Madrid Street Signs

IMG_20150519_151943

Whenever I’m in a city, wandering around there tends to be something that sticks out at me and makes that city special.  This for me is not the usual landmarks, but something else that you would perhaps not give a huge amount of time to, but which I think reveals something about the soul of a place.  Last year for example when I was in Malaga I became interested in both the graffiti and perhaps more oddly the paving stones.  In Madrid recently there were two things that really stood out, the amazing markets in each area and the street signs in the centre of the city which I became quite mesmerised by as I wandered around.

Every street, square, alleyway or courtyard had one of these beautifully crafted individually tiled street signs.  There didn’t appear to be any particular style or uniformity to them as they were made up of either 9, 12, 15 or 16 tiles and the artistic designs were also quite different, they were also often quite high up on the walls, often with wires running across them or CCTV cameras next to them.  In other words they were just everyday signs but for me they added a real sense of beauty and style to the city.  Anywhere that takes this much care in designing a street sign for an alleyway has got to be good.  It also really added to my enjoyment of walking around the city as I was constantly looking out for the signs as I meandered along and they made great reference points.

I didn’t do much thinking about them as I walked around, apart from trying to translate the odd one, my knowledge of Spanish and Spanish history is not good enough to understand the meaning or resonance behind many of the pictures but I found myself wanting to know more.  What is the Calle del Codo with the arm in armour all about for example ?

I think about cities and sense of place quite a bit particularly what makes a good city or place?  I don’t necessarily have the answers but as with the paving stones in Malaga, any city that puts this much craft into it’s street signs must have soul.

Postcard from Madrid

IMAG5489

Madrid, one of Europe’s grand old cities, and what better place to spend a few days exploring and feeling the first real bit of warmth of the year.  Like many Spanish cities I found Madrid great for walking and exploring, there was no grand plan just some vague ideas and this approach works for me as you tend to come across things as you mooch, you have the time to take the temperature of the city and get a feel for it with the hassle of thinking I need to get someone by a certain time or to see a particular thing.  Much as great cities have fantastic places to see, it’s people that make places so getting a feel for them and the beat of the city is equally important as far as I am concerned.

Also, like when I was in Barcelona last year, it seems to be very easy to get away from the cram of tourists who follow a very predictable trail.  Walk a couple of streets away in any direction and you are in a different Madrid, one that’s much more to my liking.  I stayed right bang in the centre, in a great little flat that was my first experience of using air B & B and I couldn’t have wished for better.  If meant that I could step out of the door and be right in the heart of things but could stroll half an hour in any direction to explore some of the different areas.

I’d been to Madrid before a few years ago and I wondered how it would feel in light of the serious impact that the recession has had on Spain.  For me the city remains as warm and welcoming and as clean and safe as you could possibly hope for.  This time in the city I seemed to spend a lot of time in the markets, each area that I visited had one and they really were astonishing places and could really teach my home city a thing or two as it ponders how to ‘regenerate’ the city market.  For me the most astonishing was Sunday afternoon in San Fernando market in the Lavapies area.  I stumbled across this by poking my head through an entrance and the first signs were not promising, stalls with the shutters down, the odd one or two with a couple of people sat at.  However music could be heard so we ventured in and lo and behold the world changed.  In the middle of this covered market a hundred or so people were in full swing dancing away to latin music pumping out as DJ’s played the tunes, surround the central area, a labyrinth of packed stalls selling tapas, beer and wine kept the crowd fed and watered.  It was mesmerising and the atmosphere was so good it just made you feel alive.  We found a fantastic little wine place, drank what was recommended and just soaked it up.  I want to spend every Sunday doing that, it was perfect.

I was chatting to someone from Lavapies about the market and he said that a few years ago it was dying, just a couple of stalls remained but slowly the community has brought it back to life with events and activities and placing it back into the heart of the community which has brought new stall holders and businesses in.  A fantastic success story.  Round the corner I also stumbled across a great little bike shop and bought the local cap, I found out that they have only made 100 and the money is going to help run the community cycling club.  They seemed amazed that some guy from Leeds wanted to buy one of their caps.

Little adventures and experiences like this happened across the few days we were there as we wandered about.  Yes we saw the main squares, Guernica, the parks, Churches, Palaces etc but it was the neighbourhood bars, markets and vibe of the city that I enjoyed the most.  Can’t wait to go back.

