Two minutes late

I really do like train trips. I already had my ticket. I prepared well the night before, and rose very early on the appointed day according to plan. So what possessed me to do a whole series of unimportant things at home so that I would arrive at the station two minutes late for my trip to Lisbon is beyond me.

But that is what I did. My meeting in Lisbon was important, so there was nothing for it but to check and top up the oil and water and head for the highway in my 22-year-old Opel Corsa and drive the 265 kilometres just as fast as its little wheels could take me.

I delayed the meeting by half an hour, but we had a constructive session dealing with the translation project. It was good to meet with the author again and one or two others involved in the website construction. Six and a half hours later, with a short but pleasant break for lunch, the purpose of the meeting had been achieved, and the happiness hard workers have when hard work is satisfactorily done was appropriately shared.

The author knows I am a country mouse who hails from the wide open spaces of Africa, so was kind enough to drive through the horrendous Lisbon traffic to where I had parked my car in the morning. From there I followed his car until we got onto the 17-kilometre-long Vasco da Gama Bridge which spans the Tagus River (Rio Tejo) and, as a happy coincidence, was the highway he too had to take to go home.

It was then that I realised that it was 18:30 and I had not taken a single photo all day. Since I had crossed this bridge for the very first time as I arrived in Lisbon in the morning, I felt compelled to document the day in a small way.

So, as I was driving in three-lane traffic at 100 km/h, I dug into my laptop case on the back seat and retrieved my camera, removed it from its case, balanced it with one hand on the steering wheel and took a few snaps. I took a few more “free-hand”, without the stability afforded by the steering wheel. I know that I really ought to have been eating and talking on the cellphone at the same time, but as I said, being a country mouse, I cannot cope with such a high degree of multi-tasking.

The Tejo was a pale, dull gold colour, as were pockets of sky. These are some of the better ones:

I packed my camera away safely and relaxed into normal driving mode once again. As the light faded, the greyness of the cement and highway and river and sky all seemed to merge as I headed on this seemingly endless bridge into seeming oblivion.

The Phoenicians and Romans were here once, you know. They, too, cultivated grapevines on the banks of this enormous river. They have gone, but some of those very same grapevine varieties exist to this day and in some instances are cultivated on the same land as they were in ancient times. I learn odd bits of information like this as a translator. As a translator, I also know that it really is better, generally, to be at least two minutes early.


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