August 2017, and it was a one-off, a very expensive luxury trip to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. It took a determined saving-up campaign, a big dip into some ISAs and there wasn’t much change from five grand but without wishing this to be a marketing piece for Viking River Cruises, it was worth every penny. We wanted a river cruise and we wanted warm sun so we chose the River Douro trip in Portugal starting with a couple of nights in Lisbon. We felt like a bit of luxury and self-indulgence, a bit of serious 5-star pampering and we got tons of it.
We dug out the old wedding album and leafed through it before we went. ‘Darling can you remember what time we got married,’ she asked, ‘it was on a Monday.’
The ‘darling’ bit was worrying; it’s usually the preface to being asked for something and we were passing Pandora at the time.
‘Darling,’ I answered affectionately, ‘I can’t even remember what year we got married.’
The day after we flew to Lisbon, Burnley were due to play Hannover in a friendly so that was a game we would miss, and a week later the opening game of the season, the away game at Chelsea. Missing the Chelsea game we shrugged off anyway; it seemed reasonable to assume they would lose (gallantly no doubt) to the Champions and their stellar cast, although the good news was that Hazard was injured. Michael Keane had been sold for £30million to Everton. Andre Gray had been sold to Watford for £18million; neither had been replaced. The airwaves were abuzz with apprehension and worry that more signings were needed and that the side was still dangerously short of pace. As ever the pundits had Burnley listed as one of the contenders for relegation.
Ten of us were in our ‘wedding’ party on the cruise and were eating our evening meal in the hotel restaurant, the ground floor restaurant of the Tivoli Lisboa Hotel, five stars, resplendent, elegant, and seriously plush at the top end of a graceful, tree-lined avenue. You half expected the Beckhams to come round the corner; it was that kind of place. It had history too. In the Second World War when Portugal was neutral, the hotel was a hotbed of espionage and intrigue, a meeting place of German and English spies.
The ‘best’ restaurant was up on the roof terrace but they couldn’t fit ten in at short notice so we elected for the less pretentious of the two and ate sumptuous steaks cooked to perfection. But then Pete gasped for breathe. I thought he was choking on a piece of meat and was poised ready to administer the Heimlich manoeuvre but no; he had some news via a text.
‘They abandoned the Hannover friendly,’ he announced. We stopped and stared, knives and forks frozen in mid-air. How can you possibly abandon a friendly? By definition a friendly is a friendly, trouble free game.
‘Rioting,’ he went on, ‘the German fans causing trouble so the game was abandoned on police instructions.’
We had no details but it just seemed ridiculous. There were probably around 6,000 there, we guessed and maybe just a few hundred German fans. True, the Hannover Ultras were known to be a dangerous lot but just a few hundred at a friendly game, surely they were controllable. We beat them in two world wars but at a small football match, apparently not. We finished the steaks and went on to the puddings. Burnley seemed a couple of thousand miles away and an abandoned football match seemed trivial in these opulent, lavish surroundings. Besides there was a mission the next day, and that was to find and sample the famed Portuguese egg tarts of which I had seen and read so much in the holiday blurb and guide books.
An optional walking tour of the city was called ‘A taste of Lisbon,’ but regretfully we chose not to do it. We took a broader tour of the city, a city with a stunning setting at the mouth of the River Tagus, a city that spawned countless sixteenth century seafaring explorers, Magellan, Vasco da Gama, Bartholomew Diaz, amongst them and inspired by Prince Henry the Navigator. Christopher Columbus was not Portuguese but had huge connections with Lisbon and had a Portuguese wife. Not for nothing was this called the Age of Discovery. The Portuguese back then plundered Brazil and built an empire; they were the first Europeans to land in Japan. I can remember at school reading and learning about these great names and their great stories. I suspect most kids today wouldn’t have a clue who they were. There were pirates galore of course and there was even a Pirates Code of Conduct invented by Bartholomew Portugues, though t is unlikely they actually had Pirate Training Days.
This is a historical city of monuments, churches, shrines, cathedrals, monasteries, museums, labyrinthine streets, tree-lined avenues, café bars and restaurants, and of course the original bakery where the famed egg tarts (pastel de nata) are made. Street foods like the Prego, a garlic steak sandwich, aren’t bad either.
