Last Thursday I went to Madrid for some meetings and as usual a few weeks before I sent a WhatsApp to my friend Rosario, who lives there, asking her if she would be free for dinner.
It is a habit of many years now. From the first time I went to Madrid for work after our first meeting in Paris in 93, we invariably get together when I go there – which I often do – and, of course, also at weekends either in Spain or in Portugal.
But this time it was somewhat complicated – when she got my message she had already booked tickets for the theatre with some friends so she decided to give me a surprise and booked one for me; then I wrote saying I would have a working dinner so she sold the ticket; then my dinner was cancelled and she was desperately trying to find a new ticket, which she finally did; even if it meant for her to stay away – in the only available place – from us all at the theatre, as she absolutely insisted I stay with the rest of the group. Just like my friend Rosario – she’s incredible!
I met her and her boyfriend Nacho at around six, after my meetings and her work. We went for a drink at Mallorca, a fantastic pastry shop located in Serrano, one of the most famous shopping streets in Madrid, in the fashionable Salamanca quarter – where Rosario works and lives, in a smart apartment with an incredible terrace where we have the most amazing dinners on warm summer evenings…
But this time it was neither warm nor pleasant – it was actually a very grey afternoon and raining, so we hurried into Mallorca. We were not hungry, so unlike other times we didn’t eat any pastries or croissants but only ordered drinks, and we sat there for some time telling each other the latest news. It’s incredible how Rosario and I always have so much to tell each other when we meet, and Nacho always joins in – I really love being with them.
We continued to talk in the taxi that took us to “Matadero”, an old slaughterhouse that has been transformed into a place where many events are held: conferences, art exhibitions, theatre, bars…inside the decoration is modern, with old iron joists visible and now painted in silver-grey and high ceilings. It is a huge complex (where many thousands of animals must have been slaughtered, I thought) and there were many people around.
In ones and twos their friends arrived – of course I know most of them, as we usually go to most birthday parties and also to many events Rosario organises – Carmen and Marta (whom we met at Rosario’s 50th birthday party in Burgos), Mar, Dolores with a friend and, finally, Alejandra with her boyfriend, Alvaro, that I hadn’t met yet but with whom she looked very happy (as Rosario had already told me).
They all greeted me enthusiastically and we went in.
The play was called “The Jury” (“El Jurado“, in Spanish), and tells the story of a group of persons – the jurors – that have to decide if they find an alleged corrupt politician guilty or not guilty. They are nine around a table, and in the beginning they all believe he is guilty – with the exception of one, who questions the foundations of such a quick decision. And he goes on, putting doubts into his colleagues’ minds, until he manages to turn things upside down and, in the end, they all find the politician…not guilty. In the end we understand that he was put there with the only purpose of manipulating the juror’s soft spots in order to make them acquit the defendant.
Corrupt politicians are of course in the order of the day, both in Spain, Portugal and all over the world, and the sad reality that we are facing was very well portrayed, as well as the doubts a jury has to face – and also that there may always be two sides to the same coin. So we really enjoyed it and two hours went by almost without us noticing it, as we looked at the actors around the table discussing their ideas in a very lively way. The theatre itself was not a conventional one, as there were seats around the stage – with the exception of one side – and on it was the table and chairs where they sat, and the table sometimes turned around as they argued with one another.
Eating the Spanish way
As we came out we were still discussing what we had seen and how we felt about it, until someone suggested we continue to do it around some food – great idea. As Spanish do, we went to a nearby restaurant to picar (a Spanish untranslatable word – not even to Portuguese – that means you get around a table and you order several small dishes of typical Spanish food such as presunto – ham – cheese, bread, meat balls, mushrooms, peppers padrón, tortilla, etc, to share) and have some drinks, and there we continued to talk and enjoy the evening, that meanwhile had turned into a very pleasant one, the rain having stopped and the temperature being quite mild…
We came out and said goodbye to each other, with the usual encantada de verte (great seeing you) and hasta pronto (see you soon). Alejandra and her boyfriend left in his motorbike (I told him he must meet Nuno, as they are both “middle aged bikers”), and Rosario, Marta, Nacho and I got a taxi. We dropped Marta near the train station and then Rosario and Nacho dropped me at the hotel. As we hugged and said goodbye, I thanked them for another lovely evening in Madrid – different from our usual dinners but still very enjoyable and that really relaxed me – a good play, great company and good food. But, most of all, to again enjoy the company of my great friend Rosario, who is, has been, and will go on being so very special to me.
As the Spanish say – and I love this sentence, that means we are friends forever – Amigas para siempre.
Gracias, Rosario, hasta pronto!
(“El Jurado”, a play by the company Avanti teatro, directed by Andrés Lima and based on an original text by Luis Felipe Blasco Vilches, inspired in Reginald Rose’s mythical “Twelve angry men”).