17.05.20 — Journal

Almost Thirty

Just over two weeks ago was my birthday, and for some reason I woke up with a song that I used to listen to years ago in my head. In this French song, “J’ai pas vingt ans”, Alizée sings “j’ai pas vingt ans… on est vieux à vingt ans – moi j’ai le temps!” which roughly translates as “I’m not twenty years old, we’re old at twenty – I have time!”

I think that I was reminded of this as this, my 25th birthday, marked quite a milestone for me. I suddenly realised that I was suddenly closer to thirty years old than I am to twenty – just like Alizée sings: I’m not twenty!

As you can imagine with Madrid in lockdown, celebrations were rather light on the ground. I did, however, have the pleasure of opening some cards sent to me from all over the world, and a box full of edible goodies that my mum sent over from England. After these few minutes of indulgence, I logged on to work, but was interrupted shortly after my morning meeting. A delivery man was then at my door, handing over a box from some colleagues which contained a lovely letter, a triple chocolate cake, some candles (24 instead of 25, but that was my fault for not responding to a sly message asking how old I was to be), and a bottle of cava to celebrate the occasion!

A cake, candles reading "24", and a bottle of cava.

This lovely surprise came only days before a key date that the whole of Spain had been waiting for: the first day that we were allowed out for a walk. We had the first of May off, which was a lovely way to relax after a busy working birthday, and I took the opportunity to throw myself together a mask, made from a spare pillowcase as suggested by my auntie!

I wear a homemade face mask.

I spent half an hour braiding some spare wool I had lying around for the strap.

This day off was rather productive, but in reality we were all looking forward to the day after, the 2nd of May, which was the day we could finally step outside without going to the supermarket. For this, the government have set time slots for elderly people, parents with children, and then the general populous. With myself falling into the latter, I am allowed out from 6am – 10am and 8pm – 11pm, and naturally I managed to sleep through the morning slot of the first day.

This meant that I’d another day to kill, which I proceeded to spend cleaning my flat and further perfecting my Spanish omelette (after my last attempt). I think I’ve finally hit the nail on the head, with the centre of the tortilla de patatas just undercooked enough to be slightly liquid without seeing too much like pure raw egg.

A Spanish omelette that I made.
A slice of the Spanish omelette.
The silhouettes of three plants are seen in a window sill of my flat in Madrid.

A siesta on the sofa was needed after so much omelette.

My legs on the sofa in my flat.

That evening, however, I was ready to go at 8pm, leaving my flat for a casual wander for the first time in over two months. With an time limit of one hour and a maximum distance of 1km set, I knew exactly where I wanted to go: down to the river. The scene of many a picnic and summer’s evening spent reading, the river is my little slice of nature a mere ten minutes walk from my flat.

I did know, however, that the green areas along the banks of the Manzanares River would be out of bounds, as they are classed as part of a public park, and all of Madrid’s public parks currently remain closed. This didn’t deter me, though, as I knew that the area nearby the Matadero Cultural Centre and the bridge which spans the river and park would provide a lovely spot to watch the sun set.

The sun highlights the top floors of a decorative building in Madrid.
The sun sets over a closed park by the river in the south of Madrid.
The sun sets over the south of Madrid, with shades of pink, orange, and blue.

Once I’d crossed the bridge, I knew that I was coming to the end of my 1km limit, and so began to double back on myself. On the way home I passed such lovely sights as a couple of baby rabbits enjoying some time outdoors with their owners, the pastel-pink sky over a huge abandoned market which is finally going to be given a new life, and a full moon looking down over the illuminated fountains of my neighbourhood as the sky turned dark.

A pastel blue and pink sky sets over the concrete shell of a large structure.
A series of illuminated fountains in Madrid below a full moon sky.

To celebrate this lovely wander around streets that I hadn’t seen for many weeks, upon my arrival back home, I decided that it was time to make good use of some goodies that I had ordered from Lush. Lighting some candles, setting my lighting just right, popping on some slow music, and covering my face with a face mask of a different kind (a lovely peppermint-scented concoction), I converted my flat into a spa for the evening and pampered myself for an hour or two.

My face with a face mask.

With the weather perking up and the streets pretty much empty of cars, there’s really never been a better time to explore the city, and after seeing many families and groups of friends cycle by along the empty roads, I knew that I had to make the most of the opportunity and try and figure out how the road system and crazy roundabouts here work.

Now, I’ve never been the biggest fan of cycling, but after seeing the streets once filled with cars now replaced with people walking, jogging, and cycling, and the usual din of city traffic replaced by the chatter of conversation, people playing music from their windows, and even a family singing karaoke from their balcony, I suddenly found myself turned into an advocate for pedestrianising as much of the city as possible.

An empty tree-lined street near my flat in Madrid, with a beautiful sunset in the background.

The lovely atmosphere was only highlighted by said couple’s choice of song, “Resistiré” (“I will endure!”) by Dúo Dinámico (yes, this does mean the “Dynamic Duo”). This empowering hit from the 80s has become the hymn of the lockdown here in Spain, with people across the country singing along to the uplifting lyrics, which I have roughly translated:

I will endure! In order to keep on living!
I will bear the punches and I'll never give up!
And although my dreams may break into pieces:
I will endure! I will endure!

With such uplifting moments outside of my flat, I have also been trying to keep myself happy whilst indoors with my one true love: food. Besides the odd takeaway, it’s up to me to recreate some of my favourite dishes that I usually would eat out, and so I the other day I turned my hand to some ramen, which I have to say turned out rather splendidly!

A bowl of homemade ramen with pork.

Just yesterday, I thought it’d also be nice to head out and explore as much as the city as possible in the dark, and so I headed up to the northern boundary of my 1km limit: Atocha. Madrid’s main train station was stood very quiet, with all but essential trains currently out of service, but looking resplendent with a new lighting setup against the night sky.

The Atocha train station lit up at night.

To finish off this blog post, I think we all deserve a good laugh, and so I’ll share the scenes from last week’s quiz that I undertake with Abi and Danni. We decided that we should all go in costume, partly as a creative challenge to use materials available to us during lockdown, but mainly just for the laughs. As the three of us have been watching Tiger King on Netflix (well – what else is there to do?), me and Danni decided to drag it up, with Danni as Joe Exotic and myself as Carole Baskin.

If you’re not familiar with the series, Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin are arch-enemies who both own/owned wild cats, and my challenge was to transform myself into the latter. Anyway, lets get this over with: here’s a real photo of her versus what I managed…

Carole Baskin.
Me dressed as Carole Baskin.

It might not be the best costume ever, but with strips of bin bag for hair, some homemade pom-pom earrings, post-it and sweet wrapper flowers, all topped of with my first ever attempt at a full face of makeup, I thought I did an alright job given the provisions I had at hand!

You may have noticed earlier that I didn’t mention what Abi would be dressing up as for the quiz, and that’s because she kept it a secret right up until the last minute: me and Danni had no idea what she’d appear as once we fired up the video call! As you’ll see below, I think it’s fair to say that she didn’t disappoint; she turned up as a tiger and perfectly completed the hilarious trio!

Danni as Joe Exotic, me as Carole Baskin, and Abi as a tiger.

And so we conclude yet another edition of blog posts from lockdown: I’m surprised how much content I have to post despite feeling that I spend all my life in my flat: a sensation which is, to be fair, mostly accurate. To sign off, I return once again to the Alizée song that I mentioned at the beginning of my post, and a line which she sings in the English version of the song which I find very fitting given my birthday situation and the current lockdown:

I’m not twenty – and I want to be free!