The other day in Lisbon

Early last Tuesday morning, I'm sitting in one of the lounges at Heathrow leafing through the newspapers, and they are full of pictures of the devastation wrought by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and there is one in particular of a young woman sitting dazed and confused among the rubble and debris, and there's a cognitive dissonance tragically at play because somehow she should be walking through a neon cityscape on her way to work or on a date.

At Lisbon airport, I grab some euros from an ATM and step outside. The sky is blue as white clouds stream past. A sense of spring in the air. Inside the cab the driver and I chat in a pastiche of Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. He complains about the traffic and the crisis. On the radio, voices discuss the crisis. The billboards are for banks, left-wing parties, and mobile carriers. One of the latter has a large Love & Peace sign covering an entire building. In the old part of town, two policemen go by on Segways across cobbled stones.

As I wait for my meeting to start, the Portuguese guy I'm with tells me how 300,000 people gathered on the streets to protest after having self-organized on Facebook. "Just like in Egypt, but without the violence" he says. "There's this generation of highly educated young people that are lucky if they find work in a mall or a McDonalds." Like in Italy, I reply. And Spain and Greece, someone else says.

Back in the airport, I can't get on the wi-fi. Iberian newspapers tell me that Saudi troops have entered Bahrain and that shares in Burberry have fallen. Black clouds are coming in from the Ocean as we board the plane. "Look! the moon!" a little boy shouts pointing to the sky.

March 22, 2011 | 10:51 PM