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.
Girls. You can’t live with them, you can’t live without them. One minute you love them, the next minute you hate them – unless you are gay, in which case you get along with them just famously.
I have always loved girls – and I quite deliberately use that term rather than women as five-year-old Doris from next door was just as much a girl in my eyes over four decades ago as 47-year-old Jane or Susan are today. Contemporaries retain their youthfulness in our eyes and mine in particular are very receptive to the inner beauty that lies more or less hidden within all of us.
My fascination with the opposite sex began at a very early age and never really diminished. In many ways, the course of my life has been determined by this character trait, for better and for worse, as of course these feelings are not always reciprocated; nor are they eternal. The pursuit of happiness or gratification inevitably involves real people, real feelings, real life; realities rose-tinted glasses and tunnel vision manage to disguise for days, weeks, months or even years.
When the ‘sudden madness’ overcomes us, little else seems to matter. We are literally able to ‘move mountains’. The sheer determination and will power involved can leave us exhausted, however, at times waking up to the realisation that the journey, not the destination, was the be all and end all. In such cases, the assertion that ‘it is better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all’ leaves a bitter aftertaste.
Gazing back over a sizable collection of broken hearts, while examining the scars decorating my own, I must single out Suzanne as my first life-changing experience.
Our seven-years of emotional tug of war left me not only emotionally drained but also geographically displaced. Having literally fallen for each other at university, our tempestuous time together had us sharing a flat in London before attempting one of several supposedly therapeutic escapes designed to renew our bonds. It did not work. The Algarve in the late 1980s was not designed to satisfy the zest for life of two people still in their 20s used to the bright lights of a big city.
Boredom turned into antagonism resulting in flight and renewed pursuit. A bus bore her away and back to England. My initial euphoria at the sudden return to being single soon gave way to the dull winter greyness and the realisation that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.
My return became equally inevitable and my quest to win her back turned into an obsession crowned by ever so fleeting success a year and many a bleak moment of self doubt later – there was a knock on my door at 6am, a moment Susanne chose to snap my bleary eyes open with a proposal of wedded bliss. That ‘bliss’ lasted exactly 24 hours as she recanted, described her longed-for outburst a ‘mistake’, and fled once more, this time for ever.
It took me years to get over that traumatic episode of my life. Familiar haunts, memories, my daily routine as it was all became unbearable. The solution to a new beginning seemed to lie abroad for a second time and I conjured up a transfer to Berlin within the company I had been working for.
Professionally, this was a great success, a giant leap forward with an abundance of material rewards. Spiritually, I headed into a desert. I sought sustenance in all the wrong places, creeping nearer and nearer the abyss while somehow managing to go through the required work-time motions. The pretence ended when the firm I represented decided to shut down its operation in Germany, leaving me to continue my demonic dance.
Berlin night life can kill you. Alcohol, already an old friend – copious amounts of which had accompanied my trials and tribulations in London – became the daily bread enabling me to wallow in that decadent city’s all-too-many fleshpots. Fortunately, one bleary afternoon awakening was accompanied by the realisation that I desired salvation.
I packed my bags and caught the train one snowy winter night – 48 hours later I was back here. I have loved and lost and loved again in the Algarve too but I am better, much better. My scars remain, sometimes, very rarely now, I still have nightmares from that time which now seems like a distant dream, a different life. I am whole again.
Girls. In a way I feel blessed to have been privileged to have been accorded the affections, however brief, of so many. I have settled for just the one now. Would I change anything in the course of my previous life if given the chance? Probably not. I believe in destiny and the tapestry of mine has been particularly rich in terms of experience forcing me to delve deep into my inner being, reaching and dealing with dark places which would otherwise have remained hidden forever – non, je ne regrette rien.
A murder of crows
Blew me away,
To the final slay.
The search for purity
The forlorne hopes of my youth,
A quest in vain
Render me insane.
Long before I left these shores
I dreamt of death,
As a sweet caress,
About a certain end.
I welcome the release
Of this bitter-sweet parting,
I dream anew,
Of promise fulfilled
A few steps nearer perfection;
A vision, my life-
But a drop in the ocean.
I close with belated birthday wishes heading in my sister’s direction and a promise to make you laugh the next time around. And remember: always dance as though no one is watching you, love as though you have never been hurt, sing as though no one can hear you and live as though heaven is on earth.
Skip Bandele can be contacted by emailing [email protected]