Saturday, February 16, 2019

My first book, Suzy singing again, George's birthday, Uncle David's white elephant medals, St, Valentines and other stories.

Sunday 17th February 2019
Eladio and I celebrating St. Valentine's at La Txitsarrería on Thursday
Photo

Hi again. Another Sunday and another blog post. You may ask how I am able to keep up writing my blog weekly, something I have been doing since I started in 2005. That's impressive isn't it? Most people who start a blog give up after a while. I can't give up now as it has become my passion. Thus, with discipline, I write a little bit every morning after breakfast and then it's easier to update it on Sunday and post it.

Last week's post is much more exciting than this week's. But there was a highlight and it was St. Valentine's Day - but more about that later. Oh, there were others of course, so read on.  I must not digress and start from the beginning.

The beginning was last Sunday, the weekend of my birthday. I enjoyed my cake and ate it from Friday to Sunday with my Father and Eladio. We finished it on Sunday and on Monday I would be back to my diet or rather maintenance diet.

Sunday last was a quiet day but very sunny and crisp. My two students, Javi andAlba, were leaving but would be back again this week on  Thursday. They will be here nearly every weekend until the end of June.  Alba is just so sweet and beautiful I had to have a photo of her. Here she is, perhaps my most beautiful guest to date.
Beautiful Alba, one of my sweetest guests ever
I spent most of the morning revising and adding more gems to my father's biography. I started a month ago and it's amazing how quickly I have written the bulk of it.  At lunchtime that day I probed my father with more information from his past. I had added a chapter about his dear sister Gloria, my Aunty Gloria who you will know died in an air crash with all her family in 1971. What a tragedy. I wanted to know more about her early years and I got that information from Daddy. He told me she attended the "Clergy Daughter's College" in Bristol. I thought, how fitting for a Vicar's daughter. I knew she had been evacuated at the beginning of the war and during or just before the blitz. He told she was sent to Wells, safe from the German bombardments. He even remembered she stayed with a lady called "Constance Gig". He went on to tell me he remembered Bristol before the Blitz in 1940 and 1941. He mentioned he would walk along Vine Street onto the High Street where there was a picturesque building called "The Dutch House". Indeed there was and I showed him pictures of the timber framed landmark of Bristol at the time and he nodded with a smile. Thus I had to rush downstairs again after lunch to add the new information to his biography which has now turned into a book. Everything he tells me is fascinating, stories from the past that should not be forgotten. I am delighted to include that he remembers Bristol before it was bombed. Not many people do any more. He is living history for me and the more I write about him and the more I talk to him, the more I love and admire him.

I actually slept quite a long siesta after that though missing the news. The main news that day in Spain was a big demonstration held by the right wing parties calling for the unity of Spain, protesting against the socialist government's "outreach to Catalan separatists" and demanding elections. They would get them.

On our walk with the dogs, Eladio and I mused about the situation in Catalonia and the upcoming trial of the separatist leaders, as well as the problem of Venezuela. We are very much on the same page when it comes to our opinions and interest in the news.

After dinner we watched a semi political debate, part conversation between 2 radically different women politicians. On the one hand the central democratic opposition leader in Catalonia, Inés Arrimadas  from the Ciudadanos Party and on the other her opponent the radical left wing Podemos spokeswoman and interim leader, Irene Montero who is married to the party's leader, Pablo Iglesias. Both are beautiful women and both are very talented debaters but I must say their debate got very heated and it was difficult for the interviewer, the talented Jordi Evolé, to calm them down. It was actually the  most entertaining debate I have ever seen in Spain.

We later watched a tragic but great film called "My life without me", the story of a woman diagnosed with cancer with just 3 months to live and how she keeps the news from her family, yet makes plans for them for when she will no longer be there. It's worth watching and makes you realise just how many things are so superfluous in life when death is at your door.

Monday felt like another trip down memory lane, working on my father's biography. It got bigger and bigger. That day his old school, Clifton College, sent me photos of him in 1934, along with, believe it or not, his school report, just before he left. The teachers who wrote in it were spot on. The first entry in 1928 when he was 9, was "dreamy". Well, yes, my father is the dreamiest person I know. It also mentions more than once that he had "difficulty in expressing his feelings". Well, that couldn't be more true either. It seems, unsurprisingly he was very good at Latin but weak at maths and science. Of course, that's because he would become a linguist. I like the conclusion though which also came true: "he left too young for one to be able to judge whether he would develop any leadership but there were signs that he might do so". It ends with a lovely comment: "a perfectly reliable boy". When I showed the report to my father, he was surprised but unable to show me so, but he did chuckle when I told him they said he was a "dreamer.  Here it is for your amusement. It says secret but I suppose it isn't any more is it?  What a gem to add to my biography.
My father's school report from Clifton College Bristol April 1935.
They also sent another class photo of him in 1934. I then asked them if they had one of his brother Raymond. Raymond, who was born in 1922 was 3 years younger and they were together in North Town at the school. Sadly, as you probably know, he died of polio in 1938, aged just 16, in the days before vaccines. This is the wonderful photo they sent me. Raymond has glasses on and is standing up. His face is circled in red in the picture. When I showed the photo to my Father, he pointed out his brother very quickly saying "Good Lord, there is Raymond". What a blow it must have been to lose his brother so early on in life. His death was the first of many tragedies to strike the family. Today only my Father and I are left and we treasure each other.
Raymond, my father's brother at Clifton College Bristol in 1932. He was aged 10. 
I have to say that all the institutions my father was involved with, Clifton College, Selwyn College Cambridge and Bradford Grammar School, are bending over backwards to help with information and photos of my father. I am eternally grateful and I am including all the people helping me in the acknowledgement section of the  book. On Friday I reached 36.000 words pages which probably make a 200 page book.. You can't begin to imagine the journey I am on and how I am enjoying it. Sometimes it's very sad though and sometimes it's funny. A past pupil of my father's read the manuscript and told me it was both moving and entertaining. It is meant to be.

Selwyn College Cambridge sent me another photo for the book on Monday, this time of my father at matriculation in 1938. I could hardly recognise him but if you look carefully it is clear that it is him in the third row, second from the left.
My father - Selwyn College Cambridge matriculation photo 1938
My father is helping me with the biography by answering all sorts of questions I am throwing at him. I write questionnaires for him, print them out in huge font and then we talk at lunch or after lunch and he gives me his answers. On Monday I wanted to know about his father's and mother's families. I told him that when I was younger, I never listened. If only I had then I could have taped him. He used to talk about Uncle Tom and Uncle Will and cousins in Glasgow and I hadn't a clue who they were. On Monday he resolved a few of the mysteries. He told me he liked answering my questions and when would I be asking him more. Oh bless him. Of course I would be asking him more. He is a mine of information and has an amazing memory for dates. He told me for example the exact date of birth of his cousin Angela - the daughter of his mother's sister Gwendoline. I was flabbergasted. But when I asked about a certain "Uncle David" (David Collins Esquire) who had obtained a medal from the King of Siam in about 1888, he said that it was a bit difficult to remember things that had happened more than a hundred years ago! Indeed it is.

At the moment I am living and breathing his story but I also have a family and must record their lives in this blog too. Eladio always says this is not my blog but the family blog. He is right. Well that day, Suzy was singing in her new band called Chuchis Chuchis at the Opening Party held at the Bali Beat Guesthouse. It looked so much fun. Here is a close up of her with the microphone. Well done Suzy, your singing brings music to my ears. She has always sung very well and was often the soloist with her school choir but had stopped singing. I'm so glad she has started again. Well done darling.
Suzy singing again - it brings music to my ears
Oli couldn't have been further away. On Monday she was sent to the village of Nuevalos in Zaragoza, about 2.5h drive from Madrid. Once again she would be doing a report on a beautiful village with a spectacular waterfall. Here she is with a villager by the waterfall. It would be  a long day for her, traveling there, filming and driving back. The next day she would edit the report and we would see her on the evening programme on TV.
Oli filming on Monday in Nuevalos in the province of Zaragoza
Her programme does get her out and about and even though she is chauffeur driven, it must be rather tiring.

Apart from working on the biography, I also had a look at the clippings from the press conference last Friday for Adamo. I was bowled over to see we had garnered none less than 54 which is huge for not such breaking news. The equivalent in advertising spend would have come to 300.000 euros! I hope my customer is pleased.

There is not much more to say about Monday, so let's move onto Tuesday.

