Read on for my review of the new audio book, Madrid Confessions, from Ben Curtis of notesfromsspain.com.
I’ve been enjoying Ben and Marina’s podcasts on Spanish life for a while now, following them into local markets, the green delights of Asturias, the bars of Madrid and the fiestas of Jerez and Valencia. I even got to see a bit of India from the back of Ben’s motorbike, via his podcast. So when Ben sent me a review copy of his new audio book, the Madrid Confessions, I was looking forward to hearing what he’d got up to this time.
The Madrid Confessions has much of the relaxed, podcast style and feels like Ben’s sat you down in one of his favourite authentically Spanish ‘old man bars’ with the prawn heads and napkins on the floor to tell you some of his favourite tales from his time in Madrid. It picks up from his last book, Errant in Iberia which covered the first three years in Spain, taking us through his time when he started getting seriously into the internet using it to eventually build the online business which now provides a living for him and Marina.
There’s an element in here of wanting to encourage and inspire others to do the same. If someone who professes not to have a business bone in his body can do it, then anyone can. Although the mood of the book is upbeat, Ben doesn’t shirk from telling us about the darker times from which he’s now happily emerged. An unfulfilling job and his mother’s illness tipped him into depression and hypochondria which led to him sitting in a psychiatrist’s waiting room, wondering which of the other patients were psychos and flicking through hunting magazines to take his mind off things.
Ben takes us on the journey he’s travelled with his internet business, starting with the first couple of websites he created, reviewing Spanish books and creating a directory of Spanish blogs, which made him the princely sum of $17. The breakthrough came when he was asked to create a podcast for a Madrid newspaper which took him into creating podcasts to document the scenes from Spanish life and then the podcasts in Spanish and creating online language resources. It even led to a commission from Lonely Planet and a business proposition which was almost too good to refuse and gave him confidence that things were going in the right direction. Ben’s now in a much happier place with a new baby and a focus on developing himself and his internet business which he’s keen to share with us.
On the journey there are plenty of entertaining annecdotes from Spanish life. Like the time Ben was tossed by a bull while being lauded by his drunken Spanish companions as the new Hemmingway (shh don’t tell Marina), to the horror stories about giving birth in the Spanish public hospitals where everything is designed to ensure the staff get home before midnight. We meet characters like the moody porter for whom everthing is ‘fatale’, the racist Ultra football fans, and the neighbour who gets up to no good without drawing the curtains.
As Ben tells us at the beginning, he’s not sure if he was ready to write the book, but then if you always waited until you were ready, you’d never do anything. Nevertheless, there are some moments when the book feels a bit unpolished, as if it needed a bit more of an editorial eye.
In the middle it can’t seem to decide whether it’s an inspiring story of business success or an entertaining collection of annecdotes from a journey through Spanish life, and starts to meander a bit. If you’re charging the same as a mainstream audio book, I think you have to polish up your act in line with the competition. But hats off all the same to Ben – he’s managed to get the product out the door, while many of us are still wondering what tomorrow’s blog post will be.
As the Spanish saying goes, he’s planted a tree, had a baby and written a book, so what’s next for Ben, Marina and their new arrival Leo? I’ll be looking forward to hearing more of their adventures both on their business journey and on their travels through Spain. Hasta Luego!
If you’re ready to hear the Madrid Confessions first hand, then head over to the Madrid Confessions page at notesfromspain.com.
All photos by Ben Curtis at Ben, Notes from Spain on Flickr
In order to vote, please go to the Travel Mole site nomination page, click on the categories tab, find the travel blog category in the drop down and find Heather on her travels, then rate my site and also leave a comment if you wish. I’ll love you forever!