I was dancing quietly by myself next to the right-hand speaker, close but not uncomfortably so to a small potted shrub, sandwiched between a portly portuguese man (an uncommon enough sight) and a woman who had not 5 minutes previously asked me for a little more dancing space. Fair enough, I thought, and edged further into the shrubbery – I’m not about to be the person holding people back from dancing. But suddenly, there I was standing accused of not dancing enough myself, of even looking SAD.
Say hello to Manuela, a Brazilian architect who’s been in Lisbon for two months and had come to this party on the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara alone, a fact she relayed with not a little pride. With getting on for 7 years of occasional solo clubbing experience behind me, I sympathised. However, wasn’t it easier to meet people at parties, said Manuela, where you can just go up to anyone and start talking? Beyond the irony of my immediate thought (‘well, yes you can, but they won’t necessarily like it’), this cut closer to the bone than she could ever realise – in all my years of clubbing the number of long-term friends I’ve made spontaneously in club situations can be counted on one hand. As we were to work out through the following hours of conversation, this inability to connect quickly but in a deep way with people despite an apparent shared interest appears to be a British thing, something I have been doing my best to ‘despejar’ (throw out) by moving here in the first place.
And I can take comfort in the fact that my immediate response to Manuela’s accusations of remoteness and lack of demonstrable enjoyment was not to retreat further into myself, which in London would almost be a given, but in fact to go on the attack: no, I was not sad, and no, I was not finding it boring. My outward aspect at that precise moment was the result of a profound, almost aching nostalgia for a time that predates the beginning of this blog: there I was, getting up close and personal with a shrubbery, surrounded by a number of potential new friends, but being assailed every 4 minutes with another slice of my musical past that I shared with my oldest and closest friends who now live far away. Here, in a city in a different country and 6 years later, the DJs were traversing our old post-mnml forays into Perlon (‘Onandon’) and my Prosumer-driven plunge into classic house (‘Bar A Thym’); Bleimann’s Mountain People phase; and Andrew-period Botley with ‘My Soul My Spirit’, ‘Midnight Express’, ‘Prospect Drive’.
The memories and the acute feeling of potential inherent in that music being played where I now live, were almost too much to take. That sense of vertigo, and whatever approximates to ‘saudades’ in my now multilingual (read: confused) vocabulary of emotion, was what was responsible for my apparent disconnectedness – my body might have been there, but my mind was on a rooftop in Oxford, downing a Carlsberg and savouring the prospect of day turning into night. And rather than feeling all of this emotion but not sharing it, I actually explained it to Manuela, somewhat painstakingly in English and Portuguese, and in doing so realised that I AM making progress.
Later in Brownie, standing talking to Gonçalo from 808, the unfortunate marriage of a tealight and a stack of napkins on a nearby shelf caused a conflagration of uncomfortable proportions for a space that small. The only person not to hesitate was one of the barmen who, whipping his tshirt over his head, proceeded to use it to tamp out the fire. Inside I was dying at this unlikely collision between the worlds of underground house music and topless barmen, spiked with a soupçon of apparently real danger; yet outwardly I remained impassive. So there’s still some way to go.