Dicks behaving like dicks with their dicks

I had an interesting start to my week. I was walking back from the supermarket with a backpack full of food and my arms full of a multi pack of super soft loo rolls. It was 2.30 on a gloriously sunny day. As I turned a corner my subconscious brain clocked a man sitting on a bench seemingly enjoying the sunshine and watching the world go by. As I passed him he made a sound, a whistle or a clicking of his tongue or maybe he said ‘mira, mira’ (look, look). I’m not sure exactly, but he got what he wanted…my attention. I turned my head towards him to see him pointing with one hand down to his groin and there, in his other hand, in not so full glory, was his penis. 

This has never happened to me before so I had no previous experience of how to react but my instincts took over and with a look of disgust on my face I shouted ‘F*ck Off!’ (in English but I think he will have known what my sentiments were!) and marched away determinedly. 

My brain was swirling manically. I wasn’t scared of seeing the dick’s dick. I was scared of what might happen next. I didn’t want to give him any satisfaction by turning to look back but I felt very vulnerable having my back to him. I had no idea if he had a ‘next move’ planned and was following me, if he was going to grab me. I knew it was unlikely, but the unpredictablity was completely unnerving. No road in Madrid is ever completely empty but at that moment this bit of road seemed very quiet and devoid of anyone. I quickened my pace and turned the next corner to get out of his view and gather my thoughts….and to see if by a chance there was a police car. I thought I may be able to use sign language to back up my basic Spanish to alert them to the perv (however risky it may be – gesturing to one’s groin to the police is not usually a good idea!) There wasn’t a police car. 

Unsure of what my next move should be I just went home. I felt I should report it but how/where…. Anyway, long story short I did report it. One of my Spanish friends works for the police and she, and her position in the force, helped me both with my language and by jumping the queue at the police station. I managed to give a good description of his appearance despite the whole incident taking no more than two seconds! They asked me if I would recognise his face from photographs. Probably not. I’m sure they don’t keep photo books full of flashers’ floppy phalluses but who knows if I would recognise his. Maybe!! Some things you can never un-see!

Bizarrely, exposure of the genitals is only illegal in Spain if it is done to a minor or someone disabled. But I reported it because I thought that it should go on record in case he was a known serial offender or to back up any (God forbid) incident of illegal indecent exposure by the same man. But I do find it odd that this behaviour is not deemed serious enough to be illegal. This was not done to me as a chat up or an example of extreme flirting. This was not done to me because this man fancied me and wanted to get to know me better. This was done to me because this man wanted to intimidate me. He wanted to shock, upset, scare and threaten me. It worked, albeit for just a few minutes. 

I’m not a prude. The body of a man does not shock me. I have seen more than one willy in my life, sometimes even on men I don’t know – I’ve  been on nudist beaches, I’ve seen men pee in the streets (ewww), I’ve seen a couple of hilarious streakers. Those sightings of very unsexual dangly bits are completely different than having one thrust upon me at very close range, unwanted, uninvited, unexpected and in an obviously sexually threatening way. I will not suffer from this experience and after my initial shaky reaction I actually laughed. It was really rather pathetic. But this doesn’t make this behaviour any less serious. 

Oh, and he wasn’t a dirty old man. He was young and good looking. This didn’t make it any less serious either. 

The cook, the chief, the wife, the mother

 I think I’m pretty damn rounded as a person, as a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend. I think I’ve done OK most of the time. I’ve had a full and fairly varied life. I’ve travelled a bit and I’ve had many interesting jobs but best of all I have been a part of, and had a part in raising, a wonderful family. My children are happy and healthy, intelligent and independent. I am a good mum and I’m confident that I have done a good job where my family is concerned. I am also going to begrudgingly admit that I’ve had my moments of Queen Bitch Mum. I just hope that in some way my girls have learnt from those moments too. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger so they say.  

Anyway, they still love me so I must have done something right! But I do have one huge regret as a mother….When my kids look back on happy childhood memories none of these memories are going to be soft focus visions of us all covered in flour while baking together, or of those heavenly kitchen smells wafting from the kitchen luring us night after night to a Bisto Family supper table. Feeding your family good food equates to feeding them love. I love my family dearly but I could never claim that I have been the provider of good food. For those of us old enough to remember the 70s sitcom Butterflies (1 min 28), I am the modern day Ria!

I can’t cook. 

I really, really can’t cook. I hate cooking. Everything I touch turns to carbon. Or sludge. Tasteless, unrecognisable sludge (last week’s fajitas). Overly salty, unrecognisable sludge (my bacalao experiment). Although usually my efforts have brought much hilarity and even a post or two on Matt’s Facebook it’s a case of if I don’t laugh I will cry. Actually, on occasion I have cried! 

