Home > General > Ah ha

Ah ha

Madrid is an ugly city. Madrid is a heavy city. Outside a few older neighbourhoods that become home to throbbing, pulsating hives of tourists Madrid is an unremarkable collection of post-war blocks. I live in one of the more unremarkable neighbourhoods. The pavements are covered in excrement, mostly of the canine sort. There are few buildings of any interest. Those that are of interest would be entirely unremarkable if they were found in almost any other place. Madrid is a heavy city. Whenever I leave it, I often do as I work in one of its suburbs, I feel two stone lighter. The air is heavy, the atmosphere is a weight.

Madrid is a city of hidden miseries and nightmares. Those with jobs are often worked to the brink of physical and mental exhaustion; those without jobs are desperate to find anything to alleviate their tribulations. Many have hidden in university and training to attempt to postpone their eventual rut or emigration. I’m employed, but I am certainly in the rut category. I work three jobs, two in Spain. Of the two jobs I have in Spain, when you consider how much time I spend to prepare lessons and commute between schools and classes I earn just over £3 an hour. I could work at Waitrose in Dorchester and do better than this.

I have it better than many. I at least have some work, although it isn’t nearly as much as I’d like. I am increasingly aware that I really am not cut out to work with children. I have spent most of May working as a substitute teacher in a first year class. The little monsters hold football matches on tables and will not be told otherwise. They do as they please, treating me with affectionate scorn. Next month I will be assigned a class of 15 4th-year-students. In the mornings I teach adult students at an international automotive aftermarket consulting firm. They’re easier, far easier to deal with.

In my training group I was one of the first to be employed and one of the first to prepare a departure from Spain. I will not, however, be the first to leave. One of my comrades, a somewhat older Briton who has returned to the Old World after working for twenty years as a biochemist in California, is likely to leave for France in short order. Another, an Aussie who was hoping for a new lifestyle and a fresh start with her fiancé in southern Europe is just as discouraged. In the last week I’ve collapsed in an exhausted heap twice after yet another 12-hour-day of commuting and lecturing.

In late July I will fly to Germany as Madrid will be abandoned for the month of August. I may or may not return. To paraphrase and re-work Marlene Dietrich, ich habe noch einen Koffer in Deutschland. I am presently entertaining job offers in Asia for the spring hiring season. One is only hinted. I’d be assigned to a rural area in South Korea but would have an excellent salary with tremendous benefits. Other offers include working for a British-owned company in Chengdu, Sichuan for 12-15 hours a week for more than twice but I make in Spain with far better benefits. Another is in a border region of Shaanxi Province, near China’s ancient capital, Xi’an and the mountains. This is for a Canadian-owned company. I am holding out hope for Korea, but will consider other reasonable offers should that not go through.

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Categories: General
  1. christinaosborne
    May 29, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    Another bummer then?
    Makes the dear old US of A look just a little bit better !Never could see why you never tried the Pacific NW, reckon it might have been far more up your street.

    As a matter of curiosity, where did all the old buildings in Madrid go, got bombed in the civil war? Or just torn down?
    Do elucidate, not that I will ever go there but always interesting to know these details from afar.
    You remind me of ‘the boy’, who went forth to ludicrous parts of the world and returned heartily excoriating most of them in an entertaining manner. Far better than having to go there oneself!!!
    From an amused old fart.
    Heavy city indeed.

  2. christinaosborne
    May 29, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    The boy always ‘had it in’ big time for Uzbekistan. I think he planned to eradicate it when he ruled the world!
    Quite why was somewhat obscure, probably didn’t like the brothels or some such. I remember they kept arresting him which did not endear them to him! Seemingly no reason for that either. perhaps they just arrested red heads as being aberrant!

  3. May 29, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    CO: Spain was always supposed to be temporary, anyway. I needed something to do in order to pretend to be gainfully employed as I decided what I wanted to do for a longer period of time. Working conditions here are terrible. They didn’t promise much, but they made it seem as if I could at least get something resembling a decent schedule together and even that didn’t go through.I do not find the country charming, the people especially attractive or the language captivating. I preferred China. I have a strange fondness for the people. Once you get to know them they’re often decent enough, except when it comes to business.

    I have travelled to the Pacific Northwest and frankly despise the region and most dwelling there. If I were to have the misfortune of having to move to the US, an unlikely one as I see no reason to do so, I’d move to the Twin Cities region or Hawai’i.

    Madrid still has many older buildings and the inner neighbourhoods tend to be older. Since the end of the Spanish Civil War the population of the city tripled. Those from the provinces were often poor and lived outside the city centre or were living in cramped, filthy conditions. As a result the Franco ordered massive construction projects to house the city’s booming population. Many older slums were cleared, razed and rebuilt — much like London. Madrid is a relatively “young” city anyway. Like Kalrsuhe or St Petersburg it was built to serve as a capital city and is artificial.

    Oh heavens, Uzbekistan? I’m not quite that foolish! I’d much prefer Korea.

  4. christinaosborne
    May 29, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    London was either burnt in the fire or bombed and burnt by the krauts!
    No one chose to redevelop it!

