Blog Stuff Culture & History

Madrid: Diplomats, Embassies and Bed Sheets

A walk through a neighbourhood in Madrid, which is home to diplomats, embassies and a lot of history.

French schools, Jewish synagogues, and Irish bloggers also populate this area.

Orhan Pamuk wrote a panegyric essay to his passport in Other Colours, a paper-chain of reflections of what it means to be a writer, later connoted in the title of another work, The Importance of Small Objects. 

If Van Gogh can paint his room and his work boots, then surely I can extract some meaning out of an amble around the neighbourhood of Avenida del Doctor Arce?

Exiles & Postmen

Incidentally, this avenue is named after an Argentinian physicist, politician and diplomat. It is located near the metro of Republica de Argentina. He became a political exile in Madrid after Juan Perón came to power. He also, less glamorously, introduced the postal system into the United Nations.

I was there because I wanted to visit a former diplomat’s residence. I had met him after I had interviewed him for a film I am now working on in Madrid. It sat next to the Greek embassy and across the way from a synagogue.

Also, a German friend’s father was a diplomat who was stationed in the neighbourhood. We went to the embassy and stepped back into the past.

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Accidental Diplomat

I was reminded of Eamon Delaney’s An Accidental Diplomat, the testimony of an Irish diplomat whose life was sustained or limited by any given posting. His account speaks of the adrift Irish in America, boredom and the double-speak of Dublin’s handling of Northern Ireland.

The American embassy in Dublin has affable Irish guards on the exterior and rock-hewn Jerry Bruckheimer weaned American security forces on the inside. Embassies and their diplomats are wedged half-way between home and the foreign, channelling all the bizarre and the beautiful of both.

I could only imagine this in the Madrid context as I was locked out of these political islands by heavy gates.

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On Every Corner

As it is now, it is a beautiful neighbourhood with French schools and wide roads. Black, tinted cars can weave around a fountain with jumping dolphins, a poignant monument about the Holocaust, and around other statues that lie in wait in the barrios of Madrid.

I got swept up in the romanticism of it all until the next day when I saw a bed sheet flying from a window.

In black marker it read: Save Health – Save Education – Save Jobs. Then I felt foolish for I had forgotten my Heaney as I had walked around, literally and figuratively, a frugal republic.

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Embassies are islands on foreign shores and people, too, are islands. People exist as diplomats representing themselves in their best and worst ways.

And side by side, in an anonymous neighbourhood, the sum weight of different nations and their internal and external aspirations. The curiosity of a name and all its baggage, of consular assistance and refuge. The invisible burning of satellite beams and the chatter and of what was and now is, of what could be and never was.

And remember…

You can listen to our podcast on RadioPublic, the aural place of culture and insight! Also, why not take a look at this article? It’s a work of poetry.

Thanks for reading!

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