and wood panelling.

 

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Waiters float to the strains of The Blue Danube.

Come for coffee or afternoon tea as we did.

 

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The Fountain of the Lions (Portuguese: Fonte dos Leões), is a 19th-century fountain built by French company Compagnie Générale des Eaux pour l’Etranger.

 

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Cast by the Val d’Osne foundry in France, it is a copy, in most part, of the fountain in the Town Hall Square of Leicester, England.

The fountain is located in an urban, isolated location, within the gardened Praça de Gomes Teixeira.

The central fountain has a cruciform layout with a group of sculptures at the base supported by four seated lions on the extremes.

Between each lion, the axis of the source has a column with base, shaft and capital.

To top, two central, circular cups superimposed and staggered, with a pine cone surmounting all.

The octagonal shaped granite tank has rounded edges.

The outer profile of the tank walls is corrugated.

The edge of the lower plane bowl is outlined in relief by a frieze with plant elements interrupted only by four cornets from which water flows.

 

 

It is thought by Potterheads that this fountain inspired Rowling’s choice of logo for the House of Gryffindor at Hogwarts.

 

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The Clérigos Church (Portuguese: Igreja dos Clérigos,”Church of the Clergymen“) is a Baroque church with its tall bell tower, the Torre dos Clérigos, seen from various points of the city and is one of Porto’s most characteristic symbols.

 

Torre de los Clérigos, Oporto, Portugal, 2012-05-09, DD 01.JPG

 

The main façade of the church is heavily decorated with baroque motifs (such as garlands and shells) and an indented broken pediment.

This was based on an early 17th-century Roman scheme.

The central frieze above the windows present symbols of worship and an incense boat.

The lateral façades reveal the almost elliptic floorplan of the church nave.

The Clérigos Church was one of the first baroque churches in Portugal to adopt a typical baroque elliptic floor plan.

 

 

The monumental tower of the church, located at the back of the building, was only built between 1754 and 1763.

The baroque decoration here also shows influence from the Roman Baroque, while the whole design was inspired by Tuscan campaniles.

The tower is 75.6 metres high, dominating the city.

There are 240 steps to be climbed to reach the top of its six floors.

This great structure has become the symbol of the city.

 

 

Did the Torre dos Clerigos inspire Hogwarts’ Astronomy Tower?

Potterheads like to think so.

 

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At all of these sites, especially atop the Torre dos Clerigos, the visitor, headphones on, fado playing, can ponder how fado, Arantes, Rowling and yours truly all interconnect.

We have learned that Arantes probably abused Rowling as possibly did her father.

Fans who re-read Harry Potter as adults quickly realize that the behaviour of the Dursleys reads like child abuse: starvation, forced labour and confinement.

 

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Starvation has been a stranger to me, but forced labour and confinement I did know.

 

In the Harry Potter series, more explicit abuse is described when Harry learns through a Pensieve memory that Severus Snape’s father beat his son and wife.

Porto is a Pensieve for me….

 

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And then there is Rowling’s post-Potter writing….

 

In her novel The Casual Vacancy, Andrew is a restless teen who lives with his abusive, degrading father.

Rowling once told The New Yorker that Andrew represented her mindset as a teen, and although Andrew was not exactly based on her father, she said:

I did not have an easy relationship with my father.

 

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Above: Andrew Price, The Casual Vacancy

 

Abuse also finds its way into Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Credence has an adopted mother who hits him with a belt.

That resentment from his mother’s frequent beatings turns him into an Obscurial, a repressed being that the evil Gellert Grindelwald wants to use for dark magic.

 

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Often, but certainly not always, children who were abused by their parents often abuse their children when they become parents.

Perhaps this was the case in the behaviour of Arantes.

 

And, lest we forget, why Rowling chose António de Oliveira Salazar as the inspiration for the repressive Hogwarts co-founder Salazar Slitherin….

One overriding criticism of Salazar’s regime is that stability was bought and maintained at the expense of suppression of human rights and liberties.

Abuse on a national level.

Under Salazar’s authoritarian rule, he brought stability and prosperity to Portugal, but at enormous cost: censorship, imprisonment and torture.

 

Above: Salazar, 1939

 

Arantes was born in 1967.

Salazar’s Estado Nova lasted from 1932 to 1974.

Arantes’ father knew abuse and repression and so would Arantes.

 

It is hard to sympathize with those that abuse unless we realize that they were probably a product of abuse themselves.

Arantes lost the mother of his child and his daughter as well.

In the quiet of night as Arantes lies in his solitary bed in his brother’s Clichy apartment fado music plays inside his head.

Arantes is a pessimist, a nihilist, alone, and forever known for his greatest failure:

Losing the world’s most famous novelist as his lover and the child they made together.

 

We quietly walk through the wonders of Porto.

Fado fills the streets.

Sadness of memory fills my soul.

And sits upon my shoulders like an invisibility cloak.

 

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Above: Porto, night

 

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Facebook / Pocket Rough Guide Porto / Lonely Planet Portugal / Rough Guide Portugal / Matthew Hancock, Xenophobe’s Guide to the Portuguese / A.H. de Oliveira Marques, A Very Short History of Portugal

 

A poster depicting a young boy with glasses, an old man with glasses, a young girl holding books, a redheaded boy, and a large bearded man in front of a castle, with an owl flying. The left poster also features an adult man, an old woman, and a train, with the titles being "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone".

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Canada Slim and the Voices without Echo

Landschlacht, Switzerland, Monday 2 June 2019

Thursday was Ascension Day, a holiday commemorated in both Thurgau Canton (where my wife works) and in St. Gallen Canton (where I work), and, to our mutual surprise, we found ourselves both free from the obligations of employment simultaneously.

A miracle almost as spectacular as someone rising to Heaven in a cloud!

 

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We decided to visit the Hundertwasser Exhibition at the Kunstmuseum in Lindau, Germany, by taking a train to Romanshorn, then another to Rorschach Harbour and then finally a boat across the Lake of Constance to Bavaria’s only port.

This post is not that story, though it is this story that inspires this post.

 

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In thinking about how my wife and I interacted on yesterday’s day trip I invariably compare it to other times we have travelled together.

 

(For previous posts about Porto, please see Canada Slim and the War of the Oranges as well as Canada Slim and the Station Sanctuary of this blog.)

 

The wife and I have been together for 23 years – she IS tough – and we always somehow muddle through.

We forgive one another.

She forgives me for being wrong and I forgive her for pointing out how truly wrong I can be!

Sadly, the amnesia of our conflicts is sometimes not as permanent as it should be….

 

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Porto, Portugal, Wednesday 25 July 2018

It is a warm day in this the most western country of Continental Europe and happily we are in a city we both like.

Porto is more than a twee tourist trap of little more than pomp and ceremony, like Lisboa the Portuguese capital.

Porto is Portugal’s Chicago, a busy commercial centre, whose fascination lies in its riverside setting and day-to-day life.

Make no mistake there are sites in Porto worth seeing….

  • The riverside barrio of Ribeira with waterfront cafés and restuarants
  • The landmark Clérigos Tower
  • The Sé, Porto’s cathedral
  • The contemporary art gallery and park at the Fondacao de Serralves
  • The port wine lodges across the Douro River in Vila Nova de Gaia
  • A Douro River cruise
  • The bridges that span the Douro: the Ponte Dom Luis I, the Ponte Infante, the Ponte María Pia
  • The Salào Árabe of the Palácio da Bosa

 

From the top left corner clockwise: Clérigos Tower; Palácio da Bolsa; Avenida dos Aliados; Church of São Francisco; Porto Cathedral; Porto City Hall; Ribeira

Above: Images of Porto

 

We had walked through the cathedral square the day previously, but this morning we were determined to explore all the sites that surrounded it.

But the morning began badly.

 

A wardrobe malfunction made us return back to our B & B bedroom.

Then we discovered the English language guidebook we were dependent upon had somehow gone missing.

 

Pocket Rough Guide Porto

 

We returned once again to the room, didn’t find it, so we were forced to find a bookshop and buy the book anew.

We made our way back to the Sé and then she discovered her German-language guidebook was not to be found with us.

She rushed back to the room and left me in the bright sunshine waiting her return.

 

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Set on a rocky outcrop, a couple of hundred metres from Sao Bento Station, Porto’s Cathedral, the Sé, commands fine views over the rooftops.

I look up at the Sé’s North Tower, the one with the bell, and my eyes trace the worn bas-relief depicting a 14th century ship – a reminder of the earlier days of Portugal’s maritime epic, when sailors inched nervously down the west Saharan coastline not knowing what dangers were ahead.

Perhaps my wife’s impatience with the morning was partially affected by our cathedral visit, for the Sé’s interior is a disquieting, disastrous doomsday design of Baroque blended with rough Romanesque and gargantuan Gothic architecture that has a spirit as gloomy as a bride and groom forced to wed whom they do not love.

