Saturday, 30 January 2010

A dead nice Saturday afternoon!

A gloriously sunny Saturday afternoon in Madrid seemed like the perfect opportunity to head out to the Cementerio de Neustra Senora de la Almudena (link in Spanish), in the east of the city. Debbie had been meaning to go for ages and hadn't quite made it, despite it being walking distance from her flat, so along with Krisztina, we had a lazy hot chocolate and cake then headed down there, via an impromptu street market where the pirate DVD merchants vied with the old ladies selling lemons, in amongst the actual stalls of clothes.

It's apparently 160 times the size of a football pitch (that doesn't help me at all with my girly spatial awareness problem) - but needless to say, it's HUGE! It covers about 120 hectares and there are approximately 5 million people buried there, not including those in the civil/Jewish cemetery across the road. It was founded in 1884 and was the principal cemetery for the city until 1973 when the Cementerio del Sur in Carabanchel started to be used.

The main entrance is very imposing, which is appropriate given the size of the place. Having seen no warning signs, we were a bit surprised when a guard came over to tell us that we couldn't take photos in the cemetery unless we'd got a permit from the office in advance. Suitably chastened, we apologised, kept walking and as soon as we were out of his sight, started snapping!

The first area is laid out like a Greek cross, with a mix of old and new necropoleis (yes, I checked, that's the plural of necropolis!) and more modern tombs, but no mausolea. However, the further we walked, the older it got until we made it to the much older areas with a Gothic feel. That's what I'd been expecting. Having been to La Cimetiére de Pére Lachaise in Paris, I was looking forward to lots of gloomy stone angels etc, and the older area didn't disappoint. We barely saw anyone else all afternoon and the whole place was very peaceful and relaxing, with a pervading smell of pine trees. On the far side, there's a memorial to "Las Trece Rosas" - dedicated to the 13 young women (7 of them children), members of the Unified Socialist Youth, who were executed there (along with 43 men) on 5th August 1939 by a Francoist firing squad as part of a massive execution campaign.

Once we'd spent about 4 hours wandering around the main part, we headed across the road to the civil/Jewish section where there was a real mixture of graves. Many of them were people who had been born outside Spain, but had died in Madrid, but there were also a large number of historical figures, literary, musical and artistic. The main thing we noticed in this section was the prevalence of Socialist symbolism (hammers and sickles, red flowers) and a lot of Freemasons. A magazine article explained that many of those buried there had been deemed unworthy of a place in the main cemetery due to religious or political reasons.

The day had been kind - bright blue skies, warm sun, none of us got arrested for taking photos, but finally it started to get chilly and we left the peace and quiet to head back towards town for a well-earned beer and then home.

My photos are HERE

Friday, 29 January 2010

Age of consent

While trawling the net this morning for something completely unrelated, I stumbled across this:

Now I know that all parts of the world have different views on morality and acceptable behaviour etc, but some of this is just shocking, given that it's the 21st century and this is supposed to be a civilised world.

Have we really learnt nothing over the years about the unacceptability of certain types of discrimination? Many of these countries practice religions where tolerance is meant to be one of the main tenets. Yeah, right! Not that I believe that religion should come into this particular equation at all.

I'm all for negating the risk of the corruption of minors, but we have brains and common sense and by a certain age (no, I'm not giving my opinion on what that age should be), surely it should be taken as read that we know our own minds, preferences, proclivities and can be trusted to do what we feel is right and natural.

I can't decide what was more surprising:

- the number of countries in which same-sex relations are still completely illegal
- the number where a couple has to be married before having sex
- the places where F/F sex is fine, but not M/M

Though I think first place in the surprise competition (though maybe it shouldn't!) has to go to the age of consent in Vatican City. Really - well done there, guys! Let people get together at a really young age, but whatever you do, don't let them use contraception!

OK, back to what I was meant to be doing before I get started on the global overpopulation problem.....

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Neglected blog, I know!

OK, I haven't updated since New Year's Day. Bad Emma!

What can I say? It's been an up and down month. I was ill for the first 6 days of it, recovered just in time to lose a brand new student before she'd even started, and then go back to classes.

Feeling distinctly sorry for myself, I jumped at the chance of a very short-notice Vaughan Town cos they were desperate for Anglos. I can't quite understand the logic of them booking so many Spaniards onto a program if they're then going to have start frantically looking for Anglos at 3 days notice. The MC and PD had to be Anglos as well as doing their actual jobs, which is ridiculous. Still, I had the usual great time, with lovely people even if I did give up a week's teaching (or rather the money) to do it.

Then I went straight back to teaching again and it's been a busy week with planning, and fitting some extra lessons in to cover the ones I missed. One potential job opportunity passed on by a good mate in France unfortunately came to nothing in the end, but there are a couple of other irons in the fire at the moment. Fingers crossed.

Cathy and I are in the middle of a murder mystery for the beginning of March so that's keeping me busy too. Lots of plotting and silliness.

It appears to have stopped raining/snowing permanently so I'm determined to get out and get some exercise too. I've turned into a flat-bound blob recently!! Living on toast, cheesy pooofs and red wine isn't exactly a healthy lifestyle.

Being completely broke has gone, if I'm honest, from being a bit of an amusing novelty, to being downright annoying. I can't afford to go out and be sociable or buy anything but the absolute basics. I just waited nearly a week before I could get a new battery for my watch, for crying out loud! One of my flatmates is moving out in a couple of weeks, so the bills/internet costs at the flat will go up accordingly, and it looks like I might be looking for a new occupant for my flat (and more importantly, a new cat-sitter) in Brighton sooner than I expected.

Still, I keep reminding myself that this was meant to be an adventure and so far it is. Just not quite how I envisaged it!

I'm at least consoled by the fact that everyone has been VERY supportive over the last 10 months, and they continue to be so. I'm lucky to have lovely people in my life at the moment!

OK, soppiness over. Back to the third person singular and how to murder a male stripper.

Hasta luego.....