Madrid: A reflection and an anticipation

A text produced via interview in anticipation of a residency visit to Madrid, 2016, with IED and Grain Photography Hub.


Sunday 16 October 2016, 9.20pm

Me: Dad, I have a slightly strange question to ask you …
Dad: …
Me: You know how I’m going to Madrid?
Dad: Yeah.
Me: Well the research I’m doing is quite broad and one of the starting points I’ve been thinking about is, if you don’t mind, to ask you some questions about when we went before. My memories are not that clear but I also want to hear your thoughts and memories too …
Dad: One of the first bits to remember is the really grand train station.
Me: …
Dad: Don’t you remember it?
Me: No.
Dad: Great glass thing [gestures a curved dome], encased in glass like a botanical garden?
Me: Don’t tell me now. Save all these memories.
Mum: It was chilly wasn’t it. We bought those scarves and gloves and that lovely H&M jumper. And you [to Dad] bought that lovely green jumper didn’t you. It was in the car when it was nicked.
Dad: Hmm.
Mum: I remember that was one of the things you were really mad about.
Dad: [Nods]. I think we were only there two or three nights weren’t we.
Mum: We must have gone over a weekend.
Dad: And I remember in all the shops that no one spoke English. Which in one way is very good …
Me: Well it’s not going to be very good for me! I don’t speak Spanish!

Monday 17 October 2016, 3.10pm

Mum: So we got a taxi from the airport to get to the hotel and it went down this underpass tunnel thing and it just reminded me of Princess Diana. That’s what I thought as we were going through that tunnel. I was thinking ‘oh, I hope we come to the other side.’ And Dad was talking to the taxi driver about football. He didn’t speak English. The guy was an Athletico fan and you [to Dad] said something about Real.
Dad: We went almost past Athletico’s ground. He pointed it out over our right hand shoulder. You know, it’s the thing where Athletico is the worker’s ream and Real is for the upper class supporters.
Me: There’s a place called the Real Palace isn’t there.
Dad: Real just means …
Me: ‘Royal’, yeah.
Mum: And then the things about the hotel that I remembered … I remembered it was the worst hotel view we’ve ever had. It was literally like an indoor room …
Me: Oh right, like a courtyard …
Mum: It wasn’t even a courtyard. It was literally [laughs] a brick wall. I mean obviously we were there in the winter and we weren’t spending much time there. But we got there in the evening and when I pulled the curtain back, there was the window and there was the brick wall literally six feet away. That was the view from the room.
Me: And could you see, like, down?
Mum: No. Well you could have done if you’d have opened the window but it didn’t open that way. I remember thinking it was a very odd view.
Me: And did we share a room?
Mum: We shared a room. And we went out the first evening to a supermarket. I seem to remember that wasn’t too far a walk from the hotel.
Dad: I remember going out in the dark. I think that was the only night we went out in the dark.
Mum: I think so. I think that was the first night that we got there.
Dad: It must have been about 10.30pm or something.
Mum: There was supermarket not far from where the hotel was and we just went down there. I don’t remember what we bought in the supermarket but we had breakfast in the hotel. Apart from struggling to find food, I couldn’t tell you what food we ate. I know we ate one time at the Hard Rock Café because that was the only place that served anything vegetarian. I remember going on a walk and passing some swanky hotels and there were doormen with hats like you might get at the Savoy.
Dad: It might be interesting to check what days we were there.
Me: I have the dates.
Dad: Yeah, what day of the week it was.
Mum: And the other thing that sticks out totally in my mind is standing in front of that Bosch painting in the museum and just being like [laughs] ‘I have never seen anything like this in my life’. And there was so much to take in because a) it’s a huge painting to begin with and it’s so … little things here and little things there and little quirky things.
Me: Mmm.
Mum: The afternoon we went and brought the jumper from H&M there was a square – I think that was the Saturday afternoon – so I think we went on a Friday. There were a load of people smoking and a lot of women with fur coats on. We were looking at them as if that was a bit weird but obviously it wasn’t weird to them.
Dad: I think we did the Friday night, Saturday was the museums and galleries, Sunday morning was the railway station.
Mum: Yeah but we did go to another gallery. Apart from – is it the Prado?
Me: [Nods]
Mum: We went to another gallery that was much more contemporary.
Me: The other big one is the Reina Sofia.
Mum: I think it had some gardens and it was much for contemporary. It wasn’t too far from the Hard Rock Café. We might have been there after we’d been to that museum.
Me: I only remember going to one museum.
Dad: You went there and I went to the military museum.
Mum: The other thing was the station – it was just like going into gardens and there were people having coffee and sitting around chatting and reading their books and reading their newspaper. It seemed like one of those places that you just went to meet up.
Dad: Where the locals went. In fact, it was almost like a big circular part that people walked around.