Tuesday 12th February would have been my dear brother George's 64th birthday, a date forever etched in my mind, just as the date of his death is, 15th May. I'm always sad on these days and Tuesday was no different. I posted on social media what I always think and which I reproduce here for you. "It would have been my dear brother George's birthday today. I can never forget him, my talented 6 ft. tall, blue eyed, blonde, handsome brother. He was an even better linguist than my parents, he could learn languages in no time and could play any musical instrument but was a very troubled boy.  I always feel so guilty I got all the luck and he got none. You died too young and we miss you always. My only consolation is that I carry you in my heart. God bless you today and every day RIP." My father and I both spoke about him that day, mentioning his birthday with a heaviness in our hearts.
My golden brother in the mid 70's. He died aged 46 of melanoma on 15th May 2001. RIP
I was much cheered up when I opened the post box to find a lovely personalised bar of Fazer chocolate from my dear friend Anne from Finland. It was to wish me happy friends' day. Apparently in Finland, St. Valentines is also celebrated as friends' day. This is it.
Chocolate from Anne arrived on Tuesday
It wasn't the only present I received that day.  A slip had arrived from Correos (Spanish postal service) and I had to pick up the parcel at the post office. The parcel was from my dear friend Jackie for my birthday. It was an excuse to go out and take a break from writing. As soon as I got in the car I opened it. I am delighted with the  woolen hat and mittens, "Desigual" style that my friend knitted for my birthday and that will be perfect for my walks. Thanks Jackie so much.
My present from Jacky
Apart from continuing with the book, having lunch with my father and Eladio, talking to my father in the afternoon about the past, going for our walk and having dinner, there is not much else to say about Tuesday either. Each to their own in our house and while I was concentrated on my affairs, Eladio was listening avidly to the beginning of the big trial of the Catalan separatists. It's apparently the biggest trial of its kind in recent Spanish history and there are 600 accredited journalists, 50 from abroad. Let's see how it turns out.

Wednesday came and it was another sunny day but I didn't go out apart from the walk. That day I spoke to an ebook publisher recommended to me. Mikel who is from Vitoria has assured me he can do the whole job in a question of days after receiving the manuscript. How easy it is to publish a book these days. Apart from the type setting, the design, etc, he will also upload it on  Amazon for kindle users. Next for publishing hard copies. I have a friend who is an editor, Javier, and he is going to help me. This is so exciting.  I added lots of funny anecdotes from the past related to my father. One of them stands out very clearly. My brother must have been about 12 when he asked my father to tell him the "facts of life". My father's answer; "get on with your German verbs". Of course it was my mother who told us the facts of life and that is another story too long to write here. If this elated period continues, once my father's book is finished, I may well start on hers  The great thing is to write when you have inspiration and I have a lot of that.  When we ended the conversation on the phone, Mikel, being Basque, ended it saying "agur" meaning goodbye!  No one has ever spoken to me in Basque:-)

Meanwhile in Spain all eyes were on two establishments. The first was parliament where the MP's were voting on the 2019 budget. It didn't go through as the separatists wouldn't back it. Without a budget , Pedro Sánchez had not much choice but to call general elections.

All eyes, both from Spain and abroad were also on the  Supreme Court on the second day of the trial of the Catalan separatists, accused of rebellion, among other crimes. Their trial has been criticised as a political one in Catalonia and outside Spain thanks to a very good PR job done internationally by the forces of independence. Spain's judicial system has been dubbed as undemocratic and the country's image has a lot to lose. It's rather ironic that countries around Europe who hardly allow separatist parties, call Spain undemocratic. Let me give you a few examples of their practices which are stricter than Spain's yet Spain is given the label of undemocratic while they are supposedly pillars of democracy. Wrong my friends, wrong. Spain is as democratic or more than most of them. The problem is we have the heritage of Franco's times which never goes away.  The UK for example suspended autonomy for Ulster at least 4 times and will never let the two Ireland's become one nation. Germany's politicians appoint judges, Germany refused a referendum in Bavaria because it is unconstitutional, Holland recently has a similar problem with a region that wants independence and the government took back its autonomy. In Belgium the judges are appointed by the King. In France, the only official language is French; no other language is allowed to be co-official in a region. But, as you see, the language oppressors are Spanish, not French. There are only 3 countries in the world that contemplate in their constitution the breaking up of a region to become independent. They are Liechtenstein, as if that could ever happen there, Ethiopia and the small Caribbean island of Saint Cristobal. Now do you call Spain undemocratic? I do wish the Spanish government could do a better job of defending its democracy vs the Catalan government who are doing a great job at tainting Spain's democracy in the eyes of the wold.

Enough of politics, not my favourite subject I can tell you but the Catalan issue sometimes gets my blood boiling as does Brexit.

The highlight of the day was our walk in glorious sunshine with the sheep in the distance. It was lovely to find a belated birthday card in the post box when I came home. It was from my new found friend, Joanna who is a teacher in Lancashire. We became friends when she was my Airbnb guest here in January. Her daughter, Elisa, who is on her Erasmus year here, would be coming to see us on Saturday because she wanted to meet our dogs and go for a walk with us. I looked forward to meeting her. Dog lovers are my favourite kind of people. It's funny too how her mother and I have made such friends. That's the beauty of Airbnb. 

Entertainment that night was an amazing documentary on some minor TV channel about a young woman in Alabama who gave birth to sextuplets! We stayed up to watch it until the very end. How on earth have they coped I wonder?

Thursday came and it was, yes, you guessed, St. Valentine's Day. It was to be  memorable day for me with a eureka moment which I will tell you about shortly.

I had a break with the biography and joined Eladio on a trip to buy honey. That may sound odd but if you don't know Eladio, honey is his favourite sweet food. He only likes the purest kind, not to be found in supermarkets. We usually buy it near Montrondo but had run out. He found a small shop in Las Rozas specializing in pure honey and off we went. It took us a while to findt but eventually we did. Eladio bought 5 huge jars. I bought a can of excellent olive oil. On our way home we went to the new BM supermarket to stock up on oranges and some fruit and veg as we didn't go to the open market in Villaviciosa this week.

I came home to continue with the biography. I was nearly at the end but I had  a couple of blanks or more on my father's ancestors. Who was his father's mother and who was a mysterious "Uncle David" or David John Collins who had been awarded the order of the white elephant from the King of Siam in 1897? My Father had always told us about his medals but I had never listened and he could no longer remember. . However I wanted to persevere. and among his things was one of the medals and a few parchments related to the them as well as a very interesting letter from the said Uncle David including a reference to Lord Salisbury.  I suspected he was the brother of the mother of my Grandfather whose middle name was Collins.

Meanwhile, my dear friend and my parents' ex pupil, Andrew D had written to me telling me he wanted to do a family tree of my mother for my father's 100th. I was very grateful but said right now I was concentrating on my father's biography and would he please do a tree of my father's family instead. He set about it immediately.

In about half an hour he had found out so many things I was dumbstruck. He used sites such as ancestry.com and find my past. Soon he was constructing the said tree. He found out in no time that my father's paternal grandmother was called Marian Margaret Collins who was born in the Raj, Delhi in 1862 and that her parents were Irish, John from Tralee and Sarah from Celbridge. Wow, so I have Irish great great grandparents. Would that warrant me being able to get an Irish passport I wondered with Brexit blooming? He found many more of my father's ancestors and has now become my official genealogist for the biography. The tree is growing and as I write has 284 people in it, 95 photos and 110 public records. I am so impressed and grateful. I could never have done this alone. 
The beginnings of our family tree
I also asked him to find the certain David John Collins, the  uncle of my father's who had won a medal in former Siam. In no time   Andy actually traced him  and found out  he found out was the sister of Marian Margaret Collins, my father's grandmother. Thus Uncle David was my father's great uncle. He even traced a mention to the Order of the White Elephant bestowed on him by the King of Siam and sent me a clipping from the London Gazette which you can read below. The Queen mentioned in the clipping is none other than Queen Victoria. 
Reference to the mysterious David John Collins and his white elephant medals from the King of Siam (now Thailand)
Finally the mystery of Uncle David's white elephant medals from Siam (Thailand) was solved.

That was my eureka moment on St. Valentine's day. 

Another eureka moment came when Andy also found out the name of the town of the first parish where my grandfather, Revd. John Collins Lloyd first became a curate after entering Holy Orders.  He was from Anglesey and it was in a town, also in Wales in Llanfairpwl. The real name is impossibly long and unpronounceable.  It is officially called: Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch.  I looked it up and found out it is the longest place name in Europe and the second longest in the world. It means, by the way; St. Mary's Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near a Rapid Whirlpool. I had always thought my grandfather's first parish was in Shrewsbury but on Wednesday I learned it was in this long named town in Wales. What a find. It must have been here he needed his Welsh bible, the one we have at home.

I told my father all this at lunchtime and he was pretty amazed. . In the morning I had written out a new set of questions to ask my father at lunch to add to his biography.  After lunch I said "I'm sorry Daddy for badgering you with all these questions. He replied "oh, not at all, I like being badgered" bless him. Later he asked me if I had any more questions? I do so love him.

