i wish

Spanish nights

Spanish nights
Written by Cathoel Jorss,

Oh, Spain! Is so filled with amazing events! Walking home just now I saw a man busking with his telescope. It was pointed up towards the moon, a peach lying in dark glossy syrup, and his hand-lettered sign and the beast had attracted a queue of people eager to see the sky up close. His telescope was as big as three people bound together for the stake, which is what might have happened to a busker with a telescope four hundred years ago in this or most countries.

On my way out as the blue hour deepened I ran across an angry demonstration. With huge signs they marched until they came face to face with police, standing legs planted apart in their sexy motorcycle boots and cavalier pants. The anger seemed to dissolve and the two groups faced each other chattering and laughing. I couldn’t make out the signs, I asked a hipster who is always begging with his brass Tibetan bowl, “Hablo pocolito Ingles?” Do you have a little English? Oh yes, he said, and launched into an explanation in Spanish. I gathered that the protestors were anti-austerity, “like Greece.” He said something something about the poor. At least that’s how it sounded to me. I thanked him profusely, the first homeless hipster beggar I have ever met, and hurried on to the bookshop cafe open til midnight which is where I plan to spend the rest of my visit if not my life. I found it yesterday and spent an hour in there, resolving to come back with my laptop. So hushed and filled with concentration is the atmosphere that people entering the shop instinctively begin to whisper to each other. That is, nirvana.

Leading up to Palm Sunday people were selling sprigs of rosemary and olive branches in the streets. In front of churches you could buy yellow palm leaves woven into fantastical shapes like candelabras and I wish I had. Then on Sunday I got caught up in a huge motionless crowd and by dint of being 18 inches taller than everybody else could see the parade, standing waiting, women in black lace mantillas and impeccable heels, men wearing tall conical hats that to me shrieked Ku Klux Klan but I suppose they have appropriated, as nothing else they represent is ever original. At the front was a large float the size of a four wheel drive, higher and taller, and banked up with candles and scarlet rose petals. I walked on and later that night found another, similar procession, this one carrying a bier for the Virgin Mary, whose velvet train embroidered in gold dropped behind her so far it needed four people to carry it.

I saw a man dressed as a Super Mario Brother with his blue foam head off, sitting gazing at one of the colourful balloons he sells, in a trance. I saw two giant Bart Simpsons with their heads off, feeding pigeons from a park bench and apparently unable to understand why I was finding them so delightful. I saw an immaculate lady all in tan with leather gloves lying back on a bench in the middle of a crowded square, her eyes closed to worship Sun. I saw a man crouched on a square of cardboard carving crosses from two twigs, his wares spread out in front of him. He was talking to a little girl. I saw two mounted police officers on their horses scrolling their phones. They were the centre of a circle of other phones as everybody stopped to take pictures. I saw the Museum of Ham that has whole hocks hung from the ceilings dense as balloons at a child’s birthday do. Another place called Paradise of Ham sells thin shavings of Iberian ham from pigs fed on acorns that costs 95 Euros a kilo. I saw a woman dressed as a bride hold out her skirts and curtsey, she too was busking, perhaps after the wedding had gone off. And in the midst of all this I saw a Swiss family eating an expensive dinner, their table facing into the milling night time street, and the parents drearily cheered each other in champagne as their girls, perhaps 14 and 9, sat slumped over their phones reaching for one potato chip after another and oblivious to all the glory that passes over us every moment.

7 comments on “Spanish nights

  1. Beautiful to hear this from a Madridliano, thank you, Alfonso.

    Cathoel Jorss March 31, 2015 at 7:52 pm
  2. Oh, wow, I think that might be the barrio I stumbled on by accident on a long winding walk the other day – I came round the corner and saw the view of the plains and distant mountains spread before me and it was so beautiful I just burst into tears.

    Thank you for these tips, Alfonso, and for reading! I wish you were in town so we could have a copa of coffee.

    Cathoel Jorss March 31, 2015 at 8:34 pm
  3. You’re a virtual tour guide of the first water. I feel the essence of the place from your words.

    Alison Lambert March 31, 2015 at 8:57 pm
  4. Of the first water! What a classy phrase. Thanks very much indeed, Alison. I am glad.

    Cathoel Jorss April 1, 2015 at 8:09 pm
  5. Also thanks for reminding me of this excellent expression. I will be passing that on.

    Cathoel Jorss April 1, 2015 at 8:10 pm

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *