On the fifth day of our new life in Madrid, I went to pick up my children from their school in the suburbs. Off I went by train, along with my little dog Skyla. We were smiled at by passing strangers and my heart filled with joy. Life was good I thought, the Spanish are lovely and they even accept dogs on the train – just like London! I collected the children and we headed back to the station. “No, no perro!” The conductor shouted forcefully, pointing at our dog. What? No one had stopped me before. Was he mistaken? We pretended we couldn’t hear him and tried again but the conductor was adamant – we had to leave!
I was concerned but reasoned that a bus would definitely take us. The driver pulled up, saw us and shook his head, “No, no perro!” I implored him in my limited spanish but he drove swiftly off. I will admit that I was beginning to feel some anxiety when two rather cool looking policeman pulled up on their motorbikes. Xavier was dispatched to ask for their help (his Spanish was improving by the minute!) and taking pity on us, they approached another bus driver, but to no avail, rules are rules and they could not be broken!
Our options were thinning fast. We tried hailing a cab, then another, then another – all had the same response- “No perro!” My worry barometer was creeping up to a new level entitled “freak out time!” but I controlled myself and moved it down to “Let’s call Leo!”. Yes, I thought, he can help us. I called him but got no response, then sent 20 text messages – still silence. So there we were, stuck – two little kids (ages 7 and 9) our little dog (aged 2 and a half) and me (old enough to know better).
Well, we could either cry, or we could walk to our destination (the English love walking) so that is what we decided to do! Now, to walk, you need a route, but unfortunately it was at that moment I found out that my phone map wouldn’t work. Things weren’t looking good. Xavier, who had now been elevated to Group Captain, was put in charge of asking directions but each time he tried, we were greeted with incredulity (the English – crazy people!) and directed to the station, “No, no metro – el perro” he would tell them, pointing to the dog. “Ah” they responded, continuing to point to the station. One thing was certain- part of our walk would be along the motorway!
Off we trekked, me singing at the top of my lungs (I thought it would cheer our spirits) Xavier joining in loudly and Anoushka prodding me in the sides, attempting to stop me. “It’s so noisy here Anoushka, no one will hear me!’ I shouted over to her, sounding like a jolly Sergeant in World War Two, leading us all to battle. “But Mummy, your singing is terrible, it’s not making me feel any better at all!” she cried, still trying to make me stop, her little elbows feeling sharper and sharper as she dug me in the ribs.
If I show fear, I thought, the kids will panic, so I hid the fear away and on we went. After two hours of motorway marching, which was relatively unpleasant and not something I would recommend, we ended up on a main road and found a cafe. We dragged our tired legs in and tucked into tortilla (the spanish omelette kind) and bread. I washed it down with a small beer for fortification. “It’s ok” I told the kids, “this is all part of our great big adventure.” They did not look at all convinced.
We continued our journey but by now it was getting dark and my mind began to whir – what was I doing? I could feel the panic bubbling up inside me. If only Leo would answer his phone!
We found ourselves in a run down part of town, full of stray cats, when Xavier stopped a sweet looking old lady to ask for directions. Her horrified response encouraged me to try Leo again, and this time he picked up! At that moment a taxi pulled up and beckoned us in. Oh my goodness, the relief – here was a driver who was happy to have Skyla in his car. It was a miracle!
At 8.30 pm we arrived back home. The kids fell into bed, absolutely exhausted. The next day I received a call from the school “Your children are very tired today, is it really true that you took them for a motorway walk for four hours?” “Yes, unfortunately it is” I responded. “Well, try not to do that again please.” “Rest assured” I replied “I will definitely never, ever do that again!”
Footnote: Madrid has no guns or gangs, has a very low crime rate and feels very safe!
Pic: Segovia, Spain – sadly this was not on our walk!