Portugal in the Box – #16

Saturday 14th June 2008

Peniche

A country surrounded by the sea, but it is not an island. Half of the country is under the sea and connected to the mainland through a normal network of roads and railways. Submarines underwater are a normal transport too, as are buses.

I am now in the part of the country which is above water, and I think I lived there once. It consists of an megalithic glass tower, surrounded by a big, brown stone wall. The tower itself consists of 3 levels. The first level is the commercial area, the second level the leisure area, and the top level is the one with the town hall, all official institutes and the banks.

On the wall, skirting around the country there is a piste, for some sport like skating, skateboarding, ski, etc.

At the moment a roller skating championship is taking place there. I have been chosen by the town hall to open the championship, I will have to make a lap of honour on roller skates on the piste around the country. They have made a film about me, apparently about my life in this country when I was a child, and they show it everywhere in the country. I feel awful that they exhibit me like that! While I am sitting in a bar and watch this film, an old friend comes up to me and tells me that he is leaving this part of the country, he wants to go and live underwater… it makes me very sad… „

A wonderful day out with the bikes today! We had driven around the cape yesterday and decided that we should do it with the bikes today, this allowing us to see much more of the coastline. It was simply a fantastic trip, not much wind, just a nice little breeze, not many hills, just the right gradient up sometimes to enjoy the ride down.. we stopped many times to look at the bizarre rock formations, and I made some drawings. I said some days before that if you want to learn to draw houses and monuments, you should spend 2 weeks in Sintra. Now I say if you want to learn to draw rocks and stones, come to Peniche!

I had a student once, an old English lady, she has spent years trying to draw stones and could not. After the first lesson out with me, where we drew a landscape with some little stones in the foreground, she was able to draw something which looked like a stone. She was incredibly happy and thanked me a hundred times. All these years she had just needed the right tip… don´t ask me now which one it was, I can´t remember! And anyway I am not myself a big stone drawer: I understand that they are very interesting and perhaps fascinating to draw, but I miss the colour too much… they don´t really inspire me. And when something does not really inspire me, by that I mean when I don´t get an emotional heart attack looking at a theme, I can´t really make the necessary effort… in fact I am just a lazy artist dedicated to pleasure!

We made a longer stop by the lighthouse. It was about 2 in the afternoon and I was hungry. I spotted at once a stand where an old Portuguese man was selling regional products of the sweet sort, cookies and so on. We bought the biggest cake, it looked round and sugary and bright yellow as it was full of eggs and butter. We sat alone on a big rock halfway down the cliff to eat it. But the cake was a big deception, a typical example of „The appearance being more exciting than the consumption…“… The cake had no taste, was totally dry and it was just hard work to swallow the bits!

Shortly after we were diverted from the coast road by some policemen and scouts. We wondered why, as there was not apparently much traffic, and no road works. But as we approached the town we saw that almost all the roads were blocked. We started to see some athletes on bikes, people sitting on their doorsteps and applauding, then we saw some athletes running… it looked quite surreralistic in fact, as it is a town with narrow perpendicular streets everywhere, and wherever we looked we saw some biker or runner, just one second… could have been one of my dreams!

Finally we arrived in the main square which was full of people and television cameras and were stuck there for one hour: we simply were in the middle of a national triathlon competition, the whole being part of a festival called „The Flavours of the Sea“. How we managed to be out with the bikes exactly when all the roads were blocked, I don´t know!

It was great to watch though, to see how all the population was participating. Above all I enjoyed to see all the old people out there, or sitting at their door entrance and watching at the bikers and runners, applauding when they passed by, laughing, and shouting:

Run and ride, run and ride, run and ride!“

They obviously all enjoyed the day, and once more it gave me the feeling that Portugal is a very healthy country. A great atmosphere is reigning among the population. I find by the way that this has changed a lot since I was here the last time, 10 years ago.

Before we went back to the motorhome we sat in a cafe in a very lively square. A great atmosphere again, people waiting everywhere for the last runners to appear at some street corner. I must make special mention of an old lady, all in black, sitting on a chair. She was so small that her feet could not reach the ground and she balanced her crossed legs all the time like little children do. It was extraordinarily funny as she was wearing black kneesocks. I wanted to draw her, started with the head but then noticed that I had no paper left for the rest of the body: such a beginner´s mistake! I was so frustrated , and so tired too, that I did not try again. What a pity!

In the evening we went back to the town, to get info about the gig. I could feel how Kevin would have loved to be on stage himself… I felt his excitement very deeply and I would have even agreed to go to the gig with him if he had asked me. But anyway the gig was much later, and we were tired. We made some phone calls home, and went back to our home cinema, to follow the next adventures of the West Wing heroes.

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