Thursday 2 September 2021

1991 Lisbon

15.3.91 Gatwick

Strange to be sitting back here (in the café, needless to say) having failed to eat my statutory (US) muffin – only a suspiciously evanescent doughnut – beginning another of these black books – the echo of another time – but which one?  Egypt? - would be apt since the first real draft of Egyptian Romance is almost done.

But an interesting day – with headhunters, then telling my boss, then flirting with Fran – who actually and unconsciously quoted from Rubbish in Glanglish – and then to here.  But.  I do wonder where "nel mezzo del cammin" I am going… and Glanglish is a flop – except with kind friends.  So now I run away – Lisbon today, New York two weeks ago, Shannon in two weeks (fixed up today...who cares?)

Lisboa 16.3.91

I have messed up in a fairly serious way: it bucketed down rain during the night.  But all I have is my standard jacket.  Twit.

Hotel good: basic room, comfortable bed and stunning view over Lisboa (as we say).  To my left (I sit now in the top floor bar for breakfast) the castle on the hill, to my right another Golden Gate bridge (orange, that is).  In between, an undulating sea of red and orange roofs.  Further north, the blocks of flats and mini skyscrapers.  Low clouds – but also a tiny hint of blue.

A stroll into town.  Temperature perfect – if the rain keeps off…  Through small, winding, steep backstreets – easy to find the main road – but getting back hard.  However, quite run-down.  Some covered with old tiles.  Doggy-do everywhere.

Down to Praça da Figueira – quite nice, then to Rossio – good character, lots of interesting buildings.  One thing I saw on the way here: Miles Davis is in town tomorrow: if only…

Everyone, but everyone, wears black leather jackets.  I, needless to say, stand out like the proverbial.  As with all countries fresh from years of repression (Spain,  Greece), there is a lot of soft porn in evidence.  

I sit now at the riverside, at the edge of Praça do Comércio.  The river stinks, and reminds me of Varanasi for some reason...  People pour off the ferry.  Up along to the Alfama.  Past church of the the Madeleine, to the Cathedral.  Beggars outside.  Inside, five, six women.  Very over-the-top baroque interior, fine dome over the nave.  Walls faced with pale dirty orange marble.  Totally OTT baldacchino-cum-altar.  A woman rises from praying to touch the corner of an oil painting of a saint.  Then she stands, praying under her breath, before leaving.  Serious business.  Instead of lighting, candles: you put money in a slot, and one of the around 160 bulbs on plastic candles lights up.  Hmm…

Moron: now I'm in the cathedral – the other was some parish church.  Lovely Romanesque job – pure rounded arches.  That old, cold earthy smell – reminds me of that place near Aldeburgh.  Very bare inside, very austere and beautiful.  Up to Largo Santa Luzia – beautiful.  Lovely ensemble of buildings, angled roads (cobbled), and the church with its glorious tiles, and stunning view over the river.  The sun begins to come out.  

Long walk around.  Up to Castelo de S. Jorge – picturesque ruins – reminds me of San Gimignano.  Then a wander through backstreets to Largo Martim Moniz, and then to Coliseu – shut – when does it open?  Unlikely to have seats, I would have thought.  So along to Rossio for coffee at the Café Pique Nigre (???) - anyway, on the pavement, directly facing the fountain.  Very jolly in the sun, which is roaring down through broken clouds now.  Lovely day.  And lovely, as ever, to be here.  Two weeks ago I was in New York – this is getting to be a habit, and feel normal.  

Streets bustling now.  A few blacks around from North Africa (?) - everyone well wrapped up, and with brollies.  A few tourists – French, Dutch here in the café, other coachloads by the castle.  Women typically dark here, dark brown eyes.  Not particularly attractive [PS the other church was supposed to be built on the birthplace of Saint Anthony of Padua – brings Mahler to mind.]  The road where the Coliseu is - R. das Portas de Santo Antão – is very colourful, and looks to be perhaps the real heart of things.  

