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Edited by Eddie Fernandes,
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Michael Fernandes

1. How to eat drink and be merry - all year! Oxford Times 14 Jan. 2000
2. Gardener's good deed ruined by thieves. Oxford Mail. 6 Aug. 2004
3 .The Pearl of the Orient. New Haven Register. 20 Jan. 2002

Oxford Times 14 Jan. 2000
How to eat drink and be merry I all year! By Helen Peacocke

HELEN PEACOCKE meets 73-year-old Michael Fernandes, a man who discovered that there is life after redundancy - down on his allotment
When your life is filled with fresh'air, loads of exercise and a plentiful supply of fresh fruit and vegetables that can be turned into tasty mid-day snacks what more do you need?

Manoel Rusario Fernandes, (known as Michael to his friends), reckons he's got life really sorted out. He's one of those lucky people who has found his niche and enjoys every waking moment.

Mr Fernandes, 73, attributes his sense of wellbeing to his daily diet of fresh fruit and vegetables from his allotment.

By growing his own vegetables he feels he has a certain control on his diet. No genetically modified vegetables or chemicals spoil his daily fare.

Mr Fernandes' allotment is one of 88 on the Lenthall Road Allotments, over-lookinf: Iffley's parish church of St Mary the Virgin,

He became an allotment holder after being made redundant from Oxford University Press in 1981, where he had workerd in the accounts department for many years.

These day he doesn't just tend his allotment, he's also tile Field Secretary. His fellow allotment holders affectionately call him the managing director. It's his job to collect the allotment rents for the owners, Oxford City Council, and keep the grass mown.

But he does far more than that. Mr Fernandes is often seen helping allotment holders tidy up their plots. He's the one they go to when they want seeds, garlic bulbs, seed potatoes, onion sets or 'Jerusalem artichoke roots. He also has a good supply of basic tools, plastic bags to carry your produce home and recipe ideas, inspired mostly by his love of herbs and Spices.

He will even share out, his samosas if you call in at lunchtime.

Mr Fernandes also provides friends with jars of his delicious home made chutney and pickles if they show an interest in his cooking and enjoy a touch of spice with their meal.

He boasts that since he has been tending his allotment he has never been fitter. He claims that the physical activity involved and his constant interaction with fellow allotment holders is the secret to wellbeing and happiness.

"It's all that fresh air, it really does keep me fit," he says. "I came over to England from Uganda in 1974 and must admit it took a while to get used to the cold, but I can cope with that now.

"It's also good to be surrounded by so many friends on a daily basis. You get a real sense of the community spirit when you work on an allotment," Mr Fernandes explains. He enjoys the way everyone works together, exchanges gardening hints and swaps produce.

As for the supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, well that's a real bonus. Even In the heart of winter there's something to take home, if only a couple of cabbages and some Brussels sprouts.

But It's not all cultivated plants - coriander grows wild at the far end or his plot. He uses this herb as one of the main flavouring ingredients for his home-made samosas which are absolutely delicious and rate as some nf the nicest I have ever tasted.

Mr Fernandes says he's the only one who can get coriander to grow In the winter. That's rather a wild boast actually because, many of the Asian allotment holders who tend the plots near the Botley Road grow some excellent winter coriander. But that's another story.

More and more people are looking for alternative ways of obtaining really fresh vegetables, Growing your own is the obvious answer.

But, as Mr rernandes says, keeping an allotment trim requires a great deal of effort in all weathers.

"People come here and see the well kept allotments and think keeping one trim is easy, that the vegetables look after themselves. That's not so. it's hard work, and there are times when it

gets very cold. However, there's a great sense of achievement when you have spent an afternoon battling with the elements and managed to endure all that mother nature throws at you.

Food that you have grown yourself takes on a quite different value from goods purchased from a supermarket.

Added to which, there is something magical about being able to place a dish of food on the table that you have not only cooked yourself, but grown too.

In the past keeping an allotment was a male activity, the men produced the fruit and vegetables and the women cooked them. Things have changed now - women and young people are getting involved. There's a cultural crossover taking place on some allotments too. Once allotments were filled with cabbages, onions, potatoes and carrots.

Now herbs, garlic and even green peppers are finding their way on to the plots alongside the standard vegetables. Well, why pay 40p for a head of garlic from the supermarket, when all you have to do is push a sprouting garlic clove into the ground and leave it there to grow for a few months? There's nothing like the subtle flavours of a home grown garlic used green when

it has just been pulled from the ground.

