Priorities in Madrid.
The smash of glass, the pounding of feet on beer soaked cobbles and anti-government chants being cried through loud hailers. The Spanish capital is a few sparks away from being ablaze.
Swathes of disenchanted indignados swarmed through the streets of Madrid gathering support as they went. Interested bystanders and waiting parties with slogan filled signs joined ranks with the passing hoards.
The previous night a protest camp in Puerta Del Sol had been dismantled by police during the twilight hours and the demonstrators were determined to take the square back.
Elements of the Spanish young adult population have decided that enough is enough, and they have chosen to take direct action. Unemployment for 19-24 year olds stands at a staggering 40% and the percentage rises for women in the same age bracket, over half are jobless. Alongside this the demonstrators want a more democratic society with the introduction of new electoral law and an end to political corruption.
Getting caught up in the protest produced an ecstasy like adrenaline rush, you become immersed in the situation, the endorphins start racing and you feel galvanized by the fact that you’re a member of a group that was standing up for what was right. Its scary how quickly the mob mentality can engulf you and the dramatic effect peer pressure can have upon you.
The protesters descended upon the major squares of the city with the idea of re-erecting the camps but the amassed ranks of the Madrid police force were waiting for them. Strategically parked riot vans, barriers and a thick blue line of officers stood between the protesters and the hallowed ground which they intended to re-claim.
A few insults were traded between the two parties a couple of bottles thrown but knowing they were up against an imposing enemy the protesters moved to other parts of the city to let their feelings be known.
All this political activism took my eye off the ball; I’d forgotten what was important and was therefore horrified to discover that Paul Daniels had been knocked out by a flying pizza thrown by a disgruntled Sooty. A consummate professional who was annoyed that the pint sized magician didn’t nail the scene in the first take. The perfectionist bear took out his aggression by launching the margarita as hard as he could. Sooty and Sweep who witnessed the incident are said to be still traumatized.
Elements of the Spanish young adult population have decided that enough is enough, and they have chosen to take direct action. Unemployment for 19-24 year olds stands at a staggering 40% and the percentage rises for women in the same age bracket, over half are jobless.
First impressions led me to believe he was an eccentric Buddhist. He had small chunk of hair growing at the back of his head and he wore few clothes. A cultish Warrior-esque leather vest with a Portuguese saying on the back and grass stained earth coloured harem trousers. He placed a thick brass ring in front of me and said, ‘You need to….live!’
Myself and Lucy were enjoying a menu del dia in a back alley bar. The streets of historic Cordoba were bare. Locals wisely stayed inside to escape the sweltering 45 degree heat. The character previously described strode over to our table with an unsettling amount of confidence, gesticulating and giving advice and how we should carry out the rest of our time on earth.
Whilst we stumbled through the twisting streets, pathetically leaning on walls and sitting on steps to re-capture our breath we discovered a house which was covered in torn pieces of paper with various undecipherable scribbles written on them. There were pictures of Catholic priests and saints and a six inch stiletto heel lodged into the front door and resting on the top of the frame was a small plastic camera with a dolls head bursting out the lens. We mentioned the strange looking abode to him and questioned who would live in such a place, ‘Yes that’s mine.’
He claimed to be the king of Cordoba, there by divine right. That he was a man to follow. He cited one major incident that opened his eyes to the way of the world and put him on the road to righteousness. ‘My life changed forever when something happened to me, I don’t have a scar on me, no physical signs to show you.’ he then left it open to suggestion what it was and I asked whether it had been a car crash or some other kind of near death experience that was the catalyst for him having his third eye opened, ‘No, I got fucked by a man in the ass. After that day I understood how the moon affected the tides and how the earth spun upon its axis.’ I did point out that these were well established scientific processes before he had a cock up his behind but he refused to back down.
After our encounter with Dalai Winton we continued to explore the winding streets of an incredibly beautiful city. Every turn of a corner would reveal a new treasure, be it a stone carved fountain or a painstakingly hand crafted statue or that bloke again who this time just pointed but maintained eye contact until we were out of sight. I popped my head from around a shop doorway and there he remained rigid in both point and stare.
The main tourist attraction is accomplished monument the Mezquita, originally a mosque which got hijacked by the Catholic Church and was transformed into a Catedral. Gaudy pictures of saints cover up the far more impressive Arabic patterns and intricate stone masonry. When King Carlos II found out the church had altered aspects of the mosque he said, ‘You’ve ruined something that was truly unique.’
