Tuesday, June 23, 2015


It turned out that Navy Day was the following Sunday.

Below the hotel balcony we watched them assemble and after about an hour of various comings and goings and rearranging, they all marched off behind the band in their heavy blue serge uniforms, off down through Baixa towards the river, River Tagus, as the sun started to heat things up for another day in the 30s.

After breakfast we took the subway down to Commercial Square, a grand place of three arms of Government buildings embracing the river and welcoming the world, and a man on a horse, of course

and where by now the troops had arrived and the crowds were building up.

After endless speeches, they all marched off to one side only to reassemble again and return in grand style for the big march past the official dais. Nothing to see there, the dais I mean, but I do like a good band and sailors are, well, you know - hello sailor.

(clicking makes them bigger)

The heavy weaponry followed and, bless them, there were a few guns and things but mostly they were parading their zodiacs of various sizes and the most menacing it got was the camouflage and black face.

Meanwhile, some frogman and sundry others waited on the riverside rocks...

... before scaring the gulls off with a few flares to start the 'show':  (In this photo you can see the famous April 25 Bridge and the Christ (Christo Rei) on the other side of the river.)

The show was two helicopters dropping divers into the river as a fleet of zodiacs sped out from one of two warships and in formation they turned and picked up the dropees on the run.

It would be way too patronising to say it was quaint, but there was a beautiful simple charm to the whole event, bereft of aggression and its hardware.

It all reminded me of the time, long ago time, when the new Queen came to Wagga Wagga (1954) and under equally blue skies and beating sun thousands of school children stood. All I remember was a helicopter coming to winch up a woman (or man in a dress?) waved frantically from the roof of a tin shed in the middle of the oval in a flood rescue demonstration. In checking the date, I found this slightly cringe-worthy yet amusing reflection on colonial adulation and while there's nothing about helicopters or floods (and I don't expect anyone to watch all 14 minutes) it does confirm that it was hot.

And it's Wagga Wagga, not Wagga. Wagga Wagga it's so nice they named it twice.

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