7 Things I believe In


I have seen this type of post attached to blogs who have been nominated for or won blog awards, and I felt inspired by them! I wondered why wait for such an accolade to impart to one and all the things I believe in?! Well, I am not waiting! Although I am in no way being facetious or mocking such awards. In fact, I want to take the time to say congratulations to all of those who do receive blog awards!!! You will get no queries from me as to why or how they have, because some of those nominated and winning blogs I myself read and LOVE!!!!! Any award gained is deserved in my eyes! However, I myself am not expecting any-time soon, or ever in fact, to receive such an award; but I think that doesn’t mean MY beliefs or YOURS for that matter, are any less consequential.

So, let us CELEBRATE our beliefs, whatever they may be!!!!! I would like to begin by asking anyone who reads this to do the same; post a post about your beliefs on your blog! If I can do it, and I am so cagey about giving myself away online, then you can do it!

 

1)      The true believers:

Now this is a broad ‘statement’, but I refer to those who are there for you in your life regardless of the situation or circumstances. These people who give of themselves tirelessly, and don’t expect a thing in return are the true stars in the world. Somewhere, at sometime they appear and for as long as they remain with you cherish them and their presence; as they are part of a rare breed worth celebrating.

 

2)      Value yourself:

I am the worst critic of myself, and do the most damage to myself. I can be my own worst enemy. I think this is quite normal for most people though. Regardless of this, I still believe in valuing who I am and what I stand for. If I am against myself then how can I expect others to be on my side? There is only me, I can be no-one else, and really and truly I don’t want to be anyone but me; for all my flaws and quirks!

 

3)      Come what may:

I am a firm believer in ‘right place, right time’, or fate. Elusive as the terms seems to be I believe that somewhere there is a guiding force leading us on; and I don’t mean religion either (though each to their own). No doubt we make choices in our life, but somehow I always find that old saying ‘whatever is meant to be never passes us by’ holds true. Getting hung up on things never makes things any better or easier, so I try to always believe in ‘come what may’; usually then the most unexpected, but good things seem to flourish! Being in the moment and accepting things for what they are, for me is a better option than working my mind up into overdrive, whilst I try to fathom out all the details!

 

4)      Be kind not cruel:

I don’t understand people who are nasty for the sake of it. I believe in being kind to people until provoked otherwise. What is the point in wasting time being wrapped up in hatred? Where does that get anyone? I believe in accepting people for who they are, enjoying people’s diversity, and being happy for people’s good fortune. Life is after all too short and too precious!

 

5)      Live life:

I believe in living my life, or at least trying to! Regardless of how frightened, anxious, down or diverted I have been, I believe in living! Being receptive to positive experiences, opportunities and the possibility to develop makes life worthwhile. I think regardless of how out of my depth I have felt I have taken those things as a challenge to grow. Nothing comes easy, things are stressing and confusing, trying can seem impossible; but giving up = gaining nothing.

 

6)      Be content:

I believe in contentment, but admit it is hard to obtain all of the time! Contentment for me is more than happiness; it is fully immersing myself in a moment, and embracing the time and place I am in without wanting anything more. Whenever I feel this all things just click into place, and I am at peace with myself. I think we are so used to trying to attain goals and so on, busy rushing from one thing to next that we don’t take the time to evaluate what we have. We should realise more often just how lucky we actually are, and stop wishing our lives away.

 

7)      Love:

This is not last on my list because it means less to me, it is THE most important. I believe in love, and feel lucky to love and be loved J Love for me can be demonstrated in many different ways, but it is always; unconditional, will weather any storm, lift me from the darkest depths and flood my life with something no words can really express. You have to love, love!

 

So there are my 7 things, now, what are yours?!  

 

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My Miniature Disaster.


Wow, what a morning! I had plans to meet up with a friend, but man, getting there was easier said than done!

So, what follows is a break down of my disastrous morning into miniature steps;

 

1) I woke up tired from another bad nights sleep.

2) Upon completing my morning ablutions there was a power cut!

3) I didn’t check my emails; not so bad I hear you think, read on please……

4) I thought I was running very late, therefore I rushed about like a crazy lady trying to recoup lost time, which I hate doing.

5) I rushed out of the house without my usual bottle of water, without my coat and let me add it is FREEZING cold here today. Momentarily I thought about returning to the apartment to rectify these errors, but of course I was late!

6) The wind was so strong it kept blowing my hat of my head.

7) I had to catch two trains, and felt stressed out waiting for both at the respective Metro stations!! Note to reader: I have to be in the right frame of mind to travel on the Metro. Anytime it becomes packed to the rafters I begin to become ever so uneasy. There is something about overly warm closed spaces underground, and confined metal boxes with more people than air that tends to make me sometimes freak out!

8) I got off at the wrong Metro station, who knows why, but I did.

9) I walked to and waited in Parque del Retiro, bearing in mind I was bloody freezing! I then received a text from my friend.

10) This is where number 3 comes back to bite me! My friend proceeded to inform me she had emailed me that morning as she was running late too. She had to teach another class, which had been rescheduled!

