The plan last night was to eat, put Little Muckette to bed, then head into town for a few drinks and hear Luis spin some tunes. Well, we managed the first half of the plan, eating a fantastic cataplanas, a Portuguese seafood stew, at a restaurant just around the corner from us recommended by Luis and Carolina. We all agreed it was the best food we’ve ever eaten in Portugal- and we’ve eaten a fair bit.
After returning to the cottage, we covered Little Muckette in a special insect-attracting lotion that we’d cooked up after some research online, then put her to bed with the windows in the bedroom wide open. We all sat down on the terrace with several bottles of local wine, safe in the knowledge that our little insect sponge would prevent any more bites on our own poor delicate bodies.
It didn’t take Mrs Muck or her mum long to barry, and Sandy greedily downed the wine left in their glasses, before refilling the rest of us. Somehow I had managed to drink a couple of glasses each of white, red and rose (the holy trinity), followed by some local dessert wine (to complete the full house- guaranteed hangover or your money back) and by 9pm was feeling pretty soporific myself. Sandy however, had different plans.
He went into his bedroom and returned with a one litre bottle of water and an ominous polythene bag, stuffed full of pungent green herbs. I groaned. It hadn’t taken long for him to score here- or, I asked him, had this been smuggled into the country by himself or Jamal?
“Naa mate, this is the Algarve’s finest skunk” lisped Sandy in his ethnic Croydon drawl. “-and anyway there weren’t no room up Jamal’s batty for ‘erb after dis”. He held up the litre bottle of water.
Flabbergasted, I stuttered that Jamal couldn’t fit that up anywhere, and added the obvious question of why on earth would anyone smuggle a bottle of water through customs stashed up their rectum?
I truly wished I hadn’t asked.
“Yeah yeah yeah, you got me blud!” sniggered Sandy, exchanging glances with Jamal, who was looking at me with a condescending look on his grubby beige face.
“Of course da Jamster couldn’t fit dat up der. Dat’s why I know a man who can…” laughed Sandy, leaving the statement hanging in the air, and winking at his brother.
I slowly turned towards Handy, who was wearing a smug expression (or at least I’m guessing it was, through all the botox) and simply said “you’re welcome”, as if I should be grateful.
Dear God, it must be like a Tardis up there. The mind boggles.
“But why smuggle water here?” I asked, both intrigued and repulsed.
“Damn bro, you is so stoopid sometimes innit” rasped Sandy. “Dat ain’t no water, dat’s pure LSD. We is all going on a lickle trip tonight… a magical mystery tour innit!” He finished off by pretending to crack a whip with his hand and an exclamation of “boo ya!” then went off to the kitchen to get shot glasses for everyone.
Sod that. The only thing worse than doing a shot of acid is doing a shot of acid in the company of Handy, Sandy and Jamal. To the sound of them cussing me and calling me a barry (Jamal), a pussy bludclart (Sandy) and gay (Handy) I went to get changed and headed into town.
Luis was playing at a little lounge bar above a restaurant in the old town, frequented mostly by locals, with leather sofas, potted plants and televisions looping film of scantily clad models parading on a catwalk.
He greeted me warmly and I bought us both drinks from the bar. I asked the barman for a fine local brandy, and he poured me a ridiculously large measure of Macieira. It was good brandy indeed and I savoured the warmth as it slid smoothly down.
Luis and I chatted amicably for an hour, between him attending to the music, before I bade him farewell and started making my way home. But the thought of arriving back to the inevitable chaos led me to stop at a restaurant in the old town, and sit on their terrace in the warm night air. I ordered another brandy, and presently the waiter arrived with a glass so large and so full of brandy that I baulked at the thought of drinking it all. I’m not exaggerating, there must have been at least half a litre in it. Now, I don’t claim to be a great drinker, and would have hesitated at any time, but after already having downed several glasses of every possible type of wine earlier in the evening, followed by an industrial sized snifter of brandy with Luis, the thought of the hangover I would have in the morning was horrifying.
I sat for a moment, considering my options. I really couldn’t manage all that brandy, but what else to do? Surreptitiously pour some away, or send it back for a smaller glass? Thank fuck the others weren’t here, because I’d never hear the last of this. The only thing worse than feeling foolish is knowing you’re about to feel foolish.
I called the waiter over, and embarrassedly asked him to replace the drink for a smaller one. To his credit, and despite me looking carefully, his face didn’t betray any feelings of contempt, and professionally he swept back to the bar, and returned shortly with a glass half the size.
I sat and savoured the brandy contentedly, and it slipped down so easily that I actually considered asking for a top up, but then I really would have looked a fool. Instead, reluctantly, I polished off the last dregs in the glass and steeled myself for my return home.
I could hear the whooping and hollering from down the road as I approached, with Handy’s shrill nasal tones carrying above the dubstep and reaching me through the night air like a bad smell.
As I opened the gate I could see Sharia on top of the garden table, eyes closed, dancing and gyrating, as naked as the day she was born. Which, from what was on view was very many years ago indeed. And yet, still somehow strangely hypnotic.
Jamal was on the sofa, examining his hand intently, with a glazed, catatonic expression under his moustache and a little bit of drool escaping from the corner of his mouth. He too was stark naked, but thankfully a duvet had been draped over his shoulders, and the only betrayal of his modesty were tufts of black matted hair protruding from the point where mercifully the open duvet merged with the darkness of the night.
Sandy was at the laptop, directing the music, and wearing full Croydon colours, including bandana.
Sandy loves dubstep and according to him it’s “Croydon music for Croydon people” and “if you don’t like wa-wa-wa, then you’re a wa-wa-wanker”
He started whooping and dancing running-man style, throwing occasional Croydon gang signs, as his Benga Gold dubstep compilation kicked in through the speakers. I winced and went to find his brother.
Handy was outside, sitting on a makeshift throne fashioned out of a garden seat covered haphazardly in tinfoil. He was in full regalia, complete with replica of Princess Diana’s wedding dress, diamante tiara and cinderella slippers. He had an upturned mop in one hand, presumably acting as a sceptre, and the bong in the other. It was full and lit, and the smoke from the Algarve’s finest hung heavily in the still night air, apart from just in front of Handy himself, where his incessant rambling and cackling was disturbing the air, and anyone within earshot.
He was delirious, directing invisible lackies to fetch him drinks, arrange coups in several central African countries and keep him posted on this year’s cucumber and marrow harvest. Each new order was followed instantly by an insane cackle and incoherent mumbling under his breath, before just a moment later, seemingly composed again, he started issuing a new string of directions and descending further into his delusions of grandeur. The scene was completed by the wedding dress having ridden up over his thighs to reveal the red fronted codpiece-style leather thong, although on closer inspection it was evident that the red coloured part was in fact PVC. You could see it glinting in the moonlight as Handy became more animated, at which point I decided I’d seen enough.
I left silently, and on my way to bed raided Handy’s washbag. The one in the bathroom, not the one under his bed, obviously. I liberated a handful of valium and some earplugs and headed off to bed, taking care to lock the bedroom door behind me. Hopefully by the time I came round in the morning they’d all be dead to the world. And as long as none of them were actually dead, and I’d got some sleep and missed the rest of their madness, I’d be happy.