Saturday 20 February 2016

The Grand Café in Faro

"The town was full of strangers and constant movement: planes overhead, roaring in and out of the airport across the shore; boats puttering in and out of the harbour; trains sliding between the road and the sea; buses and cars; pedestrians bobbing up and down over the undulating cobblestones.

The café, at least, was still. On the way to the language school, it had the presence and quiet grace of an ancient oak, rooted to its spot in the Rua Dr. Francisco Gomes. The columns and balustrades of its once-grand fin de siècle façade had an air of forgotten romance that was hard to resist. I pushed against its old-style revolving door that first morning simply because I was curious to see inside."
                                                                    from 300 Days of Sun
The Café Alianca in Faro was once one of the town's great meeting places, a cosmopolitan establishment where the great and the good would drop by to see who else was there. When I visited in August 2013, it had been closed for several years but had re-opened temporarily to host meetings and discussions during the local elections. The café plays a crucial role in 300 Days of Sun, both in the present and the past stories.

Saturday 6 February 2016

Stork in flight

First new blog post for ages, I know, but I wanted to leave the Goodreads giveaway up as the first one on the page, and it ran for almost the whole of January. I've been busy too, trying to get a new book off the ground as well as all the real-life matters that don't seem to stop just because I'd like to sit down and write. As far as the blog is concerned, I think I'm going to do what I did in the lead-in to publication of The Lantern, all those years ago when I started this blog. That is, post little and often, with glimpses into the background of the upcoming novel due out in April.
So here we are, in this picture, on the salt marches in the sea at Faro, on the Algarve coast of Portugal. The landscape is home to thousands of storks that make their nests anywhere you care to look up in the town, in the recesses of church windows and roofs, on the pediment of the Old Town gates. If you look carefully, there's a stork in flight in the top left of the photo, cropped as much as I can without losing too much focus.

The first evening I was here, I started to notice how most of the streetlamps were tufted with dried grasses and twigs. Then I saw more ragged wigs on church porches and high ledges. I assumed it was yet more evidence of neglect, that weeds had seeded and been left to grow in sandy crevices, but as I began to study them more carefully, I figured it out. They were birds’ nests. There was one high on the stone pediment of the gatehouse to the Old Town, a great wheel of grasses, big as a tractor tyre. I looked up as I passed. I was lucky. I caught a movement inside the wheel, then a powerful white wing extended and then folded in on itself.
                                                                    from 300 Days of Sun
PS. Hmm, now I've had another look at the picture, I'm wondering whether it actually is a stork! This one definitely is, pictured from a ferry boat making its way through the maze of marshy islands. Apologies to any expert ornithologists!
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