8 APRIL 2006, Page 36

Imaginary conversations: an encounter in Madrid

‘Good morning, Don Pepe!’ ‘Good morning.’ ‘And how are your beautiful daughters? Mercedes?’ ‘Mercedes? She has become a famous vivisectionist.’ ‘And Pilar?’ ‘Secretary to a demolition company.’ ‘Milagros?’ ‘She edits a rationalist weekly.’ ‘And Paz?’ ‘Paz is colonel of a Woman’s Auxiliary Battalion.’ ‘What about Doña Sol?’ ‘She works in a night-club, I’m afraid.’ ‘And little Soledad?’ ‘She wants to become a group-therapist.’ ‘And Consolación?’ ‘You haven’t heard? She committed suicide when Paco left her.’ ‘O, I’m so sorry! And Concepción?’ ‘She’s the owner and leader-writer of the Birth Control Quarterly.’ ‘And that dear little boy, Exaltación?’ ‘He always seems to be down in the dumps.’ ‘We’ve forgotten Dolores! How is she?’ ‘She’s the only one who cheers me up! Sings and jokes from morning to night!’

Patrick Leigh Fermor