travel back in time

Sunday 10th October, Madrid, Spain

Escaping the rain with a glass of mint tea in an Arabic cafe

Winter is on its way to Madrid, and although the temperature bar at the top of the page might not exactly indicate Arctic conditions, my summer wardrobe just isn't cutting it anymore. Maria's Mum has been very kind to me, and has outfitted me with hand-me-down men's clothes from her family, but I miss my big warm duffle coat. I left it in England at the end of winter- didn't fancy carrying it around Morocco for six weeks!- but it won't be long before I need it again. If someone is coming from England (London Gatwick area is where the coat is) to Madrid anytime soon, it would be worth a meal and a few cold beers to you if you could bring me my coat. A challenge from the Savage to you. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Autumn leaves in El Retiro, Madrid.

Speaking of challenges, there have been a couple of new challenges hit my inbox this past week....

"Your challenge is to find a bar or store in Madrid that sells a Texas beer called Shiner. There are several international beer bars in Madrid that might be able to give you a good start. Cervecerķa Alemana or Cervecerķa Internacional.
Reward= twenty-five US dollars
Status= pending...They don't stock Shiner at the bar on the corner, but I keep going back just in case. Well, you never know!

You know that photo you took of the masks for sale in Madrid's El Rastro markets? Well, my sister collects masks, and if you get two more similar photos in your travels, I'll send you twenty bucks!
Reward= twenty US dollars
Status= pending...anyone know where there's some mask shops?

If you've got a novel idea for a challenge, go ahead and post it on my interactivemessageboard.

Maria and I went for a walk to El Retiro park this morning. Well, morning isn't totally accurate. It was after midday by the time we'd had breakfast (French toast, bacon and fried eggs, croissants and melted cheese for me, all-bran for her. I prefer my diet!) The Spanish are not enthusiastic early risers unless forced, I've noticed. Maria considers twelve o'clock on a weekend to be 'mid morning'. She had said there were some Shao-Lin monks in the park today, and did I want to go and see them. I wasn't sure exactly what they were supposed to be doing, but the opportunity to see Shao-Lin monks doing whatever they do doesn't come up every day, so I was up for that. *what the hell is a Shao-Lin monk anyway*

Of course, in a country where nothing and no-one is ever on time Shao Lin monks are obviously an exception. By the time we reached the sprawling 350 acre (142 hectare) El Retiro, the punctual monks had seemingly done their thing and headed home without leaving a trace. Never mind, they had been the catalyst that got us out of the apartment and into the autumn sunshine, and El Retiro is a beautiful place to spend a Sunday afternoon. Stalls were set up along the park's wide promenades, selling all sorts of toys, sweets, jewellery and bits and pieces. Puppet shows were entertaining the kids, and Shrek, Pooh Bear and an assortment of Tellytubbies hugged the kids for photographs in exchange for a coin or two. I tried to hug a leggy blonde who was playing the violin, but soon discovered she wasn't one of the 'hugging' charecters, just a regular busker. Maria was not impressed, and refused to row me around the park's lake in one of the boats for hire.

Interesting statue, near Anton Martin Metro station, Madrid..A beautiful Catholic church near El Retiro, Madrid.

We stopped to watch a Peruvian band playing their pan pipes, tossing their manes of shiny jet black hair and flogging CD's to the crowd. Man do these guys get around- I swear I see them in every city I visit. Another long walk later, and we met a couple of Maria's friends in a great little bar in trendy Latina (if you'd been paying attention two months ago- and some of you definitely were!- you'd recall that it was on our first visit to Latina that I realized I'd fallen for my lovely Spanish host!) It was five o'clock by the time we got home, and neither of us had eaten since breakfast. *Okay, I'd had some sweets in the park* We were both hungry, but five o'clock is an awkward time of the day in Spain, foodwise. It's too late for lunch, but about four hours too early for dinner. I suggested we head to the Hare Krishna restaurant around the corner, confident that the smooth headed folk there wouldn't care whether we called it lunch or dinner. The Krishnas were friendly and welcoming, but regretfully informed us that they don't serve food on weekends, so it was home for some reheated leftovers *again* and a lengthy discussion about the merits of joining the Krishnas. Maria so badly wants me to join, because it's the only way she can think of to make me cut my hair!

It's been five days since I got back from the US. this was to be my chance to relax after a hectic month- organzing the book printing, taking orders, flying halfway around the world, signing and addressing hundreds of books, and watching my credit card approach critical mass as I attempted to wrestle payment from everyone who had ordered books, not to mention a week of hard yakka in Tennessee (If you've got my book, turn to chapter 34 to see what yakka is). The first couple of days back in Madrid were very pleasant and relaxing, not too much on my agenda except getting some sleep and catching up with Maria. But the peace was destined to be short lived...

On Friday and Saturday, I did some heavy foot slogging and hard haggling, and the upshot is that "..everywhere but Missouri, mate!" is now on sale at six English language bookstores around Madrid. J and J's American bookstore wants to get me in for a booksigning evening next month, and it seems I have a spot on Vaughan Radio to talk about my book and my travels. After such a panic last month trying to drum up orders for the book, a little basic arithmetic now tells me that I have almost sold out! I wanted to organize book signings with a couple of the other bookstores as well, but there simply aren't enough books left.

I'm organizing a second printing of the book as fast as I can. When the rest of the payments have rolled in *hint, hint if you've still not paid* I'll even be able to afford to pay for it!

Who would have thought?

In amongst all this mayhem, I'm still trying to make this website more user friendly, more interesting and more fun. I've updated the 'funny stuff' page (follow the link on the left hand side of the index page) and have also smartened up another page, featuring poems from my gorgeous niece, Estelle. Check it out at
I've added pages to the Not So Savage Files, and I want to create a page for Madrid too, when I get the chance. But this is where I fall down. There's no way known to man that I can fit all my great photos from Madrid onto one page, nor my photos from Pleasant Shade, Tennessee, nor from Morocco or Bletchingley. A slide show would be the ideal way to present the photos, but I don't have the technology. The current slide shows that I have linked from the index page, such as 'funny signs' and 'funny pics' are set to refresh randomly, meaning that the same picture could refresh several times in a row, if you're not lucky. Can anyone please help me set up a simple 'viewer controlled' slide show?

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