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creativity, good sense and daffodils

Another stunning day weather-wise, though a strange one activities-wise. We set off early for the Palacio Real, the enormous palace we left to visit till today because it’s one of the very few things open in Madrid on Monday. When we arrived, we saw tourists circling disconsolately and found out why – the Palacio was closed on this particular Monday, for some reason we never ascertained.

So – the morning’s activity curtailed, we walked instead, which I liked better anyway – who needs an old Palacio? We enjoyed Madrid in the fresh gleaming sun, especially the Chocolateria San Gines, which my friend Sherry had recommended, an old haunt of everyone famous in the world, according to the signed photos all over the walls, including several of the divine Javier Bardem, who has no nose bridge at all.
Steaming cups of chocolate so dark, sweet and thick, it was like syrup, accompanied by churros, long strips of light fried dough that’s cut off to the lengths you require. Somehow, Bruce and I managed to slog our way through this feast, though neither of us could finish, and that’s saying something for me and chocolate.
And then, pretending to be hungry, we bought groceries and had lunch! Another thrifty lunch cooked at home, after which my companion went to sleep and I went to the Reina Sophia modern art gallery, again, the only gallery open on Monday. I knew nothing about it except that it holds Picasso’s “Guernica.” Well – never before have I really, really disliked an art gallery. And now I have. I really disliked this one. It’s cold and austere, confusing (with no map) with room after room of difficult, often ugly modern art. How much cubism can you take? Surrealism? How much bad Dali? So many of the canvases were colourless, muddy, incomprehensible blobs or weird unpleasant images – who curates this museum, I wondered? Someone with no sense of humour, no sense of colour, and no respect for the viewer.
No, wait, I understand, I think the idea is to shock the viewer, jolt us out of our bourgeois comfort zone. Well, phooey to you.
But then – there’s “Guernica,” so stunning and moving – worth it all. An extraordinary work of art, vital still, hanging on the wall, but was intensely meaningful politically in its time and place, commenting on the massacre perpetrated by Franco’s forces, raining bombs on a small town’s innocents, mostly women and children. There’s a series of photos on the wall behind, taken by Picasso’s then-lover Dora Maar, chronicling its creation – you can see how he sketched out the huge canvas and gradually filled it in. In the next room, the bits and pieces he tried out to put it together. It’s wonderful, and, to be fair, so is other stuff in the museum. I loved a Picasso sculpture entitled “Woman in a garden,” made of bits of metal, with her hair like a cock’s comb in the breeze. There are lovely pieces by Miro and Juan Gris, and interesting films all the way through, including a hilarious Buster Keaton film, very out of place.
After the gruelling second floor, I took a break, went down to the lovely sculpture garden and sat in the sun, reading. Then went back to do the fourth floor; took a deep breath, got out of the elevator, turned the corner, and found myself confronted by film footage from Auschwitz just after the war, piles of emaciated corpses being bulldozed. I kid you not. I got instantly out of that room to the next, saw rows of monochrome panels, and just turned around and got back on the elevator. Couldn’t wait to get out of there. Leave me my bourgeois comfort, please.
Which I found at the Botanical Gardens, where I went next on this beautiful afternoon. It will be spectacular in a month or two – I could see a hundred rose bushes, now just thorns and names (and, I was interested to note, some black spot on the leaves, just as on mine at home). But the daffs were out in profusion, rows and rows of golden trumpets, and pink and red camelias and even some rhodo’s and a pale magnolia just bursting through. So welcome, colour and scent, birds and old trees, especially after the assault at the museum.
Later, BK and I went to the train station to get our tickets for Toledo tomorrow, found the system there so frustrating – we waited 15 minutes in the ticket office and could see it would be probably an hour before we were served – that we left to look for an internet cafe and passed a travel agency, where we bought our tickets in five minutes. And then we walked and walked. Monday night is definitely quiet here; we ended up back at the restaurant we’d been to with Eleanor, where, that night, they couldn’t wait for us to leave, and tonight, the waiter almost begged us to stay. We walked and walked some more, narrow winding streets, and always – always a guitar and drums somewhere in the distance. Even in our apartment building, someone plays the guitar and the flute, often.
I bought a post card at the museum, a saying of Picasso’s : The chief enemy of creativity is good sense. I like the card and the saying, but honestly, I don’t know if it’s true.

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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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Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.

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