The Sé is redeemed its ghastly first impressions once the senses escape into the cathedral cloisters, with walls lovingly draped with glowing azulejos and a grand staircase that ascends to the breathtaking chapterhouse for panoramic perspectives of the world from the windows.

The Sé is a holy seductress with a mask of beauty that barely conceals a darkness and depth that dares not expose itself to the light.

The Sé is not an intimate ingress of inspiration but rather a stern sorrow-laden scourge of sin and sacrifice designed to intimidate and threaten those unworthy of salvation.

The old dowager lacks teeth, her majesty missing, her glory gone, her gloom inescapable.

 

 

The wife returned to retrieve her German-language Müller Guide which I should have packed in my rucksack and didn’t.

Boys, or men who eternally and internally remain boys, are book-bearing beasts of burden meant to be present but unobtrusive, to be seen but not heard.

I sit in the sun with clear directives to accomplish as set by my bothered bride.

I must plan our progress for the rest of the day.

Planning is never a prospect I embrace, for invariably my plans falls short of her perception of what a perfect plan entails.

I soak the warmth of the sunbaked stone into my already weary bones and tired mind.

I am unmoving and unmoved, immensely immovable.

On the south side of the Sé stretches the grandiose facade of the Paco Episcopal, the medieval archbishop’s palace, where the first King of Portugal was crowned and spent his wedding night.

 

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Like the Sé,  the Paco is a mishmash of architectural elements: a Rococo stairway lined with carved granite flowers, Neoclassical doorways with Baroque decor, priceless furniture of luxurious lifestyle exposed to penny-pinching voyeuristic peasants, a lodging financed by a love of God with 17th century Indonesian cabinets hewed from blood and sweat, toil and tears hatefully demanded by harsh Portuguese taskmasters, religious paintings ironically produced in the secular scene of the first Portuguese Republic (1911 – 1956).

The Palace does not intice nor excite me.

 

 

But the notion of politics and history does, as I read A.H. de Oliveira Marques’ A Very Short History of Portugal and I wonder, as I often do, at what compels a man to demand better from those who would rule him.

The reckless courage that is required to speak truth to power and demand justice from the unjust has always fascinated me.

 

I am a foreigner living in Switzerland and though my lot as a Canadian is far more fortunate than that of other nationalities exiled here, there does exist inequalities and injustices enforced by the Swiss upon those who were not born in the Helvetian Republic.

Just to name a few: taxation without any or only minor representation, difficulty to find employment matching the expat’s experience and the unnecessary requirement that rejects qualifications not obtained within Switzerland, the blatant racial and religious profiling done at border crossings by unsympathetic customs pitbull police, the sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant, xenophobia encouraged by the eternally re-elected party in power, the bureaucracy that is bathed with greed and complexity, the fortress mentality of a nation determined to remain neutral yet one that profits from the spoils of war, a people who confuse quality of life by quantity of franks in silent bank vaults and wonder why having it all isn’t so much fun….

I often want to climb the stairs to our apartment building’s roof and shout obscenities down upon the unsuspecting neighbourhood of Landschlacht.

But I lack the courage, for attention garnered may mean expulsion, and, for better or worse, Switzerland has been my home for nine years.

 

Flag of Switzerland

 

I am a whisper on the Internet, a voice without echo, in a world blind to everything but the square screen of the preset mobile device upon their palms.

 

Image result for mobile phone addiction

 

I think about what we could tour next.

The house behind the Sé at Rua de Dom Hugo 32 was once the home of the poet and writer Guerra Junquiero whose works reflected the revolutionay turmoil of the Republican era.

Today the Casa Museu Guerra Junquiero exhibits the Iberian and Islamic art, the Seljuk pottery, glassware and glazed earthenwear that he had collected over his lifetime, in rooms that recapture the atmosphere of the poet’s last home.

My guidebooks speak of the Junquiero Museum but none lavishes praise upon it, primarily for the reason that all is written only in Portuguese.

 

Casa-Museu Guerra Junqueiro 88.JPG

 

Abílio Manuel Guerra Junqueiro (1850 – 1923) was a Portuguese top civil servant, a member of the Portuguese House of Representatives, a journalist, author and poet.

His work helped inspire the creation of the Portuguese First Republic.

Junqueiro wrote highly satirical poems criticizing conservatism, romanticism and the Church, leading up to the Portuguese Revolution of 1910.

He was one of Europe’s greatest poets.

 

 

Born in Freixo de Espada à Cinta, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal to José António Junqueiro Júnior, a supply trader and farmer, and wife Ana Maria Guerra.

His mother died when he was only three years old.

He completed his secondary studies in Bragança and at sixteen, he enrolled at the University of Coimbra to study theology.

Guerra Junqueiro began his literary career in a promising way in Coimbra in the literary journal A Folha, directed by the poet João Penha, of which later he was editor.

 

Above: Bust of Joao Penha (1838 – 1919), Braga, Portugal

 

Here Junquiero created friendly relations with some of the best writers and poets of his time, a group generally known as the Generation of 70.

Guerra Junqueiro from a very young age began to manifest remarkable poetic talent, and already by 1867 his name was included among the most hopeful of the new generation of Portuguese poets.

In the same year, in the book entitled The Portuguese Aristarchus, appreciating the book  Vozes Sem Echo (Voices without Echo), published in Coimbra in 1867 by Guerra Junqueiro, an auspicious future was already foreseen for its author.

Image result for Vozes sem eco

 

In Porto, on the same date, another work appeared, Baptismo de Amor (Baptism of Love), accompanied by a preamble written by Camilo Castelo Branco.

 

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In Coimbra, Junqueiro published the Lira dos quatorze anos (The Book of Fourteen Years), a volume of poetry, and the poem Mysticae nuptiae.

 

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In Porto, in 1870 the Vitória da Franca (Victory of France) was published, then later republished in Coimbra in 1873.

 

Related image

 

In 1873, when a republic was proclaimed in Spain, Junquiero wrote the vehement poem À Espanha livre (To free Spain).

 

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Junqueiro concluded his study of law also in 1873.

He became secretary of the governors of Angra do Heroísmo, Azores, and later of Viana do Castelo.

 

In 1874 his poem A morte de D. Joao (The death of D. João) achieved great success.

 

A Morte de D. João (Classic Reprint)

 

Camilo Castelo Branco dedicated an article to him in the Nights of Insomnia, and Oliveira Martins, in the magazine Arts and Letters.

 

Camilo Castelo Branco.jpg

Above: Camilo Castelo Branco (1825 – 1890)

 

In Lisbon, Junquiero was a contributor of prose and verse, for political and artistic journals, such as The Magic Lantern  and António Maria, with the collaboration of drawings by Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro.

In 1875 Junquiero wrote O Crime, a poem on the murder of Ensign Palma de Brito, the poem Aos Veteranos da Liberdade (To the Veterans of Freedom) and the volume of Contos para a infancía (Tales for Childhood).

 

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In Diário de Notícias (The Daily News) he also published the poem Fiel e Na Ferra da Ladra (Fiel and the Story of Feira da Ladra).

 

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In 1878 he published in Lisbon the poem Tragédia infantil.

 

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Junquiero collaborated to several periodical publications, namely: Atlantida (1915-1920), Branco e Negro (1896-1898), Brazil Portugal (1899-1914) (1884-1885), The Press, The Universal Illustration (1884-1885), The Portuguese Illustration (1885-1891), Sunday’s Newspaper (1881-1888), The Reading (1894-1896), Light and Life (1879), The West (1878-1915), Renaissance  (1878-1879), The Pantheon (1880-1881), The Portuguese Republic (1901-1911), Azulejos (1907-1909), in the Tourism magazine, begun in 1916 and in the newspaper O Azeitonense (1919-1920).

A great part of the poetic compositions of Guerra Junqueiro is reunited in the volume A Musa Em Férias (The Muse on Vacation), published in 1879.

 

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This year he also wrote the poem O Melro (O Blackbird), which was later included in A Velhice do Padre Eterno (The Old Age of the Eternal Father) of 1885.

 

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Idílios e Sátrias (Idylls and Satires) was a translated and collected volume of short stories by Hans Christian Andersen and others.

 

Photograph taken by Thora Hallager, 1869

Above: Hans Christian Andersen (1805 – 1875)

 

After a stay in Paris, apparently for treatment of digestive disease contracted during his stay in the Azores, Junquiero published in 1885, in Porto, A Velhice do Padre Eterno (The Old Age of the Eternal Father), a work that provoked bitter retorts by the clerical opinion, represented in the press, among others, by the canon José Joaquim de Sena Freitas.

 

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Above: José Joaquim de Sena Freitas (1840 – 1913)

 

Controversial with regard to religion, other writings of anticlerical nature by its author have been found in periodical publications like The Lucta and The Light (1919 -1921).

 

When the conflict with England over the “pink map“, which culminated in the British Ultimatum of 11 January 1890, Guerra Junqueiro became deeply interested in this national crisis and wrote Finis Patriae (The end of country) and A Cancao do Ódio (The Song of Hate), to which Miguel Ângelo Pereira wrote the music.

