The wind was biting today despite the presence of a partly blue sky and the sun shining onto privileged corners of the street. It was one of those days where you were walking from warmth to chill in ten steps. Everything is relative and the Swedish bite makes the Portuguese bite feel like a cool kiss. I walked towards the pool, past the kiosk camouflaged with magazines and newspapers as if the small hut had no structure but paper and staples. The fountain was unsymmetrical as the wind caught the water, making it lopsided. Two seagulls jumped into the fountain’s bowl, washing and drinking, flapping and cavorting in what looked like joy. The temporary Covid testing centre was closed but here the masks are still on in shops as people here don’t generally equate mask-wearing with suppression of freedom as Maria Mota, Portuguese infectious disease expert, said:
Only a small percentage of Portuguese are anti-mask. History offers some context: “We know that freedom is something else. We have lived in a dictatorship until 1974. So, we know that the removal of ‘freedom’ is something else. A face-covering doesn’t seem troublesome compared to four decades of fascist dictatorship.
On the way to the pool, I passed the familiar shops and restaurants, the furniture shop where I bought the collision armchair and the billboards that advertise TV programmes, cars and holidays. Some of the billboards have the ads that have passed their paid dates scraped off but in a mess, ripped strands of paper hang from them until the next payment by another company that can afford them and have them straightened up. At the pool Tania was at the reception, busy, she waved and I walked into the changing room where João was sitting after an earlier session. I speak with him in French, it’s good practice, French is our Rosetta Stone that links his Portuguese to my English although we don’t have our native language vocabulary, at least I don’t.
The nose clip was a disaster today, it lasted one swimming sesh before now slipping up the nose and no longer pressing down to stop the chlorine attacking the inside of your head. What are you supposed to do to keep it doing its job? Is there a posh version that works? Or is it the shape of my head? No one ever told me I had a weird-shaped head but earbuds won’t stay in my ears either, glasses won’t stay on my face and hats won’t stay on my skull. Then there’s my shoes, my gait has one shoe worn unevenly on one side which can’t be good for my posture. I need a new skeleton.
I swam 64 lengths freestyle non-stop with nose adjustments and made it up to 70 with some breaststroke and backstroke, still a twinge in my shoulder blade. This is the minimum I like to swim in my hour or so in the pool and I’m glad to be back to it although sitting here now with a blocked and runny chlorine infected nose is most irritating. Back in the changing room, Filipe, one of the staff members, cool dude, was telling me that I should be using a padlock on my locker. I haven’t been doing that for a year, I leave my phone, my wallet, my keys unlocked but now tomorrow, I’m going to start locking it, I only need one warning, the consequences of a stolen wallet are a major hassle. There’s never much cash but the metro card, the bank cards, the pool card and your phone are worth protecting especially considering I carry a padlock in my bag but haven’t been using it.
I came back via the psychedelic psupermarket and bought Olivia Valentine’s Day queijadas, I can resist them. But for me I bought carrots, ginger, celery, kiwi and strawberries, I also bought fresh spinach, I’m trying to stay alive.
Music today was The Temptations‘ Psychedelic Shack (1970) which included their version of War held back as a single so as not to alienate their audience with the controversy of an anti-war song for Motown’s most successful act. Producer, writer, genius Norman Whitfield made a compromise with Motown and rerecorded the song with another artist, Edwin Starr, his version went to No.1 on the Billboard chart and featured on the album War and Peace (1970). Norman Whitfield wrote or co-wrote 61 UK and 92 US hits.