11) Great!! I then realised I was over an hour early waiting about in the cold with nothing particular to do, oh and I still had no coat!

12) I then walked some more just to warm up. Everyone by this time noticing I had no coat and no doubt thinking to themselves; ‘this girl with no coat is either crazy or a tourist’.

13) Number 13, unlucky for some, yes it is! I was about to go for a coffee at one of my favourite café’s, but upon doing so I bumped into a ‘friend’ I really didn’t want to see. Bad terms and an ending is all I will say……..

14) My luck is on the mend!!!! I actually get to meet up with my friend at the college she teaches at!!!

 

The happy ending!!!!

A few weeks ago I met a couple of other students at the college my friend teaches at. They are really nice people, and good company. I wasn’t expecting to see them today. I had told one about my blog last time we spoke and he said he had enjoyed reading my posts, which made me happy! He also loves talking to me about vintage shopping here in Madrid, which always makes me happy.

Then there was another unexpected interruption. A student from the UK (Manchester), came over and was ‘over the moon’ to hear my accent. He said he was feeling a little ‘out of it’ because he hadn’t heard another British person speak since leaving the UK to come to study in Madrid. I think he was on the verge of succumbing to hugging me! Well, being deprived of the ‘English’ accent has that effect on you! Madrid doesn’t seem to be a place over-run with the British, well, not yet anyway!

Anyway, after a warming cup of coffee, and a good chat with Laura in English and of course Spanish, I got
home for about 3:00 starving hungry. Only to discover the electric had ‘tripped’ out again!!

I am still freezing from my day in the cold, and hope I don’t catch a cold, as I have discovered I have run out of vitamins! In Madrid vitamins are an expensive commodity, so I am annoyed!

Oh, and the bad luck, well it has seemingly just reared its ugly head once more. Just been told the rent is due to go up in the New Year, thanks!

Contracts in Spanish, well, that is another post altogether!

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The Fallen Angel Of Madrid – El Ángel Caído De Madrid


The Fallen Angel in Retiro Park

I mentioned this briefly yesterday in my post One Year In Madrid. I wanted to go into a bit more detail about this statue and how I discovered it; as I am fascinated by it.

After my first visit to Madrid I was informed that in Parque del Retiro there was a statue of Lucifer, the Fallen Angel. Which might not seem significant or interesting to most people, but as a confirmed believer and ‘lover’ of the supernatural and paranormal my reaction was; ‘No way, I have to see it!’

My curiosity about this statue was further piqued when I was also told that it is apparently the only statue of Lucifer in existence! So, I figured it had to be important and significant. I also wondered why it was in Madrid and how it found its way here.

On my second visit to Madrid I planned my pilgrimage to Retrio Park, with one motive in mind; to seek and find this statue. I had to see it for myself. So never being much of a map reader, not even park maps, I decided to locate it. I walked, and walked and to be honest got confused as although Retiro Park is split into avenues, with signage, I couldn’t find the signage to confirm my direction. Typical!!

Giving up on the map to guide me to Lucifer I just walked, and thought I’d find it, and I did.

It was quite weird seeing this statue loom up into the distance, set at such a lofty height upon a pedestal of stone, proud, and for all to see.

It was a cold and cloudy quiet morning, being about 10:00, and I was alone; just me and Lucifer.

Immediately my imagination sprung into life, and I have even included this statue in a story I have written. I wondered what tales this statue could tell.

Try as I might, I haven’t found anyone who has related any supernatural tales or satanic events being concentrated upon this statue or the area surrounding area. So, needless to say I am disappointed. Yet, Lucifer is THE symbol of evil, so there has to be something the people of Madrid aren’t admitting to. I have written in The Halloween Extravaganza that people in Madrid tend to shy from the topics of ghosts and devils, so maybe this is the reason why no tales are being told?

Yet, I know people who run in the park regularly and they tell me that just as they reach this statue they feel exhaustion hit them, and consequently they feel the urge to quit running! Is it Lucifer exerting his will over them??

The history of the statue:

The piece was sculpted by Ricardo Bellver for the 1878 Exposition Universelle (World’s Fair) in Paris. After it was exhibited here the statue was acquired by the curators of Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, now maybe they saw the evil residing quietly in the statue as they quickly gave it over to the city. Where the powers that be decided to position it in the park, and of course it still resides there today.

Now as Madrid and Spain per se are a Catholic nation, whether practising their religion or not, I can’t help but wonder how well received this statue was or is?

Some may think the statue merely depicts Lucifer’s fall from grace. It is a warning to be heeded by all that see him that if he can fall from his ‘pedestal’ then anyone can. Or, is it celebrating him and all his evil glory? I prefer the latter!

I think what makes this story all the more interesting for me is that a few weeks ago I learnt from a friend that Lucifer actually stands at precisely 666 meters above sea level!!!!! Now how the Hell (no pun intended) did they achieve that???!!!! Coincidence you may say, well, I don’t believe in them, so I think that was an act done on purpose by someone’s authority! Who, I will never know.

