Six months into my time in Madrid, I have been blessed with more luck than most. A steady job, great friends and a fantastic standard of living is something I’ve managed to acquire in a relatively short period of time.
So, when my parents came to visit me for the first time I was exhilarated to show them the fantastic life I’m making for myself here, how amazing Madrid is and, contrary to their experience in large Spanish cities, that I’m safer here than in England.
They arrived on a Friday and were suitably impressed with my living arrangements. We went out on Saturday in glorious sunshine to the local market where they saw the myriad of delicious gastronomical offerings that I have on my doorstep. We stopped for a drink which was served with a delicious tapas, at half the price of the same drink in England. My overly cynical parents, who aren’t overjoyed at my move anyway, often claim that my new home city is ‘underwhelming’ so as you can imagine, I felt like I was winning.
My excitement was short-lived because before long my hopeful situation became unstuck. We went for lunch to a very popular tapas bar which serves mounds of tapas free with your drinks. We were treated to exquisite croquettes, patatas bravas and delicious red wine for just 20euros for four people. Again, I could see I was winning them over. The smug sense of victory was rising as I sat and watched my dad insist that we could stay for another drink and my mum, usually very fussy, was complimenting the range of food. I was giddy with excitement.
A pet hate of mine has always been the phenomenon in Spain of beggars coming to your table in restaurants and asking for something. So, when someone came to the table asking for a signature for a petition I was keen to shoo them away as quickly as possible. Being from a city myself, I have always been very safety conscious so, as I was dismissing this young boy, I kept a hawk eye on my SLR camera and handbag, which was full of cash for the day’s activities. He soon left and I felt extremely relieved that my parents hadn’t been too adversely affected by the experience.
It was only when I looked at the table and realised that something wasn’t right, my mum, panic-stricken, exclaimed, “I’m sure they just took something off the table, where is your phone?”
The blood drained from my face as I checked my pockets for my precious mobile and realised it was gone. Without thinking I stood up and began to run towards the exit; adrenaline coursing through my veins. I spotted him about to leave and somehow managed to catch up with him and grab him screaming in Spanish to give me my phone back. He obviously wasn’t Spanish and so I repeated it in English over and over until I felt the presence of my mum and boyfriend next to me. Not surprisingly, the thief looked terrified when my mum began to shout and without skipping a beat he took the phone from his pocket and handed it over.
I was white with shock, the man walked away and I was quizzed by a waiter about what had occurred. As I returned to the table I looked back at the door to see the thief being apprehended at the door and someone laying a punch on him that wasn’t worth any amount of money he could have got for my phone. The poor guy was obviously having a terrible day. I returned to the table and sat down, shaking; thinking about how It could have turned out very badly if the thief had been violent or worse, had escaped with my phone full of photos and memories. My dad, sitting calm as a coma, exclaimed that he’d done the most important thing by minding the bags for us in case it was a ploy to get all of our stuff.
I felt sick and would soon feel worse as my parents began to repeat all their stories of foreign scams and experiences of being robbed abroad. “Just like any big city, you have to be very careful all the time. Especially now you live here”.
I’ve spent 5 years living in and visiting Spain constantly and nothing has ever happened to me. I’ve never been robbed or felt in danger. I once withdrew money next to a group of 40 youths and didn’t even consider that it might be dangerous. I just don’t feel that way here and, even after this incident, I still don’t.
The worst thing is that I knew it would be something that my parents would take with them. A dark stain on their memory of my beloved new home, and it pained me. My dad thought the spanish were slightly badass for punching the guy and delivering some vigilante justice, but still, it made me realise that for all the time I’ve been here it just had to happen during their visit.
Sod’s law definitely exists and I got the rough end of the deal. Then again, I may have to live with my parents forever seeing my home as being a crime hotspot and doubting my choice to move, but at least I have my mobile back. Swings and roundabouts eh?