Once again (or is this a false memory?) a disconcerting sight of a bloke sitting down in the next pavement café, bent over a black book, writing; look up, writing… He has a ponytail – my stylish doppelganger?

Yo! Yo! And triple yo! - a ticket for Miles Davis tomorrow – what larks…

Now in Restaurant Gambrinus – a bit pricey, but what the hell.  Fish soup, then eel steak boiled and '84 white.  Yummy.  Very stiff and formal here – clientele all middle-aged men – and the waiters speak little English, which is interesting.  Things well presented: the wine served with great dash from a height, the soup on a separate table – my sort of place.  Fish soup wonderful – thick and brown like oxtail, with chunks of seafood.  Wine very dry, with a good taste.  Tomato salad was also well presented.  Opposite (I'm up on the balcony) there's a big old bloke puffing on his cigar, drinking his port.  

The eel was disappointing.  I'd imagined a large eel steak – something along the conger line.  Instead, I got a little squit of an eel, cut up into 30 small portions.  Very bony – and it tasted, well, very eely (what a fine word, let's have it again: eely – a bit like Ely, which is el-ig, of Swifts "Waterland" – muddy and a bit bland.  But one must try these things.  I've still got the lamb's testicles to try in Lebanese cooking…  And another bit of style: a wonderful blunt chopper-type instrument for scraping the crumbs off.  Creme caramel cut from a mother of a CC…  

I have just ordered a 1944 Port (costing around £10…).  I can see the bottle approaching – dusty, rarely-seen, moved with a reverence befitting its age.  Colheita do 1944 – a rite – shown to me, poured slowly, taken away – like a relic taken back to its sanctuary after the crowds have adored.  It is very tawny, orangey, sherry in colour.  How do I dare drink it?  But in terms of cost it's not much more than that £30 bottle at Pollyanna's I once drank.  So, here goes… Sherry, then a fragrance, then toffee, then the fragrance again.  You can taste the brandy…

The hot, burnt, strong coffee acts as a kind of sandpaper for the palette – served from a kind of chemistry set retort.  A very strange experience – that sense of reverence – 46 years old – older than me – the oldest drink I've ever had…  Probably ten mouthfuls - £1 each.  Also, this port was bottled during the war.  Strange to drink something created then.  But then Portugal is a kind of time capsule, standing outside the mainstream European history.  The residual bitterness of the coffee grouts go well with the port.  The last mouthful – but by now, my senses have been dulled by the power of the first few – Ô paradoxe…  

Long, long walk out to the Gulbenkian Modern Art collection – free with NUJ card.  Fantastic building – pix bit ho-hum, mostly Portuguese.  But some interesting Brit stuff – Michael Andrews, Peter Blake, Hockney, early Hodgkin.  But no expense spared for the collection.

To the main musuem – again free, but sans bag this time.  I ignore the Egyptian stuff – seems pointless really.  The layout of the museum is beautifully spare and sparse, everything presented to the best effect.  Beautiful Roman vases – unusual effects – someone must have been pleased when he discovered them.  Assyrian seals – nice: shown in material the same colour as the cylinder.  Interesting: Armenian art.  We tend to forget that Armenia once was a great empire.  Two fine Rembrandts – one of them a young man in a helmet and armour, the other – very fine – of an old man in almost Scottish garb.  The eyes, the hands very good good, lovely burnished tones of his cloak and gown.  Two unusual Ruysdaels: one of a pool, but with a half-timbered church next to it, the other of a stormy seascape.  Gob-smacking portrait of Colbert by Sebastian Bourdon – I've never seen a pic that seemed so likely to walk out of its frame and say "bonjour".  

