Friday, 5 March 2010

My Day

Pathetic, really, the things we wish for. Two days ago, I wished for a meat grinder, and if it had nozzles to stuff sausages with, that would be even better. A few days before that, I’d been in an industrial catering shop and asked about picadores de carne. They showed me what they had, and I got the impression that the manual ones were 23 Euros. I had no cash on me at the time, and resolved to go back later.

Two days ago, I went back. The two ugly cast aluminium ones were actually fifty three Euros. The sole electric one, which looked like it could do a thousand bangers a minute, was about two hundred. They showed me another one, apparently made out of tinfoil. Clearly that would not be up to the job.

But I was extremely pleased with my use of Spanish in explaining my decision not to buy any of them. I got this, that and those into one sentence, and made them laugh. (Este is too crappy, ese is too expensive, aquellos are too ugly).

On my return home, I logged onto EBay Spain, and came up with a result. An electric grinder and embutidora for 39 Euros. And in Madrid, too. I emailed the seller in my bad Spanish. I want this machine: ¿where and when can I get it?  The next day they emailed the address. The other side of town, but very close to a Metro station, so not a problem. I emailed back. ¿I will come at 1.30, is that okay? At three o’clock, they replied. Sure, they said. I emailed them to say I would be there tomorrow (Friday) at eleven, and please don’t sell it to anyone else.

There were a few more emails where we exchanged phone numbers.

Cue REM: It’s Been A Bad Day…

I had plans to be up bright and early this morning, but with my wife away and my aversion to alarm clocks, it was ten o’clock when I surfaced.

I got to the address at 11.30. It was a shop, closing down, and the stuff in it was the remnants of their stock. I could have gone at any time, without an appointment, but they hadn’t told me this: I thought I was dealing with a private vendor. Never mind. The man in the shop was busy with a customer, so I mooched around the place. Not a meat grinder to be seen. Eventually, the shopkeeper was free.

I saw a meat grinder on EBay. I emailed you. ¿Where is it?

Expecting him to pull it out from a secret place somewhere. Ah, no, he said, I sold it to a man in Zaragoza, over the phone.

I expressed my disgust, went to a horrible bar for a consolatory vermut de grifo. My phone rang. The man from the shop: don’t come to the shop, the machine is sold.

Yeah, right. Gracias, hijo de puta, joder. &c.

Emerging from the horrible bar, I could not but help notice the rain, freezing cold shards digging into my scalp. I’d come out without my hat. Joder. I mooched around this unfamiliar barrio (Prosperidad/Alfonso Trece). By this time, I had decided that if I couldn’t have a meat grinder, I could at least have a nice lunch. I examined the blackboards outside the restaurants. None had anything I fancied, so I took the Metro into town. I got off at Bilbao and walked up to Plaza de Olavide. On a decent day, you cannot move for people in this place. Today, in the now-pissing-down rain, it was deserted. Not one of the restaurants here was offering anything I wanted.

I headed down Calle de Hortaleza, examining every Menu Del Día I passed. Obviously, Friday is Crap Food Day. I finished up in Chueca, the gay barrio where I used to live. There are four or five places here where I used to eat, none of them brilliant, but all competent (although one of them does do the world’s best Cocido Madrileño, but only on Thursdays). They all seemed to be observing Crap Food Day too, so I finished up at the grey place whose name I do not know, on the corner of Calles Prim and Barquillo.

The pinch-faced, bespectacled, surly waiter takes my order. The chickpea soup with salt cod is okay, but I don’t eat all of it because you can only eat so many beans without changing your underpants. I don’t have the Spanish language skill to explain this as he glares down his nose at me in disapproval of me leaving food. Joder, I’m paying for it.

Another waiter brings my second plate. Allegedly roast lamb, but I can tell when something has been deep-fried. I eat as much as I can, and begin looking for a pot-plant or something like it where I can hide the rest of the inedible food. The dining area in this place is up a few steps at the back of the room. From here, if I wear my glasses, I can see everything that goes on.

And what I see is the pinch-faced, bespectacled, surly waiter running to the near end of the bar. He is obstructed by a crowd of people and turns round to face a thick-set man in a high-visiblity jacket, who throws a punch at him. It doesn’t quite connect, but does knock his glasses off. The waiter is infuriated, and determined to return the aggression, but his colleagues jump on him and restrain him. The thick-set man in the high-visibility jacket is escorted from the premises, and the waiter is allowed to continue work.

I am surprised that no police are called, and that the waiter, once his glasses have been found, seems to be completely unaffected by this incident. Had it been me, I would need a bucketful of brandy to aid my recovery. The words loco and tonto are heard. Nobody offers any comfort or solace to the waiter, and he doesn’t seem to need it. It’s as if this happens all the time.

So perhaps I’ve walked into the middle of a soap opera. Hi-vis-jacket-man is nasty waiter’s former lover, seeking retribution. Or something like that. Who knows?

I cannot eat anything after this, and nasty waiter takes my half-full plate away and brings me a café solo.
I pay the bill and get out of there as quickly as I can.

I go to Café Lucar, across the road. There are no free stools, so I stand for a bit and order a glass of wine. I roll me a cigarette, and look around the place. Sitting on the stool nearest the window is a thick-set man in a high-visibility jacket. He’s talking to a camarero, something along the lines of ‘you’ll never guess what just happened to me’. The words loco and tonto are heard.

A stool becomes available further down the bar, so I take it. The waiter who is looking after the diners recognises me and comes over. ¿Que tal? ¿Todo bien? He’s a nice guy, I think, but has unusually dark eyelashes, dark enough so you’d notice. And this is Chueca. I grunt and smile, and he goes away.

I focus on the guy behind the bar. He’s stopped talking to señor hi-vis jacket, and is doing something at the coffee machine. Something weird. He’s got a tumbler half-full of… what? Brandy? Whiskey? Whatever, he’s just set fire to it and now has coffee dribbling into it while it burns. He delivers it to the guy sitting next to me. I ask him what it is, but don’t catch the reply. It seems he’s from Barcelona, and this drink is common there.

I walk to Gran Via Metro and return to Tetuan, where nothing ever happens.


Jayne said...

Jeez Keefie, when you have a bad day, you reallt do have a baaaadddd day! We should be grateful you weren't knocked off your feet by some errant motorist/cyclist/train driver :-)

Lee said...

The drink with the coffe and burning brandy is un carajillo.

And I think the people of Arturo Soria/Prosperidad would be surprised to think that they're outside of "town". They're well within the city limits of Madrid.

Keefieboy said...

Lee: "other side of town".