Madeleine – broadcasting live from Portelas

I am now broadcasting live from Portelas. All of our goods and chattel have been moved in, so we no longer live in Luz. The last main task remaining in Luz is that the cleaners come to our empty villa there. It has already had a level 1 clean, but this will be a deep clean.

When I say ‘we’, what I really mean is ‘I’. My better half is currently marooned in the UK for a gallstone operation. This is scheduled for 1 Sep 2017, and then there a 2-week recuperation period until a flight back to Faro is permitted (re threat of DVT). I trust you will understand that Madeleine is not one of my priorities at the moment.

What does the change mean in Madeleine terms?

The biggest difference is that I cannot wander down into Luz and hope to perchance upon anyone involved in the case or to snap piccies. Luz is 15 minutes away by car if you choose the short route. Today, my chauffeur took the back roads route. It was much slower but much more scenic.

There are smaller changes. Our new home does not have a land-line. And I detest mobiles. That means communication by phone is a no go. So it is just well our Internet in Portelas is fully functional. I spent a fair bit of time talking to a Panorama 10-year special researcher in the run-up to the programme. It looks like I am going to have to install something like Skype.

The news with similarity to the Madeleine incident is, of course, occurring in France at the moment. I simply do not have the time or energy to say something worthwhile on that topic at this point in time. I need to move in.


Portelas – moving – 21% – please do not switch off

There is very little happening on the Madeleine McCann front at the moment. I am currently working hard to get us moved out of Luz and into Portelas, just north of Lagos.

My better half is struggling with a domestic issue in Inglaterra, so has a flight planned ‘home’, plus is quite possibly suffering from gallstones, which may require keyhole surgery.

Hopefully, you will understand that my priorities do not involve Madeleine at this point in time.

We have to be out of Luz by the end of August. I intend to be up and active again on this blog by then. But please bear with me while we install a new location and reconfigure.

Kindly come with me and join us in our new home in Portelas.

Luz – Early 20th century

I got my hands on 3 photos of Luz from the early 20th century, and at first I thought they were almost identical, but in reality you can see the skeleton of Luz developing around 120 years ago.

Here is the first photo, undated other than around 1900.

The one and only place in Luz this photo could have been taken is the top of the mound dug up by Operation Grange in June 2014. Nothing else fits.

There are 3 roads running through this that turn up 100 years later.

The first runs from mid-left to the centre of the photo. That is Rua Vente Cinco de Abril. Except it would not get called that until 1974. Since it was the main road from Burgau in the west, it was probably called Burgau Street. At this point there seems to be one large house and very little else.

Joining up at the central point and heading out to the upper left is current day Rua Direita, heading for Lagos. In this photo, there are no buildings, just trees. Bear in mind we are back in horse and cart days.

Coming from the centre point of the photo to bottom right is Rua Calhete, currently home to the Bull, Kelly’s, Look Steak, Fernando’s, and the Dolphin.

As far as I can tell, very few buildings, the church and the Fortaleza apart, are still standing today. There may actually be one or two, but I am not in the business of checking antique buildings in Luz.

This grainy photo must have been taken a few years later. The posh villa, which was standing on its own on 25 de Abril Street now has a lot of neighbours.

Things have moved on again. There is a new building on 25 de Abril Street. The main road layout of Luz is in place. This photo is clear enough that you can see the trig point on top of the hill.

But please look from the the view at the top of the mound, directly over the Fortaleza, past Rocha Negra to the land sticking out in the distance. That place will return in the 1940s. Just as it did in Panorama 2017.

Luz in the 1940s?

Let me say up front that I do not have a date for the photo you are about to see. I can only say it appears to be consistent with Luz in the 1940s.

Shall we start with the obvious bits first? All of the land to closer to the photo taker than the church and the Fortaleza turned into a chunk of the Ocean Club plus other developments decades later, so the photo is hardly recent.

The promenade now has palm trees. Those in the photo are deciduous trees.

That big hilly lump in the centre of the photo still exists, although it looks like it has been much reduced in size.

It is possible to line up the church, the Fortaleza, the promenade, and that hill to pinpoint where the photo was taken. I am confident I can identify the photographer’s spot. But what I cannot do is find either of the two buildings in the foreground. They are either gone or heavily modified.