  5. May 30, 2016 at 5:26 am

    CO: The Great Fire and the Blitz account for some of the damage, but not for the wanton destruction of parts of the city in the 1950s-1970s by developers interested in “modernising” things. It also doesn’t explain other population growth and construction completed to accommodate that. London is far larger than it was 60 years ago.

  6. christinaosborne
    May 30, 2016 at 5:50 am

    They mainly developed bombsites in the 60s. I can personally remember it. Nothing was built for years the country didn’t have any money! Too busy paying back lend lease to the USA. I can remember high Holborn being a bomb site for decades!. Very very little was knocked down, the krauts were all too successful!
    London is not bigger now, it shrank after WWII because the housing was bombed and then started filling up again, mainly with immigrants. Lost at least a couple of million people, mainly to the new towns and Essex in an effort to house people after the war.
    If you want to see what the docks looked like for years after the war, get hold of a TV show called the Sweeney, all filmed in the East End in the seventies before the docklands were redeveloped. it is accurate, I know so with my own eyes.I was there a lot with my father.

  7. May 30, 2016 at 6:22 am

    I did social work in Bermondsey as a student in ’62, before the docks were cleared out for containerisation and the housing was ‘modernised’.

  8. May 30, 2016 at 6:26 am

    That is true, CO. One must give Uncle Sam his pound of flesh, or 454g if the EU is involved. The New Towns are closest to what happened in Madrid. Villages and smaller communities that were rural in the past became part of Madrid’s urban sprawl. As many of those who moved to Madrid in the post-war era became pensioners and returned to their native provinces, especially in Andalusia, immigrants took advantage of lower rents. In the past decade many more Londoners have left for Essex and other surrounding counties.
    I still refuse to move to the US, though. Dealing with Americans destroys any desire to live there.

  9. May 30, 2016 at 8:17 am

    I used to night stop in Madrid. I was never sorry to leave. As I recall here was an incredible amount of new building, huge apartment blocks and new metro stations.
    When at sea worked on a ship with Seville as a regular port of call, this was in the days of Franco, I thought Seville a magical place then, bet it’s not so nice now and it would be worse if the commies had won the civil war.

  10. O Zangado
    May 30, 2016 at 8:44 am

    G’day, Christopher. For the best of both worlds, what about Australia? There is a significant Asian population (“Farsands of ’em”, to quote Michael Caine in ‘Zulu’) in all the big cities which all have better infrastructures than most, but the smaller places such as Darwin and Cairns are the most interesting in my humble whassname. By now you must have acquired the requisite entry points many times over and I’m sure you’d feel right at home. Good weather too. I’ll come and carry your bags for a very reasonable stipend.

    OZ

  11. May 30, 2016 at 11:15 am

    Jazz: Saville is much like Toledo. On the outside it is as beautiful, as magical as it always was. However, if you are not there at the off season it’s absolutely dreadful. Mass tourism as ruined much of Spain. It’s hard to appreciate things when there are throngs of tourists clogging up the streets and jostling for every square inch of space. Agreed on Franco. My great-grandfather supported him before and after emigrating from Spain. He didn’t like him, but his choice was Franco or Stalin’s unnamed Spanish sock-puppet.

    OZ: Bloody love Australia! I felt at home the second I arrived. This summer I will go to the UK, next (northern) summer I plan on going to New Zealand and Australia. Should things work out with Korea, I’ll be able to sock away enough money to move there and go job-seeking after about two years.I have qualifications in excess of what Australia requires, I simply need the money or a visa sponsor.

  12. O Zangado
    May 30, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    “Saville is much like Toledo”. Yer wha’? I know our Jimmy was a bad ‘un to say the least, but what did this Toledo chap do? Never heard of him and never saw anything about it in the papers.

    😀 😀 😀

    OZ

  13. May 30, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Now I’m confused, Christopher! Are you going to settle in Oz before or after you’ve settled in Dorset? Just askin’. 😎

  14. May 30, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    OZ: I have been brutalised by hordes of miniature Spaniards for several weeks. My nerves are frazzled to say the least.

    Janus: I will see how things are in Dorset and I will see how things are in Australia. I want to make a decision not out of strict necessity, but of choice and consideration.

  15. May 30, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    Sounds perfect. 😎

  16. May 30, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    Ideally I could spend part of the year in Dorset and part of the year in New South Wales! By the way, I will go to Skagen in December. You were correct. It’s blood expensive! No wonder why Viking-type chum was always so averse to travelling far from Copenhagen.

  17. May 30, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    Skagen is the Sandbanks of DK, yes. Lovely place, breath-taking prices.

  18. May 30, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    But doesn’t Denmark generally have breath-taking prices? I never thought that I’d find Sweden cheap, but compared to Denmark it’s an affordable destination!

  19. May 31, 2016 at 6:45 am

    Any service here is pricey – hotels, restaurants – because of the minimum wage and the ubiquitous 25% sales tax. Alcohol and tobacco are cheaper than the UK.

  20. May 31, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    Janus: The room at the B&B is quite reasonable — 700 DKK for two nights, less than what I usually pay in Dorchester. Then again, in the off season Skagen has many empty rooms and a few skillings are better than nothing. One of the nice things about Spain is that things are relatively cheap here.

