Let's Walk - part 1

Put on your red shoes and walk Madrid...

The above video was put online just recently. Not only is it a fun glimpse of a relaxed David Bowie enjoying himself as he wanders the streets, but it's an interesting record of how central Madrid looked 30 years ago.

With the help of Google's Street View, I retraced his steps, and then decided to go see for myself what had changed, and what had stayed the same... here are some highlights:

1. The Villa Rosa Flamenco Bar

2. Calle de la Cruz - I've always wondered about this empty space. Thanks to the video you can see what was there before. Shops. Duh.

3. This shop that Bowie jokes is where all the artists of Madrid get their paints from isn't quite as ancient as it appears - it first opened its doors in 1975 but, considering what it sells, they should really have given it a fresh coat of paint since then.

Marzo Todo Almodóvar

Following on from the last post, there happens to be a special celebration this month (March 2017) at the Cine Doré in Lavapiés barrio of Madrid, showing all 20 of Almodóvar's films. It opened last night with a special introduction by the director himself, and Carmen Maura, one of the actresses most associated with his work, before a screening of La Ley Del Deseo.

Tickets were extremely limited, and I queued up for hours, but in the end I had the supreme luck of getting the very last two tickets left before they sold out.

We were up in the balcony, and had a pretty good view. However there must have been easily 300 seats, yet only 100 of those went on sale to the public, which is pretty shocking given the huge demand that existed (there were queues down the street behind me, and I was the last to get a ticket). Worse still, there were even a few empty seats here and there, and the boxes weren't used at all.
Being English, I didn't recognise all the VIPs in attendance, but I saw Manuela Carmena, the Mayor of Madrid - when she entered the whole room gave her a round of applause, and on my way out I rubbed shoulders with actress Carmen Machi, another Almodóvar regular. I don't mean I talked to her, I mean I literally brushed past her on the way to the cloakroom. Oh well.

Spanish speakers, to read more about the evening check out Todo Almodóvar.

Almodóvar, Julieta and me

Spain's most famous director, Pedro Almodóvar lives in Madrid and it's no secret that he likes the place. He's been associated since the beginning with La Movida Madrileña of the 80s and while I'm not sure if all of his films have scenes set in the city, it's certainly close. Even "Los Amantes Pasajeros", which takes place almost entirely onboard a plane, cuts briefly to Madrid. 

So given the long list of places in Madrid that he's immortalised on film, perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised to discover that for his most recent movie Julieta he'd even filmed in my local park, a 2 minute walk away.

I saw it in the cinema (the first time I watched a film in Spanish without subtitles!) but was completely oblivious at the time to any local landmarks. To be fair, this was last year when I hadn't been in the neighbourhood very long, and the scenes aren't particularly prominent. But the other day I stumbled upon this picture and I realised.

So I went out and drew these on location, then added in the actresses afterwards using stills from the movie (the bench on the court doesn't exist in real life).

Only a few weeks ago, Emma Suárez won a Goya award for Best Actress for her performance as Julieta. I really enjoyed the film, and now that I know that that's my tennis court in the background it might be time for a rewatch!

A good way to see "the real" or at least less touristy side of Madrid is to do your own walking tour of some of Almodóvar's film locations. For inspiration, check out this collection by photographer Carlos Pina.

The Metro: O'Donnell

All over Spain there's no shortage of Irish bars - O'Neill's, O'Reilly's, Finnegan's, O'Connor's....
O'Donnell however is not one of them. One stop in the other direction from Manuel Becerra, this Metro station is named for its location on Calle O'Donnell, which in turn is named after this bloke, Leopoldo: 

What on earth is an Irishman doing commemorated amongst the famous names of Spain, you might ask, somewhat racistly. Well, it turns out he's as Spanish as paella, tortilla, and siestas. Born in Tenerife in 1809, he was Spain's Prime Minister not once but three times, and gave his name to not one but two barrios of Madrid - O'Donnell, and Tetuán (of which he was Duke).

So what did he do? Well, he led a failed coup, was exiled, returned to favour, was in charge of a brutal repression of Cuba, aggressively pursued imperial expansion, led the army in its invasion of Morocco, foiled a revolt and was finally dismissed by the Queen for brutality. So not an entirely spotless career then, but enough to be remembered, evidently. And his name? He was the descendent of an Irish king no less, but it was his grandfather who first took the O'Donnell name to Spain, after becoming a general in the Irlanda regiment of the Spanish army. Due to their common Catholic beliefs, Irishmen had been fighting for Spain since 1580. The O'Donnells became part of the noble families not just of Spain, but France and Austria as well, and their descendents are still around today.

Ghosts of Spain, and coincidences

London's such a huge place that during my 14 years of living there, accidentally bumping into anyone I knew was a rare and amazing event. Here in Madrid, despite it still being a large city, it's not on the same scale, and passing friends and acquaintances in the street is a surprisingly regular occurrence - maybe one in three of the times we go out of an evening or weekend. The Spanish say el mundo es un pañuelo - the world is a handkerchief, which makes me think of sneezing, but I think is just supposed to mean "it's a small world". 

I was reading Giles Tremlett's superb book Ghosts of Spain a couple of weeks ago, late at night, and in it he happens to mention in passing the name of his local bar, La Goyesca, in Madrid. Since I live on the other side of Goya, I wondered idly if the bar was anywhere near me. Then I shut the book, and went to bed, and would have undoubtedly forgotten the name entirely, except that the very next morning, on the way to find our new GP's office, we took a street I'd never been down before, and there it was, the same bar. Qué casualidad!

So as a small tribute both to how much I enjoyed the book, and to coincidence, I decided to draw it.

If you haven't read Ghosts of Spain, it's one of the best introductions you can get to contemporary Spanish history and culture, and it's also full of further insights for guiris like me, still adjusting to life here. Not only is it written from the perspective of an Englishman who's lived and worked in Spain for over 20 years, his personal experience goes way beyond your average ex-pat: he's met Kings, Prime Ministers, ETA terrorists, franquistas, forced labour camp survivors, and jailhouse flamenco champions, to name but a few. Whether moving in these circles or the more familiar ones of bars, markets, schools and hospitals, the writing is always enthralling and informative. Find out more about it here.

Following Brexit, the author also has a petition at Change.com seeking double nationality for long term British residents in Spain, which, although that doesn't mean me, I think is worth signing.