Cu do mundo (dictionary: vulgar slang)

The Algarve is bursting into flower. It’s wonderful to see the gum rock rose again


We put on our protest T-shirts and gathered at the spot in Faro where the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, was due to arrive. The police fenced us in, which was handy because it meant the banners could be strapped to the temporary railings and I, for once, didn’t have to be Sister Anna. On a recent visit to the Algarve, met with a similar protest, the president gnomically remarked that there was as much chance of the area being exploited for oil as of him going to the moon. This led to today’s protest being moon-themed, with one poster showing a giant-sized one-way extra-terrestrial ticket and others displaying various exhortations to the president to take himself into orbit. When he turned up, after we’d been hanging around and banging drums for four hours, he showed himself to be the celebrity he is, who can work a room, or indeed a series of railings lined with protestors, with skill. He drove up himself, with no obvious security detail, then left the car with the keys in the ignition – an aide parked it – and came straight over to us, looking for hands to shake and asking who’d like to talk.

One particularly fervent protestor – and friend – bore a stuffed, yellow fabric new-moon toy which she’d splattered with black ink to suggest an oil spill. She waved it at the president until he took it off her hands. It looked rather like a large, overripe banana.

The ease with which it is possible in Portugal to come face to face with politicians at the highest level is one of the great things about this country. It might be a product of its small size or the general openness of its people, or both. But we were disappointed when the president revisited his moon analogy – though you could argue that it was game of him given how much he was being mocked for it. And when he continued to assert that the contracts – or contract, singular, in his estimation – were only for research and not for exploitation, we were more than disappointed. The old ground we’ve been over so many times. There’s no way an oil company would invest millions just to see what’s there, then generously share that information widely and non-commercially. And we know the contracts allow for extraction to follow exploration because we’ve seen them. The Minister for the Sea, Ana Paula Vitorino, was filmed last year trying to sell the Portuguese seabed to oil companies in the United States. Then she said in Parliament that there were no contracts for oil production in Portugal, a remark of the ‘alternative fact’ variety.

I peeled off in the middle of the wait for the president. A friend and I went for a sit-down and some coffee and cake in an elegant café in the centre of the old town, where we were served by waiters dressed smartly in black. No one looked twice at me even though I had large black teardrops painted on my face, which I’d forgotten about.

That night Husband made it on to the national news – again.

Back at home

We think of this dirt road leading to the floor of the valley as a romantic setting, the fim do mundo, the paradise at the ‘end of the world’. The locals are more likely to call it the cu do mundo, the ‘arse end of the world’. There are people in the nearby village who’ve never been here and would never bother to come. Maria used the term herself the other day. ‘We always thought of this place as the cu do mundo, but the foreigners seem to find it pretty.’ We were talking to her about our permaculture project, for which she and her husband have slowly developed a muted, guarded interest. As all salt-of-the-earth types worldwide, their response is purely practical. ‘We see what you are trying to do, and if it works, we might be impressed. But it takes time. We’ll see.’

I’m taking a blog holiday again. So many things to do. Many seeds to plant, for example, in our little paradise.

‘Gon out. Bisy. Backson.’

Another fantastic array of bread

Seeds for sharing


  1. fatma

    Stunning photo of the flower – quite arresting as it is the first thing that comes into view on this week’s blog.

    The ready duplicity of our political landscape is highly dispiriting. Who would ever trust any politician with their ‘double speak’, or modern day interpretation of that, ‘alternative fact’. Most disquieting.

    I had to smile at the ‘peeling off’ from the long wait to go partake in the welcome delights of an ‘elegant cafe’. It was however, in that setting, the forgotten about large black teardrops painted on the face, that won the day for me!

  2. Patricia Roberts

    I get breathless just reading what you do , you just get on with your protest even your “tears” .glimmers of hope I see,l wish you and your friends. success in your in your protests .

  3. Hazel

    If the seeds are for sharing, mine must be in the post!!! Haha! The black tears made me think of Twiggy (I think, but it may have been Georgina Hale) in the old Ken Russell movie, The Boyfriend, which, as a girl, I loved. So, with those tears, very fetching, you were in the best company! Wish we could have seen Husband on the news — sadly, the clip didn’t reach the 10 p.m. BBC bulletin in these chilly northerly isles. Maybe you recorded it for posterity and our next visit?! xx

  4. Madeleine Day

    So much going on. You are both so busy. Can understand the blog holiday, but I will miss it. But not you – ha ha! See you both very soon! Wish list please? I loved the Boyfriend, too, Twiggy was on television last night,still looking gorgeous, talking about the time she had tea with Noel Coward at his home in Jamaica. xxx

  5. lionel

    Too much information, dear Edith? Was very puzzled initially ‘cos I interpreted it even more rudely and attached CdeM to the gum cistus flower! Shall never be able to think of meditation hill or the mill etc. in quite the same way again?

    But you have made me smile a lot at odd moments, so thanks.

    Happy hols, good luck with the seeds, hope they suit.

    1. Edith (Post author)

      Dear Lionel, that possibility never occurred to me. Obvious now you mention it!


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