The egg tart has a long history and was first made by the monks of Jeronimos Monastery in the Belem area of the city, although they cribbed the recipe from France. Egg whites were used for starching clothes and this left the yolks which were then used in baking. When the monastery was closed in 1834 the recipe for the tarts was passed to the owners of the local sugar refinery. In 1837 they opened the Fabrica de Pasteis de Belem, still run by the descendants of the original owners. This café is on the tourist route, these are tarts that are made in many bakeries (in fact you can get them n Sainsbury’s) but the Belem bakery is the place to get them and the queues frequently stretch down the road. As our coach drove slowly by without a stop, yep, there were the queues and I looked longingly at the lines of tarts laid out in the shop window. I would indeed eventually get to taste one in another café. Trust me these are egg tarts to die for. Conveniently packed in boxes of six they were on sale in the airport on the way home, ready for slipping into the carry-on bags. Needless to say one box flew back with us and when the last one was eaten a couple of days later, it brought a symbolic closure to a marvellous holiday.
The second meal in the rooftop restaurant of the Tivoli Lisboa Hotel was an experience with views right across the city and the twinkling lights. This was nouvelle cuisine, where gravy is called jus, the food delicious but you don’t get much, although what you get is beautifully arranged on the plate and the jus isn’t poured it is drizzled. We upset the Maître D’ by asking for four bills which seemed simple enough to us being just the same as eating on four separate tables. With a humph he agreed, but made it plain with another sniff that this was a great inconvenience. He must be French, I decided, better not mention Brexit either.
The food came, we looked at our plates and eight of us thought the same; where is it? Ironically the other two who had ordered a sort of Lobster Stew (Bisque in nouvelle cuisine) in a huge iron pot had enough to feed a small army. This was fortunate; after it took us the necessary three or four minutes to eat our own small meals, we tucked into theirs as well. It was unquestionably superb grub, but here we were, people used to mammoth plate-fulls of cheese and onion pie, mushy peas and chips at the Queen in Cliviger, or monster portions of Rag Pudding at the Shepherd’s Rest above Todmorden. Nouvelle Cuisine might be OK for small jockeys or waif-like models, but we were still hungry. And then came the bill, all four of them. The guy wasn’t a snooty Frenchman after all, he turned out to be South African so as soon as we got talking about cricket and South Africa’s poor showing in the Test Matches, he became a proper human being and the four bills arrived with a smile.
I looked at ours which was for four of us and gasped. I looked at Mrs T mouth agape, eyes popping. Slowly the words came out in a kind of croak. ‘Good God its 384 euros; it says 384 euros for four of us. It can’t be.’
She took the bill and studied it, then spoke. ‘You idiot, that’s our room number.’
Next stop was Porto, a day’s leisurely coach drive to the south of Lisbon. Here is where we would pick up the boat, stopping at Coimbra on the way, a university town where the students all wear black clothes and black capes so that no-one knows if you are poor or rich, a town of more narrow streets, alleyways and pavement cafes. In medieval times it was Portugal’s capital. We learned at the lunch stop that a normal Portuguese restaurant meal is plentiful, generous and then come the plates of second helpings. The texts were coming in again. Apparently we were interested in Shane Long now down the pecking list at Southampton. Good signing if it went ahead, we agreed, and that would mean there were would be six Irish internationals in the Burnley team. We wondered too if a Danny Ings loan from Liverpool was a possibility and all of us were keen, despite his injury problems. On form and injury free he had been a little genius in the first Dyche promotion season and his goal at Blackburn was now filed under F for Folklore.
And then it was on to baroque Porto, Portugal’s second largest city, a city built on Port with over 50 wine companies along the river bank. Look on supermarket shelves at the Port and it’s a fair bet that most came from the Douro region. All the familiar names were there, Fonseca, Graham’s, Warre, Sandeman’s, Dow’s, Taylor’s. It was the Brits that made port popular back in the late 1600s with Croft one of the first big shippers.