Meanwhile, it being Valentine's Day, Olivia had been sent by her programme to do a report on the largest red rose green house in Europe where they cultivate the most prized rose in the world, the Red Naomi. It is located in the town of Garray in the province of Soria. It must have smelled lovely. I asked her to bring me some back as I didn't get any flowers from my husband for St. Valentines. I never do.
Oli at the biggest red rose green house in Europe on St .Valentines Day - Garray in Soria
My husband didn't buy me flowers, but he did take me out to dinner. We went happily to one of our favourite restaurants, La Txitxarrería (try and pronounce that hahaha) where we were welcomed and ushered to our usual table. We spoke about our girls, our love, our lives and I spoke to him a lot about my memories as a girl living in Yorkshire. My mind is on those memories so much after writing my father's book which has become a passion. I'm such a passionate person aren't I?

Eladio is encouraging me and but doesn't get so excited. When I heard it seems that the said Uncle David is buried in the protestant cemetery in Bangkok, I told him we must visit it. He laughed out loud saying what interest could there be in going so far to see the tomb of such a distant relative? Well, I suppose it does sound crazy, yet it doesn't to me. I don't think we'll ever go but I'd love to.

We came home to see Andy our lodger having dinner in the kitchen. I opened Anne's St. Valentine's Fazer chocolate and we all had a piece, well I had two pieces actually. Alba and Javier, my weekly guests had arrived but I didn't see them.

It was difficult to sleep as I was all revved up with Andy's findings and on Thursday woke up at 5 in the morning. I promptly got up, fed the dogs, had a quick breakfast and returned to my desk to continue my work.

Friday came and Andy unraveled more mysteries. I needed the maiden name of my Father's maternal grandmother, known to him as Bessy Scull. She turned out to be Elizabeth Walters. It's amazing the job Andy is doing and I am so grateful. He still has to unearth a few more people - he is going back to the early 1800's but one person I needed him to find is alive. She is my Father's cousin Angela, born to his mother's sister Gwendoline. I have a vested interest in knowing where she lives as apparently she has included a grandfather clock in her will for me. He finally traced her and she is still alive but must be 95 or so. I shall be writing to her soon.

I took a break from the biography to have a long whatsapp video call with Suzy. Eladio joined and it was lovely to see her even if she is so far. We talked about her coming home for the summer and she is. She also promised to join me at this year's cousinade in France. I do hope Oli can come too.  Apart from her lessons, she has taken to singing as I wrote above. Well that day she sent us the most divine photo of her singing with her heart and soul.  Isn't she just marvelous?
Suzy singing with her band, singing with her heart and soul. Love her.
Meanwhile Oli was filming for report on the last pig in Spain able to smell and find truffle. Amazing. I'm dying to see the report. She does have to cover a variety of subjects, hahaha.

The big news in Spain on Friday was that Pedro Sánchez the incumbent PM who took office last June did call for General Elections. After losing support for the budget for 2019 and problems with the Catalan issue, he has had no other option. The elections will be on 28th April. I am sure the outcome will be a coalition government of the right formed by PP, Ciudadanos and the ultra right wing party VOX. This is all down to mathematics. No doubt Pedro Sanchez socialist party the PSOE will win overall but won't get enough seats, even counting the other left wing parties, to govern. And no doubt too the Catalans will regret not having backed his budget as Spain will be ruled by the right wing parties who will stand no nonsense from them. But that was their decision. 

Believe it or not I finished(or thought I had finished) the biography on Friday afternoon and sent off the final manuscript to my friend and editor, Amanda. I can't believe I have actually written a book. I feel elated and very excited. Now I am wondering what people's reactions will be. My final manuscript is only the beginning of what will be an arduous journey with lots of editing, type setting, etc but the most important job is done; the writing of the full content. 

The rest of the day finished as usual, walk, dinner and bed and boy was I tired after finishing the biography and having got up at 5 in the morning.

Saturday came and I realised I had abandoned a lot of my duties. First I had to do my French homework - the damned subjunctive - which took me an hour. Then I had to rush out with Eladio to get some food for lunch and come back to prepare it and then be ready for the lesson.  I saw Oli briefly during the lesson but sadly she didn't stay for lunch. 

