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Postings 155 to 160

Log #160. The Scavengers

In Madrid (Salamanca barrio) we have rubbish collections almost every night - except odd Saturdays and public holidays.

The garbagemen do their rounds at around midnight. They also have sweeper-uppers who come round in the summer, and both of these are followed by a gang who wash the streets down - necessary because of the red dust that would otherwise coat every building, car and object in the street. But we also have another group of rubbish men: The Scavengers.

Every night, the official cleaners are preceded by groups of gyspies and their trucks, who scour the bins and tips for anything that can be re-used, sold as scrap or otherwise recycled. They take all sorts of stuff, especially anything metal, wood or plastic, but also paper and cardboard. And they're organised too: one truck will concentrate on, say, wood and metals, followed by a plastics specialist and then the paper / cardboard gang. By the time the official teams arrive almost half of the trash has already gone. This is, of course, totally illegal and breaks every hygiene rule in the EU book. But everyone turns a blind eye as it is efficient and it saves a trip to the dump for anyone wanting to get rid of a broken fridge, an old mattress etc.

Log #159. MMT Estudiantes Save Themselves

Switched on the TV tonight and saw big celebrations going on following the end of a basketball match.

Basketball is an important game in Spain and at the time of writing the country is the reigning World Champions. No, really. Better than the Yanks even. Who'd a thunk it?

Anyway, cause for celebrations? The 'historic' Madrid team MMT Estudiantes had saved themselves from relegation in the final match of the ABC league season, thus securing their proud record of being an ever present since the league’s formation back in 1955. It is one of only three such clubs, together with Real Madrid and Joventut.

MMT fans, known as the Demencia, are well known for being quite batty. The club was originally formed from a well known school (The Instituto Ramiro de Maeztu) on Serrano, near to Republica Argentina, and the hard-core of support emanate from there. And being young student types they have a lot of energy so do a lot of shouting. Balloons and streamers are used assiduously. They bounce up and down in the stands. It's also a 'sympathetically' popular team - Madrileños in general have a soft spot for them - particularly as they're classic underdogs, never winning anything (bar a few minor domestic cups) but being league runners-up four times (most recently 2003/04).

For tonight's crucial game (I should point out I had no idea about any of this crucialness until I was filled in by a mate) the demented ones had travelled in impressive numbers to León to support their team so the arena was about a quarter full of blue-shirted aficionadios willing their heroes on. Well, it worked. And we will see the Estudiantes in the Premier League next season. If you fancy attending a match, probably best to buy ear mufflers.

Log #158. Franco Rigged Eurovision Song Contest

According to a TV documentary shown tonight, called “1968. I lived through the Spanish May” and aired on La Sexta, the Eurovision Song Contest of 1968 was rigged by the Fascist regime of Francisco Franco to ensure the Spanish entry won. The Spanish singer Massiel triumphed with the creatively titled song ‘La, la, la’, by only one point, beating UK legend Cliff Richard, who was singing his (now) classic ‘Congratulations’.

Director Montse Fernandez Vila has claimed that RTE executives toured Europe offering cash and promising to buy television series and contract unknown artists from other Eurovision member states to influence the vote. At that time the winner of the competition was decided by a jury comprised of 10 members from each of the 17 countries participating with each member awarding one point to their favourite song. "There is evidence that votes were bought to secure a win for Massiel," said the director. "The regime was acutely aware of the need to improve their image… Looking back at the parties that were organised and the way Massiel was turned into a national hero - it seems a bit excessive for a song festival but it all served to glorify the regime," she said.

No need to rig this year’s soon upcoming contest though. After last year’s debacle, when the Spanish thought they had winner and were cruelly denied by colluding newly arrived Eastern European nations who all voted for each other, they’ve gone ironic. For 2008 their entry is called Chikichiki - a comedy, samba rap complete with crap-but-easy-to-learn dance. Even if Chikichiki gets nul points in the competition it's bound to be a summer hit. So consider yourself warned if you’re holidaying on the playas this season.

Log #157. 2nd of May in Madrid

Log #156. Spot The Kitteh

Spanish Kitteh.

Picture taken at the Estanque by the lake in Retiro Park, Madrid.

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