The weather presenters on the telly have been talking of little else for days. If there is one thing the British and the Spanish have in common, it is talking about the weather. Everyone talks about it, no one does anything about it.
Thanks to the weather presenters we all knew that last night the temperature would drop to minus eight. Did that mean the powers-that-be who control the heating in my apartment block would leave it on overnight? Of course not! I awoke in the wee small hours as an icy chill permeated though the duvet. It’s just as well I have back-up bed coverings.
I lay the blame for this cold snap on the arrival of the ice queen in Madrid on Thursday evening. That was when, according to the ayuntamiento, Christmas officially began. Down in the Plaza Oriente, just in front of the Palacio Real, we were treated to a firework display and a small theatrical performance that hailed the arrival of navidad.
It was quite small scale compared to some displays I have witnessed here, but there was a good crowd of a few thousand people who enjoyed the fireworks and watched as a actress, the Ice Queen, in a very long dress indeed was hoisted fifteen metres above our heads and seemingly produced roman candles from her sleeves and lit up the night sky.
The musical accompaniment, which incongruously included a rendition of “Summertime” by Angelique Kidjo, one of my favourite African singers, was timed with the fireworks. Some were in pretty colours, but, as mentioned last post, the Spanish love things that go bang, so there were lots of loud explosions. Not everyone enjoyed that. One small boy sat on his daddy’s shoulders with his fingers firmly stuck in his ears.
It was a clear, crisp evening, and after the fireworks I wandered the narrow streets between the calles Mayor and Arenal seeing how my camera worked in dim light. Not bad for the cheap little “point and shoot” that it is – as you can see here.
Catredral de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena
Madrid is almost magical at this time of year. Every street has its illuminations, the shop windows full of wish-list goodies, the crowds squeezing into El Corte Inglés. Forecasts of revenues compared to last year are reckoned to be nearly ten per cent down, but that might be to “La Crisis” price reductions rather than less people buying. Certainly the packed metro carriages full of parcel and carrier bag encumbered shoppers did not seem to reflect any crisis at all.
Schoolchildren are looking forward to Monday, the last day before the Christmas break. Workers are longing for Wednesday, when they will begin their journeys back home for family celebrations. My landlady’s two sons, 12 and 14, have bought between them thirty euros worth of noisy fireworks. They spend hours excitedly pouring over catalogues displaying many types of these petardos, choosing, I am sure, the ones that make the loudest noise. All day long I hear explosions from all directions. In the apartment block canyons the sounds reverberate and rattle the windows. A couple of years ago, being startled by fireworks at three in the morning, would annoy me. Now I am so used to it I hardly notice.
Madrid won’t have a white Christmas, although we did have some snow earlier in the week. The forecast shows increasing temperatures over the next week. I am pleased about that! But it will be a long wait until the hot weather, that tourists think Spain has all year round, returns.
Time to hibernate, I think.