pushing it

It was real touch and go whether I was going to push on with a trip to Portugal planned around Julie’s cousin Gary’s wedding. I had booked some reasonably priced flights a couple of months ago and with accommodation very kindly sorted through a good friend I wouldn’t have been losing out too much financially if I cancelled, but, aswell as being keen to get to the wedding, the thought of a week in the sunshine was extremely appealing to me. My recent stint in hospital was preying on my mind though. What would happen if I end up in trouble over in Portugal? I was feeling well, was eating better but by no means as much as maybe I should have. As the travel date approached I was feeling positive, I could always fairly easily get on a plane home as soon as I thought there was anything wrong, it is only a few hours from Glasgow and if i made decisions quick I felt I could avoid any serious problems and if I take it easy enough, the rest and good weather would be better for me than staying at home. The other side of things is that I really try not to let my condition dictate my life. Sometimes I feel I could just wrap myself up in a ball and stay in my room for a week rather than go out the door and the weather here doesn’t help much!

So, the decision to go was made, bag packed in half an hour, picc line cleaned and changed and whisked to the airport by mum+dad saving me leaving the car there and having to drive back late when I got back which was more of a God send than I realised at the time.

I have been to Portugal, the Algarve in particular, a couple of times previously. The first time was on 31st August 1997. I remember this well as I had been up very early, about 3am watching coverage of the Diana crash in Paris. Newspapers at the airport were reporting of the crash but there was no news on any deaths. On being picked up to be taken to our accommodation(a villa shared by 6 of us) the driver informed us how sad he was at the loss of our princess. It was a bit of a strange few days watching some of the coverage back home, I am no royalist my any means but certainly felt the reaction of the country at the time. That holiday mostly consisted of carrying on by the pool during the day and eating out at night. It was a bit different from holidays I would usualy take where I would always hire a car and travel about a lot, in fact I would usually travel about too much while on holiday! My next trip was about 3 years ago, a cheap package deal for a week which was great at the time. We spent everyday doing something different, traveling along the coast and up into the countryside to some lovely villages and towns like Monchique the area around which is called the garden of the Algarve. We ate out almost everyday during that holiday, thoroughly enjoying the fresh fish and chicken piri-piri along with some decent wine. My own curiosity dragged me to the bullring which was fascinating but I particularly remember just relaxing on the steps getting nice cold lager brought to me in a rather curious atmosphere, I just had to see for myself to make my mind up about the morals of it all but I am also fascinated by the culture of which there is certainly a lot of.

relaxed observing the bull fighting in May 2008

This break was going to be a lot different, it was all about relaxing, getting some sun and getting some space to really think about what has happened to me and my life since my diagnosis and this is pretty much what I did.

Having arrived at our accommodation around 7pm, our west facing balcony took in a tremendous sunset. It was an absolute joy to sit out in the warm air watching the sky change colour and thousands of what looked like swallows, play in the cooling breeze that arrived with the sun disappearing on the horizon.

view from the balcony

Having arrived safely on the wednesday night, the wedding wasn’t until the Friday, so Thursday would be getting settled in. First thing I needed to do was get some shorts as I hadn’t even thought when I packed that none of the shorts I brought fitted me at all! quick trip to the mall to get a few pairs to do me the week and we popped in to see the wedding party who were having a barbeque at the impressive holiday villa they rented out. It was back to the apartment after that were I watched some football and had an early night to conserve my energy for the wedding.

The setting on the beach for the wedding was sensational. A wonderful seafood restaurant perched on some rocks overlooking a sandy beach. The wedding ceremony was set up just outside and this is where the dancing was to take place later on. We arrived on time around 5 for drinks reception and the ceremony soon followed. After mixing and chatting while photos were taken the meal commenced about 7 with some speeches first and 4 fantastic courses including some amazing grilled sea bass and a selection of puddings on a huge plate to share. I ate well that night and had a great time mostly watching the revellers enjoy the food, drink, dancing and celebrations.

everisto beach and restraunt, the wedding venue!

The next day was spent locally around Vilamoura taking in the harbour and a return to a geletaria that I remembered well from my last visit. I opted for a mango and mint choc chip combo which may seem a strange combination but worked for me, after that we found a local beach and I had the opportunity to get my feet wet strolling along the golden sands!

I wasn’t feeling great on the Sunday and made myself worse by watching the old firm game but went down to the nearby pool for the afternoon and soon relaxed reading a good book almost until the sun was setting around 7.

Decided on a bit of a drive on the Monday taking in a few places we liked on our last visit. I was keen to see a theatre designed by architect Miguel Arruda in a town called Parchal. The building was nearing completion on my last visit and it was good to see the finished article although idealy I would have liked to have seen the building in full use at night. It is a very photogenic building with some lovely reflection pools surrounding it. An interesting feature is the retained industrial chimney with a huge nest on top, a feature which can be seen frequently around the algarve.