 

Finis Patriae (Classic Reprint)

 

(The 1890 British Ultimatum was an ultimatum by the British government delivered on 11 January 1890 to Portugal.

The ultimatum forced the retreat of Portuguese military forces from areas which had been claimed by Portugal on the basis of historical discovery and recent exploration, but which the United Kingdom claimed on the basis of effective occupation.

Portugal had attempted to claim a large area of land between its colonies of Mozambique and Angola including most of present-day Zimbabwe and Zambia and a large part of Malawi, which had been included in Portugal’s “Rose-coloured Map“.

 

 

It has sometimes been claimed that the British government’s objections arose because the Portuguese claims clashed with its aspirations to create a Cape to Cairo Railway, linking its colonies from the south of Africa to those in the north.

 

Above: British colonies (pink), Portuguese colonies (purple)

 

This seems unlikely, as in 1890 Germany already controlled German East Africa, now Tanzania, and Sudan was independent under Muhammad Ahmad.

Rather, the British government was pressed into taking action by Cecil Rhodes, whose British South Africa Company was founded in 1888 south of the Zambezi and the African Lakes Company and British missionaries to the north.

 

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Above: Cecil Rhodes (1853 – 1902)

 

When Portugal acquiesced to British demands, it was considered as a breach of the Treaty of Windsor (1386) and seen as a national humiliation by republicans in Portugal, who denounced the government and the King as responsible for it.

On 14 January, the progressive government fell and the leader of the Regenerador Party, António de Serpa Pimentel, was chosen to form the new government.

 

Serpa Pimentel.jpg

Above: António de Serpa Pimental (1825 – 1900)

 

The progressivists then began to attack the King, voting for republican candidates in the March election of that year, questioning the colonial agreement then signed with the British.

Feeding an atmosphere of near insurrection, on 23 March 1890, António José de Almeida, at the time a student in the University of Coimbra and, later on, President of the Republic, published an article entitled Bragança, o último, considered slanderous against the King and led to Almeida’s imprisonment.

 

Antonio Jose de Almeida (official).jpg

Above: António José de Almeida (1866 – 1929)

 

On 1 April 1890, the explorer Silva Porto (1817 – 1890) immolated himself (set himself on fire), wrapped in a Portuguese flag in Kuito, Angola, after failed negotiations with the locals,  attributed to the Ultimatum.

The death of the well-known explorer of the African continent generated a wave of national sentiment and his funeral was followed by a crowd in Porto.

 

 

On 11 April, Guerra Junqueiro’s poetic work Finis Patriae, a satire criticising the King, went on sale.

 

In the city of Porto, on 31 January 1891, a military uprising against the monarchy took place, constituted mainly by sergeants and enlisted ranks.

The rebels, who used the nationalist anthem A Portuguesa as their marching song, took the Paços do Concelho, from whose balcony, the republican journalist and politician Augusto Manuel Alves da Veiga proclaimed the establishment of the republic in Portugal and hoisted a red and green flag belonging to the Federal Democratic Centre.

The movement was, shortly afterwards, suppressed by a military detachment of the municipal guard that remained loyal to the government, resulting in 40 injured and 12 casualties.

The captured rebels were judged. 250 received sentences of between 18 months and 15 years of exile in Africa.

A Portuguesa was forbidden.

Despite its failure, the rebellion of 31 January 1891 was the first large threat felt by the monarchic regime and a sign of what would come almost two decades later.

 

 

The British Ultimatum was considered by Portuguese historians and politicians at that time to be the most outrageous and infamous action of the UK against its oldest ally.

The 1890 ultimatum was said to be one of the main causes for the Republican Revolution, which ended the monarchy in Portugal 20 years later (5 October 1910) and the Lisbon assassinations of the Portuguese king (Carlos I of Portugal) and the crown prince on 1 February 1908.

 

 

After the British Ultimatum and the political crisis associated, he was involved in the political debate in 1891, writing some best sellers that had huge impact on public opinion, contributing to the discredit of the Portuguese monarchy and the success of the Portuguese Republican Party in the 1910 Portuguese Revolution.

The 5 October 1910 revolution was the overthrow of the centuries-old Portuguese monarchy and its replacement by the Portuguese Republic.

It was the result of a coup d’état organized by the Portuguese Republican Party.

By 1910, the Kingdom of Portugal was in deep crisis: British pressure on Portugal’s colonies, the royal family’s expenses, the assassination of the King and his heir in 1908, changing religious and social views, instability of the two political parties (Progressive and Regenerador), the dictatorship of João Franco and the regime’s apparent inability to adapt to modern times all led to widespread resentment against the Monarchy.

The proponents of the republic, particularly the Republican Party, found ways to take advantage of the situation.

The Republican Party presented itself as the only one that had a programme that was capable of returning to the country its lost status and place Portugal on the way of progress.

 

Estremoz13.jpg

 

(Why does this sound so familiar?)

(Make Portugal great again?)

 

 

After a reluctance of the military to combat the nearly two thousand soldiers and sailors that rebelled between 3 and 4 October 1910, the Republic was proclaimed at 9 o’clock of the next day from the balcony of the Paços do Concelho in Lisbon.

 

 

After the revolution, a provisional government led by Teófilo Braga directed the fate of the country until the approval of the Constitution in 1911 that marked the beginning of the First Republic.

 

Teófilo Braga (ChFl).jpg

Above: Joaquim Teofilo Fernandes Braga (1843 – 1924)

 

Among other things, with the establishment of the republic, national symbols were changed: the national anthem and the flag.

 

Flag of Portugal

 

The revolution produced some civil and religious liberties, although there were no advances in women’s rights  and in workers’ rights, unlike what had happened in other European countries.

The First Portuguese Republic (Portuguese: Primeira República Portuguesa; officially: República Portuguesa, Portuguese Republic) spans a complex 16-year period in the history of Portugal, between the end of the period of constitutional monarchy marked by the 5 October 1910 revolution and the 28 May 1926 coup d’état.

The sixteen years of the First Republic saw nine presidents and 44 ministries and has been described as consisting of “continual anarchy, government corruption, rioting and pillage, assassinations, arbitrary imprisonment and religious persecution“.

The latter movement instituted a military dictatorship known as Ditadura Nacional (national dictatorship) that would be followed by the corporatist Estado Novo (new state) regime of António de Oliveira Salazar.

 

Antonio Salazar-1.jpg

Above: António de Oliveria Salazar (1889 – 1970)

 

Kidnapped and driven off into darkness after Salazar snatched power in 1928, Portugal was absent from the Second World War and through most of the 20th century was economically isolated and politically smothered.

 

Portugal is rich with potential and a certain backwardness adds to the charm.

It is easy to fall in love with this fair land on this final edge of the world, though it could use a bit more self-confidence and a lot more marketing of itself and its heritage.)

 

Junquiero married Filomena Augusta da Silva Neves on 10 February 1880.

The couple had two children: Maria Isabel Guerra Junqueiro on 11 November 1880 and Júlia Guerra Junqueiro in 1881.

He died in Lisbon at the age of 72.

In 1940 Junqueiro’s daughter donated his estate in Porto that became the Guerra Junqueiro Museum.

 

 

Chronology of Guerra Junquiero:

1850:  Born in Ligares, Freixo de Espada a Cinta
1864:  The Book of Fourteen Years
1866:  Studies theology at the University of Coimbra;
1867:  Voices Without Echo
1868:  Baptism of Love. Enrolls in the Faculty of Law of the University of Coimbra.
1873:  Free Spain. Collaboration to The Leaf of João Penha. He earns a bachelor’s degree in law.
1874: The Death of D. João
1875: First issue of The Magic Lantern to which he collaborates
1878: He is appointed Secretary General of the Civil Government in Angra do Heroísmo.
1879:  The Muse on Vacation and The Blackbird.  Joins the Progressive Party. He is transferred from Angra do Heroísmo to Viana do Castelo and elected to the Chamber of Deputies.
1880: Married on 10 February to Filomena Augusta da Silva Neves. 11  November, their daughter Maria Isabel is born.
1881: Daughter Julia is born. Diagnosed with dementia, hospitalized in Porto.
1885:  The Old Age of the Eternal Father. Creation of the “New Life” movement of which Junqueiro is a sympathizer.
1887: Second trip to Paris
1888: The group “Losers of Life” is formed. The Legitimate.
1889: His wife, Filomena Augusta Neves, dies whom he will mourn until the end of his days.
1890:  Finis Patriae. Guerra Junqueiro is elected deputy by the Quelimane circle.
1895:  Sells most of the artistic collections he had accumulated;
1896:  The Fatherland. Departs for Paris.

