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. 


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… 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!

Bangs and bomberos en Dos de Mayo

  My nose twitched briefly then the faint acrid smell of burning made me throw myself out of bed. Something was on fire. I ran to the kitchen and scanned the cooker, the toaster, the coffee machine. Noting nothing untoward I opened the kitchen window. The toxic stench hit me as I saw thick black smoke snaking out of some grates on the edge of the plaza just below our apartment block. In seconds the smoke was thick and belching. I shouted out to Matt, “There’s a fire in the Metro!” I had no idea if the Metro even went under the plaza but I knew there was a fire and it was underground. A few people in the square started to look concerned. The stall holders who had just started setting up for market day abandoned their pitches as the smoke enveloped them. Then there was a loud explosion. Followed by another, and another and more and more. Hoping that someone with better Spanish than me had called the emergency services I started to panic! “Bombs! We need to evacuate!” I shouted dramatically. I was not going to hang around on the fifth floor of a building with bombs going off in the Metro right underneath! Matt was more interested in seeing what was going on so proceeded to casually smoke a fag in his underpants on the balcony ignoring my pleas to stop inhaling the fumes which were sure to kill us if the building collapsing under us didn’t kill us first! I was torn between wanting to watch the drama unfold and the need for self preservation. I ran around manically throwing on some clothes – I didn’t want to be evacuated in my pjs. I grabbed my purse, phone, passport, the essential three Ps, and put them by the front door. I would try to calm down but I decided there was no harm in being prepared. Then I joined Matt in his vantage point to take some photos!

At last we heard sirens, first the police and then five minutes later the bomberos. (I love the Spanish word for firemen!) The police and the firemen stood around, discussing the situation. Red and white ‘do not cross’ tape was put up and passers by gathered at the tape to discuss the situation. Everyone was very relaxed, very Spanish! More bomberos arrived and greeted each other with hugs, police took pictures on their phones. The smoke still belched. Then three brave firemen put on breathing equipment lifted one of the grates then disappeared down into the ground. 

Needing refreshment to go with the action I went to make a coffee. That was when we noticed the electricity was out. OK, probably not a Metro fire then, an electrical transformer or something must have short circuited, caught fire and caused a series of explosions. My fear reduced significantly knowing it wasn’t a bomb but the smoke was still scarily toxic smelling. We agreed to shut the windows. 

An hour later all is calm. The electric people are down there trying to resume normal service, though I suspect it may take some time.  The stall holders have finished setting up the market, the dogs are back barking and kids back screeching. A few bomberos remain, standing around chatting. But as there is still no power the bars in the square will be cursing at the lost business, we can’t get that coffee we’ve been wanting for an hour, the aircon isn’t working, Matt can’t have his bath and I can’t get wifi or charge my phone. How lucky are we that these are our only modern day problems!

11pm – Addendum. After 12 hours of activity the leccy is back on. We have cool air once again, hurrah! We have wifi so I can check my phone and its links to my social media (amazingly I survived without it)! And I can at last post this, the latest of my random ramblings 🙂 

From the 5th floor

It’s noisy at night but it’s great living right on Plaza del Dos de Mayo. I’m still hankering after a bit more outside space, but even though we keep an eye on Idealista (rental website) we’ve not seen anywhere that compares to our fab flat on the fifth floor of an old apartment block which overlooks the square. My favourite spot is sitting by one of the open French windows with my legs in the sun reading or writing and watching the world go by.

This is me, right now, writing this post……

And this is what 24 hours (ish) in the life of Plaza del Dos de Mayo looked like this weekend from my fave spot……
9.30am on Saturday….quiet, peaceful, pretty much empty of life. Hardly anyone is up yet save for a few dog walkers and a couple of kids in the playground.

 1pm….a weekend market sets up. A quick visit and I’m down €4 but have some fabulous hippy trousers and a fluorescent pink top. Cheap chic as always!

 7.30pm and the protesters are out! The plaza is a well known hot spot for political demos and gatherings. The market will go on until about 10pm.

 1am….and the square is full to bursting. It’s summer; Madrileños are a sociable bunch; it’s summer and still very hot; 1am is still early in Madrid! These are all good reasons to not be at home. Every cafe table is taken and the botellón culture is alive and well in Plaza del Dos de Mayo (groups of people partying/drinking in the streets – illegal supposedly!) easily catered for by the guys selling €1 beers from old lady shopping trolleys. The police are keeping their distance tonight so it’s N-O-I-S-Y!

 Midday on Sunday….It’s International Yoga Day and despite the heat the body beautiful are out.

So, all in all, not a bad place to live really. Now where is that suncream??

Yoga Gaga


I’ve never been overly crazy about exercise but I’ve always tried to do something a couple of times a week to maintain a modicum of fitness. Over the last few years my exercise of choice has been walking with a bit of Zumba thrown in here and there, but recently I was persuaded to join a gym because it was ‘too good a deal to miss’ and a few of my walking buddies had been going for a while and were somehow making it sound quite good fun. And now that I’ve signed up I need to actually use it, so I’ve been looking at the various classes on offer. Some, like pump, combat and kettle ball sound like absolute torture and body bum beach booty whatever sounds like, well, bollox quite frankly. And I’ve been put off spin for eternity after passing out five minutes into a class (very true story!) The super-high impact, multi repetition, weight stuff just doesn’t do it for me (or my creaky back!) any more. Also, I’ve seen the bods that emerge from these classes and my bod doesn’t look like their bods. So, I decided to give yoga a go and I’ve gone gaga for it!