  21. christinaosborne
    May 31, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    Fags are literally 3x the price in the UK than here purchased on the reservation up the road.
    I never travel without 2000 for my own stay and presents for all my friends.
    I refuse utterly to pay nearly 10 pounds for a packet of fags!!
    Another one of the reasons why I dislike travelling. The price of fags and red wine!
    Sod the tourist traps wheres my sustenance!

  22. May 31, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    700 kr for b & b is standard, usually breakfast is extra! Fags here are 44 kr a pack – about £4.30. A decent bottle of wine can be had for £5 and blended scotch for a tenner.

  23. May 31, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    CO: the Washoe Tribe operate a number of small tobacco shops within a mile or two of the California-Nevada border. At busier times car parks are full, 95 out of 100 cars with California number plates. People living within a few miles of the border travel to service stations in Nevada as petroleum is some 40-50 cents per US gallon cheaper.

    Janus: I have to prepare my own breakfast, but they let me use everything I need. There are also decent enough places for meals there. It is expensive, but food in Denmark is delicious.

  24. christinaosborne
    May 31, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    Christopher, we have the same tribal shops and casinos up here too. They are all over the western states.
    They are particularly thick on the ground here as the coastal tribes never declared war on the USA. No cheap excuses to deprive them of their land. And of course they helped Lewis and Clarke, didn’t attack them!
    Some of the coastal tribes own the best real estate there is round here. Plus exclusive fishing rights.
    Amusingly the whole Port of Seattle is bought to a grinding halt several times a year, nothing is allowed to move in the whole of Puget Sound whilst the Indians dress up in full tribal gear, drag out their huge canoes and go fishing! Very amusing, there is more to life than lucre!

    J, I pay 3.13 sterling for 20 cigs.
    Wine between 4 and 6 pounds per bottle. That is fairly good stuff. And similar to you for Scotch.
    It is services that are ridiculously overpriced here. Hairdressing, gyms, medicine, dentistry.
    If you do not use such facilities life is very cheap!

  25. May 31, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    Ah, hairdressers! Here a cartel ensures that the basic trim is £22 minimum! Insane price. Can’t complain about medicines, given the welfare state.

  26. May 31, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    CO: blended Scotch might be cheap, but what about single malt? Outrageously expensive in Canada’s less desirable southern neighbour. Prices in California and Minnesota make the UK look relatively affordable.

  27. May 31, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Supermarkets here are selling the top single malts for £19.

  28. May 31, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    Janus: it is similarly outrageous in Germany. There was a scandal some time ago because haircuts of any quality cost between 25-30 euro, 20 if you’re lucky yet many hairdressers only earn about 450-500 euro monthly despite bringing in far, far more much revenue than that in a work week. The £7 at my Dorchester favourite is a bargain in comparison.

  29. May 31, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Janus: it’s closer to £30 south of Canada.

  30. May 31, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    I have a similar favourite in Saffron Walden, also £7, with the added Essex Boy banter. 😎

  31. christinaosborne
    May 31, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    Christopher, you are quoting California prices which are outrageous.
    do not assume such things are anywhere near as expensive elsewhere in the USA, they are not!
    A fraction of the price, why do you think everyone who retires in California ends up here? Because their pensions go a bloody sight further!!!!!

  32. May 31, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    Both are pleasant Dorset lasses with dry humour!

  33. May 31, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    CO: I referred to Minnesota prices as well which, other than rent, are no cheaper than California. Food is actually more expensive.Of course, there are many fleeing Oregon and Washington because drug abuse and social problems are spiralling out of control in many places. If I wished to content myself to over-rated mediocrity I’d stick with Spain.

  34. O Zangado
    May 31, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    Beer – €0.37 per 33cl stubbie in the shops and it’s all between 5.1 and 5.5%% – none of your Becks ‘Vier’ and such bolleaux. In the local bars it is between 80 and 90 centimos a bottle (allowing for corkage, presumably), although tourists will be stung for upwards of €1.30 in the resorts.

    Wine – If you pay more than €10 per bottle you must be in a restaurant. Again a perfectly decent Alentejo tinto or a Setubal branco can be had for less than half that.

    Fags – Although reportedly expensive near Lisbon docks and similarly in fashionable nightclubs touched by the ghey, the legal set price for a packet of 20 Chesterfields is €4.30.

    Spirits – An acceptable ‘cooking’ scotch can be had for €6.75 for 70cl. The branded blends and the malts are obviously more expensive, starting in the same range as a litre bottle of Gordon’s Export gin for €14.65.

    My furcut last week in the nearest bright lights cost €12, which included shampoo, mousse, a pipette of Frontline and a blow dry, but this is our little secret, sabes!

    OZ

  35. May 31, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    Cheapskate! 😎

  36. O Zangado
    May 31, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    It’s the only way to offset the eye-watering prices of petrol, paint and electricity to name but three.

    OZ

  37. May 31, 2016 at 9:28 pm

    Oz: you make me want to run back to the cave!

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