After all, you are driving, they don’t want to distract you too much, and also, depending on your
speed, they haven’t got much time to tell you before you flash by. That’s why if the message is ‘slow down’, they better keep it short and sweet.

So, it’s quite an art to convey a critical message in a few short words, or phrases. So that brings me back to the message shown in the picture, which is one of my favourites. It says ‘Portugal chama. Protega os seus. Não atire beatas.’ They do translate this into English on the signs as well. They say ‘Portugal calls. Protect your own. Don’t throw out cigarette butts’. Great message, seeing as fires very seldom start in nature on their own. In fact, there’s as much chance that you, or more critically, a tree, will get struck by lightning, than a fire will just spring to life spontaneously of its own accord. I’m afraid it’s far more likely that it’s our doing.

However, the reason I’m telling you all this is that I love word play and there’s a wonderful play on words in the Portuguese version that doesn’t translate to English, and seeing as The Portugal News aims to get you the lowdown on what’s going on in the country, I thought I’d let you in on it. You see, ‘chama’ in Portuguese as well as meaning ‘calls’, also means ‘flame’. It would be more grammatically correct if they had said ‘Portugal em chamas’ (Portugal in flames). But you see, they are saying both things at once. Portugal is on fire, and also, that it’s calling for your help. Brilliant.

Of course, for this story I’ve looked into it and it turns out ‘Portugal Chama’, is a nationwide campaign by the government, and by a long list of Portuguese companies to raise awareness about the risk of fire in the country in the summer months. So, they catch people’s attention when they are driving, and also when they stop to drink coffee, as the messages can be found on sugar packets as well.

They remind people to be careful, and to think about what they are doing. Don’t throw out cigarette butts, but also, if you are working with machinery out in the fields (which in the summer are all dry and like tinderboxes just waiting for a spark) then you should remember to always take a fire extinguisher with you, and make sure you have your phone to call 112 if things get out of hand.

I did originally think when I saw the sign that it must be the work of the utter genius, who, to remind people to drive carefully, thought up the slogan that lit up the flashboards at Christmas time last year. I’m sure you remember, it said ‘O melhor presente é estar presente’. Which of course translates to ‘The best present is to be present’. Just great.

In a few short words it cuts right to the crux of the matter. That’s enough to make even Speedy Gonzalez, on his rush to buy a last minute gift, think twice. And realise the most important thing is to make sure you are careful. After all, we don’t often think about it, but when we get behind the wheel we are hurtling our rather fragile meat skeletons around at breakneck speeds inside a tiny metal cage. There’s all sorts of things that can go wrong. We need to pay attention.

But also, what’s the best thing about a present? I’m sure you’ve all heard the expression ‘It’s not the gift, it’s the thought that counts’.

And it’s true. Some of the best and most hilarious presents I’ve ever received were when somebody ran out of time and came around on Christmas day with an assortment of bubble gum packets and Coca-Cola cans wrapped in paper towels, - that they got last minute at the only thing left open, the petrol station. It’s not the gifts we want really. The most valuable commodity has always been and will always be - attention.

Really be with the people around you and let them know you love them. That’s the most precious present there is.

All that in just one line!