El Classico

El Classico. Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona. Watched by hundreds of millions of football fans the world over and more important to some than Christmas and birthdays rolled into one.

It only happens twice a year and it causes big problemos in our household. Why? On account of the bloke supporting Real hasta la muerte (till death) and me supporting Barcelona since five years ago.

After saying he wouldn’t watch it with me, bloke repented. And so I found myself driving at break-neck speed back from the centre of town to our local bar, the brilliantly named Yupi (Yipee?) to watch the match.

It never ceases to amaze and amuse me how seriously bloke takes his football. Hours before kick off he was focussing his energies “to send Messi bad vibes” and as we got closer to the bar he was sweating with nerves and had steamed up the windscreen of the car.

After a few near misses on the car accident front we were finally parked up and running down the road, Yupi-bound, with at least 10 minutes to spare.

It’s a weird atmosphere in the city when El Classico’s about to happen. The place is deserted (I’m always told it would be the best time to rob a bank or engage in similar criminal activity) And this time, half the streetlights in Madrid didn’t seem to be working. (even better for thieves)

I was pondering this in those ten minutes before kick off (bloke is too nervous to speak to me obviously.)

Ten minutes after kick off I’d come to the following conclusions:

1) I’m so glad I’m taller than most little old Spanish men or I’d have a real crappy view.
2) Drinking big jars of clara is a bad idea when the bar is rammed, the toilet is far away and a pain in the arse to get to.
3) I hate Cristiano Ronaldo. He makes me want to puke. Just the sight of his greasy smarmy face makes me pull an ‘I’m sucking lemons’ face.
4) Every time someone on Real goes down (even if they dive and deserve an Oscar) everyone in the bar will scream “penalty” or “falta” like their very lives depended on it.
5) There are no other Barca supporters in the bar apart from the barman (and he is keeping it super quiet ‘cos he needs his job)

At half time it was a draw. Cracking match with a lot of missed opportunities on both sides. Bloke commented that if Real won he would be logging into facebook every hour to taunt Barca supporters. I asked what he would do if they lost.
“Not log into facebook for a month,” was his reply.

Well it all went wrong for Real in the second half when Abramovich came on. He scored pretty much straight away and there were cries of horror, followed by a big silence in the bar. Tumbleweeds. It’s not even that silent on a Wednesday night when there’s just the two of us in there playing darts.

Final whistle went and bloke was beside himself, moping into his rum and coke. One nil to Barca. Disgusted once more with me supporting “the enemy” , he did everything possible to try and persuade me to change sides.

Emotional blackmail: “My grandfather, who was Real Madrid’s second team’s coach, would turn in his grave if he knew I’m going out with a Barca supporter”

Bargaining: “I’ll buy you any piece of jewellery you want:”

Threats: “I’ll never marry you unless you support Real” and more threats: “You’re paying for the drinks. You're walking home!”

But nothing worked. I can’t just change now, can I? I only started liking football when I moved to Spain – to Barcelona. So I supported my local team. I could have picked Espanyol, but I didn’t. So there.

Bloke was upset for a while, but he soon cheered up. After logging into facebook immediately to post some hateful messages, followed by two mixto sandwiches, and a game of darts (which he won), he was back on form again.

As far as Classicos go, it was a good one. (not as good as the last one when Barca won six-two, but still not bad.) We’ve got ourselves till May to prepare for the next one.


Day tripping to The Valley of the Fallen. Am I morbid?

My good friend the Director of Barcelona came to visit last weekend, so for something different to do – as opposed to drinking till silly o’clock and being hungover the next day – we took him to see el Valle de los Caidos (the Valley of the Fallen) – i.e. General Franco’s tomb.

It’s the first time in four years of living in Madrid I’ve been, (poor I know) and I have to say it completely blew me away. The whole thing had an otherworldly atmosphere and it was just a bit weird.

A church carved into the side of the mountain, the world’s largest cross, statues of huge hooded men with no faces carrying swords and hugely detailed tapestries depicting the apocalypse. Wow.

Thinking of all the people who suffered and even died to make it really got to me.

But what got to just as much was the fact that in the guide book there was absolutely NOTHING mentioned about the forced labour of the some 20,000 Republican prisoners that made it. Nothing at all in fact.

And another thing, if it’s supposed to be a memorial to all the people who died in the civil war, why does it only have two names on it – those of Francisco Franco and Fascist leader Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera? Highly suspicious.

Anyway, the Director told his workmates about his trip and they were scandalised. “best not upload those smiling pictures in front of the cross to Facebook,” he said. OK, good point.

Their reaction got me thinking though – is that a morbid thing to do for a nice day out? Is it strange to want to go see a Fascist dictator’s tomb? Even if it is very majestic and impressive?

And the worst thing is, I started wondering about my morbid tendencies again when we sat down to watch a movie. Me and the bloke tried to make the Director and PB and Jess - two of the girls who had joined us for dinner - watch our zombie favourite ‘Colin’.

First they cackled at the reviews on the cover “The most touching film about a decomposing corpse you’ll see all year” – FHM, “Original, compelling and as thought provoking as Romero’s Night of the Living Dead” Zombiefriends.com. Zombiefriends.com? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, etc.

Then they tittered all the way through the first 20 minutes.

Bloke: "I think it’s really good considering they made it for 45 quid."
The Director: "Yes, but you can still tell they made it for 45 quid"
PB:“I don’t feel sorry for Colin. Am I supposed to feel sorry for him?”

