New Ceremonies.

When you're single and bored you look for diversion and/or inspiration wherever it is. Be it with friends or alone you always look for something to do. Weeks get filled from Monday and days are spent either doing far too much, cramming every bit of socialising or appointments into free space, or mysteriously excusing oneself from exercise under the lying guise of 'tiredness' and wasting an evening in front of the telly watching complete shite.

This is where the city sometimes comes to the rescue. My mountains have often been a source of release for me and my friends in the post-festive funk. Last weekend we dominated some of the highest peaks during the hardest walk possible to do. La Maliciosa and La Bola del Mundo - 2227m and 2258m respectively - sit oppressively, still topped with a fat film of white snow and offer views south to the community of Madrid and north to Castilla y Leon where you could even see Segovia. It is always sad to leave the firmament and return to ground zero and urbanity. People have wasted their days at home, bored, hungover, or monging, but you touched the realm of the Gods and had to leave it. But needs must, as they say.

Another entertaining pursuit is to people watch at a football match. Spain, much like England, is a football nation. Unlike England, however, the teams here are quite political. Madrid has a few, but the principal two are Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid. The former, and by far the better team, is considered both pijo and chulo, that is to say posh and cocky - the conservative team. Atletico is more the working class team. The everyman team. The sometimes chavvy team. People watching is quite fun in the Vicente Calderon stadium. It is also one of the few stadiums of the world from where you can see churches and a sunset from your seat. Amongst the crowds were all the typical people: chanting scarf-swingers, dads with sons, pierced chonis (chavs), die-hard vehement fans, newbies like me, and the foreign supporters. The whole stadium is a turbulent sea of red, white, and whatever other colours are visiting that day.

On the 8th of March Atletico played Besiktas, a Turkish team. I had a ticket, and a cheap Atleti scarf, and joined my friends at a riverside bar before the game to sup on a couple of cold caƱas. Then the police arrived, some on horses, some in heavy duty gear. Then the armoured vans arrived. We weren't particularly sure what was going on but our lounging was gruffly interrupted by some overly anxious officers.
'Get in the bar please.'
We shared glances, not understanding what was happening.
'Let's just wait it out and play the English card.'
'Get in the bar now please, it's for your safety!'
'Right, we should move in then.'

We all - drinkers, old men and women, passersby - crammed into the small bar. Horses clopped past  as well as police cars. These were followed and joined by a large column of Turkish football fans. I was stuck by the window, the waiters rushing to bring in the last of the glasses and chairs, next to a plate of sun-warmed torreznos (pork scratchings), next to an old man moaning about the horses crapping on the pavement. Often rowdy, the Turks passed by peacefully. Tables were scattered again and more drinks were bought. Despite the build up the only violence during the match was a very fat angry man complaining about a sandwich and trying to fight some little hair-styled-pierced-ear chav. We couldn't work out what happened. We think the chav knocked the tubby fellow's bocata out of his hand but didn't seem to care. Blows were thrown but caught by friends and the crowd told them to put a sock in it. 3-1 in the end. Well done Madrid.


And so that ended. And so it always ends and life begs you to treat it to some more fun. And you consult your imagination; maybe strapping on your boots or flashing your cash at a waiter. Don't get stuck. Don't get boring. The greatest sin in life is to be boring. Make your minutes interesting. Fill them to bursting with joy and love and pastimes and people. Don't vegetate. Play.