Back to earth

Monday 16 July

I’ve not showered for three days.  It’s safe to say I smell like a turd.  As we’ve not stayed out drinking ourselves silly last night we manage to get packed up and back into the city pretty sharpish.  Sometimes it’s nice not washing for a couple of days purely for that wonderful moment when you manage to get showered and begin to feel normal again.  We return to the previous hostel and discover my bags are where they left them with everything intact.  Perhaps my luck is changing.

You either love or hate sightseeing buses.  They’re useful in getting to know the city, but they really are the most touristy, cheesy thing you can do.  Added to that, I want to murder the patronising voice over/failed actor they’ve got to do the English translation for the guide.  His tone is overbearing as he describes the city with the delivery of a dodgy used car salesman with a perma-grin. Still, he doesn’t detract from Lisbon‘s charm and beauty.

As the sun begins to set on a wonderful day, we manage to catch the last tour bus up to the castle.  I’m racing against time to get some nice late afternoon sun pictures, with the gorgeous city spread out before us.  It’s truly stunning, but once again I’m annoying Katty by sticking the camera in her face and demanding model poses.  She really could make some decent money for magazines on the side as she is very photogenic, but she’s not having any of it, so I eventually go back to getting snaps of the city.  I’m getting better as a photographer, but I’m still some way from achieving the Time magazine front cover.  I’m hoping it will be a self portrait for man of the year.

The light fades to nothing and our Portuguese adventure comes to an end.  Tomorrow a new country awaits, as do siblings and potential parents.  I’m not nervous at all.

That last bit is a lie; I’m actually wetting myself with fear.

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Sunday 15 July

I’m actually dead to the world when we get up this morning.  The tent is cooking in spite of the shade from the trees, and we’re forced to rise early and try to follow the shadow cast by the slim trunks around us.  It’s not until very late that we make it into the festival ground to catch the all girl group Warpaint.  As much as I’m not generally a big fan of girl bands, they turn out to be excellent, and it helps when they’re all really sexy.

Save the best until last then.  Radiohead are closing the show, quite simply the best band the world has ever seen.  However they’re very nearly upstaged by Caribou, who play shortly before them and totally own the crowd.  For a band that not many people have heard of, they should surely be chuffed to support the Oxford boys in the second slot.  Not only that, but they were definitely one of the highlights this weekend.

Radiohead play their usual phenomenal set, but it’s an unusual one which leave some ‘fans’ unhappy.  Basically anyone who knows nothing apart from Creep was moaning.  It’s the third time I’ve seen them now and they still haven’t played that song.  They’re not the type of outfit that tend to conform.  This was a very deliberate choice of play list.  It was like they were only playing for those who have every album and have listened to every song.  Their last encore song was Street Spirit, which should give you an idea of the direction of where the gig went.  Odd, but brilliant nonetheless.

Of course it didn’t help that both Katty and myself could hardly keep our eyes open.  Three day festivals take it out of you.  I’m not as young as I once was, in the way I could manage a three day bender and still probably go out on Monday night.  As much as we want to see The Kills, we both decide to head back early.  I’ve also not had anything to drink, which is going to help in rising early tomorrow to decamp.  I can remember clearly the day I found out about this festival and bought the tickets, way back in Colombia in January.  How time flies when you’re having fun.

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The Cure

Saturday 14 July

It’s fair to say I came to The Cure late.  I remember sitting in a cinema circa 2000 when an advert for HP printers came on.  I was trying desperately to learn the name of the song accompanying it, when I overheard someone say it was called “Pictures Of You”.  I rushed straight out and bought the ‘Best Of’ album, and I’ve never looked back.  Truly one of the most gifted and intelligent bands of our time, and, from what I’ve heard, Robert Smith is a consummate gentleman and every bit as good as Hendrix, but nobody knows it.

As ever I’m recovering from the night before so taking it easy until the bands begin around 5pm.  The festival is pretty well organised, and my first which doesn’t have fields of muddy grass, but does have proper porta-cabin toilets.  I expected green acres with filthy loos, but I’m greeted with a stage set in a car park.  It’s not as bad as it sounds.

Day turns to night and once again the headliners take to their chosen arena, with the crowd more heavily packed than the previous night.  It’s not as emotional as seeing The Stone Roses, but they certainly know how to play a great set.  Robert Smiths stage chemistry is amazing too, and he engages well with the crowd, which I think artists don’t do enough of.  He doesn’t play a couple of favourites, which I’m slightly disappointed at, but when you have that many songs to get through I’d imagine you can’t please everyone.

We stop off to see some naff DJ in the dance tent before calling it a night.  In truth I’m becoming more and more jaded with DJ’s.  Unless it’s a massive name like The Chemical Brothers or Daft Punk, I’m not very good at telling the tunes apart and everything just ends up sounding the same.  At least live anyway.  I’m just watching some dude twist some nobs and press some buttons with headphones on, which they always do with such melodrama.  I’m sure you don’t need to flick that switch with such over the top gusto, then put your hand in the air to signal how amazing you are for pressing play.  It’s just not as good as watching live bands.  Unless it’s The Kooks.

