Monday, 31 January 2011

Mondo-Skype, tall people and story time

1. I talk with mum and dad for nearly 3 hours on Skype. It's nice just to talk about inane things and throw ideas around for where I might be able to travel with them during the Easter break.

2. Rory pops up on Facebook chat and we have a long conversation about why rugby-players don't have feelings and the like. It always amuses me how he plays the devil's advocate.

3. Watching Beltrán read to his mum from a Spanish story book.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

A big relief, out of the woodwork, visiting Buddha

1. Filling my lungs with cool air from outside the flat on the way to the Metro.

2. The centre of Madrid is teeming with activity, and I wonder where all these people come from to have a stroll in the evening.

3. I accompany Dave to a party he has been invited to by Jacob (fondly known as 'Buddha' by me, because he's permanently happy, extremely zen and has a very calming voice). I feel a bit like I'm intruding, but when everyone is laughing and joking in a mixture of German and English, I don't think about it again. Maybe it was the deadly-but-extremely-refreshing Finnish drink Karo had prepared, made from vodka and 3 and a half packets of Fisherman's Friends.

3a. Dave and I can hear a difference in the way one man speaks German and we guess that he is from a different part of Germany to the others. We have good ears, says one of the German girls.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Smiling faces, peppermint joy and a salsa class

1. Rushing helter-skelter up the escalators to make it to a group dinner in Lavapiés in time. However, I forget that when the Metro runs late, it affects everyone, and we all arrive in a perfectly coordinated moment.

2. A mug of peppermint tea - my second in two days, and something like the third in my life. I remember not liking it at all the first time, but when I tried it yesterday and today, it was just what I needed. Plus, it was Marcus' last teabag, so it needed to be savoured.

3. Marcus is a certified dance nut and often gives us little demonstrations of his waltz and salsa skills - mostly in his flat, swirling to avoid the furniture. Maybe it was due to being over-tired, or maybe I was just feeling particularly rakish, but I put the few salsa steps I know to good use and it really is so fun to dance properly with someone!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Adapting to your audience, También la Lluvia, quiet

1. During the English class with Candela and Beltrán today, for once it seems like we're getting somewhere. Instead of getting him to talk about things that makes him yawn, I tell Beltrán we can play on the Super Mario Wii game if he promises to shout commands and vocabulary at me in English - it works!

2. We go and see También la Lluvia, a Spanish film set in Bolivia. It follows the making of a film about Christopher Columbus' discovery of the new world, but it really mirrors the maltreatment of the people that live there today, and it seems like nothing has changed. Afterward, Marcus the Salsa-enthusiast teaches Philibert a few steps in the street... And I catch it on camera.

3. The blanket of quiet as I emerge from Begoña station into wet, chilly surroundings.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Tousle-y hair, the grass is always greener and living on the edge

1. Shaking my squeaky-clean hair out of its bun into the bright, cool, breezy day, the cars tousle it as they whizz past.

2. I whimper to Elena in Spanish, say that I'm bored and have nothing to do because everyone else has exams. As the words come tumbling out I realise that leaves me free and easy in comparison, and Elena laughs at me.

3. This is a day for bravery; perhaps I will go and see an un-subtitled Spanish film?

'Entrepanes,' literally translated as 'between bread,' also known as 'Montaditos' - a fantastic Spanish idea!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Rubik's, changing perspective and toast (almost)

1. Amongst all the sour-faced Line 10 commuters there's a guy playing with a retro-coloured Rubik's cube. To me, he is the epitome of cool.

2. When I come out of the metro station at Duque de Pastrana to go and give an English class to the children, I can see the cuatro torres, but what seems to be an exact mirror image of them; the most modern of the four is on the wrong side, whereas usually it's the one closest to me. When I emerge out of Begoña station later on I turn and I am magically on the right side of the towers again. It makes the city seem a lot smaller.

3. I attempt toast in the toastie-maker. The result is slightly crispy white bread with toasted edges. The slight crispiness is toast enough for me after not having it for months on end.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

For my Milliecat

My cat Millie's been really ill for a number of months and it can't have been much of a life for her lately. She's been with me since I was about 8 and she was a lovely, inexorably friendly little cat, not shy of anyone and always around to say hello. The things I will remember about her most are the tinkle of her bell, the weird noises she made and her general cuddliness. She slipped away last night, my parents were with her, and although I am a very sad bean indeed, I feel relieved that she's not having to struggle anymore.

Bye for now, my much-loved Milliecat.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Fog rolling out, mini bubbles and tumbleweeds

1. I roll into university, dragging my feet all the way to doom. The last two exams of the week over, I step out of the building beneath vaulted blue skies and for the first time in a while I can actually feel the heat of the sun on my skin. The fog cleared after all!

2. The plume of diddy bubbles as I plonk the washing-up liquid bottle down on the counter with a dull thud.

3. Time to do whatever I like. It was like an unintentional lonely night in, but it's peace, in the flat and in my mind.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Mischief, coffee and 2 croissants

1. The final B2-level Spanish class passes happily, even though we're doing a quiz. In typical Spanish fashion, Paula does not seem bothered to look up from her newspaper the entire hour and a half while we complete our quizzes, so we have fun taking cheeky glances at each other's essays and giggling because we know we're being silly. Thankfully, it wasn't that serious a test...!

