When the seas elongated the skies

October 8, 2015 at 9:13 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Fado was born on a day,
When the wind barely stirred,
And the seas elongated the skies

We stopped eating when she walked in.

Everyone did.

I had one sliver left of salted cod on the tines of my fork, and wanted it, badly. As if she knew, she turned her head my way and fixed those dark eyes on me as she strode to the stage. Her floor length skirt provided no opposition as she climbed the stairs; each swirl of black silk seemed as daunted as we all were, and hurriedly flung itself out of the path of her stilettos.

I put my fork down.

The two guitarists on the stage waited, their gazes demurely at their feet as she picked up the microphone. Coolly, she surveyed the cellar.

And then she raised the microphone, and began to wail.

On the main rail of a sailing ship,
In the chest of a seaman
Sorrowful he sang.
Sorrowful he sang.

River Douro, Porto

River Douro, Porto

It was heart stopping. It was dramatic. It was fado.

We’d wanted to see a live performance of Portugal’s traditional melancholy music ever since we arrived, but the days had been so full of adventuring that we hadn’t found time until this, our last night. We’d been scorched by the hot Portuguese sun at the Feira da Ladra flea market in Lisbon and admired the beautiful Azulejo tiles decorating churches and crumbling derelict buildings. We’d crooned to alley cats basking on sun warmed cobblestones, creatures so tough they refused to move for cars and instead snarled ‘Go around, go around!’

Rua da Reboleira, Porto

Rua da Reboleira, Porto

Porto, Portugal

Porto, Portugal

There was the incredibly picturesque village of Sintra, whose Moorish castle high on the hill made our calves ache for days. A ride on a cute little funicular up Lisbon hill delighted Lisa no end, and a meal in an Art Deco wonder of a old jewellery store where the menu held ‘spiritual pie of cod’ and ‘smashed salad’ delighted me.

Rua das Flores, Porto

Rua das Flores, Porto

And there were more Portuguese custard tarts, pastéis de nata, than one woman should legally be allowed to consume, their delicious little tops scorched to a molasses black.

Lisbon holds both the world’s oldest bookstore, the Betrand, while Porto has the world’s third most beautiful, the Livraria Lello, and I will not argue about that, so stunning was it. And yes, Lisa, I finally admit that the bouncer outside making people queue was, in fact, entirely justified.


But our favourite day started with a walk across the majestic bridge in Porto, a cable car ride down to Vila Nova de Gaia, and a port ‘tasting’ where six euros brought us this magnificent tray. And let me point out, those glasses are filled with port, not wine. Ahem.

Port tasting, Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto

Port tasting, Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto

Can you beat a ride through Porto’s serpentine cobbled alleyways in a vintage World War II motorcycle, racing out to where the River Douro, the river of gold, meets the Atlantic? Not if you then follow that up with some fado in a cellar restaurant where the singer growls at everyone ‘you will pay attention while I sing’ as we all put our forks down, and turn to the stage.

I’m going to assume that’s what she said. I have no Portuguese, but I do have a writer’s imagination, remember?

And it’s going to be given free rein here, for I’ve just landed in Joutsa, a village in rural Finland, for my second writing residency. The scenery is stunning, with tall elegant trees stretching into a bright blue Nordic sky, rich autumnal colours all around, and sub-zero temperatures that make my throat hurt when I breathe.

I love it already.

Finnish stories, coming up!



  1. Martin C. said,

    Gahhh, just Google earthed Joutsa…Looks so much like Canada i want to sell a kidney and get straight back on a plane…

    • inkymouth said,

      It’s stunning, let me tell you – forests all around, huge lakes, and sunsets so stunning my camera can’t do them justice. Good thing I have my pen then, hey? 🙂

  2. Martin C. said,

    Just picked up my first CD of fado tunes..Damn, how cool is that sound?. Thank you for mentioning it…

    • inkymouth said,

      So glad you like it! We were overwhelmed by the grandeur and drama of it, coming right at a time when we were quite melancholy about leaving Porto. I’m looking forward to getting home and putting my fado CDs on. In fact, that can be my writing music today. Thanks for the reminder!

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