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Web Log Archive

Postings 51 to 55.

Log #55. Día Sin Alcohol

Madrid public education advertisement. Madrid's public authority is on the whole pretty good. All in all they run a decent city. However, they too are not beyond wasting money on futile, 'nanny-state' public 'initiatives'. Just as in London, where Hizhonner Ken spends Londoner's own money reminding them that they're united and happy (onward, brothers, onward to the revolution!) the Madrid camara also likes to redistribute people's taxes to the poor and deserving - the advertising and media agencies - and cover the city with tv ads, print ads, radio ads, billboards, posters and flyers, either telling everyone that they're happy or telling everyone to stop doing things so that they can be even happier.

The picture shown here is a newspaper ad from a local freesheet left in the foyer of Madrid-Uno's edificio. On November 15th Madrid-Uno went out and did a little local survey to see how effective the spending had been. Well, it was rainy outside, but through various misted windows the boozing and smoking seemed to be carrying on as normal. Perhaps everyone only had 2 drinks instead of three that day. Yeah, right.

Log #54. Bocatas de Calamares

I am the hunter. I seek food. I seek prey. Today I shall kill and feed my hungry belly. Stretching my limbs as I shake the drowsiness from my body I prepare a plan in my head. On Sundays there is always good hunting to be had in Plaza Mayor so I shall prowl carefully through Goya and Recoletos, then southwards towards Retiro - good cover there - and then upwards to Atocha where I can make my final aproach to the weakest flank of Mayor through Embajadores and Sol. It is a clear bright morning and only a slight breeze. A fine day is in hand.

Concealing myself expertly within the urban jungle I reach Atocha undisturbed. My nostrils sense the heady mixture of chocolate and churros in this busy den of monkeys but I ignore it. I have bigger quarry on my mind. A short run to Sol. It's busy. The monkeys are chattering - they always babble so much the fools - but they haven't sensed me. Plaza Mayor is open habitat, too much wide-open space, so I circle back through some narrow passages and position myself downwind for the ambush. There it is! Creeping forward, judging the attack distance, stalking the victim, and then, POUNCE!. "Dos Bocate de Calamare por favor, y un poco di salsa brava - Para llevar."

Back in my lair death comes swiftly and silently to the two fried squid sandwiches with chilli sauce. I retire under my duvet for a contented snooze.

Log #53. Almudena Day

¡Hola! ¿Qué Tal? The 9th of November is a holiday in honour of the patron saint of Madrid, La Virgen de la Almudena (it's who the cathedral is dedicated to - the 'Real Catedral de Santa Marķa de la Almudena'). Madrid-Uno was lucky enough to be invited out by the most gorgeous Sabrina for drinks and a dinner. Meeting at Metro station Bilbao we wander down to Plaza dos de Mayo where the botellón is in full progress and the whiff of spliff hangs heavy in the air. We eat at Pizzeria Sandos and the pizzas are properly made, i.e. in the Italian fashion, not the stupid 'deep crust' American style abominations you get at Pizza Hut or the like. We are alerted to a sudden kerfuffle in the square; the police have arrived and everyone is rushing to get rid of the 'evidence', ditching their bottle and stashing the hash. After a pleasant meal we drop into Cafe Manuela, a botilleria on Calle de San Vicente Ferrer for a couple of drinks. Light and bright, there's a small bar but lots of tables and benches. Board and parlour games seem to be the order of the day. Lots of tables are full of groups playing snakes and ladders, Trivial Pursuit, Connect-4 etc., a massive range of which are available from a table at the back. Also, lots of Yank accents so clearly it's a popular place with the language schools.

Log #52. Halloween

¡Hola! ¿Qué Tal? The most wonderful Jasmine invited Madrid-Uno out to a 'Galician Halloween' evening at Cafe Bar La Trini on C/ Santisima Trinidad, 28 (Metro - Rios Rosas). La Trini cafe barNow, halloween is not normally part of the Spanish calendar, being an Anglo Sajon invention, however the Madrileños live by the rule of any excuse for a party so we've got horror movies on the telly, children dressed as witches and warlocks in the streets and bars and clubs all decked out with skeletons etc. La Trini has been up and running for only 7 months. It's a project managed by pair of Galician brothers and the result is a friendly, immaculate cafe / bar that serves the most scrumptious Galician food that has quickly become a hit with the locals who know good grub when they eat it. Madrid-Uno arrives at 10.45 pm to a huge roar. Wow, now that's a friendly welcome! But no, Chelsea FC have just equalised against the hated Barcelona in their Champions League group match. Still, the place is now really buzzing and a great night follows. At midnight the elder brother patron cooks up a special Gallego alcoholic concoction called Queimada which is a special aguadente they make to celebrate the Spring equinox. A cauldron is set up at one end of the bar. Calling for silence, the chef begins an incantation to the spirits of the night (el Exconxuro da Queimada) whilst adding various ingredients to the bowl each time he ask us to 'touch the horns' (tocanse os cornos) of various animals he mentions (rams, bulls, stags etc.) It's a tour de force. He has the whole bar's rapt attention and with a final explosion of fire when he lights the flame a great round of applause breaks out as warm clay cups of the aguardente are handed round. "With this ladle I will raise the flames of this hell-like fire, and the witches will flee on their broomsticks, to bathe on the fat-pebbled beach. Hear, hear, the howls of those who burn in the aguardiente and thereby purify themselves. And when this brew runs down our throats, we will be free of all the sins of our soul and of all witchcraft." Well, maybe, but it's sure potent this Queimada and a couple of hours later, as Madrid-Uno makes his farewells, he's definitely staggering rather then walking home.

Here is the recipe for Queimada courtesy of the head barrista at La Trini. Watch out - it's knockout stuff!

Log #51. La Lluvia

¡Hola! ¿Qué Tal? It's raining in Madrid! I arrived here in the middle of scorchio June and there's barely been a drop of water, other than the odd scattered shower, since. But for the last two days it's been like England and it's been chucking it down. Still, it helps beat 'homesickness'. Actually, the Madrileños have been quite happy about it raining. They have all been telling Madrid-Uno, 'we need the water'.

Madrilenos waiting at the bus shelter on a rainy day Ayuntamiento de Madrid - manhole cover

On another note, it seems that the Madrileños think that their tap water is very high quality. They're quite proud about it. Apparently, the main water supply comes from underground springs so it's quite pure and tasty. Madrid-Uno doesn't know if that's exactly true but certainly the tap water is 100% fine for drinking and the local beer, Mahou, is excellent. Nowadays, with the city growing so fast, Madrid has to supplement its natural supplies by stealing water from other parts of the region. Water conservation is a big issue for the whole country, particularly down South with the growth of the tourist resorts (lots of golf courses for the English, hehe) combined with the pressure on irrigation for agricultural production. The North-East gets lots of rain but it's such a large country it's difficult to spread it around as it were. Anyway, it's raining and that's good for now.

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