Famous Rubens of Hélène Fourment – but in a dress…  A Venetian velvet fan.  Amazing, I recognise a Nattier straight off.  A very human bust of Molière, a very Mozartian smile on his features.  Portrait of Madamoiselle Salle – looking just like Glenn Close…  An extremely naughty statue of Diana by Houdon – complete with labia, not just a bump…  Nice Gainsborough – Mrs Lowndes-Stone – less aloof than many.  A roomful of Venice – all Guardis – nice one of fair in Piazza San Marco – very strange effect – all the grandeur gone.  Including Guardi's realisation of the Palladio bridge at the Rialto

Trouville by Boudin - I vaguely recognised the scene.  Amazing Turner of Quillebeuf - great.  Terrifying shipwreck scene too – makes you realise what the Titanic must have been like.  Pic of Venice – by Corot: dead, dead, dead.  Recognised Fantin-Latour – whatever next?  Lovely Monet.  Burne-Jones – Mirror of Venus with all the reflections terribly off.  Re-looking at Guardi: there are no birds here either – was Venice devoid of them, or did Guardi copy this aspect of Canaletto?  

So, I sit in the restaurant Já Disse – after a trek and a half.  I have heard my first fado – and not bad it was – but the swordfish is off the menu… I am risking cod, which is meant to be characteristic – let's hope it's also good.

From Gulbenkian by metro – very cheap (45 centavos - about 20p) – very clean and efficient – to Soccorso, the nearest stop.  Then out – straight into the red light district.  Very interesting the patterns of people – that strange kind of loitering that is unique to these districts.  Lots of stares as I pass not once, but twice past all the "bars" with ladies – some not so young – outside [fado is off again.  When I entered during a song, they wouldn't let me through – respect for the fado must be a good sign.  A few words on it: I've got blokes here – high baritones, lots of vibrato.  Two guitars – one playing counterpoint de dum stuff, the other, with its characteristic shape, plays an obbligato line.  Voice really keen – minor key stuff – vaguely modal at times.]  Caldo verde – cabbage soup plus potatoes – and <i>one</i> piece of sausage.

At first I was worried that the singers and players were in their woolies – but I realise now that this is actually a guarantee of their authenticity.  One of the problems I had while walking through the grid of Barrio Alto – finding it finally – was deciding which of the ten or so fado restaurants I should choose.  Most disqualified themselves by their deeply tacky ads outside – star-spangled fado stars.  This had little – but it did have a very neatly wordprocessed menu – I went into job interview mode, where details like that count, hovered for ages – then entered.  Looks good so far – perhaps only one other tourist couple, the rest Portuguese.  Interesting design here: a fake wooden roof – rather like Felfela – and some rather gruesome pelts on the walls – foxes et al.

An amazing concoction has turned up – cod and potatoes in boiling butter – lethal – plus garlic.  Yup, totally lethal – pure garlic but, alas, that ain't a problem.  The carafe of vinho has also done its work – on to the chocolate mousse…

So, as I was saying, finally back to the hotel for a rest – I have walked miles today (yo! M. Davis), a shower, then by taxi to Praça do Comércio – fine in the dusk.  Up to Rossio, then out to Barrio Alto – a long walk, missing it at first, going too far, then back to here, wandering and wandering, looking for that place juste – and possibly finding it – insofar as a tourist can in one day.  And now to coffee – but no port after lunchtime.  Dinky coffee cups – with equally dinky coffee spoons.  

One of the singers seems to be the owner/maître d'.  A large lady has rolled in – a started singing rather well – a throaty female voice.  This is definitely the biz – the audience is joining in, visibly moved.  Interesting the jazzy variations in the chorus.  Place filling up now – 19.15pm.  She weighs 20 stone if she's an ounce (a thumb).  Just ordered a madeira (I hope) – when queried, I said "ναι"…the influence lives on.  OK, so I'm weak – on to a second coffee, black, small and perfectly formed – and the madeira – not bad – because it's clear I need to hear more the large lady ('cos it's not over until…).  Nice: singer/owner/maître d' drinking brandy with guests – a good feel here…

Interesting that the madeira has a final slightly bitter aftertaste – unlike the '44 port.  Drinking this stuff is like chromatography on the tongue: lingual chromatography; I can almost feel the different components separate.  

Female chefs – with a kitchen covered in azulejos – and I failed to spot the connection between azul and lapis lazuli – twit.  The fox skin next to me is hammered to the wall with nails and 50 centavos pieces.   

