Not My Cup Of Tea


It was a friend of a friends Birthday, and I got invited out for afternoon tea, odd you might think, afternoon tea in Madrid, it’s hardly a place renowned for such little quirks, and you’d be right.

Besides the slim slices of cake and tea offered in a mug, with not even a little teapot to keep it company, it wasn’t exactly The Savoy! Yet, it was a nice change, meeting people over tea and cake rather than beer and tapas.

I must admit, I love alcohol and food. Its practically in my blood; my family are thorough bred foodies and of course I have a strong Irish connection to boot (bad combination)! The only problem is both of these fine things, food and alcohol, don’t necessarily like me very much.

A few years ago I decided to scrap my old ways, in short, junk food was banned and so to was the vodka (et al). This, actually helped me. Physically, mentally and emotionally I felt relieved, it was like a breath of fresh air! I hadn’t realised how good it could be to be free of the shackles of, for want of a better expression, bad living.

Now, I’m no paragon of virtue, I still like to eat burgers and love a good cake and still enjoy a tipple, but since moving to Madrid I’ve noticed how easy it has been for me to slip back into my bad habits. Temptation is everywhere.

In the UK, I would choose not to go to bars, clubs and restaurants. I would meet friends in my home or theirs, we’d go walking, meet for coffee, go to the movies, shop, visit the beach, museums, National Trust properties and so on and so on. I seemed to have the opportunity to do more than merely meet people and friends in bars and restaurants to then eat and drink.

I had friends who were my party pals, they only wanted to get drunk and eat too much junk, consequently we soon parted ways as I didn’t want that lifestyle any more. I’d lived that lifestyle for too long, and frankly I was bored of wasting my money and time on a useless pursuit of what always was unhappiness the day after (hangover, arguments, tired, sick and so on).

Now, you may think, what a boring mare – no, actually I’m not. I enjoy diversity, I enjoy not having to do what other people expect I should do, because they are happy doing it. Yet, here in Madrid, everyone meets for beers and tapas, even a day of pottery making ends up in one of thousands of different bars open until the small hours.

WHY???!!!!!!

I am once again being forced to apply the breaks on this ‘lets have a drink and lets eat all the fat infused food we can find’ ethos, and I’m discovering just how difficult it is to keep up with friends.

Not all of my friends, as some of them get where I’m coming from, but there are those who don’t.

I have friends who just because they are happy to while away their weekends over bottles of booze and then the bathroom sink, they think I should want this too. If I don’t, then the invites to do things just suddenly don’t arrive any more. 

They think, I’m sure, that I’m miserable or purposefully avoiding their company. Well, I’m not, I just can’t physically or mentally do this drinking fest every weekend or weekday. 

If I accepted every offer to go out during the week:

A) I’d be flat broke

B) I’d have an inflated liver the size to envy any poor force fed goose

C) I’d be thoroughly miserable

D) I’d be the size of the Titanic before it sunk.        

What is it about these points that people find so hard to grasp and take seriously?!

Also, my life here isn’t necessarily like their lives.

I don’t work full time, I have a boyfriend I enjoy spending time with (which usually consists of mainly weekends as he works so much), and I also have a life which still exists in the UK too. In fact, I have one foot here in Madrid and one in the UK.  I suppose, in a way, I have more responsibilities than they do too.

No, I’m not taking about kids, but about bills, mortgages, a career I’m once again trying to revive, I’m learning Spanish (still) and they’re fluent already, plus I didn’t move to Madrid to extend my student years (as some of my friends seem to have done).

I suppose I’ve lost the thread here, or the initial thread in any case. I begun with afternoon tea. Well, the people I had afternoon tea with are these friends I’m taking about, and they are somewhat one dimensional in their offer of friendship.

The reason is I’m the outsider. They are 3 friends who know each other through teaching together, and I came to know them through one of the Madrid meet-ups.

Don’t get me wrong, they are lovely in many ways; they are very complimentary, kind and I have fun with them, but, I notice too that they only talk and don’t really listen. I don’t like that, it really is a sign that people aren’t really friends. I don’t enjoy being ignored, or cut short or spoken over as though I’m not important, and they were doing that quite a bit. Of course, they also were eager to depart as they had a drinking fest planned – which of course, I hadn’t been told about or invited to. So, I know, well now know, from our last meeting, that I am an outsider to them. I don’t fit into their type of friendship. I can dip in and out of it, but because I’m not a party animal, I’m not really their cup of tea (well, we all like coffee from time to time don’t we).