I have my ‘staples’ which I can fall back on. Thank you God for inventing fishfinger sandwiches (nice bread and a bit of garnish makes it a meal in my eyes!) and baked potatoes. (Although I have managed to cock up baked potatoes too! Twice. On consecutive nights!!) And for some reason I am a whizz at making eggs. Any eggs. Even poached. But my repertoire is not extensive. When the girls were little I relied heavily on pasta, stir fries, pasta, various Quorn products for vegetarian Isabella, pasta and various non Quorn products for carnivore Millie. Oh and pasta! I remember feeling ashamed when someone said to me reproachfully, “pasta again? Can’t you give them something else for a change?” I was good at pasta. Dried spaghetti or fusilli in boiling water, easy! Opening a jar of pesto, easier! Quite frankly there was no point in making something from scratch when no one in my family ever liked anything I made for them. At some point when the kids were between nursery and year 2 I threw my hands up in surrender and admitted defeat in the kitchen. I stopped making family dinners and stopped trying to be an earth mother. Despite this, I managed to feed my kids enough nourishment and they grew up healthy and strong and Matt, refusing to join the pasta gang, got used to being chief cook and often came home from a long day at work and a tiring commute to knock up something tasty for the two of us grown ups. 

Isabella discovered the joys of cooking in her teens (probably as a way to eat something other than pasta) and would happily make delicious looking vegetarian food for herself. Consequently I only had to worry about feeding Millie. Now people who know us well would think that feeding Millie is the most difficult thing in the world. She knows what she likes and she likes what she knows. No deviation. I think that makes it quite easy. The only difficulty for me was to try to mix up the limited diet a bit and not burn the few things she would eat! I cannot multitask when it comes to cooking, although I do remember stirring something on the stove while breastfeeding which can definitely be called multitasking. I need to stay with the cooker or I get too easily distracted. I have tried to serve Millie burnt bacon on more than one occasion. You may be able to scrape the burn of the toast but you can’t scrape the burn off the bacon…..it just snaps….believe me….I tried!!

Somehow I managed to keep Millie alive until she went off to uni and started looking after, and cooking for, herself. I was an empty nester and my time was my own. I came to Madrid full of good intentions and renewed enthusiasm. I was going to crack this cooking thing once and for all. With just me and Matt to cook for I was going to experiment and try new dishes using fresh ingredients bought daily from the markets!

Pah!! It’s been six months and I still hate cooking. I’ve made some hideous meals and we are both bored of my ‘go to’ fail-safers. I still hate supermarket shopping especially after the initial excitement of seeing exotic looking European fare on the shelves wore off. I’m terrified of the markets where my Spanish lets me down to the extent where I buy the wrong bits of meat or end up with ridiculously priced fish because I don’t really know what I’m asking for. I’ve seen tv programmes which show tourists in Spain visiting and shopping in the markets. It all looks so easy, so cosmopolitan, so romantic, with women dressed in floaty dresses with straw baskets over tanned arms, gently thumbing and inhaling the aromas of gorgeous looking vegetables to test for freshness before buying. I get told ‘no toca’ when I try to do this. Maybe it’s because I’m dressed in jeans and a baggy sweatshirt, no floaty dress or straw basket in sight! 

So I keep going, keep trying, keep cooking. We can’t eat out every night. I’ve decided to stick to one market, my local. It’s small and relatively uninspiring but they are getting to know me there. I’ve made friends with the meat man. He knows what I’m asking for when I ask for mince. The veg man is always helpful when I bastardise the names of things I just can’t seem to remember (avocado…think Watergate…waterKate…”aguacate”!! Carrot…zany hour…zanahoria!! My strange system of word learning is slow and laborious but I’m getting there!). I know there will still be cooking disasters and stupid culinary mistakes but hopefully I will learn from them. Last week’s fajita disaster was because the spice mix I used was a pale greyish, mild powder which looked vile and very different to the vibrant red, hot spicy one I’m used to. Lesson learnt – don’t use a packet spice mix. I need to make my own. Make my own?? That is surely another disaster waiting to happen!!

See hear speak 

It is said there are two sides to every story. This of course is rubbish. There are three sides. There is side A, side B and The Truth. As humans we all tend to love a bit of gossip. I say humans, not women, because I would like to draw attention to the fact that even though most people perceive gossip as a stereotypically female trait, I know many men who are seasoned gossips who often don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story! The who said what to whom and when is the basis of daily life, but usually we only hear one side of the story. One person’s truth. We take that as gospel and rush to re-tell the story to eager ears. The story grows wings through more gossip and if the storyteller, be it the first or 31st person to regale the story, embellishes a little bit, the story takes on a life of its own, the truth left far far behind in a stream of Chinese whispers. I’m no angel. Of course I have done the “oh my god you’ll never guess what I heard” thing. After a good night out it’s great to have a post(party)mortem and, shamefully, the more salacious the gossip the better. I also know that I have been the subject of gossip. We all have. And honestly, if we can’t take it we shouldn’t dish it. But gossip is powerful, potentially hurtful and damaging, and we need to be careful what we share with whom. Maybe we should keep some stuff to ourselves. And if we can’t, we need to be careful who we share it with and make sure what we share is as close to the truth, as we know it, as possible.

