Good morning dear reader and welcome to a slightly frosty Madrid! The weather is a chilly minus five degrees Celsius right now as I gaze out of my bedroom window.
However, I am aware that my last posting was rather pessimistic and sobering for many of you so this will endeavour to be a more cheerful piece. No room for doom mongering here!
So, a few days ago I introduced you to my new life out here in Madrid and the great and the good of my lovely and blissful domestic life. Now I will talk a bit more about Madrid and the political situation in Spain. Before I get stuck in I want to acknowledge once again the contributions of my two amazing Spanish flatmates and now I’m pleased to say firm friends, Iker and Borja. They have educated, enlightened and illuminated my mind to new ideas and developments here in Spain and provided invaluable knowledge to me about Spanish culture.
I’m living in the south of Madrid and the city is enchanting and a firm favourite of mine. I feel proud to call it home right now. Flying below the radar of more high profile cities in Europe, such as London, Barcelona, Rome and Paris, the more anonymous nature of Madrid has allowed it to retain a more truly Spanish feel whilst remaining inviting and authentically cosmopolitan. Wondering the streets you will see an array of architectural styles, Art Deco, Gothic, Baroque and Haussmann but you are always feeling completely free of the pretentiousness and stuffiness of London and Paris. The barrios (districts) are all different and each displays its’ own character and unapologetically wears its’ heart on its’ sleeve.
Madrileños are lively and welcoming people who justifiably take pride in their city but are welcoming to newcomers. One can never be short of things to do in terms of entertainment, I myself am partial to a bit of Saturday night karaoke with my friends, and as Ernst Hemingway, the famous American author once said, “Nobody goes to bed in Madrid until they have killed the night.” Nightclubs, bars, cafes, theatres, circuses and cinemas abound and I can often be found at the Cines Princesa which offers films in English with Spanish subtitles for those shamefully lacking the necessary Castilian skills set (I abashedly include myself in this category dear reader!).
Madrid is also a very verdant city, with the lungs of the city including grand parks such as Retiro, Casa de Campo and the Parque del Oeste. These are not the only ones by any means but they are certainly worth a visit. Retiro houses the beautiful and stunning Palacio de Cristal, Casa de Campo (the largest in Madrid) which contains Madrid Zoo and where I often went during the autumn to photograph the falling leaves, and the Parque del Oeste, with its crowning glory being the ancient Egyptian Temple of Debod, presented to Spain as a gift for help in protecting ancient relics and temples in the Nile Delta.
Museums are aplenty. Any culture vulture will feel they are in a veritable paradise. Alas, I have yet to visit the Reina Sofia, close to Atocha Station, which houses Pablo Picasso’s striking and poignant Guernica artwork but I have enjoyed a jaunt to the Prado where I spent almost a day in the labyrinthine corridors getting my full quota of Velazquez, Goya and El Greco and Bosch and yet I still feel I could have seen a lot more!
Shopping and dining out offer a wealth of tasty, yet affordable, treats compared to some other parts of our fair continent. There are the posh outlets in the Gran Vía, Serrano and Salamanca districts but for something with more ‘get up and go’ and to obtain a less staid atmosphere it’s well worth dropping by Malasaña or Moncloa for some bargains and quirky retail therapy and dining experiences.
All in all, I love this city and I would encourage you to visit – but I don’t want anyone else to uncover this hidden gem and force me to share it!
Now, to politics!
Before coming out to Spain I had read a good deal, and also written on this blog, plenty of articles and comments surrounding the politics of this country. Everything seemed quite rosy in terms of leadership and economic progress from the crash several years ago. What had singularly perplexed me all along though, was the lack of a strong far right political party. Of course, I welcomed this with open arms, but after talking to my friends and reading more about it I realised that whilst Spain is by and large a tolerant and open minded society there remain dark recesses of the far right lurking and waiting to find a champion (or demagogue in my humble view!) to herald their cause.
Unfortunately some of the young (and I stress some) are drawn to the disreputable remnants of the late Fascist dictator Francisco Franco’s supporters, but lacking organisation (and sadly finding themselves not just tolerated but indulged by the centre right) they have yet to form a fully fledged, united and successful far right political party. Much like the UK, Spain’s political system does not take kindly to upstart and new political forces and this also militates against them for the time being. Still us liberals and progressives must remain vigilant and ever watchful of such intolerant outfits.
As for the current government and the Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, he has now entered his sixth year of running Spain and it is ironic that after two inconclusive elections (over the past year where Señor Rajoy was running Spain as a caretaker PM) Spain saw a strong return to a 3.2% economic growth rate! No qualms about no functioning government from investors!
After the second inconclusive election last June the PM has been able to outmanoeuvre his opponents and secure a grudging acceptance from the other parties and a wafer thin mandate to govern but my prediction is 2017 will see him fall. What comes after is anybody’s guess however! From my conversations here in Madrid Señor Rajoy has very few fans, even among the business community, but there is very little enthusiasm for any of the others and the recent surge in support for new leftists and progressives in the form of Podemos has started to ebb. The same for centrist Ciudadanos. What keeps the government going so far is the dysfunction among the socialist opposition and from what I hear it might be this continual disarray that has given the PM his longevity and his lifeline to remain ensconced in his official residence at La Moncloa. We shall just have to wait and see.
Keep reading dear reader and thank you once again for your continual appreciation for my humble effort and your unstinting support! Till the next time…