A good day, making life seem quite bearable at times… 

Lisboa 17.3.91

Glorious, glorious morning – though with clouds coming in perhaps.  And what a glorious night yesterday.  Yes, well worth the effort of searching and searching for Já Disse – the singing was pretty authentic – even down to the large lady just dropping in, having a quick sing.  Pity about the "Madeira", which was prime grade engine oil at some point in its life.  Talking of oil, the coffee here is as black – really strong, French-type – milk makes little dent in its negritude.  A pretty sterling breakfast.

It's strange looking out from my eyrie here, how the scene before me – yesterday an inchoate roil of roofs and half-visible streets – has become a city with thoroughfares and characters even.  At various points I can identify landmarks: Santa Luzia, Castelo San Jorge, Rossio, the Eiffel "Tower" of the Santa Justa Lift etc.  I am beginning to claim Lisboa.

But yesterday.  After the meal, and the fado, I emerged into quite a different world from the one I left.  The narrow streets were seething with people – young people, including a fair few senhoritas – they exist here.  As I walked past tiny, nondescript doorways, I saw inside packed smokey rooms, young people everywhere, talking, joking, laughing.  Some were restaurants, some cafés, some bars, some just rooms.  All were low and atmospheric.  I suddenly realised how Soho must once have been – in the 50s? Colin MacInnes et al.? - a tiny area that comes alive only at night, like sea animals animated by the dark wave of water at high tide – I just had to walk and walk – pure being.

But then back to Rossio – the bars along the way spilling out onto the pavements.  Lovely buzz.  Down to the Tejo, smelling like Venice – and indeed much of Lisboa reminds of Venice – Venice on a hill, without the water...especially near my hotel.  "The Hills of Venice"…

I pick a taxi driver who doesn't know the way, so can't find it.  Amazing how few people speak English here – good sign.  I wonder what Miles will be doing today – yo!  Wonderful muzak in the background – old Sinatra hits, numbers from the 60s, musicals, all in swooning strings, chunky saxes, punchy trumpets.

Now that I have my bearings better, I walk easily to Praça de Graça, then to Santa Luzia.  Now in Alfama, sitting in glorious sun, beside São Miguel.  Pigeons coo around me, water plashes from a sea monster in a fountain on a wall.  The sound of Sunday stirrings.  Again, this place is amazingly like Venice, especially with regard to dog-dirt – you can't afford to admire too much lest you put your foot in it.  Also of the square in San Gimignano.  Carpets on a line to dry by the church, two netball baskets – sponsored by Coca-Cola.  I sit on a stone bench backed by a hundred azulejos – all different.

Along to Santo Estêvão, so like San Francesco della Vignola in Venice.  On the way, took the narrowest steps imaginable – the roofs closing above me. Round the back of the church, a blind doggia and azulejos, a strange heavy grille opposite, big stone bollards.  Down the Escolinhas, a zigzag of paths, railings, trees, houses – a photographer's paradise…

By the wotsit monument in Belem, - finally.  Another Moody magical mystery tour.  Decide to take taxi...turns out there is a big run today, with thousands of people – and the road to Belem is closed.  So we end up taking a huge detour.  But...I did find two things serendipitously: the house with the spiked rustication looked like azulejos gone mad – and the great aqueduct.  So all was not lost.

Now in lovely sun, cool breeze, lapping of waves, tens of sailing dinghies out.  I'm sorry, but I rather like the monument – it strides out into space rather fetchingly, the clouds flee behind.  Very peaceful here.

Inside the Torre do Belem – free today.  Harpsichord music (whose? - CPE Bach/WF Bach-ish) – pleasant.  Strange to be in the place – the only place – I've associated with Lisboa in my filing system.  A long way here, hardly worth it frankly…  But pleasant with the music on the harpsichord.

