Sunday 20 December 2009

So this is Christmas - Nearly

By Richard Morley.

It’s half past ten on a beautiful Sunday morning. There is hardly a cloud in the sky. Outside my window I can hear the birds singing and the chatter of passers by. The only downside is that outside, the temperature is MINUS five. It’s actually risen by three degrees since I awoke. It seems we have a blast of arctic air that’s come straight down from the north pole which veered left when it reached the Iberian Peninsular.

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.


  1. You should have waited a few hours to post.... I'm reading this at sunrise Monday morning and I see about an inch of snow on the ground. It's only one piddly inch... I'm from Colorado! They call THIS snow??? But it's all we'll get.
    I didn't see you at the Ice Queen's arrival, but I was there. It was a small display but very nice. I especially liked the tree.

  2. Nice blog as ever Richard. We've got our fair share of icy blast weather here in UK as you no doubt know. It fell last week and hasn't melted and driving on side roads is akin to skating on ice.