2. I follow the initiative of a fellow Madrileñan wannabe (from Austria) and dip the singed corner of my croissant into my (very, very strong) milky coffee. At first, I don't like it, then the pastry gives way and sweet and savoury work in harmony.

3. Philibert teaches me some German words and turns of phrase - my particular favourites, zauber and löl ('spell' and the Germanised 'lol') So, like the linguist I aspire to be, I give him a rough translation of something French to say to someone else. In the end I think he ended up saying something along the lines of, "I am a magician and I like to grow croissants." I tried!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Time for a wander, camaraderie and a lazy day

1. I arrive earlier than expected to the Cantoblanco campus- 7 minutes earlier, actually. So I can wander up the diagonal path through the chilled, dewy trees while everyone rushes around me.

2. Before my phonetics exam starts I talk to the one girl I know speaks English in the class. We both speak Spanish normally, but it's nice to joke about things, including how the tutor can come across as a being a bit intimidating, even though she's alright, really!

3. After the exam seems to go fairly well I head straight back home through the mild weather to a day of doing nothing but watching How I Met Your Mother (which I've now definitely 'gotten into') and resting my over-stuffed head.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Examen 1, Tea Partaaay and sunnier climes

1. First exam does not go so well. I realise with a fluttering heart that I don't know how to do one of the questions, so I do all of the others and hope that they're okay. On the upside, I finally introduce myself to a couple of other Erasmus students in the class, one of whom I see in the cafeteria, and he waves and says ciao as I leave.

2. I am very much looking forward to officially proposing the Tea Party this weekend! I lugged a mountain of the UK's finest biscuits, chocolate and tea with me to Madrid, and it's been waiting to put a show on.

3. Madrid is shrouded in fog. It seems to reflect my state of mind, and by the end of the week I hope to see sunny skies.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Hero #1, Hero #2 and the great outdoors

1. Mum's repeated Skype-efforts to keep me chirpy about revision. Of course, she knows it hardly changes the way I feel about it all, but she keeps doing it, and this eventually gives me heart.

2. Also, Sarah's beaming smile and happy disposition give me courage, and I tell her so.

3. My mind thrums to a bored rhythm, so to step out of the flat and breathe in a gulp of fresh(ish) air seems to give gravity to all the distracting stuff floating around in my head.

Friday, 14 January 2011

A raucous conversation, a mural and a quiz

1. Exam stress gets to me and I can't work any longer. Suddenly, loudly talking with a friend on Skype brings me back to myself, and the laughter just tumbles out.

2. In a moment of procrastination I bring out the photos I ordered while at home and stick them all up strategically on the mostly-bare white wall of my bedroom. When I'm finished, I can be in Madrid with all the grinning faces of family and friends from both here and home.

3. The pub quiz. It rings of home but is so completely different; as I push my way through the crowded bar I am greeted by familiar, happy faces that make me beam back in return.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Leafy Cantoblanco, a happy reunion and a puff of gold

1. The Cantoblanco campus is no longer glittering evilly with ice every morning. I can breathe a sigh of relief as the scene slowly returns to the orange sun-splashed, leafy outlook that I'm used to.

2. Smiling Koreans. "Wooooow...!"

3. The perfect croissant; it has a little quiff and is evenly golden-brown all over. To tear into its luxuriant layers gives me a strange sort of satisfaction. If they're this good in Spain, I wonder what real French croissants must be like.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Treat 'em mean, ready for sunshine and a regular conversation

1. My English to Spanish translation teacher is refreshingly unpatronising in today's lesson. "...and when you're in the review session, please don't cry. No, really. Every year, it happens, without fail. Okay, so you're crying, it doesn't mean I'm going to change your exam grade." This man earns big respect from behind his tiny glasses.

2. Walking somewhat aimlessly up one of the grandiose streets that branches off Puerta del Sol, the early-evening sunlight ricochets off far-off buildings and I can almost feel without a shadow of a doubt how wonderful (and almost unbearably hot) the city will be in summer.

3. Confessing to feeling blue about something, even if it's only half-heartedly, takes some weight from the battle.

3a. Mum's chuckling as we talk about nothing in particular on Skype.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

A very early start, tired times and a prize

Had a bit of a Christmas break, the next few days will be hectic as I return to Madrid on Sunday and from there, the thoughtettes will continue!

1. Despite the cold darkness of the morning, driving at 5:30am with my sister and mother to the airport is brightened by our half-sleepy jokes. Leila is smiling brightly as she leaves for her work in Cyprus, "I'm going to go straight to Departures. You can save yourselves paying extra in the car park- I'm going to do my nails while I wait." 

2. Mum and I go on a hunt for an early breakfast, and end up stumbling upon more than decent coffee in McDonald's of all places. We spend the day finding bargains and traversing the land in a tired stupor. Later, we both fall asleep to the sound of Brian Cox and Dara O'Briain's BBC Stargazing LIVE (which I love, check it out at

3.  Having started the day almostly stupidly (for me!) early, I am repeatedly amazed at the time at intervals during the day. I make a face and sound incredulous as I state the time, but inwardly I feel like I've somehow won a part of the day I don't normally see.