After a little less than four hours’ sleep on Sunday night, I took the night bus from Peckham to Victoria, where I caught the 5.15am Gatwick Express and made the airport with an hour and a half to spare. I had a little snooze.
It’s probably best not to mention the repugnant accident I almost had on the night bus which was probably as much due to nerves as it was to too much wine and chilli pesto in Sophia Loren’s Ass the night before. (Sophia Loren’s Ass by the way, is a pizzeria in Peckham. A very good one too, if you’re ever in the area, the area being Bellenden Road by the way, which is the nice bit of Peckham, with lots of pizza, cake and books, and very few grisly, pointless murders.)
I slept on the plane. Before I knew it, I was in Spain.
This is my first time in Spain. I like it a lot. It’s very civilised. All of the beggars have little cups, I guess so you don’t have to make contact with them if you’re giving them money.
It’s also cheap. My first meal was a real eye-opener. I speak no Spanish so I had no idea what I was actually ordering. I do speak Italian though, which is close enough – or so I thought. All I really knew was that I had ordered two courses – the first with chips and something – and a glass of white wine. Imagine my surprise when the first course – bones and potato soup – was preceded by a whole bottle of red wine.
Turns out you just drink as much as you want and they charge you accordingly. I had three little glasses. It was very good.
So, three little glasses of wine, a small bottle of water, a large bowl of bones and potato soup, a plate of steak, mushrooms and potato wedges, and a crème caramel which the waiter insisted on calling ‘flan’. I was thinking, ‘Bugger. First meal, first mistake. I’ve left myself wide open – come the bill – for a shafting. If it’s more than €20, I’ll complain, or at least act surly.’
It was €11.50. Eleven euros and fifty cents. That’s less than a tenner. I was breathless with joy.
Spain is also very friendly. As I write up these notes, I’ve been here a good day and a half and although a couple of old ladies have scowled at me when my pleas for information have been delivered in Italian and then English and then just gibberish, no one has been actually unfriendly yet.
Even when they’re telling you what you don’t want to hear (for example, that the place you want to go to is populated solely by people who do not want you to go there), they do so with joyous, gushing smiles.
I know these are nothing more than first impressions, but for better or worse, I trust them. I like Madrid a great deal, even though I’ve seen a disabled man lying unconscious in the street, out of his chair in front of an expensive cinema. I took his photo I’m afraid.
I tossed a euro on his blanket though, as payment, or blood-money, whatever you want to call it.
There’ll be nicer photos to follow. I promise.
But yes, despite the sadness, I do like it here. I like it even though old men void their nostrils like horses and old women play on fruit machines in restaurants where bad television blasts out banalities that wouldn’t be out of place on Italian TV. I could live here. Easily.
Also, it’s true what they say about them eating late. I was in a restaurant at 10.30 last night and it was getting busier by the minute. On a Monday night! I like that.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) is my first festival. Fingers crossed. Turns out it’s almost impossible to reach without a driving licence. We shall see. Then after that, I’ll be going straight to Italy. Barcelona’s off. I just don’t have enough money. So Milan could actually be my second night in a row sleeping rough. (Watch this space – or the other space.) But nothing is sure yet. Nothing at all.