Madeleine – Monchique 3

n, my wife had tried to report a stolen phone in a GNR station in Lagos on Monday 6 Aug 2018. She was asked to come back the next morning by GNR officer Rui Hernandes.

So she returned at 9.20am on Tuesday morning, got a space in the GNR car park, and as promised, officer Rui Hernandez was on the front desk.

Reporting a stolen phone is simply a case of filling in a 2 page form, but that was not completed until 11.10am, nearly 2 hours later.

The issue was that Officer Hernandes was the only officer manning the front desk at the station. In addition to filling in the stolen phone claim, he had to answer all the calls to the station landline, ditto the station mobile, handle the GNR radio traffic and explain to people entering the station how long they would have to wait before being dealt with.

During my wife’s visit to the station, there were two incidents of note.

First, in dribbles, GNR officers emerged from the rear of the station, until 5 of them had assembled in the reception room. Each officer had a small suitcase, of the type carried on as hand luggage on airflights. Once assembled, they departed the station. Officer Rui Hernandes explained that all GNR officers were trained in firefighting, and this quintet was going to help deal with the conflagration around Monchique.

I have seen photos of the GNR being used in two ways in the Monchique fire. The first has the GNR in normal police uniform, carrying out normal GNR duties. The second has GNR officers in firefighting dress, identical to that of the bombeiros, except that GNR kit is emblazoned with the word GNR, not Bombeiros.

So it seemed this GNR station in Lagos was being pared to minimal resources to support the effort against the forest fire. Or was it?

The second incident involved where my wife had parked her car, in the space reserved for the GNR. While she had been given permission to use it, 2 GNR officers said that made no difference, as they had to open those green doors on the RHS of the photo. With our car duly moved out of the way, the green doors were opened.

It turns out those doors are not garage doors but stable doors. Out came 2 horses, the GNR officers mounted up, and off they trotted to patrol Lagos.

This is a bit perplexing. Lagos itself is supposed to be handled by the PSP, not the GNR. Quite why two GNR mounted police officers were patrolling Lagos is an enigma.


Madeleine – Monchique Part 2

This follows on from Madeleine – Monchique Part 1, which described the August 2018 forest fires around Monchique, on the Algarve.

The issue with that post was that it reported the fires as being 95% under control, but they definitely are not. The GNR has recently started evacuating villages and hamlets near to Silves, a long way from Monchique.

The fire is being stoked by a strong northerly wind, which is reigniting areas previously thought to have been put out.

We can see the results from where we live in Portelas. The sky has a long dark plume of smoke from the fires heading down to Portimão on the wind. When we go to Lagos or come back home from it, it is possible to see the flames.

The person in overall charge of the effort was removed from his position and replaced by a national commander. It seems the previous major conflagration near here was in 2012, at the Serra do Caldeirão to the east, and the same commander came in for stick for that operation.

The number of personnel deployed and the supporting units has gone through the roof. The wind is currently a strong northerly, so there is going to be a tough night ahead.

The bombeiros are active on social media, requesting small bottles of water, energy drinks, fruit, energy bars and medical aid for treating ‘minor’ burns, basically all front-line supplies. It seems the ex-pats are happy to oblige. The Portuguese see it as a sign of a broken system, needing more than a temporary patch.

That brings me to Monday afternoon. My wife went to a GNR station in Lagos., to report a stolen phone. She sat in a queue for quite a while, as a single GNR officer struggled to cope. Eventually a second GNR officer turned up at the desk, to ask what the issue was.

The officer was GNR officer Rui Hernandes, aged around 35. My wife explained what her mission was, and Officer Hernandes said he could not process it at the time. He explained that he was only in the office because he was writing up the paperwork on two incidents. One was a domestic affray involving 5 people. The other was a car crash.

He explained that he should have been on duty in Monchique but for these two incidents around Lagos. He checked the duty roster the next day, saw he was marked down for the police station desk, and requested that my wife should return early the next day.

And here is a photo of this rather quaint GNR station in Lagos.

Madeleine – Monchique Part 1

After three days, the forest fires continue to burn around Monchique, although we are told they are 95% under control. The fires managed to progress from the top of the mountain, to the village of Monchique in the foothills. And here is what it looked like.

Some hamlets around Monchique had to be evacuated. Macdonald Monchique Resort and Spa was also emptied, with guests being relocated to two hotels further east on the coast of the Algarve. The locals however had to make do with a school in Monchique. One complained that as he had no money, he could not even buy a cup of coffee.

The effort on this has been huge. At times, it has topped 1,000 firefighters, of various disciplines. Spain has loaned a couple of water-carrying planes. There are also other fires on the go locally. There is a fairly large one between Lagos and Odiáxere. This has stretched resources of all kinds here in the Algarve.

And that is the link with the Madeleine McCann case.

A visit to the local GNR station in Lagos today struggled because the GNR station had been picked bare of resources, in order to attend the conflagration around Monchique. Resources here in Lagos are spread wafer thin.

I will develop the Madeleine connection in a second post, focussing specifically on the GNR in Lagos today. I have still to work out exactly what was going on with the GNR response on 3 May 2007.

Portugal – blood moon – photos

Here are some of the photos of the recent blood moon. These were all taken in Portugal.

Please bear in mind that mine were all captured on an inexpensive point-and-shoot digital camera. I have included a couple by more professional photographers. And I’ll show you the kit you need to get better quality pictures than the ones I managed.

This first one is with my little point-and-shoot camera, taken here in Portelas. The blurry lights along the bottom are the village on the hill opposite us

The bright spot below and to the right of the Moon is Mars. Mars is currently at its closest approach to Earth and is easily visible to the naked eye.

