Our Man In Rio and The Brazilian Thumb…….

Last night was our highlight of the trip so far. Vincent, the owner of our apartment last week, had recommended a samba bar to us called Vaco Atolada in the area of Lapa which is within walking distance of our current hostel. He suggested getting there about 8ish on a Friday night, so we thought we’d give it a go for an hour. On entering it was fairly quiet but the band were already playing, 3 guitarists and 3 percussionists sat around a table facing each other in the centre of the room. Beautiful soft samba music with all 6 of them singing, smiling and generally being very happy and chilled, very much like Ry Cooder’s Bueno Vista days if anyone knows it. We settled at our table with a large beer to share and watched the room fill. We were by far the youngest, and Charlotte initially likened it to a day care social centre! First in came 4 ladies in their 50s, casually but glamourously dressed and loud and bubbly and obviously out for a good night! One of them had a long tight dress and a large feather in her hair, looking as if she was going to break into the Charlston at any moment! Next up was my favourite! A guy in his 70s, wearing white patent leather slip on shoes, no socks, white Bermudas, white Polo shirt. He had collar length silver hair and a silver close cut beard. He was the exact spitting image of Jerome Flynn in Ripper Street, only 20 years older! I used to work with a bloke called Dave Levine who was the oldest swinger in town, and known as Disco Dave. Surely these two were related? Had he been in a British film he’d have been known as Our Man In Rio. I believe he was there for a covert meeting with Q! Although he wasn’t actually covert at all, as he greeted all the musicians mid song and made a bit of an issue over which table to sit at. Gradually the place filled, every new entrant a true character in their own right! Single old men dancing the samba with perfection, couples twirling away, and an overriding ambience of happiness, joy and friendliness! This was very much a local bar for local people and everybody knew each other! Anyway, the beers flowed, as the most attentive waiters I’ve ever known constantly kept our bottle refreshed! Even the waiters were in their 50s, and could quite possibly have been 3 chubby brothers. They just seemed to be enjoying it as much as the customers! As the floor became full of people dancing (lots of incredible botty jiggling action going on!) they were becoming increasingly curious about us too, and before long we had lots of women chatting away to us! Very very friendly people, amazed and pleased to find some British in their bar! Apparently this never happens! Our Man In Rio had been joined by Q who turned out to be his beautiful 60 odd year old girlfriend/partner/wife/mistress. She had lived in New York (obviously while spying on the Kennedys) so spoke good English – we’ve found this to be very rare in Rio. She completely befriended Charlotte which was lovely!
And then the inevitable happened. My worst nightmare. I knew it would but I’d tried to put it out of my mind – the women insisted I dance. I cannot dance. I have all the finesse of the back end of a pantomime horse. But I gave it a go. It took about 6 seconds before they realised with open shock and laughter that I wasn’t actually physically disabled, just completely inept on my feet. Which is a shame as I’d love to be able to dance nicely with Charlotte. For someone who’s biggest love in life is music, my lack of rhythm is astonishing! Anyway, Charlotte danced like she was Brazilian so our dignity was not totally lost!
The night carried on brilliantly, and we were disappointed when the band packed their kit away. But no! That had just been the warm up act and the main attraction was on next! Excellent! Another superb samba band! And on it went just getting better and better, a proper buzz throughout the now very busy bar. Reluctantly but tiredly we left at about midnight. Charlotte had been worried about the bill as we’d shared plenty of beers and had some snacks to eat too. £16!!! An amazing night out for £16! I love Rio!!! Our only problem then was that no taxis were prepared to take us to our hostel, more for the fact that it’s up an incredibly steep hill rather than anything else. So, we did what everyone without fail had advised us against, and walked home! We had no other choice! Credit cards and cash were stashed inside Charlotte’s bra (first place I’d look personally) and back up the calf-burning steps, constantly on the look out and fully expecting to be mugged at any point. After 210 brutally steep steps its then half a mile up a 45 degree inclined cobbled back street. But we made it safely in about 30 minutes, albeit both dripping in sweat from the effort. At least we’ll be fit!! What an amazing night made better by the incredible friendliness shown to us!

I’m now fluent in Portuguese. Or more specifically I’m fluent in Brazilian Thumb. This is the unspoken language taught to me by Vincent and does away with any need of speech. It’s like our thumbs up, but the thumb is very casually held at 45 degrees at waist height. It means multiple things, and whole conversations can be had just by using the same signal. For example, buying cigarettes –
Me – point at cigarettes required. Smile. Thumb.
Seller – Smile. Thumb. Hand cigarettes to me. Smile. Thumb.
Me – Smile. Thumb. Take cigarettes, hand over money. Smile. Thumb.
Seller – Smile. Thumb. Give change. Smile. Thumb.
Me – Smile. Thumb. Take change. Smile. Thumb.
Seller – Smile. Thumb.
Me – Smile. Thumb.
Transaction successfully negotiated!! It’s easy! I find speech very overrated these days!!!

I’ve just written this while lazing on Praia Vermelha beach at the foot of Sugar Loaf. It’s become our favourite! I treated myself to some sort of sausage thing cooked on a bbq which the guy brings to you. Tasted like a mixture between hot dog and bratwurst, very nice, though I suspect I’m going to discover its two main ingredients are botulism and salmonella…… But I’m saving my growing list of toilet stories for another time!

Tomorrow night we’re at the Maracana stadium for The Foo Fighters and Kaiser Chiefs!!!!! And then we leave early Monday morning to spend 5 days on Ilha Grande, a paradise island despite its history as a prison and leper colony. There’s a very good chance that we have no wifi there, so this may be the last post for a few days. It’ll give you a break from my insanity! Cheers chaps!!!


Our Man In Rio signals to his Ghurka bodyguards that Q has arrived and the exits are to be sealed


Beer of this very moment!


Me and my Botulism and Salmonella sausage


Charlotte took this one in a bid for equality

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