24.12.22 — Journal

Festivities in Madrid

Before we begin today, an anecdote. As I wrote my last blog post from the terminal in Manchester, I didn’t have the chance to document the chaos that then ensued as upon boarding. I had only mentioned in that post that my flight had been delayed by three hours thanks to an admittedly festive but ultimately irritating bout of snow, but there was more to come.

Well, I spent almost all of those three hours in the airport building happily finishing my blog post before boarding began. The bus ride to the plane then allowed for a look at the state of the airport. There was a decent amount of snow piled all around, but it seemed that things were under control.

I really should not watch plane crash documentaries before flying…

That was until we were all seated on the plane, when the second round of delays began. Our flight was stuck in a queue of flights needing de-icing before takeoff, which in the end led to another 90 minutes stationary on the tarmac.

The plane might have been stood still, but us passengers certainly weren’t! Restless after such a long evening, lots of people started to move around and grab some fresh air at the front door. I was buzzing as I’d a whole empty row to myself, so I kicked back and got my laptop out to finish the Spanish translation of my previous blog post.

We then all made friends on the stranded plane, with a lady in row 1 pulling up a live stream of the England vs. France semifinal. Not interested in football or contributing in any way to the disgrace that has been this year’s World Cup, I wasn’t inclined to get involved, but seeing as it was already on and there was nothing else to do, I eventually watched England get kicked out of the competition.

The plane eventually took off about four hours late. Ryanair valiantly managed to claw half an hour of that back by doing whatever the plane equivalent is of stepping on it, but it still made for a very late landing and a healthy dose of grumpiness born of exhaustion. On the bright side, the flight into Madrid took us right over the centre for some amazing nighttime views.

Now back home, the first order of business was just that, business. I headed back to work in the cold showers that were pouring down Madrid, showers which lasted for the entire week. I’m from Burnley, though, so I’m not fazed by a bit of water. I thus carried on with my plans, the first of which was yet a night at the theatre after my rather thespian week back in the UK.

My clown boots and the leaves made for a rather autumnal scene.

After seeing my first performance there this summer, I was once again in the Sala Verde at the Teatros del Canal, one of Madrid’s main theatres. I spent a good two and a half hours there watching Women’s Football Club, a Spanish-language piece despite its English name.

The show told the story of the world’s first women’s football team from Sheffield, the city where my sister’s based and whose name I’d also ran into just a few weeks before at a market near my house in Madrid. Strange how these things happen!

It was an absolutely amazing performance, with the eleven women who made up the cast giving it their all as they sang, danced, performed, and even played a game of football without even so much as an interval. I was left touched by the story and in stitches by the comedy!

Back home, I’d finally finished decorating my flat for Christmas. It made for a lovely atmosphere to return to after some long days at work as clients as well as us are keen to finish as much as we can before the Christmas holidays begin.

The week then finished with a rush to throw together a carrot cake for a very special occasion. After years of living just down the road from me here in Madrid, Bogar and his partner Javier are leaving the capital for new adventures. To mark the occasion, I baked my signature cake and headed over to their flat for one last hurrah before the big move.

It’s not the prettiest carrot cake I’ve ever made, but it sure did taste good.

It was a bittersweet occasion, as I’m naturally sad that they’re not going to be so close, but I’m equally happy with where they’re off to: Gijón! This city in the north of Spain is like a second home to me, as I’ve visited more times than I can remember with Cami, Kevin, and Sara. I’m still very often found around Asturias, and I’ll now have yet another reason to visit and another bed to sleep in!

With the goodbyes said and the tipsy hugs given, I then had another relaxing weekend with friends. Things started on Saturday, when me and Napo met up for lunch in the city centre. He took me to a Venezuelan restaurant, where I tried a traditional Venezuelan Christmas dinner. It was absolutely delicious but rather filling, so we effectively had to waddle back to the bus stop to grab the bus back to mine.

Everything was washed down with a Venezuelan beer, of course!

