13 Sep 2012

Where can I buy my licence?

And so, the time has come for another blog about the adventures of the Engelas. This blog actually amplifies an earlier blog about our drivers’ licenses which are not recognized in this country. Don't ask me why, I cannot explain, however I can tell you that these EU drivers’ licenses are more difficult to get that a passport. So the aim of this blog is to warn unsuspecting foreigners to think very carefully before you jump on the next plane out of your own country, you will be surprised about the things you have to do just to live in another country, and learning a possible third language is the least of your problems. Also, the trials and tribulations this has caused in casa Engela has had the red dogs hiding in their bedroom.

The male Engela has been extremely pro-active (possibly because I was lighting a fire under his butt everyday) and has actually obtained his license.

He and I both attended mandatory classes (which reminded me of university, I actually fell asleep). Then after some great confusion, we realized that we actually could not go for our licenses, since our residency cards had expired. This in plain English means that when your card expires, the Government issues you with bobbly gook paper work to say your new card is coming, which everyone recognizes, expect the Traffic department. Words still fail me, I mean surely these official departments work together? Apparently not. So the wait for our cards began. 

About two months ago, my sweet beloved received his residency card. And so, he went off for a "medical exam" (in Spanish) to determine that he is fit to drive. Since his Spanish is about as good as their English, the examination was about 5 minutes and apparently he is fit to drive. I do have a couple of questions, for example, should they not do an eye test? Apparently not.

So, the next step (and by step I mean a hurdle with a capital H)... writing the theory exam. Well, theoretically the theory exam should be easy. Not so. The theory book has been translated from Spanish to English by I think someone who speaks Hungarian. So some of the explanations make no sense at all and seem to relate to parking a donkey on the moon. Of course the male (read "nerd") Engela decided to study the book. Again, in theory, good idea, however, the questions about the book refers to the answers in the Spanish book. Which we don't have. By this time I was losing my patience with my sweetheart husband, so we rationally discussed the problem he was experiencing with the literary phenomenon entitled "How to Drive" and eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, the male Engela agreed to rather do online tests. This plan (MY plan) worked very well, and he passed with flying colours. It could also be due to the fact that there appears to only be about 30 English tests. But, nevertheless, one hurdle was over.

So of course we then faced The Driving Test. This caused further disruption in the Engela household, since the lucky he is still alive husband of mine was convinced he was going to fail. Mostly this was due to the terrible stories we have heard about people who go for their test 3 or 4 times, and the fact that the test is in Spanish. After further serious and calm discussions, we drove to the test area and practiced driving round and round and round the test grounds and surrounding area, trying to spot potential hazards, tricks and anything that could possibly cause him to fail, you know, like flying monkeys disco dancing across pedestrian crossings. Of course on the way back we nearly got arrested because my darling other half tried to take a short cut across a double white line and was stopped by the Guardia Civil (the descendants of the Spanish Inquisition).  Now, I have to place on record that I have many, many times told the male Engela not to do that, only to have him shake his head and laugh like a crazy madman at me. HA the joke was on him. However, our lack of Spanish suddenly got 30000 times worse, and we were luckily let off with a warning.

So it was early Christmas in our house on Thursday, since on his first attempt, my darling better half passed the driving test. Joy to casa Engela.

In conclusion, I have a couple of thoughts. Firstly, the logic of recognizing Algerian driver's licenses still fails me. Yes they were a colony thousands of years ago but really, have the Traffic department seen Algeria? You may as well acknowledge sleigh riding in Alaska as a legitimate driver’s license in Spain. Secondly, the idea of me now going through the same torturous procedure fills me with horror and heart palpitations, and as such, I shall keep my blogging mouth shut about this topic until that damn EU driver’s license is in my grubby little hands.

30 Jul 2012

More crazy adventures with the red dogs…

Since summer has struck with a vengeance in our part of the world, the red dogs and I have to go walking at the crack of dawn; otherwise all three of us would die of heat stroke, or spontaneously com-bust, whichever comes first.

