Sunshine Superman

As the church bell high above my beloved Alvor – relocated to the village’s summit to provide refuge in case of a repeat of the 1755 tsunami – chimes eight times, the small blackboard outside an appropriately named cocktail bar informs me that sunset is exactly one hour away while the adjacent thermometer is deliciously hovering around the 28°C mark.

It is hard to believe that summer has only officially begun these past days given an almost unprecedented balmy May which saw the Algarve dominate European hot spots.

On the other hand, the passing of the longest day of the year just over a week ago makes me wonder at just how quickly half the year has sped by, thus raising the horrifying spectre of Christmas already bearing down on us.

But, for now, back to sunset (another beer please, Kate). The azure brilliance of the daytime sky has markedly softened, applying a baby blue and pink hue to the river estuary and Lagos bay stretching out lazily beyond, giving the otherwise hard edges of the assorted sailing boats dotted across the calm waters a frayed appearance, blending into the breathtaking scenery.

While I wait for the final blaze of orange glory to arrive, let me enlighten you as to why this page is not embellished with a personal pastel depiction of what will always be one of my raisons d’être of living the dream in one of the most peaceful spots on earth (I’ll try a ‘Slippery Nipple’ this time, Rhona – and go easy on the Sambuca!)

At school my virtuoso performances on the violin (I had never seen my father cry with laughter before or since) were only surpassed by my efforts with the paint brush during obligatory pre-‘O’-level art periods.

Painfully aware of my obvious artistic limitations while proving more than generous in granting me a D in the final exam, Mr Flood, the man charged with the hopeless task of furthering my ‘talent’, urged me to turn my attentions towards a different medium for the remaining two years of my education.

Straight lines assisted by rulers made Design & Technology appear to be a safe alternative – however, a term into the Lower Sixth, it was proven that, while able to connect various points of an outline successfully, the practical aspects of plotting different elevations on a complicated drawing board, was beyond me – not to mention my struggles with the ultra-fine nibs of the, even then, prohibitively expensive Rotring pens…

In German there is a saying – wer nichts wird, wird Wirt, which loosely translates as ‘he who is good at nothing, becomes a good-for nothing’- the literal meaning would no doubt offend my present hostess and will therefore remain a secret to all but our polyglot readers! I vented my frustration in a poem which subsequently appeared in our school magazine – my fate was sealed and here I am minus a painting.

It is now 8.55pm and my surroundings are bathed in a fiery glow as the sun bids farewell with a final caress and a promise to re-emerge with brutal vigour at dawn. Unlike Elvis Costello, I would rather be here than anywhere else today – especially Chelsea! Speaking of fake Italians – that Elvis was born Declan Patrick MacManus – I still owe you an explanation of the title to this piece. But first mix me a ‘Latin Lover’, Stacey – what an inspirational team!

I have always liked Donovan. Perhaps his Glaswegian roots inspired him to seek warmer climes and his, at the time unique, blend of psychedelic musical styles produced iconic hits such as ‘Sunshine Superman’ – number one in the US – and ‘Mellow Yellow’. Who can not be touched by verses such as…

“When I say we’ll be cool I think that you know what I mean,
We stood on a beach at sunset, do you remember when?
I’ll pick up your hand and slowly blow your little mind,
‘Cause I made my mind up…”

…dedicated to his future wife Linda. ‘Sunshine Superman’ has been covered many times since and featured on J.J. Cale’s 1967 album ‘A Trip to the Sunset Strip’. Donovan also wrote a book, ‘Writer in the Sun’, while on holiday in Greece, another aspect of his multifaceted talent which further endears him to me as I can identify with both.

Finally, further thoughts lurking behind the sun-kissed heading also concern the much misinterpreted philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He was a radical independent 19th century thinker far ahead of his time – quite contrary to posthumous Nazi propaganda which portrayed his ideas in a false light.

The central ‘man and superman’ theme is far removed from the ‘blond beast’ of Germanic mythology, instead attempting to predict the next stage of mankind’s evolutionary process.

In a nutshell, Nietzsche’s views of our finite existence enshrine the key concepts of willpower, joy and creativity leading to the inner wholeness vital to the celebration of life and the secret to its greatest enjoyment: to live dangerously and intensely, embrace everyday as if it were our last. Let the sun set on that. Summer, here I come! November suddenly seems very far away…

By Skip Bandele
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Skip Bandele moved to the Algarve 20 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.