Porto straddles the River Douro, the river that comes out of Spain, and has carved out a deep and steep-sided 200-hundred mile long gouge in the Portuguese landscape. These are the hillsides that are covered in terraces of vines, thousands of acres of them and where the great wine estates are located. Few sounds are more satisfying than that of a cork coming out of the bottle for the first time. It’s odds on that the cork originated in Portugal from the bark of the Cork Oak Tree.
Porto too is built on steep slopes that rise from the river, the river spanned by towering, graceful bridges, a city of tiled churches, pastel-hued houses, a treasure chest of unusual buildings, glorious river views, the quaint old riverside district of Ribeira, cathedrals, markets, pavement cafes, castles, narrow cobbled streets and quaint wooden trams that rattle and clang up and down the streets. Under the medieval arches of the Ribeira district are dozens of cafes, bars and restaurants. Taxi boats ply their way back and forth across the river from one side to the other.
Our boat ‘The Viking Hemmings’ was moored up more or less opposite the Sandeman’s port warehouse, the great barrels and casks filling the huge, cool storerooms. Sandeman is famed for its logo, the ‘Don’, the mysterious figure in black cape and hat, the first Caped Crusader. The Hemmings was our home for the next seven days, the final day being the day of the Chelsea game. The sun, wine, food and slow cruise back down the river on the day would be ample consolation for the inevitable defeat, and in the meantime there was so much to enjoy on this floating food-fest. Make no mistake; a holiday with Viking River Cruises puts you at serious risk of weight increase. You don’t ask where the lifeboat is; you ask for the defibrillator station. The day starts with a huge buffet breakfast with the chef standing at the end of the dining room at the ‘egg station’ ready to cook any egg dish of your choice. Onto to that you can pile anything else that fills the buffet.
‘I will not be eating huge lunches,’ I vowed before we boarded. But when lunch is served it cannot be disregarded; it would be rude and disrespectful and these were three-course affairs that could not be ignored. And then in the evening there was dinner, another lavish three course event and as at lunch, as much wine as you could glug. And all the while through breakfast and lunch the boat sailed serenely along the Douro with views of the terraces, estates and quintas, solitary farmhouses, tiny chapels, isolated cottages, narrow gorges, olive groves, almond trees, an occasional worker, fish jumping out of the water, and above us the soaring eagles and vultures. Storks nest in certain villages, deer, wolves, boar and wildcats cling to a few wild areas. In years past the river was bedevilled by rapids that the little rabelo boats carrying the port barrels down to the warehouses for ageing and storage, had to negotiate at their peril. Today, huge dams with locks for the boats, plus widening of certain stretches, have tamed the river.
Yet more news was filtering through regarding Burnley FC. Internet connections were poor but occasionally there was a window. A £12million bid for Leeds United’s Chris Wood was reported. It made sense; the previous season he had scored something like 30 goals in the Championship and he possessed pace, that magic ingredient. But the offer was immediately rejected, said the reports, with Leeds having already valued him at £15million. Same old Burnley, we moaned, trying to get a player they wanted on the cheap with a first low offer. Next there was a report of a £5million bid for Hull City player Sam Clucas. £5million, no chance, we said, why do they bother? Next, there was an alleged £10million bid for centre-back Ryan Shawcross of Stoke City, but why, we wondered; why not give Tarkowski his chance? And then as the ship entered a deep gorge, the internet connection disappeared.
It was the first day of sailing on the river and we’d stopped at Regua after lunch ready for a tour, nay pilgrimage, to a place that most rose wine drinkers would recognise from the picture on the iconic round bottle. It was a drink that we had back in the 70s in those legendary Berni Inns where we had a prawn cocktail, a steak, and a pudding, and whenever we went, a bottle of Mateus Rose. It took us an age to remember what the puddings were but between us we eventually remembered, Sherry Trifle or Blackforest Gateaux. Back then if you wanted to eat out there wasn’t much to choose from and Berni Inns were in the forefront of Friday or Saturday night treats. We used to look at the picture on the bottle of the Mateus Palace and think what a wonderful place it looked, without even really registering that this gorgeous building was in Portugal. It was therefore with an almost sense of reverence that we headed off on the one hour journey to get there, a wonderful drive through the wine areas and vineyards along highways that hugged the dizzying hillsides, clung to the steep contours, and then traversed the deep valleys and gorges via the most spectacular, awesome, architecturally superb bridges, with the valley floor hundreds of feet below.
