Summer gnashes its teeth

For the last couple of days summer has gnashed its teeth in Scotland, girning and moaning in windy torrents and lashings of rain. The atmosphere has been decidedly frosty too with a cold wind making low temperatures feel even lower.

Somehow this summer weather spat is in tune with much of the political mood in a country which, on top of a referendum on leaving the European Union…

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Carnival in Madeira

For a week before the parade there had been smaller local events with street entertainment in the centre of Funchal and people wandering around in costumes of various kinds, as well as community events. The sound and beat of the samba was everywhere, either live from groups of musicians, or recorded and played through speakers lodged in trees.

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Mmmm, that’s good!

The large mahogany table in the kitchen groaned with bowls and baskets of fruit, some, like tomatoes, staples of our diets at home though different varieties that seemed to have more flavour. We trawled market and supermarkets for salad ingredients and experimented with some fruit and vegetables we weren’t familiar with. Bananas were Madeiran, slightly smaller, firmer and less cloying than those we usually buy, but with a flavour that filled your mouth.

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Exhilarating

The boat was a Turkish gulet, twenty-three metres in length, called Bonita da Madeira, made from rich coloured woods and stainless steel, with masts that soared towards the sky. At the stern, we lounged on blue plastic covered mattresses formed into a relaxing seat. The relaxing aspect was further enhanced by a glass of Madeira wine – such a welcoming gesture as well as a great promotional tool for both boat trip and wine.

Let there be light

Winter holidays to warmer climates appeal. They shorten the winter at home, a winter that in the worst years can stretch from November to April, though those are the exceptions. Nor, because of the Gulf Stream, do we normally get as much snow as our neighbours in Scandinavia or Canada. Though we can enjoy cold, crisp days of blue skies and glittering frosts, we can also have depressing periods of grey skies and rain, as if we were immobile under a gushing waterfall. So the draw of warm sunlight with additional hours of daylight in which to enjoy it is hard to resist.

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Never say never

In Madeira, as in Scotland, you are never far from the sea, though there the similarity fragments like the spray of a wave. Madeira can boast a fairly benign climate year round, although it does have its off days. But sitting in December, without feeling cold, on the balcony of your hotel room around midnight, wearing only

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Riches from the deep

With tall palms fanning the air around us, we were sitting beneath a hibiscus tree with deep pink flowers on a little terrace shoehorned into the hillside, looking out over the bay with a flotilla of brightly painted fishing boats drawn up on the beach. We were enjoying salads, and chatting to the couple at an adjoining table. After three days at sea, they had docked earlier that morning, and had left their cruise ship (one of two in Funchal harbor, Madeira that day) and hotfooted it to take the red hop-on-hop-off bus to this small restaurant in Câmara de Lobos in search of the black scabbardfish. The woman was an aficionado of this Madeiran delicacy.

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