Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lisbon in numbers

No fanfare, no tickertape, no topless cakesprung models greeted myself and Shiny on our return to Terminal 2 last Saturday night.

We were met instead with wipey eyed toddlers screaming for their beds, a round man with an overbite storming through the airport like Arnold Schwarzenegger on crack and his vacant faced and long suffering spouse to be. We'd have pitied her had it not been for her steadfast refusal to blink or change expression.

I couldn't place a single difference between T2 and its older brother, by the way, given the fact that I stare at airport floors like a pissed off teen until I get on that plane, or out that glass door, to freedom.

So, Lisbon in numbers...

0 - The number of books read by either myself or herself, save for the ever present tourist handbook and accompanying map. We'd brought six between us.

1 - Sagres beer. I stuck mainly to the Super Bock.

2 - The number of balconies in our modest, yet perfectly appointed, apartment. One for the drying, the other for the basking.

2 - Steak dinners in Docas.

2 - Cocktails drunk by me. A Mojito by the sea in Estoril, a strawberry concoction on the last night.

4 - Cocktails drunk by her.

7 - Nights spent under the lovely whirr of our air conditioner.

9 - The number of times I made her laugh out loud.

92 - The number of times she'd have me believe she made me laugh out loud.

10,454 - The number of shops we found closed on Sunday, our first full day there. This frightened us until we remembered that days of the week also exist while on holidays.

2.5 - The number of days it took us to find the central squares of the city, which we celebrated with much beer, sitting and the second city bus tour of my life.

10/10 - What we'd both give the Piri Piri Chicken we ate on nights Tuesday and Thursday. I don't recall the name of the restaurant, I stayed on 'big picture' duty while she got us from A to B to P to back again to A.

120 - The amount of street sellers who tried to get me to buy herself a rose, some sunglasses, a hat or some shiny contraption that kids wear as headbands.

4 - The measures of whiskey poured into my glass by the kindly waiter beside the boats. I drank most of it on a stomach of wine and beer and bespoke strawberry cocktail, and this did not go unpunished come 5am the following morning.

2 - Garments wrecked by sun tan lotion, which she is salvaging as I type.

10,222 - Moments of pinching myself, thinking that Holemaster would hate me to be this happy.

1 - Beach visit, including ice cream, fine food and graceless barefoot stomping through the sand.

5 - Encounters with an insane Indian singing man. The last day we saw him, he'd clearly run afoul of some angry youths as he was on crutches.

2 - Sintra pastries, while watching the filming of a Portuguese soap opera on the steps of the local basilica.

1 - Time getting lost before ending up in the Lisbonian Ballymun. All ended safely and drunkenly.

5 - Ice creams consumed, though this stands to correction (and doubtless will be).

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Nobody ought to be that poised

"Should I bring a towel?"

I picture her whipping around her place, frazzled to a state of befustification, packing and unpacking and making things smaller than they should be, and thinking it is one of the most stupid text messages she's ever received.

She was gracious though, my girl, and just replied to say something about a turban.

She refrained from, "I'm fairly certain a fully equipped apartment comes fully equipped with towels to dry oneself."

In ten months, it seems, I've earned the right to be an idiot and to have it overlooked.

I fucking hate packing so I got it out of the way early. I secreted away too many black t-shirts, checking and double checking that the hard drugs I've never even come across in real life hadn't made their way into the zips. Not a sign, just some old receipts and an empty Extra chewing gum wrapper.

I gave up at one point, distracted by something on the telly, and now it's officially the day where I have to come face to face with my biggest enemy - the dreaded sky clown* - in the name of some time in a bubble. I see clothes hanging about the place and can't summon the will to fold. Time enough, I blog instead and it's soon to the cot.

I don't imagine I'll be in touch and I'm not one of those smiletalking fuckers who'd promise anyone a postcard, but I do ask that you keep away from yourselves until my gloriously broken return.

*Air hostesses. My greatest phobia. Nobody ought to be that poised.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Drop

They wanted a short story. They got a short story. They wanted twee and unthreatening. I gave them twee and unthreatening. They proffered ten grand. Another piece won it.

