I realize with a pang of regret this is my last full week on Buenos Aires. As if to rub salt in the wound, on Monday the heavens open again and it rains heavily all day, for over 8 hours, without pause.
This seems to be traditional for Mondays in Buenos Aires. All around the apartment complex people sit, stuck in their flats, working. I set up shop by the French doors in the upstairs kitchen and spend the whole day writing.
Tuesday- Books and ancient history. I have finished the two books I brought; to Argentina. For the record, Voyage to the End of the Room, by Tibor Fischer was very good, while Fascination, a collection of short stories by William Boyd, is extraordinarily good. But now I need something new to read.
I discover Walrus Books just around the corner on Estados Unidos. This is an excellent little English-language bookstore, owned by a nice American couple.
The books here are a mix of new and 2nd hand. The new books are not much more expensive than at home, which is remarkable, considering they’ve had to be puchased in small volumes from bookfairs in the US, then shipped here.
The 2nd hand selection is also imported. They don’t have everything you might be looking for, but the books are well-chosen and in excellent condition.
I pass an enjoyable hour humming and hawing, before settling on a substantial tome of non-fiction, the brilliant Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond.
Tuesday night means La Catidral, my favourite night spot in Buenos Aires. The tango class is so packed we can barely move.
It is hardly the best place to learn tango but still good fun. I see the Turkish friends one more time, those that remain. I also meet some very nice Norweigian women and spend a very nice evening chatting to one in particular.
Back home in Norway Cecilia works in tourism, but she is also writing a children’s book. I like Cecilia. I find her, as Bertie Wooster might say, a thoroughly good egg.
I really owe Carlos for leting me stay in his nice flat for my long stay here. I have already bought a nice antique fan for the apartment but it doesn’t seem enough. I decide to buy something serious.
The two wooden chairs on the terrace have almost rotted away. The best present for Carlos might be some good quality replacement garden furniture for his balcony and the rooftop terrace.
I go to “Easy” a sort of hypermarket near Santa Fe. I find a teak sunlouger and cushion, and two different folding armchairs.
But how to get my heavy cargo home?
Once again I get lucky, and the entrpeneurial values of the free market come to the recue. Two freelance drivers approach with a business card. We negociate a deal to transport me and the furniture back to San Telmo. I think about safety, but do some on-the-spot diligence. The uniformed store security man knows and is prepared to vouch for the men providing their bona fides. This is good enough for me. Estaban and I shake hands on the price again, then load my furniture into his van. He drives me back to San Telmo at traditionally Argentine high velocity.
As if to keep pace with the vehicle, we gabble at a furious rate in Castellano about chess, computer technology, and the dangers of modern state surveillance.
Estaban is deeply wary of modern state surveillance.
I go with Nefta and Fede to la Pueta Roja, a nightclub on calle Peru in San Telmo. Sometimes this place is dire, or just dead, but tonight it is heaving. I take a leaf out of the book of shark-monster Fede: I start randomly chatting univited to complete strangers. This is how I meet a small extraordianry little blonde bombshell of a South African girl, called Nell.
How did Nell get to Latin America? She and two companions, all professional sailors, crewed a small 30-foot boat from Cape Town to Brazil.
I am suitably impresed.
Nell goes on to tell me they were caught in storm cycle off the coast of Namibia and couldn’t sleep for nearly a week as they battled the 10 metre waves. This just sounds bloody terrifying. I am even more impressed.
My night is complete when Nell invites me to a party at her house two nights later.
Thursday.. I spend my morning sleeping, and my afternoon is given over to neglected house chores. First I spend an hour unwrapping the deckchairs and assembling the teak sun-recliner I have bought for Carlos.
It’s three days after Monday’s rain now and both the temperature and the humidity are climbing again. I am pleased and proud to think Carlos- coming with his girlfriend from cold Madrid- is going to enjoy his presents. I have visons of them purring with pleasure as they sunbathe, after the long Northern hemisphere winter.
Then I clean the bathtub. The accumulation of soap scum seems to be turning black, and looks throughly unpleasant.
Even with the potent cocktail of cleaning fluids I blend togther, it is nearly a two-hour job and heavy on the elbow grease.
Strangely staisfying however.