The power of gossip is particularly poignant now I am in the process of meeting new people. Recently I have had to listen to stories that I’m pretty sure have been served with a large pinch of salt on the side. Some of these stories are about people I have known for years so I can make my own judgment and take as much of that salt as I need, but when I’m hearing things about new friends it’s of huge importance that I don’t allow the perceptions of others to tinge my own opinions. I try to push anything I’ve heard aside and welcome potential new friendships without prejudice. In an ideal world maybe it would be great to ask a new friend if what I’ve heard is true, but it’s not usually good form to dive in with such a blunt approach after the initial introduction.

“Hi, it’s good to meet you at last, I’ve heard so much about you”

“All good I hope?! Hahaha!”

“Actually, I heard you did this..and this…and this!”

“I’m sorry, but who exactly was it who has been gossiping about me??”

Cue awkwardness all around and possibly a spoiled evening of major fallout. Bang goes the new friendship – the messenger always gets shot!!

Truths, half truths and untruths circulate around us constantly. Most stories remain little pockets of inconsequential wind but some grow into typhoons with the damage palpable. Finding out things have been said about us or our loved ones, rumours spread about us or our loved ones that are not the truth, not our truths anyway, is horrible. And we have to find a way to deal with this. Depending on the magnitude or ‘minitude’ of the gossip we may decide shrug it off, we may quietly stamp our feet and shed tears of frustration and disappointment as we realise our truth has been twisted by careless hearsay or we may risk the fallout and challenge those around us who are circulating these untrue stories. Personally, although I have done some foot stamping and tear shedding, I have decided to trust that those who have shared my history and really mean anything to me, or I to them, will not feed off any gossip but will ask me to my face and get my truth.

It may be inconceivably hard to never see, hear or speak juicy tidbits, but let’s try to remember there are people with feelings behind every story and their truth may be very different to what you’ve heard.

Spot the cliché – the Happy New Year post

 Over the last few days my Facebook feed has been chokka full of ‘New Year…New You’ posts encouraging me to give up this and do more of that. So many in fact that some sort of rebellion has taken over and on just day three day into the new year I have opened the second box of maltesers of the day and thinking about how early is too early for a cheeky little G&T. So, for my first blog of the year I’m going to take just a smattering of the clichés that I’ve seen captioning beautiful sunset/sunrise and fat puppy sitting on scales pictures and see how they fit into my life right now. 

I was given an extra few lbs for Christmas. I spent precious time with my family and friends and of course that time revolved around food and drink. My only exercise was moving glass to lips, sip and repeat. But I’m pretty sure I will slide slowly back into normal life where overeating is not the norm and that bit of weight will hopefully drop off (living on the 4th floor with no lift will help). I know it’s important to take care of myself and try to limit the bad stuff but I’m sticking with the old adage a little of what I fancy and all that. However, on that note I will just go and put the second box of maltesers back in the cupboard- two boxes isn’t exactly ‘a little’ but I am still thinking that the G&T is only an hour away! 

Of course I want a happy, healthy life, but I want to limit the times I say no to things, be it chocolate or new experiences. None of us knows what is around the corner of this funny thing called life. I had a strange old year last year. It had some of the best of times, and many of the worst of times, but 2015 taught me not to be scared of living life the way I want to. I am starting this year keeping in mind that life is not a dress rehearsal. That doesn’t mean I’m suddenly going to rush around living life to what others see as the fullest or jumping on every passing bandwagon and promising to save the world. It means I am going to be mindful of the little things that make me happy and try to do more of the things that make other people happy. And if life occasionally gives me lemons I will just learn how to make lemonade. I will never get back the last five malteser chomping minutes of my life let alone the last fifty odd years. And that’s fine. Time passes. Sometimes it’s ok to have ‘wasted’ time, to daydream, to lose hours watching crappy movies. 

And yes, regrets, of course I’ve had a few. I’ve done things and said things I wish I hadn’t but I try to learn from those regrets, fix what I can and move on. There’s really no point dwelling on things that I can’t do anything about. I’m not going to let the past rule my today or destroy my future. But I’m not scared of the past. I’ve had wonderful things happen and, like everyone else, I’ve had shitty things happen. I’ve done wonderful things and I’ve done shitty things. The past has given me memories, mainly good, sometimes bad. It’s helped form who I am but it doesn’t define me, and now I choose to live in the present and live for the future. I’m going to live for what today has to offer not for what yesterday has taken away and I’m certainly not going to give power to people who are drains rather than radiators…I haven’t got the time quite frankly! I’m the other side of fifty now and even though I have always felt that I will live to see a telegram from whoever is wearing the crown in ’64, and that even though I still think of myself as young, I am definitely in the second half of my life, and what is it about being older that makes time hurtle past at an alarming speed?!

So my 2016 promise to myself is to embrace the next five minutes, the next ten hours, days and years and make them count… to me. I’m not going to waste precious time worrying about things I can’t do anything about. I’m going to spend time doing the things I can do, and want to do something about. I’m going to try to say YES as much as possible but guilt-freely shout NO when necessary. I’m going to be more thankful for everything I have. I am starting the year with a roof over my head and food on my table. I have a family who love me and friends who care about what happens to me. I am blessed…..and there really is quite a lot of sense and truth behind those clichés!

