Adios…

We are all aware of how well our recent history with Europe goes concerning “letters”. She has a piece of paper which will make it all better for everyone. Except for the vast numbers who don’t want it.

Maybe it is for the best. We were always the moaning, dull, latecomer to the party. Bitching about the food and the company. Like so many of the people voting for Brexit – taking part was purely a one-sided affair. The other side had to do all the dancing and the chatting while we stood with our buffet plate in the kitchen trying to find the sausage rolls and the little cocktail sticks with cheese and pickles. Always a little scared of admitting to liking the cocktail stick things – they seemed a little bit too “continental” and fancy.

Well the party is over and the alcohol is drunk. I hope there is not a hangover.

And nothing much has changed – we still live in the same neighbourhood and still keep the lawn tidy. Not going to be invited to any parties any longer, mind you. Isn’t that a blessing. Having to pretend to like anyone but ourselves was so boring.

Grumpy

Today I am feeling very grumpy.

The news is dominated by people running from terror in London and Trump running even faster from reality. It makes for dispiriting reading.

I get adverts from companies I use to store photos and videos which irritate me intensely. Do not try to kidnap the language. A slogan such as “Support Heroes” for people buying online photo storage is bullsh*t. We consume language and words and destroy meaning so easily these days. Not in any organic and creative way. Just to grab some shock value in an advertisement.

I spent five minutes trying to get some bandwidth to listen to the news and what did I get? Nigel ‘effin’ Farage. The lizard king of any public bar he can get into. On a morning when some humanity and a large amount of reassurance are badly needed – the news stations turn to a man intent on benefitting personally from division and hatred. His brand of “plain speaking” is designed entirely to stoke primitive fears of “others”. A man blessed with a decent brain, a good standard of living and the associated opportunity but chooses to spend his time trying to sow division and reap power. Disgusting man.

So I swore at him – from afar – and had a quick walk. Cold air, blue skies and people doing honest, early-morning labour. Refreshing.

At the back

Alone, save the others, in the second last row from the back,
A modern Cathedral offers wifi and a warm welcome.
I discover new words while studying my translation pack.
“Pew” – a word from my childhood collecting dust: “Banco de iglesias”.
I choose not to like this and the diminutive “banca”. I’ll pass.
Blanca was a beauty I knew long ago North of Madrid. A friend.
Too similar. As is Banco Santander. It’s not the word for me.
I consider that there must be an equivalent to pew.
Everyone else is now standing. As am I. I see
row upon row of people queueing at their bancas.
For all the progress the acoustics aren’t what they used to be.
Neither are the windows. Neither are we.

Perdona nuestras ofensas.

Settling in

I feel I am finally beginning to find my way in Madrid. Large cities are peculiar – I live in a small, provincial town.

I like to get up, desayunar and have a walk for an hour first thing. Madrid is better early. Certainly, to a Scotsman it is better early. The facade is lifted and people yawn, walk slowly, wash steps and greet each other in a relaxed fashion.

Cities are often characterised as grand dame. Madrid, I challenge, is like a middle aged man refusing to grow old. The man who dyes his hair too black and wears a leather jacket with a casual – yet expensive – shiny shirt. In the evening the city is flirtatious and sparkles in the coloured lights. In the morning it creaks and it’s old joints give it away.

There is no disguising the fact that the economy has done badly. Many people sit at the street side and have signs protesting unemployment or lack of housing. I feel guilty – albeit my flat is no more than a room with a bed in the attic space. I have stopped a couple of times to speak with people holding signs and clearly needing to speak about their situation. I realised how lonely people become when society withdraws from them.

I arrived just as several of the Christian celebrations started. I say “celebrations” but in a joyful city most Christian celebration seems to involve guilt, penitence and shaming! Thousands of people, literally, filled the streets around the Church of Jesus in the Literary barrio and tried as much as possible to look contrite. On the Friday a good few even managed to cry. Many, however, treated it like a street party for the Queen and had food, flasks and some witty banter. They are still Spanish however sincere their faith.

Last night the centre of the city came to a complete standstill. International Women’s Day was a massive event here. Many thousands filled Cibeles, Gran Via, Paseo del Prado and beyond. Helicopters floated overhead, television crews mingled, loudspeakers repeated chants and demonstrations sat alongside parties. In Sol there were A4 paper posters displaying the details of all the women reported as assaulted or killed in the past year throughout Spain. It was very potent with many people visibly shaken by the numbers and the stories some people had posted of their own experiences and added to the displays.

I leave you with a snap of the Taxi drivers of Madrid in queues – many not appreciating the road blocks and diversions put in place for the Womens Day marches.

Black and White or Colour…

Frequently asked. These 2 snaps from the roof – I am trying to decide which I prefer. It is not the content – clearly – but B&W somehow offers more in spite of having no colour. Can’t decide which shots to post.

Saturday walk

I had a short walk around the North East (?) side of the centre. I like being away from the tourist heart a bit. Strange, given I am staying slap bang in the centre at Plaza Mayor! Ended up back in centre – I used Cathedral as a marker. There is a small moorish garden next to the Cathedral. It – and the area around it – were the location of the early period in Madrid’s history. The location of the Palacio Real – Catedral and Plaza Mayor were an encampment to help protect against troop movements on Andalusia.

Restaurant Botin – just off the Plaza Mayor – is very old indeed and Goya allegedly worked there as a waiter. It claims to be the oldest surviving restaurant in continuous service. It is easily found by the continuous groups of walking tours outside :-)

First evening stroll

I managed the first proper stroll this evening around Madrid. I saw a Sardine in a coffin being paraded through the streets before being interred at a Royal Garden Palace. A touch unusual.

Snaps:

The final image is the old North Station – such a shame to see such a magnificent building in that condition.