Fall from grace

A few days ago I was living like a (slutty) princess in a super-smart hotel.

Then The Brief Romance left town and things went back to normal; a tramp broke wind on me, a tango singer threatened to deck me and I fell off a podium in a nightclub.

Here, a little less glamorous than last week’s report, is the story of this weekend.

Friday night I went to eat more Llama stew and listen to an emergent star on the tango scene. I am addicted to Llama stew. It’s a shame because they are lovely animals but I’m afraid they taste stupendous when baked into a rich tasty northern Argentine stew and encased in spicy winey fruity bread sprinkled with sweet paprika. Sozzer. I was a vegetarian for 14 long, painful years before I admitted defeat. I actually like Llama stew more than I like scones with cream and jam. My feelings for it are serious. It’s not just a fling.

The tango singer was excellent but rather unfortunately I presumed that we were in a chilled out venue where one can eat, drink, chat quietly and watch some live music. All of those apply save for the chatting quietly. The singer had been on stage for less than five minutes when she broke off and stared at me and one of my friends. Without warning she spoke in perfect English. Here in Argentina, she said, we respect other people when they are performing. We do not talk. There was an embarrassed silence. I honestly thought that everyone had been talking! Apparently not. I am a stickler for good manners so I hoped that I might be able to die or something. Instead I just went red and made a ‘sorry’ face which clearly didn’t translate very well because the next thing I knew she had drawn herself up to full height and started rolling up her sleeves.  I’m not joking. “Dale,” she said quietly and with menace. This sort of means ‘right, let’s do this.’ This woman was not small. I was seriously considering making a run for it (taking my llama stew with me, obv) when the guitarist intervened and forced her back into song. He cast me a warning glance that said “it’s not worth f*cking with her, she’ll deck you.”

During any angry bits in her songs she started yell-singing and glowering at me.

It was horrible.

Then I went to a nightclub and, well, as I said, fell off a podium. I had no business on that podium anyway. I am thirty years old. What sort of a thirty year old dances on podiums to Chaka Khan?! Jesus, I used to do that when I was sixteen! I get a bit carried away in the bit where she goes “aiiiiiiiiI wait for night time to fall” and I often execute a little turn on the aaaaaaiI which, on a normal dancefloor, normally passes without incident. On the edge of an already overcrowded platform it spells doom and I of course went flying off and crashed into a young pretty girl – the sort of girl who should be on a podium dancing to Chaka Khan. An extraordinarily sweaty man picked me up and kissed my cheek (standard greeting here.) “DE DONDE SOS?” he yelled in my ear. (Where are you from.) “De Londres,” I said embarrassedly. He nodded wisely. “Si, claro,” he replied. As in, yes, of course.

On Saturday I went to a South American Bagpipe gathering. It was quite the most extraordinary thing I’ve seen since arriving here. They were playing, with the utmost pomp and baton-twirling formality, on the immaculate lawn of an immaculate sports club in an immaculate part of town. I wondered if I was in some sort of Surrey cricket pavilion where a visiting Scottish pipe band were entertaining the well-heeled ladies of the local Conservative Club. It really was quite mind-altering; a load of fit Scotsmen honking away at Amazing Grace in their full kilt ‘n’ sporran ensemble as Nice Families in florals clapped and ate cake. Except they weren’t actually Scotsmen; they were in fact from Sao Paolo, Montevideo, Buenos Aires and Lima. And the Nice Families were drinking Quilmes and offering encouragement in thick Rioplatenese Castellano. Totally weird. I looked quite the lout in my shorts and H&M vest.

On Sunday I went to my local park to work because there hasn’t been enough of that going on recently. I found a little spot in the 30 degree heat, slathered on the Soltan and got to work. Then weird things started to happen. A golden retriever came and sat next to me and stared at me for the entire time I was there. He didn’t do anything, he just stared at me. (Was I in his favourite spot?) Next arrived this woman with the most gigantic pot belly I’ve ever seen. It was sort of like she was heavily pregnant but she was in her sixties. She took off her clothes and just stood in the park about six meters from me. Like the dog, she stayed there all afternoon. Occasionally she’d turn round so that a different part of her was in the sun, but mostly she just stood. Then a hot man in hippyish knickers arrived and started meditating. In comparison to my other two companions, he seemed relatively normal, but then he started doing yoga and stood on his head for half an hour. In 30 degree heat this seemed unwise. I was trying to write but kept wondering if I should call an ambulance.

I wondered if  I had inadvertently become part of a piece of performance art.

Finally, to complete my League of Gentleman afternoon in the park, a tramp rolled up and sat shouting at me in Spanish from a distance of maybe ten metres. I ignored him; I had enough on my plate what with Staring Dog, Headstand Man and bizarre standing-up sunbathing Belly Woman. Eventually he lay down and rolled over on to his side, facing away from me, evidently trying for a kip. I carried on writing.

Then the tramp let off a MASSIVE chuff. MASSIVE. I recoiled in horror; any fart that loud is going to smell bad; coming from the backside of someone who puts away 4 peso wine all day long it’s nothing short of an international crisis. I pulled my towel over my face and fumed. Was it too much to ask that I sat quietly in the sun and wrote? The tramp started bellowing with laughter, pulled himself up onto his elbow and looked over his shoulder at me. “HI BEAUTIFUL,” he yelled. “DO YOU WANT ME TO COME CLOSER TO YOU.” I began to panic slightly. The man standing on his head had opened one upside-down eye and was watching my next move with interest. The tramp yelled again. “COME HERE AND LIE WITH ME,” he shouted. “YOU WILL BE HAPPY. COME ON YOU AMERICAN PRINCESS, COME AND GET HAPPY.” He patted the ground and crowed with laughter, another trump escaping at great volume.

I love Buenos Aires, I absolutely love it, but it does rather test one’s patience at times.

As I walked home, admitting defeat, ready for a cold shower and a calmer work session at my sitting room table, I encountered a dog wearing trousers, sunglasses and a neckerchief. This is no word of a lie. It didn’t even have a visible owner, it was just trotting purposefully along the street towards Plaza Serrano.

All in a weekend’s work.

PS. Dunno what the photo is about now. But it was funny at the time.


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