The little guide book and itinerary that was issued painted a wonderful picture of the place:
‘The extraordinary Mateus Palace, the building depicted on the Mateus Rose wine labels and enjoy a wine tasting at a local quinta. Journey with the guide to Vila Real; see the stunning Mateus Palace, the home of the last Count of Vila Real with its pinnacle façade, grand stairway, richly appointed interiors and priceless objects on display. The gardens will amaze you, enchanting formal gardens with cedar-lined walkways, exquisitely sculpted hedges and statuary and the serene ponds.’
Antonio Mourao built the Casa de Mateus in the first half of the eighteenth century. His descendants still live there.
Forty years ago eating the steak and drinking Mateus Rose in those long-gone Berni Inns, we never thought that one day we’d stand in front of the palace depicted on the bottle and marvel at its beauty and elegance. Berni Inns and Mateus Rose were a part of our growing up and early marriage. We were celebrating our 50th year together in front of the real place beneath a perfect blue sky and warm sun. And if you want the football bit, this was the time of Jimmy Adamson and his team of the seventies, Fletcher, Waldron, Casper, James and all the rest, a team that we loved for its silky football, and still do. This was a lump-in-throat moment.
Pinhao, Barca d’Alva, Castelo Rodrigo; what gorgeous places these were. But we still hadn’t signed Chris Wood or anyone else for that matter even though Sean D was saying he was still keen to sign new additions. Leeds were adamant he wasn’t for sale and even a £16million bid had been rejected according to internet (now back on) reports. And the Chelsea game was looming, early relaxed indifference being slowly replaced by slight trepidation. By now, too, the scenes of hooliganism at Turf Moor during the Hannover game were being flashed around the world on BBC World News. It was a surreal moment, on a boat, up the Douro, switch on the TV to see what’s happening and up pops Burnley and the sight of Hannover nutjobs leathering the nearest Burnley fans and any steward unfortunate enough to be in the middle.
The boat was filled with Americans, average age 70 probably, so that anyone in their 20s or 30s stood out like a sore thumb. One such was CC, that’s all I knew him by, on the boat with his fiancé, both in their 30s and he in a Chelsea shirt…a Chelsea shirt. Others came from all over the USA, California, Nevada, Arizona, New York, Atlanta and Philadelphia. An English couple we befriended were from Huddersfield so that he was understandably over the moon with Huddersfield’s success and foray into the Premier League. Like us, he took an away defeat in the first game for granted.
With so many Americans on board and surrounded by so many accents it was hard not to slip into it. ‘Well Hi Dave,’ one woman said every morning well impressed by my gallantry one day when I’d offered my seat in the shade of an olive tree while we sipped port at a quinta, after another huge lunch.
It was always tempting to reply, ‘why howdy ma’am, you look just swell this fahn mornin’.’ But I managed to resist. Nor did I dare to ask any of them had they voted for Trump, who by now was seemingly losing his grip on sanity and like Nero and Caligula centuries earlier, firing anyone who offended him, but in this day and age fortunately unable to have them assassinated.
Next up was a visit to Castelo Rodrigo which meant heading into the breathtaking countryside to reach the medieval hilltop fortress town that looked down on miles and miles of a flat plateau that stood at over 2,000’. The boat would sail on without us and meet us further upriver at Barca d’Alva. My ears had pricked up the evening before during the evening briefing when the tour guides quickly outlined what was on offer the next day.
‘This is almond growing country,’ she explained, ‘and the café in Castelo Rodrigo makes the most wonderful local delicacy, the Almond Pie.’
‘Hmmm,’ I thought, the word pie making an immediate impression, ‘this sounds good; this needs to be investigated and researched.’
