Here Comes The Sun

I’m just back from a week at the small tumbledown shack we own in Portugal.

I had hoped for a few late Autumn rays of sunshine but we actually had seven days of blistering sunshine, with temperatures around 28 degrees in the shade. For any garlic avoiders out there who stick resolutely to buying wine by the pint and weighing

themselves in stones because going metric means they’ll be forced to turn French, 28 degrees Celcius is around 82 degrees Fahrenheit. In. The. Shade!

I learned a lot this week in Portugal. For instance I now know that if you want to burgle a house you should grab a flight to Ireland as soon as possible as no one is there; they’re all on holiday in the Algarve.

Looking along the lines of beach residents with their mops of red hair and carcasses framed by milky skin steadily being chickenpoxed by ever more pushy freckles, I found myself whistling Enya hits and hoping for a fiddle player to come out of the water playing Riverdance tunes. I understand all of his countrymen wanting to escape Bono, but all at the same time?

The plane from Gatwick was populated with, how shall I say this tactfully, fat people. Somewhere in Essex there is a doctor who encourages men to grow their beer bellies until they reach a certain massive size, and they are then rewarded on prizegiving night with a Chelsea shirt, one earring, and a Thompson’s holiday voucher. They were all very friendly and I feel I know all their children very well, at least by name, as I enjoyed choruses of “Madison, stop that”, or “Tequila, leave Britney alone”, or “where’s Dwaine and Dakota?” My favourite was “Rihanna leave Shaneesha’s fags alone.” It was like a roll call on the X Factor.

The guy who looks after our little place in the sun is called Herman, a Dutch man of around seventy who has travelled the world in the merchant navy, but despite his love of other countries, and his mastery of several languages, he has never forgiven the Germans for one particular aggressive act during the war. Was it the invasion of Poland? Mocking the Treaty of Versailles? The invention of the doodlebug? No. They stole his bike.

Our gardener, Frank, however, is from Munich and thus you can imagine how they get on together. Frank is a bit of a hippy with a bandana and a ponytail which flutters behind him as he rides the hills on his prized Harley Davidson. I expect to hear any day that Herman has nicked it in revenge.

I knew that Frank had been a successful businessman in Germany and had given the rat race up to live at a more modest pace in the Portuguese sunshine, but I discovered this week for the first time that he very nearly became a world champion at martial arts. He made the final a few years ago and, in front of global TV coverage, lasted all of five seconds. “It was unfortunate. My opponent kicked me in the balls”.

Frank then retired from competition nursing a couple of grudges and taught ladies of the oldest profession how to defend themselves, until their pimps offered him money to stop.

So you see just a week in Portugal is like a year anywhere else. From airport to holiday home and back the people are colourful and interesting, and you get more sunshine than a decade of UK summers.

It’s time to start planning the next visit. Just so long as Shaneesha and her sister are sitting on another plane. You can get too much of a good thing
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The great Glasgow actor Gerard Kelly died this week. Gerard was known for his roles as Jimmy in Eastenders, camp producer Bunny in the Ricky Gervais’ comedy Extras and, following years of his TV comedy hit City Lights, he became the prince of panto every winter in Glasgow.

Two months ago I compered a charity show in a packed Glasgow theatre that saw Gerard bring the house down with his brand of comedy. He was always polite and generous with his public, constantly smiling and genuinely seeming to have a ball. When I asked him that night how things were going he replied that he was “still getting away with it”, which is the mark of a humble man.

He will be missed.

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