I can’t help but wonder if this innocuous statue of Lucifer is so innocent after all? I urge you to look again people! Maybe he is merely lying in wait, biding his time for the opportunity to escape the shackles of the statue and walk freely upon the earth!

Yet, that can’t really happen can it?

I mean, it is only a statue after all…………OR IS IT?!

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When is Honesty The Best Policy???


This is a strange question to ask and you might be thinking; ‘we all know in our hearts and minds what honesty is and how to apply it carefully to any given situation’, but maybe that in itself is being dishonest?

Shouldn’t we be completely open, never holding back, let it all go for all to see all of the time??? Isn’t that the way not to deceive people??

Or, is a direct question then deserved of a direct answer; then we can and will tell the truth??

Are we naturally more honest in some situations and experiences than we are in others, for example; you tell a few lies on the internet as no one knows you really??

I have been considering honesty, the truth or telling people all they need or want to know without holding back. This isn’t the first time I have written about the truth and what it can signify: You Can’t Handle The Truth

So, is learning the truth an epiphany moment or highly detrimental to any human’s ego, idea of themselves, their life and God knows what else??? Is it cruel or kind to be honest, really honest?

I am an advocate of speaking my mind, and can say in my personal life I do when I see it is necessary, but I also think something’s aren’t for me to comment on, and aren’t for to ask or question. Yet, if I am asked a question or for my opinion I give my reply as honestly and openly as I am able to.

Like this blog I write. I have been discussing this very topic with a few people, in fact a couple of people who write on WP. Now, I choose not to be 100% all out there, you won’t get a full picture of me from my writing on here. Why? Well not because I plan to deceive, but because I wish to leave something of myself to myself, a part of me has to stay with me and not be given up to other people. Not everything is for the ‘whole’ world to see, well, not all of the time.

It isn’t anyone’s business unless they ask, or I divulge because I choose to. That for me is the premise of life; you give what you decide to and no more. I only write about what is relevant for me at any given moment, and only include what reflects that moment. I don’t see the need to mention myself perhaps, or indeed my private life and history, if it isn’t necessary. If others choose to do that, then that is their choice and I don’t judge.

Now this lack of complete honesty leads people to assume, but then I am not responsible for people’s assumptions.

As I have already mentioned, I am honest with those I feel inclined to be honest with; friends, family and those valued internet connections (you know who you are). I also appreciate other peoples honesty, but when honesty crosses the line into being cruel I then don’t think it has a place in society.

An example, well, an obvious one that I have asked and I am sure every woman along the way has (an assumption perhaps); ‘Does my bum look big in this’? At some stage in my life I wouldn’t have wanted to hear bluntly; ‘Yes, you look like an elephant stuffed into it’. I may have already thought that about my-self, so I needed to be reassured instead of told the complete harsh and cruel truth. We all need to be reassured sometimes, as self esteem is a fragile thing.

You see we all enjoy some lies, because truth can sometimes be soul destroying to hear or know.

Now to return to my blog; well to admit one thing I would be more candid about myself and my feelings if I didn’t have people I know reading this too. You see my plan was to remain anonymous, but that soon gave way when I invited family and friends to look at my work. You see even with them, and they are close to me, I am not 100% honest all of the time. We all conceal something of ourselves, because those aspects of us are sacred to us.

In fact there are only two people in the whole world I am comfortable being completely honest with. See, there I go again; I can’t help telling a little fib! We can’t ever 100% know anyone. We may know we are editing our words and feelings, but sometimes it is to shield others from the aspects of ourselves we can’t even admit.

So, if I suddenly became Jim Carrey’s character from ‘Liar Liar’ how would that help to free me? Would it help me?

What part of me would be left if I told everyone everything?

So, again how honest is honest and is honesty always the best policy in life?

Well I suppose it is up to the individual to decide. Who am I to make that call for anyone! Yet, when we speak the truth does anyone really want to hear the reply? I think we are not always ready to hear the truth, because again it can be painful, force us to re-evaluate what we believe we know and also prompt us to re-think. People as a species don’t tend to like that much, as we all like to think we are right, we are pursuing the right course, we have all the answers we need, we know people well enough.

Again, this might come as a shock, but to reiterate; we don’t know anyone 100% as that would be an impossible feat.

So, to all my readers, I am sorry to disappoint you, but you don’t know me either, well, you know a portion of who I am; but if I was the write about me and everything there is to know about me, you’d be bored. No-one wants to hear my every little detail, no-one really cares unless my details are appropriate in that moment, and not everyone could fully understand.

So, what is my honest opinion about honesty, well, ask me and I will tell you!

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One Year In Madrid


Well, as it is coming up to my one year anniversary in the capital of Spain I thought I’d do a sort of recap of my time here that would also include some of the things I have learnt and my favourite places.

I am certain I have previously mentioned that I had visited Madrid about 3 times previous to officially moving here, so it was somewhat familiar to me. Yet, until you live in a place you never really know it, but upon writing that I know that I don’t know everything there is know about Madrid still!!! Life to me is a constant learning curve, so I always enjoy discovering something new, whether that is a word, a place or a shop!

