Madeira is the most beautiful island, especially in May when the Jacaranda trees’ blue blossom competes with the azure sea and skies.
It is 1982, my mother had lost her younger sister unexpectedly to a massive heart attack. We’d buried her and I’d had my mother staying with me for a few days in the flat in London while I frantically tried to first catch up and secondly to get ahead of all the work arriving to my increasingly successful translation business.
Once I was ahead of the game, I convinced my mother we should go on holiday somewhere warm and ‘chill out’ together. My father couldn’t come because it was still term time and he was a headmaster. It took some persuading but once she’d agreed, I allocated two weeks free of business for mid May, arranged for another agency to handle any of my urgent work and we flew out of Gatwick on a direct flight to Funchal in the small, mountainous Atlantic island.
We’d rented a two bedroom apartment so we didn’t have to eat in restaurants all of the time and could cook for ourselves.
My mother had been very close to her sister and her sudden death had hit her very hard. Me too, I loved my aunt and at only forty-eight she’d almost been like an older sister to me, staying with me several times. I think my mum was worried something similar might happen to her, but to be frank, auntie Leslie was both overweight and also most unfit. She never walked anywhere and did no exercise at all. I suppose you’d say she was a heart attack waiting to happen. It is a shame that her first one killed her, though, it seems so unfair. Many people, once they’ve had the warning event, change their lifestyles and live for decades.
We tried to keep busy on holiday, visiting castles and botanical gardens, walking several levadas (walks along hillside irrigation channels). Although almost sixty, mum was extremely fit and anyway, the levadas were usually on a level. We took taxis to start points and arranged to meet later a few miles further down the channel. She seemed to be enjoying it and we had as near fun as you could get given the sadness of our reason for holidaying. It was a shame my dad couldn’t accompany us.
A few nights into the holiday we went to a cabaret evening at Reid’s Palace Hotel. What a beautiful hotel. Five star luxury at a time when older hotels tended to be grubby and were being replaced by concrete monstrosities. We had a good table for dinner close to the dance floor and from where we could see the action which included a good variety from a not particularly adept magician to Portuguese traditional dancing, an excellent male solo singer to a dance sextet which played modern easy listening music. Dinner was fine with good wine and we were thoroughly enjoying the show.
At the interval, the sextet continued to play and couples were dancing in front of us as mum and I enjoyed watching them, trying to guess who were married and who were with their mistresses or some other illicit partner. Mum had pointed out a rather handsome but marginally swarthy, character in his sixties dancing with an obviously local girl in her twenties. She asked me if I thought she was his daughter, granddaughter or girlfriend. I didn’t get a chance to answer.
“Excuse me,” came a voice from immediately behind me as I’d turned towards my mother to speak. I looked around. A tall extremely well built individual with dark curly hair, mahogany coloured eyes and large nose was standing beside me, about two feet clear of my personal space, looking down at me and smiling. He looked to be in his late thirties. I remember thinking ‘nice lips’.
“Sorry to disturb,” he continued.
I smiled up at him.
“I noticed you sitting with your -,” and he looked at my mum and said, “sister,” which brought an immediate laugh from her.
“You don’t have to flatter me to get permission to speak to my daughter,” she said with a smile.
I’d looked at my mum and back to this gentleman with a growing grin. His flirtatious suggestion that mum was my sister was nice, although what did it mean regarding what he thought of my age?
“I am sorry,” he began again, “I can now see your daughter is a little younger.”
“Ahem,” I said, “Don’t dig the hole any bigger!”
He laughed, “Well I wondered if I could take one of you ladies for a dance? Would either of you like to partake?”
Mum laughed again. What could I do? He’d asked so nicely, had obviously thought it through and deserved at least one dance. I put out my hand, he took it, I got to my feet and he swept me onto the dance floor. Obviously a far more accomplished dancer than I, so I followed him as best I could. His hand had mine in a very firm grip, his other hand hard against my back, helping me follow his lead. He smelled good, a combination of male plus interesting cologne. He was tall, over six feet and really quite muscular.
“I’m Martin,” he announced.
“Hello Martin,” I replied, knowing he expected me to give him my name.
“You’re with your mother on holiday?” he asked.
“Yes. Lovely island. You?”
“Well, I was supposed to come with a friend, but arrangements went sour so here on my own.”
“Ah, so you thought you’d dance with me on the rebound?”
The song ended, we parted and clapped the band. I turned to return to mum.
He took my arm, “Please. One more dance. After all, that wasn’t a full dance, was it?”
I looked up at him, smiled and nodded. The band switched tempo and played an instrumental version of Orbison’s Blue Bayou. Now we were pressed closer together.
“So?” I asked.