If you get there before half 10 and you have your shoulders covered it’s free to get in, after it’s a rather hefty eight Euros but you can go with a vest on. You may only show exposed upper half flesh if you pay. I overhead one disgruntled American tourist as he handed over his money, ‘here’s to funding another 100 years of kiddy fucking.’
Situated next to the Meszquita are dozens of what can only be described as ‘shit’ shops. Boutiques filled with tat for tourists to take back as souvenirs. There’s nothing that evokes a feeling of Cordoba more than a Rasta ash tray with a spliff shaped sheaf over his nob, which is retractable. The crudeness of the product is down to the manufacturer, the explicitness of the Rasta’s flashing is down to you. Despite the piles of steaming nostalgic turd the shops still manage to entice you, your forever searching for that one piece of glorious ‘shit’ which tops the rest.
Situated next to the Meszquita are dozens of what can only be described as ‘shit’ shops. Boutiques filled with tat for tourists to take back as souvenirs. There’s nothing that evokes a feeling of Cordoba more than a Rasta ash tray with a spliff shaped sheaf over his nob, which is retractable.
Walking down the narrow and handsome Calleja de las Flores where roses and honeysuckle adorn the white wash walls I was approached by a man dressed in traditional flamenco attire. He looked me dead in the eye, started to stamp his feet, clap his hands furiously and went ‘oooooooooooouuuuuuuuww’ his intense and intimidating promo worked and I signed up to see his show later that night.
The show was like a stripped down and far shorter version of a Mars Volta gig. Lots of high pitch wailing, shaking Latin hips and Spanish guitar licks.
The quaint hostel stood next to the Plaza de la Corredera, one of the most emblematic areas of the city. In the 1500’s it was seen as the epicentre of the community where all of Cordoban society could come together to enjoy something we all do, a barn storming beheading. I bought a two euro bottle of rioja, a set of plastic cups and sat myself up on the balcony for a spot of people watching. Across the way was a thoroughly respectable looking elderly gentleman who was watering his hanging baskets, he quickly became bored with this and started to spit on anyone he took a dislike to. A ginger, a black family and a wheel chair bound lesbian. In a typically cowardly fascist style after releasing his gob from on high he would cower backwards into the safety of his flat, peering over the ledge to check the reaction of the mucus covered victim. Once his saliva reserves had run out he reverted to another form of body function weaponry. As a Japanese tourist walked by he flicked a bogey at her. Cor-gobba.
Waking up to an Australian nightmare.
If you get a one euro pack of chorizo from a budget supermarket you’ll firstly marvel at how transparent it is and then at the sheer amount of water it will release if you give it a squeeze. Meaty, rainy windows if you will. After coming to the understanding that it’s more like a Safestyle product than a Bernard Matthews one, utilize its malleable properties and mould it into a fatty cricket ball. If eaten like this you will actively feel your insides dry out to a barren Gobi desert like state and you’ll have to stagger to the nearest heladeria to bring yourself out of this sodium chloride based stupor.
Throughout this interail trip around Spain I experienced a series of breathtaking highs and some spirit crushing lows. Cadiz, a city which other than a few nice beaches and a couple of brightly coloured houses provided a number of the latter.
At the same supermarket I purchased the meat from I was mistaken for a tramp. I was given a euro while eating a bag of shredded carrot in Carrefour doorway. I kept the coin, it paid for another pack of chorizo.
Early one morning after having little sleep due to a noisy French snorer I went swimming in the shallows to wake myself up and something latched onto my calf. Panicked I swam quickly to the shore. Expecting to find a jellyfish I looked down to discover a used Always pad. In front of a packed beach I lost some of my dignity and some of my leg hairs as I tore it off. I limped back to my towel, freshly waxed by virtue of a menstruation buffer. In front of me was an old lady with desperately saggy breasts who was sobbing uncontrollably. I wondered if our two ordeals were connected, was it her sanitary towel?
This humiliation took place on the busy tourist beach. The other far prettier one, Playa de La Caleta with its English style promenade and pavilion which seemed to reach out and embrace the sea would also play venue to a disturbing tale. Two very old gay men had been stalking me for a couple of days. Everywhere I went they were there, popping up and attempting to start awkward conversations. One of them wore a wide brimmed hat similar to the one Quentin Crisp chose to wear in his final years. He once said his dream was to meet everyone in the world and by the time of his death he felt he’d just about done that. These lads only seem bothered about meeting me. I was travelling alone at this point and perhaps I appeared vulnerable and lost. I went for a swim and was perfectly happy breastroking, I saw something black up ahead but being as it was underwater it was too blurry to make out what it was. The dark creature submerged, lifted up it’s scuba mask and cried, ‘Hola, I see you!’ It was the Spanish Quentin.
