My second trip to Brazil was no less eventful than the first:
Brazil hosts a lot of congresses. You name it, however obscure, and you can just about guarantee that a major congress on that very subject has taken place in Rio or Sao Paulo. From Chiropody to Chlamydia and Brain Surgery to Brassicas they have all been discussed by earnest groups of global specialists selflessly giving up their time to spend a week in Brazil.
When working for a Brazilian airline one of my jobs was to escort large groups of such boffins from the UK to Brazil and back to ensure that their travel arrangements went smoothly enough for them to appoint us for the next congress. This task usually was quite uneventful until my number finally came up when escorting a group of ‘agricultural economists’ to their congress in Sao Paulo. I was a bit worried because I did not know what agricultural economists were but I felt reassured when I discovered neither did they.
I met them at Heathrow airport and they were very easy to spot. They looked like a blend between country yokel farmers and the university lecturers they actually were. Most dressed like they had just mucked out their pigs and most wore baggy old tweed jackets and corduroy trousers which displayed interesting stains including bull semen apparently.
One thing blindingly obvious was that they were dressed for a severe British winter and heading for the hottest season in Brazil. I mentioned this to one guy whose heavily meshed string vest was poking out of his plaid shirt and, right in front of the check in desk, he stripped his top half bare, removed his vest, tied it by its arm loops to the handle of his suitcase and off it went down that black abyss known as the baggage chute. At least I was pretty sure no one in their right mind was going to ransack his bag with that grubby mass of string vest tied around the handle.
As there were quite a few of them we were using two desks for check-in. Suddenly a loud commotion came from the other one. I got there to find two legs sticking out of the baggage chute and the sound of a West Country accent saying ‘don’t worry love I’ve got the bugger’. It turned out that a member of my group had packed his passport in his suitcase and only remembered as it tipped out of sight. He pounced like a spring lamb after it and was dragged out from between the rubber curtains brandishing his cardboard suitcase by its home made string handle. It belonged to my granny he told me afterwards. What is your name I asked? Colin he replied.
It was a long flight to Sao Paulo or ‘Sayo Payolo’ as my companions pronounced it. Fortunately most of them attacked the free drinks so fast that they sank into sleepy oblivion whereas I sat up next to Colin who was putting the world to rights on subjects ranging from crop rotation to artificial insemination which explains how I knew what the stain on his trousers was and how he got it. Oh what laughs we had, especially as he would persist in pressing my chair recline button instead of his own all night. If I had only had the slightest inkling of what was to befall me the following night I would have turned down this assignment.
We arrived at the Sao Paulo Hilton reasonably easily apart from a short delay when our friend discovered his vest had been lost in transit and insisted on filling in a lost baggage claim there and then. I am sure that to this day the offending article is causing the main baggage belt at Heathrow to break down regularly as it jambs the works. But now we were here and we were unleashing forty British farmers in full winter gear into the maelstrom that is down town Sayo Payolo. Most of the group had not left their county let alone their country and here they were, at a hotel surrounded by the most extreme flesh pots of South America. Like a fussing sheepdog I herded them into the congress centre and left them in the hands of the organisers.
After such a tiring flight of bouncing back and forward in my seat like a yoyo, courtesy of Colin I fell into my bed and a deep dreamless sleep only to be woken, what seemed to be seconds later, by the telephone. It was one of my charges and he breathlessly informed me that a fellow agriculturist from Bogota had told him about a ‘hot’ nightspot called ‘The Orchid Club’ a few streets down and he, Colin and a bunch of others were setting off from the foyer right now. Wait for me I screeched as I could only imagine what might happen to them alone in such a place, so on went my clothes and off I rushed.
We arrived about ten p.m. on an intensely hot and humid evening. I was sweating in my thin shirt and these guys were still wearing the very same gear as when I first saw them at Heathrow. It must have been the first time that anyone sat in such a club with bull semen on their trousers but you never know in Brazil. The club was full of punters, very muscular fat bouncer types and a plethora of scantily clad multicoloured ladies. After a few caipirinhas one of my flock proposed marriage to a girl who I thought was a boy, but thankfully she looked him up and down and declined. I presumed someone had warned what Norfolk is like in winter.
‘Its show-time’ screamed a loud announcement and my flock grabbed chairs and sat down about five centimetres in front of the small stage. You do not get this in Grantham announced Sid whilst busily cleaning his glasses. Colin looked visibly uncomfortable even though he had grabbed the seat nearest the stage and nervously lit his pipe. A bit strange really what with the exotic location, heady atmosphere charged with anticipation and perfume now smothered out by Colin’s ‘Old Holborn Shag’ pipe tobacco.
First on stage was our man’s ‘fiancée’. ‘Great,’ he said, ‘I will get a chance to look at the merchandise before the wedding night’ and sat back arms folded with a smug death head grin on his face. It soon faded however as his hearts desire tamely twirled and gyrated a few times, grappled herself through her clothes and marched off with a bored expression.
This was an outrage and I was dispatched to the manager to find out what it was all about. The man told me that they were complying with local ‘decency’ law which stated that the ladies could only ‘express themselves fully’ after midnight. I relayed this to my horny new friends. Drinks were ordered and the wait commenced.
Colin was silent. He was drinking too much and puffing his pipe a great deal but he said nothing. Not even about his beloved bulls. As the acts went on he got redder and redder and I had my first nagging fear that something was going to go awfully wrong. It did. Midnight came and bedlam ensued.
It was the ‘fiancée’ that started it. On to the stage she came and her ‘act’ started naked and got ruder by the second. ‘Bloody Nora’ said Sid. ‘Last time I saw a pair of bosoomers like that it was on a Jersey cow’ said another whilst Colin went crimson and his pipe glowed like the flames of hell. Seeing this shy gnome-like apparition sitting in front row the girl decided to play up to him. Down she went into a limbo dance position and started edging forward. The atmosphere was electric and I heard someone dropping their glass. By the time the ‘lady’ was about twelve inches from Colin he exploded into action with great speed and accuracy he pounced on the lady yelling something like “now then my dear” and spitting his pipe which hit and burnt her nose. There was silence for a second followed by a scream and the sound of the doormen clambering over tables to get at us.
It all became a bit of a blur. Five of the boys, including Colin, and Sid were grabbed and I was physically picked up and pinned against the wall with my feet dangling below me. The police were called and the five of us spent a night in a Sao Paulo jail along with drunks, pimps and God knows what. How do I keep this quiet I thought as I was sure my boss would not understand why I had ‘coerced’ my charges into a den of vice? I could see my future life as a travel leper opening out before me.
After the most uncomfortable and dangerous night of my life they let us out and we went back to the Hilton. Lets have a drink said Sid, I am having a bath I said. Colin said nothing except ‘How can I get my pipe back’ as it had finally ricocheted off the startled young lady and bounced off the stage. I ignored him and said that from now on they could look after themselves.
When we flew back Colin looked very uncomfortable and studiously ignored me. I had heard that he had gone in search of his favourite pipe but no more. I heard nothing for two weeks until my boss called me into his office to discuss a letter that he received from the mother of a man called Colin. She complained that he had picked up a very nasty rash on his private parts and Colin said it was my fault. Tell her to ask where he left his pipe I suggested.
We never heard from either of them again.