In the end we had to switch it off and watch something more mainstream. But Jess consoled with: “I think it’s really nice that you both like it so much. It’s something you both have in common, and it’s something so specific as well. It’s kind of sweet.”

The Director added: “Yes, I like good zombie movies. But you two like any zombie movies. Including shit ones."

Oh dear. So we both have a shared love of low budget Zombie movies. (Not shit ones. ‘Colin’ is not shit!) It’s not exactly bonding over fine wines or a shared love of Opera is it?

I blame my brother for letting me watch ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ and ‘House’ when I was ten. Ah well.


Things you forget

Some things you really miss about living in England - like Sunday dinners, white wine spritzers, salt 'n vinegar discos - and some things you don't. Rain, cold and darkness closing in at 4.30pm are a few examples.

But there are some things you just completely forget existed. Or so I deduced this month when bonfire night came round. Remember, remember the 5th of November… or not – I totally wiped it from the hard drive. In fact I haven't thought about it for years.

Of course, they don't celebrate it here in Spain. So to kill time in the morning meeting before everyone else arrived, I decided to tell a colleague about it.

Me: Well basically there was a guy called Guy Fawkes and he tried to blow up the houses of parliament on November 5th, 16 something. But he failed. And to celebrate it every year people Britain light fires and let off fireworks and eat apples covered in toffee, and potatoes.

Him: That sounds like fun.

Me: Yes, and you also make your own Guy out of old clothes stuffed with newspapers, and you take him round your neighbourhood in a shopping trolley, and you get people to give you money. Then you burn him on the bonfire at the end of the night.

Him: British people are quite strange.

And I suppose it does sound weird. Burning effigies of some guy (literally) who tried, and failed to burn the government and the king alive. It's quite morbid.
They say horror films and computer games are twisting kids' minds nowadays, but I reckon the story behind bonfire night is more disturbing.

Anyway, they've got their own quirky festivos in Spain. La Tomatina for example – where everyone gets leathered on sangria and pelts each other with tomatoes (silly). Or Pamplona – where everyone gets leathered on sangria all night and runs with the bulls at eight in the morning (dangerous).

I've never done either, and in fact I don't think I'd cope too well with the tomato pelting. It looks a bit too violent. But Pamplona is deffo on my to do list. Though I'd like to get a hotel room there and actually go to bed at some point. Not like my bloke, who went by bus from Barcelona with only the clothes on his back (which, by the way was only a shorts and t-shirt combo)

And I'd be watching the bulls rather than running with them. I find sparklers scary enough. Being chased down the street by 2000lbs of wild angry beast is a marathon step too far.


No you cannot help me

I'm a terrible ditherer. When I shop, I like to take my time. Weigh up all the options. Look at every item in the shop then return to the one I had in mind originally.

That's probably why bloke has just given me the money to get my birthday present rather than come with me to pick something out.

I hate it when shop assistants approach me and ask if I need help. I know they're just doing their job, and they're all on commission so it really does make sense, but it puts me right off.

And the language thing just makes things more uncomfortable. Try buying lipstick in MAC when you have a mental blank on the words for "lighter" "shiny" and "matt". Argh, it's much easier done in England.

I should just embrace it, as bloke does on the rare occasions I do go shopping with him. (Christmas Eve is the only one I can really think of). He needs a book for his dad, so he asks the guy in El Corte Ingles for his advice, and gets ten pointed out to him immediately.

He has a list of DVDs he wants, but rather than find them on the shelves, he gives the list to an assistant, and she goes and gets them all for him And she wraps them. Amazing.

That's why he can do the Xmas shopping in under an hour, while it takes me weeks.

But it was a different story when we were looking for some new horror DVDs in England a while back. You'd think we'd asked the worker in the shop to eat his name badge by the look on his face, not recommend a few good titles to us.

Of course it could just be that he wasn't a fan of zombie movies, but I really think we're more of a browsing nation than Spain.

Take pharmacies for example. I dread going to them. You are forcefully not allowed to browse. Everything is kept behind the counter. You must tell the pharmacist about your embarrassing problem. In front of a queue full of people.

I know I should stop being so British and stuffy about it (It never seems to bother any Spanish people I know – who think I'm being an idiot)

But I dream of Boots. Where you can buy your spot cream, Tampax etc. without having to announce it to the world.

Is that really so much to ask?


Eres un idiota!

Bad realisation today – my Spanish is pretty shit for someone who’s nearly notched up five years living in sunny Spain. Yes, I can comfortably converse about your everyday topics and I know all the right swearwords. (I learned them first I think)

But though I’ve studied the grammar I very rarely use it properly and I constantly get tied in knots mid sentence. Which was the case today in a meeting at work when I had to explain why there are rumours going round that Carla Bruni is pregnant. It was a disaster.

And I have no excuse. I have a Spanish boyfriend for Crissake. I could blame him for only speaking to me in English but it’s my fault too. I’m just damn lazy. It is true that it’s weird speaking to him in Spanish as I didn’t know a single word when we met seven years ago (not even hola!) and we both feel like we’re acting when we converse in his native tongue. But enough is enough.

I’ve now forbidden him from talking to me in English, and hopefully we’ll be able to keep it up. But it’s going to be tough. He comes more from the Gordon Ramsay school of mentoring than the Cheryl Cole one, and I don’t think me laughing at his efforts to correct me really help.

I’ve already found one great advantage though. Arguing about when we should go to the supermarket in Spanish is much better than arguing in English. Somehow it doesn’t seem such a big deal to be hurling insults at each other. Especially when you’re being corrected along the way.

Me: Eres idiota!

Him: No. Eres un idiota!

Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.