Hasta luego, not goodbye

Posted in Uncategorized on November 26, 2011 by cockroach1

7.30 I get up and walk like the rest of the living dead in this city


As I am currently taking a break from Madrid, it seems hardly genuine to continue to write a blog about living in Lavapies. So, with regret, I won’t be posting blog pieces regularly for now, though I will occasionally publish more. I still have some graffiti photos I’d like to publish here. Thank you to everyone who has read the blog and given me feedback. I am now working on a book based on the blog, with the same working title ‘Cockroaches and Coffee’. I will keep you posted here of any progress, and will also put a link here if I decide to open another blog.

To those of you still in Madrid, enjoy the tapas and the sunshine, the high-octane night-life and the highly-strung street-life, the chaos and the drama, the filth, colour, noise, and character. As Prodigal recently said on a weekend visit from London, ‘Madrid is like a theme park, yeah, it’s like Disney World, only a damn sight more expensive.’

The UK for the moment is a calm, sleek, grey, peaceful necessity. Although “Madrid me mata’, (Madrid kills me), I plan to be back soon, so this isn’t goodbye, it’s hasta luego.




Allaboutthepolice.com (Part 3) I’ll be a policewoman come what may

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2011 by cockroach1

More from the police forum in the thread about incidents in Lavapies and anti-police attitudes in general:

I suppose you already know all about it…. They did it again in Lavapies, they slagged off colleagues again. This time it was over the arrest of a moroccan with a criminal record.

http://www.antena3.com/noticias/socieda … 00127.html

I was about to post this story when I saw someone else already had.

Here it is:

Four officers hurt in Lavapiés

The residents of Lavapiés continue trying to set up anarchy in the neighbourhood. On Wednesday night they caused yet another altercation with the Police, when dozens of people tried to hold up the arrest of a citizen.

According to police sources consulted by LA RAZÓN, a moroccan youth called 091, asking for officers to turn up at Lavapies square, because another guy had beaten him up. When the Police arrived on the scene, the kid showed them the report he’d filed against this aggresor at Arganzuela station some days before, although he’d only just been able to identify him, as he’d just seen him in the street, and this is why he’d called the police.

Once he found himself surrounded by 6 officers, the accused, Abdou F, 26 years old and from Senegal, started to spit at them and insult them, calling them ‘racists’ and ‘murederers’. When they heard the shouting, locals started coming out onto the street and they started jeering the police, who had to call 10 more patrol cars out as back up. Meanwhile, the supposed aggressor did all in his power to resist being placed in one of the cars, until he hit his own head. After a 20 minute struggle, the officers managed to get him in one of the vehicles and one of the officers sat next to him in order to prevent him injuring himself further.

Four policemen ended up with minor injuries after this altercation and the wing mirror and the windscreens of two patrol cars broken. The suspect – with 38 prevous criminal counts for assaults on authority- has his hearing today.


Insults and attacks with bottles

Shortly after the police arriving on Plaza Lavapies to arrest a supposed aggresor, residents went on the warpath to try and stop them. In a matter of seconds, officers were surrounded by a cordon of people who hurled insults and threw glass bottles, causing injuries to four policemen. It was so chaotic that ten more patrol cars were called up to the Madrid neighbourhood to defend their colleagues, who once again found themselves rounded up and harrangued for trying to keep order on the streets.

Source: http://www.larazon.es/noticia/9290-cuat … n-lavapies


And where were the Moroccan’s countrymen to stick up for their friend and defend the police who were trying to arrest his attacker?

I just don’t get it, I am PISSED OFF

That neighbourhood needs one hell of a clean up….


Good God, this gets out of hand sometimes


And here I am having to put up with my folks, trying to make me feel bad for wanting to be a policewoman… seeing this type of bollocks makes my blood boil, the world’s gone mad


With respect I reckon your parents haven’t got a sodding clue what it means to be a policeman. To be the first to look after a woman who’s the victim of domestic abuse, to see the look of gratitude and sense of security in her eyes, to help a child who’s lost and upset, and who comes running to you because it trusts you as if you were its own father, to arrive just in time to save someone from getting beaten up and arrest their attackers, to be the shoulder to cry on when a family member has died, or just helping an old lady cross the road, or helping her up if she’s fallen. There are thousands of other cases. But that’s what it means to be a policeman: in no other job can you help other people as much.

