A Fortnight, ft. Jesus’ modesty loincloth

When I thought about what life would be like in Madrid prior to moving here, I had a very bohemian idea in my head that I would have loads of time for reading poetry and looking out of windows, and wearing those harem pant things, and sandals. In particular, with plenty of time to blog. Instead, I am left with a fortnight’s worth of chat to condense into a post because I spend all my time pretend-mediating and pretend-working, and sometimes doing Pilates videos on Youtube in the living room when I come home.

Ruairidh’s parents came to visit, which was good fun. On the Friday I met them at the Thyssen Bournemisza and spent a happy afternoon with some of the best pieces of art in Madrid, ranging from the pre-Renaissance triptychs (‘hide the inability to paint faces under some gold leaf! Now add some more gold leaf!’) all the way to Picasso and Lichtenstein. I’ve been to the Thyssen so many times now that I own like the whole collection in postcard form from innumerable gift shop visits; a home from home.

Look at some of my favourites – Holbein Junior’s Henry VIII, naturlich, and his (possible) young Catherine of Aragon:


And look at this mad one here by Gabriel Zehender from 1525 – it’s completely bizarre in composition and that wild scarlet background and pops of green:

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We have never met

I met their family friend who now lives in Madrid, which involved a short spell of having two six year old boys running around the flat. Luckily we don’t own anything, so there was nothing to get destroyed. That isn’t even too much of an exaggeration: we had to buy two extra plates from Señor Wu’s Wonder Emporium in order to cook a dinner for Ruairidh’s parents.

We also went back to El Escorial (you remember that place, dontcha?) on the Sunday, and so I enjoyed once more sweeping around the palace and cloisters, clutching an audioguide. This time they had the Basilica open, which was fantastic, and featured a huge crucified Christ which Felipe II had deemed to be too risqué because the sculptor had carved him in the nud; Felipe ordered an artistically-draped loincloth to be arranged over Jesus, and had him moved to a discreet alcove away from his impressionable parishioners. It’s tough being an incredibly zealous art critic king, but somebody had to do it.

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I now get the train to uni from Nuevos Ministerios train station, which is closer to work. I prefer it to Sol because it’s super quiet and grimly functional. Just check this place out:

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“One train a day, I tell ya, and sometimes even two”

I like to pretend that all my time spent on the Metro and the train is very glamorous, to the tune of 50s noir movies with everybody in trench coats and hats and carrying broadsheet newspapers and large umbrellas and stuff. It is however getting increasingly difficult to ignore the reality seeping into the corners of my sepia’d imagination, such as having to watch people play Candy Crush for twenty minutes (seriously, in 2016) someone eating duck pâté beside me. And now that ‘winter is coming’, it is basically just a rolling plague wagon.

I started work at an opportune time, it having been the annual departmental meeting. “This isn’t my first rodeo,” I thought, shrugging on my eighties-power-shoulders jacket once they announced the break for lunch. “I hope they put on some sandwiches and a few bowls of Kettle Chips.” (I know they don’t sell Kettle Chips in Spain, but you have to work with me artistically here.) But no, we left the building and meandered towards a nearby restaurant, for an allocated two hours. And of crustless egg and cress there were none; we enjoyed instead a fantastic meat fondue, with sauces and fries. A great sense of bonhomie comes from cooking bits of meat together in a big pot, in a kind of caveman way, with the added post-palaeolithic perk of several bottles of Tempranillo.

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We went to the theatre on Thursday to see a play called Los Tragos de la Vida at the Teatro Infanta Isabel in Chueca. It was super difficult to understand because the main actor was from Latin America and his accent was thick as anything. (Usually in class at uni I have to sit at the front to hear everything, taking the hit for how it’s affecting my street cred, haha.) But as the show was sponsored by Tanqueray, the ticket price included a big gin & tonic afterwards. Ruairidh and I compared versions of what we had thought had happened in the play and mixed them together.

And this morning we went to a running club, organised by some Americans, and did a run from Malasaña to Moncloa and back, by the Parque del Oeste. Like the Festivo Nacional, it was chucking it down with rain, but being used to running in the rain it wasn’t so bad. We then had bagels and mimosas in their hub, an expat hangout called J & J Books and Coffee. Madrid is full of English-speakers who head here for a year, or ‘a short while’, and then end up staying for 700 years, despite all the paperwork.

My parents arrive on Tuesday, and I have compiled a list of churches and wine bars for them to visit. #CatholicFamilyOnHoliday.

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