This however means that the red dogs now expect to be taken out every morning early, and I cannot even move in bed without them trying to jump on top of me. Not a pretty sight for my white bedding, or my heart or health. So usually our walks start with jumping up and down (the dogs) and me swearing a blue streak and grumbling at them. For the record, future visitors may want to stay in their room during this time. I think I am at that time very close kin to Cruella de Ville.

We have, luckily, found some paths where we can take the dogs of leash and they can run like crazy chickens everywhere. However, this has led to some seriously unexpected behaviour by the red dogs.

Alex has suddenly developed the habit that as soon as she is off leash, she refuses to walk in close proximity to me, Cleo or the road we are on – she walks / runs / causes shit about fifteen meters into the field, parallel with me. This continues for the whole walk. Furthermore, she now has started chasing birds and rabbits. Now normally its fine, since she has next to zero chance of catching either (she is still a bit slow and too big to hide behind the corn and bushes), however a couple of weeks ago she did in fact catch a very small rabbit. I am not sure how the heck this happened, I suspect the poor rabbit got stuck in a bush, could not get out and got such a fright its heart gave in when it saw Alex reaching in to smell. The one second she was running, disappeared and the next she appeared with a rabbit in her mouth. Of course I don’t want to react, but hello, one cannot walk with a dog which has a rabbit in its mouth. I don’t also don’t want to acknowledge the presence of the rabbit; it could be considered as praise and I don’t want my dog to be a hunter! This then caused me to having to pry her jaws open to let go, and let me tell you, she is damn strong. I am sure I was not a pretty sight, talking softly to Alex whilst basically pushing her to the ground, trapping her, getting the rabbit out and still keeping an eye on where Cleo was. (Yes, I do sometimes envy people with smaller dogs who can fit in handbags. I am sure you have beautiful long painted nails, and I am sure your dogs don’t try to catch rabbits nor do you ever have to be stuck on the ground with your knees on your dog trying to get a dead animal out of its jaws) As such, we now avoid that area where the rabbits cannot get away, if all else fails I am a believer in a fair fight, at least. Furthermore, I now tend to, if I see her head go down to smell, shout at her to stop whatever she is doing, since who knows what the heck she is up to. Second note for future visitors: I could be seen to be a fishwife on these walks. I suggest, still, that you stay in the safety of your own room. Also, I still feel so guilty about the poor rabbit. I am now 1000 % sure I can never ever hunt.

Cleo on the other hand has turned into a watcher. Unless the rabbit runs and stops right in front of her, she will not run after it. I think she is quite clever, since obviously the rabbits are faster. She does however plonk herself down on every hill to keep an eye on the fields…you never know if someone wants to bring her food or pet her which you are of course born to do. She further has a nasty habit of walking on my little path, right on front of me, and stopping wherever she pleases to glare at things. This normally would not bother me, but some of the little paths are next to a cliff or huge bushes full of thorns. So Cleo does get a “soft” butt kick every now and again.

So, since living in Spain, the red dogs’ horizons have broadened somewhat, but for the record I would sometimes like to lie in just for a bit. Please!

14 Jul 2012

Dentist Smentist ... easy peasy? Maybe...

So after pondering what feels like a life time (which in reality was only really about one year, which, I am sure most people will agree is nothing), I decided I have no choice but to visit the dentist. 

Mostly this was due to the fact that I was developing facial spasm due to only drinking and chewing on the left hand side of my face, since I had pinching pains on the right hand side.

Now, firstly, I have an ungodly fear of dentists. I think wearing braces for a million years have something to do with it. Secondly, how the hell do I speak to a dentist in Spanish? The amount of vocabulary required is just beyond my brain. Yes, normally easy tasks such as making an appointment with a dentist, and having treatment, would not set your heart pacing. Try doing it in a language you are not comfortable with.

