Category Archives: General

Back soonish.

If you are new to, welcome! And please do take a good look around… The forum is great and super-active too.

For those that wonder where I’ve gone, I’m still collecting my thoughts after 8 months of little to no sleep (parenting related!) Now we are sleeping more, energies are still settling. Back soonish or laterish. I hope everyone is well. Ben.

Back from the Flu… and the smoking debate again…

I’ve just returned to reality after 10 days living in the land of flu, which served to remind me of one important thing: how great Spain’s public health system is. You feel ill, you call the doctors in the morning, they see you that same day, for free, and prescribe you medicine that you only have to pay a tiny percentage of.

OK, so that’s the same all over most of Europe, but I just wanted to point out again how fast and efficient the whole process was. Can’t say the same for the flu unfortunately. It was slow, and annoying.

Back to another of my favourite gripes (I think that might have been a bilingual pun!), Being pregnant is a fag in Spain is the title of an interesting article in today’s Telegraph, in which Michaela Rossi can’t believe the attitude to smoking and pregnancy/kids in Spain. It’s a good read, and seems totally accurate.

Fortunately for Michaela and other parents (like ourselves) who don’t like mixing kids and smoke, the health minister, Trinidad Jiménez, has been out this morning promising once more that there will absolutely be a full smoking ban in closed public spaces, including restaurants and bars, in 2010.

Let’s hope it’s early 2010! And in the mean time, Melissa, don’t forget downstairs in Casa Mingo.

Life and Presidencia

Been very very quiet over the past week or two as we prepare a big new project for our Spanish site, Notes in Spanish, and Marina deals with her Presidencia (more on that in a second…) It’s been ages since Marina and I have consistently created new content, and it’s wonderful to be recording new audio again. But with only half a day to work each (we are lucky enough to each spend the other half looking after the baby), everything else – blogging, eating, sleeping – goes out the window.

…Except of course for Marina’s thrilling enjoyment of her new role as Presidenta de la comunidad [Definition: Spanish law dictates that in every block of flats some poor sod has to be nominated to spend a year chairing residents’ meetings, and being on the receiving end of every niggling neighbourly nonsense, battle and complaint.]

At the beginning of the month, November 1st, the communal, central heating got switched on in our building, and Marina, along with the administradora (person who manages the building accounts etc), get to decide how long the heating goes on for each day (with plenty of advice from the Portero, obviously).

And so, as boilers across the city kicked into action, and the air-quality plummeted in direct proportion to the number of coal trucks (still, in 2009!) refilling cellars across the city, the knocks at the door began…..

Here’s a typical exchange from yesterday:

Doorbell rings, just as baby starts siesta, of course, miraculously doesn’t wake him up, but, we open to find a smartly dressed old lady with a stern expression on her face:

Old Lady: Are you the presidenta?

Marina: Yes…


Marina: (Summoning patience of a saint) But you do have heating, it goes on from 10 am now, earlier than ever before in the history of our blessed block of flats.

Old Lady: Well my radiators are tepid to the touch, my house is freezing, and I’m using THREE electric heaters just to keep my Salon warm.

Marina: I’m sorry about that, you see the heating uses a thermostat, and seeing as it’s unseasonably warm outside…

Old Lady: Wa… Wa… WARM?! It’s barely 14º! It’s FREEZING in my flat!

Marina: Well, I think it’s actually bit warmer than that [Note: real temperature actually closer to 18º, not bad for November, no one in the streets wearing a coat!]

Old Lady: It’s COLD! And I’ll be sending YOU my electricity bill for all those heaters…

Etc… Etc…10 minutes later she left with a promise from Marina that she would try getting the temperature increased during the day, and a formal agreement from both Marina and myself that it was indeed pretty cold outside after all, muy sorry for our ignorance.

And so it goes that Marina now ducks into the kitchen whenever the doorbell rings, pleading with me to tell anyone that knocks before 5pm that the most eminent Presidenta de la Comunidad is currently engaged in the pressing matter of her afternoon siesta!

Meanwhile, outside it continues to be most unseasonably FREEZING! pleasant!

Autumn in Madrid's Retiro Park

Note to Spanish-lovers: Go and sign up for our newsletter at Notes in Spanish, great things coming next week!

Successful – we all are!

Happy Friday! It turns out that once we ignore the external pressures of image-makers and lifestyle marketers, we are all a lot more successful than we thought we were… “make sure our ideas of success are our own” – Quite right!

Have a great weekend, feel free to comment as ever, how successful are you feeling these days?

Quick Hearty Recommendation

A few months ago I was interviewed by a terribly nice bloke called Graham who lives and works as an estate agent in Valencia (you may know him too from his many useful comments on this blog).

Well, Graham interviewed me and a handful of other expats who have managed to make something of a success of this whole ‘new life in Spain’ business, and after 5 months hard work, he has come up with a really interesting audio book that I would like to heartily recommend (and I don’t get any kind of commission for doing so – I just think this is great stuff!)

The thing is, all the people he interviews are so nice and friendly! And their Spain stories are so interesting, that it’s just a pleasure to listen to – the stories are inspiring too, as these are mostly people who came here with nothing, and ended up making a damn good life for themselves.

Get hold of the audiobook here (and get inspired!)

Birthday News…

It’s 11 years and a day since I moved to Madrid, a move which turned out surprisingly well, and which, as usual, I can highly recommend (especially if you are young free, single, and bored… as I was!)

We’ve just got back to Madrid after 2 months away, and boooooooy is it hot. Still.

We have to move flat in the very near future (which should make for some interesting stories), but first of all we have to decide where the hell to live! With a baby in tow we are keen to head out of the massification that is Madrid, towards greener climes…

Possibilities so far include: Sierra north of Madrid (not that green, let’s face it…), Asturias, San Sebastian… and just about anywhere else in the entire world. As one friend points out, I’ve been talking about moving out of Madrid since I got here, and it hasn’t happened yet… so watch this space…

Meanwhile, to celebrate my birthday we are holding a very special sale at our Spanish learning site, – watch the special video here for full details (while the sale is still on!)

Saludos desde Madrid – Ben