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February, March, April 2006 . . . MADRID, SPAIN- a new home!
The tiny Malasaņa apartment that Maria and I had been sharing since August 2004 was perfectly designed for one person living alone. A cozy little loungeroom, with a nook for a small dining table, an adequate sized bedroom and a neat functional one person kitchen. But in case your maths isn't as sharp as it used to be, the occupancy of apartment 2A doubled when The Savage came to town, and two people just weren't meant to live in such a limited space, especially when one of those people is me. The lack of space had been really getting on our nerves for some time.

But what to do? Sales of my books had surprisingly not yet propelled me from rags to riches, and with only one of us on a fixed income, our budget was already stretched just meeting the monthly rent on our little shoebox. How could we possibly afford anything more spacious? But we also had another problem; Malasaņa is an infamously noisy area of Madrid, and bear in mind that Madrid is the noisiest city in Europe! Narrow streets packed with bars, cafes, and discos... In winter, we could block out the noise with double glazed windows and wooden shutters, but during the summer months, when the nights are too hot to allow you to close the windows, it's not unusual to lie awake till four o'clock, any attempt at sleep foiled by the crashing of garbage trucks, the shouts of revellers, and the roar of noisy scooters reverberating up the street.

So with summer just around the corner, we needed something bigger and quieter and cheaper. We advertised in search of someone who owned an apartment that was in need of renovating. Maybe we could find someone who would give us cheap rent if we renovated their apartment while we lived in it? It was a long shot, but finally we got one reply. Just one. And two months later, that is where I am writing this update, in the office of our three bedroom apartment, eight floors above a quiet cul-de-sac in a quiet outer suburb of Madrid. Out the window, through gaps between the other apartment blocks, I can see snowy mountains. To the right, I can see one of the leaning skyscrapers in Plaza de Castilla. Maria is in the lounge, watching some Sunday afternoon television, and even with the office door open, I can't hear the TV. Sooooo different to our last place, where my 'office' consited of a small desk crammed into the corner of the lounge right next to the television.

THE OLD AND THE NEW

When we first inspected this apartment, it was in quite bad shape. The kitchen benchtop was rotten and falling apart. Some of the doors had holes in them, and the walls and ceilings were cracked and peeling, especially around the large sliding glass doors in the lounge, where the plaster was falling out in chunks. But we struck up a great deal with the landlady, and set about transforming the place.



Before long, our new home was bathed in a fresh, clean coat of white, with the exception of one wall in the bedroom, for which Maria chose a bold dark crimson. We sanded the dark varnished doors and door frames, and painted them in lighter shades, making the already airy apartment seem even brighter and more spacious.

Our previous apartment wasn't really ideal for entertaining. If we organized a sit-down dinner, the number of guests had to be limited to two. A more casual gathering could include up to four guests. But now we had space to move, and we were both keen to put it to the test. What better was than a house warming party!