We start the second week in Portugal with a trip to the market town of Loulé. If I’m not walking around a market at some point on holiday I’ll assume I’ve been abducted. This is standard operating procedure. Jen loves a market and I am merely man and therefore limply compliant and the carrier of cash.
Like heroin Loulé is very Moorish. Turrets and scimitars are everywhere. There also seems to be a preoccupation with Cork in the form of hats, shoes and bags which is a phenomena I never knew existed.
Loulé is old school with cobbled lanes, a museum and an old church. The main drag is a bit more modern and the food market is found in a large central building. Outside this building sit the Bikers. Comedy bikers rather than ‘ you looking at my old lady? I’ll stab you in the throat’ bikers. They all own shiny hogs rather than anything you should be scared of with lots of preening and cum-catcher taches rather than a bowie knife down the back of the jeans. I brush them aside and enter the market.
Inside the market is split in two. The first half is all chilled sherry and wine, lovely cooked ham and leather bangles while the second half is fresh fish.
It’s 94 degrees. I’m in a non refrigerated municipal building where dead fish are being sold. It is humming. It’s truly horrendous and cloying to the point of gaggery. The boy and I make a swift exit to an adjacent outdoor market selling tat.
We breathe in the cool air and the boy leaves me to find humself a drink. I mooch about looking at the stalls. It’s all fairly low level but friendly enough….and then I see it…
Through the crowd, hunched with the lumpy spine of a cat after being hit by a car, it appears. She must be about 150 years old. She’s wearing a head scarf off kilter has a lazy eye and a rictus grin She shuffles with a walking a stick which looks like someone’s hip bone, is about three and a half feet tall and looks like a less attractive Yoda. She passes through with the crowd dispersing like a shoal of fish when breached by a Tiger shark. She is oozing rural Portugal from every crag. It’s the kind of hick that could break a pigs neck with a stern look back in her 30’s. She’s no longer in her 30’s, she is now as old as time and smelling like it with skin like a well worn leather chesterfield in a gentlemen’s club in Pimlico.
She saunters into my fighting arc and I go all ‘side on’ to minimise the target should she lunge for my throat. She needs my iron rich blood to feed her crispy ravagged carcas in order to survive another decade.
She wafts past and straight behind the ramp of a fruit and veg stall without anyone stopping her. She starts to stroke and finger the produce which forces my stomach to churn…she bends forward, a feat defying gravity given the throbing hump atop her rickerty spine and I am suddenly in line to get a full view of the oldest sand sniffers I’ve ever had the misfortune to spot. These are Snoopy noses from a bygone age, piping bags after completion of a particularly elaborate wedding cake… they are empty and wouldn’t feed a hungry sparrow.
Perhaps she has a nice personality but I’m not seeing it from the evidence so far. She’s more likely living in a gingerbread house gnawing on the bones of long lost kids or dicing up a frog’s eye for the pot.
I spot the boy and insist we return to the relative safety of the pungent fish market and the never ending haggling Jen is engaged over some leather bangles, either that or I stay here, find a bucket of water a slay the Witch of Loulé and face incarceration in a flimsy Portuguese prison.
..Fly you fools….
The back streets of Loulé are beautiful, idyllic and are really the reason why you would visit. It’s like when you first see a Cornish fishing village and you realise that postcards are sometimes perfect depictions. This is like that except with heat … marvellous.
Then it is beach time…..my nightmare. I hate beaches, always have. Messy, uncomfortable dirty places filled with over ripe people burning. I’d rather be by a pool with a bar even if it means swimming in a the human soup that is the shared pool. However once more my opinion is irrelevant and so I find myself loaded up like a pack horse walking on hot deep sand towards hours of misery.
It’s not very busy confirming my view that most people see this as utter shit. A few diehards are near me, dark mahogany sunseekers soaking up the power of the fireball.
I lie on a bumpy beach towel with a dead arse and sand between my broken toes. All four of us are huddled under two small parasols as the blistering heat too dangerous to sit directly in. I look around and spot the cool box. I whip out a Super Bock mini, 200ml of lifesaving man juice only to find the fucking thing is warm like tea. The cool box has failed it’s primary function and needs to be smashed and added to the plastic sea before me to choke another type of humpback.
I’ve always hated beaches. Too many shit times in the wind, rain, sun and sleet (Blackpool).
