We watched a helluva lot of football over the week. The young fella has gone mad for it. Mad for it! Madrid vs. Wolfsburg the day we arrived, Atleti vs. Barça the next day, and then all the Liga action at the weekend, culminating in Rayo – the best club in the world – beating fourth-place Villarreal in Vallecas on Sunday.
We were there of course, the young fella, my dad and me, wearing our Rayo colors and shouting from the last seats still available the previous Thursday. The stadium was packed, albeit easy to pack with only three sides, but it wasn’t only the Bukaneros who were making noise with everyone standing and waving their flags above their heads after Miku’s famous winner.
The young fella – who woke up Thursday morning to shout “Atletico won!” – is still beside himself with joy from the Rayo experience. We got our jerseys (matching) on the Thursday and he has only taken it off to sleep since. He’ll be putting it on again tomorrow, possibly every morning for the rest of his life. He knows Rayo is the best club in the world, though I’ve had to stress a few times they’re moral champions rather than champions in the vulgar sense of the word. It doesn’t matter. “Rayo won!” as he said more than a few times.
But there’s more to Madrid than football. We went to visit my parents, who were trying to escape from skies of rainclouds over Ireland. But there’s no escape from anything, especially the things in your head, whatever about the things over it.
“There’s the new airport they’re building, trying to build, they keep fecking it up. They’re not sure if they’ll ever finish it,” I told the young fella as we passed BER.
“I hope they stop, or give up,” he wisely replied.
He was a welcome if exhausting dose of enthusiasm for the whole trip.
“It’s a good day, the sky is blue,” he said on one of the first mornings, probably after Atleti won.
“The birds are singing,” I replied.
“The grass is growing,” he added. It’s always a fine day when the grass is growing. We’re all screwed the day it stops.
Hopefully it’ll grow over the dog shit. Madrid has the same old problem with dog shit. They don’t pick it up any more than the dogs pick up their owners’ shit.
Maybe the dog shit distracts them from the noise – it’s still the noisiest city I’ve been to, sirens, beeping, wailing, screeching, horrible noise, senseless noise, endless noise.
The food’s good and the wine’s good and the sunshine’s bliss. It makes you want to get outside and enjoy it. Many do. The parks are full of joggers and cyclists. But Spaniards cannot run unless they look the part with the fanciest running gear – no old t-shirts for them – and cyclists can’t cycle unless they’re dolled up like Lance Armstrong – inside and out – with the shiniest bikes and outfits so luminous they can be seen from space. Fashion trumps fitness. Spaniards think fresh air is a catwalk.
I’d a good chat with Pablo, a friend through abandoned activities in Berlin, and he pointed out how little Spaniards have pored into their past, their prolonged brush with fascism, the civil war, or any of it, for fear of reopening old wounds. Apparently there are very few books about it all. Who killed who? Who profited from it? Who still profits from it? April 14 was the 85th anniversary of the proclamation of the Spanish Republic. A girl walked by carrying the Republican Spanish flag – I also saw one outside the stadium in Vallecas – and that sparked the conversation. History is written by the winners of course, but it seems there are now a few more asking awkward questions without fear of the answers they might get. As it should be.
On my way home on the metro that night there were three girls sitting on the floor singing Bob Marley’s Redemption Song, one playing guitar, another the spoons. They had already played Buffalo Soldier on the platform. Fellow passengers were enjoying the performance as the train trundled along. Then a security guard came along. I thought he’d tell them to stop but he just stepped past as he continued his round.
There’s security on all the metros now and Polícia with machine guns manning strategic corners around Madrid. Because the threat of being shot is really going to deter a suicide bomber from blowing himself up. But it’s the new normal, because everyone wants us to live in fear. France is doing its best to scare everyone away from Euro 2016. Power and the urge to control are a dangerous mix.
So are snakes and sharks, but thankfully they don’t collaborate too often, no matter how much anyone says they do to further their political career at the expense of taxpayers.
Damn, this was supposed to be about Madrid. I went running most mornings, good long runs, to the river and back, around the lake, around the zoo, past the attraction park, everywhere. I wore whatever t-shirt I’d slept in the night before. Then I’d get back and the day would start.
“We got a whole day full of time,” he’d say. And he was right. We did.