And now let’s swap to a photographer who has better kit than me. This one was taken in Lisbon. Apparently, the Teatro Romano opened its doors to allow the sightseers to get a good view of the eclipse. NB The graphic of the Teatro Romano is computer generated, not what it looks like today.

And below is Elvas in Portugal, near Badajoz in Spain.

In the next photo, the eclipse was just beginning to end. If you look closely at the bottom, left-hand corner of the Moon, it has a very slight tinge of silver on it.

In the last of my personal pictures, a half-decent one of the Moon emerging as the eclipse nears its end.

To round off the photos, here is one taken in Singapore for the event. Note the kit used here.

What am I missing to take high-quality night sky events? I appear to be missing an SLR camera, an enormous telephoto lens, and a tripod. I don’t think my interest in astronomy stretches much beyond a tripod, to cut down on camera shake, but we’ll see.

Portugal – Blood Moon

There will be a blood moon on Friday, 27 July 2018.

A blood moon is simply a total eclipse of the Moon by the Earth. Sunlight is filtered by the Earth’s atmosphere, leaving only a small amount of red light left to illuminate the moon. The result is a moon the colour of blood.

This is the lunar eclipse with the longest duration until the year 2100.

Weather permitting, what you actually get to see depends on how far N/S and E/W you are.

Let me start with London, which is basically 0°N and 0°E. The moon is only just rising above the horizon at this time of the month, so viewing the blood moon will be problematic. You need to get an unblocked view to the south-east. If you can do that, you should be able to see the blood moon from 9.21pm to 10.13pm. The further north of London you are, the less likely it becomes that you will be able to see this particular blood moon.

So check what will be available in your location.

It helps if you are east of London, but Portugal is west of London. That means a big chunk of this longest blood moon will already be over before moonrise on Friday. The Moon will already be in total eclipse when it does rise above the horizon. However as Portugal is south of London, the Moon will rise higher in sky, and be easier to see.

The Moon will already be in total eclipse when it rises here, but the mainland of Portugal will experience around 50 minutes of blood moon.

Scientists say the Moon will rise in the east. Personally, I am going to check tonight exactly where it appears to emerge in Portelas, so I know exactly where it rises on my personal horizon.

The times for moonrise are 8.38pm in Faro, 8.47pm in Lisbon and 8.51pm in Porto. The Moon will be in the centre of its eclipse at 9.22pm.

I have tried to photograph a blood moon once before, and the results were dire. I will have another try, but my small point-and-shoot camera is unlikely to give much better results. One of the challenges is that when the Moon is blood red it shines much less brightly than a standard silver moon. So even if I can get a decent photo on my test run tonight, there is no guarantee I can capture a good photo of a blood moon

Gonçalo – One Man Came To Mow

Use C and G or G7

C                                                                 G

One man came to mow, came to mow our meadow


One man and his dog, came to mow our meadow

C                                                                  G

Two men came to mow, came to mow our meadow


Two men, one man and his dog, came to mow our meadow

Repeat and extend for 3 men upwards, until the children get bored.

The mower guy finally turned up with his tractor reaper, and in surprisingly little time, mowed the whole of our meadow plus two adjacent plots. In the photo, the man is mowing beside two of our orange trees. Please note this as a ‘before’ photo. The mown hay has been left lying on the ground to dry out, before baling. Then it will become fodder for GNR horses.

This flattening meant that Gonçalo’s adventure trail has been covered over, but he is not downhearted. He still knows where it went, so here he is on the part beside our orange tree.

For the first time in his life, Gonçalo was able to view the full extent of his domain, and he very quickly explored to the farthest reaches. This is him about half-way down our meadow. Trust me, he is the golden spot smack dab in the centre of the photo.

Delia Smith’s Winter Collection 1995

My hardback copy of Delia Smith’s Winter Collection1995 re-surfaced a few days ago. I like decent cooking and decent food, but my book edition had been in storage for several years.

The tale starts because my dog, Gonçalo, has taken to squeezing under my bed. He squirrelled himself in one day, then stayed there long enough that I thought he was trapped. So I looked out my hardback books and used then to prop up the feet legs of the bed, to give him more space to wriggle out, which of course he did.

One of the hardbacks was Kate McCann’s ‘madeleine’ and another was Delia Smith Winter Collection.

By coincidence, we have just booked a week’s holiday in Olhão (along the Algarve), which is where will see in the New Year. It’s a place we have fond memories of from previous visits. However, this will be the first time we take Gonçalo away on holiday with us. The villa has lots of grounds and tracks and paths around, so it’s going to be his legs versus my legs.

That is what brought Christmas and New Year into my mind, so I would like to share a very simple recipe from Delia’s book.

Chicken Giblet Stock

  • 1 set of chicken giblets, or chicken wing tips

  • 1 stick of celery, cut in half and split lengthways

  • 2 small onions, sliced

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 12 black peppercorns

  • 1 small bunch of parsley stalks and celery leaves

  • Salt

  • 1.2 litres cold water

Place all the ingredients in a saucepan, cover and bring to the boil. Boil it briskly for 1 hour then strain, discarding the giblets and vegetables.

And if you want Delia’s Quick Vegetable Stock instead, omit the chicken, use slightly less water, and boil for 30 minutes before straining.

I dare say I will revisit Delia Smith’s Winter Recipes before 2018 is out. For the moment, I am planning our New Year 2019 with Gonçalo in Olhão. Anyone fancy a glass of Cava?