I can say being here has been the best experience. I feel privileged that I have been provided with this ‘path’ to take in my life, as it was sorely needed. Somewhere someone had to be looking out for me, and I strongly believe that!

Concise Recap Of A Year:

I have learnt a language, and am still learning it. I have become familiar with a great city and feel at home here. I have met lots of people and made friends (I have 3 really good friends here, and in a city I think that is good going). I have a really good social life, and access to so many varied avenues of entertainment; even watching plays and musicals in Spanish has been great (though at first I doubted it could be)! I have been to so many places since moving here; the first 6 months was hectic!!! I have ticked off some of my ‘to do’s’ on my ‘bucket list’ and have more to also look forward to experiencing, such as a trip to Rome in December!!!!!! So excited about that!!!!

The advertisement for Grease, we went to see it in the summer at a theatre on Gran Via.

I have written about initial experiences in this post. You can read it to get more of a background of Madrid as a city:The Real Madrid Experience

A Change Of Scene:

I have even experienced the health care here. I don’t know whether I have written about my one and only (crossed fingers and hope I need never go again), hospital visit?? Again, I was lucky to have two Doctors and a nurse who spoke and understood English! I can’t fault the health care I had; it was as good as it gets when you’re ill and in need.

On Friday, I also finally managed to officially register to receive health care here!! A big YIPPEEE!!! It has been a long time in the waiting (a year nearly). From this I will then be able to have a Doctor at one of the Medical Centres here, and a Dentist. This does concern me though please me simultaneously; as there is no way my Spanish is ready to be tested to the extent of medical terminology! Another hurdle I may one day need to cross or hopefully not!

All in all I reflect back upon this year and feel proud of my achievements. Just being here is quite crazy! Since I was a little girl I hoped to be able to move away from the UK, but as I finished University and then began pursuing my career I doubted it would happen. Yet, 2011 was when the final change required occurred; for about 2 years previous I felt there would be a massive change, though I didn’t know what form that change would adopt. After a long time feeling as though my life was plunging into an abyss (dramatic but true), I am finally in the light again. I cannot be thankful enough for this opportunity and change.

I feel being in Madrid has made a positive impact and me and my life. I was taken from a bad setting where I felt there was nothing left, to something where there is always more.

Places I Love To Be:

OK, so Madrid has so much to offer and it isn’t always the hustle and bustle of city life that makes me love living here. I have read some reviews from tourists who criticise Madrid for not being very pretty, but I want to say that if they believe that is the case then they weren’t looking at the city properly, and didn’t get to know it well enough to comment!

So, I want to share some of my favourite places to be and to go to in the city, and the reasons why of course! These are the places that make this city great to me!

The Best View:

Best view of the city for me has to be the vista from the top of the Cathedral De Santa Maria La Real De La Almudena. This Cathedral adjoins the courtyard of the Palacio Real de Madrid, which is a stunning part of Madrid anyway! I remember visiting the Cathedral one morning and being the only person standing up there, accompanied only by the statues of the Saints. My stone companions and I were gazing out over the vast city beyond, and it was quite magical to be honest. In that moment it was the most tranquil setting, which induced the same effect onto me too. The view of the city and surrounding areas is fabulous, and cannot really be rivalled in my opinion mainly because of that perfect setting.

Part of the view from the Cathedral

 The Best Architecture:

I’m not a religious person, but the many churches of Madrid are architecturally beautiful and I would urge anyone to pay them a visit. The internal décor too is something quite exquisite, and there is always something about a church that instils awe within me. If there is a service being held too, this is the perfect time to go in and feel the atmosphere. In every city I have ever visited I always go to one of their churches, they are after all a significant part of any countries history. The Cathedral De Santa Maria is beautiful, but there are others also that I love; San Manuel y San Benito near Parque del Retiro, Monasterio De La Encarnacion near Opera, and San Jeronimo El real opposite Museo del Prado.

San Manuel y San Benito

The Best Open Space:

The best open space in Madrid has to be Parque del Retiro. Maybe I am biased as I live very near to it! What I was surprised at when I first visited was that there was a map giving directions, I didn’t realise how vast the place was! It is made up of walk ways, or avenues which are individually named. This park used to be part of the grounds of the original royal palace, and the grandness still lingers on.

Why I love Retiro Park so much is that there you can cycle, skate, skateboard, jog, run and even dance! It makes no difference whether it is dark or light! They also hold yoga, dance, jogging and skating classes, which you can join if you feel like having some company!

It is possible to hire a bike for next to nothing and just spend the day in the park, which we have done and I thoroughly enjoyed it as it added an extra dimension of exploration and I just felt somehow freer! There is also an outdoor gym, which is the best place in Madrid to see ‘Tableta de Chocolate’ or six packs!!! My British friends fell in love with this place in the summer! Ladies be warned!

There is a boating lake, and I have become quite proficient in rowing! I love it, in the summer it is wonderful, and it is great fun. I also love the huge monuments and colonnade to one side of the lake. It is a great place to sit and relax, read, write or even cycle through!