And the 15M lot can just get fucked. I was with them at the start but bit by bit they’ve lost all credibility they had.

By the way, yesterday we had to stop them breaking into our building. Among other compliments they were shouting ‘bourgeouisie’. Yeah, there’s no-one as hard-working as us lot!


It looks like the media are finally getting wind of what’s happening to us, something’s better than nothing. I’ve just seen on today’s Antenna 3 news, I’ll post it here for you as well

http://www.antena3.com/noticias/espana/ … 0217.html#

 And another video: http://www.antena3.com//videos-online/n … 00104.html


You’re right, they haven’t got a fucking clue, I’m on my own here, but I don’t give a shit, it’s what I do and that’s the end of it, you have no idea what it’s like every sodding day, putting up with the constant psychological battering from my mum and dad, my grandparents, my brother, today I’ve had to deal with my gran telling me ‘when they ask you what you do, don’t tell them what you really do… and I said to her, so what am I supposed to say, then? That I’m a check out girl or I’m on a five year degree course, it really winds me up. I’ll be a policewoman come what may, and when something comes over me (hee hee) no-one can stop me, and up till now whatever I’ve achieved it’s been with blood, sweat and tears but I’ve got it in the end. And when someone asks me what I do now? I tell them I’m studying to be in the National Police, and I get a real buzz out of saying what I do, it makes me really proud.

Anyway, going back to what we were talking about, it’s a damn shame when you have to see these banners saying the police are terrorists etc etc, I don’t know what these people think they’re trying to do, I’d like to get my hands on one of them one of these days, one of these who have so much to say for themselves, it would be good to get one of them face to face, see what they do then.

Allaboutthepolice.com (Part 2)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2011 by cockroach1

nervous system in conflict

Another eye-opening extract from the police forum discussing recent incidents with the police and residents in Lavapies, and the neighbourhood and its inhabitants in general:

Jeez, when I saw that on the evening news I felt like shit, they’re just doing their job, going after a dealer with a record, and they want us out of the neighbourhood, then the police have to go in more forcefully and we all get into trouble….


At least it’s out in the open and the public are beginning to see what’s really going on. They were detaining a DEALER!! Let’s see how these protesters feel when it’s their kid slumped on a street corner hooked on drugs that this dealer’s been pushing them, or stabbed in the guts, or finished off to settle a score, are they then going to continue to stick up for this DRUG DEALER who the security forces were unable to arrest when they had him, (though they did arrest him in the end), because they were too busy chucking stones at the police and jeering at them to get out of the neighbourhood?


It’s a spin off of those 15M lot, anarchists who’ve used the 15M name to do stuff like this.

Because it’s good that people demonstrate about things they’re against, as long as it’s in a peaceful manner, but then these people give pacifistic movements like 15M a bad name when they do stuff like this.

And of course the government isn’t going to stick up for the police, or for the man on the street.

I don’t really get what’s going on, but if things carry on like this, it’ll get much worse and people are going to get hurt.


now the problem is people after 15M, because the police didn’t intervene to throw them out or anything, now everyone thinks they can do whatever they like because, as they’re ‘pacifists’ they all stick their hands up, hold hands, stick together, have a sit-in, and everybody out… it’s been made easy for them to moan about the police and stick up for the criminals, like in this case as well…



This is getting out of hand. And what kind of hypocritical and ignorant society are we turning into if the whole world and his neighbour seems to think the police are responsible for all the problems we have? I mean what kind of morons are they who think they can get away with stopping us doing our jobs by using force and threats? What are they going to resort to next? Call 091 asking for help then lay an ambush for the officers who turn up? Without wanting to sound over the top, I’ve watched these videos you’ve all posted on here and all I see are a bunch of ‘crusties’. I’d like to think that in this part of the city there are plenty of normal people who can’t stand all this and who are behind what the police are trying to do.

And the worse thing is all this that’s going on is having repercussions in other cities, every day you see less respect for our work, and for us as individuals.