The worst time was in Futreventura when I was with some lunatic who loved beaches so much so that she managed to get me on a beach primarily but not exclusively for nudists. I sat there and she lay there like a spatchcock chicken. To disassociate myself with her I rolled over on the sunbed and was almost embedded in the junk of a rather overly nourished German woman as she bent over next to me. It was like looking into the face-hugger pod in “Alien” seconds before the explosion of violence. The old chestnut of a ‘badly packed kebab’ loomed large…..very large with aromavision.
You can stick beaches right up your hoop…..I’m not having it. Of course this view wasn’t aired on the actually beach and I was forced to endure a mere 4 hours before we were released for good behaviour.
Back at the ranch we decide to eat in and use my associates BBQ from the secret ‘family cupboard’ which he has kindly given me the key for. This Aladdin’s cave is filled with booze and supplies which I can use with instructions that I replace what I use. Of course I do this plus as I’m partial to the over-the-top gesture to boost my standing in society.
I get the BBQ out find it ain’t no Homebase shoddy effort made from partially flammable metal, this is a Weber. It looks like a monster truck all shiny and robust. I feel like a King.
We knock up some kebabs and tentatively use the beast only to find that I have forgotten to remove a part from the bottom which was simply there while it was in storage. This has now melted due to falling embers. I have soiled his family cook out kit.
The part in question appears to be a briquette scoop which you use if you are too scared to get your hands dirty and also appears to be completely unavailable either in Portugal or on-line. Some bloke in Cleethorpes has one for sale for a fiver but he won’t deliver abroad as he’s from Cleethorpes and so scared of the modern postal system.
This is a quandary so we leave the apartment in order to hunt down the required scoop in an area which, to my knowledge, only has one cash machine and no post box…. I’m not optimistic.
The second BBQ retailer I stumble across is manned by a very smiley lady with perfect English. To date I am yet to speak to anyone who actually only speaks Portuguese. I’m sure the Witch of Loulé would never have uttered a word of the Queens but I weren’t keen on an interaction that would have put me in the vicinity of her let alone her herring laced breath.
Smiley woman approaches me and seems concerned with my situation. She knows what we need and disappears behind a door returning with the exact item I need. She has saved me. I pull out a stinking, sweaty wad of Euros as no amount of money will be enough to purchase this essential part of 21st century outdoor cooking.
‘No charge’ are the beautiful words from her sweet mouth followed by ‘enjoy your holiday’. I could have hugged her.
I’m not in to slagging off Britain with stories of overseas generosity as I love my country and see our rudeness as a thing tourists come for but this is the second time in 8 days that I’ve been taken aback in a situation that didn’t deserve assistance. Well done the Portuguese….
This holiday has mostly been taking in from the poolside. It was a lovely pool. Proper rectangle rather than some odd shape to make the resort look interesting when we only want the water. The pool has a lovely bar where I have spent a great time relaxing with a beer or a cider to escape the searing heat. The pool brings a lot of ammo to my gunbarrel eyes.
First up we have the ex cockney footballer with the two knee scars ‘proving’ he played. He talks to anyone prepared to listen about this but he’s wary of me as my face says ‘don’t be a mug’. At one point he walks past me on the phone and says ‘yeah I’ll triple that amount of money..’ while looking at me, winking, and mouthing ‘awight mate’. I remain non awed as a swift kick to the scar would surely incapacitate the stroker. These are the things you learn on the amateur football pitch, not a well time tackle but simply the targeting of scars and fresh bandages to reduce the opposition to ashes.
Bullying Dad rocks up with two little kids and a wallflower wife. He says things to the kids like ‘when my lips are moving and I’m looking at mummy you don’t interupt’. Kids interupt. Little kids, medium kids, big kids…its a thing they do… live with it.
This bloke also has his own flippers a true sign of massive poncery unless you whip then out in a boat with an aqualung. Grown men with flippers in a swimming pool are unacceptable. I can only imagine the justification for this:
“..I like my flippers Angela, I need my flippers and I will be bringing my flippers so help me God…I swear it on my children’s eyes !!!!…”
Prick. He’s also a bloke with an overly large lens on his camera which he uses to take pictures of his kids swimming which seems excessive for some Holiday snaps never to be viewed again.
Most of the nut jobs can be found at the bar. I’m at the bar. The bar is where it’s at.
One afternoon I’m situated directly in the middle on a high stool. To my left is an old Welshman with a comedy nose and moustache combo. He is alone and drinking a small beer as is the name in this bar for a half, I’m minding my own business while I sweat my cobs off with a large beer.
