The Spanish Admiral,
the cocktail party
and the polylinguist
By Ironteeth Rum Spigot (UK)
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The Spanish Admiral, the cocktail party and the polylinguist
Mid sunny afternoon on the Tagus. Tower of Belem reflecting limestone sunlight onto the muddy waters. First time here he imagined Magellan journeying past this bastion on his circumnavigating way, but a punch up in the Philippines did for him and he never made it back to see it complete. He must have seen the Tower’s beginnings in 1515; he didn’t sail away until 1519, allegedly. The old sailor did get a Strait named after him but would he be a happy soul to find a penguin bearing his name? What occurs there? Penguins are Antarctic beasties and Ferdy was never big on that continent. But, in mitigation, he has got a cloud in the stars.
Ski told him on the way in during an Alpha that it used to be an island and we should look on it as Lisbon’s Drake’s Island. Maybe so. He liked that. Agreeable associations cleave to both isles. For him Belem is still riddled with pleasing memories.
Sailing into Lisbon always cheers him up. He does a rare Alpha, just for the joy of it, and keeps out of the eye of the Master at Arms. Along the Iberian Peninsula and into the mouth of the Tagus, under the 25th April Bridge, with the, not very ostentatious, statue of Jesus Christ on the starboard side. The Christo Rei, a straight rip off of the one in Rio, according to Ski. He manifestly looks after Lisbon and Harry thanked him for that. Along the river, past the Tower and tie up alongside in the dockyard area. Always a feel good for Fennessey.
Lisbon, Cidade das Sete Colinas, is set on seven hills and the buildings tower up the hillside above the ships below on the water. First time in, and again since, he used the gunner’s sighting scopes on the hangar roof Gunnery Direction Position to look into the windows of the houses alongside in the Barrio. Was caught, castigated, and had to go to the back of the queue.
Here, glorious Lisbon, on the flight deck, wearing half blues, serving up Horse’s Necks to local dignitaries, prefeitos, vereadores, expats, businessmen, foreign officers, attached and, more appealingly, unattached females. Fennessey was having a good time. Volunteers never in short supply for these dos. Sailors mingle among the guests holding large jugs of Brandy, Gin, ginger beer, and mixers various. Regularly they can be seen to disappear momentarily behind the hangar door uprights and reappear none the worse, despite having had gulpers at their jugs, for wear. These stewards usually have to be relieved on a regular basis to keep up appearances.
Fennessey was in full swing when an imperious, disdainful, parvenu dressed as a Spanish Admiral cornered him, demanding of him if he could speak Portugese. Unmistakably he was making a point to his audience of Portuguese society apropos the ignorance of the British sailor. Fennessey replied in the affirmative and, somewhat abashed, the Admiral instructed him to say something in Portugese. Fennessey did. The Admiral did not understand him at first, but his audience did. A concoction of consternation, discomfit, awkwardness with annoyance, redeemed by amusement at the sheer raillery and drollness of the response arose among the Iberians.
Some giggling, some holding hands to their mouths, some shaking heads; they took spontaneous leave of the Admiral. One crossed to Fennessey, spoke smilingly into his ear, shook his hand, and joined the others.
The Admiral glowered at Fennessey and seeing no other recourse, stormed away, virtual super heated steam discharging both ears.
“Do tell Fennessey.” The Commander, suddenly at his side, enquired with interest.
“Nothing, Sir. He just asked me a question.”
“Very good, Fennessey…….Tenente Mendonca.”
The last gesturing at a young Portuguese Officer, who had witnessed the Admiral interlude.
The liaison Lieutenant walked over to the Commander as Fennessey sidled away. They spoke and Lieutenant Mendonca resolutely collared Fennessey.
“What did you say to him, Harry?” asked the Tenente.
“He just asked me to say something in Portugese, Cristovao.”
“What did you say, Harry?”
“Aw, gie us a break, Sir.”
“I will tell the Commander about your Ginjinha.”
Fennessey considered his stash of Cherry Liquor. How the blinking blonk did Chris know? He looked into his eyeballs, homem a homem. He bloody well meant it. Lesson learnt, again. Never trust an Officer. Fennessey knew when he was beaten and told Cristovao what he had said.
Tenente Mendonca went white, pale, ashen, he looked at his hands, they were shaking. He goggled at Fennessey, grimace coalescing with grin.
“You said that to an Admiral?”
“C’mon Sir, he is a caralho.”
“Ver para crer.”
The Tenente decamped to find the Commander. Fennessey dismissed himself for the afternoon, piled into some civvies, and legged it ashore to the Barrio.
But, apparently the Commander, who had had his dealings with the Admiral, appreciated.
“So, Fennessey told him to go perform a physical impossibility upon himself. If he was an Officer, I’d have to have his testicles for braces. What ho. Bloody ratings.”
Smiling, he rejoined the flock.