I want to be upfront and honest. I dye my hair blonde (it’s grey), I am fifty years old, I wear men’s jeans so I don’t look so fat and I hate flying and getting in anything high up that is not secured properly (they go hand in hand really). This might include such things as big wheels, helicopters, platform shoes, parachutes etc.
I love sushi, watching Nurse Jackie (for her bitch like qualities, pill taking without a conscience and the fact she feels no need to wear those stupid nurse’s crocs), and I prefer to write with a fountain pen (typing doesn’t do it for me, OK, it leaves no ink on my finger, but I can’t draw stick men in the margin).
Most of all I love the city of Porto. This is just as well as I now have an apartment there. It wasn’t a case of ‘I liked this razor so much I bought the company’ or ‘I love fruit so bought an iMac’ or ‘I love Formula 1 so much I gave up the day job and spend my life travelling around Europe impersonating Fernando Alonso, eating large quantities of sushi and farting in restaurants’. This was a cold-headed investment of our entire life savings in a desperate attempt to stop ourselves spending them on wine and shoes.
Anyway, we are in fact on the other side of the river in Vila Nova De Gaia because the grass is greener on the other side. We are a ‘God these shoes are killing me from walking all day but I can see the flat from here, so I’ll bear it’ away from the D. Luis I bridge, famous because it’s famous. (I should mention here that some people think the bridge is famous because the guy that designed the Eiffel tower in Paris, can’t remember his name, think it began with an ‘E’ and rhymed with trifle) apparently designed the D. Luis I Bridge too, but he didn’t build it personally. He had a bit of a practice at the one two along, the baby version, AKA the Maria Pia Bridge, what were they on when they named that one? I think he was still a bit fagged out after building that one so he got one of his trainees to do it. If it’s anything like trainee hairdressers, it was probably supposed to be another tower and he cocked up, he meant to build a tower and it fell over and became a bridge, it’s possible, if so there may have been this conversation:-
Eiffel: Oh, sorry Paulo. It’s young Teofilo here. I don’t know how many times I’ve told him to use the no. 15 rivets but he never listens, he’s work experience, see.
Mayor of Porto: What the hell am I supposed to do now? It’s fallen right across the bloody Douro. I’m up for re-election in 3 months. My reputation is going to be in tatters.
Eiffel: Never mind your reputation, matey, what about mine…hey, it has gone right across the river… hmm, I the great Gustav Eiffel have an idea… stick with me on this Paolo and I’ll make heroes out of both of us….
Anyway, the one Eiffel built himself, it seems, might not be there for much longer. It’s a single track railway bridge that hasn’t been used for 20 years, and it seems nobody wants to take responsibility for its upkeep. Maybe they will make up a song about it – Eiffel’s bridge is falling down, falling down, Maria Pia.
So we are at the top of the famous for being the Eiffel bridge even though it isn’t, up high, as opposed to down on the Ribeiro, and we benefit from having a seagull’s view of everything. For us to get down to where the seagulls deposit their daily intake of fish and tourist’s ice cream cones, we can do any one of the following:
A. Walk along historic cobbled streets in-between the beautiful Port houses of Gaia and trip trap over the lower level of the ‘famous for being famous’ bridge, while looking up and feeling inspired to dig out that old Meccano set in the attic, and looking down at the barrel-carrying boats taking sightseers on the majestic River Douro.
B. Slide on a tea tray on our backsides down the very same historic cobbled streets in-between the beautiful Port houses of Gaia and so on and so on. Maybe not such a good method but it may work.
C. Get a taxi, by raising our right hand ever so slightly towards the beige coloured vehicle with the ever so friendly Portuguese man seated waiting, with a tip of our head to say ‘over here’.
D. Walk across the ‘ famous for being famous’ bridge and take the funicular (clamped so tightly onto the rails that are clamped so tightly onto the side of the rock using precise engineering with no room for error) to the bottom and mosey on down a few steps.