“Why couldn’t she come with you?” I asked, making the assumption the friend was a partner.
“Sadly she dumped me two weeks ago,” he reported sadly, “so I’m here alone.”
“What’s your name?” he asked.
We continued to dance.
“You know, Martin, I can’t dump my mum at the drop of a hat. Her sister died a few weeks ago and I brought her here to take her out of herself. I can’t simply leave her alone.”
“No. I’m sorry. I just saw you, realised how beautiful you were and decided to take a chance.”
I smiled at the flattery.
He continued, “Are you attached?”
“Not currently, but it doesn’t really help us, does it?”
“No. Where do you live?”
“Goodness, that’s a coincidence. I live near Heathrow.”
“You could look me up when you get back if you liked.”
“Oh, yes. For a date anyway,” I said. I actually quite fancied him.
“Where are you staying here?”
“Private apartment. You?”
“Here. Room 403. Let me know if you get left at a loose end while you’re here.”
“I will. My business is called Oriental Words. It’s in the book.”
“Right. I’ll be in touch.”
The music ended and Martin returned me to my table where my mother was beaming at us both, “You’re a good dancer,” she said.
“Glad you think so,” he replied, moved around the table, took her hand and continued, “because now it is your turn.”
Mum resisted for a moment, stood graciously and allowed him to take her to the dance floor where I watched, in great surprise as they danced an absolutely expert quickstep. I had no idea my mother was a proficient dancer and thoroughly enjoyed watching her being whisked around the dance floor by this rather dashing man.
He returned mum to the table safe and sound and took his leave of us. A few minutes later two drinks arrived with his compliments.
I couldn’t wait to get back to London.
– o O o –
Back at the apartment, we were lazing after breakfast and mum told me she’d got Martin’s room number.
“And what am I meant to do with that piece of information?”
“When we were dancing he told me he’d like to take us out for dinner.”
“That wouldn’t be very fair on him, would it mum?”
“Well, I was thinking you could set up the dinner and I could cry off and spend the evening here.”
“We came on holiday together for a reason, mum, so we’d be together, not so I could go off dating.”
“Yes, but two or three evenings wouldn’t hurt. I’m happy and I brought a couple of good books with me.”
“Are you sure?” I asked, knowing she was, but feeling I needed to confirm it.
“Of course. Now go and call the hotel from the phone across the road. Before he goes out.”
I thought about it for at least ten seconds, ran out of the apartment like a smitten teenager, across the street and encountered a strange looking Portuguese public telephone. I eventually managed to locate the number for the Reid’s Palace and they put me through to his room. It rang and rang without answer, eventually returning me to the switchboard. I asked them to try again and decided if there was no answer a second time I’d leave a message.
After four rings I heard a breathless, “Hello.”
“Sorry to call so early. It’s Angela.”
“Angela who?” the voice said.
“Angela Goodnight. We danced last night.”
“Yes and now I know your surname,” he laughed.
“Very amusing,” I giggled, “My mother said you would like to take us out to dinner. When would suit?”
“Tonight. Seven. Here?”
“OK. We’ll see you at the reception.”
“I’ll look forward to it. What are you doing today?”
“A short levadas walk in the north of the island.”
“Hope you enjoy it. See you later,” and the line went dead.
– o O o –
I had nothing to wear. Because I’d come on holiday with my mother, all I had brought was smart casual clothing and now I needed something far superior. Mum and I went shopping in downtown Funchal. I found a sweet little green dress which would go with my green shoes and clutch bag. My mum loved it. It fitted to my hips and flared out into a lovely pleated skirt. The material was green with sparkly thread providing myriad tiny explosions of light in the store’s quartz halogen lighting. The bodice was tight with no sleeves and a round neckline which would suit a few of my strings of pearls.
“Sorry mum, need some lingerie, too.”
“You like him enough to sleep with him?” she asked in a critical voice.
“Well, probably not,” I lied, “but I don’t want to be unprepared.”
“Fiddle-de-dee,” she said, meaning she’d live with my opinion but didn’t accept it was correct. I knew what she meant and it might not head that way, but I didn’t want to end up in his room wearing Marks and Spencer’s briefs and bra.
We found a really nice ladies’ lingerie shop in the town centre and I bought a lovely lacy green pair of skimpy briefs, similarly skimpy matching bra and spent some time discussing the merits of stockings or tights with my mother.
“Well, why either, dear?” she said, “You have a lovely tan.”
I suppose I did, but felt I would be under-dressed without something on my legs so chose an emerald green pair of stockings with green suspender belt. Matched the dress and underwear perfectly.
Stay tuned to tomorrow for Part II of Angela’s sexy holiday escapade.
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