A Political Day Of Rest, After A Night Of Unrest

Today’s Diário is almost true to the letter of the ‘law’, which says that on the day before elections there should be no political activity and it should serve as a day of reflection, and only has one political story today, compared to an average of around 30 every day this week. The law specifies that candidates cannot go out on the streets pestering people, rallies are banned, and normally political propaganda posters have to be removed from the streets, and that last point is the subject of today’s article. Because of the close proximity of the local elections, the National Election Commission has decided to turn a blind eye to the fact that streets are still littered with posters, and would presumably just be replaced again on Monday if the law was enforced.

Anyway, I am going to have to break that rule with a true story* of an important, or rather unfortunate, political event that happened late last night here in Ribeira Brava. It was strange really, as I have already said that there have been no rallies or candidates visiting the town as far as I know, and even the number of posters could be counted on one hand. I think this town must have a reputation as a political ‘dead zone’, but last night that was all about to change.

It must have been around 11.30 pm, just 30 minutes before any political activity became illegal, when I entered a late night drinking establishment, and as is normal I did a quick scan of the joint before taking a seat at the bar. I recognised all of the faces, a dozen or so, except for one man in a grey suit sat at the far end of the bar from me. He looked like he had come straight out of a second hand car lot, with greased back black hair and a goaty beard (no no not goatee!), you know the sort. Anyway I greeted those nearest to me and ordered a soft drink (well it was certainly soft if one poked a finger in it), and quickly surveyed the joint, noticing a number of red objects on the bar and tables where people were sat. Some people had red baseball caps, note books, pens, pencils, and a few even had bright red oven mitts. Strange I thought, but the sight of my beverage arriving and the man in the grey suit getting off his stool and heading my way distracted my attention. I gave the barman a €5 note, and out of the corner of my eye I saw the grey suited man plonk himself on the stool next to me and put a large white carrier bag on the floor between us. I have no need for a second hand car, so I was already mentally practicing my "no speaking Portuguese" retort as I could see he was about to speak to me, and he did.

I will have to divert from the story at this stage, just to explain something highly relevant. My oven gloves at home have been in poor condition for some time now. It all started one time when someone else was using them, and a large black burn hole appeared on one hand (yes I know who you are, and I haven’t forgotten that you tried to hide the fact). After that things went downhill, and the stitching started working loose, and stains appeared that couldn’t be shifted however many times they went in the washing machine. For several years now I have been looking out for new oven gloves, you know the sort where both hands are joined together, but the only pair I saw cost 11.49 bl**dy Euros. I had seen plenty of ‘one handed’ oven mitts, but they just wouldn’t do the same job, and by the time I had brought two they would work out to be even more expensive. The best thing to do therefore was to minimise use of the oven, until the problem could be resolved, and as a result it hasn’t been switched on since last Christmas. Anyway back to last night …

The man spoke to me with forked political tongue, and pointed to his white carrier bag on the floor. What is it this time I thought, wet fish, lapas, overpriced undersized pyjamas, … but as a courtesy I looked down and peered into the bag to spot lots of red objects … type as previously described as littering the tables of the establishment at that precise moment. A deep stoop and a closer peer into the bag, and I could see red notepads with a white PS branded on the covers. It then suddenly dawned on me that this man was either a campaigner, or even an actual candidate for the PS socialist party, and that this was his bag of goodies to entice the wavering voters. Of course I am unable to vote in national elections, but clearly he didn’t know that yet, and I had to think quickly and slip on my best Portuguese tongue before my cover was blown, in order to acquire the maximum selection from that white bag, hopefully even a red oven mitt, or even two. Just then my change arrived from the €5 note, and I put out my left hand to receive it, and answered the man’s question with an equal measure of forked tongue, about how I was thinking of voting PS, but that I was still torn between them and the BE Left Block, who had a much catchier theme tune. A few seconds went by, and I couldn’t hold back any longer, and I spouted out "tem lá lutas". He didn’t understand, so I pointed with my right hand to my raised left hand, which was purely by chance clenched tightly as it still contained my change from the bar, and repeated "luta, luta", waving my clenched fist, not really being sure of the exact complete word for oven gloves. His expression changed, and at that point things started to go downhill. Anyway, to cut a long story short, as I wrestled him to the floor, a beer got knocked over soaking his grey suit, and as other customers heard the breaking glass, bodies came running over to pull us apart. Strangely though, it was as I had my hands around his throat that I suddenly remembered that the Portuguese word for ‘glove’ is in fact ‘luva’, and logically ‘oven glove’ would be ‘luva do forno’. ‘Luta’ means ‘fight’.

Anyway we got separated, and after a few minutes of exchanging threats and insults, when the best I could manage was "I’m going to tell Uncle Bertie where you live" (which drew blank looks all around) the matter was eventually straightened out. But after all that, he didn’t have any oven mitts left. I did however get a nice pencil with a built in eraser, a pretty cr*ppy pen, and a PS notepad.

That was the night that politics in Ribeira Brava came ‘back to life’.


* Embellished in parts for heightened enjoyment

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