Walking On Sunshine

The capital of Portugal is Dublin, the Portuguese drink nothing but Guinness, and from Lisbon to Faro you’ll see people looking out for leprechauns and singing traditional Iberian folk songs like The Wild Rover.

That’s the only conclusion I can come to after spending a few weeks of summer on the Portuguese coast where every person I met sounded like they were auditioning for Boyzone or Westlife. There can’t be many people left in Ireland right now, as the number of Algarve karaoke bars resonating to ‘Danny Boy’ will testify.

I blame Ryanair, the Irish airline that takes its business plan from Fagin and its charm from Lord Voldemort, forgetting to tell you the add ons such as an actual seat, or toilet paper, or oxygen to breathe, increase the bill enormously. The Irish seem to have fallen for it, and Ryanair’s destination boards may read London, Lisbon, Paris etc, but I suspect that once in the air the pilots are all changing their minds and landing at Portugal’s Faro airport. Maybe it costs extra if you want the pilot to use his GPS.

The big trend on the continent this summer is not designer tops or shorts, but flip flops. If you haven’t got Havaianas you haven’t got anything worthwhile. These fashion must haves look like ordinary rubber shoes from the Pound shop but they have a small flag of Brazil on the strap, so cue everywhere selling rip off footwear with the little blue globe flag proudly stamped. Those photos of you lying flat on your back outside the holiday karaoke bar will make you look like Hollywood royalty if you get your feet in the picture.

Before Portugal we spent a week in Spain and flew in to Gibraltar. If you’ve never been there imaging setting a plane down on Oxford Street in a typhoon and you’ll get the picture. As we landed, passing the huge mountainous rock on our right hand side, we suddenly accelerated and took off again. A very novel way of arriving in a country. Turns out the captain wasn’t sure he’d miss someone’s house and decided to try again. If he only worked for Ryanair he’d never have to worry.

Have you noticed that one downside of our increasingly jaded lives is that a great old holiday tradition seems to have died out? No one claps and applauds the pilot any more when the plane lands. It was always a reassuring sign of being posh by deliberately, and snootily, refusing to join in, but now it seems we’re all sophisticated so I may have to start the tradition again on my next flight.

Our place on The Algarve is near Tavira, a quaint fishing town with 25 churches, 6 chapels and 5 convents. If you think you’re overworked, these are all served by 1 priest. As my daughter said “he must do a church crawl every Sunday”. I think it’s like a pub crawl but with a less varied wine choice.

As usual tattoos were in abundance on the beach, and my prize winners included a Scottish guy who had full size angel wings running the length and breadth of his back and The Mona Lisa wearing a clown nose on his arm. He tied for first place with An Essex bloke who, classily, had the word DEVIANT on his fat belly and a barcode on his back. I’m sure Jeremy Kyle is making the calls now.

We took part in a holiday quiz and actually won it, though I’m not sure how. Daughter number one was writing down the answers, and to the question “which organisation has the motto Per Ardua Ad Astra” I told her to write The RAF, and she then asked how to spell it. Seriously! She also refused to accept a question about the famous song The Londonderry Air as she couldn’t believe anyone had written a song called The London Derriere. Remind me to check how much we’ve spent on her education.

Anyway, it’s good to be home. We flew back from Faro airport and all the wannabe Boyzone people were there again, this time literally! Ronan Keating was waiting for a flight to Dublin with his kids, and even though he probably has a private jet he chose Ryanair. He must have a sense of humour.

Holidays are great, and they’re educational. I now know Ireland decamps to the Algarve for two months every year, everyone on our beach knows now that a tattoo of the Mona Lisa wearing a red clown nose is funny for just ten seconds, and my daughter has now learned how to spell RAF.

They should be compulsory.