There are 2 further points for your attention.

There is what I would call a station wagon, on the left hand side of the photo, about half-way down. This is a poor match for 1930s station wagons. It happens to be a good match for 1940s station wagons, which is why I think this is 1940s or later. Here’s a 1940 Plymouth De Luxe.

In the bottom right-hand corner of the photo is a person who appears to be staring up at the photo-taker at the moment the shutter was clicked. The watcher and the watched. From the shadows, it is possible to tell the sun was around the mid-day point, and it was spring or autumn (not summer or winter). But I cannot get a year from the shadows.

PS For a bonus, can you see what looks like 2 people having a stroll on the beach?

Madeleine – weather station Luz

I am in the process of conducting a practical experiment in the run-up to the 10th anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance. It is weather station Luz.

I started this at the beginning of Nov 2016, with a simple aim. I wanted to check how well the weather in Luz correlates with the weather as logged at Faro to the east and Sagres to the west. If there is a high degree of correlation, it means the historical weather logs can be used as an accurate description of weather in Luz around 3 May 2007. And if not, it becomes clear that positing a connection on these records does not stand up to scrutiny.

In the beginning, I was collecting data at 12.37pm. This was the time of day when the sun was at its highest over Luz, giving me an accurate indication of due south.

Portuguese time is identical to UK time in winter and in summer, and the clocks go forward and back at precisely the same time. To all intents and purposes, weather station Luz is on UK time.

In winter, the sun is due south of Greenwich at 12 mid-day. Luz is roughly 8° west of Greenwich. The Earth rotates at 15° per hour. So the sun is due south of Luz at 8/15ths of an hour after mid-day.

Inserting accurate figures, the sun marks due south at 12.37pm in Luz in winter. When we move to Portelas, we are heading somewhat east, at the sun will be due south at 12.35pm.

In summer, these times become 1.37pm in Luz and 1.35pm at our new home.

The data I am collecting is temperature in the shade, wind direction, wind speed (including whether it is subject to gusts) and cloud or haze cover.

When the clocks moved forward, I realised I could improve my experiment by collecting data at 10pm, to see how well evening weather in Luz matches up with the Faro and Sagres weather stations.

A number of significant things have emerged from this experiment.

The weather at 1.37pm is not the best predictor of weather at 10pm on the same day. It can be raining at lunchtime and dry in the evening, or more often vice-versa. The most significant pattern change is that the wind has dropped on nearly every evening. Even when there is a medium wind with gusts at lunchtime, a typical evening pattern is very gentle breeze with very few gusts.

Yesterday, we had a bit of an oddity at lunchtime. Over the land, the sky was 100% clear. Over the sea, the sky was completely cloudy. I logged the 1.37pm temperature as 27°C in the shade, much higher than it has been since my records began. I suspect most of the moisture in the earth of the Algarve has already been burned off, explaining the lack of clouds over the land, whereas the high temperature was evaporating water from the sea to form clouds.

There is one factor in this experiment that I have not emulated. Luz is much like an inverted half-cone, with the sea at the bottom replacing the missing half. My weather station Luz is at the top of the cone i.e. at the top of a hill network that nearly surrounds Luz. Apartment 5A is much closer to the bottom than the top, and that is going to lead to a difference in weather re wind speed. I need to take some measurements close to block 5 around 10pm, as 3 May 2017 approaches.

I have not yet cross-checked my measurements against those of Faro and Sagres. I don’t want to introduce potential bias by tweaking my measuring routine and method. I do not expect to understand the value of weather station Luz until the time we move from Luz to Portelas. At the moment, this looks very much like being after 3 May 2017, as the builders have not yet started on our slice of the house.

Once we have moved, I intend to repeat this experiment in Portelas. This is mere curiosity and has nothing to do with the Madeleine McCann story. Portelas is a fair way inland compared to Luz, and I would like to know how well weather station Portelas correlates with the official stations at Faro and Sagres.

Madeleine – go straight to jail

It was a bit of a roller-coaster day today.

Yesterday, our gas went out, so no showers and no cooking on our hob. We had a tank of gas delivered, and things seemed better. The hob was working but the water boiler was not. Early this morning I fiddled around with this a that, and oh joy, our hot water boiler was restored to life. Hot water.

