Hard fun

The friend of a friend who introduced me to the concept of hard fun may have had other flaws, not least a patchy acquaintanceship with the truth and far too wide a hippy streak, but her easy acknowledgement of the fact that some fun things are bloody hard work was at the time cathartically pertinent and has since formed part of my somewhat amorphous set of mores and rationalisations for life. We were then in the queue for opening night at Space in Ibiza, a moment of really quite horrific stress, but with the prospect of a really very good night once we got inside. We stuck it out and am pleased we did, but the difficulty at one point seemed critical, with the fun very far away.

This morning was hard fun: we went to the Mercado Municipal and the streets around to explore and to shop. The market was a foodie’s paradise – every kind of cheese, meat, fruit, vegetable, fish, nuts, seeds, booze, spices, dessert, snacks and everything else you can imagine, piled on top of one another and really cheap. Highlights included the stall with five chocolate machines constantly churning white, milk and dark melted chocolate to pour on their amazing selection of fruit and significantly less healthy things; the live crabs strung together and waving at us in mute pleas for freedom; pieces of animal insides I didn’t even know existed, although I preferred life when I didn’t; cured sausage so spicy it made me cough like a back-street curry house vindaloo; fruit which I’m still very much learning to identify but which bears as little relationship to the anaemic and watery Tesco’s offerings as Sunny D does to anything not invented to outlast nuclear winter; and piles and piles of salted cod, bacalhau, which they just adore here and I tried in a bolinho (‘little fishcake’) which was delicious, if, as is the norm here, deep-fried.

Outside the market the streets were thronged in way which makes Oxford Street at Christmas look positively laid-back. Shops selling everything you could ever need but nothing you would ever want spilled out onto the street, with hawkers shoving the latest back-of-a-lorry wares in your face, shouts of ever more miraculous discounts competing for your overworked attention, people shoving and jostling for the inch of pavement you were under the impression you were occupying, and relentless, relentless sun beating down.  There was a street of shops selling nothing but thousands of beads, a ‘Feather Palace’ with suitably impressive plumage, plastic watches in every colour under the sun, a whole range of luggage, ranging from small coin purse to massive suitcase, in pink fake fur with ‘SEXY’ embroidered on it, a pile of fake dog shits, some of the most amazing fancy dress shops I have ever seen, and all the clothes you would ever require, as long as you’re happy in head-to-toe lycra. Everyone I know is getting Christmas presents from here, and there’s going to be quite the competition for the electronic, multi-coloured ‘WC’ sign, with the little boy’s wee in never-ending moving LCD glory. Que elegante, não?

Three hours in and my US army buddy pointed out that ‘Nos aparacemos zombies’, and indeed the resemblance was remarkable, down to the witless groan and a seeming sole ability to follow each other around blindly. I have had to come home to lie down for an hour before cracking on with the rest of the day before the sun goes down, which I’m determined to do as this week has been out-and-out cold, which is not why I moved to bloody Brazil. Tonight, a second attempt to get tickets to one of São Paulo’s legendary football matches, or much more staidly the theatre. I need to be keeping my energy levels up for this kind of fun.

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