In the patrol car I’ve had to put up with a right load of crap just for asking people for their ID, people who were clearly carrying out a criminal act or who were just about to commit  a crime. Everyone asks why you’re doing it, everyone gets hot under the collar, they ask you haven’t you got more important things to do, and blah blah blah. And then it turns out apart from the odd one or two, each one of them’s worse than the last.

I’m not saying people should hang their heads when they have to deal with us, but for fuck’s sake, they should let us do our job with a bit of dignity, we’re only trying to help. And if in many cases we’re unable to do it as well as we’d like to, it’s because our hands are tied by the government, not because we don’t want to.

So, I suppose we’ll have to carry on turning up anywhere our presence is required, and we should do with out heads held high and not let these dickheads put us off, who are so full of themselves because they’ve chased us out of the neighbourhood, because, do you know what – whether they like it or not, above all, we’re professionals.


I’m on the beat in that neighbourhood almost on a daily basis, and 90-95% of the people in that neighbourhood are foreigners and they give us the evil eye every time we turn up.


I’m not from Madrid, I had no idea there was such a high percentage of foreigners in that neighbourhood. Well, sorry Mr Foreigner, Crusty hippy, and other manky flea-bitten individuals, I do beg your pardon for doing my job, you’re absolutely right, the police are all terrible. You carry on running amok and living off the state. We ought to set up a Police ‘indignados’ platform.


Is alpol a bit like 3,000 but with foreigners???


Mmmm…no, not exactly. I really don’t know how to compare it with any other neighbourhood there…. Lavapies is a neighbourhood with old buidlings (some really ancient flats) and you can walk around ‘no problem’, well, look, if you walk round there you’re not going to get jumped and mugged by 3 immigrants with a pistol or a knife, normally they keep the fights between themselves and sometimes with the Spaniards from round there. But it’s true that every step you take you’re coming across africans, pakistanis, moroccans, indians, chinese, turks, romanians… and of course crusties. That’s why when they see someone who’s not from round there or who looks a bit different, not like someone who’s normally hanging around there, they get a bit agitated. Let’s just say you wouldn’t want a mate of yours living down there, because you know what you’re going to get for neighbours, and it’ll be all over the block that you’re a cop in five minutes.

It’s true, we’re not exactly welcomed with open arms in that neighbourhood and now the media are cottoning on, so everyone’s beginning to see how much they hate us, when they should be focusing on the fact that we’re only going down there for the security of those who live there, whatever their nationality, because, let’s face it, wouldn’t it be easier and safer for us if we didn’t bother going down there and they can all get on with killing each other?? But we are there to PROTECT citizens, whether they are african, pakistani, moroccan… but obviously, the bad ones (and unfortunately there are a lot of those) have to be brought to justice.


in my humble opinion:

I really believe that people are getting out of hand now, looking at what went on in Lavapies, it’s pathetic. What really hit me apart from the police being insulted by people for no reason at all, was the woman who, if I’ve remembered it right, was on tv saying: I saw how they were handcuffing the immigrant and I called the alarm so they couldn’t haul him off, well, the woman who kicked up this whole stink in the first place.

So now I’m asking myself: what kind of picture do people have of the police? And I tell myself: the vision the media gives, always with a spin on it, always putting out news stories when the police have to intervene, when the police hit someone, when the police are ‘bad’, that’s what people see on tv, and what they don’t get to see is when the police are doing their job they’re getting assaulted, insulted, and treated like shit. They don’t see that when we’re on duty we have to put up with all kinds of crap and take it on the chin. The police are there to help people, they should get it into their thick heads once and for all, if you’re walking down the street and you’re asked to open your bag, backpack, case etc, it’s because someone’s been given an order to do it, they’re not just doing it because they feel like it, there must be a good reason they’re doing it. There’s another video, the same kind of thing, where the police ask some crusty to open his bag and he starts to kick off and cause loads of trouble, bangingon about some old lady being illed and what did the police do about that etc etc.