Knobs and knocking washing machines


We moved into our new flat two weeks ago. It’s lovely. It’s beautiful. It’s great. It’s perfect for us. But I’m being driven to complete distraction by my ability to break/misuse/malfunction every piece of electrical equipment in the flat. The white goods gods have really got it in for me. 

It started off with the washing machine. It’s a funny looking top loader so a bit alien to me but how hard could it be? I didn’t give it a second thought, chucked in a load, turned the knob to the most like looking setting and pushed the most likely looking button. It whooshed and whirred into action so I was a bit surprised when after an hour I opened it to find soaking wet clothes under a top layer of bone dry clothes. What a mystery! Anyway my washing woes could be boring so to cut a long story short I worked out it was something to do with having to close the drum manually. Three hours later and three more attempts I saw the fan belt poking out from under the machine. Snapped. Broken from my lack of top loader needing to close the drum knowledge etc! 

Soaking wet/bone dry clothes decorated with damp clumps of washing powder were chucked into the bath where I did a good old fashioned hand wash – well underfoot wash actually – ‘crushing grapes’ style to be precise! Then it was onto the www where a new fan belt was located in Poland. We would fix it ourselves and save a packet on not getting a €35 per hour technician. Easy peasy!

Next up the cooker. Evening number two and I decided to cook something. The hob is gas and has a clicker ignition when the knob is pushed and turned. The next 20 minutes had me clicking turning clicking turning swearing clicking turning more swearing. The fricking gas was filling the kitchen but not would not ignite around the rings on the hob. Matt then walked in and had a go. It worked immediately. Why??? What the hell was I doing wrong? Again a bit more mystery solving  and we worked out it was a hardcore childproofing security feature. You had to use all your strength to push down on the knob preventing small children and fairly strong middle aged women from ever using the hob! Now I’ve cracked it I use lighting the hob as a part of my exercise routine. I have to remember to switch arms though as I now have a pretty bulgy right bicep!

So that’s the washing machine and hob. Now onto the fridge. Day three and we realised the fridge was not up to the beer cooling coldness we required so I located the dial, turned it to a slightly colder temperature setting and the normally gentle hum of the motor grumbled loudly and abruptly stopped. Oops, I thought. Here we go again. How could I break the fridge by simply turning the dial? Anyway I decided not to panic, just leave it and see what would happen. An hour or so later I breathed a sigh of relief as I heard the gentle hum again. I have to say, though, I was beginning to fear I had inherited my mother’s touch-anything-and-it-breaks condition. 

Cut to two weeks later and after waiting in for a special delivery from Poland I am proud to say we fixed the washing machine. 

But I’ve just broken it again!!!

I forgot to close the drum. Stoopid design. And now I have to admit I really have inherited my mother’s condition. 

Our next order from Poland will be a bulk order. 

Ummmmmmmmm…………….Mellie’s got writer’s block!

I’ve had a touch of writer’s block recently and have been a bit bemused as to why. Moving to Madrid just over a month ago is giving me loads of experiences that I could be writing about. It’s not everyday I up sticks and move country without so much as a backward glance. (Well, maybe there was a sneaky backwards peek!) After going back and forth for two years for weekend trips I’ve finally made the move. Yes, I’ve actually done it! So what have I been doing since I got here? And why am I not writing about anything? It’s not that I’m not doing stuff. I spent a couple of intense, exhausting, frustrating weeks house hunting. We’ve moved once and still have another two sofa surfing moves to go before the final move in December. I’ve walked around nearly every barrio in Madrid. I’ve got lost in many of them. I’ve got lost on the trains. I’ve got lost on buses. I’ve lost my inhibitions drunken dancing at 3am. I’ve met strangers who quickly became friends. I’ve spoken Spanish badly and been misunderstood, unsurprisingly. I’ve spoken Spanish quite well. And been understood, surprisingly! I’ve done touristy stuff like galleries and a walking tour of the city when I learned a little about the cruel Spanish Inquisition and Juana la Loca (not just the name of my fave restaurant then!) and the Habsburgs. I’ve been for lunches which started at 2 and finished at 8. I’ve also had days at home reading, listening to podcasts and watching Netflix when I wouldn’t step outside if there wasn’t a need to buy some more tonic to put in the fridge! I’ve done so many things but I can’t find a reason, or a way, to write about any of them. 

I was talking to my new friend Kim (a new friend! Yay, I’m making friends!) about why I wasn’t writing when I was having all these new experiences and she suggested I could be suffering from new experience overload. My senses are being bombarded every time I leave the house. A light bulb went on. That’s it! There is so much whizzing around my brain there is no clarity. Nothing is normal to me. So many things are a challenge. Trying to buy a train ticket is not easy when the machine isn’t working. Trying to buy simple ingredients is baffling when the words on the packets are a mystery. Trying to recognise something familiar from my GCSE Spanish classes in a stream of babble is bewildering. I’m not moaning. I am loving the experience but my brain really hurts sometimes and this leaves little space for any creativity. 

