Friday 10 April 2009

Easter in madrid - or not in Madrid

Great. It’s Easter. In fact as I write this it’s Good Friday, or Holy Friday here in Spain.

This is a time of long cavalcades as statues of the Virgin are moved around the town for the veneration of the faithful. Down in Seville, men dressed in long gowns and pointy hats, which look uncomfortably like the Klu Klux Klan, process around the town.

I went into the centre of Madrid to watch and all I saw was the back of someone’s neck! There are times when I wish I had extendable legs. The crowds are incredible, because Easter, or Pascua, is a religious festival is it not?

Erm! Well, for most my friends it means vacations. Quite a few have taken the whole week off and flown away to New York or Egypt, (two to my knowledge), or shot off down to the coast or up to the hills. Other poor souls had to work until Wednesday, but took the first train or plane out of town that evening.

And won’t be back until Tuesday, even though Monday is a workday. I can understand. After all, vacation time is important and the Spanish won’t get another holiday for ….. three weeks. That’s May day.

So that’s something to look forward to as after that it will be a whole two weeks until the next one!

And something terrible will happen this year.

Both of those holidays fall on a Friday.

In the country of my birth public holidays that celebrate a particular date are moved to the following Monday, so people get a long weekend. Here they are celebrated on the day and if that should fall on a Tuesday or a Thursday then the day between that and the weekend is usually taken as well. This is know here as “El Puente”, or “The Bridge”.

When I first came here, the first week of December did have both the Tuesday and the Thursday as public holidays and one of my friends took the bridge at both ends, only going into work on the Wednesday. I don’t suppose she got much done! Others would have taken the whole week off. This, as local parlance has it, is not a “Bridge”, but an “Aqueduct”. I love Spanish humour!

But with both of the next holidays falling on a Friday, there will be no bridge to cross. Poor things!

Of course, the Spanish all know about these, but the unsuspecting tourist will not. They will wake up one morning in their Hotel or hostel, go out on to the streets and find everything closed. Of course you will not want for food or drink, but the nicotine addict will search in vain for an “Estanco”, or cigarette shop that’s open.

Some time around midday some of the larger shops, El Corte Inglés, FNAC, and a few of the clothes shops in Gran Via may open their doors, but the morning will have been dead. And don’t think you’ll pass the time in the Prado or Reina Sofia. The attendants there want their vacation too.
So yesterday was the first day of the Easter break. Most of my friends have disappeared to thebeach or grandma’s house, but because of “La Crisis”, some have opted to take their break in what my mother would call “Stopathome”, (pronounced all as one word). So yesterday afternoon saw me sitting taking the sun, and liquid refreshment, with a good friend on a pavement terreza.
A few lines of bad poetry formed in my head:

It’s Madrid in the spring
And the warmer weather
Brings Necklines and hemlines
Closer together.

Oh, ladies of Spain I adore you!!! (To coin a phrase.)

So all looked set for long weekend of balmy weather and the chance to work on the guiri tan. (A “guiri tan” means that while the Spanish just slowly turn brown in the sun, us guiris, or foreigners have to go through the stage of going lobster red before we turn the colour we are aiming for. Must be genetic.

But as they say here: “Hasta el cuarenta de Mayo, no te quitter el sayo”, which translates as, “Until the fortieth of May, don’t put your jacket away”, or as we would say in the UK, “Don’t cast a clout till May is out”.

It’s a good warning and this morning we awoke to a miserable grey, rainy day. And according to señor Google, this is what we will have all of Easter.

But what the heck! This is Spain. There are a few blue breaks in the clouds right now, the temperature is in the mid teens and the bars are open.

Not a day to spend in front of a computer.

Happy Easter everyone.


  1. Ah....not only do you write prose but poetry as well. Multi-talented. Enjoyed this blog tremendously. Enjoy the time off even in the rain. In Hawai'i we say rain (light hopefully) is a blessing.

  2. Love it! Can I steal the poem?