The rest can be dried and hung in the kitchen ready for later as it keeps for ages under the right conditions.

Two heads of sprouting cloves planted out on an allotment will provide enough garlic to keep an average cook happy for several months.

There are several vacant allotments on the Old Glebe Field site at the moment, which can be taken as whole or part. Many pensioners find that half a plot suits their needs perfectly, whereas a whole allotment would be just too much to keep tended.

If you would like to know more about becoming an allotment holder, Mr Fernandes would love to hear from you, He can be reached on 01865 774614 most days.

If he doesn't answer the phone straight away, try again. as it will mean he's out there somewhere tending his own plot or helping someone else come to terms with theirs.

Taking tip an allotment either at Lenthall Road or any of the other 40 sites in Oxford could be the best New Year's resolution you hive ever made - and the start of a health regime which will keep you fit and well-fed for the rest of your lire.

Michael Fernandes home-made Samosas
Mr. Fernandes says that there are a couple of tricks worth knowing that will turn your samosas Into really tasty treats with an authentic spicy taste, and help the pastry stay crisp. The first thing to remember is to knead the pastry for at least ten minutes before putting it in the fridge. The other thing is to allow the filled uncooked samosas to rest wrapped in a polythpne bag for at least a couple of hours before cooking, as this helps the pastry to crisp tip. The other secret is to pack thern as full of home grown vegetables as possible, and tint be scarred on changing the basic recipe to suit the produce each season provides.
      You will need: (For the pastry)
  • 8 oz (225g) plain flour.
  • 1 small yoghurt container of cold water.
  • Pinch salt.
  • Dash virgin olive oil.
    For the filling:
  • 8 oz (225g) minced beef/lamb/pork/chicken or turkey.
  • 4 medium onion finely chopped.
  • Small bunch fresh coriander leaves chopped roughly.
  • 1 clove garlic-crushed and finely chopped.
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander seeds.
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin seeds.
  • 1/2 tap crushed black peppercorns.
  • 1 tsp kaloner (onion seeds available from most Indian shops)
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds.
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds.
  • Lump fresh ginger as big as a walnut peeled and finely chopped.
  • 4 fresh green chilli - de-seeded and finely chopped.
  • 2 oz (50g) fresh or frozen peas.
  • 2 oz (50g) peeled potato - diced small.
  • Sprinkling of medium curry powder if you wish .
  • Splash of oil to help the meat cook
Make up the pastry by placing flour into a bowl with a splash of olive oil and pinch of salt. Gradually add the water until you have a firm pastry which Is pliable enough to knead.
Knead the pastry for 10 minutes, wrap in kitchen plastic and allow to rest for at least an hour.
Make the filling by frying off the meat in a little olive oil, add the potatoes and colons and allow them to cook with the meat too. Cook until potatoes appear to be softening, stirring as you go.
The spices and a pinch ofcurry powder (optional) can go into the frying pan next. Allow these to cook at high heat for a moment, then reduce heat slightly and add the garlic, fresh chilli and ginger and cook until the aroma of cooked garlic begins to fill the air.
Add the chopped peas, and chopped coriander, place a lid on the pan and allow it to sit without further heat for a while. This mix can be cooled and placed in the fridge until needed if you wish.
When ready to make tip the samosas, divide the pastry into six sections and roll each out to the size of a tea plate. Cut each one in half. moisten the edges with water and roll each half into a cone, filling one with the curry mixture before starting the next.
Place a spoonful of filling into the cone shape and then fold the top down to form a triangle. Fry in oil until the samosas are a golden brown. Enjoy!

Friday 06 August 2004
Gardener's good deed ruined by thieves
by Giles Sheldrick
Thieves stole a gardener's bike, wallet and keys as he was delivering fresh vegetables to his elderly neighbours.

Michael Fernandes spends most of his days at his allotment in Lenthall Road, Rose Hill, Oxford, cultivating all sorts of produce, including garlic, onions and potatoes.

And such is the friendship between gardeners that any surplus produce is shared among them and sometimes distributed to pensioners living on the estate.

But at about 6.15pm on August 4, Mr Fernandes was delivering produce to an elderly couple when thieves stole his bicycle.

They also took his wallet, which contained £100 in cash, allotment keys and important paperwork.

