18.04.19 — Journal

Wandering & Cooking

In my last post I promised I would try and get a blog post out before the Easter holidays, and as I sit here writing this, there’s 40 minutes left before they officially begin – so I kind-of almost maybe managed…

Anyhow, I’m not here to debate the timings of said posts, but rather to serve up the latest in my collection of photos and little stories. As mentioned previously, I’ve been somewhat under the weather with a cold, but I shall try and refrain from my habitual infinite self pity herein; and I shall instead begin by recounting the first excursion I made to try and pick myself up a little.

I seem to have accidentally built this trip up a lot, but in the end it was just another IKEA trip, this time for some blinds, a new plant pot, and some more towels – for I’ll need a grand total of four when Cake Club come and visit! That’s right – the three of them will be here a few weeks from now for a proper reunion in the city! I cannot put into words how excited I am to see everyone again – I saw Heidi when I visited her home city of Oslo last year, but the last time I saw Loredana and Megan was upon their leaving Madrid last summer.

Stormy clouds gather over the south of Madrid.
The sun shines down a street, reflecting off the wet road surface and the facades of buildings.

The weather during the visit was pretty bizarre.

As you can see, the weather during said outing couldn’t quite decide what it was doing, with warm sun, strong winds, and threatening near-black clouds hanging around all at once. I managed to miss the eventual downpour as it occurred during my train journey back to my flat in the centre, but the weather then meant I didn’t dare venture out that evening, and so a cozy evening in ensued.

During the evening, I cooked myself a delicious (if somewhat spicy) dish of red curry and prawns, and then two carrot cakes. I would have just made one big one, but through some kind of mathematical black magic I wound up with an excessive amount of cake mix and even more cream cheese icing.

A bowl of red curry.
A carrot cake topped with cream cheese frosting, grated carrots, cinnamon, and walnuts.

Whilst waiting for the cakes to bake (which I had to do one at once due to the teensy size of my oven), I had a personal grooming crisis which led to a revelation. I noticed that a spot had appeared on my forehead in an area not covered by my fringe, and after being rather cross about it for a bit, I had the (perhaps obvious) idea to change the direction of my fringe to cover it.

Well, this was quite the revelation, and even though said pesky spot has since cleared up, I have decided to place my fringe to this other side from now onwards, so enamoured am I with the new configuration. Here’s a gratuitous vanity selfie, which I shall now justify by complaining that I never seem to appear in any photos on my own blog…

A selfie because it’s my blog so I do what I want.

A photo of myself.

Anyway, back to the cakes. One was left here at home for friends to try, but the other was – as per tradition – taken into work for everyone’s critiques. This time there were less complaints about the quantity of sugar than usual, so maybe I’m finally tweaking the recipe properly for local tastes! Or maybe it was just the good luck brought by a personal rainbow that appeared on my desk…

A rainbow is formed over my keyboard at work.

Another day in the office marked the moment that I finally had a spare hour to make a rather exciting trip, for, as history repeats itself, Erretres is on the move once more!

The first time I began working at Erretres back in 2016 we were based in the iconic Plaza de España, however, just a few months into my internship, we were packing up our iMacs and moving just one street away into a much bigger space in the form of our current offices.

In a very short while we shall be repeating this process, moving our entire operation to a new location which I shall, for now, maintain undisclosed. It’s a much bigger office once again, but this time we’ll be living a life of luxury with an array of new ameneties and one big surprise which I shall leave for the photos!

I sit in a chair on a porch in a house.
A large house.
I stand in a dry pool.

That’s right – we’ve got a pool!

So the pool is currently dry, the garden needs a good tending to, and the interior is a bomb site whilst they finish the wiring (hence the total lack of photos taken inside), but I wasn’t going to pass up on the opportunity to see where we’d be moving to – and it did not disappoint!

I am very excited to bring more details about this wildly cool new space, and you shan’t have to wait for all to long, as there’s just one week to go as of the day this post goes live! I’ll be back with more photos as we move and get settled in, but you can also follow me on Instagram, where my stories are the only means by which I communicate what I’m up to in (more or less) real time.

Seeing as it’s now puente (public holidays) for Easter, though, let’s move on from talking about work. This past weekend I really, really needed to get out of my flat and get some fresh air, as I am now so comfortable in my own little space that I sometimes find that I’ve let myself get a little too cosy and cooped up inside.

To this end I decided to go for a long stroll down the river all the way to the lake, which was about an hour and a half from my flat. Descending to the Matadero and riverside park which I often visit, I then began heading off westward, following the river through the centre of the city until reaching the Casa de Campo, a huge green (well, green-ish) plot of land.

A bridge over a river.

I do love a good bridge, and the river provides plenty.

Once I arrived at the lake, which has finally been filled in after being drained and undergoing renovations to rebuild its banks, I grabbed a bottle of water and sat down to sketch some ideas for some personal projects.

After eavesdropping on a trio of old ladies who were debating the upcoming elections and figuring out how to use audio messages on WhatsApp, I was soon wafted with the smell of a barbecue, and headed off to find some cheaper food towards the centre.

Concluding the weekend with some Sunday evening wine and pizza with a friend, I’ve then only had to work three days this week, and I am now enjoying the beginning of a four-day weekend. There’ll be plenty of Easter processions in the city, which I really got into the jive of during my first Easter in Madrid, but this year I don’t think I’ll be attending too many.