Mum: Yeah and there were little tables …
Dad: It was the terminus for the station. It was obviously the end of the line. It wasn’t like New Street where it carries on …
Mum: It was more like a garden …
Dad: Which is bizarre because obviously Madrid is in the middle. I can remember seeing all the adverts for the bull fighting. We had quite a long walk up the one part, that same day as the Hard Rock Café …
Mum: Was there a lot of graffiti everywhere?
Dad: Well there was because in the taxi coming back there were all the people who – and I remember asking about the flags – were at the political rallies. They were voting the next day or that evening or something.
Me: Political graffiti then?
Mum: Yeah.
Me: Did we just go to the station to have a look at it then? We didn’t come into the city through the station?
Mum: No we just went to look.
Dad: Didn’t we go twice? Once in the evening and then decided we’d go back?
Mum: I just remember seeing a man, obviously a Spanish guy with glasses, sitting having his espresso, reading his book as if he was having a nice leisurely time [laughs].
Dad: There were all the sub-tropical plants and seating, done for people to go out and spend their time.
Me: A winter garden?
Dad: Yeah, I suppose so. It was pretty chilly wasn’t it. When we went that first night, that’s when I decided I’d have to go and get an overcoat and when we looked and bought her [my] coat and decided they might be a bit expensive and that I’d get one afterward. And that’s when I got my ‘king’ coat.
Me: And did you get a hat as well? Was that from Madrid? Didn’t you get almost like a ‘Ripper Street’ fedora, like those nice felt ones they wore in their disguise?
Dad: No, the only one I’ve got is a straw hat.
Mum: The day we went to the bookshop, I can’t remember whether we went there specifically or whether we came upon it, as it were.
Dad: I remember trying to ask people in Spanish where such and such a thing was, in my pigeon few words, the half a dozen words I’ve got.
Mum: I couldn’t tell you anything more about the hotel. Except we know the name of it, it’s called the Carlton.
Me: I know, I looked it up on the holiday list.
Mum: I don’t remember the dining room …
Dad: At the Hard Rock Café, there was a non-smoking bit and you were right next to …
Mum: The smoke still wafted over.
Dad: Didn’t we ask to move?
Mum: Probably we would have done.
Dad: I can’t remember what the food was but it can’t have been very special as I quite often remember bits of food.
Mum: I don’t remember going out to a market or any of that kind of thing.
Dad: Have a look [to me] at the years of production because I seem to remember that day we went out clothes shopping that there were huge posters and I’m not sure if it was for ‘Star Wars’? Huge billboards. If it wasn’t ‘Star Wars’ it was something …
Mum: Something like that yeah … huge on the outside of buildings. Now you’ve said that, that’s triggered a memory with me but I wouldn’t have known that was in Madrid. You’re right.
Dad: What else would it have been?
Mum: We could just put ‘films released around that time’. November or December. And the other thing is coming back home, where Dad got you the gloves and scarf.
Dad: With the shades of blue in.
Me: Ahh, the Tie Rack ones.
Mum: I can’t remember anything about the airport.
Dad: No. And yet I’d been there before.
Me: You’ve been there before?
Dad: When I went out to see Steven in Africa I went via Madrid airport. It was a lot cheaper to go via Madrid than to fly direct. It was about £120 cheaper or something which, you know, thirty-odd years ago was worth a lot more than now. It was an hour or two hour stop. You know when we went to Paris [to me] and we went up those escalators that were in the middle, like going into a big department store or something?
Me: Yeah.
Dad: I can’t remember if it was like that with Madrid.
Me: They change airports so often though. There are things that you do remember and then there’s suddenly something new.
Dad: I certainly remember the bull fighting posters. The sort of thing people had as artwork in the 70s or whenever.
Me: And did you have any churros? Because I’ve been reading in my guidebook that churros that it’s one of Madrid’s favourites.
Dad: I can’t remember.
Mum: I’m surprised that we didn’t.
Dad: I can’t even remember what the breakfast would have been.
Mum: It would have been just a buffet.
Dad: A roll and coffee thing. When we were in Paris, we’d go and buy bits and pieces, and one was a Sunday and they’d all perishing well closed. I can’t remember doing that in Madrid. You were trying on those coats …
Me: With a hood, grey and a zip.
Mum: Where was that from?
Me: From a department store wasn’t it?
Dad: Year, three or four floors up.
Mum: It was really good value wasn’t it.
Me: Well, it was still a child’s size one, I think.
Dad: Does it still fit.
Me: [Laughs] I think I’ve filled out a bit in the past fifteen years.
Mum: I think we all have [laughs].
Dad: It was cold through most of that time wasn’t it. Even in the daytime, even in the Hard Rock Café. Did that come down by the river and we had to walk around? What’s the river that comes through?
Mum: I don’t remember a river. Was David Beckham in Madrid at that time?
