Posts Tagged With: Madrid

Earthlings – I’ve been born again!


What was it? Who am I? What does it all mean?

What was it? Who am I? What does it all mean?

I am writing this like somebody from another planet. A profound change has come over me. I have seen the light. The strangest thing is, it happened at the end of a football match. Like a billion other people, I was watching the Champions League final on Saturday on my television screen. It was an all-Spanish final between Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid. The game wasn’t that great until near the end when I got an eyeful of Cristiano Ronaldo’s body. He scored a penalty and tore off his shirt to reveal a torso, complete with 6-pack tummy, to make any body-builder weep. What a man, I thought! He’s like a god – a hero to millions of kids everywhere. His iconic status and goal-scoring ability earn him the princely sum of $2 million a month. Not bad, eh? It can’t be easy finding ways of spending that much cash.

Cristiano Ronaldo: some guys really need to show off their great bodies!

Cristiano Ronaldo: some guys really need to show off their great bodies!

Anyway, soon after the penalty the game was over and the crowd whipped out their smartphones to film the celebrations and send pictures to their pals via Facebook. It was a truly global event, with images being beamed into homes in countless countries. But the effort of watching all that testosterone caught up with me and I must have dozed off. Then I had the weirdest dream. I mean really weird.

I was watching the crowd again playing with their gadgets when everything went pitch black. Darkness descended. The crowd were screaming and groaning in horror and confusion. In the distance I saw a bright light in the sky heading towards the stadium. It soon got bigger and so bright that I had to put a hand over my eyes. Then it descended into the middle of the ground causing the players and officials on the pitch to run for their lives. The blinding light started to dim until we could all see a figure standing on top of a kind of pedestal. It seemed to be in the shape of a man – a cross between a druid and Leonard Cohen. Slowly the screaming and wailing subsided and after a short while there was silence. Then the figure began to speak in a deep, soft voice. Luckily for me it spoke in English as my Spanish is a little rusty. This is what it said:

“Earthlings! Humans! Fear not, for I come in peace. But I bring to you a dire warning of danger if you do not mend your ways. You have turned your backs on the gods. You humans have become vain, hedonistic and selfish. Your consumerism has made you spiritually empty, believers in nothing but material riches. How you have shamed the gods! Yes, your behaviour has been truly shameful.” At this point, with my jaw suitably dropped, I watched the reaction from the crowd. I saw that many were on their knees, weeping and begging for mercy. I noticed that Cristiano Ronaldo in particular looked very penitent. He was sobbing uncontrollably and looked nothing like the boastful sports icon of a few minutes previously. There was a pause. Then the figure began to speak again.

Everything went dark except for a blinding light on the pitch...

Everything went dark except for a blinding light on the pitch…

“I have watched you all this evening, enjoying yourselves at this sporting festival. But at what cost to human life has this expensive spectacle taken place! Many of you here are wealthy, while others are poor and hungry. You sportsmen amass wealth and riches as if this was the purpose of life. Have you forgotten that your time on earth should be spent working to improve the lives of others, and by so doing improve your own lives? Have you forgotten that you all face death and will then have nothing, not even the fine clothes that you wear?”. By now everyone that I could see by the dim light was pale and trembling with shame, especially the players. Some of them seemed to be shouting “Please take my money! I will give everything away, I promise!”

The voice continued. “I have some decrees that I must enforce before I leave as I do not trust that you humans will repent. So mark you well the following changes to your life and make good to follow them to the letter.” Suddenly, all the TV screens lit up and began to display the message as if it was being dictated by the galactic visitor. It was like a global Powerpoint presentation, complete with bullet points. It went like this:

  • FOOTBALL will be an amateur game, played for the love of sport and friendly competition with your fellow-humans. It will be a recreational activity that comes after your work is completed
  • HOMES: your houses and apartments will no longer belong to you alone. You have forgotten that all property is only given to you temporarily by the grace of the gods. You will open your homes to the poor and the sick, or to anybody who needs shelter 
  • FACEBOOK will vanish. You will no longer have virtual friends. You will learn to love and cherish your real friends, not squander your lives with images of vanity and foolishness
  • No more internet porn guys - you have been warned!

    No more internet porn guys – you have been warned!