I now sleepily conclude this post, and I make a – given my track record – wildly dubious promise to be back soon to either update you all on the office move or my movements during these Easter holidays!

05.04.19 — Journal

Businesswoman in Barcelona

It’s been a while since I last dropped by my blog, and that’s due to a combination of things: since Em left I seem to have had a stubborn cold which is refusing to clear up, and I’ve been busy on a project at work which hasn’t left me much time to do all that much – but work and life in Madrid is fun enough in itself, so here we go with the latest…

Outside of the office I’ve managed to sneak in a few little outings, including a couple of evenings with Bogar. The first night I went to check out how he was progressing with the decoration of his new flat, and enjoyed a decent portion of a delicious Spanish omelette he’d made whilst I was there. We then met at my flat another evening, with me only being able to offer some cheese and olives – when I’m all bunged up I don’t feel like cooking all that much!

An old hairdressers facade.

Wandering around my neighbourhood throws up some lovely spots.

Once I did gather some energy together to partake in a spot of cooking, I decided that there was nothing I fancied more than an Asturias dish known as chorizo a la sidra. This dish just consists of chorizo, which is then boiled in the region’s natural cider, with just a couple of laurel leaves thrown in for good measure.

A bottle of cider with a chorizo.

In the end it turned out rather nicely, although not as nicely as the ones I’ve had whilst up in Oviedo – or indeed the one I tried up in the Basque Country over a year ago! I think that the trick next time will be splashing out a bit more on a proper fresh chorizo – I shall have to report back on how I get on the second time around!

Sometimes it’s worth peeping down some of the side streets of the city.

I have also had the excitement today of a new addition to my kitchen: my oven has finally been delivered! This sounds way more impressive than it actually is, for all it consists of is a small worktop oven which will just about allow me to cook the odd pizza, jacket potato, and, of course, the occasional cake.

Speaking of cake, the topic brings me nicely on to discuss what I can about my current project at work. “How on earth are these two things related?” I hear you ask, and all shall now be revealed…

The project involves a complete rebrand to a company based in Barcelona, and after some research into their office culture by checking out their social media pages, I noticed that they seemed big on parties and celebrating milestones. Whilst working on Photoshopping the logo onto various items to create the presentation for our proposal, I had the idea that we should apply the logo to a cake!

A search online didn’t throw up any templates which we could use to automatically generate a logo on a cake (shockingly), and so I rocked up to work the next day with a 1€ piping bag and a tupperware full of buttercream and then – to the amusement of everyone else in the office – set about piping out the two logos.

The true test of a logo’s effectiveness – will it cake?

After taking photos of the piped patterns, and a bit of Photoshop wizardry, we wound up with two decent-looking cake mockups to present to the client – which once again brings us rather nicely to the next part of the post – my trip to Barcelona to present to the client!

To say it was a visit would be quite the exaggeration as, after an hour delay on the train out from Madrid, we had zero time to see anything other than the inside of two taxis, the client’s office, and a quick five-minute dash around Uniqlo to pick up some t-shirts!

It was, however, a fun trip, and it was refreshing to work directly with clients and be entrusted with the task of pulling an important presentation together – I’m feeling more and more adult every day!

The only sad aspect of work recently has been waving goodbye to Manu, but we were sure to give him a proper send off, and all met in the city centre for a good few drinks and some roaring laughs well into the early hours! Another distressing element to the evening was that, during my walk home, I could not find a single open takeaway or even just a corner shop to grab some chocolate!

All this brings us up to today, and as you can tell, it’s been a rather busy week. This evening, then, I have just turned down the lights, christened my oven by heating up a pizza, popped on some music, and sat down to write this little blog post.

This weekend and next I’ve not got too much planned as my schedule begins to fill up wildly starting around Easter, but I shall attempt to squeeze another post in before I (hopefully) head off somewhere to spend the Easter holidays out of the city. Who knows where I’ll end up?!

19.03.19 — Journal

Summer Begins & Em Visits

After updating you all with what my flat looks like in my last blog post, I figured I should explore a bit of what’s been occurring outside of said flat in this one! I must warn you though, a lot of it has involved sitting outside, drinking beer, and enjoying the rising temperatures…

The Puerta de Alcalá in Madrid by night

A couple of weeks back I had Napo over for a catch up, and we eventually left my flat to head for the river in order to make the most of the suitably sunny Sunday. Just 10 minutes walk from my place sits Madrid Río, an elongated park constructed along the Manzanares River which runs through the city. After strolling through families and dog walkers – and dodging our way through a few close calls with people on roller skates – we sat ourselves down for a drink on one of the terraces.

Trees against a blue sky.
I look to the left.

After wandering back to my flat, during which the sky treated us to a gorgeous pink and purple sunset, said weekend ended and the working week began. It turned out to be a bit of a chilly and damp week, but that didn’t bother me too much, and it certainly didn’t dampen the spirits of all those who turned out for the International Women’s Day march through the centre!

A baroque building lit by the orange sun is reflected in a puddle on a grey pavement.
A blue sky above a graffiti-covered stairwell lit by the setting sun.

