Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Monday, August 22, 2016


One of my shorter pals had relatives who were horny handed sons of toil. Generation upon generation of farmers. They lived, as I recall, on the edge of the English Lake District. When the Ordnance Survey began to mark scenic viewpoints on their one inch maps (my long term memory is still fine) suddenly lots of cars began to pull up at the top of the farm lane to have a look see. The family turned this to their benefit by setting up a stall selling fresh eggs.

We were in Madrid for the weekend. We went on the AVE, the high speed train which, as usual, was on time both there and back. I only saw the indicated speed on the carriage displays once during the journey, a disappointing 296 kph. We stayed in some really nice hotel close to Alonso Martínez underground station. For some reason they gave us a junior suite with two washbasins, two tellies, a sofa and a king sized bed.

Straight off the train we dumped the bags and walked across the road to the Reina Sofia Museum - well museo in Spanish though it's a gallery not a museum for us. Four floors of culture. Although I've been to the gallery a couple of times, at least, in the past, it's years since I've actually been inside. We spent a couple of hours padding around the top two floors along with plenty of other people. There was no hustle and bustle. Lots of space and time to stop and stare. I was enjoying myself but my old feet and legs began to ache. We went for a sit down and a snack but, taken aback by the prices, we settled on a couple of overpriced drinks. We were generally overwhelmed by Madrid prices because of our hill-billy incomes but we got by anyway. The break though was fatal. We realised we were done for so we decided to have a look at Guernica (one must, mustn't one?) and then call it a day. There were a lot more people milling around that floor but there was no element of elbows or jostling; just maybe twenty people gazing in awe at Picasso's famous painting.

Next day and we did more wandering. Maggie was keen to see the Bosco exhibition, that's the bloke we call Hieronymus Bosch. He's a bit of a star in Spain partly because the Prado and Escorial have quite a lot of his work and partly because the paintings are bizarre. So we got in the shortish queue and waited for maybe twenty minutes to get some tickets for later in the day. It was about noon now and later in the day turned out to be quarter to seven. So we touristed away until the given hour and then joined the throng. This time it was a throng. People standing, apparently in raptures, ten centimetres from the surface of a painting and scrutinising the detail, lots of people laughing at the strange elements of the paintings, lots of barging, lots of gentle, art crowd, pushing. Museum staff were milling around to keep an eye on the punters and they were kept busy.

The strange thing is the last time we were at the Prado we went to have a look at the Boscos. That time there was nobody much around. There were a few of us but then it was similar, crowd wise, to having a look at the W. Eugene Smith photos in the Reina Sofia the day before. Not a lot of foot traffic, not a lot of scrutiny by the gallery staff and plenty of time to stand and stare.

My mind wandered to OS maps.

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