The Mayor shakes our hands many times and pats us on the shoulders. He is quite keen on the E.T. legend : a spaceship monument adorns the top end of Varginha High Street and can be seen from a long distance away. Not quite from outer space mind. He implies it was much of his doing to get the next six Serie A matches of Belo’s Cruzeiro switched to his Serie B city. If he could shake hands with himself and pat himself on the back , he would. It’s a vote-catcher. I suppose it could be an own goal if the missiles chucked about at Belo are sneaked into the Varginha stadium as well. But they won’t be. There are possibly more police here than fans.
(PHOTO of 200 military police coming down the hill towards the stadium, passing the Cruzeiro-supporting family pick-nicking in the back of their little car)
(PHOTO of some of the 200-strong horse-back riders with big rodeo hats on top of their political-canvassing t-shirts parading around the streets Sunday morning and not going to church)
Here in Brazil in a few weeks it is election time – posters are everywhere. You get fined if you don’t vote. The mayor likes us for having chosen to come to Varginha at all – during his reign – which he hopes to renew with another 4 years in office.
On Monday, after the Cruzeiro match, I hope to see him in his City Hall office and ask him what he has planned for the term ahead. Another UFO sighting…and Museum? How about a Clarke-Grange BIG picture show-on-stilts like the one we just did outside at Manchester City’s Stadium ahead of coming to Brazil?… we could present the pictures in circles and make this a World Cup hotspot for 2014? We could invite someone from outer space to open it.
With some coincidence – and there’s a few happening at the moment (like when I predicted to the second each fork of lighting the other stormy night heading south) I awoke this morning to find a special programme showing on the tv in the hotel dining-room on the Manchester City Vs United rivalry. In fact some of the Vasco players (from Rio) are watching it, over breakfast. The host presenter is Andy Mitten with his unmistakeable Mancunian twine. Even if he now lives in Barcelona. Andy has been a friend and admirer for some years.
Manchester on the small screen looks fantastic : the fans fan-tastic. I feel a little homesick… and contemplate phoning-home to hear about Manchester up norf and the Goodwood Revival down south and whether other events are passing off in the wind or the rain or the sun or all three.
An English-trait : we phone home to talk about the ”weather” back home.
Some Vasco players, comfort-eating, slip an extra sausage on their saucer-shaped fried egg, and a banana in their pocket. Get up to leave the table…
…past the receptionist : pretty, cute, curvaceous, slim, with a big head and big eyes
…doesn’t speak a word of English. I try telling her with sign language that my accomplice Lucinda is NOT my wife and can’t come to the reception desk because she is simply HAVING to have a good wash and that if possible can we have an extra room for one night more even if we HAVE to have two separate rooms.
Next I know the receptionist with the slender body, big engaging head and large eyes is on the phone arranging that the accomplice stays in ANOTHER hotel because she is smelly.
Lost in translation perhaps? (PHOTO of E.T. UFO football shirt)
Varginha is the sort of place for rumours. And for misunderstandings. And for wild-fire. It is said that a fire-engine crew met with the alien in that 1996 incident and even doused the crashed spacecraft. And that all sorts of stories came out of the woodwork about previous sightings. And future sightings no doubt…
Mexican waves are likely here too, like at the match on Saturday night involving local Varginha team Boa… people in the crowd when thinking you are possibly photographing them, adjust their dress and breathe in and no doubt think “this could be my night”. They don’t exactly pose, but some adjust their silicon. Discreetly.
(PHOTO of Mexican wave)
My host Bruno and I were driving around the nearby city of Curitiba (a World Cup venue in 2014) trying to establish the Brazilian character. And found ourselves searching for words and notions. We came up with: “They kiss, a lot”…”
Corrected to: “they SNOG a lot” (the French and Italians play at kissing)…”they like football!”…”they are surprisingly polite for a people supposedly Brazil-nuts”… “They LAUGH a lot”.
That day we approached Varginha – rather like the Emerald City of Oz when seen across the termite interrupted green fields from dusty red roads, we happened on a lovely little football pitch in the middle of nowhere…only to find a bar parked next to it and a horse parked next to that. Looking at us, over its shoulder, politely.
(PHOTO of Stuart on horse) …no sooner had we blinked and we were transported – the owner of the horse giving us in turn a leg up, and parading us along the side of the pitch, his chest sweaty, buttons undone, beer or beers inside. He even tried take a picture but missed.
Back on four wheels, bumping along towards Oz, we mused on this kindness and saw an acknowledgement in the eye of every brightly coloured bird watching us from gates mostly. TOUCANS!! I drew them in my youth on the carpet before the tv, copying them from a nature encyclopedia.
And now, all these years later, here they were – on the road to Varginha, with some kilometres to go…
(PHOTO of Lucinda and sign to Varginha)