The colour purple: Portugal goes wisterical

Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 13:58

Wisteria hedge all along a the edge of a farm in Calheiros

Lots of you will know the Robert Browning poem, "Home-Thoughts, from Abroad" which begins, "Oh to be in England now that April's there". Let's transpose it to Portugal. What might the emigrant I wrote of last time feel nostalgia for? Perhaps for the wisteria which garlands hedges and gateways everywhere and, in abandoned gardens, runs riot over trees and buildings.

In April, Portugal goes wisterical!

But wisteria isn't the only glory of April. To see what else the homesick Portuguese might feel 'saudades' for, click here
Did you wonder about the word 'saudades'? This is a quintessentially Portuguese word for which there is no direct translation into English. It means, nostalgia, homesickness, longing, yearning ..... or just missing. You can feel 'saudades' for a friend you've not seen for a while or much more heart-rending 'saudades', perhaps for things you knew in your childhood that are no longer there and can never be recovered.

So, what could our emigrant miss in April apart from wisteria? Perhaps he or she might remember the magnificent fields of wild flowers which carpet the countryside like this one on the way up to our house.

a field full of yellow wild flowers in the Minho

You might think that these were buttercups, such as you might see in the Yorkshire Dales, but they aren't. They're a daisy-like flower and if anyone knows what their name is, do write in and tell us.

If our emigrant flew out of Porto airport on his lonely venture, the last thing he or she might have seen is the magnificent swathe of red azaleas just outside the terminal. Isn't this inspired planting?

Azaleas outside Porto Airport in April

If you aren't looking at this and thinking, "Wow!" you have no soul.

Or the countryman might just be missing the unkempt sides to his country roads. They are rarely cut back and so the verges are sprinkled with wildflowers of all sorts from ground hugging speedwell to magnificent foxgloves.

Foxgloves along the side of a country road

I think our emigrant would be right to say to himself, "Oh to be in Portugal, now that April's there," don't you?

But he or she might also reflect about April what Shakespeare wrote about May in his Sonnet no 18,

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.

For everything is earlier in Portugal. Our May is their April. And before the end of April here the rough winds and rains predicted by Shakespeare did come and shake the glorious wisteria hedge I showed you above. This is it now. Not a tumbling purple flower in sight!

The wisteria hedge after the wind and rain of April

When spring flowers fade so quickly, I think we all feel 'saudades'. But, cheer up, May is to come and May's colour is yellow.

Is there a time of year in Portugal that is particularly close to your heart? If so, please write in about it. We'd love to hear from you. If you are Portuguese, please feel free to write in your own language. You don't have to write in English. (Lembre-se: o que é importante não é a língua mas a contribuição.)

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