Yesterday we woke to no water in the flat and I immediately felt my stress levels rise as I realised that I may have to deal with a plumbing problem. How the hell was I supposed to do that with my pocket Collins dictionary and notoriously unreliable Google Translate?! I once asked a waitress if we had ordered too much food and said I was ’embarazada’. I got the evil eye for the rest of the night as I drank copious amount of red wine. I had in fact told the waitress I was pregnant!! Embarazada is not embarrassed! I have to say I can’t blame Collins or Google Translate for that slip up, just my inadvertent use of a Spanish ‘false friend’. Anyway back to my troublesome waterworks. Luckily for me it was a problem in the whole area so I just needed to relax, not worry about the pile of laundry, leave the washing up and remember not to flush! Outside in the street there was a constant stream of angry and frustrated chatter. I was simply happy, very relieved that I was not faced with a mission impossible! 

Also I am in unsettled limbo at the moment. We have left Dos De Mayo and are waiting to move into our new, permanent Madrid home at the beginning of December. Lovely friends are letting us live in their lovely flats while they are away which is great and we are enjoying exploring different barrios. But I’m itching to get into my own home where I can really start to put down my new Spanish roots. And hopefully my brain will relax a bit and my creative juices will start to flow, my fingers will start to twitch and I will want to write about some of the stuff that’s happening to me as I embark on my new Spanish adventure. 

Naming not Shaming

I thought writing a blog would be free of angst and hidden pitfalls. Just write, post ‘n’ go. Easy. I have been writing stuff, playing with my creative side which, now I have time on my hands, has resurfaced, and, a few months ago, after being encouraged to send bits here and there to my mum to read I thought maybe it was the time to put it all in blog form. This, I decided, would make me more disciplined in my writing and most importantly it looked far prettier! After a few clicks melliemadrid was born, a vessel for the somewhat random ramblings I write when the mood takes me. This means I need to try my best to ensure the spelling and grammar are both fault free, I have to strive to ensure my sentence structure is well structured, and I have to try to make it entertaining, because it’s going to be read by people!  People I know. People I don’t know. Eek!!

Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that people other than my mum are reading my blog posts. I get a real buzz everytime I see my blog has been visited (I have become a stats page obsessive!) and I love seeing which country my readers come from. As well as readers from the UK and Spain and Oz and NZ (thank you family and friends!) I’ve had readers from the USA, Jersey and Japan; the Netherlands, Greece and Thailand; Italy and India. And more! Thank you for reading. You make this fledgling writer very happy! 

I’m really enjoying that people are enjoying it. At least I hope they are enjoying it….I have had some really encouraging comments. But it did take quite a lot of courage to put myself out there. I couldn’t quite believe that I was a good enough writer. I’m sure some may think I’m crap, and that’s fine, they don’t need to read it, I’m not holding a gun to anyone’s head. I don’t ask people if they have read my latest post and I’m always slightly embarrassed if anyone mentions it to my face! Some of my closest friends  haven’t read anything I’ve written because they are not on social media where I promote my blog and I’m too reticent to tell them.

So why did I make it public? Call it showing off or whatever but I believe that we all have the need to be noticed and appreciated. Don’t we all want a pat on the back or a gold star from time to time? And anyone who is creative usually wants an audience. Singer/songwriters upload videos onto You Tube. Artists exhibit their work. Talented chefs craft up amazing dishes wanting them to be appreciated by discerning diners. Social media bombards us daily with showing off posts so it’s not such a big deal anyway. 

But I think that putting anything out into the wider world carries with it a responsibility. I have to have the fact that anyone can read what I publish, not in the back of my mind but firmly in the forefront. And sometimes this can cause me to put the brakes on my outpourings. I’m not a very controversial, political or opinionated person so I’m unlikely to offend. But I am essentially producing ‘confessional’ writing and while I’m happy writing nonsense about my life, what about when I want to include my family and friends or other people who briefly come into my life? How can I sensitively do this? I’m not usually a nasty person but if I find myself being nasty and if it makes a good story I will probably write about it. I will only be hanging myself out to dry! However I may well find myself wanting to write about nasty things that nasty people have done to me and I will have to choose my words carefully so as not to reveal identities too easily. Although if they are that nasty should I really care?! Usually I will want to write nice things about nice people but even so they may not want their names and things they have done (or not done) splashed all over the pages of my little blog. My last post was about the end of a friendship. I wanted to write sensitively about something that deserved sensitivity. But I wanted to write honestly about something that deserved honesty. I tried to use discretion and I didn’t use names. It wouldn’t have been appropriate or fair. It wasn’t easy to write about it. It took a month to decide to write about it. But I needed to write about it. This blog is my therapy sometimes. 

Maybe one day you will recognise yourself in a post! Hopefully it will be a story about something nice. Hopefully I will have been sensitive and hopefully you won’t mind.

