How it Became What It Is.
Returning to Portugal, Where Fears we Leave Behind was made. Where I gained a second home and a reverence for Irish traditional music steeped in Guinness. Over to one of my favourite men on the planet, Mr. Billy Corcoran, who, between destroying Irish Music every Friday and Saturday night and riding the high stool, has managed to expand and expound in honour of all things Lusitano.
I came to Portugal for four months almost eighteen years ago. That’s pretty much how it works here. One day you’re sitting on a cliff, pondering the sea with a bottle of Sagres, and the next thing you’re sitting on a cliff pondering the sea with a bottle of Sagres and half your adult life has passed you by.
This is no bad thing, by the way. It’s just that your life becomes more whimsical here. That wonderful word amanha (tomorrow) applies to almost all things here. It reminds me a little of how Ireland used to be. Never put off for tomorrow what you can do the next day. For a serial procrastinator such as myself, this is the best of all possible worlds.
It’s the same with coffee. Who knew there was so many ways to have a humble espresso? Normal, full, short, just over half ,almost full, in a hot cup, in a cold cup, with hot milk, with cold milk, weak, or my personal favourite, almost Italian (quase Italiano). And that’s before we even move on to long coffee!
But having drunk coffee in the main coffee countries of Europe I think Portugal wins hands down. It’s the kind of languid café culture where caffeine has absolutely no effect. Which brings me nicely on to those who are serving the aforementioned coffee: the waiters. My, but they surely are a breed apart. In France it’s almost expected to have rude waiters; it’s de rigeur, but here it’s a joy to behold. A class of men whose grumpiness pales to insignificance when compared to their abject contempt for humanity.
It seems to me (now I know I’m wandering, but that’s how this is going to be so try and stay with me) that ‘the momentum’ is with Portugal now; ‘The Momentum’ being a strange invisible force that affects countries from time to time. Ireland had it in the early 90’s, for example. Things are looking up here. Portugal won the Euro soccer championships last year (soccer being one of only two occasions where Portuguese people can lose all rationality). The economy is steadying. Lisbon is one of the hippest cities in the world at the moment. There is a bit of a spring in people’s step. Cautious optimism is flourishing. I mean, they even won the Eurovision song contest last week for the first time ever. The centre left coalition government seem to be making all the right noises. All of this combined with the mysterious ‘momentum’ and Portugal is a pretty interesting place to be right now.
That other occasion where rationality takes a hike is in the realms of driving. Now at the outset I have to say things have improved here over the years, but Mother of God, when I landed here first it was lunacy. It seemed so contrary to the normally mild, laid back ‘amanha’ Portuguese attitude. If there was a gap in the traffic it was essential that everyone went for it as fast as possible. Equally important was driving bumper to bumper at insane speeds in the driving rain. One of the main roads between Lisbon and Cascais, the ‘Marginal’, at one time was considered the most dangerous road, not in Portugal, not in Europe, nay,nay and thrice nay, in the world I tells ya. I used to sit on my balcony and watch the crashes. Outside my apartment alone I was taking in about three per week.
Anyway, I’ve meandered enough for one evening. If Emma ever asks me to write anything for her again I might muse on the bougainvillea, the jacaranda,the night blooming jasmin, ginjinha and the peculiar affinity between Ireland and Portugal regarding ‘Saudades’.
So despite being in penury, I do believe I am one of the richest men in the world.