Dad: I dunno. I remember going up one of the hills with lots of Spanish national flags.
Mum: [To Dad] So you didn’t come to the Prado with us?
Dad: No. I went to the military museum. I think I was the only person in there apart from the curator on the desk.
Mum: [laughs]
Me: They seem to have a generous helping of museums. Of all kinds.
Dad: It was only round the corner but if you didn’t know it was there you’d have easily walked past it.
Me: Do you remember the buildings being quite old rather than a mixture?
Mum: My recollection is that there were mainly old buildings.
Dad: Apart from, what one assumes, were municipal buildings where those flags were flying going up a hill. We walked up a hill on the left and these buildings were on the right. I think even the hotels were quite traditional type. It’s the same with Paris. Most of them were buildings of a decent age.
Mum: We certainly never sat and had a picnic. It was probably too cold.
Dad: That’s the thing I remember as much as anything is being cold. Which is why we ending up buying the coats.
Mum: [To me] I remember you being really pleased with your coat because you knew no one else would have the same. I guess it’s important to you when you’re fourteen.
Me: Fifteen.
Mum: Fifteen, yeah. Dad would have been fifty and I would have been under fifty. Wow. So it’s come full circle then – the British Airways hub closed down and you couldn’t fly to Birmingham from Madrid and it’s only since Monarch have been flying directly.
Me: Well Ryanair …
Mum: Ryanair and I think Vueling too. Is it Vueling you booked with?
Me: No, Ryanair. I think there are four. I think there are two Spanish ones.
Mum: It might be shared with Iberia. So Dad and I might come and join you for the day then.
Me: It’s only £16 – you might as well! [all laugh]
Mum: We’ll go mad and stay overnight then. We’ll see if we can find the same taxi driver. We can retrace our steps while we’re over there.
[There follows a long discussion about Gloria Hunniford, money transfers, identity theft, pension funds, stolen number plates, code, old cars, new cars, value, distance, DeLoreans, grandchildren, knees]
Dad: You better check on this film for 2001.
Me: Okay, I’ll have a look.
Mum: I wonder if it was ‘Harry Potter’? Would it be that old?
Dad: Something major and international?
Mum: Or ‘Lord of the Rings’?
Me: Okay, I’ve got your list of films. So, interestingly it includes two or your three guesses – the first ‘Harry Potter’ and the first ‘Lord of the Rings’.
Dad: I think it must have been ‘Lord of the Rings’ that made an impression on me, not having known ‘Harry Potter’ at that time.
Me: Isn’t it bizarre, no matter where you are, for no reason at all, you remember things specifically …
Dad: And to shelve it for twenty years. I sometimes think that’s one of the reasons why people suffer with dementia. There’s a limit to how many images …
Mum: Oh god, don’t store anything else up then …
Dad: Images, information, everything you can cram in before it says, ‘I’m scrambling this, I can’t remember that’.
Me: You need to be able to choose what’s worthwhile don’t you.
Mum: Don’t think you can do that.
Dad: It’s the same with smells isn’t it. I always remember that bit in Barbados at the lighthouse where they’d just washed the floor …
Mum: The cedar.
Dad: We just both looked at each other and we both said ‘Bermuda’ but we were in Barbados. But the smell was exactly the same. Apparently moths don’t like cedar.
Me: You’ll have to get a wooden jumper then. Or some cedar wardrobes.
Mum: Perhaps that’s why they used to line them with cedar.
Dad: What must it be in lavender then? It’s not acidic or like ammonia where it jerks your head back. It’s not that different from a rose or a daffodil or any other flower. Just something they don’t like.
Mum: [To me] So you don’t remember, by the sound of it, an awful lot.
Me: I remember being cold, buying the coat, being in the department store and looking at all the clothes – teenager.
Mum: And you remember the Bosch?
Me: Yeah I remember the Bosch! And I remember all the fur and the smoking and being a bit horrified by that. I remember part of an outdoor garden, a square with a fence. I don’t remember a single thing about the hotel.
Dad: I think we walked passed the Prado twice.
Me: I think the other reason I can’t remember stuff very well is because there are no photographs and I always get a bit confused as to whether something is a memory or just a photograph and that’s what you remember …
Dad: It was a huge wide road with two dual lanes down the middle.
Mum: And it took you ages to cross the road.
Dad: Yeah, near the galleries.
Mum: Maybe we went for a reckie, to suss it out first. Maybe we only stayed two nights then.
Me: Well, I’d have been at school.
Dad: Friday night and Saturday night. Well you can check on the calendar.
Me: Shall I have a look …
Mum: Well I’ll be able to find out tomorrow cos the booking will still be on Thomas Cook.
Me: [Laughs] The 30th was a Friday.
Dad: It might be that we went after school or you had part of the Friday off.