In the afternoon I was helping Andy with information for the family tree and meanwhile my new found Airbn friend, Joanna, a teacher of French and Spanish by the way, was in Anglesey where my grandfather was born. She was visiting her sister who lives there. Joanna is very interested in my father's story, so interested that she even went to visit his old home in Holyhead on 19 Aldersley Terrace that day. As the house is on sale, she was able to go in. She described it to me later as a large 5 bedroom 3 story house with lots of original fixtures, such as the tiles and the banister.  The house has views of the sea and the ferry terminal where my great grandfather William Fox Lloyd worked and is a short walk to the beach. She sent me lots of photos. This is just one. I shall have to visit Anglesey too one day. Maybe this summer?
My grandfather's old house in Anglesey which Joanna went to visit on Saturday
While Joanna was in Anglesey visiting my grandfather's house and surroundings, her daughter Elisa came to join us for our walk. It's a small world isn't it? Her daughter is doing her Erasmus year at the local University. She's a great lover of dogs and walks and so wanted to meet us and join us on our walks. 
Elisa on the walk with us and the dogs on Saturday
She's a lovely girl from just outside Manchester with a slight Lancashire accent and is warm and welcoming as most people are from the north of England. We got on like a house on fire and chatted non stop from beginning to end. Poor Eladio was left completely abandoned.  The walk with Elisa was a great end to the week and I hope she comes again.

Today is Sunday and I have come to the end of the tales of my week. I said at the beginning that it wasn't as exciting as the week before but I was wrong. It was one of the most exciting weeks in my life, the week I finished writing a book!!!

So my friends, I must leave you now to get on with the day which, although is Sunday, promises to be busy.

Tara then for now and until next week. 
("Tara is Welsh for goodbye but it is also used in the north of England, at least I remember it being used there from my years in Yorkshire).


Saturday, February 09, 2019

Long lost letters from my brother George, more photos from the past, shopping spree, Orbaneja del Castillo, a press conference, my birthday and other tales of the week.

Sunday 10th February, 2019

62 this week and who cares? It's only a number but with wrinkles.
Good morning friends and readers.

It's been a busy week and also my birthday. Last Sunday was quiet. I  literally spent the whole morning writing a difficult press release about financing for one of my customers. However, I was free in the afternoon and we went on another cold walk.

I continued editing and updating my Father's biography which I sort of finished that day. That's not quite true as I keep adding things. While rummaging through old photos, documents etc,  I came across letters from my brother George to me when we were young - he died aged 46 of melanoma - and they were lovely to read.
My good looking brother, George, in the mid 70's. 
At the time he was studying Latin American Studies at Portsmouth Polytechnic and I was studying Hispanic Studies at Nottingham University. The letters are lovely, all about his various girlfriends - he was so good looking - and his student life. In one of them he tells me he loves me. I think there are more, I must search and read every one of them. They were a lovely discovery as I didn't know they existed.

For the records, here is one of them. He wrote it to me when I was living in Madrid in 1979, as part of my studies.
Page 1 of a letter from my brother George written in 1979,
Page 2 of George's letter
I will cherish them forever.

The day ended watching an interview on the Spanish programme, Salvados, with Nicolas Maduro. The next day, Spain and other countries in Europe would recognize Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's President which would have its consequences. Donald Trump was saying that intervention in the country was "on the table" and Maduro would say the country was ready to fight. Will this be another Vietnam? I sincerely hope not.

Monday came and it was busy too. I did the fruit and veg shopping, quite a task as you will appreciate when you see the photo below hahaha. Hopefully it would last us the week.
The fruit and veg I got  at the Villaviciosa de Odón market on Monday
I spent the rest of the morning working on preparations for the Adamo press conference breakfast which would take place on Friday. With just a week to prepare it there was lots of work to be done. 

I had a break though to talk to my darling daughter Suzy who is living in Bali. Here are two great photo of her singing. She sings in a band she has created called "Los Chuchis". You can follow them on Instagram where they are called "Chuchis Chuchis".
Suzy singing with her band and looking happy

Suzy with her band, Los Chuchis

In the afternoon we went on a lovely brisk walk with the dogs in brilliant sunshine. The storms seem to have receded in Spain thank goodness. This week for example Santa Pola would experience 23ºc. I would have loved to have gone there but was stuck at home with my work.

Editing my father's biography, I also found yet more photos of his past and our past too. They came from the family album which I had been looking for in the past few weeks. Finally I found it on Monday. Here are some of the lovely photos. It made me so sad to see that only my Father and I are left now. It's very emotional.
My Father in Norway after the war

My Father at Cambridge

Teaching spies in Cambridge. My Father is on the front row wearing his school cricket jumper which he still wears today!

My parents on their engagement

Our house in Ruskington in Lincolnshire

George and I with Mummy and her pigs in Ruskington, probably in about 1961

My Grandfather with his children, my Father Courtenay (right), his brother Raymond and little sister Gloria. Henbury Bristol, probably about 1929.
The new Vicarage in Henbury, Bristol, built especially for my Grandfather and his family when they moved there in the 20's. Sadly it was burnt by vandals this last summer, 2018.


