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Rochdale Town Hall, Stained Glass

One of the striking features of Rochdale Town Hall’s interior is the stained glass windows many of which feature portraits of the Kings and Queens of England.

The windows flanking the entrance though have stained glass representations of the coats of arms of European countries, here Greece, France, Belgium, Turkey, Russia and Portugal:-

Rochdale Town Hall, Stained Glass Windows 1

The other such window betrays the building’s age. Coats of arms for Sweden & Norway, Prussia, Switzerland, Spain, Denmark and Austria. Note Sweden & Norway, as was (they separated in 1905) and Prussia which, subsumed the rest of Germany in 1871.

Stained Glass Window, Rochdale Town Hall

Grand staircase:-

Rochdale Town Hall Staircase

This is a closer view showing the stained glass window on the half-landing to greater effect.

Rochdale Town Hall, Stained Glass

The World Turned Upside Down?

You may have noticed there’s a rather large and important football competition taking place at the moment. (A swift glance at TV schedules would be enough to tell you that.)

Four years ago I expressed my fear that a period of Germanic hegemony was upon us. Notwithstanding Portugal’s efforts at the last European Championships the young German side which triumphed at last year’s Confederations Cup boded well (or ill, according to view) for that prospect.

It seems that hegemony is not to be. In three performances of stunning inadequacy Germany have been so poor as to finish bottom of their group, only a moment of individual brilliance on the part of Toni Kroos yielding them a solitary win over Sweden.

It’s been a topsy-turvy sort of tournament what with England playing well (so far) and Argentina, like the Germans, struggling badly – but still managing to reach the second round.

I’ve not been overly impressed by anyone – though I thought Colombia looked good against Poland. But that may have been because the Poles were totally ineffective.

Brazil seem unbalanced to me; too much in thrall to their star player, Neymar, who doesn’t look fully fit. Belgium may be dark horses but haven’t played anybody of standing yet.

Judgement must be reserved till the knockout games. Too often before, a good showing in the group has unravelled at the next step.

But… Could this be Uruguay’s year again? They’re the only side yet to concede a goal.

(Cue a Portugal win on Saturday.)

Confederations Cup 2017 and VAR

I’ve been watching this year’s edition of the Confederations Cup. Well I missed the first half of the first game and of today’s.

The games have been fairy enjoyable. Well, Russia-New Zealand was a bit of a mismatch and Russia fairly plodding. The results in the other ties have been about right. Mexico and Portugal seemed evenly matched and both Chile and Germany deserved their wins though Germany’s decision to go with a young squad might have backfired on them. (Actually, who am I kidding? They’re Germans.) Unusually it did provide the spectacle of a German goalkeeper who wasn’t on top of his game.

The main topic of conversation among the pundits though has been the supposed shortcomings of the video assistant referee system, VAR, being used at the competition. A welcome innovation I’d have thought.

It’s only a trial, though. There are bound to be teething problems.

So far when it has been employed it has got the decisions correct – as is intended. Those occasions were when the ball was dead after the referee’s original decision and there was therefore no interruption to the game, only a slight delay in restarting.

The possible penalty incident in the Russia-New Zealand game – which the ref didn’t opt to have reviewed – did not fall into that category. If he did receive advice that he “might want to look at the incident” (it actually wouldn’t be him – it would be the assistants) that would have been in the course of ongoing play. In effect that makes the video assistant the actual referee. And when does the referee then blow the whistle?

And what would have happened if he had so opted and on the subsequent video review the decision was “no penalty”? Would that not make a mockery of the review? And where would play restart?

Better to leave the referee to it and restrict any such interventions to times when the ball is dead.

Such reviews are all very well in the case of Rugby, League or Union, where stoppages can be relatively common. Football is a much more fluid game, not so amenable to interruption.

