Mad dogs and Englishmen.jpg

Mad dogs and Englishmen

By SKIP BANDELE [email protected]

Skip Bandele moved to the Algarve 10 years ago and has been with the Algarve Resident since 2003. His writing reflects views and opinions formed while living in Africa, Germany and England as well as Portugal.

A collective and very much audible sigh of relief swept through the Algarve most recently as both the August heat and the annual invasion of beaches and supermarkets began to diminish.

If the truth be told, however, the summer of 2009 was by no means a memorable one, the usual chaos having been kept to a minimum by the worldwide economic recession. Many restaurants and bars struggled to fill their seats and tables, tennis courts stood empty and golf course tee-times were freely available.

The only business seemingly booming was the one for hire cars. Anticipating a poor season, dealers cancelled most of their winter orders for new vehicles resulting in a shortage and drasticly inflated prices. Also unaffected by the general lack of money appeared to be the Irish, the introduction of more direct budget flights from all points south of Belfast bringing about wholesale and impromptu village reunions acompanied by hearty shouts of “By Jesus, fancy meeting you here!”. Surrounded by hords of kids of all shapes and sizes, the merry revellers then proceeded to the nearest Irish Pub in order to indulge in lengthy liquid refreshments…

My personal August highlight was being accosted in the middle of Alvor on three occasions, by complete strangers shouting out the identical question “How big is this island?” followed by uproarous laughter, something which just goes to prove that certain things I wrote in this column as long as four years ago remain memorable to some!

But…August is thankfully over and my subject matter for our customary ‘golden September’ is to be something of a more general relevance. Although the language of love is supposedly international, more and more Britons are becoming enamoured with Polish immigrants, fueling a rush for language classes from Lands End to John O’Groats.

At Cardiff University, the beginners’ Polish course was so popular last year that more classes in addition to improvers’ courses have now been introduced. Co-ordinating lecturer Helga Eckart explained that the language is very challenging to learn and that the grammar is more difficult than German, requiring great motivation from students to learn it, adding it might help having a girlfriend to practice with!

Falling back on the inexplicable power of love may not be very scientific but certainly brings with it inspiration and staying power when smitten with one of the estimated one million Polish citizens said to have arrived in the UK since 2004, the largest single wave of newcomers in British history.

Surely herein can also be found a parrallel lesson to be learned by the considerably less English emigrees to these shores who struggle with the equally difficult to pick up language of Portugal – I currently have my second Portuguese ‘teacher’ and am as good as fluent!

However unromantic “Kocham cie” (I love you), “Jestes moim powietrzem” (You are the air that I breathe), “Milcz i caluj” (Don’t talk, just kiss) or “Snilas mi sie tej nocy” (I was dreaming about you last night) may sound to our ears, the signs are that Britishmen in general can benefit from Polish pillow talk as they approach their ‘golden’ years.

It appears that if the man in your life is under 53, you may have to wait a little while yet to see your cravings for a little romance satisfied – research shows that to be the exact age at which men are at their most eloquent in matters of love. Fifty-three-year-olds are much more likely to surprise their partner with a simple gesture such as an autumn sunset walk on the beach, a surprise visit or a sprinkle of rose petals in the shared bath. This is also the time they tend to splash out on chocolate, flowers and perfume rekindling an age of gallantry long forgotten.

“By the time a man reaches his 50s, he has a wealth of experience under his belt and will be wiser about the things which please a woman,” said a spokesman for the hotel company that carried out the poll of 2,000 men between 18 and 65. “He will have endured countless arguments with his partner, made hundreds of mistakes and blundered his way through many a relationship.”  

All these maybe not-so-new revelations about love and the dominant sex do not auger well for Mr Average. The man of your dreams drives a silver Mercedes, has a nice house and can’t stand football. Sadly, the one you wake up with really can’t compare. Forget the Merc, Mr Average drives a Ford Fiesta, lives with his mother and spends 24 hours a week in front of the TV. If that is a depressing vision, perhaps I should return to Mr Right.

A recent survey revealed that the typical woman’s imaginary partner is clean-shaven, well-educated, good looking and has never been married. He has no children and likes to eat out regularly, presumably picking up the bill once in a while. This is a man most would like the sound of. However, his distant cousin Mr Average will probably strike a more familiar cord. He buys his underwear at Marks & Spencer and doesn’t like taking short breaks. Twenty-four per cent participating in the ‘Average British Boyfriend Survey’ also admitted to being unfaithful, 84 per cent are happy to ditch their partner and go out with friends while on average sex happens twice a week and lasts for 22 minutes…

Much as women like the idea of the perfect partner, there must be a reason most of them settle for Mr Not-Quite-Right – and it isn’t just his blue eyes. Of course, it may help that he’s 6ft 2in, weighs 11st 5lb, drinks less than the recommended weekly limit and is a non-smoker who can run a mile in under 10 minutes. Then again, it might just be that women are suckers for a man who loves his mum – and calls his girlfriend every day.

As for me, I still have hopes of meeting Ms Perfect – I drive a silver Vespa, have Spurs or the World Cup low on my list of priorities and love a few days away as well as dining in restaurants. I have a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, to date avoided putting a ring on my finger and have yet to be persued for maintenance payments! I don’t have my own house but used to represent the South of England at cross country, something cigarettes and lager put a rapid stop to. But best of all, I still have plenty of time to mature before I reach that golden age of chivalry mentioned earlier.  

Skip Bandele can be contacted by emailing [email protected]