The women’s march, I was happy to see, was a huge success – it warmed my heart to see people of all ages and walks of life take to the streets in union against inequality. I would have loved to have joined them, but I was instead held up for much longer than expected when returning a duvet to IKEA – typical. The only bit I managed to catch was the chaotically busy scenes in the main train station, Atocha, as I tried to drag my new duvet back home – needless to say I ended up walking it!

A train station full of people.

The proceeding weekend saw me wandering down to the river once again, only this time to check out the stalls and music of the Matadero Design Market. There, I met up with Bogar, Filip, and Napo, and we all caught up over some food truck grub and a couple of beers.

Another working week then passed, and the Friday I had been waiting for for weeks finally came around: the day of Em’s visit! After her early flight from London landed, I had her head to the centre, and we were soon reunited after (what I have just calculated by looking back over my blog posts) 10 months! The last time we saw each other now was when I visited London back in May last year. How time flies!

Anyway, we met in the Plaza de España before heading down to the Erretres office to have a snoop around, meet the team, and for Em to leave her bag. As I soon set back to work, she headed off to explore the royal palace and the surrounding area, but we were quickly reunited as I handily finish work at 3pm on Fridays.

After a slap-up menú del día lunch near the office, we hopped on a train to my flat and suddenly it was time: time to premiere the sofa bed!

As you can see from Sleeping Beauty above, the bed went up easily and wasn’t all too bad, but we’d other stuff to check out before it was time to head off for the night!

After checking out the city’s skyline from a rooftop terrace, we set off on a wander around the centre, stopping for churros, a trip to the market, a wander through Plaza Mayor, some sherry in a traditional bar, and eventually a delicious Venezuelan dinner at one of my favourite restaurants. Once back home, we sat chatting for even longer with a drink in hand – the amount we had to catch up on was pretty impressive – and eventually headed to bed.

The following morning began with a trip down to the Matadero to check out the design exhibition space and wander by the river. After working up an appetite during our walk along its banks (stopping for a beer along the way, naturally) we headed northwards and to Casa Dani, one of my favourite spots for a proper Spanish menú del día.

This pink neon crown was one of my favourite finds. I want one.

Once we’d dined on a delicious array of proper Madrid grub, we meandered southwards once more and through the various pretty streets of Chueca and Malasaña. As the sun reached its height in mid-afternoon, we were sure to stop for a cheeky vermouth and sangría on the rooftop terrace of Mercado de San Antón, making the most of the opportunity to take our coats off!

After some retail therapy and further drinks along the way, we wound up down at the Temple of Debod to watch the sun set over the west of the city. We then headed to a favourite taco spot of mine, but that turned out to be absolutely rammed, and so we made spontaneous alternative plans, heading through Lavapiés and eventually grabbing some sharing dishes in a little restaurant along the way.

The next morning all too quickly hailed Em’s last day in the city, but I had some relaxing Sunday plans to keep us moving. After a relaxed breakfast, we headed off on the bus to pick up a bike, and spent what remained of the morning cycling around the picturesque Parque del Retiro – much like what I dragged Ellie & Johanne and my dad into doing when they visited!

I must be getting good at this – I took this photo without falling off my bike!

We followed this with some lovely bao at one of my favourite spots – a firm favourite of our friend Luisa when she visited – and a cheeky ice cream for dessert. Wandering back down to Atocha and its curious indoor tropical gardens, we found ourselves heading back to my flat to pick up Em’s stuff.

We made it back up to the airport in good time – and it was a good job we did, as the check-in process Em had to complete when we got there didn’t make much sense to either of us! Once the hassle was over, I hugged Em off as she headed off through security, and I headed back to my flat alone once more.

Needless to say that I had a blast whilst I had Em with me in the city, and the past few weeks of improving weather have put a further spring in my step. I have to say it – I am really happy to be back here in Madrid once again!

That’s it for updates for now – I shall be back very soon with more from the streets of this dusty old city just as soon as I have the time!

12.03.19 — Journal

Casa Briggs

After last week’s post diverged quite spectacularly and took you to Asturias for a snoop around an abandoned factory, I shall now pick up from where the post before left off: with my mission to decorate my flat before Em’s visit – which has now changed from “just less than a month off” to a mere three days away!

Thankfully, I’ve got all the essentials in, and I am ready to receive guests like the little old lady that I secretly am. It’s been quite a process though, involving many a trip to IKEA, and then even more when I realised I had bought the wrong thing on two separate occasions. They say that IKEA is testing for couples moving in together, but I managed to have many an argument with my very own self. An accomplishment? I guess.

Anyway, seeing as I’ve not much else to report back on, I took a few photos of my flat to show you all what I’ve put together with the little money I have, so here we go!

We’ll start off in the living room/kitchen, where I’ve kept the yellow of the feature wall, complimenting it with the grey sofa bed and black and white highlights. I like to be strict with my colours, but I have allowed some green in with the addition of plants to breathe a bit of life into the space.

The only thing I feel I am missing here is maybe a couple more cushions and a little coffee table to pop drinks on. I’d also like to get myself a rug in time, but it turns out that rugs are way more expensive than I ever thought, so that might have to wait a while…

We now turn to face the other side of the room and the kitchenette, which I am trying to keep as clean and tidy as possible. As there’s plenty of storage and I’m just one person, I can hide pretty much everything away when not in use. Here all I’m missing is an oven, but I’ve already got tabs on a mini tabletop oven which I shall buy next month: I sense some cakes coming!