As night drew in the tide would recede to reveal Roman ruins and rock pools teaming with fish and crabs. The pools were murky which made judging their depth tricky and I stepped in one and was immersed up to my waist, Vicar of Dibley style.
After escaping the clutches of the groomers and the hard to judge rock pools I picked up my clothes and ran back to the hostel. Outside the door was a transgender magician who was plucking a number of handkerchiefs from his wizard’s sleeve. He told his predominantly English speaking crowd to concentrate on the trick and not on the width of his shoulders.
Exhausted from the beach flee I decided to take a siesta. I laid with my head facing the open window and the cool breeze helped me to relax and I quickly dozed off. Not long into the sleep a passer by put their hands through the bars, grabbed my face, looked me dead in the eye and started screaming Torn by Natalie Imbruglia. It was terrifying in its delivery and as the song reached its emotional chorus he wanted me to feel his and Nat’s pain so he squeezed my head even harder. When it reached the instrumental part of the song he released me and walked off. There were no other open windows along the street for him to reach into. It was X Factor meeting Hellraiser.
I felt clammy after the violent serenading and wanted a shower. I went into the communal bathroom and turned on the taps. What turned out to be a distressed Australian girl tried the door. Naturally due to me being in there it was locked. She tried the door five minutes later and her frustration was apparent, ‘Oi, there are others you know. I really need to go!’ ‘Well use one on another floor then.’ ‘But this one is allotted to our floor.’ ‘Well I had a shit in the 2nd level bog yesterday and I don’t think the hostel will be carrying out any rectal dustings to prove that the crap left a Mr. Gayton’s anus.’ I then heard the sound of feet quickly pattering away.
Expecting to find a jellyfish I looked down to discover a used Always pad. In front of a packed beach I lost some of my dignity and some of my leg hairs as I tore it off. I limped back to my towel, freshly waxed by virtue of a menstruation buffer.
A 'rooting tooting' kind of a place.
There aren’t many better offerings on arrival at a hostal than, ‘Hey man, after you’ve checked in do you want to have a smoke, kick back and listen to some Creedence?’
Blake, a shaggy haired hippy from Wisconsin who sounded like William H. Macy in ‘Fargo’ had decided to start a ‘rooting tooting’ life in the Arabic jewel of Andalucía, Granada. He left America’s cheese capital for sun drenched days spent smoking Morocco’s finest beneath the shadow of the mighty compounds which make up the architectural gem the Alhambra.
Ramble tamble had kicked in, searing country guitars alongside John Fogarty’s unique vocals creating a fantastic ambience in the traditional white stoned hostal situated at the peak of the old Arabic quarter. We listened to the dude’s favourite band and took hits from a tomahawk pipe. An item bought for practical reasons as well as aesthetic, ‘If anyone tries to take it off me, I will scalp them. I’d love to wear a little belt with a series of shrunken heads. The stoner vigilante, striking a blow for the lazy and forgetful. Whatever I just said sounded really good I just wish I could remember what it was.’
The dope had been bought from a bracelet maker called ‘Dos Lunas’. He claimed to be an English teacher despite the fact he couldn’t speak any. He only had two teeth and would often wheeze violently and cough blood into a stained hanky, something I feel may have hampered his enunciation and diction. Out of his Donny Osmond like mouth came another tale that he had twelve different children to twelve different women and that after he’d had his thirteenth, his sowing of the moon seed would be over and he would wade out into the sea, let the water envelop him and drown.
The two moon’s hash added to what was a great first evening of blues music and storytelling. After discussing how Janis Joplin’s huskiness could touch your heart we naturally came onto the personality traits of dogs. ‘You don’t appear to give dogs much credit Chris. They understand alot more than you think. I once humiliated a dog. There was a gathering at a friend’s house, we were all sat round smoking, drinking and listening to the Flying Burrito Brothers. The chorus of their big hit was just beginning to kick in when the dog started to wail. We all burst out laughing. The dog was horrified. It slunk over to the corner of the room, with its tail between its legs put its paws over its eyes and began to sob. We’d embarrassed and shamed him. He chose never to sing again.’