After coffee nearby, to Belem proper, and the Monastery dos Jeronimos.  Gorgeous interior – King's College Chapel-type perpendicular on the roof of the nave, the columns crazily alive – as if the stone were bubbling.  Lots of people around because of the race.  Interesting empty niches along walls with doors beneath.  A sudden burst of sunshine lights up the space.  Fine gallery in the west end – giving a lovely low space underneath.  Double-decker cloisters, small formal garden – wonderfully peaceful – reminds me of Sant'Agostino, again at San Gimignano.  The stone used here weathers beautifully: black and white striping.  In the distance, I hear Gregorian chant, echoing, booming.  Great, tiny (sic) carvings of devils and monsters et al.  To the West, a long, low room with simple scenes on tiles. Fine fireplace and picture of Santo Jeronimo – plus lion…

Rosa dos Mares Restaurant – upstairs – cool, rustic décor – just on Rua de Belem along from Rafael restaurant – Fodor's recommendation, which is closed.  Fairly full with locals – big capacity at back.  Walls rough plaster – very thickly applied, painted pink, white woodwork, wooden floor.  Wine – although house – not bad, slightly tawny.  Whenever I eat in these places – places with pretension – I often think back to those first trips with my family to eat at the London Steak House in Epsom.  Albeit very limited, they did at least introduce me to the concept and normality of eating out – so that later in life I would take to it like the proverbial duck.  I feel sorry for those who whom I meet at work who are plainly ill-at-ease in this context, be they never so senior.  Alas, a little bland the food here.  The vegetable soup lacking flavour, the kid not meaty enough (though not as tough as my goat curry in Brixton…)  Cold baked apple and marsala.  OK… but all for £11.

It's funny, beginning to think about Son of Glanglish...masochism, pure masochism – but when I get back I will send out a few copies for a lark.

To the Museum of Coaches: it joins Moody's Museum of Mad Musems – along with the hunting place – Chambord and the one in Jodhpur.  Good setting for a horror film – a large hall filled with gilt and velvet bristling coaches – all gross.  But undoubtedly, they have a certain something.  Fine group of post horns – perfect circles.  From the gallery, everything looks so old and musty.  And like some mad ancient dragsters convention.

To the Museu Art Antiga – unknown to the taxi driver – perfect timing – 15 minutes before it opens.  Nice Danaid of Rodin.  Unexpected Piero della Francesca – St. Augustine.  Rock solid and stern – his cloak scenes from the Bible.  The terrifying "Temptation of St. Anthony" by Bosch: what a unique and precocious spirit his was – his vision is so modern in many ways – destruction, sexuality, gross consumption, nightmare drug delirium.  And the fluidity of his images – men turning into trees, heads into bodies, animals into men…  The blazing city – the terrors of war and invasion, the flying machines – what looks like a spaceship almost [downstairs, a piano is moving up a semitone at a time in octave tremolos...why?].  Back here after "doing" the peters out oddly in a new section – very dark and quiet.  Interesting Japanese screens showing the arrival of the first Europeans – the Portuguese.  But the best is the Bosch – so zu sagen.  And I am now exhausted, my feet killing me.  

The lord gives etc. - interesting ripoff in the taxi – he had a meter in the glove department – and only revealed at the end, and obviously running for a while – but I realised too late and lacked the words – and energy – to argue over £1...worth it for the knowledge.  But rewarded with a ride in Eiffel's lift – and it really looks like the Eiffel Tower in the lift from my memory.  Up at the top, I notice that my hotel is practically the top of Lisbon – brilliantly situated.

Lisbon quite animated.  From here, I see the taxi rank – their green tops – oxidised copper colour forming a tasteful blob by the theatre.  Looking forward to tonight.  So, after walking down – good to see that the fire damage to the old part was not that bad – after buying some chestnuts (castanhas) – cold, some off – god knows what it'll do to my guts – but then I could do with losing some weight – I'm back in Pic-Nic, breathing in old smoke – which seems vaguely appropriate to Portugal, since everyone smokes, drinking milky coffee.  Why here?  Partly because the reasons for going elsewhere are not really good enough – i.e. being different for the sake of it – partly because this is the best place to watch the world – and the darkening skies – and to catch a taxi "home".  As ever, I'm glad to be going back – if only because I've really pushed myself these 48 hours, and am now exhausted.  

