Monday, 23 November 2015

Another day in Figueira.

After yesterday's rain, obviously sent to freshen the place up, we woke to brilliant sunshine this morning. It was a little chilly to start with when I strolled round to the market to buy fruit but on the whole a good start to the day. 

Yesterday I put a picture of the outside of our boat-shaped hotel. Here is a picture of the dining room. No need to go on a cruise now.

Some time after breakfast we went for a stroll in the sunshine, up the coast to Buarcos, not really another town, more an extension of Figueira. It must at some time have been a separate place but now, as with so many places, it has all merged into one. 

Judging by the fortifications that remain, the people of Buarcos must at one time have wanted to keep themselves to themselves. Unless, of course, they just wanted to keep the sea out. Now it's a hotchpotch of the old and the new. 

There are buildings that date from the 19th century at least. Indeed, the cemetery was established there, on the edge of town, in 1715. Now it too has been absorbed into the greater conglomeration and finds itself almost as adjunct to the Lidl supermarket carpark. Everything changes. 

At lunchtime we met a Canadian friend, another chess player who we got to know during the summer in Sanxenxo. He had been playing chess in Mallorca and had just flown to Portugal this morning, having taken three byes in the chess tournament here. So we showed him a good place to eat. More soup and fish for around €10 apiece. Not a bad life. 

Reading the papers online I came across a report of an interview with Diana Athill, literary editor and writer. At 98 she seems to be sharp as a button still and has just published her latest memoir. I always thought her name was pronounce At - (h)ill but according to the journalist, the lady herself pronounces it Ath - ill. There you go. Always a little something to learn! 

The article tells how "For the best part of 40 years, while she lived more or less happily with the playwright Barry Reckord, Athill wrote little – “because I didn’t have any awfulness to get rid of”. It was only when she retired that she bowed to pressure from friends to write about her lifetime in publishing". It's an interesting idea that, in order to be creative, a writer needs some "awfulness" to get rid of. 

I have come across this idea before. There is a theory that if some of the great poets had been prescribed anti-depressants they might never have produced the works they published. I wonder! Most certainly, a writer must have a compelling need to write. In Carlos Ruiz Zafon's novel "La Sombra del Viento", the protagonist as a young man wants to write novels and is convinced that owning a particular fountain pen, allegedly once owned and used by Victor Hugo, will enable him to produce great work. Understandably, he is disabused and disappointed! 

The headline of the Diana Athill article struck me. Of all the things she did in her life and said and wrote about her life, the one fact they chose to headline was her revelation that she had expected to be devastated when she had a miscarriage but had been surprised to find that she took it in her stride and just got on with her life. Why did they select that fact rather than any other? Why choose that particular stick to beat women with. 

On a similar sort of topic, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg states that is planning to take two months of paternity leave when his daughter is born. He said in an online post “outcomes are better for children and families” when working parents take time off to be with their newborns. He called the decision “very personal”. I must say he is very lucky to be able to take that very personal decision. 

Here are a few facts about parental leave:- Facebook offers its US employees up to four months of paid parental leave. Announcements by tech companies on parental leave have prompted a debate about the schemes’ value and which employees are eligible for the benefit. Netflix said in August it was giving some of its US workers up to a year of paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child, though a row broke out over which employees would receive it. Adobe and Microsoft also bolstered their parental benefits. If only all employers offered good terms to their people. 

At the other end of the scale the Yahoo boss, Marissa Myer, prompted dismay over what expectations should be placed on new parents when she said she would be “working throughout” while taking two weeks’ maternity leave to give birth to twins. Of course, she might change her mind when the twins are born. And presumably she earns enough to pay someone to look after her bundle of double trouble. Another very fortunate person! 

It is, of course, entirely her decision, but there's a part of me that wonders why she is bothering to have the twins at all since she clearly does not plan on staying at home with them. Maybe they are a fashion accessory!

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