As regular readers will know, I’m a great believer in serendipity where inspiration for new posts is concerned. Being blessed with a veritable rag-bag of a memory, when something occurs to shake it up, almost anything is liable to fall out.
This became very clear when I decided to include a song by
Flanders and Swann in my last post and later read the comments I received. Suddenly my mind was full of half-remembered songs and the memories they evoked and one in particular refuses to go away.
Growing up as I did in the Lancashire countryside in the days before cheap holidays in the sun, the first time I heard the word Madeira was in another comic song by
Flanders and Swann. I gathered that it was a drink of some kind, but it was years before I realised that it was named after an Atlantic island and decades before I first tasted this heavy, sweet dessert wine.
Through the years I continued to hear the name mentioned, usually by friends and family who had visited
Madeira on holiday to enjoy its mild climate and famously prolific spring flowers. But it had never occurred to me to think of going there myself, until my next-to-youngest sister asked whether I would like to go with her sometime, since her own husband didn’t fancy it as a holiday destination and my DH flatly refuses to fly.
Naturally I agreed instantly and we finally decided to make the trip to mark her retirement at the beginning of 2010. The week we chose was exactly 2 years ago this week, and having booked at a lovely small hotel in the old town, just back from the seafront, we spent the hard winter of 2009-2010 looking forward to our holiday in the sun with great anticipation.
Unfortunately the weather had other ideas. That winter was bitterly cold in north-western Europe and the moist, warm westerlies which usually keep Britain reasonably frost-free most winters were pushed south by an influx of Arctic air and instead gave Madeira and southern Europe their wettest winter for many years. On February 20th 2010 this wet winter culminated for poor
Madeira in its worst storm for 100 years, resulting in catastrophic mudslides and flooding in the capital Funchal and along the south coast.
Even a minute or two of this news footage gives a deeply sobering picture of the damage inflicted, and at first my sister and I couldn't imagine how the island would possibly be able to welcome visitors like us, who were due to arrive just three weeks later. Many holiday-makers cancelled their trips, but we felt that if we could possibly go we should do so, since an island which relies on tourism for so much of its income would find it even harder to recover if all the tourists stayed away.
|Farming to the edge of the cliff|
|Funchal Town Hall|
Jesuit church and
Mercado dos Lavradores
|Ceramic tile decoration in the market hall|
|Monarch of all I survey|
Curral das Freiras - The Nuns' Refuge
Cabo Girão - looking down almost 2000' (508m)
|Camara de Lobos - a view once painted by Winston Churchill|
We also walked round the normally bustling little town of
A new seashore built from the debris of the floods
|Repair work in Funchal - badly damaged storm drain|
|Bird of paradise flower|
|Madeira - island of flowers|