I wonder where the attractive young women of the Bairro Alto last night go during the day.  They ain't here…   Reminds me (lots of this) of the central square in Oslo, also of the Place de l'Opéra in Paris – with the theatre in the distance.  Lots of people with trannies around – must be football – my conning taxi-man had it on – in between ogling women as he drove.  But then he is his own punishment…

Archetypal Latins – smoke like chimbleys.  Brolly clutchers too – worse than Brits.  Chestnuts in Munich…  When putative Brits walk by, it is almost painfully obvious, with their pasty complexions.  Well, let's go the whole hog – having a port with my coffee – the latter being pretty horrible – if only to see what roadside port is like.  A generous measure – about double, 2.5 times UK.  A warm glow in the mouth and gullet.  It makes me feel positively eighteenth century – cf. Whigs and Tories.  A tradition I could get into the habit of – drinking port mid afternoon by the bucket… Particularly now that the air temperature is dropping.

Back to the hotel for a rest – and a shave, hoping to save time tomorrow.  Then in to town, to eat before the concert.  Along to the road on with the Coliseu finds itself – lots of fish restaurants – some almost empty – and this one, almost full (too full? - we're all cramped together, and the service is frayed) – but getting fuller too.  Many people out – a real contrast with the UK – Sunday is dead there.  Here it is almost the day out by the look of things. 

Strange to see the huge lobsters alive at the front, waiting for their turn – presumably.  I've just been shown my half – not too closely connected.  So the meal...well, the shrimp bisque a little watery, the  lobster (grilled) not as good as that in The Gambia.  Am I fated never to have a perfect meal here?  Cf. The fruits de mer at L'Huîtrière in Boulogne – now that was a meal and a half…

Interesting implements for eating: a hammer for breaking the shell.  [At times I take a perverse delight in my cacography – and in its wild curlicues – almost abstract on the page – especially with my ideography].  An interesting effect: because the lobsters are in a tank in the window, and we are below the tank, it seems that we are below the water too…  My expresso brings back memories of ...Sicily, and the Monreale Cathedral – a bar near there, lethal coffee and the standard glass of water…

60 minutes to go… (and I hope he does turn up…)

Among the lobsters, there is one top dog (sic) who sits @ the top of one of the two ladders:  will he/she be first/last to go (and parenthetically, where did this "@" lark start…?)

Could I stay on the road for a year, say? Εξαρτάται: I tend to drive myself when I'm away – and exhaust myself.  If I were away for longer, I'd have to ease up.  Is this Moody's Second or Third Law of Tourism?  [I also remember the curved road down from Monreale…]  A good sunset this evening, golds and mauves – made me think of Egyptian Romance, waiting for me.  

£40 for that?  But who cares?  I'm in the Coliseu – about 50 feet from the front.  Amazing place – holds 8000 they say – cheap seats, packed, the Plateia – where I am not – people smoking though – wooden floor, wooden seats – everything wooden – makes King's Cross look like a match.  Gob-smacking place – ten tiers then two tiers of boxes, plus one of standing at the top.  Only possible because I'm getting a 7.20am flight, unusually…  Fine royal box at the back.  I can see I have committed a solecism by not tipping the little man who showed me to my seat.

Lisbon airport 18.3.91

So here I sit at a rather quiet airport, having been woken from a very, very deep sleep at 5am.  Up quickly, a final farewell to the wonderful sights from my windows – San Gimignano again, of course – then by taxi here.

Great concert last night – even if it did end at 12.30am… leaving me precious little time to sleep.  The band was actually bass guitar (Richard?), drums (Ricky), guitar (…?), sax (Kenny), and keyboards (odd name) – all young players, all extremely good – plus MD.  I have never seen such authority on stage as when the man walked on in his black shades, platform heels, and black lame trousers – looking for all the world like the world-famous maestro he is.  His trumpet – miked by a kind of crook – a shocking red in places.

