27.06.23 — Journal

Watery Return to Madrid

After the weather was surprisingly warm and dry whilst I was back in the UK, my return back home to Madrid was decidedly less so. My new shoes were put to the test as I wandered the rainy streets of Madrid during the week, all which came to a watery crescendo on the Friday evening.

I left work with my colleague Clara and the two of us hopped on the metro to head to Retiro, Madrid’s most emblematic park and that weekend the location for Madrid’s annual book festival. We’d arranged to go to and see our colleague Carlos, who’s just published his first novel and so was at the fair signing copies!

I’d say he’s our Shakespeare but really he’s more our Cervantes.

We had a few laughs and a good chat with Carlos before the line behind us started getting a bit too long and the skies above us started getting a bit too grey. Me and Clara parted ways and within five minutes of heading off on my own I found myself caught in one of the worst downpours I think I’ve ever experienced in all my time in the city. I arrived at the bus stop soaked to the skin, not even said new shoes could keep out the water!

The photo does’t do it justice but this was a road turned river.

The rest of the weekend was a complete washout also. Needless to say I didn’t really get up to all that much, except one outing which I braved with my brolly. It wasn’t the world’s most demanding excursion, taking me just down the road to the Matadero to catch an exhibition which was in it’s final weekend, but it was worth it.

The exhibit I wanted to catch was an installation called La hoja (‘The leaf’ or ‘sheet’). It covered one of the spaces within the Matadero, forming a sheet of wood which turned up at one of its corners. This was then – much to my delight – illuminated with multicoloured stage lighting which invited you to step on and explore. It was simple but I very much enjoyed it.

I then spent the Sunday with Sara diving in and out of bars around Lavapiés in order to escape the rain and try out some alcohol free beers and the complimentary tapas which keep me so enamoured with Madrid. It was a lovely day, with the rain only hitting just after the two of us got home – great success!

Another calm week between the rain followed, which worked out well in the end as I was consciously saving up my energy ready for the big event I had coming up on the Friday: my pool’s annual swimming competition! Me and María, one of my mates I swim with, had been roped into joining with the premise of beers and a good time afterwards.

It was a complete shock to everyone, then, when our team only went and won the competition for our age range! We’d shown up joking that we’d sit on the side and be the cheerleaders, but wound up acing some of the races along with some new teammates who were, admittedly, probably much better than us…

Even so, we had a hoot during the medal ceremony and the big jump into the pool afterwards, all of which was followed by a late night at one of the local bars. This was great as we actually had the chance to get to know each other a bit more, discovering more than the absolute basics that we exchange between lengths and with ears full of water.

Another laid-back weekend followed under dull skies, but this at least gave me the chance to attempt something I’d been wanting to try my hand out at for a good while: making homemade croquettes. Croquetas, as they’re known here, are a staple of Spanish bar food and one of my favourite dishes, but they’re renowned for being somewhat tricky to make.

I’m happy to say that they came our pretty well, even if I went a bit overboard with the nutmeg and little bits of jamón (cured ham). I’ve since made them again and they’ve come out even better: crunchier on the outside and creamier on the inside. I’m hoping this can somehow count as one more step towards becoming a naturalised Spanish citizen…