This is one of my favourite plants. She is called Leah.

Heading through the door and down the corridor, we pass the bathroom and utility areas, but I shan’t bore you with those: we’ll move straight into the other main space, my little bedroom. The flat already had a lovely wooden headboard and a black mesh ceiling lamp installed, and so I’ve once again run with the existing colours, kitting my bed out with white sheets and popping in a black bedside table (home of Beatrice the Bamboo).

Sticking to a look of wooden textures, plants, and neutral colours, I also had a flash of inspiration as I walked home past the fruit shop one evening. I saw that the guy was piling up crates to be picked up as rubbish, and so I made a beeline for them and grabbed a couple. After hauling them up the stairs along with my shopping (which was probably quite traumatic for my neighbours), I popped them together and made myself a free, improv, and zero-waste side table!

I popped Alice the Aloe Vera on there, along with another candle, and it’s probably now my favourite detail in the entire flat! A little bit annoying that the prettiest thing was also the cheapest, but I’m happy to have brightened up an empty corner.

That’s pretty much it in terms of photos of my new place, and so pretty much it for this blog post, but I’ll be back next week to report on the upcoming weekend of shenanigans as Em flies in on Friday morning. I hope she’s prepared for lots of terrace drinks and lots of my favourite food spots…

03.03.19 — Journal

The Abandoned Ceramics Factory

Last summer I embarked on a road trip with my good friend Kevin, and it was so varied that I had to break it down into three parts here on my blog: Part 1 around Oviedo, Part 2 around Cabo de Peñas, and Part 3 in Bilbao. In the first instalment I spoke of a trip around an abandoned factory in a small Asturian town, and I have finally (only six months late) got round to editing the photos and piecing together this little post about what went down.

If you’re a keen reader, you might remember that I wound up doing something similar back in 2017, when I reported on a snoop around an abandoned hotel after a trip to Portugal which happened two years prior. Six months is an improvement on two years, right?

Anyway, let’s move on to the subject at hand: this factory. We arrived by car, parking on a piece of grassland nearby (Asturias has plenty of spare grass). Wandering over, we stumbled through some trees and found ourselves in the grounds of the place. The factory itself looked nothing extraordinary from the outside, just a large industrial building with broken windows and painted in a questionable shade of mint green.

It was inside, then, that things started to get interesting. The false ceiling was all but missing, and the fallen panels littered the floor amongst rocks, insulation, papers, and an array of what revealed conclusively the factory’s former purpose: ceramics.

The interior of an abandoned factory.

We swung left and into the only room whose interior wall was still standing. It looked to have been renovated shortly before the factory’s eventual demise – if it weren’t for the gaping halls where bits of the main ceiling had fallen through, it could have been mistaken for a recent addition. Here we waded through yet more broken roofing tiles and rotting ephemera and past a large container which, although collapsed and shattered, still held a lot of what I assume was ceramic powder. Not risking disturbing the unidentified material, we moved swiftly on.

A broken container full of white powder sits in an abandoned factory.

I didn’t fancy disturbing the unidentified white powder.

The next room had a much more industrial feel to it, and a little wander around the two large structures in the centre of said room revealed them to be a couple of furnaces. In the corner of the room the pile of unfinished ceramics was much denser, but the suspicious white and fluffy insulation around the furnaces had my asbestos warning senses tingling, and so we opted to move on once again without much further investigation.

Furnaces in an abandoned factory.
A pile of unfinished ceramics sit in the corner of an abandoned factory.

The next perilous-looking doorway led us into the biggest single space in the whole factory, and what I can only assume was the warehouse. The vast space was filled with an even more varied array of debris, from ceramics to broken electronics and even the soggy remains of folders which documented orders and invoices from years gone by. It was surreal to think that such personal details could have been left to decay in such a public space.

An abandoned factory warehouse, with bricks in the foreground and decaying walls covered in graffiti.

Further into the space, we stumbled across crates full of half-baked ceramics and a particularly interesting half-pyramid which had been carefully stacked on the floor. It was hard to tell whether this was done whilst the factory was still in operation or whether it had been put together by someone passing through, but I do err towards the idea of it having been made more recently: I see no good use for storing any kind of product like that.

An abandoned factory warehouse littered with debris.

Heading backwards out of the warehouse, we suddenly found ourselves exposed the elements as we passed by a section whose roof had totally collapsed. Not wanting to hang around under the precarious structure for too long, I took a few photos of some of the more interesting stuff I found littering the floor, and we headed back through the warehouse to explore some more.

The structural failure of the room in an abandoned factory. The roof has totally collapsed, allowing shrubbery to grow in the ruins.
Greenery is seen through a collapsed doorway.
An almost complete ceramic teapot sits on a rotting crate in front of some shrubbery.

Passing through the space, we arrived at the other side of the factory, and to an area dominated by what I assume were office spaces. We passed through what looked like a canteen/recreation area and on into a room containing an array of generators around a central staircase. I gauged that the concrete stairs were plenty sturdy enough to ascend, but I wasn’t too confident about the floor above – especially having seen the total structural failure in the other end of the factory.

A broken ceramic teapot sita atop a wooden palette.

Against my better judgement, up we headed and into what turned out to be a storage loft. This space was one of the more intriguing of the factory, purely due to the sheer density of the ceramic moulds and tools which had been jammed into the rafters and then left abandoned. Wrangled metal bars knotted between piles of upturned moulds told me that shelving must have once held a lot of the wares, making optimum use of what was quite a compact space.