I meet an old family friend for lunch, Erik Vandergrijn, a well-established Dutch artist resident in Buenos Aires and New York. He and his family used to live in Ireland. Erik’s daughter, still in Ireland, is one of my sister Emmeline’s oldest and closest friends.
Erik knows all my mother’s friends well, as well as all the older established artists in Dublin.
After lunch at a locaql Parilla we go to Placa Dorrego for a bottle of wine, and spend another couple of hours of pleasant reminicining, about people we both know and Dun Laoire in the 1980s.
As usual there are professional tango dancers dancing in the Square.
One of them, called Rebecca, turns out to be Irish. I invite her to Nell’s party.
I go home and rest a while. Later that evening, after my siesta, I meet Nefta for a bite to eat.
Nefta guides us to a Peruvian restaurant. At last I get to eat Cerviches, the famous Peruvian dish made from raw fish and seafood and light red onion, cooked in citrus juice, and garnished with roasted maize.
It is delicious.
Afterwards we go on to Nell’s party, on an enormous rooftop terrace. There is a fun crowd, South Africans, Americans, Canadians, Brits, Irish and Argentines. Nell and her friends are raising money for a school community project in a poor community outside the city, so we all throw some money in the hat.
The party is a blast. It turns into a genuine all-nighter. We drink a lot. We talk, we dance…
Then we talk some more and drink some more. It all goes on a very long time and it never gets boring once.
By some timme the following morning we stand on the terrace, watching the sun come up. Then we turn up the music and dance some more.
Somewhere in the background, Fede is quoting poetry at a doe-eyed English girl.
It appears to be working, at least to some extent. She looks charmed.
Predictably, I don’t leave until almost 9 on Saturday morning. I am not even the last to leave. Not even close.
There is of course a heavy price to pay for all this international rooftop fun.
I am in bits for the rest of the weekend.
Hung-over or no, I am detirmined to see the Ireland-Scotland game. Fortunately it is on in Gibratar, the local English pub in San Telmo, so I avoid the long expensive dash to the Sugar Bar in Palermo Soho. This is a shame in some ways, because I miss seeing Liam and some of the other Irish guys from my very first weekend, as well as Maggie, a nice Irish woman from the party.
But I am in no shape for a long taxi ride in the hot sun. I skulk in the dark of Gibrlater, drinking lemonade. I even order some food, which turns out to be excellent. Then I crawl back home, and into bed. I sleep for most of the day.
Later, much later, that night, having wokem from deep slumber, partly refreshed.
Cautiously, very tenderly, I venture back into the Gibraltar, and nurse a few very quiet pints. I meet some young Norwegian students I know slightly.
Then I meet two other, slightly older women, who are great fun. Claire is from Bray, and her friend and collegue Lucy is a kitesurfing fanatic from Suffolk in England. Both are teachers at the English language school private school Saint Georges, out in Quilmes. We chat about life and kite-surfing, and play a little pool.
I am sorry when they have to go home, but take it as cue to be sensible and to go home to bed myself. I have slavaged something of a Saturday back from the jaws of the previous night’s epic party. It is definitely time to go to bed. Sensibly, I leave the pub.
and I nearly make it to my front door.
I even get into the appartment complex. But as I close the gate behind me and cross the coutyard, just yards from my door, I am intercepted by my neighbour Laura, (the golf ace) her boyfriend Nico and two friends Rosario and Laura number 2.
They are having after dinner drinks. Tragically, I seem unable to turn down any social invitation. I step over the window frame for a round of drinks. I thought I was so exhausted I could hardly keep my eyes open, but regrettably I now get a second wind.
Later that night, we try four different night clubs.
The first has a static queue. Like me Rosario and laura don’t do queues, so we leave,
We go into the second club for about 20 minutes but the slightly naff, very loud, latino-pop, karaoke session in progress isn’t really our cup of tea.
Back out on the street, myself and Rosario do some good old traditional Irish knacker- drinking, when she buys a large bottle froma kiosko. We stand about swigging it out of the bottle. Then we head for our third choice club, La Puerto Roja.
But just as we arrive, we meet, or are intercepted by, Fede. We receive his verbal report that the Puerto Roja is just not buzzing tonight. So we follow fede as he leads us to a fourth nightclub, a trendy modern place down on calle Defensa.
But by now the game is up for me.
I am just too shattered at this stage.
I slip away, before the first drinks arrive.
There is only so much weekend one man can take.