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July 1st 2019

Frank Bowling Yellow2Lisbon is a city of lines: amarela, azul, verde, vermelho or red, blue, green and yellow. The simplicity of the network of fifty-five cool tiled stations is a weary travellers dream. I come down into my body from out of my head and feel safe from the prying eyes of a Metro line predator.

On the bus leaving the city the temperature reads 35 degrees centigrade, and thankfully dropping. The hills are yellow and the people are yellow and hot. The Torres das Amoreiras, also known as the Amoreiras Towers are standing to attention.The architect of these yellow fortresses of post-modernity is a standing joke since a sex tape showing him roughly buggering a succession of young girls in his Lisbon office was released on the internet.

The universe has provided me with a yellow hat with the label cut out so I don’t have to worry about whose make it is. It’s just what I need in this heat and I’m grateful it was left in the ladies lavatory at Luton Airport. Sweet serendipity, because I’d resisted buying a sun hat in Departures, obeying the call to my boarding gate instead. On board the EasyJet flight, the attendants confide they pay £11 for a holiday flight, a price probably closer the true cost of fuel per person.

Renewables Revolution

An Atlantic wind is blowing through the hills and whistles noisily inside the bus's air conditioning system. Outside the tinted windows Nordex wind turbines are busily spinning megawatts of energy for a yellow city. Amongst the verdant native forests patches of drooping genetically modified eucalyptus and pine stand out like dry, sore thumbs dwarfed by plantations of steel windmills producing nearly a quarter of Portugal’s electricity.

A revolutionary wind blows through Portugal. The Carnation Revolution in 1974 heralded the change from an authoritarian state to a democracy with barely a shot fired. It was thanks to the people who, despite being told to stay indoors, mingled peacefully with the insurgent army putting flowers in their rifles and defusing hostilities. The spirit of freedom and self-empowerment lives on. No longer dependent on natural gas, 63% of the country’s total energy is provided by renewables; a carbon saving combination of on-shore and off-shore wind, wave and solar.

In Alfeizerao, the little village where I’m staying, the houses are yellow. So are the wide-winged butterflies that flutter around the chamomile and the fruits almost out of reach on the medlar tree. Lemon groves straddle the windy rise further up the road where the farmstead was abandoned long ago. The thin string binding its iron gates is insufficient to bar intruders. A barn owl flies slowly, silently, and unexpectedly out from the dilapidated roof disturbed by a human presence. It’s forty three inch wings brush the sentient trees laden with giant unpicked lemons the shape and size of shrunken rugby balls. One garnishes our food for days.

Queen Ines de Castro

Saudade

At Alcabaca, inside the gothic monastery yellow veins flicker through the marble tombs of King Pedro I and Queen Ines de Castro. In 1355 Ines was beheaded on the orders of Pedro’s father Alfonso IV, who refused to sanction the marriage during his lifetime. Honoured only after death, her disinterred corpse was robed and crowned. The hem of her dress and her decomposing hand kissed by the King’s courtiers. Her murderers were captured and their hearts ripped out, they say, by Pedro himself.

As evening transitions into night, the incessant rhythm of Fado music and barking dogs quieten. A bloodshot full moon and innumerable stars occupy a wide-open sky, a wistful quality fills the air. Inside my wooden beamed room yellow shadows cast by wall lights burnish the surrounds. Horizontal, I am drawn into my soul where a yearning for the long ago past dwells with a deep desire for the unknowable future. In Portuguese language, this longing is known as saudade. It seems to me the mass mourning for tragic Queen Ines long ago has imparted something infinite and eternal, a sense of nostalgia and belonging to her shores.

Painting by Frank Bowling.