The Granada leg of the trip had a real Yankee flavour to it. I met Texas Mike on the train from Cordoba; he asked me if I was German. ‘You look Bavarian, you know kinda hairy.’ He did this lots of times whilst I was in his company; he’d walk up to anyone in the street and attempt to guess their nationality. He got everyone wrong, his perception for race was diabolical, he went up to a black woman and asked whether she was Russian. I was envious of his unbridled confidence but felt it could have been put to better use than simply finding out where someone was from. He could have been like hitch if he’d continued the conversation beyond the person’s roots. Just before coming on the trip he said how he’d been in prison but wouldn’t say why and that he had 3,000 Euros on him and he needed to spend them all within his three day stay. He bought all my drinks and meals. It appeared to me that crime seemed to pay, and it spoke with a Southern drawl.
Granada is an amazing place but I find it incredibly challenging to write about events or places in a positive way, it just isn’t natural to me. It doesn’t flow as it should. If I’m ranting it goes like a bastard. Bastards of course renowned for flowing well. Gaddafi for example could create cracking prose. I can’t do ahhh puppies licking my face while I lay in a marshmallow bath type writing . But it truly is a magical place unlike any I’ve visited before. The winding, maze like streets doused in history and cat piss, the smoke rising up from shisha bars and the sweet smell of smouldering hash combines with roasted garlic. On most nights the two would combine in my mouth to make my kisses taste slightly tasty with a sharp reminder than you should approach for a snog with caution.
The Arabic baths at first seemed expensive but it proved to be a couple of hours that provided a rare encounter with complete contentment. Coming from parents who have both suffered nervous breakdowns and towel obsessions I’ve inherited a fret tendency which could ruin a hedonistic Caligulan orgy, ‘Ooo I hope they get them stains out.’ Thoughts of impending doom are never too far away so for all this pessimism to dissipate was a joy. Any worries ebbed away as I lay in the hot water with Lucy in my arms, it was silent, and we stayed there still in this loving embrace for a good 15 minutes. Completely at peace. Beautiful. I didn’t even panic that one of us could fart in the water and ruin this blissful moment. Often a grave concern of mine when experiencing something pleasurable in a pool.
The dope had been bought from a bracelet maker called ‘Dos Lunas’. He claimed to be an English teacher despite the fact he couldn’t speak any. He only had two teeth and would often wheeze violently and cough blood into a stained hanky, something I feel may have hampered his enunciation and diction.
A brush with Dana. Not International.
The first recommendation in a Malaga travel guide was to visit another city.
The advisor who offered up such wisdom wasn’t wrong. Malaga is want for a better term a sandy hovel. Like a pensioner’s bum hole after she’s sat on the beach and the back of her costume has accidentally moved to one side. Dirty waters surround the foul, industrial waste filled beaches. Whilst out swimming my leg became entangled in a multipack of Walkers crisps and my hand brushed a dead gull’s beak.
Niall my travelling companion is into tomb stoning and he even baulked at the idea of leaping recklessly into Malaga’s misty waters. To simply step into the sea was a risk in itself. When he finally plucked up the courage to wade in he began to throw jagged pebbles at sardines and he disfigured a fish who was already a loner, now with one eye less he was completely ostracised from the group. We saw he/she (we looked underwater to determine the sex but our view of the genitalia was blocked by a Lidl bag) swim off and put itself under a rock and there it died, sad, lonely and mutilated. Later on in our stay we did enjoy a plate of sardines cooked on an open fire which was housed within a little fishing boat, one of them did appear to be of a Cyclops disposition.
After towelling of what appeared to be oil from our bodies we laid down on the yellow beach made up of glass shards, fag ends and spit. Niall began to tell me of the time he went to Aylestone Meadows to take some photographs. The meadows, or ‘the waiting park’ as it’s known to its recipients is renowned for cottaging, and not the quaint warm yourself by the fire while the stew cooks type. Our intrepid photo journalist climbed to the top of an Oak to get a good vantage point of the land below. After taking a few snaps he looked down to discover a man in his late seventies masturbating next to the tree. Stunned, Niall covered his face, aghast at the tugging horror. He stayed very still, disturbing him may lead to the pensioner diverting his loving attention towards him. This went on for fifteen minutes. Finally the old man finished onto the tree, a couple of feet higher than himself, quite an achievement. He then sauntered off to no doubt return to his grand children who he’d told that he was looking for the Frisbee which had got lost in amongst the woodland. Due to the ‘sap’ flying quite high up, Niall was forced to leap from the branches from a particularly precarious height; luckily his fall was cushioned by a burnt mattress with a used condom on it. Perhaps left by the pensioner on a previous more laboured poshie visit.