1902:  Prayer for Bread
1903:  Lives in Vila do Conde.
1904:  Prayer to the Light
1905:  A visit to the Polytechnic Academy of Porto prompts him to settle in this city.
1908:  He is candidate of the Republican Party for Porto.
1910:   He is appointed Extraordinary Envoy and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Portuguese Republic to the Swiss Confederation in Berne
1914:  Exonerated from the functions of Minister Plenipotentiary
1920:  Sparse Prose
1923:  He died on 7 July in Lisbon.
1966: His body is solemnly transferred from the Jerónimos Monastery where it had been interred to the National Pantheon of the Church of Santa Engrácia, Lisbon, in a ceremony held to honor other illustrious Portuguese figures.

 

 

Those are the facts as drily given by Wikipedia and Google, but who was the man?

How should we categorize him?

Should we?

Can we?

Was he a mere bureaucratic drone who dabbled in poetry?

Or a poet who dabbled in government work?

Did his writing incite a revolution or did it merely capture the spirit of the times?

 

 

As I sit in the sun my mind should be planning our travel itinerary for the day so to placate my wife upon her return.

But instead I think of Junqueiro and his Museum I won’t mention to the wife, already unhappy with the start of our first full day in Porto.

 

 

I think instead of the power of the printed word and of the impossibility, even through the written expression of a writer’s thoughts, of truly knowing another person.

Though it may be acknowledged that it is surely difficult for us to know a Portuguese poet long dead from nearly a century ago, it must also be acknowledged that even those we presently love remain unsolved mysteries to us.

 

We are all patchwork, and so shapeless and diverse in composition that each bit, each moment, plays its own game.

And there is as much difference between us and ourselves as between us and others.”  (Michel de Montaigne, Essais)

 

Portrait of Michel de Montaigne, circa unknown.jpg

Above: Michel de Montaigne (1533 – 1592)

 

Each of us is several, is many, is a profusion of selves.

So that the self who disdains his surroundings is not the same as the self who suffers or takes joy in them.

In the vast colony of our being, there are many species of people who think and feel in different ways.”  (Fernando Pessoa, Livro do Desassossego)

 

Portrait of Pessoa, 1914.

Above: Fernando Pessoa (1888 – 1935)

 

I think of the mix of contradictory emotions that fill me anticipating my wife’s return, both eagerly awaiting and decidedly dreading her return.

 

I think of how each of us carries around inside ourselves whole worlds.

 

I am more than a sweaty balding head.

I am also a tear-softened soul.

 

I think of how much life I might still have before me, how open my future might be, how much could still happen, how much there might still be experienced.

 

 

Can anyone see beneath my mask that I am a mix of modesty and immodesty, of conformity and eccentricity, that within me lies a silent rage aimed at a pompous world, an unbending defiance against the world of show-offs whose only real accomplishment is their accidental connectivity to realms of power and prestige denied the average man?

 

I sit in the sun, uncertain of what to suggest next, unwilling to face my wife’s disapproval at what she will perceive to be laziness instead of confusion.

 

Perhaps we travel not to experience another world, but to flee from our own experience, simultaneously running to and from life.

 

 

Portugal is a land always in the shadows, a land of foggy fishing villages and tiny hamlets set deep in cork forests.

It is a land of mournful fado wailing and legendary sightings of the Virgin Mary.

 

 

Critics, most of them Portuguese, call Portugal the graveyard of ambition, the kingdom of mediocrity, where the national pastime is complaining and the ambitious leave.

As late as 2005, Portugal still had 13% of women who couldn’t read, less than 50% of children who made it to high school and was the lowest earner of the EU.

 

Circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background

 

Porto, historically the country’s wine distribution centre, is said to be the hardest working part of Portugal:

Lisbon plays, Porto pays, Coimbra prays.

 

I want to visit the archbishop’s palace and the poet’s place, for I take great comfort from the calm of everything past.

 

So often I am alone with my thoughts, even when surrounded by a cacophony of chaotic conversations convulsing from a crowd.

My mind is sealed and my tongue falters in failing to express the vaulted thought.

My wife speaks and my ears hear and my heart listens, but my mind is my own, adrift on its own adventure, lost in its own odyssey.

 

I am reminded of my reading on the flight the day before, of the writing of Amadeu Prado, as invented by Swiss writer Pascal Mercier in his book Night Train to Lisbon:

 

Night Train to Lisbon.jpg

 

Of the thousand experiences we have, we find language for one experience at most and even this one merely by chance and without the care it deserves.

Buried under all the mute experiences are those unseen ones that give our life its form, its colour and its melody.

Then, when we turn to these treasures, as archaeologists of the soul, we discover how confusing they are.

The object of contemplation refuses to stand still, the words bounce off the experience and in the end, pure contradictions stand on the paper.

 

What benefit is there in being the archaeologist of one’s self, to dig for buried experience?

 

Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.jpg

 

Given that we can live only a small part of what there is in us, what happens to the rest?

 

The Wikipedia photo of Junquiero shows a man of intelligence and self-confidence and boldness.

Or is what I perceive only an observation of qualities I wish I possessed beneath the mask I wear?

 

 

Yet the contradiction that is a man’s character sometimes wonders could something be made different from my life, that there may be more to me than anyone knows.

 

In the centre of the city, in the centre of my life, I sit in the sun in the square of the cathedral.

I reflect how we live in an age rushing through a timeless universe only appreciated when contemplated quietly and calmly.

 

 

I think of the life of a man I never knew, a poet whose words I never read, who wrote in a language I never spoke.

Is Junqueiro only identifiable by what he did and the words he wrote?

Was there more to the man than anyone besides himself could ever possibly know?

 

Related image

 

Is there a mystery under the surfaces of human action?

Or are human beings utterly what their obvious acts indicate?

 

The words that Junquiero wrote, the words I have never read, are they expressions of eternally, essentially, the same things others have said before?

 

Words are so horribly frayed and threadbare, worn out by being used millions of times.

Do they still have any meaning?

Naturally, the exchange of words functions.

People act on them.

They laugh and cry.

They go left or right.

The waiter brings the coffee or tea.

But that’s not what I want to ask.

The question is:

Are they still an expression of thoughts?

Or only effective sounds that drive people here and there because the worn grooves of babble incessantly flash?

 

Perhaps I should follow the advice of Marcus Aurelius when he writes in his Meditations:

Do wrong to thyself.

Do wrong to thyself, my soul, but later thou wilt no longer have the opportunity of respecting and honouring thyself.

For every man has but one life….

Those who do not observe the impulses of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy.

 

Marble bust of Marcus Aurelius. This masterful portrait captures the pensive temperament of the philosopher-emperor and author of the celebrated 'Meditations', reflections on life and the ways of the gods. The smooth, softly modeled carving of the flesh contrasts markedly with the mass of thick, curling hair. The drooping eyelids and detached gaze suggest his contemplative nature.

Above: Marble bust of Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180)

 

She returns to me still sitting in the sun, with little progress on the planning made.

I imagine her thinking:

What is the point of having a husband if he does not do what he is told?

I imagine that she feels the weight of the world on her shoulders having a man about who is so completely useless at times.

I smile foolishly and say pointless words to defend my pointlessness.

 

 

I don’t mention Junquiero’s house and she never asks.

I also know I would be frustrated being in a museum whose signage I couldn’t read, despite the unfair expectation that a Portuguese museum have any other language besides Portuguese for a poet unknown outside of Portugal.

 

With a heavy sigh, she plans for us.

The morning has been shot to hell, so lunch across the Douro River in Gaia might inspire us.

Like the animal I am, I respond greedily to the prospect of food.

I know there is no excuse for my behaviour and no words to justify it, so I don’t bother trying.

 

Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal.

Above: Vila Nova de Gaia

 

As I rise to my feet, carefully – I am just recovering from an accident where I broke both my arms – I think of Prado who never existed and Junquiero who no longer exists, then I focus on matters at hand.

The universe may be timeless but our vacation time is not.

 

But reading Mercier’s novel and learning of Junquiero’s life has inspired me.

I will ask when I can at random bookshops for the poems of Junquiero available in English translation.

 

Above: Livraria Lello, Porto

 

I know that the rhythm and subtlity of his poetry will be inadequately conveyed in translation, but I also know the painfully slow process of translating the original Portuguese into English I understand will somehow destroy the passion with which I started to read.

Nonetheless there is too little poetry in my life and even the muse of love has her limits and I must make amends for this deficiency.

 

I will return from the vacation and do the things I must do.

Work where and when I can.

Meet my obligations to others as best as I can.

I will seek no evil to see, no evil to hear, no evil to speak.

I remain a true husband, a good friend and loyal employee.

But my mind is my own and my words, as imprecise as they can be, will seek to speak my mind.

Perhaps through reading poetry I shall find the means to express myself.

I am my own archaeologist of my own self.

 

So much generated from simply sitting in the sun.

 

 

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Lonely Planet Portugal / Rough Guide Portugal / Pocket Rough Guide Porto / Matthew Hancock, Xenophobe’s Guide to the Portuguese / A.H. de Oliveira Marques, A Very Short History of Portugal / Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon / Pedro Rodrigues, Porto and Northern Portugal: Journeys and Stories / Melissa Rossi, The Armchair Diplomat on Europe / Jürgen Strohmeier, Nordportugal

Canada Slim and the Station Sanctuary

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 19 January 2018

Romance!“, the season tickets mourn,

He never ran to catch his train,

But passed with coach and guard and horn –

And left the local – late again!

