The miracle of air
TO 'ME the speed of modern communication always comes as a fresh marvel and thrill. To be in Birmingham one evening, reaching London near midnight by a train taking three hours for the 100 mile distance; sleeping at home; and then, by Viscount, to be in one's hotel with the Prado at one's feet across the square in the heart of Madrid in time for one's next lunch — this is a transformation scene beyond all the powers of magic. Especially so, perhaps, when on this occasion the Viscount — passenger's eyes well fixed on the famous flaps — at 22,000 feet sails over a sea of cloud from London Airport to within a few miles from Madrid. Then at the end of the long descent one suddenly secs the torn and tortured arid country, reds, russets, ochre. deep green. purples, blacks, bathed in brilliant sunshine. Not quite so happy is the airport reception with masses of chattering Spaniards and a few dazed foreigners pushing their way in fierce competition through reception and customs. Trained to the solemn and expeditious ways of London Airport, I thought this was bad enough. but the airport on my return was simply a huge scrum. Three or four big planes were due to leave, a hoarse loudspeaker was as incomprehensible in English as in Spanish, no one knew where to go or what to do to get the precious hoarding card which proves that you have been through all the formalities. Miraculously, in the Spanish way, for in the end you always get there. each plane got off with its proper load.
The Spanish way
THE success of the Spanish way was amply illustrated when I flew from Madrid to Barcelona. I had given a lecture in Madrid and ms sponsors had arranged for a second lecture in Barcelona under their auspices and booked me a hotel there. That was all I knew, and so I naturally supposed someone would communicate with me to tell me the place and time. Not a hit of it. I was not unduly worried, for Spaniards leave everything to the last moment. But the last moment was almost passing when I got in touch with friends who might be able to help. They looked up the morning paper and found the lecture, time and place announced in it. So I turned up about half-an-hour before the time. To my sorrow, I found the sponsors in a terrific flap because they had never been notified from Madrid as to which hotel I was staying in. This was. I thought, a distinct loss of Spanish ;terve on their part. Had they dor* nothing at all, all would have gone just as well as if the affair had been perfectly organised. That is one of the miracles of Spain. Things do come off despite leaving everything to the last possible moment — including one evening an invitation to dinner at 11.30 p.m.
Hospitality beyond compare
SHOULD one, however, be lucky
enough to make the right contacts early enough, the generosity of Spanish hosts is quite beyond compare. 1 got a very good start in Madrid with the result that every meal time was booked up and in between meals I had the opportunity of seeing anyone and every one who could help to get to know better the political and social aspects of the Country todas. About these I hope to write later. On a previous trip to Madrid, I had visited Toledo and the Escorial, so casually mentioned that I would love the chance of seeing Avila which is -some 70 miles from Madrid. No sooner said than done. A car was put at my disposal and a wellknown writer delightedly—or so it seemed—gave up half a day to join me and be my guide. In Barcelona, the mention to a friend that I ought not to leave Barcelona without seeing Montserrat afforded me a car for the wonderful trip as well as a personal introduction to the Monastery.
The way to Avila
AVILA, in fact, is a little disappointing. I had imagined something more rugged and moun tainous. The drive, however, is intensely beautiful and interesting. It gives an only too good idea of the sheer rock which is, I believe, more than two thirds of Spain—a fact to remember when one is apt to criticise the economic backwardness of the country. Madrid itself is a great city erected in the centre of hundreds of miles of
desert and rock. The Spaniard