The Colonnade at Retiro Boating Lake

Also in the park there are many ‘wild’ domesticated cats that roam around with the cutest kittens ever! The park is also home to the red Squirrels, and they are not shy, in fact they are quite happy to pose for pictures. This summer we also saw a beautiful black swan, and I don’t think I have ever seen one before.

There is a smaller lake too where the Palacio de Cristal is situated. A lovely building to look at, in houses exhibitions too, but they aren’t worth the visit, yet the building makes up for any disappointment.

There are places to eat, drink and chill out within the park. We usually take a picnic and just sit at the many benches or on the grass areas. Local people also have parties and BBQ’s in the grounds, which is my plan for next summer!

There are also buskers, performance acts, art and photographic exhibitions, markets and anything in between! The park is a hive of activity and a community all on its own. I love being there!

A Statue To Just Admire:

This brings me to my favourite statue in Madrid.  El Angel Caído, or The Fallen Angel. Now I’m not going into too much detail about this yet, as I want to do a separate post dedicated to this statue. All I will say is my first visit to the park was a ‘pilgrimage’ to see this very statue for myself, as I love all things strange and spooky!

Down At The River:

Another great outdoor space which I enjoy cycling in is the Madrid Rio. It is a 10k stretch of park that runs alongside the Manzanares River and offers lots of recreational activities such as; tennis, rock climbing, a skate park and so on. I hire my bike from a rental store just off the River side, it is quite cheap too. People don’t just come here to be active though, in the summer months they also sunbathe close to the River, and they cool down by going into the many water fountains. It is known as ‘the Madrid beach’ because of this! It’s busy in the summer and for me not quite as charming as Retiro Park, but it has some places great little places of interest such as; Puente del Rey Bridge, Virgen del Puerto Chapel, Puente de Segovia bridge and Puente de Toledo Bridge, and the view of the Royal Palace is lovely.

View of Madrid ‘Rio’

The Most Novel Experience:

Another activity I think is a little novel for Madrid is the Teleferico, which are cable cars that run from Templo de Debod to Casa de Campo. They are an alternative, but more expensive travel option to the Campo area, but I used them just so I could again see Madrid from another perspective! The views are great, but to me it was more the oddity of being suspended in the air and travelling over Madrid that I enjoyed the most. Funnily enough it is quite tranquil too, although if you weren’t keen on heights you wouldn’t think so!

A hazy view of the Royal Palace taken from inside the cable cars.

The Coolest Little Café:

The coolest décor of any restaurant / café has to be Le Jardin Secreto on Calle de San Bernardino. This is why I love the place as it is just what is says it is, the secret garden, or an Alice in Wonderland experience. I love it there; it is quite magical and almost, romantic? I know it is an odd description to attach to a restaurant, but I just like how the place makes me feel. Even the tea things are mismatched and something fit for the Mad Hatter’s tea party, it is all a little bit fairytale!

They also offer a fabulous and wide list of drinks; over 25 varieties of hot chocolate, coffees, teas, cocktails alcoholic or not, wines, spirits and beers. Also they have deserts and cooked food. It is a small place though, but that doesn’t bother me so much as the interior has me hooked! It does become busy, very busy. We were last seated in one of the window nooks, and it was like being in our own little secret garden! I ordered a non-alcoholic cocktail made up with ice cream; delicious!

I would suggest arriving there early though, for 6:00, and if you do ever visit there and think a weekend would be a good idea, again get there early or make a reservation!

El Jardin Secreto; looks far more magical at night though!

My Favourite Cocktail:

The strangest cocktail I have tasted, and therefore it has to be my favourite is Leche de Pantera at the club of the same name in Moncloa. It is expensive cocktail, but it is roughly half a litre of alcohol, which is the oddest shade of green I have ever seen! Can’t describe the taste really, it is an odd mix of cinnamon and eggnog??

The Place To Find Anything:

The coolest shop I have found where it is possible to buy almost anything is Tiger. The one on Calle de Fuencarral near Bilboa Metro Station is my favourite because it is spread over two levels, yeh, more things to see and buy!

For those of you who don’t know this chain of shops they sell goods cheaply. Anything from art canvasses, paints, paint brushes, hair accessories, household goods, foods, wool, hats, glasses, candles; as I said anything really! I enjoy just browsing to see what items they have, but I can never leave there without buying something! This was the first place in Madrid I found dried chillies!

The Must See Market:

The best market in Madrid, well, it has to be Mercado San Miguel near Plaza Mayor. Although I have written a post which stated that this market it is on the tourist trail Foodie Heaven it is a must see whilst in Madrid, and is a thoroughly enjoyable place to be to feel the city’s true vibe. What I love about this place is the atmosphere, which cannot be rivalled as it is simply crazy!

I love browsing the stalls, sampling the food and having a drink. I just like to be there, even for 30 minutes or so to absorb the scene. It is busy, crazy, manic, and somewhat expensive and you’ll be lucky to ever get a seat to relax in, but it is worth spending some time and money just to be there. I usually get a little fidgety and begin feeling claustrophobic after the 30 minutes is up, as it is so packed in there, yet, you will never get bored!