Porto War Memorial

Porto’s War Memorial is an imposing structure with a statue of a soldier reminiscent of many British War Memorials, set in a large square with a lovely pavemented approach:-

Porto War Memorial

Porto War Memorial Close

Plaque to those fallen in subsequent conficts:-

Porto War Memorial Plaque

Plaque to commemorate 100 years since the start of World War 1:-

Porto War Memorial Anniversary Plaque

The base of the Memorial pedestal is decorated with representations of artillery shells:-

Porto War Memorial Detail

Sadly there was some grafitti on the base of the Memorial, a piece of which can just be seen to the right above.

Dedication to those who died in defence of overseas provinces. (If my deciphering of the Portuguese is correct):-

Porto War Memorial Further Dedication

There are three cartouches on the Memorial, to the sides and rear. This one commemorates Angola, Naulila, Inhoga, Mongua, Ngiva:-

Porto War Memorial Cartouche

As best as I can make out this one says Franca, La Lys, Laventie, La Couture:-

Porto War Memorial Second Cartouche

And this one Mozambica (Mozambique,) Necomano? Sirra Micula? Namacourra?

Porto War Memorial Third Cartouche

Portugal and the Great War

It is one of the less remembered aspects of the Great War that Portugal was one of the Allies and sent troops to fight on the Western Front.

Germany declared war on Portugal on 9/3/1916 though before that there had been tensions over sea trade embargoes and border clashes in Africa. 12,000 Portuguese troops died and 82,000 civilians due to food shortages.

In São Bento Railway Station in Porto we found a commemorative display of photographs of Portuguese involvement in the war.

Grande Guerra (the Great War):-

WW1 1 Display in Porto Railway Station

Declaração de guerra (Declaration of war):-

The Great War:  Portuguese Involvement

A caminho das trincheiras (Portuguese trenches?):-

The Great War, Portuguese Trenches

A retaguarda (Training?):-

Portuguese Great War Photos

A vida nas trincheiras (Life in the trenches):-

Life in theTrenches

Destruição e desoleção (Destruction and desolation?):-

WW1 Destruction and Desolation

Campos de prisoneiros (POW Camps):-

WW1 POW Camps

O desfile da vitoria (Victory parade?):-

WW1 Portuguese Victory Parade

Leixões, Matosinhos Principality, Portugal

I had only heard of Leixões before through the football team bearing that name, actually part of a wider sporting club. Leixões is however the port for Porto.

Like Avilés, Leixões has an architecturally interesting building by the dockside.

This photo from distance was actually taken when we were leaving port:-

Portside Building and Leixões

There was a metal sort of walkway or loading way leading out from the building:-

Portside Building Leixões Walkway

See in this photo how the loading way’s roof bends over to become its wall:-

Portside Building Leixões

That curve can be seen here and the building as a whole:-

Portside Building Stitch

Views from dockside:-

Dockside Building Leixões

Portside Building Leixões

Dockside Building, Leixões

Part of the structure is supported by these leaning pillars:-

Leixões Dockside Building Supports

I believe the building may house art exhibits at times. There was none when we were there though. Interior:-

Leixões Dockside Building Interior 1>

Dockside Building, Leixões, Interior 2

From Matosinhos beach:-

Dockside Building and SS Black Watch

Portugal 0-0 France (1-0 aet)

Euro 2016, Final, Stade de France, 10/7/16.

So. It wasn’t to be Germanic hegemony after all.

Neither was it to be French triumph.

Like a lot of the knockout matches this was a spectacularly dull game but it suggested one thing to me. Portugal are a better team without Cristiano Ronaldo in it than with him. I felt much the same about Liverpool in the latter stages of Steven Gerrard’s time with them. It seemed to me the rest of the Liverpool players were looking too much to Gerrard, giving way to him or allowing him to have the ball when they were in better positions to do something with it. So too with Ronaldo and Portugal. Throughout the tournament (though perhaps not the 3-3 draw with Hungary which I missed as I was watching the Iceland-Austria game) there was something about the way they played with him on the pitch that rendered them less effective as an attacking force. His hogging of all the free kicks with no fruitful result whatsoever was almost laughable. Okay, he did score that header against Wales and scuffed the assist for Nani’s toe-poke in that game but otherwise there was little end product and he seemed to get in the way at times. With him not available others stepped up to the plate – particularly Eder who I doubt would have made it onto the pitch if Ronaldo hadn’t been injured.