After some searching and a rather interesting experience with a dentist who did some whitening of my teeth (I recall photos being taken whilst I was lying on the chair, with cotton wool stuffed in my mouth and ultra violet lights shining on my teeth which he only later asked if that was ok - hello creep), I eventually e-mailed a dentist close to our house. Now most people will think this is insane. Normally I will agree, why don’t I just phone? I’ll tell you why. I turn into a stumbling idiot who cannot even say hello never mind ask for an appointment. As such, I prepare this e-mail, check my iffy translation and send it off into the sunset, not knowing what to expect. To my utmost surprise, I received a reply. This is one thing I can say about this country, I always receive e-mail replies. It never seizes to amaze me. After some backwards and forwarding, I eventually get an appointment.

And so my panic levels start increasing. I attempt to study vocabulary, learn phrases, memorise how to say “you’re hurting me”.

However, to my utmost surprise, the day before my appointment, I got an e-mail from the dental clinic – one of the owners speaks English and he will treat me. What a relief! We had some confusion when he told me he did not need to inject me because the hole was too deep. I had a heart attack then, of course.

This experience has given me enough courage to venture into the arena of going on my own for a haircut, without a willing friend in tow to translate for me. And to my utmost surprise, the salon had one senior Bulgarian hairdresser who actually spoke English.

To say that I feel empowered is an understatement!

But other than that, I learned a very important lesson. The people of this country will always try to assist and help you. All you need to do is try. If that fails, ensure you have Google translate.

4 Jun 2012

Fiesta in our sleepy village

We live in a village that for all intents and purposes can be defined as “sleepy”. Yes it’s quiet (such a thing is possible in busy Madrid) and for at least three months a year, the entire village stops working at two in the afternoon. However, once a year, our village has a local festival, where this sleepy village turns into a carnival hell, or heaven, depending on your point of view.

This past week during our morning meanders, the red dogs and I spotted trucks loaded with tents and strange looking carnival rides being installed being set up in an open filed area close to our house. Glaring at these strangers and strange things suspiciously (I, because I can spot noise a mile away, the red dogs obviously because they don’t know what carnival people taste like).

As such, last Friday night, our village was invaded by the most visitors that have been here, probably since the festival last year. We had no alternative but to investigate the festivities, and I must admit, I don’t think I have ever seen anything quite like it – the rides, the blinking shining lights, the smell of fast food Spanish style, and the noise…I don’t know enough English adjectives (or Afrikaans or Spanish ones for that matter) to describe the experience. I think to state that it is similar to a Carnival which we knew as children, on steroids, with rides for adults is probably the only way in which I can describe it, however, it has some Spanish twists, for example, I did not know that music can be at that volume. And they complain about vuvuzelas? Secondly, I have never seen bull rides quite like this. 

The male Engela in this marriage was left drooling after the go carts. The things you did not know about your spouse boggles the mind.

So, for our first village fiesta, it was interesting, but I can honestly say that I am thankful the fiesta is only once a year. I don’t think my hearing is quite normal, yet.

13 May 2012

Spring...thy name is in fact Summer

I have experienced our first Spring in Madrid. I had envisaged lovely blooming trees, fresh winds with sunny skies for a couple of weeks until the dreaded heat of summer. Now, I recall from a previous blog questioning where Winter was. When it came, it lasted for about 6 months, but really, we were, it appears, blessed with not too freezing weather. I however decided to tempt fate twice, you know Karma is and her wicked ways.

Spring arrived and stayed for 28 hours.

This past Monday, we were at a maximum of sixteen degrees, nice jeans and warm tops weather. Tuesday morning was a bit chilly, but by lunch time it was thirty five degrees. To say that I was a pool of ungainliness in boots and jeans is an understatement. Luckily it appears that most Spanish people also missed the 28 hour “Spring is here” warning, and were caught unaware as well. So this is seemingly not written in the Spanish manual somewhere.

Now, spring in South Africa was always my favourite time of the year, where we lived we had some nice thunderstorms, blooming Jacaranda trees and generally just nice warming up weather.

