My train journey to Beja took me through the Alentejo region, which had recently been subject to fierce fires that swept across the entire region. The Algarve and the Alentejo regions are miles upon miles of desolate, arid, dry mud fields, broken up by cork oaks and olive groves.
The most obvious sign of the conspiracy is the Portuguese language. Although the written word looks very much like Spanish the spoken word actually sounds like a cross between Arabic and Nordic. In other words they make it up as they go along. When the locals speak amongst themselves they are actually speaking Spanish, but whenever a tourist is present they break into a language that does not actually exist.
Upon my return the bearded man-woman had taken it upon herself to keep my towel warm by spreading her fat self across my sun-lounge. When I indicated that she was in my space she grunted but didn’t move. OK, so she could keep the sun-lounge but I wanted my towel back.
My, my, how circumstances change. All of a sudden I find myself without purpose and a lot of time on my hands doing nothing but sunbathing. No bad thing, I hear you say, but this hadn’t been the plan.
Unlike their UK cousins who are pampered and spoilt and called Fifi or Derek, Portuguese dogs runs tings. They’ve got gangster names like Bullet Dodger Biffhead, Four Star Flash Killer and Cruel Cat-Chaser Crusher. They cruise the streets like they own the place, window shopping in town and congregating and plotting up in the valleys.
Over the next couple of days Mario would try to teach me Portuguese. Every time I repeated a word he would tell me I’d said it wrong. He’d repeat it again, this time sounding completely different. Every time he taught me a new word I never learned it as he corrected me over and over again, repeating the word with different emphasis each time.