memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Flying to Lisbon (2)

I decided not to join the in-crowd on the line but stay in the city and settled to share a flat in the then rather neglected area of the city called Alcántara down by the river. I still felt dreamy – my hunter-seeker antennae retracted and deactivated, comfortably numb. The searing and vivid images of the Sahara rendering the quaint unstated old streets of Lisbon vague and undefined (like punching into cotton-wool).

I would leave my more conscientious flat-mate to his lesson preparations and marking and walk along the street to the river and stroll along the old quays in the direction of Belém. This walk along the melancholy old docks was atmospheric and perfect. To my left ran the stately grey river, with the occasional rusting freighter moored to the great iron rings embedded in the concrete.


 Sweet Tagus run softly ‘till I end my song; to my right stood a monumental orange-brick factory abandoned and forlorn, in front of which lay a paved forecourt the size a football pitch, with grass growing between the cracks of the paved stones – like most fascist architecture it was rather exaggerated and overdone. Sometimes I saw a dead rat – I think we are in rat’s alley/Where the dead men lost their bones. Seagulls wheeled over the grey waters and my relaxed mind roamed freely. My turning point was the Discoverers’ Monument. As I turned back I could see way across the railway line, the road and some symmetrical formal gardens, the pink toy palace of the president

and beyond that the long graceful abbey church of the monastery in which, I would later learn, were the tombs of Luis de Camões and his distant kinsman Vasco de Gama.  

CLOISTERS AT BELEM

 

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