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When I met Bruce tonight, at the end of a very long solo day of art and wonder, I said, “I don’t want to see another @#$#@ beautiful thing as long as I live.”

“At least until tomorrow,” said he, wisely.
The most gorgeous weather here – it was chilly morning and evening but hot hot midday – the forsythia and cherry blossom have exploded even since I arrived. We went first to the Rastro flea market, only held Sunday mornings and apparently the biggest in the world. On the first long street, I was disappointed – just the usual market stuff, scarves, socks, earrings. But then we turned the corner and realized that the market spread out in all directions, and there was mountains of my kind of stuff – vintage. Or, as it’s known here, bintage. Or, as it should be known, junk. What an incredible load of junk there is in the world – and yet, what fun. I have now discovered that Madrid is the world centre of vintage radios. If I’d had a radio collection, I would have gone mad. Lamps too, books, toys, lots of great stuff. Bruce and I laughed – there’d be a group of 20 or 30 men, gathered around a pile of hardware junk spread on the ground, and next door, crowds of women looking at cheap makeup and perfume.
Reader – with all my poking about and admiring, I bought nothing. Not one single thing. There were some lovely things but either too expensive or not worth hauling home. Bruce had retired to an internet cafe with his iPad, so I wandered blissfully and then we walked home. Empty. Hooray.
I made us a Sunday lunch here and then he went to sleep and I set off into the hot afternoon. Back to the Thyssen, to see what I’d missed – an exhibit of the Russian avant garde, including one of the loveliest Kandinskys I’ve ever seen. I wandered around the second floor to see again in detail what I’d seen more briefly with Bruce, and then walked over to Retiro Park, behind the Prado; a stroll in the park is apparently the thing to do on a Sunday afternoon in Madrid. And today, the first really hot Sunday of the year, especially so. The park was packed – huge families of many generations, people speaking every language, rowers rowing, three women reading Tarot cards, lovers lolling and sprawled – and some feral cats. I found a spot on the grass in the sun and then had to move to the shade – it was too hot – and lay reading Laurie Lee’s “A Rose for Winter,” his memoir of Spain, written in the fifties. The man writes so well, he makes me froth with jealousy. Here’s a two line description of a village:
Tarifa, within the walls, was packed as tight as a box of bricks. But the small square houses, decorated with delicate ironwork and built round tiny flowering patios, gave an impression of miniature spaciousness, a garden enclosed, an ancient perfection preserved in poverty and love.
Back to meet Bruce at 5, when the Prado is free on Sunday. But the line up was so very long, I left him to it and went back to the Thyssen, which was empty by comparison and breathtaking. A stop for a glass of wine in the cafe, then back to the Prado, no lineup, for a final hour and a half through the long dense halls, revisiting some favourites Bruce had shown me, especially Fra Angelico’s stunning Annunication which decorates the wall of my office at home, Velasquez’s holy family, the Italians, the Goyas.
Utterly exhausted, BK and I walked home along a narrow back street full of restaurants, stopping for tapas on the way – a bright cheery place where we picked a few things at random, all delicious, fish or vegetables on bread – for a huge dinner with wine, 12 euros each. And thence to a long hot bath at home, and to you.
The paintings I saw today were ancient perfections preserved in poverty and love. Except for the poverty part.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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