Then it was time for an appointment in Lagos. But our car was ambushed by the GNR at the pineapple roundabout in Luz. The message was that the GNR have been instructed to crack down on cars with foreign number plates that have not been through the import process in Portugal. In a nutshell, if you run a foreign car for 6 months plus in Portugal it is subject to import tax. That tax appears to be based on not the value of the car when you imported it, but the value it had when new.

So, we have a cheap and cheerful old workhorse, but we are going to get stuck with a bill based on its value when it was pristine 10 or 12 years ago. Oh, goodie.

In our move to Portelas, a lot of what we did when the kids moved in was based on having our work-beast around until we moved. You can take out the rear seats and then there is a cavernous space for large objects. That carrying capacity has just vanished.

Our car has been arrested. It was not permitted to pass go. It had to go straight to jail. We could not pick up £200. OK, the car is confined to our drive and we cannot take it anywhere.

There is of course a plan B. If one did not have a plan B in Portugal, one would not survive. A small antique runaround is now sitting on our drive. We own a trailer, so the larger items that remain will go across to Portelas on that.

As to the import charges, we will find out tomorrow what they will be before we decide what happens to our faithful steed. We have already been offered cash for it. There is an option to make it ‘disappear’ in Portugal. We can also simply drive it out of the country to relatives across the border. One rather odd ‘opportunity’ to avoid paying the import tax is that we can hand it over to the authorities. Then, without paying import tax, the authorities will give it to a school, to the bombeiros or to a GNR officer.

Guess what is going to happen?

Portelas – the joys of country life

The kids managed to move all their goods and chattel to our new residence in Portelas on Friday, 31 Mar 2017, aided by 3 helpers. There was the usual fun and games. When they tried using the taps down stairs, water leaked out of pipes in the garage, where most of their stuff is stored. Luckily, with builders working on-site the leak was quickly stopped.

The house has been sitting empty for a long time, and apart from a total clean inside, there was a major issue with the patio outside the downstairs kitchen. The overhanging roof was a perfect place for birds to nest, which meant the patio itself was covered in guano. Our daughter spent a couple of hours making sure all of this was cleaned up, as she has two young children and that patio is, for the moment, their safe outdoor play area.

Then on Saturday our son-in-law´s mother flew from the UK to the Algarve, bringing a friend. The mother visits several times a year, and rents a well-appointed flat in Estrela da Luz. It’s very handy because it is close to all of the amenities in Luz.

The weather in this end of the Algarve has now turned very pleasant indeed, so a barbecue was scheduled for Sunday 2 Apr 07. What we think of ‘our’ ‘small’ cleaned-up patio was to be the location. A total of 9 adults (family plus helpers in the move), 2 young children, the dog and the barbecue.

I got an invitation to the barbecue but I declined. I was still feeling rough with a cold, and I was coughing and sneezing, so It was better not to spread the infection about.

Apart from transporting 4 adults to attend this do, we sent over some old unwanted CDS, some string, and scissors. Two of the ladies put the men to shame by clambering up step-ladders to hang 8 or 9 CDs from the beams above the roof. Birds don’t like the movement or the reflection, so it keeps them off. I am told that after dark, the kitchen lights were reflecting off the twirling CDs, so we should have little further problem with bird guano on this patio.

The day went well. The company was good. The weather was delightful. The littlies enjoyed racing toy cars on the patio. And then the tales emerged.

It seems that our neighbours on our east side did a bit of pig-butchering that Sunday morning. The squeals were reported as lasting for 8 or 9 minutes. This episode caused our grand-daughter to declare that if this happened once a week, she was becoming a vegetarian. A friend pointed out that a pig being butchered does not last 8 or 9 minutes, and the norm here is to slaughter 4 or 5 at one session, share them around the family, and stuff the ‘spare’ carcasses in a freezer.

Then came the second bit of the tale. It turns out the person who runs our local hostelry considers his first profession to be not hosting a café/bar, but being a butcher. Yikes, we know the local butcher!

We have gone from the artificial ex-pat bubble that is Luz to a fairly wealthy part of Portelas, but one which appears to be typically Portuguese. We are going to have to get used to bird guano and local slaughtering of pigs. These are the joys of country life!