Confound romance and all unseen

Romance brought up the nine-fifteen.

Rudyard Kipling, “The King

Kipling in 1895

Above: Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936)

 

Paul Theroux, in the first book of his I ever read, The Old Patagonian Express, once wrote that “travel is a vanishing act, a solitary trip down a pinched line of geography, the simplest sort of narrative, an explanation which is its own excuse for the gathering up and the going“.

That Theroux would say these things does not surprise me as it seems from a reading of his works (many of which I have tried to collect) that many, if not all, of his journeys were done alone on his own, without spouse or offspring to distract him from his observations of fellow travellers and the landscape around him.

 

Travelling with your spouse is not the same as travelling by your lonesome, for the necessity to communicate significantly with strangers is drastically diminished as your beloved is beside you.

She won’t casually allow me to vanish into the surroundings nor blend into a crowd anonymously, and simplicity in our narrative is rarely achieved, as marriages, blissful as they might be, are always accompanied with their own complexities of opinions and tangled desires.

To travel with another human being one must learn to negotiate and compromise in your travel decisions.

To suggest a destination one must be prepared to defend that choice of destination.

For example, in Porto during our last summer’s vacation, it was not sufficient to simply suggest walking the Ponte de Dom Luis I without waxing eloquently about the fantastic views yet to be seen over the Rio Douro.

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Speak not of the Porto stock exchange unless you mention the wonderfully ornate palace it once was.

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Don’t suggest the Livraria Lello without mentioning J.K. Rowling’s frequency within it.

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Much like the advice I have given my Cambridge Certificate test-takers in regards to the oral (speaking) component of the examinations….

It is not enough to voice an opinion.

You must give a reason for that opinion.

 

We found ourselves in another far-from-home point on the map, as couples often do, based on the opinions of her friends.

And, as all husbands learn through trial and error, time and experience, if the ideas of your wife are always right then the brainstorm of possibilities suggested by her gaggle of girlfriends that gather around her must certainly be right by sheer weight of numbers.

In this blog I wrote of flying to and arriving in Porto and of our visit to the Sé, the city’s largest cathedral.

Image result for sé porto images

(Please see Canada Slim and the War of the Oranges.)

 

What is important for you to know before you read further is that we arrived at our B & B by taking a taxi from the Airport.

Though this little detail may seem innocuous and innocent at first glance it is vitally important to the tale that follows….

 

Porto, Portugal, Tuesday 24 July 2018

The signs on the Avenida Dom Afonso Henriques did not speak to me.

Image result for Avenida Dom Afonso Henriques porto images

They were of local matters and were written in Portuguese so despite the size of the massive billboards that hugged the incline leading to Sao Bento I found myself inclined to ignore them.

Did I imagine our attending a concert here in two months’ time?

We had a week to spend in Porto and the region so there was no profit in pausing our progress in trying to decipher their messages.

As usual, in my rucksack I lugged a library with me: the Pocket Rough Guide to Porto, The Rough Guide to Portugal, Lonely Planet Portugal, A.H. de Oliveira Marques’ A Very Short History of Portugal, Matthew Hancock’s Xenophobe’s Guide to the Portuguese and Pascal Mercier’s Night Train to Lisbon.

I would later purchase and add to my burden Fernando Pessoa’s Mensagem (Message) and Livro do desassossego por Bernardo Soares (The Book of Disquiet) and Luís de Camoes’ Sonetos Amorosos (Love Sonnets).

 

It is a rare moment that a train station concourse is a tourist attraction in its own right, but the one at Sao Bento is one of the most beautiful in the world.

Estação Ferroviária de Porto - São Bento.JPG

But this was not always so.

 

Until the late 19th century there was the convent of the Benedictine nuns of Sao Bento de Ave Maria, built at the beginning of the 16th century, heavily destroyed in a fire in 1783 but fully restored by 1821.

In 1821 this convent was inhabited by 55 nuns, as well as by 105 members of staff (mostly personal maids).

The Catholic Church has long been the world’s largest Christian organization and has been Portugal’s largest religion since the Iberian Peninsula was ruled by the Roman Empire.

In 1834, Joaquim António de Aguiar (1792 – 1884) terminated the state sanction of religious orders and nationalized their lands and possessions.

Joaquim António de Aguiar.jpg

Later referred to as Mata-Frades (Killer of Brothers), Aguiar’s government took control of the convents, churches, manor homes and holdings of various institutes that had been sustained by donations of the religious faithful and placed them for sale.

Although they hoped to place land and goods in the hands of the more disadvantaged, most of the poor did not have the capital to purchase them.

In fact, total sales were ten times less than expected and most holdings were purchased by speculators or existing landowners.

Aguiar’s famous decree of 30 May 1834 ordered the immediate extinction of all male religious orders (and the confiscation of their property), the prohibition of new nuns to profess their vows and the extinction of the convents after the death of the last nun who lived there.

 

Female religious orders struggled a lot during those days, encapsulated in a time that no longer had space for them.

The convent of the Benedictine nuns of Sao Bento de Ave Maria was no exception.

It had to sell most of their precious silver service in the public square to face financial struggles.

The convent slowly fell apart.

The nuns were dying, one by one.

The last nun died in May 1892, more than 58 years after the dissolution decree.

Photo mcauley.jpg

 

When the first steam locomotive reached Porto on 7 November 1896, goods still had to be transported by oxcart from the Campanha train station, 4 km away, over the hills to the city centre.

After 15 years of construction, by way of the demolition of the railway tunnel through the eastern hills and an elaborate interior design with 20,000 tiles, the station was finally inaugerated in 1916.

 

Today Sao Bento is the main terminus of Porto’s suburban railway lines and the western terminus for the scenic Douro line between Porto and Pocinho.

The Station also serves the Minho, Braga, Guimaraes, Caíde / Marco de Canaveses and Aveiro lines.

All trains leaving Sao Bento call at Campanha as their next station.

The Station is near the vintage tramline 22 and is connected to Sao Bento Metro Station on Metro line D.

most beautiful train station porto

 

Porto has some of Portugal’s best azulejos – decorative ceramic tiles – and you can see a variety of styles decorating houses, shops, monuments and churches all over the city.

The craft was brought over by the Moors in the 8th century.

Portuguese azulejos developed their own style around the mid-16th century when a new Italian technique enable images to be painted directly onto the clay, thanks to a tin oxide coating which prevented runnage.

Above: Adoration of the Magi, Museum of Azulejos, Lisbon

 

Wealthy Portuguese began to commission large azulejo panels displaying Vasco da Gama’s voyages to the East.

Lisboa-Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga-Retrato dito de Vasco da Gama-20140917.jpg

Above: Vasco da Gama (1460 – 1524)

 

The early 18th century saw highly trained artists producing elaborate multicoloured ceramic mosaics, often with Rococo or Baroque themes as in the interior of the Sé.

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Above: Sé, Porto

 

After the Great Earthquake of 1 November 1755, more prosaic tiled facades, often with neoclassical designs, were considered good insulation devices, as well as protecting buildings from fire and rain.

After the mid-19th century, azulejos were being mass-produced to decorate shops and religious buildings, such as the fantastic interior of the Igreja de Carmo.

Above: Igreja de Carmo, Luanda, Angola

 

By the 1900s Portugal had become the world’s leading producer of azulejos, with Art Deco designs taking hold in the 1920s.

Witness the facade of the Pérola do Bolhao shop.

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Sao Bento station’s entrance hall represents a coming together of all the best the azulejos have to offer.

The Station was decorated by painter Jorge Colaco.

The first tiles were placed on 13 August 1905.

His tiles show various scenes from Portuguese history.

The towering, ornate ceilings, arched windows and impressive clock all give the appearance of a palace ballroom rather than a ticket hall.

The upper parts of the frieze are decorated with polychromatic azulejos depicting a chronology of the forms of transport used by man in Portugal.

The lower and upper frame of the frieze consists of a line of tile in blue, brown and yellow in a stylized geometric pattern.

Under this, on the top of the north wall, is a large composition that covers the entire wall, depicting the Battle of Valdevez (1140), with two groups of antagonists and other knights in the background.

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This monochromatic composition is executed in blue on white tiles, similar to all the other main azulejopaintings“.

Below the battle is another composition that represents the meeting between the Knight Egas Moniz and Alfonso VII of León in Toledo (12th century), offering his life, his wife and his sons during the siege of Guimaraes.

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In the south is a painting of the entrance to Porto of King John I and Philippa of Lancaster, on horseback, to celebrate their wedding (1387).

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Below that is the Conquest of Ceuta (1415) with the principal figure of Infante Dom Henrique who subjugated the Moors.

The wall into the Station is divided into multiple compositions.

