There is something so pleasant in waking up early. As you tiptoe out the door and the sun begins to creep gently into the streets of Madrid, you’re filled with the overwhelming smug realisation that you’re awake before anyone else. The pleasure of seeing a crisply awakened city whilst most others are still asleep is a wonderful feeling. The day ahead must seem full of promise.
I’ve only ever experienced this beautiful early morning view of the city once before. When I stumbled out of the tube at 7am one morning after a long evening of dancing the night before, fresh is not the word I would have used to describe my emotions at that point, nor is optimistic the word I would have used to describe my expectations of that day. Alas it is always the same story. Any of you who have ever been excitedly promised a cooked breakfast by me at 1.45am in Timepiece, will realise that this seldom happens. However much I try to insist, I am not a morning person.
This morning, for example, when the alarm went off at 8am I furiously battered the poor alarm clock 8 times into a hasty ‘snooze’. When at 9.30am I finally opened my eyes to see the time I reprimanded it strongly for not having woken me up earlier. Luckily I’ve got pretty good at getting ready at speed: Tea. Then clothes. Breakfast. Change shirt. Make up. Add scarf to the outfit. Clean teeth. Sigh at the mirror. Remove the scarf. Door. Nearly forget keys. Bit more mascara. Keys. And out the door…tearing across the road in front of swearing Spanish taxi drivers, and pelting down the road for the bus. The road works that have been taking place on Calle Lopez de Hoyos every morning for the past 3 months have now become a familiar part of my route to work. Their irritating disruptions to traffic and the hearing abilities of passers by are now cheerful old friends of mine. I also have a familiar faces on my journey; the man from the fruit shop, the seamstress who I chat to on the bus, the children in the nursery I work at, the porter in the office building, and the woman in my favourite jewellery shop on my favourite street in Madrid, Calle Ayála. These small pieces of puzzle together make the muddle of my routine abroad feel more like home. I arrive at the office as per usual in a slightly ruffled state, and ten minutes late, but no one seems to mind. Most of them arrive after me anyway, clutching bags of shopping or a motorbike helmet.
The saying “Infierno, Invierno” rings true of Madrid – hellishly hot in Summer and when in Winter, devilishly cold. One week I was sunbathing on the beach in Valencia, and the next I was in a scarf, coat and boots going to work back in the city. Though summer is now very truly behind us, Madrid in the mornings is spectacular. I still can’t get used to the loud buses, taxis and unnecessary honking of horns that parade past my bedroom in the morning, but they serve as a second alarm clock when my first one fails, so I shouldn’t complain. And despite some of the Spanish who are slightly more pushy and less English on public transport than me, everyone is friendly and willing to help an old woman into her seat or join in shouting verbal abuse at the bus driver if he breaks too sharply or forgets to open the doors at the bus stop for a fellow passenger.
As it gets colder and colder (tiddly pom) I am missing England, my mind seems to have made it into this idyllic place where I go on never ending dog walks with my family, in the freezing cold and mud, eat gargantuan amounts of crumpets and scones, dripping with honey, jam and butter (proper butter), drink gallons of hot tea (with proper milk), and wear woolly Christmas jumpers and socks to warm up in front of the fire. All of that preferably with snow on the ground outside and Christmas carols in the background. I get equal cravings for Exeter, seeing friends, home and food as I do for chilblains, wet dogs, damp woods and frost. In short, English withdrawal symptoms at their very finest.
The family have all been well. The mother has been teaching me some wonderful spanish recipies and I’ve decided when I am older and fabulous I will have to dress as beautifully as she does. My Spanish really is getting better and better, as is my understanding. As soon as I learn a new word it feels like all of a sudden its used in every conversation afterwards, but realistically it has probably been used all the time, and I just suddenly recognise the sound. I’m getting there!