Well, that's the end of the holiday season. Not ours, you understand, that ended long ago, no, this is everybody else's holiday season – the season where having relatives in Spain is suddenly fabulous. Somehow they don't seem so keen during the bleak mid-Madrid-winter.
Don't get me wrong. I love seeing family and appreciate the efforts they make to come here (BA please note – get a direct route from the north please). But after three months of constant visitors we are left wondering why we don't just go the whole hog and open a B&B.
It has been fun, though, although a lot of that was unintentional from our guests. And mainly the guests from my side of the family. Two in particular - my sister, Marion, and her son, David.
Marion and David are an easy couple to please so long as the sight-seeing ends with some form of liquid refreshment (visitors after our own hearts. After all this time living here and countless visits to the city beforehand, we've still never quite managed to actually enter the Prado and see the art that has made countless tourists speechless. You see, there's a really nice bar close by and people-watching always appeals).
Luckily, Madrid has more bars per head of population than any city in the world. So, we did the Puerta del Sol (a pick-and-mix of bars), the old, deeply atmospheric La Latina quarter (bars with scrummy huevos rotos to nibble on), the Santiago Bernabeu (come on, it's a football stadium. You've got to have a drink there) and then El Retiro park (no bars. They're called terrazas here).
And that was just in the first two days.
By day three, Ged and I left them to their own devices. David could remember enough of his schoolboy Spanish to get round and they were confident that they could map-read sufficiently between the two of them not to get lost. Still, I spent the day worrying that at some point a friendly member of the Guardia Civil would roll up at our door asking if we knew these two people who'd tried to have a go at bullfighting in the Plaza del Toros, or something similar.
So when we spotted them making their way along our street at 6pm, we were pleasantly surprised. Although David was walking a little funny.
When he entered the flat, we realised why. His jeans were soaking wet.
“Oh my God,” I screamed, “You didn't climb into the Cibeles fountain, did you?”
“No,” he grunted, giving a sidelong, malevolent glance at his mum. “We were in a bar, having a drink, when the waiter brought our glasses. Except mine wasn't a glass, it was one of those white, earthenware jugs they use for keeping the beer cold.”
“It was an honest mistake,” butted in Marion. “The froth at the top was white and it was full to the brim and I thought the glass was upside down...”
“And so she turned it the right way up!” finished David. “The beer went all over me.”
“I told you to get another one.”
“I couldn’t - I don't know the Spanish for ‘another’,” he pouted back.
By this time, the giggles Ged and I had been struggling to keep in erupted into laughter. Marion was also biting her lips to stop herself joining in while David sulked into the bathroom to shower and change.
I’d never noticed just how silly our family can be until I moved away which is why I thought it best to give a few pointers for next year.
First, and I know this is a bit of a surprise, this is Spain, not Bognor Regis, so when sitting out in the height of the midday sun please don’t say, “By but it’s hot, isn’t it?” I can no longer be held responsible for Ged’s actions.
Two: don’t explain to the waiters the perfect way to make “a nice cup of tea” as you’ll still just end up with a cup of dishwater - only this time it will be delivered with a scowl.
Three: do remember to pay for your drinks when you leave the bar and not when the waiter shouts at you when you’re halfway down the street.
Oh, and last but most definitely not least, please don’t go on and on and on about Real Madrid when we’re in a bar surrounded by Atlético de Madrid scarves. I don’t yet know the Spanish for “the big man knocked out half of my teeth”.
Yes, it’s lovely to have family to stay - they make me look not quite so bad.