The Text

I was sent a text recently informing me that I had failed the good friend test. I was wished well for my present and my future but I was being let go. I had been unceremoniously dumped as a friend by text! BY TEXT!

I was shocked. Confused. Angry. Hurt. I had been going through a pretty rough few weeks so I know I wasn’t up to much on the friend front. I was completely self absorbed . I even bored myself with the sound of my voice going over and over and over and over the same thing again and again and again and again. Thank you to all those who listened with patience. Love. Care. Concern.

It was a bit harsh that now, of all times, I was being dumped by one of my closest friends. I must make it clear that this friend had been, and still is going through the absolute worst of all times. The absolute worst. I would not wish her pain on anyone. My pain could not compete with her pain. But my pain was real and horrendous to me. And because of my pain I hurt her beyond repair. Hurt her with some badly chosen words.

I recently heard a saying – ‘hurt people hurt people’. How very true. Hurt people (sometimes) don’t filter what they say. Hurt people (sometimes) don’t hear what is being said. Many of us will have read posts on Facebook about how to talk to/not talk to people with depression or mental health issues and they often contradict each other. Do this. Don’t do this. Say this. Don’t say this. Everyone has their own mental health experience and their own feelings about how their own personal mental health issues are best met. Someone could genuinely be trying to be kind, trying to do or say the right thing and get it hugely wrong. It is a minefield. The speaker/listener or advice giver/advice receiver are not always on the same page. But this does not mean that the very best of intentions are being attempted to be made. Sometimes we are just trying (to quote Maya Angelou ) ‘to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud’. Sometimes the cloud is too dense to welcome the rainbow.

My issue wasn’t mental health, although the confusion and emotional turmoil certainly tested it. I know that when I heard someone say something I didn’t like I tried to remember that it wasn’t being said with anything other than love and support. They got it wrong/I heard it wrong. Whatever. I also know I said things I didn’t mean or that came out the wrong way. My brain was fucked up for a while. Lack of food and sleep will do that to a person. And I’m sorry. I said I was sorry to my ex friend. It wasn’t enough. I was truly sorry. I am truly sorry. It’s sad that the demise of our long supportive friendship was as the result of some badly chosen words. The many, many good words and good actions swept aside so easily.

Anyway back to The Text. Being told I have failed……by text. Being told I am being dumped……by text. I am completely bemused as to why do that? Who does that? Most friendships that have run their course just fizzle out, a natural, often mutual, gentle way to shed the dead wood in our lives. We can’t remain besties with everyone for ever. The cafe meet ups get fewer. Text messages are not replied to immediately. Days go by without contact. Then weeks. Then, who knows, maybe it has just been a case of life getting in the way and you find a way to reconnect. Or maybe not. But the official ‘friendship dumping’ is what intrigues me. Once a teenage friend of one of my daughters took her best friend to a cafe to inform her face to face that she was being dumped! At least the dumpee had the right to reply if she wanted it. I don’t think she wanted it. I think the she went running into the arms of her new, much cooler, friends cheering and whooping.

As humans I think it’s natural to want a right to reply. To have the last word. In my situation I could have replied an equally long text back trying to put my side forward. But what’s the point? I didn’t want to get into a text argument and I certainly didn’t have the energy to arrange a face to face to bicker out our grievances . I did text back as an acknowledgement (and maybe to have the last word!) I just told her I was shocked and confused but would respect her wishes. Maybe I will miss our friendship. Maybe I won’t. I’ve been let go but somehow I think I will survive!



Oh wow! Do the Spanish love their food or what?! From the menu del día which is an affordable three course lunch offered by many, especially the more traditional, non-touristy restaurants, to the ubiquitous tapas that comes with every drink, most of the food I have ever been served in Spain has been top quality and very, very tasty.  So it’s not surprising that the go-to event for any Madrileño is the monthly food festival MadrEat.

Emerging from the metro in Nuevos Ministerios, the business area, everything seems eerily quiet as it is the weekend, but then, as you walk towards the nearby Plaza Pablo Ruíz Picasso, the lovely shady park where the festival is held, the music and noise gets louder and the aromas get stronger. The park is a riot of colour with vendors serving wonderful food from their wagons/caravans/airstreams which have been amazingly and lovingly restored to full glory with vibrant colours and beautiful fonts. It is one of the coolest place to be in Madrid. The foodies are out. The hipsters are out. The families are out. Groups of people gather to create mini parties and after a few drinks the loud music encourages some energetic extroverts to show off their dance moves.  You plan on spending an hour or two there…..you end up staying all day!

 But back to the food. So far I have eaten spicy vegetarian couscous, calamari bocadillo, succulent artichoke hearts, hot ‘n’ spicy patatas bravas and the softest, sweetest, pinkest macaron. I have drunk beer, sangria, vermouth and the best coffee I’ve had in Madrid. The queues can be very long especially for the best, worth-waiting-for food. Next time I’m definitely going to try the blackest most chocolatey ice cream I’ve ever seen and some of the delicious looking baked fish from one of the Indian food trucks.

