Down the Procurement Pub from Porto!

port glassesSo it had to be Porto, and my trip to the European e-public procurement conference this week. My wife had never been to Portugal, so we added on a 36 hour "holiday" to the trip, and rushed around the city seeing as much as we could. That included a tour around the Ramos Pinto port cellars and museum - well worthwhile and only 6 Euros including two glasses of port for tasting - pictured here. They had a bottle of 1884 vintage on sale, the year the firm started, at a mere 5000 Euros, but we resisted. I wasn't sure HMRC would accept it as a tax deductible expense ...!


Porto is very strange in one way. The site is beautiful, steep hills running down to the wide Douro, with an iconic two-level steel bridge spanning the river. Narrow streets jumble down to the waterfront, and whilst there are a lot of tourists now, it feels relatively unspoilt. However, there are a huge number of derelict and empty and boarded-up buildings, just randomly distributed. Most streets have a mix of some well cared for and attractive buildings - then suddenly there will be one literally falling down. Prof Gustavo Piga in his excellent keynote at the conference talked about the huge drop in construction expenditure across Europe since the 2008 crash, and that is very visible in Porto!


Let's give the UK Cabinet Office some credit. Hearing how nine different countries are progressing towards implementation at national level of the new EU procurement directives, it is clear that the UK's success in getting national law in place this February was impressive. Most other countries are talking about next Spring. Now some experts and lawyers (or even expert lawyers ...) might say the UK could have had better laws if a bit more time had been taken, and that the real driver was Francis Maude wanting to leave his legacy and get it through pre election. But the experience in other countries suggests there's no doubt the officials involved deserve some credit for making that happen so rapidly.


sunderland fansWell done to my home town team, Sunderland, which avoided relegation on Wednesday night by holding on for a somewhat fortunate draw at Arsenal. And I was there (thanks Garry) to see it! After the game, the couple of thousand traveling Sunderland fans celebrated as if we had just won the Premiership - that was touching to see. Great fans, whatever you think of the team ... Not the best picture, but you get the idea.

So let's stick with the Portuguese theme for our music of the week. It's the Eurovision Song Contest tomorrow, one of the highlights of the cultural year, and Portugal has entered this big mid-tempo rock ballad, sung by the intense Leonor Andrade. I was just thinking "this isn't bad, a bit Heart, a bit Pat Benatar, when after two and a half minutes, they hit you with what might just be the worst key-change in popular music history. See what you think.


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