Thursday, May 04, 2006

7 Pictures from Madrid

1. On the BA magazine I read john Simpson on Madrid's antiquated, old-style airport. It was a surprise to land at the most futuristic surroundings I've been to. Zoomorphic architecture at its best, the lighting is like giant ants eyes, the roof like an armadillo back. From afar, the car parks are marked in colours of the rainbow, A B C D E F, like six huge oil containers, which they are, of course. They want to make it Europe's gateway to the Americas.

What a waste. Don't they know? It's running out. In ten, twenty or fifty years, it will stand desolate, a huge, wave-shaped, silver and yellow temple. And people would say that airplanes used to run from here, and that the ticket to London cost like a train journey. But this future, how distant it seems: for now it's just bright and shiny, and the announcement screen blinks: memory empty.

2. Sitting on the roof above Bellen's flat, the city is red-tiled, diving into the dark. The evening wind is chilling, and we know we'll only last a bottle of beer (one litre, fourth floor, five people). We talk about gypsee music, copyright and theft, popular music and music for the people. Everybody seemed involved in Diagonal. But isn't it a bit tiring, all the time politics? NO they shout, and laugh, everything is political, life is political!

3. The Garden of Follies is accessible by foot. From the red-brick, old working class neighbourhood cross the first highway on a bridge, walk under the second. No food allowed, to keep the Sunday picnicers at bay. Brides and grooms, however, are welcome. Between the witch's candy house, the maze (off-bounds) and the fake roman temple, it's sun, and pine trees, and sun again. And ice-cream? Next week, they promise in the kiosk outside.

4. When the party finally started, they soon put Mano Negra, and everybody were shouting the words: I could sense some kind of pride and pleasure, like one of ours or something. At half past-three, everybody had had enough mohitos to dance flamenco, just for one song: yes, clapping their hands, and twisting their hips, the pierced short-haired girls and the geeky boys. They were taking the piss, and being Spanish. Jose shook his head. 'Is it too much for you?' I ask 'I just don't understand this music. I don't get it'. He's been playing Belle and Sebastian this week.
It's Seco's last summer, they say demolition is on the way.

5. Tales of foreign cities can be recounted in names of Metro stations. Last time it was Sol, Opera, and Ventas; this time it was Lavapies, Pacifico, and Torre Arrias. Five years ago it was Museums, this time social centres, squats, and libraries. Things have changed. It took you a long time, said G, but I think you changed a lot, no? We reminisced, of course, and talked about Michael. I told them how on the night we all met, on the way from Clifton Mansions to the corner of Arlingford road, a car pulled out in front of us, and G showed him the finger: Ijo te puta! She didn't remember. My Spanish is all from her: joder, konio, tia.

6. What is it that about this place that makes me feel relieved, and almost at home? The weather, the flowers, the olive trees (but others are London for me: horse chestnuts, poplars, plane, about a month ahead in bloom); the high ceilings, the loud talk; the local produce in the market, the people in the street chatting. The politics, something about it, free from gestures of resignation and defeat that London breeds. Perhaps I have used all that London can give me; perhaps it is time to leave.

7. Madrid has changed much in six years.It is now covered with scaffoldings, and fences guard work on the roads, on every corner: renovation, construction, refurbishment, everywhere. My friends call it speculation: gentrification, and prices rising, a bubble of property prices swallowing whole neighbourhoods alive. The sound of someone practicing the piano, coming from facade, all that is left from a demolished building. But also: immigrants; not just south Americans, but also Romanian prostitutes, Polish builders, and Chinese, who have taken over all the grocery shops.

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