I first tried yoga about 15 years ago but I found it a bit boring. Back then I needed some oomph, some thumping tunes and some serious sweat to feel like I was really doing any good. Even the beach bum booty thing would have probably been right up my street. But now I can’t get enough of the zen zone and I am at one with my mind, my spirit and my body! I am finding out how out of place bits of my body have become and how to slowly, but surely, get them back to where they should be. I also love the tranquillity. One of the yogis tells us at the beginning of the session that if we want to lie on our mats for the whole hour or just to sit in one pose we should allow ourselves to do it.


One day maybe. But for now I’m downward-dogging and sunsalutationing to my heart’s content. I love the challenge of seeing if I can twist my body a little bit further or bend just a little bit more in attempt to touch my knees with my nose. There is little chance of that happening for a while, if ever, but I keep on trying. It’s doing wonders for my self diagnosed frozen shoulder and I can now put on a pair of socks without having to sit on the bed. Hurrah! But I still have a long, long way to go before I’m close to reaching yoga nirvana. I’m still too stiff to cross my legs into a lissome lotus pose and why can I balance really easily on my left leg but fall over the minute I swap to my right? I wonder what that says about my brain? (Hmm…right side muscles control left side brain and visa versa. Left side brain = maths and language learning ….ah, that explains a whole lot!!!) As for even attempting an eight angle pose??…..well all I can say is just Google it!!

I am going to continue doing some yoga when I get to Madrid. I’ve seen open air yoga classes in the park. It looks wonderfully hippy and new age and tree huggy and I’m ready to embrace it! I will have to learn a whole bunch of new words though, because right now I think the only thing I would understand is cerrar tus ojos y relaja* but at least I am very good at doing that!


*close your eyes and relax…..ahhhhh



Ahhh Instagram….I love Instagram! I love it because although I am not a particularly good photographer I love taking bad pictures on my phone and turning them into something half way decent (in my eyes anyway!) with the help of Instagram. Instagram is also my own personal online photo album. It’s the perfect visual diary where I can cherry pick the best bits of my life and document the moment forever. One picture can sum up the most flavoursome meal, the most treasured friendship, the most vibrant city. Yes, it can be self serving and egotistical. It can be hugely ‘look at me’, ‘look where I am’, ‘look at what I’m doing’, but we are used to that with Facebook. I think Facebook is a bit tired now, but to me Instagram still feels fresh, and if some think it’s a bit hipster with the old school filters and Polaroid look of distant childhood I’m quite happy to be called hipster, although I’m really not! It’s great to be able to choose cherished moments or random, but meaningful, objects and image enhance them a little, or a lot, with filters for a romantic, whimsical, funky or whatever look I am after.
Also Instagram really is a selfie-lovers friend! Not that I am a selfie fanatic, but I do post the odd pic, and when I do it allows me to iron out the various imperfections in my face. What a great way to get rid of bags under the eyes or spots on the chin! It’s my own personal airbrush service. My mantra is never post a selfie until I have tweaked it to be as perfect as possible even if the result is being a little economical with the truth so to speak!
Instagram is art…it’s official. There is a permanent Instagrammers Gallery at the Telefonica building in Madrid. It is an exciting view into the eyes and minds of the world’s iphotographers and android artists. As most of us now have smart phones we can all have a go at producing photographic art. I’m sure ‘real’ artists would have something to say about an Instagram photograph being called art, but what is art anyway? To me art is something beautiful and /or interesting. It tells a story of a moment in time and allows us to remember and enjoy that story for years to come, and isn’t that Instagram is encouraging us to do?

The Language Barrier

The best bits about moving to Spain will be:

a) living with Matt again

b) the food and drink

c) the new experiences and places to visit

d) mastering a new language

Now, the first three things are great, easy, enjoyable etc. But d) …  mastering a new language. Hmm. I don’t think so! Mastering is far too strong a term. If I can learn to just get by in Spanish I will be thrilled, proud of myself even. It’s so crazily hard to learn a new language at my age, but try I must. I really don’t want to be one of the Brits-abroad-who-can’t-be-bothered  crowd. Anyway, it’s Madrid I’m off to, not the Costa del Expat. Some people speak English in Madrid but certainly not everybody and it’s crucial that I try really, really hard to communicate in Spanish or I will find my world a very small and very insular place.

But here I am, eighteen months after my first Spanish lesson, still feeling such a fool when trying to construct the most basic of sentences. In my head I have wonderful conversations with myself in what I think is almost fluent español. I have even dreamt in Spanish but in real-true-life Confidence sits on my shoulder mocking me as I try to give some order to the jumble of words swirling around my mouth. I hear what comes out and I surprise myself with the ghastliness of it all!!

Still, I have to believe those who tell me that it will be easier when I am living here. When I hear Spanish all around me, all day, every day. There is a lovely lady called Ana who looks after Matt’s building. She is there every weekday morning doing porter/cleaning duties. She speaks not one word of English. We have wonderful, nonsensical conversations. She smiles and encourages my attempts. It will come, poco a poco, little by little, she tells me. You just need to come to Spain more often. Es verdad! It’s true. I do need to go more often. Over the next six months I will try to go as much as possible and if I can just get Confidence to stop mocking me and start to cheer me on who knows what I can achieve. Even at my age!