Tuesday, 31 March 2009


So, we moved house yesterday, and about an hour ago I managed to extract the configuration information for ADSL from Telefonickers. The previous tenant had very kindly put the phone and ADSL into my name, but couldn't give me the required info, because Telefonickers never actually tell punters that. It's hard-wired into the routers they supply, but I prefer to use my own device. It's prettier, and doesn't have a phone-company logo on it. I'm a bit narked with JazzTel, though. They persuaded me to switch to them as my ISP about six months ago. I had no complaints. The service was what it said on the box and it was signicantly cheaper than Telefonickers. But it turns out they don't cover my new bit of Madrid, so I'm back where I started. Ho hum. It's funny how helpless I feel when I cannot get on line. It was only about 30 hours, and I had a quick fix in the Internet café up the road yesterday evening, but I felt completely lost.

Anyway: packing, moving and unpacking was the usual exhausting nightmare. We'd hired three men with a van, but it soon became apparent that they would have to make two trips. The boss man wanted twice as much money as originally quoted, but I manged to beat him down a bit.

We still have far too much stuff than you can sensibly fit into a modest-sized Madrid apartment, but we do have a trastero (storage room) in the basement. We have, of course, filled it already.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

House Hunting

We finally got fed up of living in the smallest flat in Madrid, and gave the landlord one month's notice at the start of this month. Have we found a new place? Not yet.

Today is a public holiday (St Joseph's Day, methinks), and our agent had made us an appointment to view a brand-new flat in the north of the city. It's quite a bit bigger than what we have now (although not enormous, by any means). The kitchen area is much bigger, and that's important to me. Best of all, there's a dining area where we can do a bit of entertaining, and a separate bedroom so we can have guests staying with us. There is a roof terrace, which is shared by the other six flats: for drying washing, maybe housing our bigger plants, possibly a bit of sunbathing. And there's a big storage room (trastero) in the basement where we can keep the stuff that won't fit into the flat. There's a small park nearby, a view of the northern mountains, and it's a 10-minute Metro ride to the centre.

The landlady and her daughter were very keen on us (because of our obvious maturity, etc), and even reduced the amount of deposit required. We'll be looking at a couple more places over the weekend, and expect to make a decision on Monday.

And back to Chueca. Our building has become a bit of an eyesore. We lost our Portero (watchman) just after Christmas, and the mail doesn't get sorted into our pigeon-holes , we have to take out our own rubbish (some of the occupants don't seem to have realised this yet), the hallways don't get cleaned, the lift breaks down frequently and nobody knows who to call to get it fixed, and there is unsightly graffiti on the street door. Plus the rent has gone up. We feel the landlord is ripping us off. And now that the weather is good again, the buskers have returned to the square - a never-ending stream of accordianistas and trumpeteros who play the same five tunes. Over and over. Badly.

Looking forward to moving!


We didn't get the one I described above, but we have got the one next door - it's a bit bigger - for the same price. WooHoo! Moving on Monday. Relief.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Just A Perfect Day

A couple of our friends in Madrid have a weekend home in a teeny-weeny village 2 hours to the north. They are having it renovated right now, and had to meet the builder today to sort a few things out. They very kindly invited us to go with them.

We love living in Madrid, but sometimes it can feel oppressive, and it is just great to get out of it for a bit. Spain is an enormous country, and outside of the cities it is very sparsely populated. We haven't explored a fraction of it yet, but the feeling you get when you leave the city behind is akin to being in the desert in Dubai. The silence, the enormous sky, the beautiful scenery. Awesome.

We stopped at two cute pueblos on the way. This is Torija...

A beautiful little town with a recently-restored fairy-tale castle in the middle of it.

A few kilometres down the road is Brihuega...

...which has an unusually plain, but handsome church.

In their village, Ocentejo, we enjoyed an outstandingly good lunch, cooked by the chef/owner of the village bar/restaurant. He's a complete nutter, but, boy, can he cook! We also met the mayor of the village, and a few of the residents. When I say 'village', it's more of a hamlet. The permanent population is only 22.

The picture above is of an ancient watchtower on the hill behind our friends' house. Most of the houses in the village are built of stone liberated from this structure.

The moon rose in the afternoon.

This 3m high pole in the village square has a ham-bone hanging from it. During the annual fiesta, the pole is greased, and the local loons try to climb it.

On the way back to Madrid, we stopped to have a look at a spectacular gorge, one or two kilometers out of the village.

The river is a tributary of the Tagus, which eventually finds its way to the sea in Lisbon.

The weather was beautiful, and once the renovation of the house is complete, we are looking forward to more weekends up there. We've promised to dig the garden, build a natural-filtered swimming pool, and any other grovelling that may need to be done.


Thursday, 5 March 2009

2nd Madrid Open Mic Night

Gosh, we Madrid literary types have a busy life. Last night was the second Madrid Open Mic Night - an opportunity for writers (of whatever level) to read to an audience for three minutes. On the whole, I hate public speaking, it scares me s**tless. But it's good practice for when I finally land that publishing deal, go on a huge book tour and get interviewed by Oprah. So it would have been churlish to not participate.

As it happened, I did okay - didn't fluff my lines too badly, and I made a few people laugh. I'd chosen a segment from Tybalt & Theo, but had to seriously edit it to get it down to three minutes.

MamaDuck and Paul House also read, as well as four people that I know from the Madrid Writers Critique Group. There were twenty readers in all, and an audience of about sixty. We had to sit through some fairly tedious poetry, but on the whole it was good fun.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

MAC Magic

I've mentioned the book review site authonomy.com in previous posts. It's a great online community, and I've made several real friends through it because there are at least five members who live in Madrid. We call ourselves the Madrid Authonomy Community (MAC).

At the end of each month, the owners, mega-publisher HarperCollins, skim off the top five of the chart and give them a professional critique by one of their editors. Last month (February) was particularly exciting for me, because two MAC members were in contention. There was a fair bit of jostling for position in the last few hours, but the midnight GMT tickover saw Paul House at number one and Simon Betterton at number two. Which is pretty amazing considering there are several thousand active members.

Paul and Simon had arranged to meet for a celebratory drink, and I joined them. Madrileños are famous for going out late, but I don't think I've ever actually gone out for a drink at one a.m. before.