By now we were quite near the Spanish border and from Castelo you could peer across into the hills of Spain. The village itself was a maze of cobbled streets, criss-crossing the hilltop. At the very pinnacle was the old ruined castle, below that the obligatory church. Being so close to Spain, Jewish refugees from the Spanish Inquisition centuries ago fled to Castelo and set up their own community. The afternoon was getting hotter and hotter; the cool of the café seemed a good idea, a cold drink, and a slice of Almond Pie. But as we sat there waiting to order, Pete’s phone pinged with a new text message and it brought news that made us gasp.
‘We’ve sold Andre Gray,’ Pete announced looking at us in a state of near-shock. So were we all. ‘He’s having his medical this afternoon,’ added Pete. A sort of stunned silence followed for a minute.
It wasn’t that he was being sold that surprised us, we expected it. A new contract offer was unsigned, it was fairly clear he would be happy to go and clubs like Newcastle and Everton had been tracking him. By all accounts according to the text, most folks back home were OK with the sale for a reported £18million, it was good business; most folks were resigned to it. Many fans were of the opinion that he was now caught up in the celebrity world of show biz and Little Mix. The jury was out on his skill levels, some saying that he couldn’t trap a bag of cement and that his first touch was usually a three yard pass. But no-one could doubt the value of his goals in the second Dyche promotion season and the contribution he had made to the club. In that season he had provided pace and that rare quality of surprise so that most sides never really knew what he would do next. Now the problem was; how to replace him?
But: the shock of the news was in the destination. It wasn’t Newcastle; it wasn’t Everton, not any top side, but Watford. Our thoughts were the same, you’re joking, Watford, bloody Watford. How on earth could a side like this be spending all this money and paying these big wages to players they were signing under new manager Silva? We tut-tutted, humphed and shook our heads…bloody Watford, meh.
It was the prospect of the Almond Pie that cheered us up. Outside the café it was in the high 30s so the café interior was an oasis of cool and comfort. In the display cabinet a few feet away there was no sign of anything resembling the Almond Pie; maybe there wasn’t any and we were about to be disappointed. But no, when we asked, the proprietor disappeared into a second room and brought two plates with large slices of what we expected to be a pie. But it wasn’t and the let-down we felt was as big as the let-down that Gray was going to piddling Watford of all places. Almond Pie in Castelo is actually more like peanut brittle except they ain’t peanuts, they are almonds. It was hard as nails, tough on the teeth, took a lot of chewing and clogged up the gums; and we left half of it.
Back on the boat in Barca d’Alva we headed straight for the toothbrushes and toothpicks and then took in our surroundings. This is a gem of a little riverside village in a sort of upside down T shape with the short main street of houses forming the up of the T and a line of tavernas and bars forming the crosspiece by the river. The tavernas were old, rustic, simple, basic, cheap, very much resembling the dusty old places we used to visit in Greece where the whole family was involved in the running of the place; so cheap that dozens of Spanish folks drive over to eat there. Smells of the kitchens drift into the dusty street and across to the ship. Sleepy dogs lie in the dust occasionally stretching or having a scratch. Old folks sit outside their doorways. The road crosses the river here by way of an impressive single-arch bridge that stretches across for several hundred feet. And on the ship, ole, it was Spanish night.
Of course there was Paella filled with shell fish, rice, calamari, shrimp, mussels and muchos other wriggly stuff. But for me there was only one choice Cerdo Iberico. This is a mouth-watering dish of pork medallions with mascarpone polenta and roasted piquillo peppers. ‘Medallions’ of course is the culinary way of saying ‘bits of’. But this was no ordinary pork; this is meat that comes from specially bred, very small pigs that are fed on nothing but chestnuts. It then produces a very rich, black pork meat. I ate these while the next text came to Pete that announced that Gray had indeed passed his medical and was now a Watford player. All of us who had been to Watford could only hope that he would learn how to navigate the one way system otherwise he was unlikely to see his Little Mix girlfriend ever again. Getting into Watford we had learned is fine; it is getting out that is the problem. Claret airwaves and websites (we managed to log in) were surprisingly not in a state of suicidal meltdown but were calm and objective.
