Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Travel stories, a mewling cat and a breather

1. I wake up late and have a lazy morning. Mid-breakfast the doorbell rings and I feel flustered as family friend Liz has arrived to see my mum, who still hasn't arrived from work. When we sit down and she begins to tell me stories of her trip to Germany, though, I'm all ears.

2. Millie gives me that looking-into-your-soul stare, and I feel all the crueller for squirting medicated water down her throat.

3. I have an evening to breathe and catch up on a few things that have been bothering me just because they haven't been done yet.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Peace, moon and markets

1. An early (early, early..) start at Waitrose leaves me feeling frosty and groggy. I breathe a huge sigh of relief when they open the shop at 8am and just one or two men trickle through the door- very different to the usual surge, and I am glad for another hour's peace before the madness.

2. I can see the whole of Cheshire, the white-quilted fields and icy trees, from the train. I look to my right and both I and a lady next to me are momentarily transfixed by the moon hanging in the still-light sky, perfectly round and huge, with a slight yellow/red tinge.

3. Wandering Manchester's German Christmas Markets, it's good to be among the crowds of warm bodies, taking in all the exotic produce and smells and music with Tom, an old friend from home.

Another one I forgot, the most important of the day!

4. Julia, a lady I met in my first year at Manchester, appears at the end of the queue at my till, and she actually jumps up and down grinning because I'm finally in the shop when she is. Julia and I went to the conglomerated university choir together in Manchester; she was a mature student on an art course at Manchester Metropolitan and I was studying English Language and Spanish at the Uni of Manchester. We had such fun and when we found out that we live in neighbouring towns we became good friends and have kept in touch, through choir, and postcards from Madrid after that. Even though she's in her 50s she's one of the most smiley, youthful people I know all crammed into a teeny, tiny body and I am utterly happy to see her.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Back in the groove, macaroni cheese and trees

1. Getting behind the till in Waitrose feels as normal as ever. "Have you seen Anisa? It's like she never left." My supervisors have a giggle behind me.

2. Real macaroni cheese, with real cheddar, and real cornflour. I am bowled over by the awesomeness of British produce.

3. We finally get the tree up, even if it lacks the usual twinkly lights (0 out of 4 sets were functional!)

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Chilling, a comrade and chocolate Santas

1. A comfortable morning drinking warm, milky coffee and laughing about the antics of the night before.

2. I appreciate how nice it is to have someone like Dave who knows both my home-world and the new one we've created in Madrid.

3. I arrive home to see a pack of bright, shiny chocolate tree decorations next to my laptop. They will go nicely with the two bags of little chocolate Santas I bought while I was out!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

A reunion, a surprise and a white blanket

1. A visit to Manchester to see old friends after a semester in Spain; we all agree that it is as if no time has passed.

2. We go out for a meal at Gourmet Burger Kitchen- a first for me- and the chilli burger I order is huge and tasty. I feel slightly put out that so few people have turned out for the reunion, then on walking into the house a short time later, a horde of loud, cheery people jump out and chime, "Surprise!"

3. After a night of a lot of catching up, it begins to snow huge, fluffy flakes and the ground and cars are soon covered.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Woman's Weekly, bathtime and stollen

1. A lively conversation with my grandmother after a long break. I thank her for the relic Woman's Weekly she sent when I first got to Madrid (1992 issue!)- she reminisces about how it used to cost her twopence and today's version doesn't have anything anywhere near the standards of 1992's knitting guides.

2. I come downstairs to see a notably more lively Millie. She clings onto my leg when we give her a much-needed bath.

3. Time spent shopping under cover of darkness with Mum, and during the search for stollen (still no luck!) I bump into a lady with an earnest, "Perdon!" tumbling out of my mouth before I can stop myself.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Busking, sad cat and weirdness

1. Dave and I spend the whole flight home planning set lists for our new inspiration - busking! The idea of doing it when we're back in Manchester feels exciting and new.

2. Unfortunately I arrive home to find my cat, Millie, in a much worse condition than I expected. I had known she was ill, but not this ill. Despite being really quite upset, I'm amazed at how much my parents have been doing for her while I've been away, which is evident in the way they jump to attention with practiced movements.

3. From the moment I stepped off the plane, to the journey home, to having a go at driving for the first time in a number of months, everything is familiar at the same time as being utterly alien. "This is so weird..!" is on repeat.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Smiles and sandwiches, a wizarding visit and compensation

I felt like posting an intermediary entry... Evening frolics get overlooked if I post before I go out!

1. The last group meet-up consists of a small number of close friends in the most ethnically-rich barrio of Madrid, Lavapiés. I feel inexplicably blue (probably a mixture of exhaustion and apprehension about missing Madrid when back in the UK), but then Jaeyoon's ever-smiling face makes me feel a little less giddy. Also, a sandwich the size of my arm.

2. For the most part, I didn't think Harry Potter* and Tony would join us, but they do, and I feel grateful and smiley.

3. Getting up four and a half hours after going to sleep is nauseating; after I've borne the brunt of my (very) early classes, though, Madrid has its clear, bright blue sky on, so I take pictures on the walk home.

*Usual alias: Philibert

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Extreme tiredness, Snitches, Calyppos and conkers

1. Presentation number two goes well but I feel less bothered. I put it down to my extreme tiredness, and somehow lethargy makes the Spanish flow without as much apprehension and stuttering.

2. A cloud of Snitches around my light (from last month's Harry Potter party) make it all the better to be back at home after a long day and remind me of how funny that evening was.

3. On the walk home I make a leap for a conker I've seen hanging there for weeks on end every time I pass. I miss with a pitiful jump and the conker is smug and safe. Walking over the bridge, though, the sun turns the sky Calyppo-orange and it seems like the city is giving me something to remember it by over Christmas.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Change of plan, success and a familiar sight

1. An idea strikes - why didn't I think of it before? I read Three Beautiful Things every day, and marvel at Clare's ability to find three things to appreciate, every day, whatever the weather. As I have obviously found the weekly posts a bit of a challenge, perhaps this will do a better job of preserving my experiences in Madrid.

2. A hastily-prepared presentation goes well, and I feel we deserve the congratulations (despite my dry-mouthed, shakey delivery).

3. As I emerge from the train station to a now familiar, bustling scene of cars and humans, I can't help taking another drawn-out look at the four towers (las cuatro torres, Begoña), they never get any less impressive, standing guard at the city's outskirts.