And also I’d like to point out that all these people who jeer at the police, insult us, hit us and so on, they should stop and think about how they want us around when there’s a crime been committed, a murder, a case of domestic abuse… And they ask the police to do everything, and often the ones who demand the most are the people who a few days before were there slagging the police off.

Remember that a policeman is a worker, like anybody else, but with a very particular and special job to do, defending the rights and freedoms of each and every citizen of this country.

Allaboutthepolice.com (Part 1)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2011 by cockroach1

controlled area for your use and enjoyment

Ever wondered what the bobby on the beat really thinks about his or her job, the 15M protest movement, immigration into Spain,  and the residents of Lavapies, to name a few controversial topics? Or thought how interesting it might be hear their side of the story? I have, and then I came across this, on a police forum called ‘Todopolicia.com’. This is the first part of a very long thread entitled:

‘Insults against the police in Lavapies’

about an incident earlier this Summer, in the middle of the 15M protest, when Lavapies residents ‘chased’ the police out of the neighbourhood and stopped them arresting an immigrant. If you want to see the full conversation (in Spanish, I’ll be posting it here in English), follow this link:


or Google: todopolicia.com Lavapies. It’s interesting reading…..


I’m getting really pissed off with the media, twisting things, putting their own spin on stories, never mind the truth. Take the latest incident in Lavapies: when the police were in the middle of a raid on illegals, trying to arrest an immigrant, and locals chased them out.

What really happened: a black man tried to jump the metro entrance and some security guards grabbed him. They asked him for his ID so they could book him, but he refused. Then the security guards called the Police. When the officers arrived, they asked him again for his ID, he refused again, and this is when the police officers proceeded to escort him to the station to identify him.

At this point the residents of the neighbourhood started slagging off the police, insulting them, threatening them, pushing them etc. They called for back up, and within quarter of an hour the UIP had arrived, but the crowd had become very aggressive by this point, and the decision was taken to retreat in order to avoid a worse situation.

We have to put up with this kind of crap every day and nobody sticks up for us, not even our unions. This is what we get for doing our job.

There were no plans to arrest the immigrant, as the media is claiming, he was only going to be ID-ed. And anyway, this individual was here legally in Spain, and if he had been illegal, they wouldn’t even have arrested him, only started proceedings against him. And anyway, even if we had been there demanding ID, we’re just doing our jobs!

How about this – why don’t we all stop paying to use the metro, and while we’re at it let’s stop paying taxes as well. Let’s all take over abandoned buildings and exercise our right to squat, and how about we just let all the immigrants in the world in, tell you what, let’s just scrap all laws…



I couldn’t believe it either when I saw that on the telly.

One day…


And me, I really don’t know what’s going on


No way!! Like one of my colleagues said ‘we’re like medicine aren’t we, nobody wants us until they need us.’ Spain is different!’

Never surrender, never back down!!!!!

Have a look at this, this will give you an idea, here’s the video I saw on the news yesterday:



What’s that van at 3 mins 55?


I’d say it’s the  mounted police transport


WHAT A NIGHTMARE! What ignorant people, they can’t even work out what’s law and what’s repression. These dickheads had better not come down the station when they’ve need our help. These things really piss me off.


Yes, it’s the mounted police van, correct me if I’m wrong but I think they park up in the next parallel street.


You said it, mate, what ignorant twats. And the day they need us they’d be the first to dial 091. Ignorant, lying gits. Haven’t you seen in the last few seconds of the video, there’s a black man who says ‘they nabbed a Senegalese guy on the metro and they were mistreating him.’ Where did they get this gem? Have a look at ’20 mins’ today’s edition, there’s an interview with Ablaye Seck, the guy this is all about, who says, among other things, ‘the police treated me well’ and ‘it’s true they nicked me on the metro. That was my mistake. I didn’t have a ticket, I jumped the barrier and they got me.’ This person was treated impeccably throughout the entire proceedings and of course, never once stepping outside the parameters of the law.


What a nightmare, yeah, these people who hurl insults around and shout stuff like ‘murderer’, they’re just morons. It’s a shame the Government doesn’t release a statement sticking up for the police, guardia civil and the military, it’s a bloody shame, because we’re always made out to be the bad guys, and the rest of them are always in the right, because of course, they have more rights than the security forces, and it doesn’t look like changing any time soon.