To the left, a vision of the procession of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios in Lamego, an exhaustive description and detail showing the multitudes within an urban setting.

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Under this composition are two panels that represent her “promise” on her knees and, the other, her actions at the “miraculous” fountain.

In the same detail is the pilgrimage of Sao Trocato to Guimaraes.

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The lower panels show a picture of a cattle fair and pilgrim camp.

The central panels of the wall represent four work scenes: the vineyards, the harvest, the wine shipment down the Rio Douro and work in the watermill.

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On the pilasters separating the vains with access to the street, below the polychromatic frieze, is a series of smaller compositions.

Above these are medallions depicting romantic scenes and, below, allegories associated with the railway referencing time and signalling, in an expression of Art Deco.

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As the wife and I take photograph after photograph after photograph of the Station, I find myself thinking many things.

 

Legend says that, in a stubborn but serene way, the ghost of the last nun of the former convent still walks the corridors of Sao Bento, and in the silence in the time between midnight and daybreak, one can hear her prayers.

But only the attuned and the attentive can hear the nun, just as only in the space between spaces, the silence between breaths, the magic of moments does Porto reveal herself to those who truly seek her.

 

I find myself feeling contradictory.

I do not believe in ghosts yet I believe in the spirit of a place.

I may not believe in God and yet I can sense when a place is sacred.

The Station is no longer a consecrated convent and yet it has never lost its divine power to move strangers within these walls.

 

I recall reading what Paul Theroux once said about a nation’s railways.

Years before, I had noticed how trains accurately represented the culture of a country:

The seedy distressed country has seedy distressed railway trains.

The proud efficient nation is similarly reflected in its rolling stock, as Japan is.

There is hope in India because the trains are considered vastly more important then the wagons some Indians drive.

Dining cars, I found, told the whole story (and if there were no dining cars the country was beneath consideration).

The noodle stall in the Malaysian Train, the borscht and bad manners in the Trans-Siberian, the kippers and fried bread on the Flying Scotsman.”

 

The Comboios de Portugal (CP)(Portuguese National Railways) operates all Portuguese trains, yet despite this journey being our third time in this country, I have no memory of taking a train when we visited the Algarve on our first adventure or when we remained in Lisbon on our second.

Logo-Comboios-de-Portugal.svg

For the most part the CP is an efficient network with modern rolling stock, but, as is often the case in Europe, rural train stations can sometimes be a long way away from the town or village they serve.

 

A casual Google search suggests that the Bard of Train Travel, Paul Theroux once stood in Sao Bento Station as we did.

But whether he took the famous Linha do Douro I do not know, but if his travel accounts are anything to go by Theroux would have been more interested in taking train journeys that crossed national borders and spanned continents rather than taking a Portuguese train of which most are designated Regionals (R) or Interregionals (I).

Rede Ferroviária Portuguesa - 2007.png

In its heyday the Linha crossed the border to Spain bound for Salamanca and Madrid and sprouted some stunning valley branch lines but this is no longer so.

 

(The determined train traveller can cross into Spain via Valenca do Minho to the north, Vilar Formoso, Marvao-Beira or Caia to the east, or Vila Real de Santo António to the south.

Theroux’s travelogue The Pillars of Hercules, which is an account of his travels around the Mediterranean from Gibraltar to Morocco travelling clockwise along the coasts, may have been prefaced by his travelling by train along the Portuguese coast through Porto and Lisbon, Tunes and Vila Real de Santo António to Seville then Ronda and Algeciras, then by bus to La Línea de la Concepción followed by a five-minute walk to the border of the British colony.

But this is simply conjecture on my part.)

 

Trains depart daily from Sao Bento along the Linha do Douro, reputed to be one of the most beautiful rail routes in Europe as it follows the course of the Rio Douro into the heart of the port wine-growing estates.

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(We would that week take the train and ride the rails of the Linha do Douro to Pocinho and return by boat back to Porto, but that is a tale best told at another time.)

 

But what Sao Bento represents is what impressed me most.

A centuries-old convent transformed into an azulejo-covered train station.

The mystery of faith transformed into the mystique of travel.

 

sao bento train station porto

Locals were astonishingly easy to distinguish from tourists, for the local does not look at the azulejos with any admiration for they are as much a part of Porto as a red fire hydrant is a normal fixture of a Manhattan street.

Almost invisible, inconsequential, something to be walked past as one shakes one’s head at the weird ones so fascinated by the mere commonplace.

For them Sao Bento is simply a station, a pit stop, a necessary go-through or starting point.

 

But to me, surrounded by tiled masterpieces of living history, Sao Bento is forbidden seduction.

You desire her but she is untouchable.

You want to linger but you know you cannot.

 

Beyond the doors the traffic never-ceasing reminds you of life beyond these walls.

From these platforms an escape from one’s cloistered existence beckons.

 

Photographs never capture the essence of a place just as words never fully describe the magic of women.

 

We cannot stay, for there is much yet to be seen, much life left to be lived.

A last lingering look in the dim hope of branding these images into one’s memory.

We know that we ourselves will leave no trace that we were here, for we are mere members of a multitude passing through.

For some reason Leonard Cohen croons his “Sisters of Mercy” song from the jukebox of my mind.

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Somehow this feels appropriate.

Oh, the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone.
They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can’t go on.
And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song.
Oh, I hope you run into them, you who’ve been travelling so long.

Yes, you who must leave everything that you cannot control.
It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul.
Well, I’ve been where you’re hanging. I think I can see how you’re pinned.
When you’re not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you’ve sinned.

Well, they lay down beside me, I made my confession to them
They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem.
If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn,
They will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem.

When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon.
Don’t turn on the lights. You can read their address by the moon.
And you won’t make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night.
We weren’t lovers like that and besides, it would still be all right.
We weren’t lovers like that and besides, it would still be all right.”

Sources: Wikipedia / Google / Facebook / Pocket Rough Guide to Porto / Rough Guide Portugal / Lonely Planet Portugal / Paul Theroux, The Old Patagonian Express / http://portoalities.com / http://www.visitportoandnorth.travel.com

 

 

Canada Slim and the War of the Oranges

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 6 August 2018

Back a few days ago from my third trip to Portugal, my first to Porto and the north of the country.

The most western nation of continental Europe, Portugal shares the Iberian Peninsula with Spain, but this land of foggy fishing villages and tiny hamlets set deep in cork forests has a quarter of Spain’s population, is less than a fifth of Spain’s geographical size and in Portugal they don’t speak Spanish, they speak Portuguese.

Flag of Portugal

Above: Flag of Portugal

 

Loud, exuberent Spain is paella and bullfights.

Reserved Portugal is the mournful wailing of fado and legendary sightings of the Virgin Mary.

The Spanish are fiercely proud of their past accomplishments.

The Portuguese are quietly proud of their future potential.

Disregard the critics who will gleefully tell you that Portugal is the graveyard of ambition, a kingdom of mediocrity where the national hobby is complaining and the ambitious leave.

Instead….

Picture Portugal as a land of resilience.

An earthquake may have cost them an empire, but Portugal still stands.

Dictators may have halted their progress for decades, but Portugal still stands.

Imagine a land that was economically isolated and politically smothered now striving to overcome an international reputation that suggests that the Portuguese are unproductive, unfit, unhealthy and unattractive.

Spend time with them and realize that though there are some that fit these negative descriptions, the vast majority of the people are simply and quietly going about their business.

They don’t lack self-esteem.

They simply haven’t practiced self-marketing as successfully as their European counterparts, for why tout your superiority when you know who you are and what you can do?

 

To be fair, judging Portugal by one’s impressions of Porto is a lot like judging America from only a visit to Chicago or England from time spent exclusively in Birmingham.

Just as New York and London overshadow hard-working Chicago and Birmingham so does Lisboa (Lisbon) dominate people’s minds over Porto.

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Above: Images of Porto

 

Traditionally Portugal’s wine distribution centre, the scenic city of Porto – Portugal’s second biggest city – straddles the Douro River and is a lively transport hub, in part due to its famous export, port.

If the adage “Lisbon plays, Porto pays, Coimbra prays” can be believed, then Porto is the hardest working place in Portugal.

Historically (and practically) Porto puts the Portu in Portugal as the name dates from Roman times, when Lusitanian settlements straddled both sides of the Rio Douro.

The area was briefly in the hands of Moors but was reconquered by the year 1000 and reorganized as the County of Portucale with Porto as its capital.

Henri of Burgundy was granted the land in 1095 and it was from here that Henri’s son and Portuguese hero Afonso Henriques launched the Reconquista (Christian reconquest), ultimately winning Portugal the status of an independent kingdom….part of the Iberian Peninsula, but not part of Spain.

Above: King Afonso I Henriques of Portugal (1106 – 1185)

 

The Portuguese are akin to Canadians, Swiss and New Zealanders in that they do not care to be mistaken for being a countryman of their more powerful and prominent neighbour.

