PC 220 Soleful Tales

On one of my many trips to Portugal I learned of Fado, the music genre that became popular in Lisbon in the 1820s. It’s characterised by mournful tunes and lyrics ….. “infused with a sentiment of resignation, fate and melancholia” ……… loosely captured by the Portuguese word saudade meaning ‘longing’ or ‘yearning’; barrel of laughs huh?

Moving to Hove in 2012, we invested in a Brennan JB7 music box on which to store, and play, our large collection of CDs. The aim was to get rid of some clutter; we failed, and simply stored the 300 odd CDs in a box! Fortuitously in retrospect! Easy for me to then search for the ‘Simply the Best Platinum Soul’ and ‘Sad Songs’ two-CD collections; the latter resonates with me more than the former.

The soulful songs of Canadian singer Leonard Cohen resonated across the ‘60s and ‘70s, but I became a greater fan of Neil Diamond and prefer his version of Suzanne, together with ‘Stones’ and ‘Love on the Rocks’. Of the classical genre, Sibelius’s Valse Triste, Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto and of course Edward Elgar’s Cello concerto raise the hairs on the back of my neck. I am of a generation that will forever link this last work to the virtuoso Jacqueline D Pré, an extremely gifted player who was diagnosed with MS aged 28, and died in 1987 aged 42.

The eagle-eyed among my readers, well, certainly Colin (!), might have noticed that these scribbles are entitled soleful – which if it had been spelt soulful would have meant expressing deep and often sorrowful feeling. It may be considered a cliché but I love the idea that you can see someone’s soul through their eyes, particularly when, with face coverings over the nose and mouth, we are all looking for other indicators to read another’s empathy.

But if you had simply said soleful most people would have understood. The English language has many words which sound the same but mean something completely different. PC 33, way back in January 2015, was titled Pause, Pours and Paws; three words which sound the same but whose meaning is very different. Like whether and weather, sow and sew, there and their, draft and draught, course and coarse, patience and patients, current and currant, two and too and to and many more; others depend on how clearly you annunciate your words, like weir and where, or pier and peer and pear!

In some parts of the world the throwing of shoes is considered a form of protest. In the Arab world they are considered unclean and it’s customary not to show the sole of your own shoe when sitting down. At the Royal Military Academy we learnt how to clean shoes to perfection, including of course the underneath of the instep, so if you inadvertently showed it it was highly polished!

My mother-in-law flew to Portugal from Rio de Janiero last August and would normally have returned home to miss the European winter. Nothing is normal at the moment and she is still there, in Estoril. Recognising how difficult it can be to live in a cold climate when used to a hot one, I sent her some sheepskin-lined slippers on 8th December, innocently imagining they would get there for Christmas .…….. and before the end of the Brexit Transition Period which would end on 31st December. I used our local post office and even paid a little extra for them to be ‘signed for’.

You can fly from London to Lisbon in one hour and 40 minutes (when we are allowed to!). Goggle Maps tells me I could drive it in just under 24 hours, without stops …… and they also suggest I could walk it in 15 ½ days. Personally I think this is a bit fanciful as it’s 1125 miles. Walking continually at 3mph you would cover 72 miles in a 24 hour period, so just over a fortnight would get you there – but one has to sleep!! Twenty five miles a day would be more sensible – so about six weeks (What an adventure that would be?)

By the end of the year, there was no sign of them, or for that matter any other Christmas gifts that Celina had sent to her mother, brother and sister. A form obtained from the post office says you can claim – but they only pay 50%! We tracked the slippers; they arrived in Lisbon and delivery was attempted (?) on 20 January 2021. No card was left, no second attempt (unlike our local postie Steve!) …….. and the parcel was returned here to Hove. Back to square one; bit like snakes and ladders! After a degree of umming and ahhing I decided to send them back, for who knows when we might physically meet. So on 9th February off they went again.

Now of course they are caught in the post-Brexit nightmare that seems to be inflicting everything from British shellfish to our Performing Arts industry to the just-in-time import/export systems that had become second-place – so so sad that the UK voted to leave the European Union. My sister-in-law Camilla makes gorgeous cakes in Estoril and while we were part of the EU imported ingredients from the UK. Last week the local customs wanted to charge over 100% duty on her most recent order; it was returned.

We know the slippers have arrived in Lisbon: “Fill out the customs form and you might have to pay this or that but we are not sure so we can’t release them yet”. The weather is warming up so soon the need will dissipate ….. until October or November. I will keep you posted!

On the topic of footwear and feet, I was reminded of Pooh’s little ditty when I found I have ‘Covid Toes’:

“The more it snows, (tiddely pom) the more it goes (tiddely pom), the more it goes (tiddely pom), on snowing.

And nobody knows (tiddely pom) How cold my toes (tiddely pom) How cold my toes (tiddely pom) are growing.”

Sure as eggs are eggs these cold toes make the second part of the yoga pose Utkatasana, or Awkward Pose, even more difficult, getting up on one’s points when they feel cold and tingly!!

This taken from a book – I am not this good!!

Rereading the above, if I had walked to Estoril I would have probably worn out some soles but I could have personally delivered the slippers, and been able to have some lovely hugs that would have lifted my soul (sole?).

Richard 5th March 2021

PS I note that high heels (for women) are back in fashion. So good for your feet – not!

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