The incident happened only a month after his house was raided by burglars, who still have not been caught.

Mr Fernandes, 76, who is secretary of the Lenthall Road Allotments, said: "I was delivering vegetables at the time my bike was stolen. Because it was a nice day they were in the back garden and I had only left it outside for a few minutes.

"In the middle of June my house was burgled and a cash box containing £100 of allotment money stolen - it's a very dangerous area, this estate."

Rose Hill city councillor Bill Buckingham suspects the theft could be the result of summer holiday mischief.

He said: "Michael looks after that allotment and tends it as if it was his own child. He's there almost every day - it's his life - and he would give anyone odd bits of vegetables if he didn't need them himself.

"He's one of the most harmless people you would wish to meet and if it was not for him the allotment would grind to a halt.

"This sort of thing makes me sick. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was children who had done this -- and I hope their parents make them return what was stolen."

Oxford police spokesman Lucy Ferguson said: "This is a particularly sad crime as the gentleman in question was doing a good deed for his elderly neighbours."

Manuela Da Costa-Fernandes is the daughter of Michael “Gerry” Fernandes (see above). She was born in Kampala and later had to seek refuge in England. She moved to USA as a journalist. For a listing of some of her work click here. She visited Goa in 2002 and wrote in the New Haven Register about her experiences - see below.
Manuela is now back in England and can be reached at

January 20, 2002
The Pearl of the Orient
Search for saudade leads to the lush province of Goa, India

By: Manuela Da Costa-Fernandes
A typical church design in Anjuna is similar to those found in Portugal. Photos by Manuela Da Costa-Fernandes

The Portuguese word saudade is untranslatable in English. It evokes an aching sense of longing and homesickness, a yearning for something lost and unobtainable.

Growing up in England, I saw saudade in my mother Rosa Visitacão Da Costa Fernandes' brown eyes when she spoke of "minha terra" (my land), the "Perola do Oriente" (Pearl of the Orient), and "Goa Dourada" (Golden Goa).

A native of Goa, India, my mother immigrated from her small village of Nuvem to Kampala, Uganda, in 1961 after she married my father, Manuel Rosario Fernandes, a British government civil servant.

Eleven years later, my family became refugees and fled to the cold concrete and constant drizzle of England. But that seeping sense of saudade always haunted my mother.

Her mantra was: "Quem viu Goa escusa de ver Lisboa" (Whoever has seen Goa need not see Lisbon). We never went on bucket-and-spade holidays to the seaside like my English friends' families. Instead, my mother scrimped and saved and planned the "great family holiday" — a pilgrimage to Goa.

While a middle school student, I went with my mother and younger brother to Goa. I remember dancing in the monsoon rains, counting mosquito bites and being chased by a cow around my grandmother's garden. I was too young to comprehend my surroundings, and Goa did not pique my interest.

But after living away from my family in the United States for eight years, I began to experience a seeping sense of saudade: Who am I? Where am I from? Why can't anyone pronounce my Portuguese name?

When I asked my mother to go with me to Goa, she was shocked. With a little coaxing, however, she soon agreed. We traveled in January, when the crowds thinned out and the weather was cooler.

Flying into Dabolim Airport in Goa, I realized I was entering a special part of the world. Jutting out from a remote section of the Arabian Sea, the airport was nestled amidst rugged cliffs, sandy beaches and lush green coconut groves.

Tucked between the hills of the Western Ghats ad the Arabia Sea, Goa spans 1,350 square miles and is about halfway down the West Coast of the Indian peninsula.

Covered with verdant hills and wooded with jackfruit, mango and cashew groves, it is crisscrossed by rivers and edged with 60 miles of unspoiled beaches with sand like muscovado sugar.

Getting off the plane, I was buffeted by a stream of cool air off the sea. My mother looked happier than I had seen her in years, speaking Konkani (the Goan language) and trying to find a taxi to take us to her village.

After several unsuccessful tries, we found a driver, Octavio, with a 1950s yellow and black Morris Oxford, who was willing to takes us to Southern Goa.

Sitting in the taxi and watching tiny villages flash by was like going back in time. We passed roadside shacks selling sugar cane juice or watermelon. The pace of life seemed so slow.

"Sossegado," my mother explained authoritatively. In Portuguese, it means calmness and quiet. To a Goan, the expression encapsulates a way of life that is relaxed and full of joy.

