Friday 18 September 2009


By Richard Morley.

With a resounding drum roll of thunder the end of summer came crashing down on Madrid.

It had been a humid, muggy few days. The sky had ominous grey clouds moving in to obscure the blue skies, but the temperature had only decreased a little from the plus thirties we had been enjoying a few days before. Everyone commented that this was the best time in Madrid. It was cool, but a jacket still wasn’t necessary. Tee shirts and shorts were still being worn at the terrace cafés, even at midnight.

And then in the early evening of Wednesday the clouds gathered into an ominous critical mass and decided, with a series of booms across the city, that what we us humans really needed was lots of rain and temperatures in the mid-teens. Last weekend it was thirty degrees. Today it is thirteen. The weather gods are having a laugh.
The Plaza Mojada, sorry, Mayor.
It is time to find those sayos we all put away on the fortieth of Mayo.

A friend of mine, fed up with the unrelenting, never ending days of summer Twittered to the world that come the first rains he would stand naked in the street and let the cooling shower cascade over him. If he did, he risked pneumonia, because it might have been llover a cántaros, or raining pitchers-full, but it would have been a very cold comfort indeed.

At the time of writing this Madrid has seen a steady drizzle all morning. Nothing for a red-blooded Inglés to bother about, but my portero was very concerned I wasn’t going out with an umbrella.
Plaza Santa Cruz.
Ah yes, the paraguas, the umbrella, as wielded by the denizens of this metropolis is a dangerous instrument. Little Spanish ladies carry their umbrella with the sharp points at standard guiri eye level. They carry them as defiantly as Don Quijote carried his lance – and any other person is regarded as a La Manchan windmill. Beware!

Of course, the extents of the umbrella occupy more space around you than a Spaniard, with their “up close and personal” regard to other peoples’ space, would allow. So sharing a pavement with a granny with a brolly is fraught with dangers. Protect the face at all costs. And the fact that you, umbrella-less, are keeping to the covered, dry parts of the walkway, matters not a jot. They want that area too. Men, be a gentleman and keep to the kerb. Ladies, you can battle it out as you see fit.

And I have just return from a bus trip where I saw a man use his umbrella to push the stop request button without leaving his seat. He did not waver in his aim. These people use umbrellas as the Taliban use ground to air missiles!
Soggy Sol.
I am reminded of a time when I was meeting with some friends in the Plaza de Callao. There was a steady downpour, but no cats and dogs were tumbling off the roofs, and a young Chinese man was selling umbrellas in the street. “Paraguas, dos Euros”, he cried to not many takers. But suddenly the nature of the shower changed into a small tropical storm with huge drops, like a misty spray, rebounding half a metre off the paving slabs. Without missing a beat the young Chinese changed his cry to, “Paraguas, tres Euros”. In two steps the price of this now very necessary item had increased fifty percent. Good business!

And I am also reminded that those friends I was meeting berated me for not having an umbrella on such an evening. “Are you English?” they reproached me. Apparently all Englishmen are born with an umbrella. But at least I was dressed sensibly: My berating friend was wearing open-toed, low slung, sling back shoes which were easily swamped by the onrushing flow that cascaded down the Rio Grande, sorry, I mean Gran Via, but that evening it was difficult to tell the difference.
Sensible shoes.

It’s not quite that bad, yet. But for the first time sine June I am wearing a sweater. My cleaner, who for the past few months has been coming to work in tiny shorts and flip-flops, which has quite brightened my days, is today dressed like an Eskimo.

The cars move along my street with a swishing sound, leaving a small wake behind them. But it has given me the chance to introduce a new word into the vocabulary of my students: Puddle. They can all say, “It’s raining cats and dogs”, but no one has taught them what not to step into.

There again, maybe the other thing you might step into on the streets of Madrid has been washed away!

Rain, a drop of twenty degrees! Is this what they call global warming?

Of course, I blame it on the Ayuntamiento, the City council. This weekend sees one of my favourite nights in Madrid, La Noche en Blanco.
From 7pm on Saturday until 7am on Sunday the streets in the centre will be closed to all traffic and all over Madrid will be hundreds of cultural events covering the high arts to the circus – and it is all completely free.

But it is cursed.

Two years ago we went to watch a singer who was giving a concert at the Temple of Debod, Madrid’s Egyptian temple. It was a pleasant, warm night. The crowd gathered, the singer came out of the temple to rapturous applause and – the skies opened. It was as if the bomberos, the fire fighters, had opened their hoses on us. There was no shelter apart from a few trees and bushes which soon became saturated. We ran down to the Plaza España where there was shelter and I remember well that the rain was so heavy that the huge Edificio de España, at the other end of the plaza, was completely obscured. I heard that the singer gave her concert in full, but I have no idea who to.

The bars did a good trade that night!

But I also remember walking with a million others up a traffic free Gran Via while a tightrope walker teetered overhead, a brilliant concert given by the Jazz Orchestra of Spain on the steps of the congress building, a circus at the Bernabeu and of other smaller events taking place in each little plaza and park. You can see flamenco, Tango, ballet. You can hear great jazz, blues and rock. You can watch performance art of every hue. (The usual buskers won’t get a look in!) You can get, if you can stand the queues, into all the galleries for free and go back stage at the Opera House. It is a fantastic night.

With only one thing to annoy me.

The event is organised by the Community of Madrid, the same organisation who run the metro. So why, if the event runs from 7pm to 7am can’t they, for this one night of the year, keep the metro running all night. With a couple of million people out on the town the night buses just cannot cope. So it makes it a good night for the taxi drivers too. With their after midnight charges they must make a killing. Two years ago I decided to walk the four kilometres home after deciding the buses were too crowded and not an empty taxi in sight. I am sure this could be better organised. But if it rains, imagine four million people with umbrellas.

Take a look at the pictures of the previous post. I took them only just four days ago. If the weather continues to deteriorate at this rate, there will be icebergs floating down the mighty Manzenares and penguins in the Retiro.


  1. So glad you're blogging again. The blogs always make me smile! Aloha.

  2. You've spent in Madrid time enough to know that you can go to bed in Summer and getting up in Winter :-( But the rain is great, it should reminds you to your dear and missed England ;-)

  3. If I wanted English weather, I would live in England. The Spanish and the English do share opinions about the weather. It's either too hot or too cold! Everyone talks about it, but no one does anything about it.

  4. Uhmmmm... I do love English weather! (I do love almost all the English, actually ;-)

  5. Personally, I found the heat in Madrid this summer totally unbearable, and though I used to hate British weather, I was delighted when it started to rain here.
    Thanks by the way, for your post on the cementerio de la Almudena. I went there yesterday as a result, and dicovered the grave of Juanita Cruz, about whom I knew nothing previously. A fascinating story.

  6. I feel a little guilty about feeling good that Madrid's weather has changed!

  7. I agree about the weather in Madrid! It's funny, whatever the weather is like in Madrid, it seems to be completly the opposite in England! According to my family, for the past week or so when it's been miserable, cold and rainy in Madrid, it's been really good weather in England. Maybe, even the best they've had all summer! That's what they said. All I've heard from them these past few months.. is that it was pouring down there, when it was boiling hot in Madrid!

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  9. We had 10 degrees last Sunday evening and I went out with a woollen scarf! It went from 30 degrees to 10 in 2 days

  10. I did wonder what was going on the other day as I flew into Madrid (in transit) to hear the cabin crew say "Welcome to Madrid where the temperature is 12°C".

    I thought my understanding of Spanish numbers had gone wrong at first...