Time was running out, every moment precious, Friday and the Chelsea game just a day away. Another huge breakfast of Eggs Benedict as the ship pulled away from Barca d’Alva to get us nearer to the village of Favios where we could do two things, sample Muscatel, a rich, sweet dessert wine made from the Muscat grape, in one of the warehouses; and then sample handmade bread prepared the traditional way in old ovens heated with wood and old grapevines in a nearby local bakery. We ate the bread, huge hunks of it that was fresh from the ovens, lathering it with butter and home-made jam. Flour billowed up from the large table where the baker was slapping the dough around on the flour-covered surface. Most of us left the room covered in it with jam and butter all over our faces.
The culinary tour was not yet over. Still filled on bread and jam we stopped at the Quinta Avessada wine estate for lunch, three courses yet again. The owner and host and chief entertainer between each course was an absolute replica of Mr Bean in both looks and mannerisms. It was uncanny. We left wondering if Rowan Atkinson had once seen this guy and based Mr Bean on him. But for once this was a meal that did not get a 5-star rating from me.
‘What do you think,’ said Mrs T. She knew what I would say about the chewy meat, allegedly a local dish.
‘It reminds me of that awful braised steak my mother used to do when I was a kid,’ I said.
Cooking was never her strong point though it must be said she was a reluctant cook, standing over whatever she was making with a cigarette in her mouth so that the ash plopped into whatever delight she was concocting. Sometimes we had no idea what was on the plate.
For dinner in the evening for me it was Arroz de Pato, pulled duck meat in port wine with onions and steamed rice. By now we knew that the draw for the League Cup had been made and had laughed at the idea of being drawn against Blackburn Rovers, little thinking that this was exactly what would happen. How things had changed from just a few years ago with struggling penniless Burnley in the doldrums and Blackburn in the Premier League looking down their noses. Now it was Blackburn humiliated and relegated right down to Division One and financially struggling. Burnley meanwhile were in their third season in the Premier League with more cash than they could ever have imagined. The wheel had turned full circle and now it was our turn to enjoy Blackburn’s downwards journey. This would be Blackburn’s Cup Final no doubt; for Burnley just another game. But then we remembered last year’s results against small fry – Accrington and Lincoln.
The penultimate day, Saturday, the last lazy day of cruising back down the Douro, but there was more to it than just that. This was the first day of the new season and the opening game and when we’d seen the fixtures for the first time, we’d gasped. The first game was at Chelsea, the Champions, and a more daunting game you could not wish for. Chelsea at Turf Moor and anything was possible. But this was a nightmare of a start.
We opted out of the short morning excursion and lunched on the boat. This time I settled on a Francesinha. The menu said sandwich. That’s all I want, I thought after the huge breakfast of bacon and eggs, a sandwich will do me fine. I hadn’t bargained for what a Francesinha actually is. It came in a large, deep bowl, a sandwich the size of a Frisbee and swimming in what appeared to be a dark tomato soup. The waiter looked at my raised eyebrows and laughed.
‘Portuguese special,’ he said. ‘It has taken you by surprise. It surprises most people. ‘
It sure as hell took me aback. This wasn’t a snack; it was a two-course meal on one plate. The two huge slices of bread were packed with melted cheese, sausages, steak, ham and beef. And what appeared to be soup was in fact beer sauce. Ah well, I thought, I don’t need to eat it all, but did, consuming enough calories and cholesterol to stoke up half a dozen heart attacks.
Valter the barman had offered to set up the huge TV in the ship’s lounge so that we could actually watch the Chelsea game. There was no SKY, not that it was on SKY anyway, but there were various overseas channels showing it that with a gizmo he could plug in, he promised he would find the game. We dug out the old joke when we got to know him better.
‘Are you a Pole Valter… no I am Portuguese and did the High Jump at school.’
He had a grand sense of humour and had told all the Americans that he was a Syrian refugee fished out of the water by a Viking cruise ship and chosen to be a barman on the Hemming, while all the others had been left in the water. Most of them fell for it. His plan to set up the TV was thwarted he told us, however. In the afternoon starting at 3 o’clock the chef was giving a demonstration of how to make the famed egg tarts in the lounge and would not take kindly to a sub group watching a football match in the corner while he cracked yolks.