Suddenly, our driver braked and we lurched forward. A goat was crossing the road.

Since Goa's absorption into the Indian Union in 1961, there have been many changes. But you can still drive through bucolic towns with Iberian-style villas and stop at a small taverna (bar) for a drink of feni (a potent local brew made from the juice of distilled cashew nuts.)

Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese sea captain, first landed south of Goa on the Malabar Coast in 1498. Seeking Christians and spices, he was the first European to reach India.

Afonso de Albuquerque consolidated the network of outposts that da Gama had captured, laying the foundation for Portugal's maritime empire, including Daman and Diu. In the 1600s, everything from gold and spices was traded in Goa's ports.

Until Dec. 19, 1961, Goa remained a Portuguese colony. In 1962, Goa, Daman and Diu were integrated with the Indian Union. Splitting from the other two colonies in May 1987, Goa became the 25th state of the Indian Union.

But Goa has retained a distinctive Portuguese flavor. With their red-tiled roofs and narrow streets, villages have a Mediterranean feel. The last stop on a bus is usually hailed by the driver shouting "praça," which means "village square" in Portuguese.

The countryside is dotted with whitewashed churches and restaurants selling Portuguese-style food such as caranguejo recheado (stuffed crab), caldeirada (fish stew), and rissois (rissoles made from shrimp).

Our first stop was Old Goa, the capital of the 16th century Portuguese colony and a principal city in the Portuguese Eastern Empire. Compared to Lisbon in its magnificence, Old Goa evokes Old World charm with its collection of churches and cathedrals.

Completed in 1605, Bom Jesus Basilica houses a silver sarcophagus with a glass coffin where St. Francis Xavier's mummified corpse is kept. On the walls surrounding it are murals depicting scenes from the saint's journeys. The annual feast of St. Francis is held Dec. 3.

Architecturally, Sé Cathedral (St. Catherine's Cathedral) is Portuguese-Gothic with a sprawling Baroque facade. Built in 1533, it has an intricately carved gilt altar, 15 exquisite chapels and is the largest Christian church in Asia.

On the northern part of Old Goa, Viceroy's Arch was built as the official gateway to all the viceroys dispatched by the Portuguese government. Facing the Mandovi River, it features a statue of explorer Afonso de Albuquerque in the niche above the entrance. Like all tourists, we had our picture taken there.

After overdosing on the opulence of Goa's Portuguese architecture, I needed to get in tune with my inner mall and help bail out my mother's homeland from the clutches of the World Bank. I went shopping.

Meanwhile, my mother held court on the balcony of my grandmother's house. Traditionally, neighbors visit each other in the late afternoon, sipping cold Limca and eating jackfruit and guavas.

The nearest town was Margão, the second largest in Goa and the provincial capital of Salcette.

Wandering through the labyrinth-like covered market, I gasped at 3-foot mountains of chilies in market stalls and the array of brightly colored sweets.

For more of an adventure, you should venture north to Mapusa Bazaar and the Anjuna Flea Market.

With my uncle, I took the bus to Panjim, the capital, and changed buses for Mapusa in the north region of Goa. Every Friday, there is a bustling market or bazaar. Everything from mendhi tattoos to mirrorwork cushions are available for a few dollars.

It draws hordes of Goans and tourists vying for everything from fresh papayas to silver trinkets.

For the ultimate tourist shopping experience, you have to go even further north to Anjuna for the Wednesday flea market.

Having exasperated one uncle with my desire to buy needless trinkets, my other uncle accompanied me on the journey that took three buses to reach the far flung northern corner of Goa.

For a colony of hippies living in Anjuna, the market is a rite of passage. Imagine San Francisco's eclectic Haight-Asbury section, and Anjuna has an equally eclectic collection of hippies, artists, aura diviners and yoga fanatics touting their wares.

Compared to Mapusa Bazaar, the market is expensive, but some items, like papier-mâché boxes from Kashmir in Northern India, are extremely inexpensive.

Drained from shopping, we went to one of the many beaches tucked along the province's coastline.

To avoid tourists, we went to Palolem beach in Canacona, a rocky district in the south that harbors sprawling desolate beaches.

Sitting on the beach flanked by palm trees, I thought about how brave my mother was to have left her tiny village and this Eden in search of a better life.

The search for saudade had led me back to my mother, Goa and myself.


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