So if you are ever in Madrid one weekend, do yourself a massive favour and check the dates – you may be lucky enough to be able to experience one of Madrid’s best kept secrets!

Sixty Years and Ten Thousand Miles

 ………………………..guest post guest post guest post………………….

I’ve not been blogging much over the last few weeks so I decided it was a good time to do a guest post. This was written by my mum, Caroline. It is about a very special reunion. Enjoy…..


Way back in the 1950s, when I was a teenager, my mother had a mid-life motor car fantasy. OK, it’s usually the men who have mid-life car fantasies, but my father never drove, so my mother decided to live the dream for both of them. So she sold her existing car and in its place she bought her fantasy car, a vintage Rolls Royce, a beautiful, dark green and grey Rolls Royce. Well, it wasn’t vintage then – it was not much more than twenty years old. It was a 20/25hp Sports Saloon built by Freestone & Webb in 1933. (At that time RR themselves only produced the engine and the chassis.) We were then living in part of my grandfather’s house outside London. Here the Rolls had somewhere safe to live – a garage where my mother could keep it for the few years she owned it.

It was a beautiful car, all elegant paintwork, sweet-smelling, soft leather upholstery and gleaming mahogany fittings. Poised to take flight, the iconic RR ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ stood at the front of the bonnet. Rare even then, she was the full-sized, tall, standing Spirit, not the more familiar kneeling one. Directly in front of the windscreen was another mascot, a Lalique glass fish that could be lit up at night with a flick of one of the many switches on the dashboard. For their safety both these mascots had to be removed whenever we parked away from home (a bit like taking the satnav with you these days).

On the steering wheel, and on the mahogany dashboard, was a bewildering array of switches, levers, knobs and dials, several of which had to be engaged before the car would start. There was a switch for the ignition; others operated the enormous headlamps, the sidelights, and the interior lights. There was a switch for each of the windscreen wipers. There was a switch for each of the indicators, one for the left, one for the right: these would flick up on either side of the car, and after the turn had to be closed again. The gearstick and the handbrake were positioned on the right of the driver’s seat. Probably designed with a chauffeur in mind, this made getting in and out of the car interesting for the driver, particularly for a lady driver in a mid-calf, much-petticoated 1950s skirt. My mother solved this by getting in and out on the passenger side and sliding across from the driver’s seat.

The rear was luxuriously upholstered in dark green leather. Fitted to the inside of the right-hand rear door was a small holder for two little bottles, for brandy and/or whatever, with a silver matchbox holder between them for the lighting of cigarettes or cigars. The left hand rear passenger door had the disconcerting habit of flying open whenever we rounded a sharp bend, so my brother and I learned to hang on tight as we approached a curve in the road. No seatbelts back in the ’50s!

One day my mother announced she was going to give me my first driving lesson. My very first driving lesson. In the Rolls. I was sixteen, not old enough for L-plates. So I couldn’t go on the road, which was just as well as it happened: the Rolls was not the car for a learner. We headed for the very long drive of a nearby house – well a nearby stately home really. It was far too big and far too stately for its family – wealthy as they were – and they actually lived in a small (-ish) modern house they had built in the vast grounds. Think Downsize Abbey. I took my first driving lesson in its long, long drive. It was a disaster. With all those levers and switches to engage, I jerked and jolted a few yards and promptly stalled. Start. Stall. Restart. Double declutch (double dewhat?) Stall. Restart. Stop. Eventually the Rolls generously allowed me to take it a couple of hundred yards. I can’t really say I drove it. Then my mother turned the car around, so I could jerk and jolt us all the way back to the gates. End of lesson. I must have ‘driven’ all of 300 yards.

My mother happily drove her lovely Rolls around for a couple of years. Shopping, weekends with friends, and so forth. I don’t remember her ever taking it on any very long journeys. Family holidays were then thought unnecessary as there was plenty to occupy me and my brother during the summer holidays. We had my grandfather’s very large garden, complete with tennis court; there was countryside all around for us to cycle in and an open-air swimming pool not far away. About the furthest my mother would have driven would probably have been once a term to visit me and my brother at our boarding schools, maybe 100 miles each way – a long ride back then with no motorways to speed the journey. As a teenager whose aim was to be as unobtrusive as possible, I am now ashamed to remember my embarrassment at being picked up in such a splendid car! Then my grandfather died and we moved back to London, to a flat near Victoria Station. A vintage Rolls clearly could not live out in a London street. So it was sold and went out of our lives for ever.

Or so I thought. Over the years I might have thought about our Rolls maybe a dozen times, perhaps when I came across a photograph of it in an old album. I might have occasionally mentioned to someone that the first car I ever drove was a Rolls Royce, but I have never been much interested in cars – apart from an early yearning for an MG sports car (never fulfilled) – so I rarely spoke of it. So long as a car starts and stops when I want it to, that’s all I care about. Then late last year I was chatting with a friend during the tea-break in our line dancing class. He happened to mention his Rolls Royce. “You have a Rolls Royce?” I asked. “Yes,” he replied. “I’ve got a vintage Rolls. Had it for years.” “How wonderful!” I said. “The first car I ever drove was a Rolls!” “What model was it?” he asked. “Ah! You’ve got me there! I have no idea what it was.” All I could remember was that it was green and grey, that the gearstick was on the right, and that for some reason I remembered its number plate. It was FXF892. Then it was time to get back to the Cowboy Strut and I thought no more about it.

