Wednesday, 20 July 2011

So what, I am a rock star!

While working on my Sintra painting, my thoughts frequently wandered to those few weeks in Portugal. How different it was to what I was used to here in South Africa!

We visited the country shortly after Portugal had joined the European Union in 1989, and the country was only just awakening from its Socialist sleep. Although the dark, petite Portuguese women are breathtakingly beautiful, the fashion at the time apparently prescribed rather drab dresses, turning them into demure little hens. Or maybe it was the remants of the political regime that they were emerging from.

Nevertheless, picture this:

I am not a tiny woman. I am, in fact, only one inch short of the good ole' six foot yardstick for extremely tall women. And I am blonde. AND, at the time, the perm was all the rage. To top it all, I have a rather flamboyant side to me: I love colour and all things bright and beautiful.

So here I was in this small town called Oeiras, where Hubby was attending the workshop at the Gulbenkian Institute. Having nothing else to do on my own, I decided to explore the "real Oeiras" - not the picture perfect beach where half of Europe flock in the summer months. I did it on foot. I did not understand the road signs, but I thought that "Centro" might mean the centre of town, so I followed the signs.

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Sorry for the interruption, but this is so cool, I just have to share it!

While scouring the internet for images of what the setting of my story looked like, I came across a wonderful blog with the most beautiful pictures: Oeiras and Environs Daily Photo by JM . A certain set of photographs took me right back to that day, as it managed to captured the atmosphere almost exactly.

Being terminally curious, I searched for "Rua das Alcassimas" on Google Maps, and lo and behold, this very street was right there where I have walked that day! I remember (and please note this was more than 20 years ago) walking from the Gulbenkian Insitute away from the beach along a fairly wide road, which curved to the right! Isn't nature wonderful? :D

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Anyway ...

Speeding along with my wild blonde curls exclaiming to high heaven, and my extremely loud dress with its huge yellow, red, pink, blue, green ... and black! ... flowers fluttering in the breeze created by my giraffe-like strides, I tackled the roads less travelled in Oeiras.

I never found the centre of town, but my peripatetic journey took me through narrow lanes where ordinary people lived in quaint red-roofed dwellings, adorned with the typical blue tiles so well-known and loved in Portugal.

There were quite a number of people in the street, that day ... the day the crazy blonde she-giant clown from outer-somewhere giraffled through town.

For those few long minutes, the street came to a standstill.

The only sound was the measured rhythm of my footsteps, and the ever-present chirping of sparrows who clearly had seen it all. Either that, or they were laughing their feathery little asses off at the spectacle ...

People stood still, literally like statues, frozen by the sight before them. The only things that moved, were their heads, as they - ALL of them - followed my progress through their world.

I had never before, or since, experienced anything like that.

For a while, I felt like a rock star.

This incident of the mesmerized little chickens from Oeiras and the flambouyant female from Africa served as inspiration for my next painting, which I called "Rock Star" because of the resemblance of my "main character" to rockers like Rod Steward and David Bowie.

Rod Steward

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David Bowie

The last piece of my Rock Star painting was a bit more contrived. When we visited Lisbon, the famous Alfama area made me extremely uncomfortable. I just couldn't shake the feeling that it must me morally wrong to walk through this utterly impoverised part of the city, ooh-ing and ahh-ing about how "beautiful" and "cute" it is.


Why Alfama bothered me, while the decay of Oeiras, or even Carcavelos where we stayed did not, I do not know. Maybe because Alfama's decay is a popular tourist attraction, while the others just were what they were, without making any tour operator rich ... Anyway, we hot-heeled it out of Alfama.

When I searched for a Portuguese background for my Rock Star, I saw pictures of the beautiful red building in Alfama and I loved it! It is the Museum of Decorative Art at the Miradouro das Portas do Sol, and I regret that I did not know about it or visited it when I had the opportunity!   

Miradouro das Portas do Sol

And so, dear hearts, this is the result of my meanderings:

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Rock Star