What better way to welcome a hot Monday afternoon following the hottest day on record this summer in my corner of the Algarve than to witness an Irish bride and bridesmaids alighting from hired vintage cars at the door of the São Sebastião Church – which dates back to 1759, by the way – in the village of Boliqueime?
I do not think the bridal party counted on three days of local festivities known as the festas populares immediately preceding their special day, nor on the temporary wooden stalls presenting a particular kind of stark contrast to the normally quite neat apron which makes up the Church square on the other 362 days of the year.
This did not deter a large stout piper bedecked as he was in his kilt, a dark purple shirt and black waistcoat from welcoming not only the bride and her entourage but also the local all and sundry to our favourite café and thereabouts, a good vantage point for this type of occasion, with his Irish bagpipes.
He put a strange sort of spring in my step, yet I could not dance to these familiar tunes from the mishmash of my cultural heritage, for the incongruity of my shorn denim shorts, sandals and sleeveless shirt somehow prevented me from expressing myself thus. Besides which, there was no one to dance with.
I settled on singing quietly to myself, and explaining to a group of other women on the pavement that yes, the Irish do have kilts, and that their bagpipes differ from those of the Scots but by an accident of ancient Celtic migration, latterly reinforced by Irish troops sent by Britain to help the Portuguese defend their territory from the French in the 18th century, the Irish bagpipes are similar to the bagpipes found more commonly in the north of Portugal, whereas the Scottish ones are of a different construction and require a slightly different technique when played. And then I wonder why Algarvian women sometimes look at me strangely.
Today’s pipes droned on until this group of women remembered conveniently that they had other more pressing things to do, and disbanded as quickly as they had come together.
It was then that I heard another sound: the whirr of the camera-mounted drone coming to roost near the cameraman after dutifully recording images from unusual angles of the arrival of the bride and her bridesmaids and flower girls, all of them of a complexion so pale in comparison to my own arms which have tanned dark brown seemingly overnight; a darker brown than they ever were in Africa – how strange!
You can see the modern day drone to the right of the window above the Church door, positioned thus to film the bride being accompanied down the aisle by her father, wearing what looks like a winter-weight royal blue jacket and white trousers; much good those will do him on this scorcher of a day. Perhaps he is going bowling afterwards – or perhaps it is his bowling attire?
In any case, here is a close up of the drone:
As I entered the café for my habitual espresso, the lady next to me at the counter said the Portuguese equivalent of, “Thank God that bloody banshee wail has stopped”, and held her head, exaggerating the headache it had given her. This amused me greatly, and light-hearted chatter followed while I gathered information as to who present liked and did not like the sound of bagpipes.
Minutes later the burly piper entered, took off his cap and rolled up his sleeves. He was a little startled when I told him that half the people in the café loved the bagpipes, and half did not. Like a true musician, he said, “I don’t care!” in a broad Irish accent, which was, of course, to be expected, and ordered a beer.
My life quickly resumed its normal course after that. As I got in my car to come home, I heard the faint strains of a well-known English hymn coming from the Church. I had half a mind to stand outside the door to hear more, but resisted the urge. It had nothing to do with me, really.
©2016 Allison Wright