23.01.21 — Journal

Storm Filomena

We’re now three weeks into 2021, and the year has already begun with all guns blazing, from drama in the US, a polar storm hitting Madrid for the first time since the 60s, and the sad passing of my Grandma. I’ve been back here in Spain for about three weeks now, and quite a lot has happened in such a short time!

At work, the year’s begun on a rather busy note, with plenty of projects and new challenges to get our teeth stuck into. Erretres have given us plenty of flexibility to come into the office or work from home as and when, which has been absolutely great, but I’ve actually gone with the former option of commuting to and from the office every day. As I mentioned back when lockdown first begun, the mental separation of my workspace and a relaxing space is very important to me, and it’s allowed my flat to become a cozy space for kicking back once again…

Evenings of relaxation must be lit by a bubblegum colour palette.

The big news over the past couple of weeks, however, has to have been the blizzard that passed through Madrid, and which has been causing absolute and unfettered bedlam ever since. I was shocked to learn that said storm had been named Borrasca Filomena, “Storm Philomena” – the name of my grandma who passed away over New Year. I knew she wouldn’t go out without causing a bit of chaos!

And, well, chaos she did cause. I began the weekend completely clueless as to the fact that Madrid was bracing for such a cold front, and so casually headed down to IKEA in the south of the city to hunt for a new table after I sat on my old one and broke it. It was snowing when I left the house, but I just assumed that Madrid would receive a meager few flakes which would linger around for all of five minutes…

Well, I arrived at the Metro stop in the south to find that this snowfall did, in fact, seem to be sticking around, and had to half-battle my way through an increasingly forceful bluster which was ensuring that every surface was dusted with a decent sprinkling of snow. I then arrived in the shopping centre to find a distinct lack of people and most of the shops either closed or frantically shuttering their entrances, which seemed odd for 7pm on a Friday evening.

Some shoppers panicked, some cooly ordered a cone of freshly fried churros.

I continued through the shopping centre and on to the IKEA at the other end, where things also seemed strangely quiet. At first, it was quite the enjoyable experience: with hardly anyone around, I could try out all the sofas and tables that I liked without having to look over my shoulder every two minutes to check I was properly socially distancing – just like the good old days!

Then, around the kitchen section, things started to feel off. I was wandering round a pretty empty showroom – even the staff seemed to have disappeared. Soon came the inevitable announcement: they were closing the shop early due to the inclement weather. Having been reminded of such announcements in the theme parks in Florida, I headed towards the exit, abandoning the table and picking up some easier-to-transport plants instead.

It was then, when I stepped outside, that the gravity of what was going on suddenly hit home. I’d been isolated inside IKEA’s steel box for a mere hour or so, but the conditions outside had worsened dramatically. A good couple of inches of snow now covered everything, and there was no sign that the blizzard-like conditions were going to let up. The car park was all but empty, with the few cars that did remain slipping and sliding their ways to the exits. I made off to the Metro station with haste, hoping that it’s subterranean nature would mean that it wasn’t affected by the weather, but even getting there was a struggle as I battled against strong winds and horizontal snowfall which seemed intent on hitting me square in the face.

I battled against strong winds and horizontal snowfall which seemed intent on hitting me square in the face.

Thankfully I managed to get back to my local Metro station, Delicias, but I was met with quite the shock as I resurfaced. Up until arriving back in the centre, I had been wondering if the area around IKEA was just being disproportionally affected by the snow due to its southern location and more rural setting. This theory was disproven, as I say, when I was met by a street which mirrored the scenes of the IKEA car park. I cautiously made my way to my flat, stopping only to grab a chicken wrap from a local Lebanese bar. Once inside, I buttoned down the hatches, turned the heating up, and headed off to bed wondering what the next day would bring.

As my flat isn’t exterior-facing, I awoke with very few clues as to what the situation looked like out on the streets. The only clue I had was the drifts of snow which had built up over my neighbors’ windowsills overnight. After some mooching around (it was a Saturday morning after all), I decided to head out and see what the deal was with this much-talked-about snowfall.

As you can see, the scenes I was greeted with were positively apocalyptic. Huge branches had snapped off with the weight of the snow and were now lying on cars and across roads, whilst snow drifts had half buried pretty much everything else. Some families had headed out to build snowmen or hold a snowball fight, but most of the people out on the streets were like me: wandering around in circles taking in these rare scenes.

The cold soon got a bit too much for me, however, and the last straw came when I accidentally put my foot through half a meter of snow that had built up over the hole in the pavement where they plant the trees. This left my boot soggy and me in a bad mood, so I headed home to dry off before heading back out to the supermarket. This turned out to be another pointless loop around the neighborhood, as the Mercadona had closed early due to the weather, so I headed back home and made do with some tinned soup.

Being cold and wet is nothing that some nice lighting and candles can’t fix.

Once the winter weekend was over, I thought that the heavy snowfall would soon melt and that the chaos would fade from memory, but I was rather mistaken. Monday’s trip to the office was an exercise in trying to not fall flat on my face whilst navigating a downhill-sloping ice rink, and the conditions only seemed to worsen as the week went on, with bags of rubbish and ice piling up in the streets and perilous chunks of snow and ice crashing to the ground from the rooftops.

Then, and with another working week wrapped up, it was time to kick back for a chill weekend. I kicked things off on Friday, where I headed out for a lovely Catalan tapas-style meal with my colleague Jesús. The next day, I headed down to ex-colleague Luis’ new flat, where he was moving his plants in ahead of his big move to my neighborhood the week after.

After a glass of wine and some cured meats in a lovely local wine bar, I left Luis to visit Napo at Five Guys, where we’d arranged to have a burger and catch up after the last time we saw each other just before I headed off to England for Christmas. The Sunday evening then saw me head out for more food, this time with Sara. We spent an evening atop El Corte Inglés in Callao, snacking on various pinchos, before heading into the centre for a few drinks on a terrace in one of the city’s many plazas.

This lovely weekend then led me into a week which has been quite the adventure, but which I’ll have to now leave until the next blog post. All I’ve to say is that I’m back in England whilst I write this blog post to give you a good idea of how disrupted it’s been! Until then…