Standing on a bench in Funchal, Madeira

ON THE FLIGHT FROM Stansted to Funchal, I sat next to a young man who was born in Madeira and now lives in the UK. He told me that we were just in time for the grand parade of the island’s annual flower festival. It would be happening on the afternoon of Sunday, the 30th of April (2023) at 430 pm, and that it always attracts large crowds.

At about 2.50 pm on the Sunday, we found an empty bench on the Avenida do Mar. This is a wide dual-carriageway that runs close to the seafront. Our bench was beside one of the carriageways. The parade was due to proceed along the other carriageway. By as early as 3 pm, people were gathering on the grassy divider that separates the two carriageways. They were between us and the route to be taken by the parade. More and more people assembled there, and we wondered how we would be able to see the proceedings.

At about 3.30, an elderly English couple joined us on the bench. We did not speak with them until a few minutes before 4.30. Then, the rather frail looking old lady said to us:
“We’re going to stand on the bench to watch the floats pass by.”
I had thought about doing this but had been concerned about the stability of both the bench and me. But when this older lady and her even older husband climbed on the bench we joined them.

The colourful floats covered with floral decorations and lively girls and ladies moved a little faster than snail’s pace. They were separated by crowds of girls in folk costumes, who were singing and dancing as they proceeded. From our vantage point, we could see the floats easily, but the dancing girls were mostly hidden by the crowds on the grassy divider; only their headdresses could be seen.

After three floats had passed, the lady hopped off the bench, and said to me:
“We’ve got to go now. We don’t want to miss our team, Liverpool, playing.”

All this goes to show that one should never judge people by how old they look. Even some the oldest members of our species can be surprisingly full of life.

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