Dear Madrid,


That was some holiday romance.
Brief? Yes.
Hot? Most definitely.
Bitter sweet? Of course.
But forever memorable.

You are of course stunningly beautiful, with your meandering streets, historic architecture and beautiful green spaces. You tempted me with your tapas and beer and wine, particularly in the Mercado San Miguel, our main first night destination, where when TLF wasn’t getting over-excited about the range of food and drink on offer, was going giddy at being able to say hello to the Chairman and owner of Lesta on their own little mooch around the city. There were times when your desire to please me became too much; the tapas bar at 2am on the first night when we were technically on our way home to ‘not drink any more’, because walking in a straight line had become a challenge, being a case in point. Still romance has always involved some temptation.

I had the chance to appreciate your art too, but being too quick to find fault in the queuing system at the Museo Reina Sofia, did put our closeness in jeopardy. Still maybe a hungover TLF should know better than to queue for over an hour in the sun sans water and it was of course worth it in the end to see up close and personal that famous work, Guernica, which shows the suffering of people caused by violence and chaos. Picasso’s version of violence and chaos that is, not the concept art version created by Spanish polis and some Lesta inhabitants of Place Mayor.

And yes that probably was one of the more difficult moments in our all too short tryst. The intervention of friends can often ruin a holiday romance. Well I say friends, ‘associates’ really: same shirts maybe, but different perspectives on how to visit a foreign city. Part of the problem is all about a cultural mix up with regard to the concept of ‘provocation’. There are some that think riot polis being on the streets in their own country is ‘provocation’ and then there are others who think that congregating in large groups on the corner of a square while drinking your body weight in lager bulk-bought in supermarkets, throwing the cans on the floor, singing vaguely nationalistic songs that are rude to your hosts and throwing flares at the aforementioned rozzers might come across as provocative to some. Still we didn’t let it spoil our time together.

It wasn’t just my associates not helping our relationship though was it? Yours didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory. Of course TLF’s little bag needs to be checked before the stadium turnstiles…but then to check it again the other side of the turnstiles, and again at the top of the stairs to our seats, did nothing to tug at TLF heartstrings. Especially when these people might have been better employed helping the Lesta fans negotiate the slightly eclectic seat numbering in the stadium…OR indeed letting us know they had made it all unreserved seating. Still at least I can’t let the referee Mr Eriksson and his non-penalty come between us, unless you have friends in Sweden that you haven’t told me about.

Vicente Calderon

Vicente Calderon

Even after all that though, you redeemed yourself, giving us one last charming little bar on the corner of a street, close to the Plaza Mayor but could have been a million miles away in terms of atmosphere and mood.

I do have a confession though. This whirlwind, wonderful 48hours wasn’t just about you. Truth is without my travelling and drinking companions it wouldn’t have been quite the same. From the 8am full English & pint at Gatwick to the Simon Groome riff (you really had to be there), to shared dry humour & fantastic anecdotes, to the buying of far too much beer and even greater excess of crisps, to the generous but utterly deserved ribbing of TLF after a particularly patronising explantation that tapas dishes would be small, because ‘it means little plates’, TLF was lucky enough to be in the best of company.

Story of Madrid - hats and beer

Story of Madrid – hats and beer

But you did make the finest gesture of my all too brief stay. You gave me un pinguino. And for that there will be a place in my heart for you forever, regardless of what happens in the home leg.
El zorro perdido
Un pinguino y una cerveza

Un pinguino y una cerveza

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