I wandered out into the street today, the usual line of teenagers walking from the school down the block, I seem to leave for the pool as they leave to go home. As we went out all day yesterday and ate out, I have no recycling and garbage to drop off so I walked slowly, calmly taking a little longer so I could enjoy the ambience of Porto and its people on a summer’s day. The man with the belly wasn’t there nor was the old lady that always says something that I can’t understand when I walk by. The fountain was looking lovely, especially since it had been cleaned and the beer bottle that was in there the day after had also gone which suggested to me that they do maintain it, unlike the fountain in the park in Penzance, stagnant and stopped. One time I asked one of the gardeners if they were going to fix it. “We have the pump,” he said, but obviously not the motivation or a sense of aesthetics – it didn’t seem that money was the issue as is often the case in beautiful repairs.
I pass familiar faces on the way to the pool, not people I know but creatures of habit, the same men outside the little bar, the woman and two men that seem to be on the regular lunch hour, she always seems to be lighting a cigarette when I pass. The men outside the Firestone tyre place, the girl in the corner fruit and veg shop, the Japanese girl on the poster modelling the glasses – she seems to be the only one that recognises me, always staring intensely back, just her and the old lady, who wasn’t there today. I try and take different routes to and from the pool, not that there are many choices. The other day when Filipe, a fellow swimmer, gave me a lift in his car it was rather exciting to drive down an unknown street and arrive at the pool from the other side. I can see the progress of the building that must once have been an old beautiful house that fell into such repair they had to demolish it but then when you have a plot of land in the city and you can replace one abode with 20 apartments the developers start to salivate, aesthetic destruction to line the pockets of people who are already rich. Shouldn’t there be a point where you can stop making money, a point where you have everything you need and more, the yacht, the Picasso, the Ferrari and the next billion can go and be of use instead of growing in a bank into another billion that you couldn’t possibly spend?
Outside the pool, I met the other Filipe, one of the trainers, I was a little early so had time to chat. He told me that Matosinhos isn’t cheaper, those apartments by the sea can be up there in the rent stakes. He also told me that it developed out of disused cannery factories from the fishing industry. So I suppose at one time this was a working-class area with factories and behind them was where the fishery workers lived, not that there’s much of the old Matosinhos left, a few old buildings where we walked and now trendy restaurants here and there, in 20 years, it will be completely gentrified and the Ferrari people will be everywhere.
Inside I hit another 90 today, two minutes overtime. I really need an extra ten minutes for 100 but 100 in the allotted time would be real progress, it feels like I’d have to almost kill myself to make it but when you think about Nadal vs Djokovic, a little effort goes a long way, but then they are 30 years younger and 1000 times richer and have a regimen that is so strict that they have special people who put thermometers in their baths and cups of tea. On leaving the pool I was talking to one of the receptionists, Vera, who’s been away with a back injury from the gym. On the walk home, João, one of the swimmers, fist-bumped me in the street and Mário in the bakery told me they’d run out of our favourite bread (pão da avó). But it seems we have settled in here, we know people and we like it. Today the European Championships started, Italy 3 – Turkey 0. Olivia becomes a football widow from now for a month.
Music today is the whole of Noctorum’s Sparks Lane that is available for this weekend’s Record Store Day. We’ve already seen pix from Australia of it sitting in the racks (Thanks, Orla). I hope you can find it in between the U2 picture discs and the Amy Winehouse remixes.