My Favourite Stations:

My favourite metro station in Madrid is Goya, I love looking at every framed drawing of the said artist upon the walls. Doesn’t matter how many times I have been there, I still look at the drawings and think cool. Yet, Atocha train Station is my other favourite as it houses a whole garden, with trees and water features neatly installed. They even have live turtles and terrapins. It’s not like any train station I have ever visited before, so strangely subterranean!

The Best Museum:

My favourite museum to visit in the city is the Museo Romántico on Calle San Mateo. This is the closet thing I have found to the stately homes, manor houses and castles of the UK. I love it there, and am quite happy spending a few hours wandering about the rooms, lost in my own mind imagining what life would have been like living there in the 18th century.

This museum is dedicated to displaying a complete environment of how life was for the family who owned the house. The art is not static, like in any other museum in Madrid, but part and parcel of how the house would no doubt have looked during the time it was occupied. As I said it is like a stately home of the UK, but on a smaller scale. This is why I like it so much as the objects have a place, are in their proper context. It is interesting to see it and better than any modern art installation.

Inside The Romantic Museum

My Favourite Club:

My favourite club to visit at the weekends has to be Café Central. The atmosphere is so cool and relaxed and the live music is great. It doesn’t matter to me who are playing as they never disappoint. I get there 9:00 to ensure I get a seat! I like to be near the band, so early is good for me, as I don’t want to be standing up all night! The service here is great too, so I don’t ever have to leave my seat for food or drinks, and that aids the enjoyment of the music.

To me this club is like a quintessential 1920’s ‘joint’; there is just something about the place that makes we want to be there. It is situated off the Plaza Santa Ana too, which is a great place to eat and drink in Madrid anyway as the night-life is so lively.

A Night-time at Cafe Central when we went to see Lluis Coloma Trio

The Best Place To Clothes Shop:

My favourite place to shop for clothes is the vintage stores of Malasaña. I have written a post about this previously, so if you have read it then you will know how much I enjoy the variety and uniqueness these stores have to offer. If you haven’t then take a look as this will give you more information on vintage shopping in Madrid: The Jewel In The Vintage Crown

I love a good deal and something individual, and here is the only place in Madrid to find such things! They have things you can’t find anywhere else, and I would have been lost without my discovery of them!

What I Have Learnt:

Other than the language, I have learnt a bit about the culture of the people here in Madrid too; some of it good and some of it bad.

Street Etiquette:

Well, if you expect manners don’t be disappointed. People here are all about getting from A to B quickly and are not adverse in pushing you aside to get there that little bit quicker. On the pavements or sidewalks it is every man, woman, child and dog for themselves!

I had the false apprehension that people in Madrid would be ‘old school’ and brim with courtesy and politeness, how wrong I was. Even men will have no qualms on barging me out of their way, which to be honest, for me, says a lot about what type of men they are. Manners are free and I still adhere to them, so what if I am the only one!

Expect to see dogs everywhere. People in Madrid are crazy about pooches; it is dog friendly. They also do ‘their business’ wherever, so watch your step!

Another strange thing is that people may ignore you on the street, but once inside a building, inside an elevator, they expect you do greet them and also say goodbye. So for example ‘Hola, buenos dias’ and ‘Adiós’, also they may chat about the weather or any other small talk.

Shopping:

Whilst not having a car to rely upon I use the Metro or walk to supply myself with food. I was quite aghast that everyone seemed to make use of shopping trolleys’, which at home are considered the realm of the elderly. Anyway, I gave in after a few shop runs made me laden down with heavy bags. I had to invest in something cool to ferry my food about it though, so I opted for a purple trolley that I affectionately named ‘Henry’. He and I are now inseparable.

As there is no large supermarket near to me, I found locating all the foodstuffs I required a little difficult. I usually have to visit a couple of different supermarkets or shops to buy all that I require, plus I don’t find the food here to be cheap. If you want vegetarian or healthy options then you spend far more. That in itself is bad news. Plus the produce doesn’t last as long as it does in the UK. Within a few days I find fresh food is rotting in the fridge and that annoys me.

Health food shops are expensive too!!! I recently bought 100 Cranberry tablets for 18.90 Euros! In the UK you can easily buy them for £8, which is a significant difference.

Also, the Pharmacies in Madrid stock all the medicines, which keep the prices of the goods higher. Paracetamols, antacid, cough medicine and so on can only be purchased via the chemist. This annoys me; I suppose it is the inconvenience of having to shop in so many shops for separate supplies of goods. Too used to Tescos than maybe good for me!

Night-life:

Night-life culture too is a different here. I have mentioned this before in a previous post: The Hunger Trail

People in Madrid eat at different times to most people in the UK and also children aren’t in bed by set times like people may expect them to be. It is not uncommon to see kids out with families eating out at 11:00. In fact on Saturday I saw a baby being pushed around and it was 1:30am. Another thing is that people often just go out and don’t really ‘dress to the nines’, often wearing very casual clothing to be out and about even on Saturday nights.

