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Web Log Archive

Postings 71 to 75.

Log #75. Back to Blighty

Wotcher! There will be a short break in transmission as Madrid-Uno is heading back to England for a holiday - where he intends to sleep a great deal. These bionic Madrileños have fair knocked him out. See ya!

Log #74. Los Reyes Magos

¡Hola! ¿Qué Tal? Madrid-Uno got a bit caught on the hop today. Apparently, for Spaniards, the night of the 5th January and the day of the 6th mark the real end of the year, when they celebrate the night and festival of what we call the 'Three Wise Men'. And boy do they celebrate. Madrid-Uno was treating it as another working day and was doing a report for his clients when a knock at the door from Sabrina broke his concentration. "Are you ready then?" - "Ready for what exactly?" - "For the procession and party?" - "Eh?".

After a brief explanation Madrid-Uno was forced to drop all intentions of work (sorry, Jon, BTW, will get that doc to you Monday OK?) and was led by the hand over to the Paseo de la Castellana to watch the Cavalgada de Reyes (cavalcade - or procession - of the Kings). Kicking off at about 6.00pm and taking 3 hours to reach its ultimate end in Plaza Cibeles, this was similar to the Notting Hill parade but without the soca beat. The procession of floats, marching bands, cavalry and various weirdos dressed up in spangly costumes was pretty damn good, Plaza Cibeles during la Cavalgada Reyes Magos. even if the crowds were so thick on either side of the avenue that it was difficult to see everything. However, the organisers had set up giant video screens at various junctures to help get an overall view of events, which also included a spectacular Chinese-themed show at Cibeles put on by the Chinese national theatre (and no, I don't know what Chineseys have to with a Catholic / Christian festival but hey, this is the 21st Century and we're all friends now... except for those Islamo-fascists who hate everyone, including, it would appear, most of their fellow co-religionists). Finally came the three kings - Rey Melchor, Rey Gaspar and Rey Baltasar (a white bloke blacked-up - they'd never allow that in London, them loony lefties would be screaming RACE before you could say Klu Klux Klan). When these last floats arrived there was a mini-surge from the children in the crowd because the kings and their helpers chuck out thousands and thousands of sweeties. The particularly greedy kids have nets to catch as many bonbons as poss. Madrid-Uno didn't get any and sulked on the way to the nearest bar to discuss with Sabrina the rest of the night...

...which turned out to be another night of boozing, dancing and SHOUTING VERY LOUDLY AT EACH OTHER over the sound systems of various bars and clubs. My losing lottery ticket for Los Reyes Joining up with Carmen I and Carmen II we wandered around Huertas sampling various music styles. Madrid-Uno was introduced to Pachanga (defined on Google as jolgorio ruidoso y desordenado) - i.e. incredibly noisy Spanish pop music. During the time Madrid-Uno has been in this wonderful city he has grown to love and respect many things about Spain and its people, but he has to say their pop music is beyond dire, rivalling the Dutch and Iti's for sheer crapness. Still, with a few whisky cokes inside one almost anything is listenable (almost anything) and yet another 'great night out' was had. Particular kudos goes out to both Carmens for sweet-talking the doormen into letting a clearly tired and emotional Madrid-Uno into the various nightspots despite his dirty sneakers. Besos a vosotros wapas.

Log #73. Delicious Pork Based Products

This A counter at one of the many Museo de Jamon's that are dotted around Madrid city. is a country devoted to the art of Jamón (ham). As Tim Stannard recently wrote at football365.com, "Ham is so vital to Spanish life that vegetarians genuinely consider it to be a permissible part of their diet, as if it grew on trees - on porcupines, perhaps. Valencia CF were recently forced to sell one of their strikers, Francisco Tavano, after a paper revealed to its shocked readers that the Italian attacker was not a ham fan."