When addressed in Spanish by a foreigner, a Portuguese would rather answer in English or French.

Spain is the loud neighbour with the big house and the trees that block out the light.

To get to Portugal the rest of Europe passes through Spain, leaving tourist revenues and business investment on Spanish shores.

The Spanish are not the neighbours from Hell, but they are neighbours the Portuguese resent.

Neither good winds nor good marriages come from Spain.” goes the well-known Portuguese saying.

Over 400 years ago Spain relinquished occupation of Portugal, but distrust runs deep after a bloody history of wars and border skirmishes.

Even now, many Portuguese claim the town of Olivenca in Spanish Extremadura as their own invoking a treaty of 1815 which Spain continues to conveniently forget.

LocalDistritoEvoraComOlivença.svg

Portugal’s economy hangs on the coat tails of Spain much as Canada’s economy is dependent on American trade and Switzerland’s upon trade with Germany.

We all look with alarm when German companies take over slices of Switzerland’s economy or Americans financially invade Canada or the Spanish seize Portuguese banks or real estate.

Yet for the Swiss to go to Germany or Canadians to go to America or  Portuguese to go to Spain is a certain sign that you’ve entered the Big Time.

Big time.  I’m on my way. I’m making it….big time.” (Peter Gabriel)

Many of Portugal’s top footballers leap at the chance to play for Real Madrid, much like Canadian hockey players jump for joy when recruited by American teams.

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Above: Real Madrid Football Club logo

 

(The world is strange.

How are hockey teams in two nations considered part of one National Hockey League?

Why is the finale in North American baseball called the World Series when only (with rare exception, Canada’s Toronto Blue Jays) American teams compete?

I am so confused.)

 

Nobel Prize winning author José Saramago (The History of the Siege of Lisbon / Blindness) left Portugal to live in Spanish Tenerife, much like Wayne Gretzky and Jim Carrey left Canada to live in LA.

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Above: José Saramago (1922 – 2010)

 

Like the British and Canadians are cynical about Americans, like Austrians and Swiss are cynical about Germans, the Portuguese too are cynical about the Spanish.

And like Anglos with America and Swiss with Germany, the Portuguese secretly hanker to be like the Spanish.

The first day of my third Portuguese adventure was a reminder of this problematic relationship with Spain.

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Above: The Iberian Peninsula

 

Porto, Portugal, 24 July 2018

I have nothing against the Spanish.

Flag of Spain

Above: Flag of Spain

I enjoyed my two previous visits to Spain’s San Sebastian (let’s leave questions of Basque independence aside at this time) and Barcelona (ditto for Catalona).

I am emotionally unaffected by the planning that resulted in flying two Spanish airlines (Iberia and Vueling) from Zürich to Porto and return.

The flights booked through the Internet, which might not have been the least expensive method, was at least the most efficient way to go.

 

(Most Internet travel agencies work by connecting a website to a computerized reservation service (CRS) that in turn is linked to the airlines.

Because the airlines and the CRSs only list official, published fares in their databases, most Internet travel agencies only sell tickets at published fares and have no discounts.

Most international air ticket prices are not shown in any CRS, are not available directly from the airline, and are not available from any Internet site that depends on airlines and/or CRSs as a source of fares.)

 

Still I may not have had a choice as TAP, Portugal’s national airline, flies only to the western Swiss city of Genève rather than that most convenient airport of Zürich in eastern Switzerland.

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So, can Spanish airlines be blamed too harshly for taking up the Portuguese slack?

Iberia flight 1077, Zürich (ZUR) to Porto (POR) with a stopover in Madrid (MAD), is aboard an Airbus A319 plane named the Ciudad de Baiez.

Logotipo de Iberia.svg

Intercom announcements and seat pocket literature are in English and Spanish.

Unlike Swiss teacher Raimund Gregorius of Pascal Mercier’s Night Train to Lisbon, (begun to be read during this flight) there were no chance encounters with mysterious suicidal Portuguese bridge jumpers or tomes of philosophical enigmatic aristocrats found in dusty corners of antiquarian bookshops to inspire this trip to Portugal.

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A vacation was needed and Porto had not yet been explored.

I did not impulsively leave Switzerland as Gregorius left his job.

Flag of Switzerland

There was a plan, organization, flight and hotel reservations.

Like Gregorius, I would have preferred to travel to Portugal slower than flying, but like most tourists I am limited by constraints of time, money and responsibility.

The Ronda, Iberia’s seat pocket magazine, distracts me from the haunted journey of Gregorius.

I read about the Bloop Festival of Ibiza, Brunch in the Park in Barcelona, and recommended explorations of Japan with their 40 sumo wrestling training gyms, 3,000 public thermal baths and 21 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

I read of Barcelona and the Lavender Road of Provence, of the paradise that is Patagonia and the temptations of Tenerife, of summer flights to Croatia and of “somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember“.

I am flying to Portugal, but there is no whisper about the place aboard the flight.

The gluten-free muffins, the Linda limonada, the MIOS patatas are all Spanish.

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Above: Aeroporto Porto

After touchdown at Porto Airport, taxi into town and check-in at the Casa de Cativo in the Batalha district of central Porto, we find ourselves drawn to explore.

My eyes are immediately drawn to the Sé – Porto’s Cathedral.

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This Roman Catholic Cathedral is one of the most relevant and oldest monuments of the city.

Located in the heart of the historical centre the Sé rises from the landscape as an eye-catching icon atop a rocky outcrop a couple of hundred metres from Sao Bento Station and commands a fine view over the rooftops of Porto.

In front of the Cathedral, a lone sentinel on horseback, Vimara Peres (d. 873), the first King of the County of Portugal, stands watch over the city in stone silence.

The Sé is flanked by two square towers that stretch like arms reaching for Heaven.

Each tower is supported by two buttresses and crowned with a cupola.

On the North Tower (the one with the bell) look for the worn bas-relief depicting a 14th century ship – a coca – a reminder of the earliest days of Portugal’s maritime epic when sailors inched tentatively down the west Saharan coastline in fear of monsters.

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The facade lacks decoration and yet is not lacking in beauty.

The Baroque porch and the delicate Romanesque rose window under the crenellated arch lend the Sé the impression of a fort, a sort of setting suited for the commencement of some holy quest or mighty crusade.

Inside, the blend of Baroque, original Romanesque and Gothic architecture – a kind of structural bouillabaisse – is a strange marriage of prevading gloom.

But maybe gloom – an uneasy spectre of death – was what was sought after when the Sé was being designed.

Around 1333 the Gothic funerary chapel of Joao Gordo was added – his tomb decorated with his recumbent figure and reliefs of the Apostles – the Beatles of the New Testament in regards to their creativity.

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Gordo was a Knight Hospitalier who worked for King Dinis I (1261 – 1325).

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Above: Flag of the Knights Hospitaller

(The Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, also known as the Order of Saint John, Order of Hospitallers, Knights Hospitaller, Knights Hospitalier or Hospitallers, was a medieval Catholic military order, headquartered in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, on the island of Rhodes, in Malta and St Petersburg.)

(King Dinis I, also called the Farmer King and the Poet King, was King of Portugal (1279 – 1325) for over 46 years and is remembered by the Portuguese as a major contributor to the formation of a sense of national identity and an awareness of Portugal as a nation-state.

He worked to organize his country’s economy and gave an impetus to Portuguese agriculture.

He ordered the planting of a large pine forest (that still exists today) near Leiria to prevent soil degradation that threatened the region and as a source of raw materials for the construction of the royal ships.

Above: Leiria Castle

Dinis was known for his poetry, which constitutes a major contribution to the development of Portuguese as a literary language.)

(More on Dinis in a future post….)

 

In 1387, the Cathedral was embellished to celebrate the wedding of Portuguese King Jaoa I with the English Princess Philippa of Lancaster (reinforcing the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance).

Above: Wedding of Portuguese King Joao I and English Princess Philippa of Lancaster, Porto Cathedral, 11 February 1387

It was this matrimonial bond of man and wife, this Alliance of Portugal and England within this Sé that would witness within those same walls that which was a celebration of the newly-wed would become a commiseration of the bloody dead.

 

On 29 January 1801, an ultimatum from Spain and France forces Portugal to decide between France and Britain, even as its government has tried to negotiate favorable relations with the two powers rather than abrogate the Treaty of Windsor (1386).

The French sent a five-point statement to Lisbon demanding that Portugal:

  • Abandon its traditional alliance with Great Britain and close its ports to British shipping;
  • Open its ports to French and Spanish shipping;
  • Surrender one or more of its provinces, equal to one fourth part of her total area, as a guarantee for the recovery of Trinidad, Port Mahon (Menorca) and Malta;
  • Pay a war indemnity to France and Spain;
  • Review border limits with Spain.

If Portugal failed to accomplish the five conditions of this ultimatum, it would be invaded by Spain, supported by 15,000 French soldiers.

The British could not promise any effective relief, even as Prince Joao VI appealed to Hookham Frere, who arrived in November 1800.

