Despite the lengthy precautionary paragraph in the Lonely Planet and the wealth of warnings from helpful locals, most of my valuable possessions have been nicked since my arrival in Madrid. Camera, mobile, jacket and wallet (stuffed full of wages, ID and bank cards) have been successively lost to the sticky-fingered experts that stalk the metro and prime Plazas of the city - all sneakily swiped by well-practiced hands and scurried away before I had even noticed their absence. I imagine that within the hour they were padding out the stock of the illegal mobile markets that circulate the city.
I shouldn´t be suprised really. Often tottering about amongst a gaggle of tipsy Brits, or noticeably flicking through an English textbook, I´m probably the perfect profile for a pickpocket. To make matters worse, I don´t think I´m particularly aware of my surroundings when out on the streets. Probably as a result of the herby-smelling wave of smoke that greets me every time I enter my flat, I seem to be passively stoned and slightly spaced out most of the time. I may as well be wearing a post-it on my forehead reading “Rob me please, I won´t notice.”
In an effort to see the silver lining on every cloud, I have tried to convince myself that succesive sacrifices to the street thieves of Spain has at least taught me to place less value on material possessions and to embrace carefree detachment. In some respects, I suppose it has worked: surviving for a few days with no recognisable ID and a strictly limited supply of money could, at a push, be described as liberating in some ways. Similarly, since the loss of the mobile phone I have resorted to a prehistoric Nokia handset on a Pay As You Go contract, which certainly has its benefits: the constant lack of credit provides a good excuse never to reply to messages. In fact, combined with the recent mysterious disappearance of our letter box, for the past few months I have been temporarily unreachable – at least when I want to be.
However, despite best efforts, my attempts to adopt the hippie mindset have only taken me so far. Although I generally only react with weary resignation when something inexplicably disappears from my handbag, I can´t help but bristle with frutation and annoyance inside. Even if initially ´liberating´, after just a few days of coping with a fast diminishing cash supply and no bank cards, the novelty had worn thin. Similarly, a recent three-day stretch without internet has confirmed that being unreachable is only enjoyable when it is optional. In fact, being internet-less left me feeling isolated, melancholy and homesick, merely emphasising my reliance on daily contact with friends and family back home. Indeed, at times I find myself hovering on Facebook or Skype longing for a friendly voice to log in for a chat. So much for carefree hippie detachment.
Perhaps the cloud doesn´t have a silver lining after all...