Demure:

Talking about clothing; I also thought that people in Madrid would be more ‘demure’ in their dress sense, well, the women anyway. I was again wrong. The summer months proved that women here are just as risky in their choice of clothes as they maybe in any other country. It was not uncommon to see a flash of ‘posterior’ on the Metro.

Noise:

Noisy neighbours are also not uncommon in Madrid. I have heard plenty of tales of people complaining about these facts. Many people generally tend not to give their neighbours much consideration. I have already mentioned that the times people are eating reflect the times they actually go to bed, late. It is quite normal for people to be eating at 2:00am and still up and about at 3:00am, but the also go to work in the mornings! Also, living in an apartment tends to be noisy generally, but given the fact that some apartments are situated above shops, bars, cafes and also car garages and workshops, they can be noisy places to live and try to sleep!!

I know it took me a fair few months to become accustomed to hearing other people at all hours of the night and day, I am so used to a house on a quiet street!

Protests:

To witness protests being staged in the city has also become quite the norm. I was surprised at first at how frequent a protest would occur, but also inspired to see how the country reacts against what they believe to be political injustices. Obviously the economic crisis has been given lots of press coverage throughout the world, and so too has the Spanish reaction to it.

Saturday I saw another protest, well, of sorts. My friend told me it was a fascist protest. A certain group here in Madrid still celebrate or honour the life and death of Franco (the Dictator) who died 20th November 1975. I couldn’t quite understand why they would want to remember him fondly.

Holidays:

Religious holidays and public holidays; wow, there has been so many this year! I think I read that Spain is runner-up, only second in the world out of all countries for having the most public holidays per year. Maybe next year they will top the polls!!!

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Recession? You Need Free Market Principles.


The many strands of recession

This post comes as a direct response to a ‘conversation’ I had with another person regarding recession, current economic climate and political solutions to Government debt and failings.

My intention is not to appear biased in favour of UK political preferences or experiences. I just want to raise the topics that were initially put to me, and answer with my thought on them. So, here is the basis of the initial conversation:

‘Free Market Principles (*description located at the bottom of the post) will save the US from falling into the same problems as Europe and the UK now face’.

I have been wondering just how many of these principles, and in what measure, are actually already adopted in countries all over the globe? Could it be that countries already going through recession ignored these principles and therefore floundered? Could these principles alone be the answer to and solution for future recessions? Are a set of inflexible principles capable of such a feat? Are reasons for recession so ‘cut and dry’?

Well, the person who argued the merits of Free Market Principles used certain failings as a measuring tool to highlight what had brought about recession; unemployment, Government debt, taxing the rich, ‘big Government’ as opposed to limited Government, and the over reliance on grand scale public welfare or social welfare policies classed as the ‘Nanny State’.

Now there are issues which can be debated.

Those of you, who may read my blog, you might be already familiar with my take on the UK Government and welfare system – NHS and state benefits. See below for further links:
Poverty In The UK
The UK Welfare State
The Declining Health Of The NHS

These systems are not perfect, and I will be the first to admit that, but like anything there is more to the issues than may initially appear. That is why no issues which any country or Government face at the moment can be so easily deemed a failure or because of recession. The background information for that failure should be first discussed first.

Let me also add, no country is perfect and neither are ANY Governments. There are many mistakes made, and many issues then created as a result of bad policies or decisions.

On to my thoughts:

I am not going to break down exactly how Free Market Principles apply or should apply. As I mentioned earlier I want to see behind the reasons for failures, to talk about the ‘tools’ used as a measure of failure.

Government Debt:

Initially I question the sweeping generalisation of Government debt as a simple cause for recession. Some nations like the UK for example have had to have debt to survive 2 world wars. Without debt the country would never have scraped through such detrimental hardships brought about by the wars.

Factors that lead to any Government debt are a ‘chicken and an egg’ scenario; many issues, like those the UK faced in the war eras have been running on since that time without being fixed. Deep flaws in policies and decisions have occurred as Government has grown and changed its form over the years. The welfare State for example has its very origins in the aftermath of the 2nd World War, and since then it has out grown its initial remit, but this change has never been fully represented in the entity it has now become (I will discuss this later). Hence, issues linking to failure.

In most countries there will be hidden issues, plastered over cracks that once recession hits them, they become highlighted and exasperated; these cracks then become huge holes, for example issues with unemployment. These issues may have been left lingering until a recession hits; when a country or Government is under the most scrutiny, then the issues have to be seen to be dealt with, then they gain attention.

Factors for unemployment do include going through a recession:

Yes, but other factors can lead to the final breaking point. Rapid changes in technology, disability, changes in business, changes in supply and demand, attitude towards employers, willingness to work, immigration, climate change, migration, perception of employees, employee values, discriminating factors in the place of work (may include discrimination on the basis of age, class, ethnicity, colour and race) and ability to look for employment all effect the figures initially before any recession begins.

