24.11.22 — Journal

The Cold’s Back

Now back in Madrid after many trips out and about, autumn has really began to hit and coat and hat season has definitely rolled around. All of this, of course, from one day to the other and in true Madrid fashion.

No fear, though, as there were still many plans to make with friends and things to do that we’d planned well in advance. The first of these was a night in at home with Sara, which we spent making spinach and ricotta cannelloni (my favourite dish) and getting a little merry on a couple of glasses of wine.

The very next day me and Sara were back having a cheeky drink, but this time in a wholly new setting. We’d booked in for an evening session at Arte Bar, a place where we’d be guided through how to paint on canvas whilst enjoying some snacks and a quick tipple.

We had an absolute blast at what we’d affectionally nicknamed “pintar y chumar” (painting and drinking). Our art teacher for the evening was an absolute hoot and helped us try out the different techniques to create our paintings, which I think came out pretty well!

I was pretty happy with the end result, even if I had to rush the trees.

It was also lovely to spend an evening out doing something different to the usual chats over a drink or meals out around the centre of Madrid. Not that I’m saying there’s anything wrong with a meal and a drink out, though – it’s one of my favourite activities!

The next week I was back to work, but my time after work was – as usual – filled with other plans and activities. A couple of days took me down to the Matadero to visit Japan Desu, a series of events, exhibitions, and talks exploring Japanese design and innovation. These were very interesting and got me thinking about a lot of issues.

This mirror looked a bit like a portal into another world.

To end the week on a high, Bogar, Javier, Hugo, and I met up for an evening. We first had a meal at our favourite local spot and then headed to the cinema. There we watched a Spanish film called No mires a los ojos (whose title in English is “Staring at Strangers”), a very odd thriller which told the tale of a man who infiltrates a family’s house by hiding in a wardrobe that’s being moved into their bedroom.

It was, as I say, a rather strange film, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, especially as it began to pick up and things began to become steadily more convoluted. It began as a simple albeit creepy story, but ended up somewhere completely different.

The highlight of the evening has to have been the place where we’d gone to see the film, as we’d finally got round to visiting a local independent cinema. This cozy spot is just two minutes away from my front door and shows films in their original language. I am not a fan of dubbing at all, so I’ll definitely be back!

The day after, Sara and I met up once more for another evening out. We headed up on the bus to Antón Martín, a market where the locals go to for a bite to eat and a drink on an evening. As the weather was cold and the rain attacking by this point, an evening inside a covered and heated market was just what the doctor ordered!

After some delicious food and a couple of beers, we moved across the road and into a jazz bar that I’d visited with my parents when they visited earlier this year. I quite fancied a bit of live music and a good cocktail, and so “El Despertar” was just the place to go.

An Amaretto Sour was just what the doctor ordered for me.

The next day was a day I’d planned to stay at home and relax somewhat, but there’s never any rest for the wicked: Luis called and suggested we have lunch. I’m never one to turn down a meal out, so I suggested we meet up try out a place nearby that I’d spotted on my way to the Japan Desu event a few days prior. Luis had seen it too on his travels around our neighbourhood, so we met up there to try the Argentinian offerings.

The pretty little restaurant was an absolute triumph. We enjoyed a starter of melted cheese and some empanadas, with the main event being a huge beef milanesa (a bit like a schnitzel) with some delicious toppings. We polished it all off with a couple of desserts, including some crepes filled with dulce de leche – a sweet spread so tasty it should be a sin!

From there, the two of us wandered down to the Matadero for a post-lunch gin and tonic. We had this on a little hidden terrace garden which I’d never been to, marking the second discovery of the day. I love Arganzuela, my neighbourhood, and I don’t think I’ll ever leave for as long as I stay in Madrid!

That evening I eventually tidied up my house a bit, just in time for a special and much-awaited call. Heidi, Loredana, Megan, and I had finally managed to set a date for a video call for a huge catch up after a good while without the four of us speaking all together.

We had a hilarious evening chatting, gossiping, and painting. I say painting as I took it upon myself to paint a self portrait of all for of us during the call. I’d post the final paintings here but they are very caricature-like and very much unflattering of all of us, with none of the skills that I’d learned at Arte Bar applied to their creation. I also think if I did then the three girls would kill me, so let’s move swiftly on…

The next week continued with more cinema. I firstly went by myself to seeCerdita (translated into English as “Piggy”), a film described as an “anti-bullying slasher”. This it was indeed, with plenty of uncomfortable scenes of bullying and harrassment followed by some rather nail-biting suspense and gore towards the end.

I should have known from the trailer that it was going to be an uneasy watch and I should have thus probably gone with someone else, but it was a fabulous film despite all this. I would very much recommend it to anyone who is in the right frame of mind to watch it!

The second trip to the cinema took me to see As bestas (translated from Galician into English as “The Beasts”) with a couple of colleagues. It was half leisure, half research trip, as we’d been sent with instructions to take note of the film’s representation of Galicia, a province in the northwestern corner of Spain.

This was another fabulous film, with plenty of suspense and heartbreak throughout the nail-biting story. It was also beautiful, and made me even more keen to visit Galicia despite the somewhat depressing events which take place throughout the plot. Another one to go and see if you can!

Outside of my cinematographic adventures, Thursday also had a surprise in store for me. My boss Pablo couldn’t make it over for a talk he was scheduled to give at the Japan Desu events, so me and my colleague Blanca were drafted in to present our ethos and methodology at Erretres.

It was lovely to be asked to present and to meet the team of DiMad, the design collective who organise these kind of events in the city. I think Blanca and I did the company justice, and hope that anyone who came along enjoyed our talk and learned something about how we design from Madrid to the rest of the world.

But it was also a nice little milestone for me at a personal level. I first visited the Matadero’s design centre when I moved to Madrid and have loved the place ever since, so to be forming part of one of these events was a nice moment for reflection on my journey since rocking up to Spain at just 20 years old. Who’d have thought that I’d go from my rough A-Level language skills as an intern to giving a presentation in Spanish at a place I’ve always revered so much!

I risk getting sentimental here, so I’ll move on…

As the week ended, my weekend plans were just beginning. Cami had come down to Madrid to spend a few days, so on Friday night we had a pyjama party at my place. We grabbed some pizza, binged on snacks, put on face masks, and watched a fun little film that I hadn’t seen for years: St. Trinian’s.

The next day we met up with Nacho, one of Cami’s family friends who has also moved to Madrid, and had a lovely Japanese meal at a restaurant north of the centre. From there, I did a bit of urgent clothes shopping after all my winter clothes from last year are now way too big on me – another little personal success story I guess!

That evening we also stayed in, but I had Napo and Sara come over too and we all had some food together (cannelloni [again] and carrot cake) before having some drinks and an absolute hoot of a time until the early hours of the morning. With winter around, the perfect plan starts to involve long evenings at home with great company and the heating turned up!

Sunday was thus a more relaxed day, as I stayed at home to finally finish a deep clean of my kitchen which has – hopefully understandably given the amount of stuff I’ve been up to – dragged on for a while now. I did wind up heading out for a walk in the last rays of the evening sun, though, which led to a series of rather pretty pictures down by the river.

I’d planned an evening in by myself, but wound up inviting Álvaro over for something to eat. I threw together a quick but tasty dish of dorada (a white fish) and some vegetables, after which we polished off what was left of the carrot cake.

And I think that with all that said, I’m finally up to date with my blog posts – at least I was, until today, but that’s one for next time!