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Above: Joao VI “the Clement” (1767 – 1826)

In February, the terms were delivered to the Prince-Regent.

Although he sent a negotiator to Madrid, war was declared.

At the time, Portugal had a poorly trained army, with less than 8,000 cavalry and 46,000 infantry troops.

Its military commander, João Carlos de Bragança e Ligne (2nd Duke of Lafões), had barely raised 2,000 horse and 16,000 troops and was compelled to contract the services of a Prussian colonel, Count Karl Alexander von der Goltz, to assume command as field marshal.

The Spanish Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief, Manuel de Godoy, had some 30,000 troops at his disposal, while the French troops under General Charles Leclerc (Napoleon’s brother-in-law) arrived in Spain too late to assist Godoy, as it was a short military campaign.

On May 20, Godoy finally entered Portugal.

This incursion was a precursor of the Peninsular War that would engulf the Iberian Peninsula.

The Spanish army quickly penetrated the Alentejo region in southern Portugal and occupied Olivença, Juromenha, Arronches, Portalegre, Castelo de Vide, Barbacena and Ouguela without resistance.

Campo Maior resisted for 18 days before falling to the Spanish army, but Elvas successfully resisted a siege by the invaders.

An episode which occurred during the siege of Elvas accounts for the name, “War of the Oranges“:

Godoy, celebrating his first experience of generalship, plucked two oranges from a tree and immediately sent them to Queen Maria Luisa of Spain, mother of Carlota Joaquina and supposedly his lover, with the message:

I lack everything, but with nothing I will go to Lisbon.

Manuel de Godoy

The conflict ended quickly when the defeated and demoralized Portuguese were forced to negotiate and accept the stipulations of the Treaty of Badajoz, signed on 6 June 1801.

As part of the peace settlement, Portugal recovered all of the strongholds previously conquered by the Spanish, with the exception of Olivença and other territories on the eastern margin of the Guadiana and a prohibition of contraband was enforced near the border between the two countries.

The treaty was ratified by the Prince-Regent on 14 June, while the King of Spain promulgated the treaty on 21 June.

A special convention (the Treaty of Madrid) on 29 September 1801 made additions to that of Badajoz whereby Portugal was forced to pay France an indemnity of 20 million francs.

This treaty was initially rejected by Napoleon, who wanted the partition of Portugal, but he accepted once he concluded a peace with Great Britain at Amiens.

Portrait of Napoleon in his forties, in high-ranking white and dark blue military dress uniform. In the original image He stands amid rich 18th-century furniture laden with papers, and gazes at the viewer. His hair is Brutus style, cropped close but with a short fringe in front, and his right hand is tucked in his waistcoat.

Above: Napoléon (1769 – 1821)

 

Portugal divides itself into 18 districts.

Porto is the capital city of the Porto District, which is itself divided into 18 municipalities.

Of these municipalities the close-by city of Amarante lies to the northeast of Porto.

 

During this War of the Oranges (20 May – 9 June 1801) while a battle raged in Amarante, a group of Spanish soldiers briefly took control of the Porto Cathedral before being overcome by the locals of the town.

A marble plaque hangs behind the altar in memory of those who lost their lives regaining control of the chapel.

The plaque has a magnetic backing that was chosen to order to remind those travelling near the Cathedral to orient themselves in the direction their compasses have been altered towards.

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I can´t help but wonder what Hollywood would have done with a story like this:

Soldiers seize a church.

Locals battle to regain it.

But details are hard to come by here in distant Landschlacht and there is a tragic lack of ability in my reading Portuguese.

But I can imagine it.

 

Sunday 31 May 1801, Porto, Portugal

It was the perfect opportunity.

A full moon week meant the soldiers could ride in the Saturday night moonlight and lie in wait inside the Cathedral until the faithful showed up the following morning.

The Cathedral would have gold and the parishioners – faithful tithe-givers to the last – would have money.

The soldiers simply sought profits but they would be ignored if the parishioners didn’t believe that the soldiers would slay them if they did not obey.

The locals outside the church would be half-mad with grief and worry and would do anything to ensure the safety of their loved ones within.

The Bishop would be outraged at the sacreligious nature and audacity of the soldiers’ act.

 

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 6 August 2018

At this point of planning the plot of this historical drama I would require the aforementioned details that language and long distance deny me.

Was blood shed?

By whom upon whom?

History records the soldiers were unsuccessful, but what was their fate?

Who were these people: the Bishop, the faithful, the townsfolk, the soldiers?

Do I actually need historical facts and actual accuracy to tell their story?

Take the movie Braveheart about the Scottish hero William Wallace.

Braveheart imp.jpg

Many liberties were taken and the plot is filled with historical inaccuracies but is it a damn good movie?

Absolutely.

 

I am reminded again of Portuguese author José Saramago – a writer damnably difficult to read for his deliberate determination not to use punctuation or paragraphs but a fine storyteller nonetheless.

In his The History of the Siege of Lisbon, Saramago asks:

What happens when the facts of history are replaced by the mysteries of love?

“When Raimundo Silva, a lowly proofreader for a Lisbon publishing house, inserts a negative into a sentence of a historical text, he alters the whole course of the 1147 Siege of Lisbon.

Fearing censure he is met instead with admiration:  Dr. Maria Sara, his voluptuous new editor, encourages him to pen his own alternative history.

As his retelling draws on all his imaginative powers, Silva finds – to his nervous delight – that if the facts of the past can be rewritten as a romance then so can the details of his own dusty bachelor present.”

Saramago suggests so many scenarios one could use and have been used by other authors in the past:

What if you had the power to change the past? (time travel)(Time Cop)

What if you had the power to enter the world of literature? (fantasy)(Inkheart)

What if you deliberately altered the record of the past to better reflect and justify the present? (George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four)

 

Telling the tale of the taking of Porto Cathedral also carries with it some responsibility.

I don’t wish to glorify the Portuguese, for their history is not a bloodless nor innocent one in regards to their colonialism or dark dictatorship days.

I don’t wish to increase the innate antagonism between the Portuguese and the Spanish, for, in my humble opinion, writing should seek to unite humanity rather than divide it, even if history is truly horrific.

 

Still I smell a story just begging to be written, replete with drama and suspense – a kind of Die Hard meets Braveheart scenario, maybe mixed with a dash of Timeline and Timecop.

 

Maybe this is all just idle musings, for my mind is much like the late comedian Robin Williams’ observations of former US President George W. Bush’s span of attention:

“My fellow Americans….

Oh! Look at the baby!

Squirrel!”

Above: Robin Williams (1951 – 2014)

 

What I am left with when I consider the taking of Porto Cathedral is not so much that an extraordinarily beautiful house of worship was seized or a symbol of a religious affliation defiled.

Rather I find it interesting that the very church where the English-Portuguese Alliance came into being would become a battlefield in maintaining that alliance.

The whole story has the feel of witnessing a bully at a wedding seize one of the guests and threaten to kill him if the couple continues on with the nuptial ceremony.

Couples may not always co-exist harmoniously but nothing unites a couple more than someone else trying to separate them.

Though Portugal may have lost the War of the Oranges, Portugal’s defiance of bullying Spain ensured Britain’s assistance a few years later and strengthened Portuguese resolve to maintain their own alliances on their own terms.

I don’t see prevailing gloom within the Sé of Porto but rather my mind escapes up from the shadows and into the cloisters of magnificent azulejos and ascends the grand staircase to the dazzling chapterhouse with its sweeping views from the windows.

It is all a matter of perspective.

The Spanish seized a Cathedral and lost it.

The French and the Spanish defeated Portugal and later were defeated by the very alliance they tried to destroy.

Red may have spilled from soldier wounds and the faithful injured, but red is also half the colour of the Portuguese flag: combative, hot, virile.

A singing, ardent, joyful colour ever reminding of victory despite the high cost.

I don’t hear the lamentations of the frightened nor the murmuring of prayers and exhortations to God, but rather the fever and fervour of the resilient and determined.

As the words ring out strong and clear the Portuguese national anthem proudly proclaims:

“Unfurl the unconquerable flag in the bright light of your sky!

Cry out all Europe and the whole world that Portugal has not perished.

Your happy land is kissed by the ocean that murmurs with love.

And your conquering arm has given new worlds to the world!”

Two centuries, four months and a matter of weeks later, America would on 11 September 2001, suffer an attack far more devastating and tragic than the now-and-long forgotten taking of Porto Cathedral, but nothing strengthens a nation more than adversity or unites it into determined defiance against those who would seek to diminish it.

Like the United States, no one bothers or bullies Portugal any more.

Of the trials and tribulations Portugal, like the United States, has endured, much has been created by itself and resolved by itself.

To be blunt, the Sé, this Cathedral of Porto, to this world weary traveller is quite forgettable.

What Porto Cathedral represents, isn’t.

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Sources: Wikipedia / Google / The Rough Guide to Portugal / Porto and Northern Portugal: Journeys and Stories