In Madrid, I am now (in Summer I assume) being assaulted by a plague of mosquitos, weird flying black bug things that suspiciously look like small birds, creepy crawlies with weird hook looking bits at their front (or their back, who knows, I don’t take time to examine them before I squash them), flying (drifting?) white fluffy things that look to be the pollen of a very odd tree but which is causing me to cough like a chain smoker and birds who seems to think it is a national sport to screech the entire day.

In addition hereto, the red dogs are really suffering with this weather change. Now, they are, within 100 meters from Casa Engela dragging their feet, their tongues lolling on the boiling sidewalk. It’s not their fault their crazy human parents insisted they move the northern hemisphere, where their red bodies are thinking it’s now winter and as such their winter coats are growing.

So, whilst I am grumbling up and down the steaming sidewalks with two not too over excited red dogs, I am not noticing the beautiful red, purple and yellow flowers, nor the amazing shades of green everywhere, nor the interesting wildlife that suddenly are appearing on our farm – walk roads. Oh who am I kidding, of course I am. Damn this country which is becoming my second home, I am not even afforded the opportunity of being overly irritated…wait, I see a killer mosquito…

8 May 2012

The days are just packed

Yes, for those of you who know Calvin and Hobbes, I am guilty of plagiarism since I stole this title from one of Mr Watterson’s books, sorry Mr Watterson. For those of you who do not know what the heck I am on about…Google it.

So the Engelas set of on their very first adventure into the Spanish northern countryside, on our own, with a little help from our Tom-Tom and our dictionaries. The red dogs also went on a holiday, to the best dog hotel in the world. I however think that we may have had a better time than they did, although maybe only a little.

As such, months of planning, buying books and reading maps, culminated in our short getaway. We went to Cantabria, an area which it appears quite a number of Spanish people have not visited before.  To say that it is a wonderful part of the country is a serious understatement, it is truly beautiful, beautiful countryside, beaches and snow-capped mountains. Best of all worlds to my mind. 

To give you an idea of what the area looks like, I, of course, include some photographs.

This is Comillas. I can only state that I will willingly live there.

One of the beaches on the way to Santander.

Another beach, one is spoilt for choice here.

In Santander, on one of the piers, these statutes are dedicated the young girls and boys who dived into the ocean to catch coins that people threw at them. I think it is a bit sad really.

Santona harbour, which is an old working harbour and still has seamstresses on the docks fixing the fishing nets!

On the way to Picos de Europa, Iglesia de Santa Maria in Lebaña. This beautiful church is still in use by the local people. Love the Arabic influence.

And then Picos de Euorpa, a view from Patos, where we not only fell in love with this town, but also encountered our first cow sale.

We did however encounter a couple of things which, ever after just over a year, we seem to forget. Many tourist sites close at 2PM, for lunch of course or, for some unbeknownst reason, are only open Mondays to Wednesdays. Why, I have no idea. I am beginning to think that either these places are part of some cult group of employees / employers who refuse to work, or somehow I again missed that part of the Spanish manual. Many restaurants and bars only start serving food after 8PM. 

Also, for the first time, we saw strange things being done to trees, as you will see on the picture below. You will agree it is beautiful, but, admittedly, weird.

So, based on our adventure, I can say that my host country has so much to offer in terms of tourism, places to visit and places to fall in love with, it will awake the travelling bug in all of us!

13 Apr 2012

The red dogs' Spanish holiday

Whilst the Engelas were frolicking around South Africa, our red dogs seemingly had a wonderful Spanish holiday with a English family who proceeded to spoil the red dogs rotten. I seriously doubt that the red dogs will want to come back to Casa Engela anytime soon, due to a couple of reasons:

They got to sleep on COUCHES – not silly little pillows! (Even if those pillows were imported from South Africa at some costs I may tell you)

They got to play in the snow (well the one did, the youngest apparently in true younger dog style growled at their hosts when they tried to convince her to go outside. Somehow that dog has not clicked that too growl at the hand that feeds you is a pointless exercise)

They got to eat bones!