In an odd kind of way we were quite relieved. None of us wanted to actually see the walloping that we expected Chelsea to dish out even though they were without Diego Costa, texted by Manager Conte in the summer and told he was unwanted. Diego was therefore playing hooky in Brazil refusing to return to Chelsea and the insulting manager.
By now the ship was in the broader stretches of the lower Douro so that Mrs T’s IPhone was receiving loud and clear. Pete was wearing his Burnley shirt for the occasion. Suddenly, to our utter astonishment, Mrs T shouted, ‘We’ve scored.’
The surprise in her voice was evident. Our reactions were no different. Chelsea defender Cahill had already been sent off for a wild tackle. But old habits die hard so that it was immediately assumed that Chelsea would equalise and go on to win the game. Meanwhile, the sun was beating down as we sat around on the top deck, on either side the river banks swishing by and every now and then people swimming from sandy stretches.
‘We’ve scored again,’ she hollered minutes later. ‘We’ve scored again. It’s 2-0, 2-0.’ This time it was Ward adding to Vokes’s first goal and the brief details said that the Ward goal was a screamer.
Pete was by now pacing up and down the deck. At home during an away game, unable to listen to any radio or TV commentary, his habit is to retire to the garage and potter about, busying himself with ‘things to do.’ On the boat there was no escape; pacing seemed the only alternative. It was when the third goal went in that we just burst out laughing and looked at each other incredulously. Surely they were on their way to an astonishing win, 3-0 up and not even half-time; Chelsea booed off the pitch and down to ten men. What could possibly go wrong?
‘Chelsea have scored,’ announced Mrs T in the second half. Pete groaned and paced faster. Reports and snippets suggested that Chelsea were well back in the game and the Burnley first-half super-show was burned out. But nerves were settled again when Fabregas was sent off and Chelsea were down to nine men. That plus a tray of egg tarts freshly made downstairs being brought round for us to sample restored the exhilaration. Confidence reigned supreme. But:
‘Oh no, Chelsea have scored again,’ announced Mrs T horrified.
‘How on earth can they score with just nine men?’ groaned Pete, now quite beside himself. Only a few minutes remained and Chelsea were throwing everything at Burnley. Brady then hit the Chelsea post with a free kick from 20 yards. 4-2 would have finished the game and sent us into dreamland.
‘This shouldn’t be happening,’ said Pete. ‘We should be coasting.’
Four minutes of nerve-wracking extra time; but at last the whistle went, game over, result 3-2 for Burnley, a most improbable, unexpected, astonishing, unbelievable win as we munched the last egg tart. Before the game we were all agreed; there was no chance of a Burnley win. We whooped and hollered; people looked and stared at us so we explained the significance of the score to the Americans up on deck. We were ecstatic; Pete had his picture taken in his shirt with Captain Tiago. ‘This must be like Braga beating Benfica at Benfica,’ said the captain, with a big smile. ‘The little club beats the giant.’
It was the Captain’s Farewell Dinner in the evening. The wine flowed, and a starter of Roasted Forest Mushroom Veloute, a soup thickened with egg yolks; next a main course of Molho de Cataplana com Tamboril – Monkfish medallions with peppers, onions, broad beans, black olives and tomatoes. And all finished off with a huge cheese plate. Empty wine bottles littered the table. Just about the whole crew knew by now that Burnley had won at Chelsea. Maybe it had been on US International News channels; Americans kept coming up grinning and exclaiming, ‘Go Burnley, go Burnley.’
The splendid dinner preceded a sail round Porto harbour as dusk fell, so that the river and harbourside was lit with a thousand and more sparkling lights and the bridge nearest the sea was silhouetted against a reddening sky. We sipped Port, the great warehouses to our right, as we moored. There is always a reluctance to accept that a holiday has ended and this one was no different as we packed two bulging suitcases. We had fallen in love with Portugal and the Douro Valley, along with Lisbon and Porto.
For our anniversary dinner the chef had made a specially decorated and splendid enormous celebration cake. The Burnley win at Chelsea was the icing on the cake.