The music was – for want of a better term – jazz-funk – very hard-driven, lots of synth, lots of funky bass.  To begin, M. played with a mute – and the dusty, scuffed sound could be no one else's.  It was immediately recognisable from his recordings – and seemed produced without effort – the odd high note punched out in the sky.

Because of the miking he was able to start with his back to the audience, next to the drum kit, playing softly, very subtly.  Gradually he moved to the front, but in doing so, and in heating things up, he seem to dive down deeper and deeper into himself, bent double like a man in pain.  Must be damn difficult getting the breath control…

Then out came the mute, and more forthright playing – but all very placed, broken up.  And this would be the pattern of the evening, no excess – no sweat, literally, for him.  He left the pyrotechnics to his young bloods – and they provided it in abundance, roaring and squawking.  M.D. simply presided over it all, quite often playing with them – literally and metaphorically in a rather extraordinary way.

He would make them come to the front – like a teacher – and then play with - to - at - them, cajoling them, teasing them, provoking them.  They too bent slightly, as if in reverence, as if learning from the master.  Which they were.  And what a master.  He was a wise old lion prowling the stage, lashing out occasionally, growling sometimes, roaring at others.  His great mane/wig of hair – dyed, looking quite appropriate – gave him the air of some visitor from another planet, a mighty alien with the brain of a planet etc…  He simply dominated everything.  Whether he walked, stalked, stood, played, stayed – whatever – he just held the thousands there in his hands – with his instrument.  

[Some pretty stewardesses in their redcoats – so they exist…]

The music was OK – some drive there, but hardly inspired stuff.  Instead we came to see the man – to just be.  After all, a literal living legend – going back 40 years in jazz to the "Birth of the Cool" and beyond – and still there.  I feel privileged – and well pleased – to have seen him, given my late arrival at jazz.  At least I will be able to say: "of course, I saw Miles Davis live…".

A non-stop set of around two hours, the crowd well-behaved apart from a few nits calling out.  Bloke and woman either side of me smoking...odd effect: to look around the huge, dark hall and see firefly specks of burning cigarettes.  Also: to see the spotlights cut a swathe through the smoke, their beams like wedges.  But good (metaphorical) atmosphere.  Lovely venue – with its wooden floor, the acoustics are good - at least from where I was sitting, which was close.  I hope the whole thing doesn't burn down…

The set ended with Miles first playing slow and soft – again that dusky, dusty sound, that effortless sprinkling of notes.  Beautiful.  We went wild of course, and gave a standing ovation – but to the band, because Miles slipped off after a final uptempo number – and we had not realised our loss – symbolic?  The gig actually ended with a huge solo from the drummer – interesting way to sign off – this guy going bananas alone on stage, at the end of a long, late – great – night.  An experience I would not have missed for anything.

So, what else would I not have missed in these 48 hours or so?  Well, Lisboa herself, a real find – a place I would love to come back to.  A civilised weekend sort of place.  Also Portugal – I must return and sample the rest of it, I'm pretty sure there must be much that is unspoilt – scilicet the number of taxi drivers et al. who don't speak English – always a good sign.  Then of course the 46-year-old port, Santa Luzia, Bairro Alto – the fado, the bustle and 12 midnight.  San Jeronimo, the Bosch – and Miles, Miles, Miles.

My hotel is a find – brilliant location for the view – and cheap (cheaper than the bloody lobster, actually). [One thing I noted with Miles – his gammy right leg – he was limping quite visibly…]  One other fairly crucial thing I have gained is Portuguese – in the sense I feel that I could learn it quite quickly once my Spanish is up to speed.  And this in its turn means Brazil is opened up, and with it South America, which is great.  I also feel that a missing part of of the great jigsaw puzzle of Europe has been found for me – Portugal was always a nasty bite out of the Iberian Peninsular – a hole both geographically and metaphysically – I knew little of its history and culture.  Now I feel that everything's coming together a little more.

[I forgot the word for M.D.: magisterial.]

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