But I do think the media has a lot to do with peoples’ impressions of the police and the guardia civil, I’d like to see some news about how the police risk their lives, not just pictures portraying us as the bad guys all the time.


 I had a similar experience a while ago, when a load of these ‘indignados’ came round near the barracks and were trying to gain entry so they could hang a banner saying you don’t need the army and that kind of stuff. They were insulting us as well, and the rest. At the end of the day these people are not ‘indignant’ they’re just morons if you ask me, the indignant ones are us police and security forces, every day.


 This country is full of dickheads, jumping on the bandwaggon and they don’t even know what they’re fighting for. If the same thing happened to a Spaniard and he has to go the station to be i.d’ed there’d be no problem.

All full of themselves, then they want police presence in the streets so they’re safe.

The same thing yesterday, this time Local Police Officers who were humiliated, (insulted, shoved, spat at…) while they were trying to detain a drug dealer with a warrant out for his arrest for dealing to minors. See the whole news story here:

http://www.20minutos.es/noticia/1108952 … es/policia


And while I’m at it, have a look at this article in ABC with an interview with the security guards from the metro who called the National Police, and who were very surprised and offended by the reaction of the local Lavapies residents, which made them give statements like ‘it looks like we can’t even do our jobs now, if it’s anything to do with Rubalcaba’s little friends, looks like we all have to go along with every demand of 15M now…’

http://www.abc.es/20110707/local-madrid … 71114.html

and it ‘aint going to change, because now they know we can’t touch them, and they’re taking the piss out of the police, we should come down on them like a ton of bricks next time, see if that stops them playing up

spot the difference - area controlled by CCTV cameras

Safe as houses

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 12, 2011 by cockroach1

‘The Sociedad Publica? You’re renting your flat out with the Sociedad Publica?’ said Jose the barman, shaking his head.

‘Yes… I was thinking of doing that, I just signed the nota de encargo today.’

Jose shook his head again, and spread his hands wide. One of them had a greasy glass in it, the other a greying dishcloth.

‘Listen, I’m not trying to tell you what to do, but I rented a flat out through them, only just got it back off them, a little short of the five years they ask for, and by Christ did it cost me to get it back.’

‘I just thought it might be a good way to do it, seeing as I won’t be in the country, they offer to sort everything out for you….’

‘Did you hear that?’ he grinned at his wife, who was carrying a plate of unidentifiable fried things from the kitchen hatch, and who turned to listen to him on the way out to the street terrace tables.

‘She says the Sociedad Publica promises to sort everything out for you-‘

‘Si, claro.’ His wife raised her eyebrows and huffed.

‘Look, like I said, I’m not trying to tell you what to do, they’re probably the least terrible of a bad bunch, (those were his exact words, the ‘least terrible’) but don’t believe any of that stuff they say on their website, it’s just to hook you in as an owner, get your flat on their books. They didn’t guarantee our rent when the flat was empty, they say it’s for every month it’s empty and it isn’t, it’s up to two months, at least that’s what they gave us. They never pick up the phone or get back to you when there’s a problem. And they don’t take the stress out of all of it, I can tell you that for nothing. They gave us a shitload of stress. I’m glad we got the flat back off them and we can do it ourselves now.’

‘Really? I thought they were supposed to be pretty organized. Though they’ve been a bit flaky so far…’

‘Flaky? Bunch of crooks, more like! They’ve been on telly and everything. Been massive complaints about them. Just saying, it’s entirely up to you.’

It was entirely up to me, wasn’t it? This conversation haunted me all the way back to the UK, along with the memory of the very Uncivil Servant telling me my flat would get its head kicked in and squatters crawling all over it, that they had ‘much better flats than mine’ on their books, that Lavapies was a ‘very dangerous area.’ And after all this they’d be taking the first month’s rent as advertising and management costs, then 18% every month after that. I’d barely be breaking even – a concept that was bearable if all the stress of being an absent landlady was removed from the equation, and they did their job efficiently and professionally. It’s just that… it wasn’t looking as though they were going to do that. A shitload of stress? I could source that for myself independently, thank you.

