Excerpt of The Spanish Game by Charles Cumming
(Page 3 of 4)
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Far below, in the square, a busker has started playing alto sax, a
tone-deaf cover version of "Roxanne," loud enough for me to have to
close the doors of the balcony and switch on the hotel TV. Heres
whats on: a dubbed Brazilian soap opera starring a middle-aged actress
with a bad nose job; a press conference with the governments
interior minister, Félix Maldonado; a Spanish version of the British
show Trisha, in which an audience of Franco-era madrileños are
staring open-mouthed at a quartet of transvestite strippers lined up on
stools along a bright orange stage; a rerun on Eurosport of Germany
winning the 1990 World Cup; Christina Aguilera saying that she
"really, really" respects one of her colleagues "as an artist" and is "just
waiting for the right script to come along"; a CNN reporter standing
on a balcony in Kuwait City being patronizing about "ordinary
Iraqis"; and BBC World, where the anchorman looks about twentyfive
and never fluffs a line. I stick with that, if only for a glimpse of the
old country, for low gray skies and the stiff upper lip. At the same time
I boot up the laptop and download some e-mails. There are seventeen
in all, spread over four accounts, but only two that are of interest.
Subject: Basque visit
Re: our conversation the other day. If any situation encapsulates the
petty small-mindedness of the Basque problem, its the controversy
surrounding poor Ainhoa Cantalapiedra, the rather pretty pizza waitress
who has won Operación Triunfo. Have you been watching it?
Spains answer to Fame Academy. The wife and I were addicted.
As you may or may not know, Miss Cantalapiedra is a Basque, which
has led to accusations that the result was fixed. The (ex) leader of
Batasuna has accused Aznars lot of rigging the vote so that a Basque
would represent Spain at the Eurovision Song Contest. Have you ever
heard such nonsense? Theres a rather good piece about it in todays
Speaking of the Basque country, would you be available to go to San
Sebastián early next week to meet officials in various guises with a
view to firming up the current state of affairs? Endiom has a new client,
Spanish-based, looking into viability of a car operation, but rather cold
Will explain more when I get back this w/e.
All the very best
I click "Reply":
Subject: Re: Basque visit
No problem. Ill give you a call about this at the weekend. Im off to the
cinema now and then to dinner with friends.
I didnt watch Operación Triunfo. Would rather cook a five-course dinner
for Osama bin Ladenwith wines. But your e-mail reminded me of
a similar story, equally ridiculous in terms of the stand-off between
Madrid and the separatists. Apparently theres a former ETA commander
languishing in prison taking a degree in psychology to help
pass the time. His exam resultsand those of several of his former
comradeshave been off the charts, prompting Aznar to suggest that
theyve either been cheating or that the examiners are too scared to
give them anything less than 90%.
All the best
The second e-mail comes through on AOL.
Subject: Coming to Madrid
As expected, Heloise has now kicked me out of the house. The house
that I paid for. Logic?
So Im booked on the Friday easyJet. It lands at 5:15 in Madrid and I
might have to stick around for a bit. Hope thats OK. Ive taken three
weeks off work to clear my head. Could go to Cádiz as well to stay
with a mate down there.
Excerpted from Spanish Game
by Charles Cumming. Copyright © 2008 by Charles Cumming. Excerpted by
permission of St Martin's Press. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.