Careful scribe that I am, I dared not publish a word of it before the winner was announced. I allowed myself fanciful thoughts of some monetary idyll, a trip to New York on the proceeds, but it turns out I didn't mention the product enough.

It may as well do something, so here it is. Be kind or be quiet.

= = =

"Come here," he said. "Come here 'til I talk to you for a minute. I've wise words to impart."

There was no shorthand in my grandfather's language.

"Do you see this seat?" he asked me. I saw the seat.

"I've sat here for 56 years, with my father, your father, your grandmother, even your mother from time to time and I haven't been able to reason a better seat in a better pub in Ireland. Your father had his first pint with me here, where you're sitting, and I was with him whenever he fell off it."

I couldn't imagine my father falling from a chair. He wasn’t a man for toppling

"We've set the world to rights over and over again and he's the better man for it. Remember this: Never worry. Worrying never solved a problem. Tough times always come without a warning and as long as you sit and take a drop with the people that love you, you won't go far wrong.

"You’ll lose jobs, you’ll get them again. You’ll think you’ll have fallen in love, maybe eight or nine times, before you find someone who thinks you’re an eejit and stays with you anyway. You’ll have governments try to take the arse from under you and then they’ll do it again for good measure.

"Those who practice jealousy as a hobby will run you down and never think twice about it, but the simple truth of it is this: Be in good company. The only thing in life that matters is other people, good people, surround yourself with them. Those boys up there…"

He pointed to the three lads, hovering over a single pint and two soft drinks, bought as decoy.

"…those are good boys. Stick with them. Hold no truck with those other boughsies up the road. You’ll be here with your lads long after I’m gone, to keep each other straight."

I was waiting for the 'one more thing.'

"One more thing. Tell Jim you’re getting your grandfather a Powers."

I hadn't spoken a single word to him but that was often the way of it. I just got him his drink, sat back down and hid his words away for later.

Later turned into now, later is fifteen years since that night and fourteen since he died, head bowed at his Irish Times in my grandmother’s bed. I sit with my father at his father’s seat, take in the three half supped pints at the bar, and we raise and tip our spirits "to himself."

"Come on," says my da. "Lads!" he calls the three boys. "This day won’t marry itself. She’ll be pulling up soon."

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

All I wanted to do was just about enough

This place gets louder in the evenings, when the Casual Fridays head on home to their glasses of Casillero del Diablo and tales of what Sorcha told them in the kitchen.

There will always be left a straggler, invariably the biggest dickhead of them all, staying late to 'box things off' when he's really avoiding the wife. He'll gab away on the phone, munch on an apple, hock and snot and sigh and moan and talk to anyone that enters the room. Except me.

Two years in the same office and he never learned my name. Suppose he never had to.

Because he's the loudest man in any Dublin room I don't need to eavesdrop, his tell of 'training with the lads' and going for a barbecue on Saturday is slicing through my headphones. All I wanted was to do an adequate job at low, low prices.

His life is in my brain and I can't help wondering why he's here. He normally smiletalks his way out of the office around 4.30pm, the erection borne of a game of golf only barely disguised by bulk-bought pants on the wrong side of tight.

I imagine his wife never curses but she did last night, she told him he can fuck right off if he thinks he can saunter in at 2am on a Monday and expect her to comply. I see her flicking through his phone, annoyed to find nothing incriminating and giving him hell for the loyalty.

So he stays late, and annoys my invisible head. He fidgets and fumbles and jigs around his keys, does a dance with his jacket and eventually, come quarter to eight, heads out the door to face down a perfect domestic storm.

Friday, July 01, 2011

I think a drink

Scant time for this kind of thing lately, which is a pity because this kind of thing might just be one of my favourite things to do.

But, no, scant. A man moves cautiously through this recession but it suffices to say that good things have been happening, as well as something to do with the sinuses that have made the brain fuzzy and focused on only things immediate.

That's something of an update and I do plan on writing more next week, but who has the time?

For now, I think a drink, don't you?