Back in my house, we had a nap to begin to digest so much food. This nap wound up getting completely out of hand and we woke up blurry eyed at around 9pm! With nothing else planned though, we popped on a film and cracked open some snacks for the night. I even made some mulled wine which went down a treat and helped us get back off to sleep at around 2am!

The next day, I made English-style pancakes for breakfast, which we proceeded to devour with the traditional toppings of lemon juice and sugar, followed by some more decadent ones with Nutella and cream. You can’t beat it!

Later that day, Sara and Rocío came over for another round of mulled wine. The three of us had a good gossip, some snacks, and a cup of the festive drink at mine before we all headed off our separate ways for something to eat. I wanted to carry on making the most of all the Christmas decorations and scented candles I’d bought, so I stayed right where I was in my living room!

At work the next week we then had a bittersweet occasion to celebrate. It was Inés’ last day at the company with us before she heads off to Japan for a new adventure in 2023. Me and the rest of the team convened in the office to head out for a goodbye lunch – at a Japanese restaurant, of course – and so that I could give them my traditional team gift of some chocolate. This year it came with some “Oliver” confetti my mum had sent me once, so everyone branded themselves with them!

A vanity selfie because I’m not in the above photo and because I look cute.

My last festive event before the Christmas holidays then took place down in Legazpi, an area just a ten minute walk from my house. Luis, a whole bunch of his friends, and I had arranged to meet up to go ice skating and then had a Chinese hotpot meal for tea. This was a carbon copy of the fun evening we’d spent with Yaewon last year, so it’s well on its way to becoming a little Madrid Christmas tradition!

The Matadero is lit in a rather dramatic fashion at night.

The bunch of 15 of us met up at the ice skating rink for our quick run around on the ice. I was pleased to see that after losing some weight and taking skating lessons this year, I was much better on my feet and had did a good few laps of the rink in a decent time. I was no match for Luis, though, who was zooming off and twirling around like there was no tomorrow!

The image captures the speed, beauty, and grace of our skating session perfectly.

Once we’d had our fill of the ice, we moved over to a cozy bar in the Matadero and had some drinks. I had a bad stomach so went straight for a gin and tonic, protesting that tonic was good for the stomach. This was quite the start, though, so I then stuck to munching on the free crisps (thanks, Spain) and drinking water before we headed to the restaurant.

We then had an absolutely fabulous albeit completely chaotic hotpot meal. Last year with just the three of us it had already been a bit of a logistical nightmare to organise what we were cooking in the broth, so with seven of us around the table you can just imagine the scenes!

I do love a good amount of chaos – why do you think I moved to Spain – and so had great fun struggling to pick up some meatballs and then watching other people fail spectacularly to pluck noodles out of the simmering broth. This combination of a fun format, delicious food, and hilarious company made for the perfect sendoff before heading to the UK for the Christmas period.

We had a lot of fun cooking our own food around the table!

The next day, I balanced work with packing before having some lunch with Nacho, who was visiting from Prague. He brought over a bottle of wine and we ordered some Italian food from one of my favourite places. This meant we could have a lovely catch up as we nibbled on some pizza, which we did up until the moment I’d to head out to the airport for my evening flight over to the motherland.

After some horror stories about the state of Madrid Airport in the run up to Christmas and the border force strikes over in Manchester Airport, I had probably the smoothest journey from Madrid to Manchester ever. The only hiccup came as I lost my AirPods in departures in Madrid, which I went rushing around the terminal looking for before eventually resigning myself to the fact that they were lost and hopping on my flight as they called us to board.

I’d supposed that the “Find My” app on my iPhone was malfunctioning as it said that I had my AirPods on me the whole way back, but I’d unpacked my bag and run through all the pockets on my coat many times over and I still couldn’t locate them. This was until I got home and took my jeans off, upon which they fell to the ground. I’ve no idea where they were within my jeans or how they ended up there, but it was a Christmas miracle to discover that I hadn’t in fact lost these 220€ earphones!

Time will only tell when I publish this blog post, as these days I’ll be relaxing and spending as much time offline and with my family as possible. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and hope you all have chance to enjoy some chill time off, whatever it is you may be celebrating!