Madrid: The Layered Cebolla

Visitors are threatening brilliantly with visits. The sky has only clouded twice in a month and a bit. Love still evades. And the new timetable means I now see all the daily strata of Spanish life.

After a metro and a bus I'm in the north of the city with either Rob or Amanda, poised, sticky-eyed, about to teach some yawny businesspeople. The approaching sunrise throws warm oranges, peaches and strips away the veil of black with a bruise of purple. It's a silly hour for bipeds to be waddling around the planet they evolved on, but such are our ways. Before attempting to pretend we're anywhere near awake we head to Bar Toñi for a quick milky coffee served in a small tumbler.
It's a tiny bar with wood panelling and a general hue that is all ochres and gnarled mahoganies. The barman, a slender and attractive fellow we name 'Big Tony', fills up the tumblers along the bar where they are lined up ready for the customers. Along the counter working men stand in tracksuit bottoms or overalls or t-shirts laughing and joking, watching the corner TV dribble out the morning news. Some businessmen sit around a table. Sometimes there's a woman. There are only three or four tables. The men notice the pretty businesswomen walk past. I do too. Amanda might tut. Rob would damn the world if he missed her. A few coins pass hands.

Leaving the main artery my road, Linneo, hums quietly as the clocks tip-toe past five o'clock. Old men are playing petanque in the sand and the now mellowing sun in the park over the way. There's the flat up on the fifth or sixth floor that houses an aural rainforest of birds, which twitters and chatters and tweets out of sight. At the crossing with Moreno Nieto street (which oddly translates as 'Dark Skinned Grandchild' but is more likely - and hopefully - named after the writer and erudite Jose Moreno Nieto from Extremadura) the road bends up towards the towering neo-Mudejar seminary on the hill. Where the chemical Fosforo street passes through, my front door stands on a corner waiting. Mondays and Wednesdays a middle-aged man sits there in his blue flip flops and either listens to a radio or plays with his phone. Waiting for someone? Checking the football? Some days an ancient veteran of life sits in his chair with a carer or family member, oxygen tubes filtering out of his nose. Sometimes I get a smile. Dogs yap and a scooter will buzz past.

Families are strolling. Everybody strolls. Why wouldn't you when it's warm. October is grilling and simmering, the sun is stroppy. Home is 12 degrees, Moscow is 6. October 12th was 34 degrees. Now the weather is fondling the mid-twenties. A terrace BBQ in the north, again, with a view to new flats and skyscrapers and a sun that drops into fire as the flaming coffee-punch-spectacle queimada is finished. On Linneo and its sisters the little bars fluster into life; chairs and people spilling out onto the pavements. I cook something. The salmorejo recipe from my student? Or just a salad? Then the bed and the closing of the eyes.

I'm getting a rhythm. This is what I wanted and needed. Now if only I can get some unassuming idiots to spend more money on my book!