They got to play in a pack and make friends.

So the purpose of today’s blog is to say thank you to the family who loved and took care of our dogs, we are so thankful to you, however, a word of warning – should they not want to stay in Casa Engela, we will send them back to the greatest dog hotel in the world!

PS I take no credit for these photos, the family who took care of the red dogs should get all the credit!

12 Apr 2012

Greetings earthlings

No, contrary to popular belief I have not been abducted by aliens. Nor have I elected not to proceed with my blog. Nor have I disappeared into deep dark Africa. I have been what you would call “busy”. You know, getting on with life in this crazy Spanish city and planning, executing and enjoying a long holiday in my home country, South Africa.

Yes, it is possible that someone who only teaches part time, walks with her dogs and now has a once a week ironing and cleaning lady (she is known as “the goddess” in the Engela household, I think if she quit, we would move back to South Africa), can be too busy to blog. Oh the horror.

So, after an excessive amount of partying, enjoying a couple of drinks (they have such lovely white wines in South Africa, I had to try them all!), spending time with our families and friends, attending my sister’s amazing wedding, and then eating enough braaivleis to sustain at least two poor African countries, I am back to my host country.

I must admit I was quite worried that I would not be able to get on the aeroplane back to Madrid – I had visions of the hostesses having to drag me into the aeroplane kicking and screaming. I could have been a front page story in the Rapport or Sunday Times! Alas, my good upbringing kicked in and whilst swallowing down the lump in my throat, I had to smile when the first air hostess to greet me was a lovely Spanish lady from Madrid, who then proceeded to, the whole flight to Dubai, slip me little Emirates gifts, just because I spoke to her in my broken Spanish. Karma I tell you.

So now, the Engelas are back. At this very moment I am staring down the horror of having been on such a long holiday and having to sort out the tip that we created by just dumping bags, gifts and dirty washing. I think I am losing the competition and will have to eventually start tiding up.

I have to say that there are a couple of things that I have realised I miss about my home country, such as the ability to walk into a shop and explain exactly what I want, without sounding like to daft idiot. This has however motivated me even more to learn to speak Spanish fluently, I am tired of sounding like a fool. I forgot how much I love South African white wine. If I elaborate, I will sound like an alcoholic. I again realised how much we love our families and friends and understand now how blessed we are to have them in our lives. I am also thankful that we have made friends in Madrid, I think we would have been manic obsessive crazies without them. I also love the South African sunsets, it is unlike any other sunset I have seen.

So, my conclusion is that I will always be a South African, wherever I am in the world, but that being South African for me also means that we can make a life somewhere else, and be happy, but always be thankful for who we are and where we come from.

5 Feb 2012

Torture Spanish style

My first official Spanish class took place last week. Now, to be fair, I had a couple of more informal lessons from a lovely lady who now counts as a friend, however, now being (informally and illegally) employed as an English teacher, I get a perk of free Spanish classes.
Now, I was very clear on becoming "employed" by the School I work at, about my extremely limited Spanish ability – and that I needed beginners classes. I assumed in the all the various dialects and accents of English, that beginners mean exactly what it says, beginner. Clearly, I was wrong.
I attend a class with a French man and a Russian lady, both of whom can speak Spanish it seems, since they know all the 100000000 verb forms and the tenses, and they understand the whole masculine and feminine thing (every single noun is either male or female, and, it seems, verbs change depending which it is). So there I sit in my class, and the only feeling I can relate it to, was a couple of Law exams many moons ago, where I swore I studied a text book, but that the lecturer drew the examination paper from another text book that I never saw before. You know the feeling. Panic....and then...blank.
Then, to top it off, the teacher insists we speak only Spanish in the class. I in principle agree with this proposal, however, to speak Spanish when I have no idea what someone is saying to me, just defeats the purpose. Then to ask me a question in Spanish, and expect an answer in Spanish, is just torture. Of course I am then struck dumb and have no idea how to even say that I don’t understand. I can see why the Spaniards were such scary warriors...their teachers are pretty damn frightening.
As such, I am convinced I am the worst student in the world, that the teacher knows I have no bloody idea what she is saying (the blank look must be an indication), but if I have learnt anything in my studies and life, it is that you can prove yourself and other people wrong. So my motto for this learning Spanish thing is to give it horns and just do it. What else am I supposed to do?

