Saturday, 8 January 2011

Christmas and That

First of all, Happy New Year to you all: let's hope it's a good 'un, despite all evidence to the contrary. And apologies for the lack of posting - the pie biz went insane in December (I must have sold 400-500 mince pies!), and then it was Christmas, and now the web biz has gone crazy. Moan, moan, whinge, whinge.

Our Christmas kicked off about a week early when we had our traditional mince pies, mulled wine and carol singing bash. 30-40 people crammed themselves into our little flat, and a great time was had by all.

The Offspring visited us for a lovely week. His departure from Heathrow on the 22nd was touch and go right until the plane's wheels left the tarmac (you may remember Heathrow Airport's astonishment and total failure to cope with a bit of snow and ice since the previous Saturday).

I treated Offspring to a tour of all the local supermarkets, trying to find Brussels sprouts, but picking up several tons of other stuff on the way. Because he's young and fit, I made him carry all the stuff, and he began eyeing old ladies' shopping trolleys with envy. I said I was willing to buy one (and I really do need one now, with the amount of flour and meat I buy now for the pies), as long as it was tartan-free. Don't get me wrong: tartan looks great on kilts and bagpipes, but for God's sake, why do shopping trolley manufacturers think it looks good on their products? Anyway, we managed to find a plain one in a funky purple, and so it was purchased.

On Christmas Eve we went to the movies to see Little Fockers. I'm not thrilled by the Focker movies - I find the humour a little too crude for my refined and snobbish tastes, but MamaDuck and the Offspring enjoyed it, so that was okay.

Parsnips are pretty much like Unobtainium in Madrid (I have seen them as part of a cocido vegetable mix at Lidl, but that involves, like, going into Lidl). Brussels sprouts were pretty thin on the ground too - a tour of five local supermarkets produced one packet of frozen ones, but then I spotted fresh ones in a fruit and veg shop nearby, so I got some of those too. I don't normally go a bundle on sprouts, but this year I did this recipe from Gordon Ramsay, and they were very good indeed.

I fancied having a goose for Christmas dinner this (last, 2010) year, but it was not to be. Enquiries at poultry stalls in the local market had me wondering if 'oca' meant 'stoat' or 'raccoon', rather than 'goose' as my dictionary told me, such was the bewildered response from the stallholders. Even having a friend enquire of the poulterer he's used for 20 years (and who did once manage to get my friend a goose, although it turns out it was 10 years ago now) drew a blank. So, no goose for us, and I didn't fancy cochinillo (suckling pig), so it was the ever-reliable turkey.

The one I got turned out to be a bit too big for our oven, so I ended up having to roast it without its legs and parson's nose. But the seven of us enjoyed it, and we've been eating the leftovers for the past week. All gone now, thankfully.

As a surprise, I'd bought us all tickets for a circus on Boxing Day. It was the first show of the day, 12 noon. Imagine my joy when I awoke at 5 to 12. I was all for forgetting about it, but MamaDuck woke like a shot, forced tea down us in record time, got us into a taxi and had us strolling into the big top at 12.15, just as the show was starting. And it was very, very good. It's owned by Teresa Rabal - not a name I'd ever heard of, but speaking to a Spanish friend the other day, she's what kids of several generations grew up on (possibly the singing equivalent of John Noakes and Valerie Singleton to Brit kids). A bit of a legend, in other words.

The Offspring left on the 28th, and after we'd seen him off at the airport we got the new 24-hour airport bus service and finished up at Cibeles. We had lunch at the James Joyce pub and when we came out I noticed that the queue for the Belén (Nativity scene) at Nuestra Señora de Communiciones (formerly the main Post Office, now the Municipality HQ) was very short. We joined it, and we were inside in about ten minutes. I'd suspected that this year's Belén would be a small and disappointing affair, what with Spain being bankrupt and that, but it wasn't. It was enormous and splendid - the best I've ever seen. After that we went for a wander in Retiro Park, where we saw a red squirrel wandering around a lawn, and as the sun set we went to look at the marvellous Christmas lights on Calle Serrano.

We had an elaborate plan for New Year's Eve. We were going to wander up to the Plaza de Castilla, from where we might be able to see some fireworks. But at about 11.30 we decided not to do that. So we stayed home and watched it on the telly. I picked out the best 24 grapes that we had (silly Spanish tradition - eat one grape for each bong of the midnight bells and you'll have good luck for the next year), and dug out the cava flutes. One of MamaDuck's brothers Skyped us from the UK at ten to midnight, and stayed with us until New Year arrived in the Canaries (and the UK, of course) an hour later. Great fun, and an unexpected pleasure. We stayed up for an hour or two after that, watching old clips of Spanish stars doing their stuff - one of them was a young Teresa Rabal!

In the following days I tried to do some work, but my heart wasn't in it. The Christmas season in Spain doesn't end until the Magic Kings have been - they come on the evening of 5th Jan and the kids wake up to get their presents on the 6th. We toyed with the idea of taking the stepladder and watching the main parade on the Paseo de la Castellana, but MamaDuck came home from wherever she'd been with the idea that there would be a Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos on Calle Bravo Murillo, a very short walk from where we live. So we went to that one instead (I hadn't realised before, but many of the outlying barrios of Madrid have their own parades) - it was a much smaller affair, but it did mean we actually got some of the sweets that they throw from the floats, and we got to see Teresa Rabal yet again on the Circus's float.

So there ya go. Another magical Madrid festive season, only slightly ruined by the introduction of a smoking ban in all bars and restaurants. Sales of outdoor heaters are rocketing, apparently.

¡Feliz Año a todos!


Macthomson said...

Nice to have you back. Your account of the holiday is very enjoyable reading and... congratulations on the success of the mince pies!

Istanbilly said...

Wotcher Keffieboy - happy festive stuff and what have you. Hope 2011 is absolutely fabulous and the pie business makes you loads of dosh!

Best wishes to mama duck

Cheers from both of us

Mr and Mrs Istanbilly

Seabee said...

Best to you too for 2011 (can it really be 2011 already?).

Well done with the pie biz, that seems to have taken off nicely.

Jayne said...

Crikey, you have been busy! All the best for this year keefie & I hope your businesses go from strength to strength :-)