By Richard Morley.
My camera is my notebook. When something interests, amuses or annoys me, then I ususally have my camera to capture it for all time. I am not a good photographer - more of a record taker. I have used many photographs on the blog during 2010, but some, either because they were surplus to requirements, or just didn't reall fit anywhere as part of a post, were put to one side. But waste not - want not. These pictures had a meaning for me at the time of taking them and serve to jog my ancient memory. Here are some of those memories from last year:
During one of my lessons an important point was raised for discussion: The correct way to pour a beer. Spaniards seem to like a lot of head, which us guiris view with dismay as we see the glass only half full. So, when stopping off at a café en route to Andalucia, I couldn't resist taking the picture below. Sometimes I feel like showing it to the many bar-tenders that don't follow the rules and serve me a glass of bubbles instead of beer.
There are parts of Madrid that are still a work in progress. Three times a week I teach in a built-up suburb to the east of the city, but that still has building space available. Left to themselves they have become tiny oases of grass and wild flowers. Each time I walked past this miniscule meadow I captured the growth. Below you can see it in late spring.
The same barrio, but a few blocks distant, and I came across one of my favourite subject - graffiti. It wasn't the artistic quality that made me laugh, but the way the "artist" extended the figure out on to the pavement.
It was difficult to avoid stepping on his toes!
The Spanish word for "cowboy" is vaquero. In the UK a cowboy is not a horse-backed cattle drover, but is a description of a tradesman who does a poor, cheap job, rarely finished on time, and then disappears, never to be found again. Not someone you would want to employ in your home, particularly with something as potentially dangerous as electricity. So I was tickled to see this sign on an electrician's van.
It is only the sign that amused me. I am sure he is an excellent electrician.
Another that I couldn't resist snapping, if only for the lack of logic in the "construction" of something "natural", was this:
Strange juxtapositions also caught my eye. Why, for instance, do our fire-fighters get their own exclusive ashtray?
All of us guiris are trying our best to learn the language. It's always a problem to know exactly the right thing to say when, for instance, eating out. So, a huge vote of thanks to the VIPs chain of restaurants for this useful list of phrases.
A dear friend called me one evening. "I've won some concert tickets in a raffle", she told me. "Would you like to come?" What sort of concert? I asked. "I don't know, but it's at the Auditorio Naciónal, so it's going to be classical". Well, I had always wanted to see inside this place, but the cost of tickets is prohibitive. (The tickets my friend had won had a face value of €134.13 iva incluido!) So I said I would love to. "When is the concert?" I asked and the reply was, "In an hour!" Luckily The Auditorio Naciónal is about five metro stops from where I live so, after a quick change of clothes, I made it in time. I met my friend and we checked the tickets, which gave no indication of what we were going to hear. This was solved when we entered and were given a couple of glossy programmes that informed us we were going to hear Bruckner's Third Symphony played by the Staatskapelle orchestra of Berlin conducted by Daniel Barenboim. Our seats were so close to the front I could have yanked on the tails of the great man's frock coat. Quite a good prize, I think. Before the concert began I took this picture of the inside of the auditorium and its massive organ.
As spring turned into summer Madrid became the city we all love. The trees burst into leaf which cast shade from the sweat inducing sun. Even here, in the Paseo de la Castellana, it was possible to escape those searing rays.
Because, as this weather forecast on Sexta told us bluntly, summer was here to stay.
That picture was a direct photograph from my television screen. In April 2010 they turned off the old analogue signals and I was in danger of not having a TV as the set that came in my apartment was ancient with an indoor antenna, which would be useless with the new signals. I asked my landlady if she could arrange for me to be connected with the digital antenna on the apartment block roof so that I could then buy a special box to convert the signals. A few days later, a hole was drilled into the wall and I had my connection. But the following day, her father knocked on my door saying, "We thought you would like this" and removed from its box a brand new digital TV. Sometimes I just cannot get over the generosity of the Spanish.
I took a few more pictures off the screen this year as there was no way I could get the advantageous viewpoint of the cameras of the TV stations. Look at this helicopter's view of the crowds in the Plaza del Sol on the night Spain won the soccer World Cup.
And from an even higher viewpoint:
The feeling in Madrid that night was electric. It was if everyone on town came to Sol to celebrate.
In the spring we had the festival of San Isidro, the patron saint of Madrid. It is an excuse for everyone to put on their finest clothes and walk about town.
Although some had to stay at home.
Slap bang in the centre of Madrid is a huge reservoir. Not that you would know as it is below ground and above is a modern sports centre with a golf driving range. But water does feature in the above ground part as I discovered walking between lessons one bright and sunny September morning.
Spain does not really have any dangerous wildlife: A few wild boars and the odd wolf and bear. But when walking in the country you have to be careful not to disturb a creature that will sting, bite and cause painful swelling. This is the processional caterpillar. In the countryside is one thing. I did not expect to find them out for a morning's saunter in my local park.
No prizes for guessing why they are called "processional".
And finally - a load of balls. During the second weekend of September, for one night only, Madrid hosts hundreds of events cultural or silly. On the Saturday afternoon I wandered though the Plaza Dos de Mayo and found one of the silly, but fun, ones. My photograph shows only the early stages, but by nightfall the entire plaza was full of beach balls to wade though, play with, dive into. I went to a concert of the National Jazz Orchestra, but I am told by those who visited the plaza (where the best pizzas in Madrid can be eaten) a wonderful time was had by children and grown-ups alike.
Madrid can be silly or serious, highbrow or low, but never dull. Have I told you, I love it here!