So, have I told them any of this – no, I didn’t see the point in really going over the ground with them. I know I can’t sacrifice my lifestyle choices to meet their own, and I know they wouldn’t stop going out or drinking the volume of beer that they do for me. So, it is what it is.

I suppose I feel a bit peeved. I mean I have lost one friend over this already. I couldn’t afford to do what she wanted to do every other weekend. Yet again though, our ideals of friendship clashed. She was looking for more friendship than I could give. I couldn’t be there for her and her alone – I have a life when I don’t see her and I have to maintain that! So, I don’t see her any more and that actually upsets me.         

I think too, I have sacrificed what I really wanted – not having to get drunk and eat junk and be out till the small hours, just to gain friends. How pathetic is that?! I’m too old for that crap! Either people like me for me, or they don’t. If they like the fact I can drink them under the table and stay up all night dancing, then what type of friendship is that? Hardly a firm foundation for me to rely upon.

For me, friends are people you can share everything with. I don’t want a one sided party fest, I’m not 20 any more, I want something connected, deeper and diverse. I won’t settle for superficial.

In saying all this on Saturday I return to the UK again, and this time it will be for two months (a very long time for me). I will then see which friends are left standing when I’m not in the picture for this length of time, and which forget I even existed.

I think the way I have been feeling of late the change of scene will do me well, as I am getting a little narky here (I think this post reflects that well enough), I seem to get ‘itchy feet’ after a few months in one place! God knows how I’ll cope when I don’t have another country to escape to, and am stuck in one on a permanent basis! I always thought I had some gypsy blood in me somewhere!

 

Anyway thanks for reading my rant!! I appreciate it as always.

Hasta luego!!!

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“Spotted”


I must admit, reading about “Spotted” in the news once again came as no surprise to me. Sadly, it seems everyday a new wave of internet indecency or nastiness becomes part of the norm.

And, make no mistake, the materials posted upon “Spotted” are particularly grotesque. But, I still have to question; aren’t such materials in many ways merely an expression of freedom, and of being human?

In truth, it is completely normal and part of everyday life – men and women will look at, talk about, fantasise about and trade lewd comments/pictures of the opposite sex. They don’t need the internet for this either.

So, I have to ask – how far is too far on the internet?

And, has “Spotted” reached, breached and exceeded the limits?

For those of you who don’t know what ‘Spotted’ is, allow me to provide you with some shockingly foul-mouthed quotes which illustrates it clearly (warning – profanities follow);

That blonde haired girl who just walked into the 2nd floor of the library is fucking banging – ‘Spotted: Reading University Library’ (3718 likes).

To the dirty skank… for gods sake buy some new leggings!! jesus christ! i can see your minge! [sic] – ‘Spotted: Swansea University Campus’ (2407 likes).

To the girl talking about harry potter. i think your arse might be a horcrux, im gonna have to destroy it tonight – ‘Spotted: Kent Uni Library’ (4209 likes).

These comments are typical examples of what “Spotted” has to offer. Male university students and their velvet tongues, produce one disgusting comment after another, and it is shrugged off as a type of compliment that their female peers should enjoy receiving.

“Spotted” pages are in fact part of the Facebook family. They are pages that encourage students to write comments and messages about their peers, which are published anonymously by page administrators. Many of the pages target specific universities (each page supposedly run by a student at that institution), with hundreds of different pages appearing on Facebook. Many of the pages have been liked thousands of times.

The “about” sections of most of the pages innocent enough, they encourage students to share funny incidents, grievances or secret crushes, but the reality is very different. Many of the pages consist of heavily sexualised and offensive comments about students’ appearance and sexuality, and female students are targeted with particularly misogynistic comments.

To the stuck up slut who looked at me as if I’d just slipped a finger up her grandma… –‘Spotted: University of Portsmouth Library’ (7460 likes).

Some posts include images, seemingly uploaded without the subjects’ knowledge or consent.

A current post on the ‘Spotted: University of Essex’ page (3955 likes) shows a young woman sitting at a computer, apparently unaware of the fact that her underwear is exposed above the waistband of her trousers, or of the fact that she is being photographed from behind. The caption on the photograph reads: “Nice bit a crack in the reading room.” [sic]

Another picture featuring a female student, again taken from behind and apparently without consent, appears on the “Spotted: Coventry University” page (4097 likes), captioned: “Asian girls and their asses though.” Several of the posts nastily blend racism with sexism.

