Thursday, December 23, 2010

Madrid's Crumbling Cathedral

This article by Giles Tremlett describes how poor construction in Madrid's cathedral has forced the moving of Christmas mass this year. No doubt the insurance companies would have had an unassailable case for claiming that anyone hit by falling masonry had been the victim of an act of God. I've never liked the building anyway, and not just because of my lack of religious conviction. Frankly, it's a bit of an eyesore.

Not everyone shares this view. In one of my favourite ever taxi journeys in Madrid, we once went down to the Puente de Segovia in the company not just of the driver but of his wife as well. It was at night and as we passed down by the river Manzanares, the taxi driver's señora sighed in admiration at the sight of the cathedral on the hill and exclaimed "¡aaayyy que bonita!". I held back from offering her my glasses so that she could see the building properly. "Big" or "grey" are words that accurately describe the construction, but not "beautiful".

Anyway, the chief reason why I remember the taxi journey is because of the way the driver tried to cheat me. He didn't put the light on as I paid with a 1000 peseta note, and instead of giving me back the 500 peseta coin I expected as change, he tried to pass me an old Franquista 25 peseta coin that was no longer even legal tender. It didn't work, I'd been in Madrid long enough already to tell the difference from the size and weight of the coin alone and quickly pointed out his "mistake" for which of course he apologised profusely. That was the point when I stopped talking any English in taxis in Madrid. The peseta, for those who never experienced it, is a currency which we may well be seeing again in a year or two. 

If I ever manage to reconstruct enough of the dialogue from my favourite ever taxi ride in Madrid I may dedicate a blog post to it. All of which is a bit of a digression. Returning to the subject of the cathedral, there have been complaints recently about the construction of a new museum spoiling the view of the big pile. The Museo de las Colecciones Reales has started to emerge in between the royal palace and the cathedral after years when it seemed that they were just going to leave a big fenced-off hole in its place. It doesn't look very pretty, at least not so far, but then given the building that it is partially blocking what's the problem? 

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