Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sheep again, beer again, potatoes.

Sheep Photo boy texted me!
He was still planning to go to Cuenca on Friday at 8pm, and did we still want to go? I did, obviously, wouldn't you? Of course you would! Though when a friend repeated back to me what I'd said- evening trip to beautiful countryside, nice meal with new friends, interesting photo session of people amongst sheep- she made it sound like a stranger(danger) was planning on taking us out into the middle of nowhere, murdering us and chopping us up with only sheep for witnesses. I think I've gotten more naive with age, but why isn't it ok to just believe what people tell you?! Anyway I had to work Saturday morning, as usual, so didn't ever find out. He offered to show me the photos over a beer this week, but I'm pretty sure his appeal was just the novelty sheep photo stuff.

I stayed in on Friday night, which makes 2 in a row! I am a convert to going to bed at a Reasonable Time on a Friday, and working headache-free on a Saturday morning. The thing is, both times I've done this, I've gone for a drink with my friend who also teaches there after we finish. The barmen love her there, and so didn't let us go after just one beer each. So I've ended up, two weeks in a row, tipsy at 1pm. Yesterday we then proceeded to windowshop, giggling, all across Madrid, eating sushi and hotdogs, all the while with a kitchen knife in my bag, sticking out of a large potato.
(It was potato-print day in the wee art class and I had a spare.)

The potato-knife ensemble is now sitting on my bedside table, where it has been since I eventually got home 13 hours after I left for work that morning, and hurriedly emptied my bag to get ready to go out again, to dodgy Chamartin.

I will write about that later, I'm going to inspect the potato, and possibly go stick it in the oven.

ps. I know I sound like an alcoholic, but I'm not really. It's just during the week all I do is work, so there's no much to write about, and basically, weekends in Madrid are about having a wee drink and doing whatever you like. So I do.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Meat man, sheep photography and cheap drinks

I said before that Fatigas del Querer was a good bar. Now I absolutely LOVE IT.

I went with Poppy last night, after trying to get into a really nice looking bar with live jazz. It was full, so we went off to F del Q. That was the third time I've taken someone Scottish/English there, I should be their promo...

Anyway we got ourselves a spot at the bar and some beer, and the barman gave us some Really Nice olives. After, we got another beer and I don't think they gave us tapas that time.... But later we got chorizo and wee breadsticks, in case you were wondering. We were standing right under the big leg of pig, watching an angry-looking man carve nice thin slices of it while we chatted about boys and old boyfriends and school and work and suddenly a large slice (wedge?) of ham came flying at Poppy and hit her in the face!*

Angry man wasn't so apologetic, saying hey, you can eat it, better I fling meat at you than the knife!
From then on we had a stop-start conversation with meat Man, who was angry because he was doing lots of carving, moving onto chorizo, cheese and morcilla (spanish black sausage, which was better than any i've ever tasted) for very little pay, and he used to carve that very same jamon at Harrods, apparently. He told us he's been on tv with Jamie Oliver, and also Ainsley Harriot, who he did an amusing impression of (have you ever noticed how much he moves his face when he talks?) He said he left London because he missed Spain, but is now fully regretting it. He kept giving us slices of the meat he was working on, and we liked him so much we bought him a beer, to the bewilderment of the barman who's presumably more used to getting drinks bought for himself or the other younger, better looking barmen. Meat Man was chuffed. I think his name was Julio, or something equally Spanish. Legend. I hope he gets enough money to buy his flights to London for his Harrods interview and I see him on tv soon. Mr Harrods, if you're reading this, please give him a job and lots of money.

