Postcard from... Madrid


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The Independent Online

Ever since I moved to Spain in the 1990s one of its most distinctive, and irritating, street noises has remained unchanged: the once- or twice-weekly racket caused by the “gas lorry” on its rounds, delivering hefty bright orange metal cylinders of butane  gas. Partly thanks to the recession, the noise is unlikely to stop soon.

The drivers’ method of alerting residents to their arrival is an incessant parping on their lorry’s horn. The noise could be worse: to attract attention at the foot of taller buildings, one method used to be slamming a metal gas cylinder repeatedly against the lorry’s metal sides – loud enough to wake the dead, let alone people living on the eighth floor. Yelling down requests to the driver to bring the 35-kilo canister up to your floor added to the general hullabaloo and, if unrewarded with a tip, brought mixed reactions: one was once so outraged that he tried to drop the cylinder on my foot.

Mains, or “town”, gas is much more popular now, but still unavailable in some areas and reportedly more expensive. So in the recession, those cheap cylinders have come back into use again by cash-strapped families. And the gas lorry continues to shatter the peace of many a Spanish mid-morning.