Later after a dinner full of vegetables and fruit, off we went to bed to watch the news - all about Venezuela. We later watched a film by Woody Allen (horrible man) called Irrational Man. I fell asleep. I have never really liked his films, apart from Match Point.

Tuesday came.  I spent more or less the whole day again on preparations for the press conference on Friday and it really felt like being back to work like in the old times. I don't think I could stand that rhythm every day of my life now as I have reached 62. I think I have the perfect work life balance now.

I was all dressed up ready to go out for lunch with my friends Julio and Fátima and then realised the lunch date was for Wednesday, not Tuesday hahaha. That was actually good as I was able to finish most of my work preparations.

There was no siesta and news that day but there was a walk with Eladio and the dogs. There was no need for Pippa to wear her jumper as the sun was shining and the cold spell is now over.
Pippa ready for her walk on Tuesday
What would we do without our walks? It was a glorious day and we started talking about plans for next week to celebrate St. Valentine's Day at Eladio's suggestion. Sure we will. We are even thinking of going to our pad by the beach at Santa Pola, depending on the weather but maybe have to leave that until the following week.

Dinner was omelet with spinach and asparagus from the huge amount of veg I bought on Monday and it was delicious. The news that night was centred again on Venezuela and back here on the 16 day taxi strike in Madrid which thankfully ended that day. The taxi drivers and the local government are at stalemate in their negotiations and the former say they will battle on. They do not have the support of the public at large after their violent behaviour and they don't have mine.

Wednesday would see me in Madrid and what a lovely day I would have and above all a change in routine. I had to go into town to visit EQT's offices, the Investment Fund company that owns the majority of my customer Adamo, to check them out for Friday's press conference. I decided that once in Madrid I would go  to see the girls from my events agency, QuintaEsencia, Cristina, Gloria and Bea who are sisters by the way. I have known them for probably more than 20 years and we are more friends than work colleagues. Apart from events, they also have a new sideline business, selling lovely things called Qrabbit which now includes clothes. Cristina is the one who started the clothes side of the business and as I love her style, similar to mine, had seen some of the stuff on Instagram, and decided clothes from their range would be my birthday present. It was to their offices in Calle Lagasca that I went first as I had all  morning to visit EQT, after which I had a lunch appointment in the same area, the very swanky Serrano neighbourhood.

It was great to see the girls again but I was sorry for them when they showed me the result of a fallen false ceiling and flooding on their show room. It looked like a bomb had hit it. Thankfully insurance will cover the costs but not the inconvenience. Thus they had the clothes in their main meeting room. Here I spied all the items I wanted to try on and I bought every one of them. You can too if you go to see them at Lagasca number 33 or to their website here.

As I was trying everything on, in came Bea. She was wearing the same tartan coat I was trying on. Here we are, what a laugh.
Bea and I in the same tartan coat. 
It's typically oversize so looks a bit big on me. When I tried it on for Eladio he asked whether I had bought a dressing gown, hahaha. That's maybe  because I bought him some pyjamas in the same red tartan and I have a similar pair too. You probably have guessed by now that I love tartan. Actually, I have quite a few red tartan garments: trousers, a jacket, the pyjamas, a short Zara coat and now this one. I even spotted some red tartan shoes in a shop nearby later but resisted as they cost 200 euros, more than I spent on all the clothing I got at Qrabit hahaha.

I bought 5 garments, including a rain coat in a tartan, but not red this time . Later in the evening when I got home, I tried everything on and got Eladio to take photos of his presents for me (hahahaha) I shouldn't have as the clothes were for my birthday on Friday but I couldn't resist. Here is a little fashion show for you  of the other garments I got, including a lovely tartan raincoat.



Clothes from my shopping spree at QRabit for my birthday.
Don't you just love the pink fur denim jacket? I think it's my favourite as well as the pink jumper. While there I also bought a birthday present for my friend Fátima with whom I would have lunch afterwards with our other friend Julio to celebrate our birthdays, both hers and mine. I chose the tartan rain coat which was a huge success.

It was great trying on the clothes and being with the girls, catching up on each other's lives, but I was interrupted constantly by work related messages, mails, etc which made my time at QuintaEsencia a little stressful.