In between spurts of chat with Meat Man Julio, a Spanish boy in a white t-shirt approached with some friends with comedy glasses who did a disappearing trick soon after. He asked us if we wanted to go to Cuenca next weekend and be photographed with lots of sheep. Of course we said yes. He didn't ask straight off, there was a bit of the usual 'where are you from, what do you teach, do you like Spain?' chat first, it would have been a weird opener. But, yeah, I do want to go to Cuenca which is meant to be beautiful, and be in a photo (he's a photographer) and go on a hike and have a big dinner with his other friends/models and sheep friends. Unfortunately, I work on Saturdays. This job is ruining a lot of my plans, and also making people think I'm a bit stupid. I get a lot of 'why did you take a job on Saturday mornings? Why haven't you quit yet? Can't you phone in sick? But really, Saturday mornings??' accompanied by incredulous looks and shakings of the head.
We tried to persuade him to do it on Saturday afternoon following on to Sunday morning (we didn't think about the fact this would have us staying with a stranger overnight, but it was a good plan at the time) because then he'd have 2 chances for photography and the choice of evening or morning light. I know he was tempted, and he has my number so I will let you know if this sheep photography session goes ahead. I hope it does.

The best bit of the night was just after, when we decided to pay up and leave. An observant reader will know we owed them for 7 beers. They said pay for 4, we said no, it was 6 for us and one for him, they said ok then, pay for 2 and stay for another, for free. I always thought bargaining was meant to go the other way. We paid 2 euros each!  Cheapest night ever.

When we left, overjoyed, Madrid had turned into a river and we were under a waterfall. My pink umbrella came out and did a good job for a while, then began to leak and drip onto my face in big cold blobs. My boots are not, it turns out, waterproof.

We headed for Ya'sta, to be told it was a boys only night, so continued up the road to Tupperware, a place I've been told about many times but never yet been. At least that's what I thought- as soon as I got in the door the 'I've been here before!' feeling hit me. I don't think many places have a silver glittery wall and lots of little red plastic tv sets filled with old toys. I went when I'd just arrived in Madrid with Spanish friends, but never knew what it was called. This makes me really cool and Madrid-ian.

I've also taken the night bus home twice now, which makes me brave and economical. So far they're not half as scary as Parisian night buses but last night it was so steamed up inside I almost missed my stop. Didn't though. Good night all round.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Oh go to bed

Why am I writing this?
I'm knackered, super cansada, ready to keel over, but not sleepy. Why do I wake up around midnight? It's not very helpful.

I'm trying to make more of an effort to speak in Spanish and talk to my flamates a bit, which after teaching 7 classes in a day (in 3 different schools) is a huge effort but I still did.... well ok I listened... or at least heard, concentrating on trying to understand a conversation only to find out after 10 minutes it's about Torres can make you switch off.
I did sum up the energy to make fun of Spain, Campeones del Mundo, for losing to both England and Costa Rica, which they tried to defend as generous tactics; if they won all the time the rest of the teams would get depressed apparently... but then they did beat Scotland.
Then they made fun of rugby and curling, and one of them asked The Question, the one mainland Europe just keeps asking, the 'England vs United Kingdom/Great Britain' question. Trying to help me out, the other one explained to him in Spanish, 'no, England is just the bottom bit, the skirt'. The skirt?!

Must go to bed, this is nonsense.

Ps. The Dizzee Rascal story isn't quite as star-studded as it might have sounded when I casually slipped in that I introduced the him to the DJ. But I'll drag it out anyway and tell you next time!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Speed dating.

This was not the barman we had, but I'm sure he's nice too.

There's another bar I've found that I like a lot, Fatigas del Querer. I can't take credit for finding it, as it was recommended to me, with the advice 'give the barmen good chat and they'll give you stuff for free'.

Obviously it was worth a try, even with my very low level of conversation in Spanish. Been twice now; the first time two of us had a beer each and got a wee tapa of chorizo and breadsticks. I didn't fancy another drink but the barman said if I had another, he's get them. Couldn't say no, so we had another beer and right enough we didn't pay for them. So I went back, ordered a beer again and this time got a dish of langoustines. Yummy, but not easy to eat standing at a bar in a way in which you can charm the barman. Drippy, slimy, legs everywhere, messy face... no free drinks.