After a few days I decided that if it was entirely up to me, I’d rather have my flat back and take my chances in the private rental market. But that might not be so easy- I had signed it over to them for ‘comercializacion’ and viewings. They had my keys. I had signed papers, in an office, overlooked by a rude ‘nota de encargo’ officer and a drooping pot plant. It felt like a pact with the Devil himself. What if they told me it was too late now, I owed them money for advertising the property, for wasting their time, for employing an agent to carry out viewings, for being foreign, for not knowing my mysterious and often-trampled rights? I had heart palpitations and slept badly for two days. Then I decided to proceed in a Spanish fashion. That is, to apply a liberal dose of bullshit, shake it up, and sprinkle it with a little cunning:

‘Dear Sr. Fulanito,’ I emailed guiltily,

‘I would like to thank you for all the hard work you have put so far into preparing my flat for rental. However, I regret to inform you that I have just been offered a job in Madrid, and must return to take up residence in the premises. I will, therefore, be unable to keep it on your books as a rental property. I would appreciate it if you could inform me of the method by which I should retrieve my keys? And if you could inform me if I need to send you any further paperwork? Once again thank you for all your work, and if the situation changes I will, of course, be back in contact with you.’

Lies, lies, damned lies. Now I just had to wait and see if my calculated plan would work…..

Lavapies is a very dangerous place....

A very Uncivil Servant

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2011 by cockroach1

one kick to that re-inforced steel door....

I knew I was back in Madrid: it had been approximately thirty six hours, and already I had been for drinks in Chueca, smoked about two packets of cigarettes, accepted an illegal substance, smoked a joint at a party, I had a hangover, the beginnings of a migraine, I’d had drinks in Lavapies, a delicious and nutritious dinner consisting entirely of fried items and/or garlic: croquetas, calamares, patatas bravas and gambas al ajillo, I’d slept less than is humanly advisable, not eaten a single vegetable, been startled out of my wits by an unfeasibly large cockroach, been regaled with a horrible story about a robbery, and now I was being shouted at by a civil servant with serious mala leche.

‘Well, don’t bite my ears off because Jorge went and made a mistake! That’s not his job. He shouldn’t have told you that, Madam, that’s not how it works-‘

‘That may not be how it works,’ I replied ‘but that’s what I was told, and you can hardly call that my fault, I tried to organise this weeks ago, and that’s what he told me.’

‘Well, it’s not my fault. It should have been dealt with by a different department, that’s not how we do things round here.’ He stood up, looming over me in the small airless room with its smart formica table-top and its wilting pot plant. I wasn’t really interested in whose fault it was anyway, I didn’t want to play the Catholic blame game, I just wanted someone to sort it out.

‘Look, can we just try and sort this out?’ I asked him wearily, my migraine starting to throb like some alien life force taking up residence behind my left eyeball.

He agreed grudgingly to try and ‘do something’ and I went for coffee.

‘But,’ he reminded me as we walked down the corridoor toward the bright outside,

‘I can’t guarantee anything, and I don’t know how long it’ll take. If you come back in an hour I might be able to do something, but I can’t promise.’

What was my problem? Halfway through the process of renting my flat with the Sociedad Publica de Alquiler de Vivienda, a Government rental agency which manages flat rentals for absent landlords, we seemed to be sinking up to our necks in beurocratic nonsense and incompetency. Back in Madrid from a Tuesday to a Tuesday, I had pleaded for a pre-arranged appointment to sign hand-over paperwork. After chasing this up for several days I had been granted (very efficiently, I thought) an appointment on the Friday morning. Which I then found out was a national holiday. Three days of further phone calls and emails revealed that it was, in fact, in the system for the Thursday and this was a typo in my email. Lucky I had checked. Then on arrival at this meeting to sign the contract, on opening it and reading it, it appeared that there was a mistake with the proposed rental amount, which was at the original sum, when I had been told it had been raised after I had negotiated it with the agent. Mr Uncivil Servant was now going to re-negotiate my rental amount for me with the correct department.