A roofing panel collapses, allowing light in to reveal an abandoned factory room full of ceramic moulds.

Back on ground level, we headed further into a labyrinthine succession of smaller rooms. Passing by further bags of unidentifiable powders, we clambered through an upturned workshop and past a cabin with a calendar showing the current month as January 2003. Could that be when the place closed its doors for good?

A wall shows a decaying calendar dated 2003.
A doorway through an abandoned factory leading to a room full of graffiti.
An abandoned workshop with shattered windows.

We soon found ourselves exploring the final cluster of outbuildings on the far side of the factory, which proved to be smaller, darker, and somehow creepier than the main factory itself. I felt a strange sensation as I wandered through that area, and so I didn’t really think to take any photos – I’ll have to let you imagine the dark corners of the abandoned shower facilities and changing rooms.

With the creeping unease brought on by this final stage of explorations and the rumble in our stomachs growing louder, we decided to call it a day for our wanderings around the abandoned factory. Heading back to the car, I remember how me and Kevin chatted on and on about how we’d much rather be out doing something like this than your typical holiday activities – I am always down for some alternative entertainment!

You can check out the rest of the trip’s activities here:

24.02.19 — Journal

How To Adult

It’s been a fortnight since my last blog post, and one week since I moved into my new flat, and boy have the two weeks been busy! When I’ve moved flats around Madrid in the past, I’ve only ever had the logistical problems to worry about, which weren’t usually too much of a drama as I could fit all my stuff into one suitcase. This time, however, there’s been much more to sort out.

Some of the nonsense I’ve had to sort out this past week has included ringing the electricity company to change over the contract, contracting and organising the installation of fibre internet, various trips to IKEA to pick up essentials such as a mattress and cutlery, and a lot of toing and froing as I stocked up on supplies from Mercadona. I even managed to get myself empadronado, meaning I have properly registered my address with the local government – which may sound minor, but with the amount of times I have tried and failed, it’s a big accomplishment for me! It really has been a week where I’ve discovered just how to adult.

The sky sometimes puts on a show on my way back from work.

The big task though – the move to my new flat – turned out to be pretty easy in the end. I packed my suitcase in the morning, had an argument with a bus driver who wouldn’t let me on because the case was “too big” (even though the bus was pretty much empty), and eventually grabbed the Metro to my new pad.

As I’d already dusted the place and moved the mattress into position a couple of days in advance, I was able to arrive and unpack at a lovely leisurely pace. In the afternoon I did a big shop to fill my cupboards with some food to get me going, and then nipped back to IKEA to pick up towels, pans, and a few cheeky plants for decoration.

The next morning I was excited to make my daily porridge breakfast using my new pans, and it was when the hob started beeping at me when I realised that I’d been stupid and bought two pans that didn’t work with an induction hob. I made myself a rather picturesque alternative breakfast, but then it was back to IKEA again in order to exchange them. You live and learn!

A lovely breakfast tainted by the thought of having to make yet another IKEA trip.

Once I’d sorted that little issue out and bought myself another plant to make myself feel better, my first week commuting from my new flat begun. We’re pretty busy in the office, and so outside of work hours I’ve been keeping myself social and occupied to keep my mind off all the projects.

One of the more spectacular events of the week was a 360° video mapping installation to celebrate 400 years of Plaza Mayor, the big central square in Madrid. I met up with Bogar to check it out, convening in the plaza at 7:30pm as the streetlights were extinguished and the show began!

The only photo I took really does the event no justice, as it was a stunning immersive journey through the 400-year history projected onto the four façades of the square. Accompanied by a matching soundtrack and some cool spotlight effects which lit up the sky, I included a video made by the local council which should give you a taste of what it was like.

Afterwards, we headed up to the north of the centre to escape from the crowds and have a delicious slap-up tea of subs and pulled pork fries at La Casa Tomada, the restaurant where Bogar works.

Thursday marked the day of my appointment to register my address with the council, and so off I trotted to the very north of the city. I had to make a trip further even than the airport, to an area called Barajas, as it was the only office with a slot which wasn’t months ahead!

As I arrived at the metro station, I thought of Dani, my art director from back when I first started at Erretres three years ago, as he lives in the area. I was considering taking a photo of the sign to send to him as I ascended the escalator, when who should show up waving from the downwards escalator but the man himself!

After a quick sprint back up to ground level, we stopped for a super quick catch up for a couple of minutes. It was lovely to find out what he’s been up to, but we had to cut it rather short as I had an appointment to make and he couldn’t be late for work. I stopped for a quick coffee and some breakfast, and then meandered the streets of the rather quaint neighbourhood as I headed to the oficina de atención al ciudadano – the office I had to go to in order to file the paperwork.

Príncipe Pío

After successfully sorting the papers there, I headed back to the office and got straight back to the plenty of design work that needs doing. A nice break did come, however, in the form of a studio visit by a local college. Me and Luis spent an hour with the students presenting our projects, recounting what it’s like to work in a design studio, and answering a plethora of questions that they had. It was as useful for me as it was for them, though, as it was yet more exposure to presenting in Spanish – something I’m slowly doing more and more of. I think my A2 Spanish teacher would be proud!

