Every morning, around breakfast time, near the Plaza de Manuel Becerra, the strains of an accordion float up and around the Calle de Alcalá. If you listen closely, you'll realise that no song is being played - it's merely the sound of a person with an accordion, making noises, normally the same refrain, repeated over and over, but interspersed with random noodling. This is because the gypsy woman with the accordion doesn't actually know how to play the accordion. She is one of a large number of women in cities throughout Spain, begging with musical accompaniment.
I've been told that this is the result of a gypsy type 'mafia' who organise these women, assigning them sites, instruments, perhaps giving them basic instruction on how to play (although obviously not always), and pocketing the money they collect.
Indeed, it does seem almost like a job, albeit a tragically pointless one. She turns up at the same time every weekday, occasionally on Saturdays, "peforms" for several hours, and leaves around lunchtime (to head to other sites?).
I find her unflagging dedication both fascinating and depressing.