The Girl From Ipanema (Garota de Ipanema), which begins with, "Tall and tan and young and lovely...", made its debut in Brazil in 1963 with original music by Antonio Carlos Jobim and words by Vinicius De Moraes. Heloisa Pinheiro, a younger sister of a friend, was the girl whose charming gait inspired the original composers. Astrud Gilberto sang the song with its U.S. debut in 1964 with English lyrics by Norman Gimbel. The song won a Grammy the same year.

My neighbour is The Girl From Ipanema

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A few basic facts about my neighbour.

Her name is Ena. She's English, and her blood is unmistakably blue. I don't know much about her heritage, but she is definitely somewhere in the line to the throne.

When she was a teenager, she was beautiful. Traffic-stopping beautiful; those who have seen pictures of her as a teenager agree that she could be a Playboy bunny. When she was 16, she got pregnant. At the time this was unforgivable, so she was exiled to Brazil.

She's told me some funny stories about Brazil, like the time she took her driving test. She was told that all that was required to pass her driving test was carton of cigarettes, so she took this to heart, put a box of Camel in her glovebox and met her instructor. He gave her some instructions, they pulled out of the parking lot and immediately she ran over a policeman. The inspector frowned and was about to call the test off, but she told him to open the glove box. He did and a carton of smokes fell into his lap. She passed. Ena still drives on this license, and she speaks fluent Portugese.

When she was a teenager, she was the sexiest thing in the universe, and each morning she would walk along a Brazilian beach, her blonde hair flowing in the wind. One day, a wandering musician saw her, and noticed the silence that followed the wake of her beauty. And when she passes, each one she passes says, ahhhhh...



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My neighbour is The Girl From Ipanema

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Life after Brazil led Ena on numerous adventures, many of which she has told me, none of which I can be bothered to recount here. What's important is that 35 years ago she entered into her second marriage and moved here, a small, no-horse town in Southern Spain. Ian's history is even more fascinating than hers, but I'm not going to recount it for fear that some of the people looking for him may find him.

There are some funny stories about them and this bar. In the early 80s, a Spanish person, Miguel, who was renting this bar used an obscure Franco-era law to claim it as his own. He pissed Ian off during that time, placing tables right outside his front door. Often Ian and Ena were kept awake by noisy drunks until 6am.

Ian got his revenge in a remarkably complicated way. One day - a busy day during tourist season - he filled several carrier bags with sand and blocked his drains. He attached all of the carrier bags to a pulley system and began flooding his own roof. The water, blocked by the sand, filled his roof to a height of about 3 meters, at which point he pulled the lever controlling the carrier bags, dumping all of the water on the customers underneath.

Miguel never put tables outside his house again.

Ian was full of charming stories like that until about 4 years ago, when he got drunk and ploughed his car into a ditch. He hasn't walked since. It would be okay if they weren't in their 70s. It would be okay if he respected her, or apprecated her help (he doesn't). But that's what happened to the pretty blonde girl who used to walk along the beach in Brazil. She ended up an old woman, nursemaiding a foul-mouthed cripple.



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My neighbour is The Girl From Ipanema

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They hired Pete to look after them. Pete's a friend of mine. He has a bad reputation that made their friends nervous, but in my eyes he's a decent guy. Pete worked with them for a couple of years, and then encouraged them to hire Laila as a physiiotherapist. Laila is a nice girl, and exquisitely beautiful, but is there's no way around the fact that she's insane and a massive cocaine addict. People began to worry about them even more.

But nobody actually did anything. Despite the protests, the gyspsy thief and the cokehead were the only people who cared about Ian and Ena. And me, a little. I mean, I haven't been great, but on more than one occasion I have marshalled two or three guys from my bar and run next door to help Ian, who has a rugularly habit of falling down his stairs.

People say now that Ena is getting Alzheimer's. I see why. As she gets older, she begins to forget things. Sometimes it's dates and phone numbers. Sometimes she's screaming at Pete, telling this awful stranger to get out of her house. She never apologises for these outbursts. She doesn't remember them.



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My neighbour is The Girl From Ipanema

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One time she drives to see Ian in hospital. By herself. Holding the Brazilian driving license she got illegally 60 years ago.

She gets confused on the way back from Almeria, and gets onto the motorway on the wrong side. At 160KPH, an oncoming car has to swerve to avoid her. Nobody is hurt, somehow, but both cars are destroyed.

She has no recollection of this.



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My neighbour is The Girl From Ipanema

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A week later, they're drinking with me, and Laila says, "did you know that Ena is the Girl From Ipanema".

I refuse to believe them, but later Ena comes in from next door (she had to leave - Ian has been screaming at her from his bed for the last 3 hours) and she sets me straight. "Oh yes," she says in her clipped Queen's English, "I would walk along the beach every day to buy bread, and men would stare at me. I was beautiful then, although you wouldn't believee it now. One day, a guy on the beach with a guitar played me a song he had written about me and, would you believe it, it was The Girl From Ipanema."

I spend the next day with my head in the clouds. The Girl From Ipanema is right next door. I'd like to break into feature writing, and I can't help thinking where I could get with an interview with The GIrl From Ipanema. Within a few minutes, I've already imagined myself on the cover of Time Magazine.

It doesn't take a lot of research to find out that none of this is true. Just typing The Girl From Ipanema into Wikipedia presents problems. The Girl went on to become a famous model. The music is a traditional Brazillian arrangement. The original lyrics were in Portugese, not English. The song was first recorded when Ena was in her 30's.

10 minutes on the internet, and I've discovered that the whole The Girl From Ipanema story is bullshit.



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My neighbour is The Girl From Ipanema

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People say that Ena has Alzheimer's, but I disagree. One time, she got so bad that she didn't even recognise her husband. She screamed and screamed for days because she didn't know where she was, or who anyone was. I know, I heard her through my walls.

The next day her children arrived. That afternoon, I looked through my window and saw lots of cars moving around outside, and Ena standing amongst the traffic, screaming. I ran downstairs, terrified. I darted over to her, then slowed, trying to convince her that I was friendly.

She stared blankly at me. Then she calmly said, "hello Bernard, darling. I'm terribly sorry for the bother, but someone has parked outside my house and now my son can't pull in. When will people stop being so bloody incosiderate. Anyway, how are you? Is Lila alright?"

At that moment I decided that there was nothing wrong with Ena, except stress.



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My neighbour is The Girl From Ipanema

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Tonight, Ena, Pete and Laila were having a drink in here.

Ena went next door to check on Ian, Laila went to the bathroom, and I got a chance to talk to Pete.

"She's lovely, isn't she," said Pete, raising a glass to where Ena had been.

"She sure is." I leaned in close. "But I have to tell you. I don't think she's The Girl From Ipanema."

"She bloody is too!"

"Seriously, between you and me, I've done a bit of research, and unless she did a playboy shoot ten years ago, she's not the one."

Pete put down his glass. "Bernard. You cannot ever say that to anyone. Sometimes I think that's the only thing that holds her together. She really believes it. Seriously, you can never say that she --"

Ena and Laila reappeared at the same time.Me and Pete know each other quite well, so we knew that our conversation didn't need any further explanation.

Ena said, "so how old is your baby now?"

"11 weeks, Ena,: I said.

Pete asked her how Ian was, and she said, "terrible". He was screaming, demanding to know why she was out having fun while he was stuck at home in a wheelchair. She smiled, but there's a little twitch she gets at the edge of her mouth when the stress is too much.

She continues smiling, the girl from ipanema. She smiles at me, and says, "so how old is your baby now?"

I look at Pete for a second.

"11 weeks now, Ena."



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My neighbour is The Girl From Ipanema



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