Over Xmas, rather than ads for Quality Street or After Eights, instead you get loads of offers for massive legs of cured pork and associated goods, like ham racks (for hanging them) and knives (for carving). Newspapers carry full page ads for them as well and on almost every street you will find a shop devoted to porcine goods. One of the most famous of these is the Museo del Jamón chain (shop in Goya pictured) which act as both a shop and a restaurant / tapas bar, although there are many other small chains and independents as well. They serve other, non-ham, products as well, but it seems a bit silly to go to the house of ham and then order squid. No, no, no, if you go, and you should, stick to the meat and order a selection plate or a bocadillo de jamón with a nice fresh beer. The selection is huge. Madrid-Uno did get a full run-down on all the different types from Sonia when we grabbed a lunch there, but there were so many varieties, different grades and cuts that he forgot most of what he was told. If you want to really go upscale though the best stuff is the Pata Negra and Lomo Reserva, although quite frankly it all tastes good.

Log #72. Asesinos

¡Hola! ¿Qué Tal? Misterio is in town, back from his jaunts in Sweden seducing tall blonde ice-maidens, and after a lateish night boozing and catching up with his mates he has resolved on a morning stroll through Gran Via / Sol / Huertas to clear the head. Madrid-Uno struggles along after him. As we approach Sol there's some kind of massive disturbance going down. Getting closer we see it's a demonstration. Lots of people are waving Spanish flags and there's a small platform in front of the mayor's building where speakers are addressing the crowd with megaphones. A deep rumbling starts up that coalesces into a chant of "Asesinos, Asesinos, Asaesinos..." and all becomes clear - it's a manifestación against ETA brought on by the New Year's bombing. Poster protesting against ETA. Misterio points out that although there are some youngsters milling about the vast majority of protestors are 50+ years. He explains that this demographic is much more political than the rest and, in Madrid at least, much more conservative than the country as a whole. For these people, el presidente Zapatero (known as Bambi) is a traitor for even speaking to ETA (which he had been doing prior to the bombing) and many think the 2004 Atocha bombing (also known as 11-M) was ETA too, whatever the investigators said. We skirt round the back of the crowd and continue our walk, discussing the political fall-out from Atocha which resulted in Aznar and the PP losing the elections. Whilst Misterio is fairly apolitical, being primarily interested in getting laid as often as possible, he is 100% Madrileño and a sceptic concerning the PSOE - the socialist party - which has a history of playing dirty and fast and loose with the truth. He told Madrid-Uno that papers like El Mundo and El Razon have been producing evidence showing inconsistencies in the police reports and linking the explosives used with ETA. Their problem is that they're arguing for a fairly big conspiracy that pulls in the PSOE, the police, the French and Moroccan secret services and even GAL (Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación), who were anti-ETA, so it's a tough one to argue. Much better, he says, to drink beer and chat up women, because politics in Spain is a wasps nest. But then, that's the same everywhere innit?

Log #71. Rebajas

¡Hola! ¿Qué Tal? Surf Chick's sister and mum are in town for the sales and being the naive idiot he is Madrid-Uno agrees to go along with them. Rebajas. Stupid decision. Five hours later, with his feet hurting and weighed down by at least 12 shopping bags he staggers back to SC's flat. Madrid-Uno had forgotten his girls and shopping rule: "Never ever bloody anything ever".

Spain's economy is booming right now and there's no shortage of shoppers. In the posher districts things are fairly civilised, maybe a bit of elbowing, a little shove here and there, but downtown at Preciados and the central district it's hold on to your hats and scrum-down. Shop windows are screaming 'REBAJAS' (reductions), 'PRECIOS UNICOS', and even 'SALES' in English, with discount percentages in big, bold letters. Every item not nailed down is examined critically, discussed earnestly, laid back down then picked up again for further analysis and argument. Madrid-Uno catches Surf-Chick's eye at one point and it's clear she's as frazzled as he, but it's her mum and sister's day and so we persevere. Eventually she sweet-talks mum into returning home for a rest but even the walk to the nearest metro station results in one more purchase. After depositing the family back at base Madrid-Uno makes a feeble excuse about needing to catch up on his email and escapes. They have not finished yet, oh no, the shops will stay open 'til 10.00 in the evening and this is merely a pit-stop, but Madrid-Uno is finished, 100% rebaja'd, fully discounted and bruised all over by matronly elbows, and he's going for a beer and a kip.

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