Mum: I’ll look tomorrow and let you know. I wonder what the Carlton’s like now? If it’s had a refurb? So what day do you go? On the 21st?
Me: On the 20th.
Mum: So you come back on the Sunday and we go out on the Monday and then you go to California on the Tuesday [laughs]. Fortunately you’ll need different clothes for Madrid and California.
Me: I will have to take some cooler weather clothes with me for San Francisco. We had some really hot days and got sun burnt …
Mum: Was that when you went on the bridge?
Me: Rob got burnt then and I got burnt another day. But on another day we had to go and buy jumpers.
Mum: Give me your itinerary before you go.
Me: I haven’t got it.
Mum: Get Rob to give it to you and the hotels so that I can look them up and picture you there.
Dad: [Gestures to me and to phone] Can you get pictures on there? I was thinking put the Carlton Hotel in. It was quite a narrow road.
Mum: It was a side road off the main road.
Dad: You turned left and the Carlton was down on the right hand side. It had a bow shaped roof and two or three flag poles on it but no flags?
Mum: Fifteen years ago, was it still pesetas then?
Dad: Ahh, that’s another thing – they were just about to swap over and everything was dual priced.
Mum: Ahh. I was thinking that about here. You know places like H&M have everything dual priced – once Brexit has happened, everything will just be in pounds won’t it.
Me: [On Carlton photograph] It looks nice.
Dad: Has it got the outside?
Me: Yes. I’m just seeing how much it costs [laughs]. It does look familiar but I don’t know if that’s from the first time or more recent Google searches.
Mum: It’s obviously had a refurb in fifteen years which is fine. Yeah that does look familiar.
Dad: Yeah.
Mum: And that’s why we chose it, look, because it’s in a really good location. Oh it’s by the Reina Sofia.
Me: Yeah. Which is where I’m planning to spend quite a bit of my time and to do a lot of my research.
Dad: One road coming up there is where they had people selling stuff on market stalls, at the side of the street. And that’s when I noticed the dual prices – vegetables or something. So that must have been January 2002 – the start of the Euro.
Mum: Just looking at your notebook – how are you for notebooks?
Me: [Sighs] I’ve pretty much got a cabinet full.
Mum: [Laughs]
Me: I think I have a problem [laughs]. So I’m alright for notebooks, thanks.
Dad: Do you have the information that you need for now do you think?
Me: Yes, that’s lovely.
Dad: So have you been able to record some of this?
Me: Yep. Thank you.
Dad: I tell you what I have got – I did think before. If you ever needed it. I’ve still got the tape from Nanny’s interview.
Me: Oh really?
Dad: That’s on cassette.
Me: Aw.
Dad: There’s also – and I’ve never played it back – a cassette of you and Grandad.
Me: I’ve never heard that.
Dad: It’s before you’re talking or properly talking. Yeah, it might be quite interesting because you’ve never – you probably can’t remember what his voice sounded like.
Me: No, not at all.
Dad: It might be in the cupboard in that front bedroom on the bottom shelf. These days people have videos or whatever. I did find the other day, Mum and Dad’s cine film which Steven had transferred to video – on holiday and flower festivals in Marston Green, church parades and all sorts of different things. I must get that transferred.
Mum: My jacket fits now! When I was looking at yours the other day I came across this.
Dad: It’s shrunk.
Mum: …
Dad: Your jumper is lower than the hem.
Mum: It’s fine.
Dad: See. Don’t throw things out! You never know when they will come in handy.
Mum: The reason we didn’t have any photos …
Dad: We didn’t take a camera!
Mum: We didn’t take a camera and in those days we didn’t have mobiles that would have had a camera.
Me: I know, but we’ve definitely been on other holidays where we did take a camera.
Mum: Tended to be beach ones. You didn’t when you went to Paris did you? I don’t remember pictures of you and Dad in Paris.
Dad: There’s not many holidays in recent years where we’ve taken a camera. I suppose it would be useful to take a picture of the hotel or the room as they tend to blur one into another unless there’s something that identifies it.
Me: I take pictures all the time on holiday. Trailing behind Rob. He’s like ‘come on – we need to go’ and I’m like ‘just taking a picture’ …
Dad: It’s like that Florence and Pisa trip.
Me: I must have had a digital camera then. Did I get it for my sixteenth or seventeenth birthday?
Mum: You took loads then. Lovely ones.
Dad: Did you ever print any off?
Me: Yeah.
Mum: They’re in an album somewhere aren’t they. Do you remember you did that Photoshop thing with the cherubs? In colours.
Me: That was just before I went to uni though. So maybe I had the camera for my eighteenth birthday then? Digital cameras were still new then.
Mum: Yeah you had your camera on your eighteenth and then we went there in the summer and you’d have been nineteen at uni. I remember that amazing shop in Florence …
Me: That had all that marbled paper …
Mum: Do you remember?