 

Liberate Tate #TimePiece

11325168_476820559135070_348428856_n

I like it when you stumble across things.  I’m one of life’s bumblers with no grand plan, this can of course be infuriating for me and others at times but on balance it really works.  It’s a particularly good way to enjoy cities so instead of a must see list and charging round at the speed of light so you can cross things off said list, I find it much better to have a vague idea, somewhere to sort of aim at but it doesn’t matter whether you get there or not.  This way, while you have a sense of direction, the journey is somewhat more haphazard and as a result you see more things along the way.

I hadn’t planned to go into Tate Modern the other day but as I was ambling up the south bank having spent a very enjoyable few hours in it’s older sibling Tate Britain and in particular at the Fighting History exhibition I thought it would be good to pop in and see what was in the Turbine Hall, also I needed the loo.  I really wasn’t sure what was going on at first as hunched, veiled figures were holding books, scribbling on the floor.  On closer inspection I’d stumbled across an artistic protest which was kind of spookily ace seeing as I’d just come from an exhibition featuring radical protest art and artists trying to interpret key moments in history.  Climate change and dependence on fossil fuels will surely be a key moment in our history and here unfolding in front of me was conflict, protest, an artistic act that seeks to make sense of this moment and affect change.

The group doing the scrawling were Liberate Tate who are a group of artists protesting about BP’s sponsorship of the gallery.  They have done a number of other artistic protests but in this one they were occupying the turbine hall for 24 hours (to coincide with the tidal movements of the Thames) and were using charcoal to inscribe passages and slogans from dystopian novels, climate change reports, non fiction books that provided a thought provoking narrative.

Should public institutions be tied to companies driving climate change? At the very least it should be very clear what investment is being made and it seems very odd that it took a three year legal battle to get the amount that BP invests in the Tate made public, and the amount ?  £224,000 a year apparently which, while being a not inconsiderable sum of money, makes up only 0.3% of the Tate’s operating budget.  Food for thought I think.

I don’t know what happened when the gallery was due to close, would the security guards move in or would the group be allowed to stay and continue their silent protest, quietly scribbling away?

I’m glad that I stumbled across Liberate Tate.

10952606_1632586693622456_213369786_n 11376543_1632880346969558_17173845_n

Half Term Photo Fun – 2015 – Pattern

CGB6x7lWgAIhkq8

I must admit I love it when the kids pick a shape for the photofun challenges as it opens up so many possibilities and interpretations and this was definitely the case with their choice of pattern for halftermphotofun.  It’s almost impossible not to look up (or down) and see some sort of pattern, be that in nature, architecture, or something you have just created, and this was clearly reflected in the range of photos that were sent in.  I must admit however that I was scratching my head for a bit with the photos of Pat Butcher and a Tern that came in from the same person until of course you put them together.  It got me thinking generally about pattern and patterns and how our everyday lives are themselves a pattern of similar routines stitched together into one narrative and I’d have liked to have somehow seen a graphical representation of my life as a pattern.

Do click on the gallery to open it then you can scroll through the photos as they came in, which ones do you like ? and can you spot the mushroom which I really liked.  Be they regimented or random I thought that this was a great selection that you all sent in, and as always thanks so much to all of you who took part.

The next one we do will be the main one where it all started #summerphotofun running for 6 weeks over the summer.  Keep your eyes on my twitter @ianstreet67 or the hashtag and play along with us.

Easter Photo Fun 2015 – Week 2 – Symbol

CCxtpMPW4AANooi

I thought the kids picked two great themes over the Easter holidays, firstly with Point and then with the theme of Symbol for the second week, a theme that was so open and of course you did not disappoint by sending in all sorts of interpretations.  When you think about it symbols are everywhere around us, guiding us on everything from finding our way around maps to the washing instructions in our smalls, there are totemic symbols of power and powerful symbols of peace or revolution.  As I’m writing this each letter is of course a symbol that combined provides us with our written word which is perhaps the most powerful symbol of all as it contains within it the passport to the combined weight of human knowledge.  Not bad for a collection of marks.

