Dave's Writings from Lisbon

I took a week long writing retreat to Lisbon in 2014 to work on my first book, Centum 184 (still unpublished) and wrote a short post about my first few days there alone, before my friend Dan met me. Hope you enjoy it:

First impressions are important. The airport taxi driver didn't inspire me with confidence as he asked me for directions. He struggled with his SatNav while driving on the motorway, veering across two lanes with his eyes firmly fixed on his GPS. I checked the mirrors to ensure we weren’t about to write off his car and maybe our lives.

After surviving the Mr Bean taxi driver, I got to my hotel room and couldn’t help but laugh: Room 101. I half expected Paul Merton with a slot machine to be on the other side of the door when I first entered. He wasn’t, and Winston was nowhere to be found either.

I had a small room that reminded me of my Korean apartment. Liveable and cosy. No obvious signs of showiness. It would do for three nights until I met Dan. There was no view from the window, I was just surrounded by apartments and balconies. In situations like this, I feel you are letting views in the window rather than seeing a view out of it.

I spent the first day writing and then chilling out with one euro beers while watching the football. I made some middle aged friends over dinner as well: Richard and Patricia.

Richard was a big man and was wearing a t-shirt that hung wide around him, revealing underbelly to any passing dwarfs. He had recently started working in social care, looking after immigrants, which seemed very interesting.

Patricia's thin woolly hat hid her short, bleached blonde hair. She has a tattoo on her wrist of a Chinese symbol that she thought meant “Love”. A lovely testament to the purest of feelings. Or maybe it meant Hoi Sin Duck, but who really cares, because that’s delicious anyway.

I had several beers while watching the football and I didn’t stop over dinner, continuing on my drunken quest. Richard then made my day by offering me “Lisboa’s finest smokeable green”. What a joy. Oh legalise it already world, it’s obviously brilliant so why make it a crime?! It is legal in Portugal by the way.

Richard had previously worked as a graphic designer. I love hearing people talk about life with such honesty and passion like he did. He was on painkillers from having a tooth pulled that morning and Patricia was not a drinker. But I could tell Richard enjoyed a good smoke and good luck to him, it’s the dude’s choice.

Richard's father was, and still is, a committed Nazi. He is 90 years old and most 90-year-olds don’t have a clue about anything anymore – the world’s a changed place. And yes there are Nazis and racists in the world and why shouldn’t they be allowed to grow old?

Anyway, Richard is part Romanian so I didn't really understand that. A 90-year-old Nazi that impregnated a girl from Bucharest in the sixties. The double-standards of elderly Nazis nowadays is unforgiving.

Patricia speaks eight languages: English, Spanish, Arabic, German, French, Swedish, Italian and Swiss-German. She asked me what star sign I had and extracted my birthday from me (never ask a lady her age!). We're both Aquarius. She said she could tell before I said it that I was an Aquarius.

It made sense that she believed in the mumble jumble that is horoscopy, since her work was along the same nonsense, but socially acceptable nonsense. Economics is horoscopy for megalomaniacs who think they can control everything. The high functioning fortune tellers of our times.

The couple recommended I order the clams and I duly accepted this social pressure. I didn’t mind. I enjoy people taking charge and being assertive when it comes to food, as I love all food so it doesn't matter to me.

Richard and I (nearly the name of a Shakespeare play) smoked our second “Lisboa finest”, while Patricia was paying for the meal, unbeknownst to me or Richard. This included my food and all the beers I drank during the football. This woman was a true gifter.

I was blown away by this kindness and actually feared the worst. Had they drugged me? Robbed me? Of course not. They were just pleasant human beings doing a generous act. I wasn’t nervous because of anything they said or did. It had nothing to do with them. My nervousness was a result of my conditioning. The drama that TV, film, music, and entertainment has drilled into me. They are going to con you, rob you, steal your camera, force you to pay for the entire meal. But it didn’t happen. They are just decent people sharing the love.

I spent the next day sun-dodging. I made a note of tall buildings so I knew where and when their shadow was cast. The joys of having a tree near a swimming pool so I can paddle in the shade! I sussed out where to sun dodge at any given time in advance, and planned my sunbed usage around this.

After a few days my friend Dan arrived, and the trip became a lot more touristy at this point. I still found time to write but I switched on my photography brain. 

My passing thoughts on Lisbon are that it is a beautiful capital with lots to see and do. I was a little put off by the number of drug dealers that offered me cocaine, etc. The decriminilisation of drugs in Portugal may have reduced harm overall but it did hurt my impression of the place. It was just a constant barrage of offers but maybe we looked the type; young, English, and smiling.

So I'll leave the trip there with some photos from Lisbon, Cascais, and Costa da Capirica.

Dan eating weird fruit

Great view from your window.

Surfs Up!