I had been planning on going home, this being on a Sunday evening after 2 consecutive nights out, but ended up in a hostel playing beer pong. And somehow me and my pong partner (John maybe? Joe? Not sure if I ever knew) won! Didn't get a prize, you get more, technically, by losing, but I suppose it depends on how much you like chugging beer. And then we ended up in an Irish bar, drinking Heinekin, which I've decided is really not my favourite beer. I started chatting to a girl who was in the hostel group, and it turned out she, like me, wasn't a hostel person at all, just a sly tagger-along. In the way that you do, when you don't have many friends in a country that's not home, we made friends immediately, swapped numbers.
Living abroad is like speed dating all the time.

Possibly my speediest friend-making so far was the other day, my teaching partner was off sick so I was chatting to the Sub briefly before and after class. She lived just around the corner so invited me for a coffee and ended up feeding me tacos and telling me stories from her extensive experience of teaching and general life. She even knew decent Spanish music, something I'm finding elusive. And while doing all this, she was preparing dinner for her and her date to have later, all in a one hour gap between classes!
Left me slightly in awe.

Conclusions: Everyone foreign in Madrid is an English teacher. English teachers are all extraordinarily friendly. After teaching for a few years, they are extraordinarily efficient.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Various items (food, drink, quizzes)

Some snippets of the past weeks.

Rastro on a hangover = terrible idea. The Rastro is a big market that runs down the length of a long street, it has a few nice leather stalls and a lot of tat, and it's great for a wander if you're not tired, hungover, irritable, hungry or all of the above.

Indian food with no spice. It can be done. Spanish curry= yummy, but different. A godsend with beers after the Rastro experience.

Teashop in a bookshop. We found somewhere that's not a bar that serves coffee and tea! A little independent bookshop near Anton Martin, perfect for chilling on a Sunday. Can't remember the name unfortunately.

Areia = A cool bar with sofas and cushions and beds and candles, and nice juice. I was on a budget so didn't try one of the many cocktails, but the strawberry juice was good. Also there were no comfy seats free. Must go back, and get there earlier, with more cash. Near Alonso Martinez metro.

Pub Quiz at J&Js, the English (American/Canadian whatever, it's got books In English) bookshop and bar. I'm rubbish at quizzes but still came 4th! It helped that another team swapped answers with us. It was an especially hard quiz, there was a round on Switzerland and a round on chess.
Spanish people don't know about pub quizzes. I'm going to introduce them.

It was Fiona's birthday. We went to El Jardin Secreto which is really nice, but really busy so you only get your table for an alloted time slot, which is a shame. I had black squid ink risotto and immediately regretted it. There's only one night of the year it's cool to have black teeth, and Halloween was over already. I also had pear lemonade, that was delish. And a chocolate volcano exploding with dulce de leche magma!! At least that's what we imagined, it wasn't even shaped like a volcano, but I suppose it's unealistic to expect actual explosives in a pudding. It was still very tasty, even though by the time I got to the dulce de leche filling (the best bit) most of it had been stolen out the other side! Grrr. The coffee ice cream on top was amazing.

The stairs are prettily lit with tea lights, but this is a bit Dangerous I think.

Because they chuck you out after you've eaten, it was really early still so we went to a few bars; El Tigre was just too full so we went round the corner to a nice quiet bar that ceased to be quiet when everyone sang happy birthday! That's what happens when you say 'what are you going to give me?' to a camp barman in Chueca. They made her dance, it was fantastic. Then on to a club called Coco's where they lure you with promises of free shots which turn out to be orange juice and when you're in you're tempted to stay if only to use the toilets again. Chandeliers! Mirrors! Extravagance! The music wasn't great though so we moved on.....

To Star Studio! It was brilliant, like last summer all over again. Star Studio is an Irish bar/club where last year I introduced the DJ to Dizzee Rascal. It's on Plaza de Carmen, it's cheap to get in and every time I go I forget there's a whole other, bigger, dancefloor downstairs! A surprise every time. I learnt the moves to a Spanish song that goes, from what I could catch, stick your hands in the air, wiggle a bit, do a half turn, dance around a bit.

