About one hundred years ago I lived for a few years on the Estoril coast near Lisbon.
I shared the upper floor of an attractive house in Estoril in one of those leafy streets just behind the Casino, with two female colleagues, Nina and Sheelagh (what, Sheelagh? Yes, Sheelagh, we used to tease her gently about the spelling of her name: what exactly was your parents’ problem; was it dyslexia or just sheer bad taste). The house had a lovely terraced garden which was tended by an old gardener. There was a large fig tree growing on the lawn, beneath which I once fell asleep at 6.00 on a summer morning after a long night spent carousing in the streets of the Alfama at the feast of S. Antonio, the patron saint of Lisbon, together with olive trees, wondrous bougainvillea and herbs and finally a lemon tree from which we would casually pluck a lemon for our gin and tonics.
Unfortunately we had to vacate the house for the three summer months because the wealthy owners, who lived in a grand old-fashioned apartment in the Avenida da Republica, needed to use it for their holidays. We would return in the autumn for I had already decided to stay for another year; (I was having far too a good a time). At the beginning of July I returned home to Yorkshire where I stayed for a few weeks before hastening back for the fun in the sun. I dossed down on a friend’s floor for couple of days before another friend, the young representative of a well-known British firm in Portugal, offered me his house while he went home for a couple of weeks.
John and I had got on famously from the start and his company-rented house was in a residential street in Cascais. It was a real bachelor-pad with the master-bedroom giving out onto a swimming pool and a fridge full of half bottles of champagne. My friend John was an interesting man – young, smart and personable, he was obviously a competent business man though one sensed that he preferred our slightly freer lifestyle. He once told me with an ironic smile that in his street there was a house (obviously built by an expatriate retired couple) called Y WORRY. He had studied English literature at Oxford; fish, flesh or fowl? he would intone inquiringly as we all studied our menus in the up-market restaurants to which he would invite us.
Usually during my life the door to my heart said occupied; but not that summer. That summer the sign said vacant – come on in.
Not that I was a stranger to the green-eyed monster, that most corrosive of passions, but not that summer. That summer I rarely went into Lisbon, preferring instead to hang around the down-beat and relaxed beach cafés of the Estoril/Cascais coast. Y WORRY?
Tender is the night.
On Cascais sands I lay in the arms of my girl in the sexy moonlight – liquid nights, golden memories.