With that I bring us to the end of the working week and up to this weekend. Yesterday I found myself making another trip to IKEA to grab a few more things and choose the sofa bed I am going to buy just as soon as I get paid. It can’t come soon enough, too, because my friend Em has just booked to visit in less than one month! I had better get this place looking more like a home!

I shan’t share any more photos of my flat until I’ve got the sofa in and everything nicely decorated, for I’ve a vision of how it’ll look in my head and I don’t want to spoil the surprise! That said, this week looks to be very busy in the office, and so I won’t be back with updates until next weekend at the earliest. Until then, ¡chau!

10.02.19 — Journal

Round Three at R3

If you’ve been keeping up, you’ll all know by now that I am back in Madrid! This evening actually marks a week since my arrival, and so much has gone down since then that I still haven’t quite processed it myself whilst I sit here trying to figure out how to pop it into a blog post. I’ll just start and see where we end up…

Arriving to the city is a routine that I now perform from muscle memory, and so before long I found myself arriving at the door to the Airbnb flat that I’d booked for the first fortnight. After chatting to the couple I’m living with for a while, I unpacked the basics and then headed off to do something I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while: a Mercadona trip!

Mercadona is the chain of low-cost supermarkets which I have always been rather fond of, but I restrained myself to picking up the basics on this first visit. Sunday was then spent doing quite a lot of nothing, but I had the pleasure of being reunited with my friend Napo as we headed out for a reunion tea of pizza and some drinks. After this, I turned myself in for another early night in preparation for my third first day at Erretres! Cue flashbacks to posts from both 2016 and 2017. I should also explain the name Erretres is Spanish for R3 – which I have decided must mean Round 3!

Cycling the streets of the city as the sun rises feels like a dream.

A street in the old centre of Madrid.

Before I knew what was going on I found myself being woken by my alarm for my first day back in the office. As I’d grabbed a rather central flat, I’d decided that the prettiest and most efficient way to get to the office would be on one of the city’s rental bikes, and so off I headed in –4°c.

A fading facade reads "Bodega" in old handwritten letters.

After somehow evading hypothermia in my poor bare fingers I arrived at the office, and it felt absolutely lovely to be back! As everyone arrived, I made sure to remember the protocol of hugs and kisses on the cheek, but I was soon thrown head-first into the chaos of projects and work to be done!

I trust by this point that I don’t have to repeat the age-old “I can’t share any of what I’m doing because of confidentiality clauses” spiel once more, but you get the idea. All isn’t lost, though, because I’ve also been up to a lot outside of my working hours.

This has, for the most part, involved wandering from one area of the city to another in between completing several rather uninspiring admin-related errands. Not all was lost, though, as I’m a sucker for a good photo when a composition presents itself, so I’ve peppered this post with such photos of the city’s ambience.

One night I did had the opportunity to catch up with an old friend, Leo, who I hadn’t seen for an age. During the evening I managed to get myself so tipsy on Venezuelan beer that I missed my Metro stop when returning home, but it was worth it for the good food and great company!

Another morning was also a lovely chance for a slight change of scenery, as me and Manu headed off to visit the new offices of one of our new clients. It was a pretty cool space, and as Manu had brought along his camera, I thought I’d take a few photos of him doing his thing for social media.

Shameless plug: go and give Erretres a like on Facebook if you can.

There has, however, been a big task looming over the otherwise fun this week: the need to find myself a place to live. I had decided that I finally wanted my own flat, and that I didn’t want to be too far from work, but I had been warned that it can take months to find something worth taking in the competitive market that is the Madrid housing game.

I went along to my first flat viewing on Thursday, a reasonably priced studio apartment in a quiet neighbourhood just slightly further away from the centre than the Erretres office. Upon arrival I found myself in a queue to view the place, and when it was finally my turn to have a look around, I found myself very underwhelmed.

That evening I felt rather deflated about the task ahead, and that was when my friend Bogar stepped in with a contact. He’d been looking for a flat too, and had already found one when an agency let him know that another one he’d looked at had been lowered in price. Needless to say, then, that I immediately got in touch and arranged to view the place on Friday after work.

Well, this second flat was completely different to the first! Newly refurbished, it had obviously been updated by somebody with a keen eye for design, and within five minutes of poking around the place I knew I had to have it. I told my guide from the agency as much, and before I knew it I was sat with the two owners (one of whom was a designer, I knew it!) and signing to move into the place in just a week’s time! How crazy is that?

Anyway, I’ll reign in my excitement and return to the present day. After signing my contract this morning, I headed over to Bogar’s flat to help him move his things a few streets down the road and into his new flat. After a few taxi runs with boxes full of his worldly belongings, I waited for him to bring in his last bit of washing, and then we headed over to eat noodles on the floor of his new place.

I seem to have run into an old lady hanging her washing out.

He’s living near where my new flat will be, so I took the chance to wander through what will soon be my new neighbourhood. Oh, and I also stopped for a few more things from the local Mercadona on my way back home. Start as I mean to go on, I guess!

That’s all for the past week, but my gosh has it been a busy one! I’m sure that things will keep picking up pace as I enter my second week, which will be ending with my move into my new place. I’ll be sure to put together a post with a few photos just as soon as I’ve moved in and bought a few plants to liven the place up a touch!