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The Stone Roses

Friday 13 July

I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with festivals.  There is always a pressure to see the great moments, best bands, meet nice women, get off your face and not miss the hilarity with your mates, find the toilet that hasn’t been pebble dashed by a curry eating booze monkey, and manage to wash yourself with baby wipes.  Then you have the sheer unadulterated pleasure of catching a band at their best, come hell or high water, mud or sun, and knowing you’ll come away with memories that will last a lifetime.  In truth, I can remember like yesterday every single festival I’ve been to, from hitchhiking down and sneaking in for free to The Wickerman, to carrying a massive cool box through fields of tents at my first festival V97.  I’ve never been to Glastonbury (too big) and I gave away my raffle won T In The Park tickets (too many wankers).  There is something inside me that say’s I’m getting to old for this, but nonetheless here I am with good company, lots of beer, and about to see one of my favourite bands of all time; The Stone Roses.  Life doesn’t get much better than this.  An additional bonus, after setting up the tent early in shady camp grounds, we’ve got plenty of time to watch the new Spiderman movie at a local cinema.  A day of sheer pleasure, even though the webslinger left me disappointed.  Roll on The Dark Knight Rises.

My early music taste was always questionable.  I was into Genesis, everyone else liked Bon Jovi.  I remember when three of the school bully’s followed me into the 6th form block toilets and took the piss out of me for just that reason.  “Ahhhh you like Genesis” mocked one.  “No I don’t” I lied, “I like Bon Jovi.”  There was a stunned silence, during which they nodded their agreement and let me go.  I was cool for the briefest of moments, at least until the next break when they stole my lunch money.

It’s always taken good friends to guide me with my taste, and it wasn’t long before Christopher stepped in and introduced me to Brit pop.  This education began with The Stone Roses, with their debut album being the second I ever bought on CD (the first was Nirvana’s Unplugged in New York, now shredded with the loving scratch marks of the overplayed).  I grew up with the Manchester band, and nearly went to see them in their heyday, but I can’t for the life of me remember why I didn’t.  Since their split, I always rued that moment, much like a friend having tickets to see Nirvana two weeks after Kurt shot himself.  At least I could always hold fast to the thought they could reform.

And reform they did and have.  Now I’m standing not too far from the stage waiting for the first song, which I’m guessing will be and is “I Wanna Be Adored.”  For two hours they don’t let up, and by the time “I am The Resurrection” is being blasted out by thousands of fans, arms in the air, belting every single line from gasping lungs, I’ve been transported back to my teenage years, with paper dreams of playing in bands and pulling girls.  ‘This is the one I’ve waited for.’

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Taking it easy; Euro style

Thursday 12 July

After one of those crazy nights where you shouldn’t go out but you’re compelled to do so because you’re in a European capital, we rise late and do very little.  Lisbon is beautiful.  It’s a bright and vibrant meeting of old world architecture and a young party scene.  I’ve always adored the cafe culture that is often missing in English towns, with every eatery worth their salt setting tables and chairs on sunny sidewalks, where you sit and watch the world go by accompanied by street theatre and Super Bock beer.  I’m also out practicing with my new camera, sticking it in Katty’s photogenic face much to her annoyance.  This really is the calm before the hedonistic storm.

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Wednesday 11 July

So I’ve not slept a wink as I reluctantly down the game controller and leave our hero at a perilous point of his journey.  I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of video games.  As they get better and better with every leap forward in technology, so they become even more engrossing with such glorious escapism, much like a good book or film.  I’ve certainly enjoyed getting familiar with the old X-box again, but it’s time to mosey on back into the real world, hopefully taking none of those psychopathic tendencies with me.  Then again, I am going to an airport…

London Luton is pretty user friendly and it isn’t long before I’m strapping myself into a tiny seat and shitting myself before take off.  Thank fully I don’t have the added anxiety effects of dropping two Valium, so I can simply sit back and wait for my imminent death.  I really do attempt to close my eyes, but even if I do manage to briefly drift off, I’m always jolted awake again by the thunder of the flying bemoth as it rattles down the runway and into the sky.  Every little noise sounds like a malfunction, every shudder of the craft surely a sign that it’s all over.  Perhaps the pilots lover jilted him at the alter and he’ll nose dive into the English channel with nothing to live for.  Maybe someone will leap up and shout “Allah!”  Maybe We’ll fly too close to a mountain and have to eat fellow passengers to survive.  Maybe I watch too many movies.

Landings are not as bad.  I’m coming back to earth, so I know if the worst happens I can just tuck and roll.  There is that short moment of silence just before the wheels touch down when you suck up breath, then you’re on the ground and the brakes kick in.  A rush of power slows the velocity of the aircraft and you’ve made it.  That euphoria is truly wonderful, coupled with the knowledge you are somewhere new, and you’re alive to enjoy the next adventure.  Then you get hit by a tram.

Lisbon is blazing hot.  I’ve come from rainy London, and I’m already ruing the choice of clothes.  The shuttle bus into town is overcrowded and sweaty, and I can’t wait for that cool shower and ice cold beer.  Nor can I wait for my companion to arrive.  Katty, to give her her proper name, whom you may remember as Frauline Eins from my cavorts in Peru.  I asked her a number of weeks ago if she would like to join me for the festival and she foolishly said yes.  If all goes to plan I will be attending her sisters wedding in Germany a few days after.  Could I have found what I’m looking for at this early stage?  Is my journey about to come to a premature but romantic end?  Time will surely tell.

“What time does Lisbon close?” I enquire to a bar tender some time later.  “Lisbon never closes” she laughs back.  I’ve got a funny feeling the next few days are going to be very messy indeed.

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