He wasn’t ready after an hour, so I waited in the waiting room then I sat on the grass bank outside the office on the Castellana, baking in the high sunshine and watching people go in and out. Oddly, the waiting room by reception was the same for property owners and tenants, and I was treated to a cabaret of distressed ex tenants pleading for their deposits. One young woman sat defiantly in the waiting room with a large suitcase, stating,

‘I am not leaving here until I get my deposit back. I left that flat three months ago. That’s my money and I want it back, you’ve got no right-’

A young man wearing a t-shirt with the slogan ‘Running sucks’ shouted,

‘You people! I’ve been calling twenty times a day every day for three weeks, the same number, nobody every picks up the damn phone, so I come down here, all the way across Madrid to speak to someone in person about this, and all you can tell me is they’re not picking up the phone and there’s nothing you can do for me? I want a complaint form.’ Another family sat, grim-faced and muttering darkly between themselves. They were all ‘served’ by a hard-faced receptionist with a straight line of lipstick for a mouth who raised the receiver to her ear and listened into it, shaking her head and refusing to make eye contact. Her replies were curt, defensive. Again I heard ‘…not my fault… nothing I can do about it…..Ya. what can I do about it?’ She probably dealt with this level of hassle every day, but these were clients. Distressed clients.

Was I doing the right thing renting my flat through these people? Mr Uncivil Servant called me back into the office finally, and informed me he’d been able to raise the rent by twenty euros a month. He informed me of this as if he expected the same level of gratitude for having raised it by three hundred a month.

‘You’ll never rent it at that price,’ he said, sliding the contract at me over the table.  ‘You may have an inflated idea of what your flat’s worth, but believe me, Madam, we have far better apartments than yours on our books, flats in Goya and Serrano with swimming pools, flats which are not ground floor, which have light, terraces, and are much bigger than yours.’

‘Well, you can take my lovely, cosy, little designer flat off your books and shove it up your arse, can’t you?’ I said. Actually, I didn’t, I opened the contract and next to the drooping pot plant I signed my name. I’d come too far now to back out. As we walked once more down the corridoor to the bright entrance-way, and he coldly shook my hand, he said,

‘Your flat won’t rent for ages, you know. I shouldn’t be surprised if it sits empty for a long time. And another thing- Lavapies is a dangerous barrio. A very dangerous barrio. It’s full of squatters. All it takes is one kick and they’re in, one kick to the door and they’re in and squatting, and then there’s nothing you can do, they’ll trash it and you’ll never be able to get them out. So I would ask an amiga to come in and air it and put lights on, because you don’t want them to think it’s empty, do you?’

‘Thank you so much for your help.’ I told him, tight-lipped.

If my flat looked like this:

'After 12 we don't want any noise, please call the mobile.' Wonder what they do in this squat, then?.....

I might have understood his cautionary words, but it doesn’t. And believe me, it takes more than one kick to knock down a puerta blindada (reinforced steel door). And they’d have to get past Carmen. So, thanks for the vote of confidence, mate. Just another case of Lavapies as Soddom and Gamorra from some uptight middle-class Madrid snob. And these were the people who were going to be marketing my flat to prospective tenants?

Pink with rage

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2011 by cockroach1

(This piece is a couple of months out of date: I’d forgotten to post it in early July).

It seems that every time you step out of the front door in Madrid at the moment, somebody is protesting loudly about something.  Mayor Gallardon knows this only too well: on the 13th June he found a small group of very vocal and noisy protesters at the door of his house near Alonso Martinez, having a ‘cacerolada’ (frying-pan bashing protest).  Let’s not get into the rights or wrongs of accosting a politican (not a war criminal, remember, or a serial killer) at his private residence while he’s out walking his dog of an evening. What were they protesting about so furiously?

