Woof, woof, Amen

I met a friend yesterday for coffee, near the office at Alonso Martinez. He was walking up via Fuencarral through Chueca, and I was restless, ‘Black Monday’ lethargy driving me out of the stuffy office in favour of a walk in the ‘fresh’ air. We met at the bottom of Plaza Santa Barbara, in a large cerveceria. As we sat at the bar an elderly couple entered, carrying a dog’s transport case, the sort with the wired front, I always want to call them ‘doggy bags’. A small, fluffy face peeked out at us from behind bars. It was a very quiet dog; you wouldn’t have noticed it was there, which is probably why the waitress didn’t notice it was there, saving her the inconvenience of pointing out the ‘no dogs’ sign on the door. The elderly couple were jolly, joking with her as she served them their glasses of wine (well before lunchtime) accompanied b a small plate of patatas bravas, that they were out celebrating their divorce. Meanwhile, the dog made no sound; it didn’t even rustle around in its padded cage, prompting me to comment to my friend:

‘What the Hell have they done to that dog to make it so well-bahved? Do you think it’s sedated?’

‘No, more likely to have been blessed by a priest. Before God.’ He replied, shifting back up onto the high, slippery stool.

‘You what?’

‘Nip down the road after we’ve had our coffee.’ He suggested. ‘I’m heading up to the office, you won’t catch me going back down there, I was getting The Fear. You know there’s a little church next to that building they’ve been doing up for ages-‘

‘Colegio de Arquitectos?’

‘I think so, yeah, very long, brick façade. Well, I had to walk up there on the way and you couldn’t get past, the street was jammed with pensioners and their pets, waiting for the priest to bless them. Some crazy religious shit, you should go and check it out; you’d love it.’

It was indeed some crazy, religious shit. As I headed down Fuencarral, toward the church, I was faced with a sea of berets, slacks, sturdy, flesh-coloured tights and helmet hairdos. There was a high, regular yapping, not from the old people, but from their yappy-type dogs in cages. A black Labrador dragged its owner through the crowd on his leash, and a huge golden retriever sat gazing adoringly up at its mistress but otherwise the dogs were diminutive, many of them in their best coats, one or two of them with hair clips to hold back the bangs from their eyes. The crowd was packed tightly around the entrance to the church; two television cameras followed the pooches’ progress up the steps of the church to the small chapel on the right hand side of the main door. Bright white flashes of press cameras illuminated the priest in long, pale robes, half-smiling in the way only top-dog religious people can, scanning the crowd blandly like the Pope himself. As the owners brought their pets before him briefly, holding them up to him like sacrificial lambs, or babies to be baptised, he raised a small silver object on a staff, with a globe on the end and shook it over them. It reminded me of a salt-shaker: lightly season before… Or a magic wand.

Hugging the walls and spilling back into doorways and courtyards were the obligatory vultures with folding tables hawking pastel-coloured crimes against art. Pill-boxes (not, I presume, for your ecstasy tabs), calendars depicting a googly-eyed, drippy Jesus with flowing blond locks, bracelets, key-rings, postcards, and posters of a multitude of saints. I stood and watched for a few minutes, praying for one of the little yappy-type gremlins to snap at the priest, or nip him, or even better, grasp the silver magic wand in its teeth and begin to tussle with him playfully. Then I walked back up Fuencarral to Alonso Martinez, smiling inanely and muttering to myself,

‘Only in Spain, only in Spain….’

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One Response to “Woof, woof, Amen”

  1. lovely piece of writing.Ta.

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