So Mr F and I are in the lovely city of Lisbon and because he likes to sample a variety of different public transport options when abroad, we decide to take the tram to Belem. We are going there to visit the Monastery of the Hieronymites, view the Berardo collection and eat the historic custard tarts at Pasteis de Belem (these are in ascending order of importance).
Mr F navigates us to the right stop and we board with another 92 tourists – we know they are tourists because, like us, they are not entirely sure what to do with their tickets. Mr F likes a view so he takes the window seat and, as the tram makes its very slow way along the coast, it becomes busier and busier and stuffier and stuffier. The windows are small and I can’t see very much beyond Mr F, so I am forced to look ahead – about twelve inches, where the young couple on the seat in front are indulging in a Public Display of Affection. Or at least one of them is – a fairly hefty young fellow, who is encouraging his fragile girlfriend to snog him, mainly by licking her ears. She looks alternately amused, embarrassed and afraid, but he presses on regardless while she glances sometimes around her, at one point catching my eye and smiling in a way that seems to say ‘This has happened to you before, right? This too shall pass, right?”
Meanwhile, on the seats facing them another drama unfolds. A tiny pair of elderly Germans are sitting looking uncomfortable, the gent beside the window, his wife on the aisle. Standing beside them on this crowded ordeal of a tram is an English couple in their 40’s, both very overweight and….there is no way to put this politely…the English woman’s behind keeps bumping into the German woman’s face as the tram jolts along – the little head disappearing from view behind an acreage of floral bum. Eventually the German woman very gently shoves it, and immediately the English woman cranes round and says, very loudly ‘Stop poking me! If you want to stand up and let me sit down then that’s fine with me!’ The other passengers look on, sensing the possibility of a major incident.
This happens two or three times, then the German woman appeals to her husband for help. He looks at the situation, looks at the beefy Englishman and they converse quietly in German. The English woman says, ‘Excuse me. I know exactly what you are saying,’ and smiles somewhat smugly. I don’t know whether this means that she knows the German for ‘fat arse’ or simply that she can guess they’re not talking about the weather in Munich. Anyway, the German man looks up and says, very gently, ‘Well, probably that’s better, yes?’ and he and his wife smile.
So don’t tell me you miss the news when you’re abroad. There it was, on the slow and sweaty tram to Belem: Harvey Weinstein, Brexit – the whole world was there.