Taxation is never a favourable topic:

Raising taxes is not especially popular either, and when the wealthy of the country are going to be effected, then that is seen as damn right outrageous. I will bring in France here: French Prime Minister has said there will be a 75% tax rate for people earning more than 1m Euros.

Now I don’t necessarily agree with the tax level France is opting for, but people should be taxed according to what they earn. Wealthier people shouldn’t have a free pass just because they bring ‘wealth’ into the country, because so does everyone who works and contributes to the economy of the country. It is merely that the wealthy have more money to be taxed or contribute to a country with, but they are part of the country too. The ordinary working person is affected more by fluctuations in tax during recession; on their salary and goods, and it is them who are generally Struggling To Make Ends Meet

Perhaps France opted for this tax increase for the wealthy as they didn’t wish to impose harsh cuts on public services that would affect the whole country. Look at the UK and the ‘Geddes Axe’; recommended slashing government spending in precisely the way today’s believers in ‘expansionary austerity’ recommend in time of rescission. Did it work for the UK in the 1920’s, no and consequently this spiralled UK’s debt levels. Pre First World War debt levels weren’t attained again until 1990. So cutting Government public spending isn’t always the answer.

Public services are a drain in times of recession though:

Well they have been a drain for years and why, well there are complex reasons. Let me concentrate on the UK’s NHS. This system has evolved over the years; peoples changing lifestyles, higher populations, larger catchment areas, more diagnoses of illnesses before unrecognised, Doctors running National Health and Private surgeries which clash, not enough medical staff, privatisation of the 1980’s, rising wages, Primary Care Trusts and the amount of ‘pen pushing’ bureaucrats hampering Government money being spent where it needs to be. In the UK ‘big Government’ as opposed to the limited version is not to blame for the failings, but rather that Government hasn’t enough of a hold and control over proceedings. They haven’t a clue what is going, and therefore the whole system has become lax, un-scrutinized and out of control. It is a lack of grasping the changes and implementing a policy that reflects this that causes the trouble, not recession.

The NHS is not perfect, but again neither is for example the US system, and the US isn’t in a recession like the UK. People in the US can’t afford insurance (30 million of them to be precise). So, how can limited Government eradicate any of these issues for any country?

OK let’s talk about who likes Free Market Principles.

Well, the conservatives who claim to have a profound love of them have no use for them; professing fealty to the markets is only a rhetorical strategy. Some would say they favour policies that distort the market in such a way that income and wealth flows to those at the top, but given that most people who cast votes in elections are not among that rarefied few, they have no desire to defend those policies on their merits. So, do they have a place in a society where the majority struggle to live??

But big Government ruins the countries wealth:

I feel a Government needs to know what is going on in their country, not be blind to it (I argue they are blind enough). It is a Governments duty to ensure its citizens when in need, receive help in the form of public services. They are there to respond to needs or why else do we elect them? What is the need for Government per se if they have no role in the country they govern?

I think everyone should be ensured they have a slice of the cake in the 21st century, even if it is a small slice, better than starving to death under the premise of ‘we can’t intervene we are a limited Government’.

People should not be allowed to flounder and disappear just like dust under a carpet; just because they aren’t a member of the ‘select committee’ (the wealthy) in society.

Boom and bust is worse under principles advocating intervention:

Well maybe, but then under a limited Government where there is no intervention is anything truly invested in; anything other than protecting and encouraging wealth? Pursuit of wealth above public needs can be detrimental to a flourishing society, as it reflects and encourages only a certain percentage of people and people’s lives. Not everyone can be wealthy, not everyone’s lives run smoothly.
I for one don’t want a return to a Dickensian way of life, I think I prefer intervention.

*Free Market Principles:
Individual Rights, Limited Government, Equal Justice Under Law, Spontaneous Order, Private Ownership, Subsidiary and the Golden Rule of honesty. Yet I am not going to focus on whether or not these principles, word for word, do impact and can solve recession. Instead I am going to think about reasons

Sling Your Hook UN


Could this be the Internet of the future?

What typifies freedom of speech? The internet maybe, perhaps so but all that could change under proposals to reform the Information and Communications Treaty of 1998 by the UN.

Gary Shapiro, president of the US’s Consumer Electronics Association, told the BBC;
“Many countries are used to getting revenue from telephone calls, and those telephone calls have gone away in favour of various internet-based video services which don’t produce revenue for them.”

“So they are looking to recover it and they are trying to put a charge on incoming internet access. So if you have a website which is very popular worldwide you would have to pay to get access to them – we think that is wrong”.

“We think the value of the internet is that it is available to everyone for free without international barriers.”

Google agree and are imploring people to sign their petition against such possible moves. After all who would benefit from curtailing any avenue of free speech, well, the very Governments who profess to adhere to such policies of course. These Governments are the ones who will decide the fate of the free and open internet, not you the user.

In fact any agreed new powers could authorise any Government to cut internet access, block sites and content; in effect censoring what their people can publish on-line and access.

Are you ready to say goodbye to your favourite sites? Maybe including this one?

Below is the link to Google’s on-line petition:

Take Action Google’s Petition