A post appearing on the ‘Spotted: Hotty in Hartley Library’ page (3493 likes), displays a picture of a female student from behind, and asks fellow students to identify her so the poster “can get on that”.

Many posts inform female students what their male peers would like to do to them, or are doing while watching them:

To the girl on the c+ floor with the red toshiba laptop… i was sitting next to you a few hours ago. I literally couldn’t take my hand out of my pants the whole time. [sic]

To the hot girl sitting opposite me on level 3, do you mind if I have a cheeky danger wank whilst looking at you?

To the sexy brunette on the 4th floor, will you be my girlfrien? I didn’t add the D because you’ll get that later.

 Others veer from sexual objectification towards bullying:

 To the girl in the floor 4 toilets, you’re not Niagara falls, at some point you’ve gotta stop flowing.

The fat bird standing by the printers on the first floor. Don’t want to shag, but could really do with a cuddle.

Is it all in good fun??

A National Union of Students study reveals that 68% of female students experience sexual harassment during their time at university, and one in seven are seriously physically or sexually assaulted. These statistics actually shocked me; I didn’t know this was the case, and I doubt many female students (current or future) would know either.

So, how harmless are such pages if they feed into a wider student culture which increasingly treats young women as sexual prey?

And, do such pages merely demonstrate, and ensure that sexual harassment infiltrates every part of the academic arena to the point that there are no limits?

I then wonder;

Does “Spotted” encapsulate a new culture of objectification, harassment and misogyny?

How can this freedom of speech be curtailed, or, should it be?

Is “Spotted” just boys being boys or is it more sinister than that?

If you or your daughter were on the receiving end of such grotesque comments, how would you react?

All I can say;

I am thankful “Spotted” didn’t exist when I was a student. It was daunting enough entering the new environment of a large university, leaving home, being frightened, unsure and anxious over everything. I certainly wouldn’t have appreciated contending with this form of bullying and harassment too.

“Spotted” is childish, dangerous, aggressive, soul destroying and cowardly; not the best way to demonstrate what a UK university education can teach you.

Perhaps, a little less lady spotting and a little more studying wouldn’t go amiss.    

The Language Exchange


Yesterday or more precisely, last night, I attended another one of those English and Spanish language exchanges. Here in Madrid they are called; ‘Intercambios’.

Last night was OK, I seem to be settling into the routine and environment of the particular Intercambio I attend. I have made a few friends actually, but the reason I initially began attending Intercambios wasn’t really to make friends.

The idea behind these language exchanges are that people who wish to learn English or Spanish can meet at these organised events, and then together they can work to improve their language skills.

In Madrid Intercambios are popular. For me it has been a huge shock discovering just how popular. Many people here are eager to perfect their English – which they will tell you is bad, and yet it isn’t! They speak very good English, which again shocked me, as you rarely hear them doing so, even if you ask them.

People here actually learn English via work or from school, well, the younger generations learn in school. Courses and classes here can be expensive, so people flood to these Intercambios hoping to practice and speak English for free. So, I held out hope to also be able to chat away in my ‘Spanglish’, or gain the much needed confidence to actually speak Spanish as well as I do when no-one is listening to me!!

Having spent a significant time dedicated to attempting to learn Spanish, and also time slacking off from this task; I came to think, in my infinite wisdom, that Intercambio (language exchange) evenings would be the way to achieve language perfection.

Oh dear, how misled were my judgements on such things.

The main issue for me is that Intercambios are 99.9% of the time run from a bar/club, where loud music can hinder understanding, and also people tend to enjoy drinking alcohol, more than perhaps actually learning anything. I for one am guilty of this!

OK, alcohol plays a huge part in lowering inhibitions and boosting confidence, but also after a couple of drinks retaining any new information, in relation to learning, well, it isn’t so conducive.

Have I learnt anything so far from attending them?? Well a couple of words, but not substantial conversation or fantastical language confidence!

In fact even finding an Intercambio set up I was comfortable with at first, was trial and error.

My first experience with Intercambios was actually as I expected it would be, surprisingly. Bar, alcohol,
men and women = well, a hunting ground for sex. Not really my idea of learning a language!

This first Intercambio, 3 friends and myself  attended together. As soon as us women entered the bar (which was full of men), immediately I detected their eyes fix upon us, and I just knew why! Their necks were all strained like Meerkats on the lookout!! They weren’t interested in run of the mill conversation, let me just say that!

