BootsnAll Travel Network

Symphonic blog

As blogging becomes increasingly central to the way I live, I am looking around at other people’s blogs, wondering about other bloggers’ intentions, and realizing that the blogosphere offers me the opportunity to do what I have wanted to do all my life: peer into thousands of people’s living spaces. Sadly, these living spaces are only those of the privileged 1% of humanity who have computers and the time to fool around on them, and most of the blogs of that 1% are not even remotely interesting to me, but access is the first subject I thought about when I opened this blog, so there’s no need to belabor that further. I write today in celebration of an extraordinary blog called Contemplating Sintra, written by a man named Stephen Brody, who has lived in Sintra, Portugal for the past twenty or so years and writes about the town (which my dear readers may recall was my least favorite town in all of Portugal) with love, wit, and often-ascerbic intelligence. If I had read his blog before I went to Portugal, I would have had a completely different (and far more pleasurable) experience in Sintra; but more importantly, reading his blog expands my notion of what a blog can be, and I want to pass that expanded notion on to the four or five people who read this one.

Brody’s entries are lengthy, illustrated with photographs, and artfully crafted. He writes–not whistling improvisations (like most blogs), nor even ballads (I guess that’s what I’d liken mine to), but symphonies of history, culture, architecture, and place. For example, in the latest installment he refers to Portugal’s Maria I as “a woman by all accounts not entirely in her right mind who immediately undid all the changes [wrought by the Marquis de Pombal] and on the eve of the French Revolution restored Portugal to what it pretty much always had been, thus ensuring that further troubles were inevitable.” Chris Dunton, this blog’s for you!

Brody’s politics are not populist, and Brody is not romantic, but he reminds me of Thoreau here: “the inhabitants of the rustic slums have acquired cars and credit cards and so are now as good as anyone else, and as useless.” And also here: “Traditionally, these Sintra houses were only lived in during the summer, when Lisbon becomes oppressive, but in the meantime they flourished, or anyway continued, under the care of armies of servants. It’s the lack of these, as much as anything else, that has seen the end of most of them. The ordinary population of the town and its environs was once almost totally employed in this way, and it seems to me by and large a very pleasant way to live for those without envious ambitions: I’d have loved to have been a gardener or something myself, in a paradise like this, doing useful work and being looked after by people who appreciated it.”

A fondness for Portugal, and perhaps at least a passing acquaintance with Portuguese history, may be useful to a reader of Brody’s blog. Then again, those who spend time reading Brody will probably end up learning all they need to know about Portugal and wanting to see Sintra and all the rest for themselves. While contemplating Sintra, he offers his own fresh ideas on religion, history, class, and even dog trainers. His blog is the written equivalent of “slow food,” not quickly consumed, not intended to be gulped down on the dash. Reading his blog is like settling down on a cold evening to while away some hours by a fireplace with a delightfully opinionated and slightly outrageous friend and a pot of tea (or, for those who still imbibe, a snifter of brandy).

One more thing. Brody said, in an email to me, “I don’t worry about the future very much, having learned from the past that what one worries about never happens and that what does is always more or less right, or that’s to say it follows properly from one’s mistakes or otherwise.” Amen.

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-3 responses to “Symphonic blog”

  1. h sofia says:

    I like your blog, and I love this post – thank you for the introduction.

    This post reminded me of how expansive the world is … sometimes, without realizing it, I start to close my eyes.

  2. stephenbrody says:

    Bless you, that was most flattering, especially to be called ‘opinionated’ …. many thanks for your very perceptive observations and comments about many things

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