    INTERNET PORN: this has most displeased the gods! You human men have become slaves to lewd images of lust and debauchery. How many hours you spend pleasuring yourselves in grim solitude! From today porn sites will be no more. Instead, you must seek love with other humans before engaging in the fulfillment of sexual desire. This will teach you to be patient, compassionate and considerate in your lovemaking

  • MONEY – the days of paper money, banks and interest are now ended. You will all relinquish your petty, worldly goods and learn to live simple but purposeful lives, guided by charity and great sympathy with your fellow humans

Suddenly the screens went dark again and the only visible light rested on the figure in the middle of the pitch. The presentation was over, but the visitor still had something to say. “Now mark my words and heed my calls for change”, he said. “I am very wise to all human trickery, of that you can be sure. I know another great sporting spectacle is about to begin, what you call the Worldly Cup. I shall return just after the final of that corrupt and corporate extravaganza to see what you earthlings have learned. Until then, the gods and I will pray for you. Farewell.”

Leonard Cohen: was it really you dressed as a druid?

Leonard Cohen: was it really you dressed as a druid?

What happened next is a bit of a blur. I woke up shivering and hungry, desperately in need of human company. So many images were flashing through my mind. What a revelation! Now I’m a bit worried about the World Cup in Brazil. What if there’s a blinding flash at the end of the final? And it’s funny, although I can no longer remember everything the visitor said, I could swear that, whatever the creature was, it spoke with a Yorkshire accent.

Categories: Brazil, Football, Global Crisis | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do keep in touch…

Who needs friends? Not the great French author, Marcel Proust.

Who needs friends? Not the great French author, Marcel Proust.

Marcel Proust once quipped: “friends are for cowards”. Not so, you might say. But I think he had a point. Sociable people who plan their lives around a group of close friends do not really possess the adventurous spirit; they tend to stay in one place and neither have the courage nor the desire to take off alone around the world and make a new life. They are homebirds. Often I envy them.

But if, like me, you have spent most of your life moving around, the friends you make along the journey are only temporary. For the traveller, this is a kind of tragedy: most of the people you meet and grow to like, or love, you never get to see again, and some you miss for the rest of your life. As you get older the past becomes a vast dark space, filled with faces you once knew but are now lost forever.

My little town in more cruising for burgers with my old pals

My little town in California…no more cruising for burgers with my old pals

When I lived in California more than 30 years ago, I met some real characters: funny, warm, crazy, wild. They were my life for almost a year. I drank, slept, cried and starved with them, sat out under the stars and soul-searched with them. Now they are ghosts.

I was an English teacher in Spain for two years, in Andalucia and Madrid. In both places I met an infectious bunch of fellow-teachers. We spent hours together in the local bars, travelling around, clowning about and making plans for the future. We were young and everything was fun. Now I can hardly remember their names.

My old school in Rio where I knew everybody

My old school in Rio where I knew everybody

The same thing happened in Rio twenty years ago. There were more than 30 teachers at the school I worked in – Brits, Brazilians and all sorts. I knew them all – some I could call close friends. My social life was a whirl, my feet never touched the ground. Do I see any of them now? Well, yes, one to be honest, but that’s only because I miraculously bumped into her while on holiday in Rio a few years back.

“Do keep in touch”, everybody says. They mean it – you mean it. At the time. But time rattles on and people get left behind. For me it’s the saddest thing about life. In the end we have to make do with what we have right now, the people we know and see in the present. But the older you get, the less social life you seem to have; there is not enough stimulation in the present to avoid looking back; to stop this maudlin fascination with the past and the people who filled it.

My Madrid gang: if I could only remember their names...

My Madrid gang: if I could only remember their names…

A woman I once knew told me she was still in love with some of her old flames. I found this strange, but later I realised that love doesn’t always wither and die, even though we never see our lovers again. Love changes, it doesn’t go stone cold. All the women I once loved – where are they all now and what are they doing? Do they ever think of me?

I once spent 6 months in Storm Lake, Iowa, where I loved and was loved...

I once spent 6 months in Storm Lake, Iowa, where I loved and was loved…

The end of a relationship is always tragic – the love has gone, the passion gone cold. Then the doors close forever on that chapter of your life. Neil Young has a song about breaking up called Peace of Mind with the line, “It’s hard to face that empty space”. In my perception of the past, there are many empty spaces.

Neil Young: "It's hard to face that empty space..."

Neil Young: “It’s hard to face that empty space…”

I suppose it’s romantic to be heart-broken after a love affair, though in time the feeling fades. But for me, the past is heart-breaking. Not just because of lost loves and friendships, but because there is no way back. There is a door marked PAST which is forever locked.

If I had a wish, I would throw a big party and invite all those people – old flames, old mates – who I still feel emotional about. As the night went on I would make a point of talking with every one of them to say how sorry I am that we didn’t stay in touch. I would also tell them how important they were in my life, and that I wouldn’t be the bloke I am – warts and all – if I hadn’t once had the pleasure of their friendship.

Categories: Brazil, Musings, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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