16 Jan 2012

Spanish mothers, and yes, I am a pushover

I explained previously that in my home country, I practised as an attorney, for a number of years.

Now, due to fact that for some unbeknownst reason the Spanish government has decided I am not allowed to work (formally), I work illegally since I have a skill that seems to be rare in my host country, namely that I can (allegedly) speak English, and as such, I am a teacher. You can spot the irony here.
In any event, I now teach children and adults alike the art of speaking and writing English.

Today I had the privilege of talking to a Spanish mother, and due to the nature of this discussion I thought it prudent to share same:

1.    Her nine year old daughter is in my class. Lovely girl, very sweet and eager, she does all her written work perfectly, but she is so shy, she refuses to talk. Fine, I was once upon a time an introvert, so I can relate. I believe positive reinforcement makes a tremendous difference and as such, I don’t demand that a shy child part take in class. Clearly I am wrong in this thought.
2.    Her daughter’s marks in English improved from the equivalent of 50% to 90% since I have been teaching her. Yes, I can boast about something.
3.    However, her daughter’s own full time teacher (who is also the child’s formal English teacher), told the mother that she must talk to me, because the little girl does not talk enough. I must “make” her speak to me in English.

Right. I stand and listen to this and would like to tell the mother the following (in English, of course):

1.       You daughter is an introvert. Deal with it.
2.       I am supposed to teach a “fun” English class. “Making” someone talk hardly falls in the category of “fun” in my view.
3.       I am not the child’s formal English teacher, she has one, and surely this teacher can also “make the child talk”.
4.       I could sit on her child and make her speak English, I think however such behaviour could have serious repercussions for me.
5.       On any given day, I have a group of approximately fifteen screaming (Spanish speaking) nine year olds for one hour in my class. This hour is normally spent as follows:
Ø  I have to ensure that I don’t kill the children;
Ø  I have to ensure that they don’t kill one another;
Ø  I have to ensure that they do not all go to the bathroom all at the same time, which they of course do want to do, ten times during one class;
Ø  I have to deal with this mob who for some reason every Monday, or in fact any day that ends with a - y -, has lost their ability to speak, read, understand, comprehend or listen to English;
Ø  I have to encourage them to take less than one hour to settle down, got to the bathroom, take out their books (which they for some reason almost always forget), look at the board and start their exercises;
Ø  I have to, during each and every class, explain that “he is for a man”, and “she a woman”. One would think this explanation would, after the one hundredth time, stick. Indeed not;
Ø  I have to translate each word and sentence;
Ø  I have to encourage, beg and threaten certain children to just complete the exercises (of which the answers are written on the black board I might add); and
Ø  I have to prevent children from climbing out of windows, kicking a soccer ball, throwing scissors, pens, pencils and the like.
As such, my time to ensure a shy little girl who out of her own does not want to speak English, or Spanish as far as I can gather, talks in class.

I am however incapable of saying any of the above to the mother, due to the fact that not only is my Spanish so limited, but, further, when her daughter then runs to me, gives me a hug and says she loves English, I think, all right, take a deep breath, and just…smile and nod.

3 Jan 2012

Winter? Where?

