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Published: March 17th 2010
5th June ‘09:
The Vincente Calderon Stadium, Madrid, is a squeeze for thirty trucks. Gentleman Steve confidently guns his engine, using blocks as a step-up to our additional parking area: the pavement. A little later, in Catering, he offers some advice when the wife of another driver approaches our table. 'Don't catch her eye,' he warns. 'She'll fix you with a spell.'
Steve passes me a salt shaker, and points to it. 'That's what happened to the last driver who looked at her.' He smiles wanly and suggests the Prado Museum for today's scoop. 'Miss out all the religious rot - anything with a halo, cross or a virgin in it - and you'll have a manageable morning in there.' As it turns out, this is sound advice indeed.
Madrid isn't one of my favourite cities, Spanish or otherwise. Give me Paris over it any day of the week. But the girls - with the possible exception of those from Marseille - look a tad naughtier. And they're Catholic. While Stephen King may allude to 'the God-given directive to go in bareback' in his book, “On Writing - A memoir to the Craft”, I mention it merely
as a hinge to the Dutch painter, Bosch, a fervent Catholic.
Yes, I know these blogs are becoming more prurient by the day. Perhaps it’s because we’ve been on the road for too many months, free from the steadying, guiding hand of the fairer sex at home. Touring for so long - albeit still with a faintly heady sense of adventure - is becoming the norm; I’m beginning to forget what real life is like, I think. So perhaps the well-worn furrow of sexual content ought to be scaled down? Well, unless you like it, that is.
Anyway, what Madrid does well is museums. And parks, actually. So, let's poke our heads into the Museo del Prado, one of the world’s finest collections of European art, situated next to the Botanical Gardens. That's if I can find the right entrance to the dashed place. Now, why aren't there any bicycle racks outside? Maybe because the artists Goya and Velasquez are no longer struggling financially, and can afford cars? No, of course not - they're dead. Yes, perhaps I’ll shut up.
Whizzing past all the naked portraits of voluptuous honeys eating apples and wild boar - and draped
decadently over chaises longues - we come to “The Colossus”. It is one of the most famous paintings in The Prado, yet the artist remains anonymous. Just step back a pace and imagine, if you will, that the giant represents Napoleon's army invading Spain. Or could he be the 'Spirit of The Pyrenees'? We shall never know.
Ah, we move on to Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516), and “The Garden of Earthly Delights” - singled out at random, I promise. It is a triptych - a painting (or a carving) on three panels that are usually joined together by hinges. The central panel, on this occasion, depicts an orgy, a world surrendered to lustful abandon. Naked figures can be seen adopting all manner of uncomfortable contortions.
Reading the blurb, my legs begin to ache again. You remember how a triathlon is well within my capabilities, but standing still has me exhausted within seconds? Well, I soldier on, absorbing the ephemeral nature of sinful pleasure, and wonder whether I’d actually enjoy an orgy. They seem a trifle public for my tastes, a bashful lad born in the Shetland Islands, only wanting to give pleasure to one woman. Well, at a time.
Oh no, hang on, I certainly don’t want to give the impression that I’m promiscuous.
This triptych acts as something of a deterrent, at any rate, even to those initiated into the delights of simultaneous partners. My eye wanders to the right of the three panels - to purgatory, in which unfortunate inmates are tormented. The imaginative Bosch has one poor chap crouching, a woodwind instrument used as a rectal probe. I’m not sure that’s quite the sort of thing I’d go in for..
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