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Posted Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I smile wearily and say, I don't know you, but allow me to wish you Welcome to Madrid and Have a Nice Day.

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April 19, 2007 (Thursday)
London (England) -- Madrid (Spain

A FRIEND has written from Hungary: "We're about to watch the film of Hitler and Speer. ... It's very strange to listen to his children's opinion about their father and his life. It seems that they're not proud of him at all!"

I reply: "All these children have been subjected to sixty years of brainwash. I have written in my memoirs about my father (whom I hardly ever saw) and mother only the best things. I have the most wonderful memories of both of them. I held my father's hand all day on the day he died. When I have typed up my pages about Speer I will mail them to you."


A BAD day for rudeness. Starts well enough; I walk with the suitcase a mile up to the German embassy and I am there at 8:50 a.m. I get the necessary signature notarized, and there is a £15 fee to pay. The cashier, a half-caste, snarls accusingly in German, "Don't you say Good Morning then?"

Taken aback, I reply: "Für die deutschen Behörden habe ich heute morgen wenig Sympathie übrig." He repeats, "Good morning!" in a threatening way, and waits.

I say quietly: "Just give me the change and receipt please." "Good morning." Silence. "GOOD MORNING!" he shouts. I suggest he ought to behave better as a guest in another country. Turns out he is English. Hey-ho again.

I walk back to Sloane Street and pick up Jessica, who has not slept, she says. So excited. At Heathrow I snap a photo of her, at fifty yards' range. There is a man with wrinkled features half way between us. He storms over to me and hisses, "Did you just take a photo of me!" I reply wearily, "No, of my daughter" -- who rejoins me at that moment.

Did you just take a photo of me?

In white blouse, she's entering the duty-free store; click on the puzzled pedestrian for enlargement. Who is he? Anybody know him?

Shaking his head in bafflement, the man moves off, and I think I have seen the last of him. Wrong -- we are seated in seats 12D and E of the Airbus to Madrid; he is in seat 12A. Hey-ho again. He glares, and says nothing.

The flight is nasty, the flight attendants aged and superannuated slatterns, there is no food, not even a snack on the two-hour flight (unless you pay for it: two pounds for a cup of Nescafe, the cheapest item: no more Iberia for me).

As we arrive at Madrid's Barajas field, we fly over the military airstrip -- Torrejón de Ardoz, I recognise it: it's where I used to work as a young clerk stenographer for the US airforce ("PEACE IS OUR PROFESSION" was stamped across my ID) nearly fifty years ago.

At the airport -- a fine new building, very impressive -- our baggage comes; Paloma is waiting outside. We hurry off to the car park. On the moving walkway, three adults, standing astride the width of the walkway, block my way. "Excuse me," I say, or perhaps the equivalent in Spanish. Nobody moves. I cough. The man turns round, and it is Wrinkle-Face again. "I know you," he snarls, and I courteously doubt it.

"It's David Irving, right!?"

I agree that he has identified me correctly, but say: "In Spain as in England we still stand on the right."

"You're a despicable liar, nothing but a Despicable Liar!" he shouts.

Offhand, I would not have taken him for Jewish until now. I smile wearily and say, "I don't know you, but allow me to wish you Welcome to Madrid and Have a Nice Day." I leave him behind, still screaming Liar after me. Madrid never used to be like this.

Oliver KammOliver Kamm [] of The Times (right) is sending out abusive messages to people who write him perfectly cogent letters on the subject of Kurt Vonnegut and myself. One correspondent who wrote him forwards to me one such reply and comments, "It seems we are getting under his skin."


April 20, 2007 (Friday)
Madrid (Spain

I TAKE Adam to school in Paloma's car; Madrid's roads are a lot more crowded than they were in the 1950s. Bring back Franco! Prices have certainly ballooned since I was last here too.

We get hopelessly lost on the new freeways. For a while we find ourselves on the motorway heading to Valencia, then back toward the centre past the airport twice, and at three pm I park in Don Ramón de la Cruz, and walk with Jessica down to No. 53 where I stayed in the 1950s. This area is unchanged. I sit in the next street, Lista (now Jose Ortega y Gasset), for fifteen minutes outside what used to be my favourite café, and I tell Jessica of the film I made here of Josephine and Beatrice two score years ago with the knife-grinder man.


THEN off to the Prado with Jessica. There is a big Tintoretto exhibition, but we will not have time for that; we take in Goya, Velazquez ("Excuse me sir," objects a short fat Colonel Klebs look-alike woman, "this is a private guided tour…"), Poussin, Reubens, Van Dyck; in the cafeteria afterwards I challenge Jessica to name the artists we have seen, and she recalls five or six, at one euro each, not bad.

The Velazquez portraits all seem almost grotesquely out of proportion, with dinosaur-small heads on tall, gangly bodies; the Goya females are beautifully painted, but the faces are almost cartoonish -- as if added afterwards in felt-pen.

Jessica wants to see the Picassos and what she calls the "Melted-Clock" artist, Salvador Dali. But they are in a different museum, the Reina Sofia, and I think the clock is in The Tate, which we shall see next, God willing.

At 6 pm we are back at Paloma's apartment. Paloma is waiting outside, just coming or going, with her motorbike. Seems very risky to me. Her great business venture, the math school, is opening next week. Over supper last night she revealed she does not know what pi, π, is. I laugh: "NEW MATH SCHOOL OWNER, DAUGHTER OF HOLOCAUST DENIER, IGNORANT OF PI. That's what the press will say if they find out."

"Something you eat?" She suggests. She is the partner controlling the administration, however, not the teaching.


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