My holiday routine was to read, listen to music sunbathe, play with the kids in the pool (my kids) and then go to the bar to make notes to write these ramblings. I’m not interested in in-depth conversations unless I engage with the barman who should be my only friend due a centuries old mutual assistance programme of merriment for money.
The Welshman catches my eye and intimates to the football on the TV.
“I see you are a Spurs fan”.
I instantly put him straight and immediately regret it as the barman clearly is a fan of that rabble and now sees me as the enemy. I inform Welshie that I am the other half of North London and I’m then forced to listen to an anecdote regarding a former Arsenal player at a golf tournamrnt that is so tedious that I nearly walk out on him mid sentence.
I’m not a rude fucker so I smile and simply ‘zone out’ even when he enters my immediate area to whisper obscenities to enhance the story to a ‘blokey’ level. He’s clearly short of mates and reveals his entire work and family history in a short 3 minute burst with me just nodding and randomly laughing at inappropriate moments to see if he actually gives a shit.
I am saved when a local and a Swede who appear to know him and want to talk to him come to the bar. I am now redundant as a verbal punch bag and happily go back to watching the football.
All three leave after the Welshman taps me on the arm and says he’ll see me ‘again’ and I politely smile and hold up a hand in a fake gesture of new found friendship…..we won’t interact again….ever.
Before the main act I’m randomly joined by some blond bloke who wants a chat. He’s a Chelsea fan so may as well have spat directly in my face and stole my beer however I’m on holiday so keep a lid on it.
In true newbie Chelsea fan fashion he tells me that he enjoys going to Fulham more than Chelsea instantly proving that he’s not a Chelsea supporter at all but, in fact, an idiot. We have a frantic chat about the price of football and after a handshake he leaves me to go see his blah, blah, blah I couldn’t give a fuck, tell someone who cares…
During this conversation two bald, tattooed fuckwits enter and sit directly next to me at the bar. Here we go….. Scotchmen..
Both these blokes are considerably over refreshed with the younger one being absolutely mangled to the point of falling off the stool and into me. I prepare for the worse…..a conversation. Here it comes preceded by a nudge…
‘…hey!!… you….Big Man!!….’
‘Big Man’ is scotch for ‘Fat Bastard’. You know it, he knew it and I knew it. It is internationally recognised as the Celtic opening greeting when either starting a fight or avoiding one. I put this to a friend of mine that I met up with on this trip. He rightly pointed out that ‘Big Man’ is far better than ‘wee man’ which is only said with contempt and not a hint of fear.
I turn to my new N.E.D associate with my most arrogant London English look and note he is smiling with a few stumps visible making his tongue look like a prisoner. He points at the screen..
‘…yer… (points at me)….ar yer a Wist Am Cont?…’
The entire bar stiffens. The piped europop ceases… Children run….women weep…our oasis has been invaded by The Barbarians of the C-Bomb. The barman watches….
Focus and calm is required here. ‘Begbies’ senior and junior are waiting for a response and the old one, bald, craggy and wearing massive shades, looks particularly interested in whatever I’m about to rustle up..
” No, No, No my toothless haggis eating numbskull, I am a follower of The Arsenal Football Club from London, Seat of power and home to the ruler of your barren nation”
…something like that anyway….
This throws them both and I’m met with laughter and a stream of conversational vowels where the only recognisable words are ‘cont’, ‘fook’ and ‘clunge’.
At this point the owner of the bar, a very friendly Englishmen steps in and informs these two that no swearing is allowed in the bar as there are kids floating about. The younger one looks at me and says:
“…is tha cont reet? Ama fuckin swerrin?…”
I reply in the affirmative and he says ‘cont’ again before they both leave mid pint (worst crime of the lot) explaining that they are scotch and so blameless.
A calm returns to the bar and I am once again alone with Super Bock.
You may be under the false impression that I had a bad holiday. I didn’t, I had a fantastic holiday but you can always find fun in the public which is why I started this blog.
Portugal is a beautiful place full of friendly accommodating people and stunning beaches. The weather was the best I’d ever had abroad and my colleagues apartment and the resort it was on were both magnificent. The downside was the cost and, surprisingly, the food which were both expensive and average in equal measure.
Now I sit at home on the edge of a return to work looking at Jen wrapped in a throw on the sofa listening to the rain smash against the window.. .
More stuff in time….