02.02.19 — Journal

Leaving England

I begin writing this blog post from a quiet corner of Manchester Airport Terminal 3, where I’m rather content to have found a bench on which to set up my iPad. As zen as my little spot may be, it can only mean one thing: it’s time for me to move countries once more.

It’s quite lucky that I managed to make it here when looking at what the weather has been up to over the past few days, as my hometown has been getting progressively snowier as the week has gone on. The problem has been that the snow has been thick enough to cause disruption, but not quite dense enough to enjoy sledging and snow angels and other such frivolities.

My back garden is lightly sprinkled with snow.

Naturally I’ve been taking the opportunity to say goodbye to friends and family since I revealed my return to Spain, and I kicked things off with a lovely afternoon cake and coffee with Jess and Amber at a local pub. We had a lovely chinwag as we critiqued each item on our dessert sharing platter, and we all agreed that the BBC should really give us our own TV show where we discuss desserts. Watch out Mary Berry…

A selfie of me, Jess and Amber.

After we’d said our goodbyes, I was picked up by my dad and whisked off to see my grandparents in Bradford. We sat with them for a good while, chatting about my upcoming adventure and catching up over some delicious shortbread, but I we were soon on the move again.

As I was hobbling due to a minor operation on my toe, my family graciously made the quick trip over to Horsforth and dropped me off at my friends place. Here I spent the evening with Em & Lincoln before heading off to bed after a few ciders and an intense game of Catan.

An orange and blue sunrise behind a hill, with houses in the foreground.

The morning after hailed the arrival of Monday, so I left as the two of them headed off to work, checking myself into a greasy spoon for a sausage and bacon butty to start the day properly. After breakfast I caught a train into the centre of Leeds, settling in a coffee shop to relax until lunchtime.

I met Danni for lunch, which was a quick McDonalds in the train station due to the amount of time it’d have taken me to walk to her workplace. We had a good laugh over a burger, and then bade each other goodbye until Wednesday evening – but more on that in a mo.

After then spending another few hours in the coffee shop, I hobbled painfully slowly up to Belgrave, where I’d arranged to meet all of my uni friends who were still around in Leeds.

Once people began rolling in from work, we all grabbed ourselves a cheeky pint and a few slices of pizza, and reminisced about university life and how far we’d all come since then. All too soon, however, it was bedtime for everyone and time for me to catch the late train back to Burnley.

We all reminisced about university life and how far we’d come since then.

With my dodgy foot keeping me pretty stationary, the week was spent quietly preparing my move at home. On Wednesday evening, me, Danni, and Abi met up at a pub in Burnley for my last set of goodbyes, before winding up in McDonalds for a McFlurry. I did take a selfie at one point which, although it seemed passable in the dim light of the pub, almost gave me a fright when I looked at it on my iPad just now…

Thursday signalled the start of the serious preparations for moving to Spain, as I began to collect all the clothes, electricals, and books which I’ll need to survive out there. I had a treat lined up too, however, as my mum had managed to get us a table at a lovely little tea rooms just outside of Burnley.

A Victorian style British home interior.

I’d never been to Number 62 before, but all I’d heard about it were rave reviews from my friends and family – especially from my mum. I’ll admit now that it certainly lived up to the hype, as I was treated to what seemed like an endless stream of delicious food, all accompanied by a lovely big pot of strawberry and kiwi tea.

An afternoon tea topped with a lit sparkler.
Tomato soup in a floral cup, topped with croutons, cheese and chorizo.
A selection of mini desserts.

Some personal highlights include a creamy tomato and mascarpone soup, homemade coleslaw, a chicken and chorizo sandwich, a warm scone, and a meringue filled with caramel, cream, and chocolate.

After devouring as much as I could, and boxing what remained up to have later at home, Thursday soon turned into Friday – my last full day in the UK. I can’t say that it was all too exciting, as I spent the day hurriedly packing my suitcase and obsessively weighing the thing – I didn’t want a repeat of last year’s baggage fine when I left Madrid!

Me, stood outside of my shed. There is snow on the ground.

I couldn’t leave without a photo with my shed.

As I sat with my neighbour in the afternoon to bid her farewell, I managed to completely miss a gorgeous purple sunset – but fear not, for my keen-eyed sister Ellie did me proud and snapped a few pics from my window. All credit to her, then, for the shot below!

A sunset of bright purple and orange colours.

As the evening came around, I finally finished my packing, and we settled down to my favourite meal for a sendoff tea – mum’s delicious stewed beef and onions with mushy peas and mash. We’d then to see her off to work for the night, and I headed off to bed after a couple of episodes of Nailed It on Netflix.

This brings us to the here and now, as I sit watching planes take off and land right outside the window. I’ve a timer set for the moment they’ll be announcing my gate, and I’ve picked up a bottle of water to see me through the flight – this flying lark is second nature to me by now!

Of course I’ve now got a crazy few days ahead of me, as I check in to my Airbnb this evening and spend tomorrow prepping to start work back at Erretres on Monday – it’s all going to happen so fast! As ever, I’ll be back with updates once things have settled down somewhat, and I look forward to sharing some updates from the slightly warmer streets of Madrid!

