After a late night at the festival, we were up in time to leave our weird room at midday. It was going to be hot, so we headed for the labyrinthine, shadowy alleyways of an old city. It was shade, but that didn’t turn down the heat and we were immediately looking for liquid as we moved away from the river. Olivia nipped into a small supermarket to discover that none of the sodas or water were in a fridge, but we’d found ourselves in a beautiful square with a monastery on one side and on the other a welcoming café under umbrellas. We moved at pace to escape the sun in the open space and sat down, already relieved to be still. The staff were really nice, the food was tasty and the cold drinks refuelled us for the next attempt to make it through the blistering heat.
I was content sitting there under the umbrella, escaping the sun, checking out the beautiful buildings that surrounded the square, but we eventually moved across the way and entered into the Monastery of Santa Cruz, established in 1131. It’s been around almost as long as hip-hop, even the monks moved on. Inside, the organ was a spectacular array of shining pipes, and was like a massive creature from another galaxy. In the corner a Gothic Jesus dressed like Prince, as scary an image as I’d ever seen, the cross looked like he was wielding a guitar. There were other scary statues and paintings of massacres. It was a bloodthirsty show in there.
We left for the less painful sun and ascended the hill towards the university that sat proudly on the top of the city. Olivia commented that in Germany they built along the river, whereas in Southern Europe they build up the hill that looks down on the river. In Germany, the hill boasts a solitary castle. Up through the steep cobbles, it was that familiar site in Portugal, beautiful ruined buildings, others occupied with families that have lived in this place for generations. We didn’t get far before we stopped in another square, the heat was getting to me and the square was on a small incline with a bench where we were able to sit under the shade of a tree. We stayed there for quite a long time, trying our best not to be victims of heat stroke in a Southern Europe that has affected many holidaymakers. Olivia found a place with two remaining bottles of cold sparkling water and between that and an ice cream, we were almost ready to leave.
Across the way at the ice cream shop, I noticed Gang of Four’s Hugo Burnham and his daughter Tess. I looked over at him, he saw me and I ‘air drummed’, he mouthed “Thank you” which I took as meaning thank you for not bothering him and his daughter on their hols. But then he came over to us, he must have known we were harmless. He was super nice and friendly. Tess had gone to find Sara Lee. We talked for a while, we acknowledged each other as musicians and he seemed most impressed that I’d been in The Saints. Sara and Tess came and said Hello. We chatted for a while and then they were on their way doing the same thing as us.
From there, me feeling rejuvenated with liquid and cold vanilla scoops, we continued the climb to the top of the hill. On the way another amazing place of worship, the old cathedral, where the altar is an incredible explosion of gold leaf. Then steps to the cloisters, a beautiful ancient peaceful square of lawn surrounded by ancient arches, sepulchres, and scary strange carvings of mystical animals.
At the top, we crossed the university square, but we were too late to see the famous library, next time, it’s so close. We descended to find another café and more liquid before heading to the one record store, heavily stocked with punk and new wave acts, as is the norm. Contemporary, classic rock, even jazz, or punk, a very small selection of progressive records. The people have to want for the shop to stock. I bought a Patti Smith radio show bootleg from 1976. Rui the shop owner was cool, having a place like this – in a place like this. We were a bit late with all the distractions but made it back to catch the train with five minutes to spare. Home.
Music today has been Gang of Four and their second album Solid Gold (1981), I bought their first album when it came out in 1979 and followed them through Songs Of The Free (1982) and Hard (1983). They split for a while after that and I lost them – till Sunday night.