Friday, 25 September 2009

Blognotes Inc.

I was flicking through the little notebook I carry everywhere with me and found loads of little entries marked "For Blog". None of which have been. So here is a somewhat random selection of stuff, some of it from right back when I arrived! And exactly how I found them in my notes:

- El Corte Inglés - important to have accent on Inglés otherwise it means a groin wax!
- Guy on Metro asking for money by thrusting a note in your face. Can't speak at all or just can't speak Spanish?
- César - at Quiet Man - chat about paganism. Emailed me. Oops, who is he? Can't remember.
- C/de la Huertas - Veggie deli, Moroccan restaurant, Karma Indian, lots of stuff, v touristy, prob not cheap.
- Esto no sierve para nada - This is good for nothing!
- Spanish don't really do birthday cards!
- Little local veggie restaurant (Ceres) full of workmen at lunchtime. (Not sure if I thought this was a good or bad thing!)
- Nacho's "other" friend = Jaime
- Why can't I buy just one potato?
- Terramoto = earthquake. Maremoto = seaquake. What the hell is a seaquake?
- Keep being asked question/directions especially at bus stops. Do I really look Spanish?
- Why don't Spaniards seem to sweat or smell in this heat?!
- There are almost as many travel agencies as hairdressers.
- Ferreterias - key cutting places. Millions of them. Do the Spanish lose their keys a lot?
- In 39 degrees, I suddenly understand the need for shutters on all windows and doors.
- Ugly Naked Guy on balcony opposite. Stares a lot. Maybe we should flash him!
- Guy in the little convenience store across the road knows what I want the minute I walk in. Predictable?
- That's 2 entire buildings near me they've knocked down now in 3 months.
- Great city. Apart from the dog poo.
- I should really have found a job by now!

Not scintillating, I realise but they were starting to annoy me every time I flicked through my notes. So now it's done. Blogged. As planned. Well, not quite as planned. I'll shut up now.

I'll just walk in the road, then!

Just recently, the roadworks etc right outside the flat have been looking like coming to an end. October, they promised us. I'm not convinced but at least it's improving!

However, I now see that they've just moved.

Calle del Capitan Blanco Argibay, the fairly main road near me is becoming impassable. First they dug up the pavement on one side, completely, so everyone had to use the other pavement.
Now, rather spectacularly, not only have they dug up some of the useable side, but along the part they haven't dug up, they've just put up scaffolding. There is a whole stretch of the road with nowhere for pedestrians at all.

So we're taking our lives in our hands and walking in the fairly narrow road, full of taxis with their horns blaring, psychos on scooters who never seem to look where they're going, and buses that are almost the same width as the road.

Frankly, if I keep making it to and from the Metro station in one piece, it'll be a miracle.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Louise's moving day!

OK, so I should be lesson planning but I can't get Word to open (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it) so it's time to catch up on blogging.

Last weekend saw Louise, one of my Australian friends here, moving out of her little house. The very house that I lived in for a month when I first arrived. She's going back to Australia in a month and for the next 4 weeks, will be variously in Madrid, Santander and Mallorca. So it was time to quit the house.

For days, if not weeks, beforehand, she'd been talking about packing, and the move, and storing stuff elsewhere. I'd already said that she could leave a couple of cases at my place until she leaves.

The day of the move came around and when I texted her at 12 to see how it was going, what came back was "I'm up to my neck in it here. I need a calming influence. Please come." Now, I'm pretty sure I've never been called a calming influence before, but there's a first time for everything so off I trotted, having called in reinforcements in the shape of Debbie.

When I arrived, I could see what she meant! The landlady was coming for the keys at 6pm and the place looked like a bomb had hit it. She'd made a good start but really, 2 years' worth of accumulated stuff is an awful lot when you have it all piled in a tiny room. Wrongly, I assumed upstairs was finished. Not a bit of it. Not least, one of the wardrobes was locked and stuck that way. Various attempts were made by both of us to open it to rescue her work suits but it resisted any and all attempts, nice or otherwise. Still, once I was there, we cracked on with the rest and slowly but surely, it all came together. Or at least, it all came downstairs. Debbie arrived soon after and lo and behold, a bit of Reiki and positive thinking (not to mention a screwdriver and some now missing wood from the lock) resulted in the wardrobe popping open and releasing its contents!

Downstairs, the main focus of attention was the huge wooden cupboard/press/thing! The drawer at the top contained, well, a bit of anything and everything, as drawers like that are wont to do. The main part of the cupboard contained 2 years' worth of teaching materials! So much paper! I believe there may have been an entire Brazilian rainforest in there. Not any more. Now it's mostly in the recycling bin nearby. Debbie and I even found it quite therapeutic taking regular trips to the recycling places, and the bins, so I imagine it was either more so, or very painful, for Louise!!!