Away from the filthy shoreline Malaga is a grey city. In colour and in mood. Tower blocks reach up into the sky like erect concrete clad turds. It’s horrifically outdated and still seems to want to flog the 60’s/70’s package holiday. Tacky looking flamenco dresses hang from the rafters of numerous souvenir shops and Viva Espana booms out from every club and dreary discotheque.
The first recommendation in a Malaga travel guide was to visit another city. The advisor who offered up such wisdom wasn’t wrong. Malaga is want for a better term a sandy hovel..
The only saving grace other than Niall’s company and dead eye (no pun intended if the fish is reading this, which it won’t be being as the species is famously illiterate and it’s dead) aim was the feria. A big festival which appeared to be being held for no other reason than having a week long party. Every night the streets were packed with the cities young and not always able. I was hit in the shins by an irresponsible mobo kart rider. She may not have had the use of her legs but she understood the true essence of physical, slapstick humour. If Laurel and Hardy had seriously injured their lower half’s in one of their death defying belly laugh stunts and the technology had been available to them they would have taken to shunting people in the shin, it is hilarious, if you’re the perpetrator. Anyways, the squares of Malaga were lined with youths drinking and smoking. It made for a very jovial atmosphere, a swathing mess of people simply there to have a good time. If this would have happened in the U.K it would no doubt end with the group being kettled.
After Malaga I went to Algeciras a gateway to Africa and Gibraltar. It’s a place so shit even the cats dislike it; I saw one walk headfirst into a wall.
On a day trip to ‘Gib’ I was attacked by an ape. I got off the extortionate cable car and was immediately set upon by a gibbon with fluctuating weight problems (she’d tried the Atkins, wasn’t for her) called Dana. She leapt from a wall and wobbled towards me, palming gawping by standers out the way. In my pocket was a packet of Mexican Chilli McCoy’s glistening in the midday sun. Dana went for them, I tried to fend her off by slapping her across the face but she proved to be too strong. After she’d pilfered my crisps she hit me in the stomach, there was no need for that, she had what she wanted, that was just nasty. An American tourist had filmed the incident, ‘It’s taking his chips, oh my God, it’s hitting him, it’s hitting him, this is fucking great material! I hope it does something else. Say something man!?’ I took my inspiration from gun nut and monkey kisser Charlton Heston and cried, ‘You goddamn dirty ape!’
To describe the view from the top of the Gibraltar rock I have to turn to 80’s classic Honey I Shrunk the Kids for an appropriate analogy. Imagine your one of the scaled down protagonists and you’re stood on a toilet seat and you’re looking down into the bowl which is filled with floaters, that is ‘Gib’ from on high.
A town near Algeciras which is well worth seeing is sleepy Tarifa. The beaches are stunning mainly down to the council erecting signs telling you not to shit in the sea. The opposite is actively encouraged in Malaga. The road up to Tarifa is quite treacherous, winding round steep hillsides and although the bus driver had completed the route on countless occasions it did make you feel quite nervous. So much so I was set next to an ancient nun who got her rosemary beads out. She kept looking out the window to make sure we weren’t falling to our deaths but she appeared to look over to me and begin to mouth the last rites.
You can also catch the ferry over to Moroccan city of Tangers from Tarifa. It’s a place crippled by poverty and disagreeable camels. Everything people do is geared to make money, be that playing an instrument, charming a snake or even holding a door open. It’s hard to detect sincerity when everyone is quite blatantly just after your cash. During my time there I rode an uppity camel round a car park, visited an African Allied Carpets and a rudimentary Weldricks where I was told I looked like the type of guy who could do with a bit of help in the bedroom department. The pharmacist claimed, ‘You don’t look like a chap who could stay hard, chew on this bark and you’ll have wood for hours.’
My trip was coming to an end and this led me to come to some conclusions. Spain is a rich patchwork quilt of a country. Various influences and cultural facets all woven into one. From the Moorish paradise of Granada to the staunchly Spanish and traditional capital Madrid the country is a melting pot of ideas and ways of life. The people are generally very warm and affable, proud of their traditions and the regions they were raised in. It’s a beautiful place which I hope to travel round again one day. Laters, puta madre.
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