Lute Restorer Goes Mad in Portugal
A newsstand that's brimming with issues
Monday, August 31, 2015, 16:20:UTC)(
27 June 2006
An unknown Portuguese lute restorer, André Macedo, was sentenced yesterday after being found guilty of sending unmentionable porcelain figurines to the mayor of Mafra's cousin. The presiding judge, justice Reis, sentenced him to four weeks community service on grounds of diminished mental capacity.
The trial will perhaps be most remembered for the picture it presents us of the lute restoration industry in modern Portugal. Macedo's defence council portrayed a professional and modern industry with connections at the highest level of government. Today's lute can be varnished and re-strung by a crack team of military professionals, using the latest satellite technology, in a matter of minutes.
This is a world to which Macedo, sadly, did not belong. His operation was a one-man show. Relying on tip-offs, Macedo would cruise the backstreets of Mafra in his transit van, attempting to rescue neglected lutes. He would find them left outside in supermarket bags, tied to stakes in back gardens with no food, used as doorstops, hats, balloons - and on one occasion as a rocket powered boat with a frightened rabbit inside.
No lute was left behind. He would bring them back to his shed, polish them, string them, balance and weigh them. Then he would sell them on to good homes all over Europe. The rabbit was sent to the Danish Queen Margrethe II of the Oldenburg family, but she sent it back, unopened.
Macedo found his favourite lute wandering in the traffic on the main Lisbon road. He christened it Rebeca. She dated from the 15th century and was probably once owned by the great Afonso O Magnânimo, whose name was written on the back in crayon, along with a poem about a frog and a shuttlecock that probably loses quite a bit in translation. Once he had restored Rebeca to her former glory, Macedo decided that the only deserving home for her was that of the mayor of Mafra's cousin - who was reputed to own the finest collection of lutes in Iberia.
It was some years later when Macedo heard that the Mayor of Mafra's cousin was a fraud. It transpired that he was selling his lutes to Colonel Gaddafi. According to his defence council, Macedo was overcome with a 'terrible, uncontrollable rage' on hearing this. Without stopping to think things over, Macedo bought as many Sunday newspapers as possible and ordered thirty nine examples of porcelain figurines in various compromising positions, giving the name and address of the Mayor of Mafra's cousin as the recipient, and ticking the box marked:
Yes! Re-send me my porcelain figurine every single month, plus any other information you think would interest me in each case.
The unfortunate victim was on holiday at the time. He apparently returned home to find his garage and kitchen filled with a conga line comprised of nine hundred and forty seven porcelein hedgehogs. A quick telephone to the Mayor and the chief of police produced a swift arrest. Macedo, in a statement, says he is truly sorry and regrets his actions, but would do it all again in an instant, given half the chance.