Obviously this was a Friday night (all the fun stuff happens on Friday nights) and yes, I work on Saturday mornings. It's a good thing I'm alright at working while sleep deprived. I can't imagine what would happen if I taught art classes after a full 8 hours sleep; I'd be bouncing all over the place, painting the roof most likely.

That's enough for now, I still have many things to tell you but I need to go back to work soon. I would be working now, but got told an hour beforehand that my class are going to a workshop about olives in the plaza next to the school, so they won't have English today. I'm not sure what an olive workshop entails either.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Freedom! and nudity

I should be planning lessons. Or watching the big political debate that's on tele to improve my Spanish and knowledge of Spanish politics. I'm just not good at concentrating this late at night, I'm much better at procrastinating.

I watched Braveheart this weekend, at the demand of one of my fellow teachers who couldn't believe (along with all of Spain) that I'd never seen it. I've been slagging it off all these years, just presuming it'd be terrible, but actually, I kind of enjoyed it, a lot. Apologies to anyone I may have scoffed at for liking it. It's good. And I've been singing Scots Wha Hae in my head all day, which I learnt in Primary 4 or 5 and haven't sung since, which means my memory isn't half bad. We also learnt The Bare Necessities from the Jungle Book in French around the same time, and I can almost get through a whole verse. Obviously that came in really handy in Paris last year, do you speak French? Oh yes, cherchez le mini-minimum, le mini-mini-minimum, oubliez les ennuies, oubliez tes... oh wow, I just looked up how to spell the next word and instead of finding the lyrics I stumbled across Bare Necessities Naked Cruises!! 'The finest clothing free vacations in the world', in their own words., if you're interested...

Might go do that planning now, just saw a bit more than I wanted to.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ya'sta! and dressing up, Madrid style

Lots to catch up on.

I had never appreciated Halloween so much before this year. I love Halloween; dressing up, bobbing for apples, getting doughnut jam in your eyes while you're trying to tear it from a string hanging from the ceiling. But never before had I realised the potential for Halloween themed lessons. Brilliant. For a whole week and a bit, all I had to do was imitate ghosts (oooooh) witches (nyahahaha) and spiders (more difficult) and draw them on the board. This week I'm floundering in post-Halloween no-man's-land, where no-one celebrates Guy Fawkes Night, I don't understand Thanksgiving and it's way too early for Christmas.

Incidently by the time it came to celebrate Halloween as an adult, by getting dressed up and drinking and doing the Thriller dance on repeat, I was a bit bored of the idea. Mainly because I'd been blackmailed into working at a kids' party for free, but the less said about that the better, because it makes me Angry. So a friend and I went out dressed normally, and at first we were glad, there were a lot of quite endearingly bad costumes in Madrid on the 31st. Halloween's new here, so it's still wild and unconventional to stick a white sheet on you, squirt it with red food colouring and mess up your hair. We saw a man in the metro wearing jeans and a plad jacket, topped with a 'see you Jimmy' hat and a sort of wrap-around tartan cloth, over his jeans. As two Scots, we resisted the urge to talk to him, so just took a covert photo instead: picture to follow when I work out how to get it off my phone.

But later in the night, when we were bopping around to an excellent selection of 50s and 60s music in Ya'sta Club, I wanted to join in, I wanted to be a zombie-monster-person too! Luckily I know myself and I'd packed my facepaints into my bag. So, quick trip to the loos, and I come back with bright blue lips and streams of blood pouring down my neck, and my friend with a particularly nasty looking Glasgow Smile.

Ya'sta is a really cool place, it has different nights each night (you know what I mean) and that one was Viva Las Vegas. There were projections of old burlesque films on the walls, and just such good music. A nice change from the ceaseless reggaeton. It's just off Gran Via, c/ Valverde, 10.