Football. It’s a funny old game.

Exit. (England 1-2 Iceland)

Euro 2016, Round of 16, Stade de Nice, 27/6/16.

It’s hard not to think that there’s some sort of karma about this result. After England voting to leave the EU (loosely referred to as Europe) its football team has just departed Europe unwillingly.

The commentator on ITV called it a humiliation and also used the word embarrassment. The unspoken assumption (though it was all but articulated) was that England should always be beating Iceland.

Well; to anyone who had watched Iceland’s group games this was no surprise. Iceland are supremely well organised, the players know what they’re supposed to be doing and play for the team and each other. They drew with Portugal and group winners Hungary and then beat Austria, well fancied before the tournament began. If that wasn’t sufficient warning as to what to expect what would be? Using words such as embarrassment and humiliation is extremely disrespectful to a group of players who work their socks off and have no little ability. I expect France will also find it hard to break them down in the next round.

Iceland know their limitations and strengths, and play to them; as a team. The same was true of Italy earlier in what was a magnificent team performance against Spain.

In this respect it is also hard to resist the temptation to remark that English football commentators have an inflated idea of the worth of their country’s footballers based on club performances. Just reflect, not one of those players is good enough to play for an overseas team. They appear effective at club level only because they are surrounded by foreign players who make them look good. And the clubs of the league they play in have not made too much of a splash in the so-called Champions League of late. (OK, Liverpool made the final of the Europa League this season but that was mostly due to foreigners, manager included.)

England’s most penetrative player tonight was an 18 year old who was only brought on to the pitch when it was far too late and has in any case not yet had the enthusiasm and any latent talent knocked out of him by unwarranted expectation.

And Now I’m Back

I’ve been in Holland.

Well, strictly speaking, since it was on the borders of the Friesland and Groningen provinces, make that The Netherlands.

The good lady’s eldest brother lives there. We had been supposed to visit for years but life got in the way.

We needed to renew our passports first. I sent the applications away late in July. Despite all the talk on the news about delays we got the new ones inside a week. (As I remember it was four days.) Maybe the Glasgow Passport office is more efficient than down south.

So another country visited. Apart from the constituent parts of the UK (though I only just made it into Wales) I’ve been to Sweden (Stockholm,) the Soviet Union (Leningrad as was) and Denmark (Copenhagen) on a school cruise when I was at Primary School, Portugal (the Azores, Madeira, Lisbon) and Spain (Vigo) on a Secondary School cruise, and as an adult to Germany (near Stuttgart) and France twice (Normandy for the D-Day beaches and Picardy for World War I battlefields.)

Since the good lady didn’t fancy being on a RoRo ferry overnight we drove down to Harwich (with an overnight stop) and the same on the way back. I’m knackered.

Hitler’€™s War by Harry Turtledove

Hodder, 2010, 496 p.

The usual fare from Turtledove. This time the altered history is that World War 2 starts in 1938 – though the actual Jonbar Point seems to be when Spanish General Sanjurjo survives his aeroplane flight from Portugal to Burgos to head up the Nationalist army in the Spanish Civil War which continues long after it did in our history as, after a failure of the talks in Munich two years later Hitler declares war on and invades Czechoslovakia. Major differences are that Poland then becomes a German ally, the invasion of France is not swift enough (apparently due to the early German panzers not being quite as effective as their later 1940 counterparts would be) and Japan eventually attacks the already war-embroiled USSR in Siberia.

The viewpoints are many, but hardly varied as the characters are as cardboard (or as functional) as always, or there simply to outline the war’€™s progress. The writing is as annoying as ever with its repetitions of information we already know. Particularly irritating was the observation that someone or other didn’t like some aspect of warfare “one bit” occurring again and again.

The reading is easy though; something I felt I needed after Gardens of the Sun. I don’t think I’€™ll be following the rest of The War That Came Early series though. There’€™s now another four of the beggars!

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