Theatre, Parchal, Portugal by architect Miguel Arruda

We then visited a small fishing village called Ferragudo which is a place I would like to go back to and stay for a week. It seems much less touched by tourism than most places but it may be the lack of beach. It is never far from a decent beach on the Algarve and I am more attracted by the quaint streets, the village square and the authentic restaurants. I was really feeling some fatigue this day and was beginning to experience some problems eating. We headed back to the apartment deciding to do something a bit less strenuous the next day, that being a nice relaxing boat trip!

It was decided on taking a 3 hour sailing ship along the coast to get an alternative view of the beaches and cliff faces. I really enjoyed the trip which I thought reasonable at 17 euros. The sailing motion was quite therapeutic and the views fantastic, didn’t see any dolphins though! A bit to eat on the marina afterwards with the sun setting was rewarding and I managed a fairly sizeable portion of pasta and was optimistic that my stomach would cope. I felt ok the next day which was spent relaxing by the pool again but was struggling to eat again properly. It wasn’t long till we were heading home so I wasn’t panicking at all.

Our ryanair flight home on the thursday wasn’t until about 8pm, so after cleaning up the apartment and packing we went for one last trip to the beach to get some last minute photos and then headed for the airport. By the time we got to the airport I must admit I was knackered. I had forgot how far we had to walk to the check in, the bag was overweight and I just wanted to get home by now. Julie struggled carrying my hand baggage as I looked on embarrassed! I won’t have a go at ryanair as it is what is although even if i was fully fit, this would be as far as I would ever travel with them as I just dont fit in their seats! The wait to board was excruciating and I couldn’t stand in the queue so just waited for everyone else to board. Paying £6 priority boarding wouldn’t have made any difference to me whatsoever as they still have to stand and wait like eveyone else.

Having waited to get through customs at Prestwick the officer looked long and hard at my passport before exclaiming ‘you have lost a lot of weight sir haven’t you?’ Being knackered I just looked at him strangely. I am obviously aware that I have lost a lot of weight and after a gruelling journey, probably looked pretty hellish. I was taken aback though. He went on to say the photo was only taken in December last year, again, something I am quite aware of. I just turned around and said “I have cancer, I don’t recommend it it for weightloss’. His face went a bit funny and he soon handed back my passport. I understand my appearance has changed a bit but I was coming back to Scotland, my home country, I had no problem or questions getting in or out of Portugal, so what was his point apart from winding me up a bit when I didn’t really need it? He certainly could have been a bit more sensitive and certainly a lot less suspicious.

boat trip

I was glad and grateful to see my brother waiting for us and I was soon back in my own bed and looking forward to staying there for a while.


7 Responses to “pushing it”

  1. 1 Michele Carver
    October 5, 2011 at 12:16 am

    Wonderful, I’m glad you had a nice time. I can’t believe those custom officers. If they had brains the would be dangerous!!! Glad you put him in his place! You should have got a wheel chair or asked for assistance. I have done that when I am travelling. I have a hard time standing too long.
    I am looking into booking a flight in about a week. Keep strong . Love Michele xx

  2. 4 Michele Carver
    October 5, 2011 at 12:33 am

    Johnny boy it sound like you took in a lot of great sights and relived some old memories. I admire your spirit and will power and wish you the best and will keep you in my thoughts.
    Michele’s other half!

  3. 5 Tracey Jardine
    October 5, 2011 at 7:21 am

    Hi Jonny, Glad you enjoyed your wee jaunt…a wee big of sunshine and a lovely sunset warms the cockles…..glad you are home safe and sound …love Tracey x

  4. 6 martin
    October 5, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    good to see you writing again, take care m

  5. 7 Ivan Marquez
    October 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Hi Jonny. I work with Colin at SHA but I’m sure you can’t put a face to my name as we have only met a handful of times (I think the last one was just before kick-off of Celtic-Benfica at Parkhead about 3 or 4 years ago, when Colin, John McKenzie, Susana (my Portuguese fiancee) and more got some tickets). It’s funny but the main memory I have from you was one other time even more years ago when we all met at the wee bar in front of The Lighthouse in Glasgow, and I remember you and I both ended up talking about Radiohead and how good and underrated their first album Pablo Honey was, and also how great was their live concert in 1994 at London Astoria (the old good times! you said) It was one of those random pub conversations that you don’t know why but they get stuck in your mind.
    I haven’t had the chance to know you more than at times like those above, but it is very moving to see how your close friends (Colin, Jason, John, Glen and a huge et cetera) and family love you so much and carry out all the initiatives to support and motivate you and your carers through this difficult time. You are showing us such a huge heart and courage through your blog that this is the only answer they can have to you: supporting you through and through.
    Keep fighting, keep writing

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