E. Take the loosely swinging death-is-inevitable cocoon- like cable car.
Now for me B is probably out, as I am fifty and a gran and I would not make it far down the cobbled streets on a tea tray before I was reminded of an ailment I have been afflicted with since giving birth to one of my three children. A would be good, as would C and D, all routes that would leave me with a spring in my step and with change in my pocket as the cost is minimal if I take option C and free if I take A and D.
My wife’s preferred route down is E. My wife thinks because as I am blonde (see upfront opening) she can ‘lure me’ to her preferred route down with idle chitchat like ‘mmmm, I wonder if the sushi restaurant is open’ (see upfront opening). So on that promise of sorts she gets me to the crossroads of ‘yer going down’.
I smile at the thought of the slow jaunt over the bridge en route to the ‘clamped to the rails’ funicular and I dream of a Salmon California hand roll. I grin impishly at the children playing in the park with the skateboard and try to think if I could ask for extra soya sauce this time as the Sashimi is always better with more.
I nod across confidently at the taxi with his ‘ready and waiting’ light on the roof of his off white Mercedes as I picture a futo maki. I almost burst into a happy Fado (tautology) as I see the cobbled streets and Port houses in front of me, with a mirage of saki coloured by a rainbow maki on the skyline………but she pauses. She turns her body. I hear the Jaws sound track; she steps away from the small children and the board with wheels on. She brushes off the friendly cabby and side steps the bridge and skips towards THE cable car AGAIN.It’s at this point ( 3 times she has caught me) I am deafened by the Jaws music in Dolby stereo, surround sound and blue toothed directly into my ear drums and I swear I can see a shark fin in the river below, circling. How does she get me every time? I wear men’s jeans for god’s sake, I am tough, and I eat liver and can operate heavy machinery while on Valium but please not the cable car. I hate it hate it hate it. Even the name scares me. “Cable car” is fine, cable is reasurring, and a car stays firmly on the ground, so it doesn’t sound too bad. But the Portuguese word for it is “teleferico”, a word that seems to go with “telekinesis” and “telepathy”, which says to me, “stand at the top here and we’ll whisk you off the edge of this cliff and down to the bottom using only the power of our minds.” I break into a sweat and my heart starts racing, my mind gets busy and I picture myself falling while I am trapped inside the ‘not clamped on but just hanging there’ cocoon-like thing as it spins and deposits me on the river’s edge where I bounce, still encased, into the murky shark-infested waters of the Douro. But in my mind, I escape like Houdini and make for the surface only to be eaten by that shark that I knew was there all along.
You see, my Mum always had these sayings that suited the occasion, like ‘if God wanted us to have pierced ears he would have made it so we were born with holes in our ears’. Or ‘If God wanted us to wear flip flops he would have given us forked feet’. Well I think if God meant us fly he would have given us wings, not just this flabby arm fat. By the same reasoning, if he meant us to swing precariously from a very loosely fitting cocoon he would surely have made us all silk worms hanging by an umbilical cord to our mothers until she chose to part with us.I try so hard to make out I am not scared and appear nonchalant by saying flippant things like ‘oh my God this thing is so high!’ I gave the game away when this happened last time we were with a friend and I said ‘no don’t take pictures, yes, I know it’s a wonderful experience but you are moving about the cocoon way too much, the thing is shaking. I need you to only breathe if you have to and don’t sneeze, cough or turn your head, nothing that will alert the cocoon to the fact it may need to drop us.’ I mean those things can go at any time, only this week two lots of innocent everyday sort of folk have been held upside down by some fairground ride for hours, Google it if you don’t believe me, it’s the machine that wins in the end. So I was not impressed by the teleferico, the first time, the second time or the third time. The thing is my wife would never eat sushi, she hates it, in fact she won’t even go into said restaurant but I have fallen for the bait enough. I won’t go on it now even if the cable car stopped actually in THE restaurant at an ‘all you can eat for 3 Euros’ table. I for one will not be using that means of transportation again. However, if you are in Gaia, wear womens/mens jeans and are under fifty, go right ahead, you will love it. If however you have ever had a nightmare where you are falling………..did anyone check whether it was a trainee who built the bloody thing? Well it makes you think doesn’t it?