Anyway, intimidating, yes, very; we were not there to meet men for sex.

So, my judgement of Intercambios had been tainted; I felt it was really a euphemism for a ‘pick up’ opportunity, rather than a legitimate language exchange or learning experience.

Anyway, not being one to give up, I decided to persevere and give the Intercambios another shot.

The second Intercambio I attended, although the setting remained within a bar, I didn’t get a ‘pick up’ joint vibe. So, it seemed as though this one might just provide me an opportunity to learn, and practice Spanish.

This was the theory, but it has never quite transpired to practice.

Reason being is when a friend and I checked into this particular Intercambio, we looked at the attendee register, and immediately noticed everyone there was Spanish. 98% of them wanted to learn English!!!! Us two, being the only fluent English speakers present – damn!

Seems as though we would be the free English tutors for the evening – and that thought unnerved me.

As soon as the people present heard our accents, all eyes were trained upon us! They turned eagerly, desperate to get the opportunity to talk to us about anything, so long as they could speak to us in English. It was once again an intimidating situation, but for very different reasons than the first Intercambio disaster. We were again centre of attention without even wanting to be! I then thought, thank God I have never been famous, I’d never have coped with all that attention!

I was a little freaked out to say the least; put on the spot and I almost felt like a cabaret act – like I should do a little dance or something! I felt myself squirm inwardly as we were paraded about the bar, and then introduced to about 10 strangers. We were expected then to get on with our tuition of these Spanish strangers! It was weird!

Consequently I could only speak in English for the first hour, and then only a little Spanish thereafter. I was on edge all night – I felt so nervous of all the attention and questioning. Though, they were nice people, it was still a full on experience and not one I am usually used to; speaking on demand like a pet! I wasn’t a happy bunny!

This way of learning is not for me, I cannot learn like this. I need to feel comfortable to speak to a person in a foreign language – I don’t know why. I struggle, I feel my mind goes blank. Plus, how often do we trade information, that is perhaps personal, with complete strangers? Not often. It is quite an unnatural setting.

A Spanish friend of mine actually described the Intercambios as a form of speed dating, and they could be. It is like repeating yourself, and making good impressions, being on your best behaviour, and hiding your true self to score points! I have never been part of a speed dating event, but I imagine people must feel the same – on show, on the spot and feel they are being assessed and judged even!

It is a weird environment for sure, and one I just feel I am not comfortable in, yet every week I still attend, like a glutton for punishment! As I have already stated though I have met some nice people, so this is a good thing, yet, I am not really fulfilling my main aim – to learn Spanish!

Yet, at least I am making friends. So, there is still hope to eventually be fluent in Spanish, one day!

Under Paid And Over Worked – UK Teachers Deserve More Money……….?


A Happy Classroom environment is worth its weight in gold.

A happy classroom environment is worth its weight in gold.

Are teachers are bunch of moaning so so’s?

I ask the question; why are they never happy with their salaries of £30,000 a year?

In the UK it seems this money wrangling never ends, and yet why are teachers so dissatisfied?

Teachers often claim their work demands, and pressures should equate to more money in their pockets; compensation for the service they provide, the hard work they do.

Of course they do work hard, and as well as look after the children in their care they educate them too. They deal with mounting Government performance targets, and disinterested and often hostile kids.

So, £30,000 a year is a well deserved salary, or is it???????

I am all for teachers getting £30,000 a year as long as;

They teach every child, and take into account every child’s individual learning needs. Not just focusing on the children who appear brightest or pick up the work the quickest.

As long as teaching is about teaching, and not figures and stats! How can anyone properly teach if they are concerned about exam results instead of quality of the lessons, and the topics being covered?

Especially as so many children leave education without even an English or Maths qualification. Now, that has to be wrong in the 21st century?!

I have no issue with teachers getting good wages, as long as these teachers aren’t making the children’s lives a misery by bullying them in the classroom, and making them feel inferior. Or, trying to strip away their sense of individuality, as is often the case in the educational system.

I also remember it used to be the case that teachers didn’t re-pay their student loans. I was pretty peeved to be left repaying mine when I left Uni, and I begun on less money than my teacher friends did!!

So should teachers get paid more money?

Well to be honest I think £30,000 is a damn good wage as it stands. Why would they want more, when other people in other professions, who have as much hassle, if not more attached to their work than teaching does, get less a year (with no option of demanding higher wages for their hard work).

Oh, and of course most professions have less holidays a year than teachers!