Since then the issue has been discussed, negotiated and dealt with, in a highly innovative and possibly slightly mental fashion. It is the imminent Orgullo (Gay Pride) festival, due to start this coming week, and the proposed banning of the open air concert on Plaza de Chueca, the iconic square in the centre of the neighbourhood, which is causing so much controversy and anger. Residents’ Associations have lodged complaints with the council due to the ear-splitting noise levels, while campaigners have hit back with suggestions that it is homophobic to tamper with or restrict the ‘biggest and most important Pride party’ in Europe, – other local fiestas cause just as much noise, filth and disruption for the locals – San Fermin, Las Fallas in Valencia, the Tomatina etc,  the local councils fund these events and promote them, and some of them have been included as ‘protected’ heritage events.  The same should apply to Madrid Gay Pride despite the disruption to residents in Chueca. If you don’t like it, don’t live in Chueca, they suggest. There is a legal issue: noise levels cannot exceed a certain limit if there is, for example, an old peoples’ home within 150 metres of the proposed concert. Which there is: in Chueca there is one on Calle Gravina, and another on Plaza Vasquez de Mella. Last year residents of the neighbourhood were subjected to over 80 decibels (the legal amount of noise) throughout 4 days of the fiesta.

Firstly, the idea of there being 2 old peoples’ homes tucked away in the heart of Chueca is a little surreal. A student of mine, a manager at the Very Big Bank, told me he saw a news report where elderly residents were interviewed, and most of them, in a spirit of true Spanish tolerance, shrugged and said something along the lines of –well, it’s only for a few days a year, we don’t mind anyway, we don’t really know what all the fuss is about. Let people enjoy themselves, we reckon. He added, with a grin, that most of them were probably deaf anyway, so it’s hardly likely to disturb them.

Secondly, I can see both sides here. A few years ago Federico/Rapunzel, who was living in a palatial residence just off, and in fact, overlooking Plaza de Chueca, invited us for dinner on the Thurs night, just as Pride was kicking off with its first open air concert. The idea was to dine on the terrace, with a great view of the square and the band. The plaza was packed solid, spotlights scanning the sky, noise bouncing off the walls. We hollered across the small dinner table at each other, exhilerated and unsettled. The noise level was deafening- the overall impression was that of dragging your dinner table into the middle of a dancefloor and trying to have dinner there; all of us present were ageing clubbers, all of us had spent many great nights out on dancefloors, so our perception of the noise had nothing to do with not liking loud music. Rapunzel spent the rest of Pride weekend holed up in his high tower, unable to face fighting his way through seething crowds to go and fetch groceries, unable to sleep until well past 3 am, when the music finally stopped rattling the window panes and making the fillings in his teeth jig.

I was unlucky enough to be present at a recent cacerolada in Plaza de Chueca a few days ago, when  having a lazy drink before dinner, with friends visiting from the UK. It was a hot Summer evening, the beer was ice cold, the usual catwalk of eccentrics and cosmopolitans were entertaining us, and the conversation was laid back. Until about twenty people turned up by our table, just next to the metro exit, and began hammering frying pans together, blowing football horns and disco whistles.

‘What’s going on?’ bellowed my friends.

‘I’ll tell you in a minute…’ I yelled back. We paid up, left half our beers and made ourselves scarce. I explained the reason for the protest.

‘But that’s daft.’ they argued back, logically, ‘they’re just hurting local businesses, surely that’s not going to achieve anything.’ Go figure.

So what is the somewhat mental solution to the problem of noise levels during Pride? Silent concerts. That’s right –the proposed idea was to enclose the band in a kind of perspex fish-tank, then transmit the sound via a particular radio frequency that you could tune into with your mobile, and listen to on headphones. Apparently it’s been tried and tested at Glastonbury, Goa, and at big techno parties in Holland. Unfortunately I wasn’t there to see it. I couldn’t face the crowds, the heat, the pickpockets or the pumped up queens. But the idea I have in my head is something like Night of the Living Dead- after all, if one person tunelessly singing along to his or her mp3 player sounds hideous, what would thousands of them sound like, all shuffling around and humming, zombie-like, to themselves? It’s my idea of 21st century Hell: all of us sealed up inside our own hermetic little heads, listening to silent music, humming wordlessly, the band a few feet away but sealed in an airtight compartment, thrashing mute instruments, all genuine interaction and warmth stillborn, conversation in whispers, grunting into headphones lifted away from the ear for a second, then replaced, strangled by technology, stifled by legislation, in the middle of a crowd engaged in faux-delirium, but gut-wrenchingly alone.