The following week I arrived at line dancing and my friend produced a sheet of paper full of information. Via its number plate and the Rolls Royce Enthusiasts’ Club he had tracked down FXF892’s entire history since my mother parted with it. It was alive and well, and living on the other side of the world. It had lived in the UK until 1975, when it had been bought by a man who took it to South Africa, and eventually on to Australia. And there I was, thinking, if I had ever thought about it at all, that it must have ended up in a scrap yard decades ago.

Via the Enthusiasts’ Club, my friend contacted NL, the present owner, and put us in touch with each other. He was as excited as I was and we exchanged emails and photographs of FXF892. He had bought the car about five years ago. He wrote: ‘I have fully restored the body (painted in its original colours) so it is in excellent order now. It won the Best Pre-War Rolls Royce at our last Rally and the Company Trophy for the best restoration.’ NL lives in Western Australia, about 80 miles outside Perth, where our eldest son, James, lives. He said that when we were next in Perth we must be sure to come and visit the car. At that time we had no thought of when we might next be in Australia. Then, around February, James phoned and said, ‘We’re thinking of going to explore Queensland in June. Do you want to join us?’ There was only one answer to that! So we arrived in Perth at the beginning of June, and the first weekend we were there, before setting off for Queensland, we drove the hour or so out of Perth to visit the Ls, who had kindly invited us all to lunch.

When we arrived, NL showed us into his garage, one in a row of three, where FXF lives in luxury, its stablemate being a vintage Bentley convertible, even older than the Rolls I believe. It was quite emotional seeing the Rolls again. I had entirely forgotten what a truly glorious car it was. I wanted to stroke it. I did stroke it! Very gently, with the tips of my fingers. How I wish I had appreciated it more when I knew it. The adjoining garage, the middle one of the three, is a workshop where NL cares for all his cars – he also has a vintage Armstrong Siddeley pickup, which is a great favourite at the local green waste collection point where he uses it to take his garden rubbish, and a modern Citroen for supermarket car parks; these two share the third garage.

The middle garage, NL’s workshop, is immaculate. James, whose own middle-aged car fantasy had, a few years ago, involved a 1970s Triumph Stag, was speechless with admiration and envy of this workshop. It is like no workshop you have ever seen. There is not a drop of oil to be seen on the floor. There were no oily tools or rags lying around. No pieces of unidentifiable rusty metal. No scattered nuts or bolts. You could eat off the floor. In pride of place in the middle of the workshop, was a shiny, bright blue and yellow hoist to enable access to the underside of the cars – NL does all the work on them himself. There were workbenches, filing cabinets, cupboards, a desk, and shelves, all immaculately tidy. The walls are a gallery of car memorabilia, including framed photographs of his own and other vintage cars.

FXF892 is a truly beautiful car. I had forgotten quite how beautiful. It is lovingly cared for, restored to all its original glory. The chrome fittings, the lights, the radiator, the number plates, all gleam, and the paintwork shines. The leather inside is soft and smooth. The only difference from the car that I remembered is that sometime over the years its mascots have been replaced: the Spirit of Ecstasy is now kneeling and instead of the Lalique fish, there is a falcon, but now that NL knows it originally had a fish he is on the lookout for one. The current asking price for a Lalique glass car mascot is enough to make your eyes water.

NL kindly took us all for a long drive through the country roads around his home. I rode in the front passenger seat, full of admiration for NL, who reached without hesitation to whichever lever or switch he needed. It was a fine Australian winter’s day with not a drop of rain, but he demonstrated the wipers for us anyway: they swept to and fro over a surprisingly small area of the windscreen. The car ran so smoothly and so quietly it is hard to believe that it is over 80 years old. I didn’t think of listening for the ticking of the clock! He told us that it would comfortably go well over the Australian speed limit of 110 kph, 68mph – FXF’s speedometer is of course in miles. And somehow NL has managed to retain its original British numberplate, the one I remembered – the one that made it possible for the car to be tracked down. We didn’t pass many pedestrians on the road, but those we did pass stopped and watched as we went by. Some of them waved and we all waved back. I don’t remember such a reaction on the British roads of the 1950s. Even then a beautiful RR must have been a rarity, but to Aussies walking along a country road it must have looked like something out of a movie. When we returned we took loads of photographs, and for only the second time in my life I sat in the driver’s seat of FXF892.

So that’s how it came about, that after sixty years, and more than ten thousand miles, I once again met what is undoubtedly the most beautiful car I have ever been in in my life. I’m sure my mother was looking down at us all and loving every moment of the experience too.​​

(Some names and details have been changed to protect privacy)