20.06.20 — Journal

The New Normality

After over three months of a Spain in lockdown, these past few weeks have finally seen Madrid move slowly through the four phases of the Spanish government’s deescalation procedure. My last blog post included various little outings that I was able to make, but such wanders always had to be undertaken alone.

Now, with public transport running, bars and restaurants beginning to open their terraces and interiors, and the relaxing of other confinement measures, social gatherings are back on the cards! This was all very exciting, but my first “social gathering” wasn’t that much of a hoot, as it involved a trip to a clinic in the north of the city for a COVID-19 test that Erretres kindly gave us the option of taking.

Looking up to the sky from the entrance to Delicias metro station in Madrid, Spain.

When the results of said test came back, I was rather cross to discover that I had next to no antibodies, and so it’s pretty likely that I haven’t yet had the virus. I was rather hoping that the results would come back positive, as it would mean that I’d had a very light case of the infection and wouldn’t need to worry about possible ill effects going forwards. But hey, never mind!

After another enthralling trip to the dentist out into the now exotic lands north of my neighbourhood, it was eventually time to finally meet up with some friends after months with next to no human contact! I naturally had arranged to meet Bogar and Hugo down by the river, where we organised a socially-distanced mini picnic and chatted away into the evening.

Me, Bogar, and Hugo have a picnic by Madrid Río.

Me and Hugo then met up again a few days later, once again meandering along the paths of this unimaginatively-named Parque Madrid Río (Madrid River Park) which, shockingly, is a park in Madrid which follows the river. On our journey, we passed the now almost fully-demolished stadium known as Estadio Vicente Calderón, the old home of Atlético de Madrid, which always reminds me of the time I went to watch a match in their new stadium, and even the song that we all sung in support!

The remains of the Vicente Calderón Stadium in Madrid during its demolition.
The rear facade of the Matadero in Madrid.

We worked up quite an appetite during out wanderings down by the river, and eventually discovered a lovely burger restaurant a mere stone’s throw away from my house. After a few hours of beers and chatting the evening away, we arranged to another picnic the day after with the two of us and some more of Hugo’s friends.

The brick facade of a building near the Atocha Train Station in Madrid. A streetlight lights up part of the dark facade by night.

I had promised to bring along carrot cake, and so spent the majority of the day baking, only to be met with heavy rain and rumbles of thunder just as I stepped out of the door. I held off back in my flat for another half an hour (I was already two hours late for the picnic), but little did I know that this would be just the beginning of a chain of disasters that evening.

Once the rain had stopped, I decided that the quickest way to get to the park was by electric scooter, and so I strapped my tote bag full of Tupperware to the handlebar of my rented scooter and headed off down the riverside path at full speed. Midway through the journey, I grossly misjudged the height of what I thought was just a small dip in the paving, and instantaneously found myself eating the tarmac as I was thrown to the ground.

Unhurt except for a broken Tupperware, some now rather mushy carrot cake, and a nasty graze on my jeans, I hopped back on the scooter and carried on my journey to the park in question. I eventually arrived and introduced myself to Hugo’s friends, only for my arrival to be followed by more claps of thunder and a light shower which soon turned into a torrent.

Grabbing the plates, the picnic blankets, and the scraps of food and unopened drinks that could be salvaged, my first meeting with the group was cut rather short, as we all retreated to the shelter of a bus stop outside the park. One of Hugo’s friends graciously offered to stop the two of us off at my flat, where a bag of food ended up falling and knocking a glass of red wine all over my carpet. As I said, it was a real series of unfortunate events!

In order to cheer myself up, the next day I made a batch of carrot cake buns with the leftover cake mix, and dropped a few off with my friend Jhosef so that he might give me feedback after he gifted me the most delicious loaf of banana bread for my birthday!

A plate full of seven carrot cake buns topped with walnuts and cinnamon.

With so much work at home, I’ve been increasingly taking advantage of these new freedoms in order to revisit the park by the river and wander, scoot, or cycle away for an hour or so to clear my head of the stresses of the day. Heading out either alone or with Jhosef, I’ve witnessed my fair share of the most excellent Madrid sunsets, as well as the continued demolition of the old stadium, which is all but gone by now.

The evening sky full of various cloud formations seen from a bridge over the river in Madrid.
The skeletal remains of the Vicente Calderón stadium in Madrid.
The sunset in Madrid colours a cloud formation in orange in contrast with the blue sky.
The silhouette of the nearly demolished Vicente Calderón stadium in Madrid, against a sunset.

Another little lift came in the form of a card and subsequent gift sent from Kevin in the US, a belated birthday present in the form of a copy of T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land”. I haven’t gotten round to reading it yet, but I am itching to do so, as Kevin has repeatedly spoke highly of the piece in the past!

A card addressed to me which came from the US.

Amongst all these trips down to the river, I also ventured out to meet up with other friends, but the excitement of seeing everyone again meant that I completely forgot to take any photos!

One evening saw me meet up with Luis, an ex-colleague, and a group of other guys from Erretres for some drinks and laughs at a lovely spot in the centre. Another evening was my first time back at my favourite local bar and terrace with Bogar and Hugo, and just last week I met up with Blanca, Jesús, and Pablo from work for tea (dinner) and drinks near the office.

My neighbourhood isn’t all too ugly if I may say so myself.

A street in Delicias, Madrid, covered by a sky with cloud formations.

So with this, I conclude my overview of what the gradual transition to the new normality (la nueva normalidad, the Spanish government’s words, not mine) has looked like for me. As Spain’s internal borders are opened this weekend and we are flung fully into this new phase of a rather turbulent 2020, I’ll be back as soon as possible to bring more updates. Until then!