Thursday, 27 January 2011

The Train in Spain runs Mainly about 3 minutes late..

Madrid is a great place to live: fun, vibrant and buzzing, with lots to see and do as there always is in capital cities. I am having a great time and really enjoying my internship here.

Catching the train to work in the morning in Madrid is quite practical. Basically, if you are running a few minutes late, well so is your train, so you are almost guaranteed never to miss it. This suits me down to the ground since punctuality isn't always my strong point - certainly it isn't an area of Spanish culture that I struggle to "adapt" to!

If I were to make any suggestions of improving the train service, specifically on January mornings when it is -2 degrees outside and inside (yes, sadly it does drop that low, even in Spain), I would ask that they consider investing in some sort of central heating on the train, for the sake of the hundreds of icicles shivering their weary way to work at dawn (sunrise is at 8am). 

But perhaps they are just trying to conserve energy and be more environmentally friendly!

Anyway, judging by this picture, we have a lot to be grateful for with European transport (having said that, they all seem to be having a lot of fun):

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Graffiti: creative crime

Whilst searching for a place to live in Madrid (which, admittedly, in my price range involves small backstreets and the lesser known corners on the map) it is amazing how much influence graffiti has on my impression of a place. Not only does it make the area look dingy, it also seems to reflect something of its character: unruly youths, lack of security, unwillingness of the authorities to invest in clearing it up.

Despite this, my attitude to graffiti changed a lot last summer after visiting an exhibition on it in Paris. The exhibition showed work of graffiti artists in America on the sides of trains – whole carriages transformed during the night into a great tableau of protest. They work rapidly in the dark, using spray cans from about ½ metre away from the train, yet somehow manage to get the entire picture in correct perspective. Actually very impressive.

In the UK Banksy has recently brought graffiti into fashion with his comic images sprayed around Britain’s streets. Of course, his work is still illegal, so despite its popularity with the public, this world famous artist is supposedly still on the run from the police!

Modern art is about making a statement about society or culture, often in protest, which is surely the very essence of graffiti: a protest against authority. In most cases, the “statement” sprayed onto walls and alleys consists of no more than the name of the artist, but it is an attempt none the less of self-expression.

So when we see children in school sketching their names in graffiti style on scraps of paper, are we seeing emerging future criminals or aspiring artists?

After all, Vincent van Gogh wasn’t appreciated in his era...    (Jokes!)

Friday, 14 January 2011

The vicious circle of moving abroad!

When you move to a new country:

1.You need to find accommodation...

2. in order to get an identity number...

3. which you need to get a bank account...

4. which you need in order to get a job...

5. which you need if you want to be able to afford accommodation.

Currently I'm still working on step number 1.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

When hopes and dreams come crashing down.

When I was applying for a job recently, my dad’s advice to me was “If they don’t accept your application, phone them up and tell them that if they give you an interview they are guaranteed to want to employ you.” What an amazing boost to have someone put such – if I may say so - blind confidence in you! A strong support allows us to reach far higher than we otherwise could.

Yet perhaps the most important time to have that encouragement is when faced with failure. It is easy to win supporters when all goes well, but when plans come crashing down that is when we lean most heavily on those we are closest to. When I lose confidence in my own abilities, I need someone else, like my dad, to inspire me to keep on going.

“A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success”

This video is old but it really inspired me. Derek Redman was in top condition in the 1992 Olympics, and likely to win a medal. He only had one chance to prove himself. When he pulled his hamstring, it must have been heartbreaking.

I think this clip is an amazing picture of a father’s unfaltering support of a son. Without a doubt, Derek Redman’s father must have been as devastated as his son, but he knew that at that moment his son needed above all to know that he hadn’t lost his father’s trust. I hope this teaches me to be more of an encourager. Not empty flattery. But genuine, heartfelt trust and affirmation. It could be the difference between someone finishing the race or not.