Huge thanks to everyone who contributed across the week and for taking part and playing along with our social photography themes, it really is appreciated.  Do click on the gallery so that you can flick through the photos as they were sent in and let us know which ones you liked.  Can you spot all the symbols?  We’ll be back for halftermphofofun in June before the big one over the summer if people still want to play along.

 

MTBMeetup

Screenshot 2015-04-20 at 19.39.10

 

Social media, a bit like the news or politicians gets a bad press – usually I think because we seem for some strange reason to be drawn to the negative in many things.  So social media when it hits the headlines is usually because of people using it to do bad things, rarely do you hear it as a force for good but that in my experience is very much what it is.  It enables you to spread ideas, entertain, inform, bring people together and coalesce them around an interest or idea.  That bringing together can be done virtually but it can also be a physical thing.  On the weekend Si Bradley (@_Si-Bradley) used that very concept and a simple hashtag to bring mountain bikers from around the country together, not to race or be competitive but to share, to meet, to socialise, to eat, to drink and to enjoy the simple pleasure that riding a bike off road can bring, irrespective of your skill or experience.

Myself, Rob (@chasinsheepMTB) and Brian (@oldstuntmonkey) left Leeds very early and got down to Llandegla for 9am to find scores of mountain bikers of every hue milling about and chatting doing that awkward thing of trying to introduce yourself to someone who may only know you via a twitter name …. i.e. hello I’m yetiridingdragon or whatever.  Amazingly the sun was out (I know it’s always sunny in Wales isn’t it) and with charity raffle tickets bought and a brew drunk with the mornings riding began.

Si had organised a great range of options for people to do if they wanted to or they could just do their own thing and people had kindly given up their time to pass on skills or lead rides.  Groups of riders headed out to ride the Blue, Red or Black runs, Craig (@P9ADV) ran a kids ride, Trail Takeover led a women’s ride, Chris (@CMJDavies) led an adventure photography workshop and I went on a skills session delivered by Steve from (@chasingtrails).  All of these people kindly gave up their time and skills for free.  Talking of free after the morning session the fab guys from Kirby Lonsdale brewery were handing out their specially produced Berm Basher beer.  Happy days indeed.

In the afternoon I headed out with Rob and Bri to have a crack at the red run and see if I could put my new found skills into action.  I was a tad nervous as I always am but I got round in a reasonably ok fashion I think.  Slowly my projectsnail confidence and skills are improving.  The beautiful day was finished with tea and cake provided by (@puremountains) and of course a bit more beer.

Could a day get any better ?  What I really liked about it was that there was none of the macho radness that can sometimes infect the MTB world, an attitude I detest.  The atmosphere was really chilled people rode, passed on skills, shared the trails and the tales and a good time was had by all.  Huge thanks must go to Si and all the helpers and sponsors for making it such a great day.  Si had even organised us a great campsite (Llyn Rhys Campsite) so we stayed over and rode the trails again on the Sunday before heading wearily and happily home.

So anyone who knocks twitter again – ignore the naysayers there are good people out there using social media to bring people together to share good times.

CDDuhybWYAAFNP9

Easter Photo Fun 2015 – Week 1 – Point

CB7cYMZXIAA6XB_

Point has been the first theme for the two weeks of EasterPhotoFun set by the kids and as always you have sent in some lovely interpretations, some very obvious points others indicating low points for example.  I loved the railway point, knitting needles, ballet shoes, pens/pencils and must give a biased shout out to one of my kids for her photo of the picture frames that I thought was a really good interpretation.

However my fav was I think the photo of Verity, the mammoth 20m sculpture by Damien Hirst that looks over Ilfracombe harbour.  A pregnant woman, holding the scales of justice, standing on a pile of books and wielding a large sword.  This was the largest sculpture in Britain when it was put up in 2012.  I’ve never seen it in the flesh but standing higher than the Angel of the North this must be some sight.  Whenever I see things like this it always makes me angry that Leeds turned down the option to have our own massive brick man sculpture (before the Angel of the North) that was proposed by Anthony Gormley.  However Verity is surely the most perfect interpretation of point, not least of course from the sword in her hand but from the viewpoint that many people will have of this and other modern art when they ask what’s the point.

As always many thanks for all who have chipped in with your interpretations it’s been a really fun week.  Do click on the gallery and you can scroll through the pictures in the size they came in.  Do let us know which ones you liked.