Quaking in my boots

I have closed my eyes and chosen to open them again. I am back from the valley of the tears and will concentrate on other life-threatening matters, such as the beginning of the European Football championship. Colour, that of the participating teams and the repercussions of the situation in Iraq, are of concern here too, as we will experience at first-hand in the coming three weeks.

I am a veteran of all sorts of attacks and hope to be suitably prepared for the imminent sporting onslaught that is being subjected to the biggest security operation the world has ever witnessed. But first a cautionary tale. I failed to see the precise relevance of Judy’s response last week to my heartfelt appeal to human decency, yet I may have some use for her newly-enfranchised alternative or complementary therapists. Read on.

Do you know anyone living around here who enjoys being stopped by the police? I don’t. Even the most innocent and law-abiding citizens are overcome by a queasy feeling of unease when faced by a jack-booted GNR patrol, spurs jangling, eager to replenish the municipal coffers – and that is in post-Salazar times. Let’s face it, if they want to find something, they always do especially if you look foreign and don’t know anyone’s second cousin. A neighbour of mine is the nicest man you could wish to meet. We share intimate secrets about our dogs displaying a peculiar preference for submerging themselves in particularly voluminous puddles. But the one time I saw him in full uniform, his blank stare was withering!

My sister has been another victim of the draconian law-enforcers. Some time ago, she was cashiered for disregarding a Stop sign, despite all three of her passengers swearing blind that she had, in fact, brought the car to a complete standstill at the prescribed spot. Despite reconstructions and patient remonstrations in perfect Portuguese, the long arm of the law was unrelenting. Nightmarish visions of having to set up a meals-on-wheels service to feed her in Portimão jail, where she would be stewing, refusing to admit her non-existent guilt (she is stubborn), only receded when a general amnesty, granted to alleviate the pressure on the country’s courts, quashed her conviction.

I personally have suffered from the terror too. My scooter is ancient. If one were to count in dog years, the loyal machine would have passed its 140th birthday recently. The numerals on the number plates are dropping off, the lights don’t work and the bodywork bears testimony to an interesting and eventful life. I love my Vespa. The police don’t.

One morning, I think it must have been around 11, I was on my to Portimão to rather belatedly hand over this year’s insurance premium at the local Tranquilidade offices. The Portuguese insurance system being as it is, would not render me any more tranquil. Did you know that it is impossible to insure motorcycles against theft (not that anyone would dream of stealing mine)? But compliance with the law would at least put me more at ease. Certain things get buried and then have the habit of resurfacing in the glaring summer sunshine. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. The previous night I had over-indulged – hands up anyone who hasn’t from time to time – wallowing in the bars of Alvor after reflecting on my latest article. As a result my perceptions were somewhat tainted by paranoia that particular morning. One minute I was morosely cruising along and the next I was faced by a sea of flashing blue lights, engulfed by an inferno of wailing sirens, bringing back memories of the previous night’s dance floors.

Now I know I had not shaved that morning but that still did not make a member of an international terrorist network. My grip on the handlebars was vice-like if not firm. I pulled over full of foreboding, but no one seemed interested in me. Continuing, while carefully keeping to the legal speed limit, I was almost run over by two speeding fire trucks accompanied by an ambulance. Almost deaf by now, I crept through the Modelo roundabout, manned by a police jeep, and took the slip road to the insurance offices. They were in a high-rise building, but by no means twin towers. Everyone behaved normally, while outside the mayhem continued.

The school opposite was blotted out by an array of emergency vehicles. Race riots? A bomb? Anthrax? My mind was working overtime. Surely Portimão had not attracted the attention of al-Qaeda and its demented disciples? Dodging around the back way, I made it to the shopping centre unmolested and in one piece. The paper shop was open and the girl behind the counter smiled at me.

Now I was convinced that there must be something terribly wrong. Hunched over the local newspaper, I came across a short piece entitled ‘Sismex 2004’ – a simulated earthquake emergency exercise involving all local emergency services – to be held in Portimão, commencing at 11am. Time to go back to bed!

The moral of the story is two-fold. Should you happen to be caught up in an inexplicable tour-de-force of local and national law-enforcement agencies between now and July 4, behave normally. It might not be directed at you, unless you are wearing an England shirt!Secondly, don’t drink and (then) drive. Repeated research on my part, always with negative results, has shown that Judy is right – the various hangover cures offered by major pharmaceutical companies do not work, leading me to only devastating conclusion. They, the companies, are greedy, they take my money, but they do not make me feel any better. If Judy’s array of natural practitioners, aromatherapists, acupuncturists or homeopaths (are they dangerous?) can do any better, I would be only too happy to take their advice!

PS If you have had any unfortunate or inexplicable run-ins with the law, please let me know c/o The Resident and I will delve into the subject at more length. The same applies to alternative medicine of course!