25.01.19 — Journal

Even More Surprising News

Once again I find myself writing the words “surprise news” for a blog post title, and this time I’m beginning to worry that I’ll soon run out of the adjectives needed to keep the series running. It was back in January 2016 –three years ago now– that I first posted some exciting news on my blog, back when I first discovered that I had been accepted to complete six months as an intern at Erretres, a design studio I’d admired since beginning to look for possible companies to intern with.

Since then, safe to say, it’s been quite the journey! After my internship, I returned to England to complete my final year of university, and then wound up securing myself a graduate job back at Erretres in October 2017. The story’s latest update came just a few months ago in October last year, when I made the decision to leave back for England, where I’ve been and still am. 

In the blog post announcing my move back to the UK, I noted my doubt that it’d be my last time living and working in Madrid, and how I knew I was sure to miss working with the great group of people at Erretres specifically. This has been true indeed, for although I have enjoyed prepping my new portfolio and this shiny new website, I have missed the people and lifestyle in the big city quite terribly.

Imagine the shock, then, as I now reveal the news that I have come to impart today: that I’ve just accepted an offer to return to Erretres!

It has all happened rather suddenly, I’ll admit, but I am over to moon to be heading back to Madrid. In the last post before I disappeared in order to update my site, my look back over 2018 posted on New Years Eve, I mentioned that I may have some exciting news to impart, and this was indeed it. Quite the start to 2019 I’ve had!

In terms of my next steps, I’ll be moving out of my cosy home village of Worsthorne and back to the kooky streets of Madrid at the start of February – three weeks to the day as I sit here writing this post (Saturday 12th January – I often write these things a bit in advance). I’m happy as that gives me the time to get myself organised, packed, and all my goodbyes said to friends both local and over in Leeds and beyond.

I’ll be taking the chance to get the boring admin stuff wrapped up and otherwise take it nice and easy whilst I still can!

Between now and then, I can’t say that I have all too much lined up, as I’ll be taking the chance to get the boring admin stuff wrapped up and otherwise take it nice and easy whilst I still can! If anything interesting pops up to report back on, you can bet I’ll be here with an update, but I suspect that the next time you hear from me may be upon my return to Spain.

Here’s to the next unexpected twist in my life, and a happy 2019 to everyone. I hope that your 2019 is as kind as you as mine has been so far to me!

21.01.19 — Journal

Worsthorne Wandering

With my parents jetting off to Murcia for a few days, last week was spent home along and having to entertain myself. This gave me plenty of time to sit around and finish the coding for this new website, but I knew I couldn’t spend all of my day sat behind a screen, so one afternoon I timed a little amble with the setting sun.

Also, and during yet another little clear-out of my room, I’d found my old Praktica film camera, and noticed it was loaded with a film which had only been half-used. After not having used the camera for over a year, I took it with me during a trip to Clitheroe to finish the roll of film, and then proceeded to completely destroy the film: I’d forgotten how to use the thing on and accidentally opened the back before it had been fully wound on.

After this disaster, I decided that I was to cheer myself up by taking the camera out and allowing myself to use an entire roll of 24 snaps in one go. I did just that during the walk, and so this post is peppered with photos taken on the Praktica and from my phone. As you can see, the first couple I took on the Praktica feature some pretty cool light leakage…

Once I’d technically wandered out the the bounds of my village, Worsthorne, I was drawn over to a horse who was poking his head over a gate and into the road. I’m not usually a huge fan of horses –they kind of scare me– but this one seemed friendly and didn’t bat an eyelid when I wandered over. It did, however, start raring its head whilst I patted its mane, baring its teeth which allowed for some funny selfies when I decided to do the same.

The two of us bearing our pearly whites.

I also tried to take a couple of photos on film as I walked away, but both of them have come out slightly bizarre. The first was grossly overexposed, and the second was well-exposed but completely blue due to something beyond my control which I don’t understand. If you can explain why this might of happened, please do let me know!

I then continued my wander towards the neighbouring village of Hurstwood, taking a photo of some inquisitive sheep along the way. Once again, the mysterious blue haze descended, this time bisecting the image into a lighter and darker area. I quite like the effect it made, despite the attendant in the image processing shop warning me that “half of them haven’t come out quite right”.

Once I’d risked life and limb clambering down a wet and muddy embankment, I found myself crossing an old stone bridge over the confluence of two rivers. Here I took a few more photos, and my camera magically decided that it was going to ditch the blue tint halfway through one of the snaps.

Once I’d been chased by some ducks and sent a few silly videos to some friends to demonstrate how different life back home was to the big cities I’ve become accustomed to, the sun had begun to set and I had to pick up my speed in order not to get caught walking home in the cold and dark of dusk.

The last couple of photos that I got out of my film camera are of one of the strangest views along the way. Walking down one of the roads, you are presented with a view to the left which looks completely false: a smooth, undulating field bordered along the top with a dry stone wall and punctuated by a smattering of trees.

I took two photos of this scene using two distinct combinations of settings on the camera. The first is a much more accurate representation of how the scene looked in the fading light, but I do quite like the pinkish haze created in the over-exposed second shot.

After I’d snapped these, the advance film arm on my camera went limp and I knew it was time to head home. This all happened last week, of course, but just earlier today I had chance to nip into Burnley and pick up the developed photos.

The rest of this week will now be spent with my sister who has just returned from a busy week of university exams in Sheffield. I may have some updates as the week goes on, but failing that I have some big news which I’ll be sharing later this week – stay tuned for that!