Finally, everything was packed up. There were 4 cases, innumerable bags and boxes plus of course the odds and sods that we kept stumbling over that she had forgotten about!

It took a total of 3 taxi journeys (2 to my place and 1 to Debbie's) to shift it all. The corner of my bedroom has now disappeared, and Debbie's flatmates are marvelling at the arrival of actual kitchen equipment (like forks, for instance!), and a working TV and DVD player. In true Louise style, she was determined to pass on/recycle as much of it as possible, so Debbie and I have her to thank for our large bags full of goodies! Debbie was unfeasibly excited by a pot of plastic animals - I'm hoping due to her imminent teaching of children!

It was a fun, but exhausting day, and has served to convince me that I must not accumulate stuff while I'm here if I can possibly help it! I don't want to be faced with that if/when I leave.

Louise, for a nomad, you're a terrible hoarder, love! And we will be very sad to see you go!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Strum strum strum

Finally, after 6 months and 5 days here, I have a guitar! I didn't bring mine with me due to luggage constraints and the fact that I don't have 12 hands!

For the first few months I didn't miss it so much. I had plenty of other things to do, plus I went back to the UK twice and could play mine while I was there.

But my week at Pueblo Inglés was a reminder. Unlike Vaughan Town, there is a guitar at each venue with PI so I got to play. Not as much as I wish I had the nerve to, and probably should have. But in a couple of group activities, quietly in the bar area a couple of times, and then outside on the last morning. And I realised how much I missed it. Not so much the performing, because unlike singing, I haven't really played the guitar in public all that much. Just simply having it there, in reach, to play around with when I'm bored or can't sleep or feeling a bit down.

I have to admit to there being another incentive. A certain rather lovely guy who I met on the program (yes, the one mentioned in a previous blog) picked up the guitar when I put it down on the last day, said he really wanted to learn so I taught him a couple of chords. He's clearly musical so picked it up easily. On his return home, an infuriating 6000 miles away, he bought himself a (very nice) guitar! Which just made me want one more.

So I trawled through strange Spanish eBay, and a couple of second hand websites til I found some. I struck lucky with my 3rd attempt. A 2-year old, good condition, Spanish classical, nylon strung guitar could be mine for the princely sum of €40. All I had to do was meet a complete stranger at an out of the way Metro station. "Just look for the guy carrying the guitar", he said. Well, to be fair, that's exactly what I did.

I gave the guitar a test run, sitting on a bench in the street while I chatted to Mark, the seller, a Brit who's been living in Spain for 2 years variously as an English teacher, a guitarist and a music teacher. He plays amazing flamenco guitar and gave me a little demo, which made my embarrassing little test play even more mortifying.

We ended up chatting for over an hour about all sorts of stuff. That's what I like about this country. In the UK, if I'd bought a guitar of a guy on the internet, I'd have gone to his house, checked it was in one piece, handed over the money and that would have been that. People here have the time and the inclination to chat, are interested in your story and happy to tell their own. He has since sent me info about good guitar shops in Madrid, how not to get ripped off should I decide to take flamenco guitar lessons, and I've sent him info about the whale and dolphin watching company I holidayed with once, and about a garlic restaurant in San Francisco. Weird and wonderful.

So anyway, I'm the proud new owner of a lovely guitar! Now I should really practice more......

Moroccan munchies

Thursday was Louise's birthday, so a group of us went to Arabia, a very lovely restaurant near Chueca.

I can certainly recommend the ambience of the place - it looked and felt like you'd want it to. Lots of cushions, low seating, carved wood, nice music.

Yet somehow it appears we pissed off the main waitress simply by arriving. Maybe it was the fact there were 7 of us for a booking of 10, but these things happen. Can't be helped.

Because we were a group, we had to have the set menu which basically means not ordering off the menu, you get what you're given. It's a starter, a main and a dessert per person, a glass of cava and a bottle of wine between every 3 people.

A couple of us had ordered a beer at the beginning but confusingly, this resulted in said stroppy waitress immediately starting to collect up all 7 wine glasses and try to take them away. We pointed out that wine came with our set menu and could we please have our glasses back. Cue them being banged back down on the table at each place setting!

7 very delicious all vegetarian starters arrived. No complaints. Divine. All of them.

Then 7 main courses. I'm assured they were lovely, but unfortunately only one was veggie so my main course consisted of 2 spoonfuls of couscous! Partly my fault for not checking, I admit.

7 little baklava style cakes, the little glass of cava and the most sugary mint tea in the world followed.

Really, the only downer was the behaviour of the one waitress who continuously glared at us, banged things on the table, snatched things away and was generally entirely undeserving of a tip. Which is why she didn't get one!

All in all, it was a great evening though, as the company was marvellous. I learnt all kinds of things about wine, courtesy of Rafa.

I'll be going back there again, but to order from the menu next time. And hopefully when the waitress is in a better mood! Or on a day off.