As I write the title to this blog, I am sure that the snow gods are going to come after us with vengeance. Be that as it may, I shall continue writing my blog, one hand firmly touching wood.
I was waiting in breathless anticipation for our first white Christmas. Alas, no luck, we have only been blessed with a freezing wind. I am however extremely happy to report that the sun shines every day, which makes the cold more bearable.
As such, I am completely confused by the winter weather in Madrid. Thus far, it is very similar to winter in Johannesburg: blood curling cold at night and in the early morning (with the only difference that everything freezes outside, including our cars, and in light of our central heating, which I think is the best thing mankind ever thought of for winter in Europe, I am completely in love with our house), and chilly, but sunny afternoons. I have learnt the use of an ice scraper, and yes, I have broken one already.
I am even able to go for my daily walks with the red dogs, however, the playing field has levelled somewhat – the red dogs still launch a full scale attack to ensure that I get irritated enough to take them for a walk, however, the moment they step outside from our warm little casa, the ice bear winds whirls around them, their breath comes as white misty gasps, and they then attempt to re-enter our house. I am then off course the wicked witch of Madrid, and with an evil grin proceed to make them walk for at least an hour. I am however the creator of my own misfortune, since after this bone chilling walk, I have to sit in a scalding bath for at least half an hour in order to thaw my frozen body parts, since in order to walk around properly, I need to feel my limbs.
I have however been told that the winter in Madrid is usually very bad in January, February and March. I pray this is merely a rumour, since I can cope with this weather for a while still, however, I suspect I will not be so lucky.
As such, I am thankful for that our first winter in Madrid has been mild thus far. I pray that it will always be like this. Further, I am very happy that we are not camping during this time; I would have been one very unhappy camping buddy.
Now, how to appease the snow gods to have this sunny winter continue…of course they speak Spanish, so I may just cause a blizzard should I attempt to communicate with them….

2 Jan 2012

Happy New Year (Spanish style...)

The Engelas celebrated their first New Year with friends we met here. Yes, we have friends, not all people in Spain are Spanish, thank the Lord, otherwise we would have serious trouble meeting people. And as such, we experienced our first European New Year.

Now, this was such an interesting evening, so far removed from anything we previously experienced, that I thought it prudent to share some details of our night with you:

1.    NOTHING is open in Madrid on New Year’s Eve. We live (in Spanish terms) in the sticks, so no restaurants are open. I assume that in city centre it may be different, but where we live, everything closes at 5 PM. In my home country, this is completely different, if you are lucky enough to be able to book a table somewhere, and are willing to hand over half of your life savings for a dinner which would normally cost maybe R 100.00 (10 Euros for my non South African readers), then you will be able to enjoy a very festive evening. I hope. For those going to the Spur or Wimpy, good luck with that, your kids would love it, you, I suspect, not so much.

2.    Spanish people normally spend New Year’s Eve with their families. Food for thought me thinks. 

3.    Luckily, we know people, and we able to enjoy an evening at a friend’s house, making food, having Cosmopolitans and the like. 

4.    The Spanish eat 12 grapes every second before the clock strikes 12. This apparently brings luck. Now you are able to do this in Sol, the centre of Madrid, however every other Spaniard and tourist, plus their wife / husband / child / parent / brother / sister /aunt / uncle / friend of a friend of a friend and their dog were there, so unless you have an obsession with being squashed to a pulp whilst trying to swallow grapes, our recommendation is to stay at home. We did this in the safety of a friend’s house, and still, by grape eight, I understood that to chew and swallow a single grape in one second is a physical impossibility; however, we did our best. We do not want to risk no luck for 2012, so grapes it shall be.

5.    Spanish people love fireworks, and the fireworks carry on until the wee hours of the morning. Because they live on top of one another, there is very little space for the launching of these fireworks, and as such, same is launched between buildings, on rooftops, in other words, everywhere and anywhere. For a country that loves its pets so much, this is quite odd, however it may be that the Spanish pets are used to this noise. The red dogs are not. I will not dwell on this save to state that the smallest red dog has only today started eating again.
As such, we great greeted this New Year with mouths full of grapes, champagne glasses in the hand, shouting support to the fireworks, celebrating with our foreign friends in Madrid, in what I now think as the foreigner interpretation of a Spanish New Year.
Bring it on 2012, we will give it horns....Engela style!