After the wonderful shopping spree, I went to see EQT's offices, accompanied by two of QuintaEsencia's account managers as I would need their assistance at the press conference on Friday. Located around the corner from Calle Serrano (Madrid's Bond Street) they are very Swedish and swish. I knew their main board room would be perfect for our event as soon as I saw it.

After the visit, the morning was nearly over and I had just 30 minutes to spare before meeting Julio and Fátima at a lovely but expensive restaurant, Paraguas on Calle Jorge Juan. So I sat in the sun on Calle Serrano, opposite Plaza de Colón and diagonally opposite the National Library. It was such a lovely moment, a moment to myself in town, after a successful shopping spree and feeling as free as a bird. I checked in at home, ringing Eladio, made a few work related phone calls and then walked at my leisure to the restaurant.

My friends were on time and we had a divine lunch. We chatted non stop so I forgot to take photos unfortunately. We left at around 4 pm; yes Spanish lunches start and end late:-) and after saying goodbye to Julio, I took Fátima to QuintaEsencia to pick up my clothes and also for her to have a look. She has a different style so was not so bowled over but did buy a garment for her daughter. My friend  then drove me to my car at the Metro Station, Colonia Jardin and we both agreed we must go into town together more often. I was home by about 5.30, not too late for my walk but I had to cancel it because of work. I think I was at my desk until 8 pm when it was time for dinner.

Meanwhile Oli was in a lovely little village in Burgos called Orbanejo del Castillo. It is apparently the second most popular village to visit in Spain. And I'd never heard of it. Now I have. That day, Oli was preparing a report for TV which would be broadcast on Friday. Here she is with Miguel by the famous waterfall in the village which is what makes it so attractive.
Orbaneja del Castillo - Oli and Miguel by the famous waterfall.
That night Real Madrid were playing Barcelona in a so called "Clásico" at the Camp Nou in the final stages of the Copa del Rey. Eladio watched it while I read. It ended in a draw 1-1 and we will have to wait to the second round to see who goes through to the final. I'm not really into the Copa del Real, far preferring international championships.

My current book? Well about WW2 again of course, this time the biography of one of Churchill's secretaries, Elizabeth Nell. Called "Winston Churchill by his personal Secretary, I am reading it for the second time and am loving every minute of it because you get to see the man as he was right up close. What amazing times.

Thursday came and I had just one day before "D Day", my press conference. It just would have to coincide with my birthday once again. This is the 3rd year in a row I've had to organise a press conference on my birthday  - not fair hahaha.

What a busy day it was. I worked frantically on preparations for the press conference and a bit frustratingly too as there were so many people involved and too many emails and people weren't answering and when they were I had to reply on my phone. It's because I use gmail which is so inferior to outlook. Anyway, all would be well on the day, Friday morning.

That morning, Bradford Grammar School, in preparations for an article in their magazine, The Bradfordian, on the occasion of my Father's upcoming 100th birthday sent me his mugshot. That is his photo which hangs on the walls outside the school common room along with other past masters. Teachers at the school, commonly known as "BGS" are always called masters and wear their University gowns.  This is the photo which must have been taken the year he retired as he signs it. He looks very stern but I promise it's only the exterior. Underneath is the nicest and most gentle man, in both senses, in the world. I showed it to him and he smiled. 
My Father's mug shot still hanging on the walls outside the Common Room at Bradford Grammar School
I must say the photo took me back a bit, as in back to memory lane and I was delighted to have it. 
Oli preparing her report for TVE1 in the village in Burgos
I was too busy on Thursday to see Olivia on TV where she was preparing her report. Here is a shot of her on camera interviewing the local people. Amazingly, this tiny village, receives some 4000 people in a day in the high season.  Later though it was posted on social media and  I was able to see it. You can too on this link.

I managed to go on our walk with Eladio and the dogs in between working but throughout the walk I was on my phone answering emails and when I got back at about 7 pm, I had to sit down at my desk and carry on until 10 pm at night. I do wish everything could have been arranged, prepared and ready to go a few days ago rather than at the very last minute. I felt pretty stressed. Finally I sat down to dinner with Eladio at 10 pm and even after that had to make a phone call. 

I didn't get to bed until really late and then found it difficult to sleep I was so worked up and my head full of the day's work and what lay ahead. We watched some documentary on the Pyramids and then one on the Crusades which I found fascinating. Thus I switched off the light really late.

I was awake and roaring to go on Friday morning at 5 damned 30 in the morning, far too early. However, wide awake by then, I got up and began my day. It was lovely to see already some birthday greetings on Facebook. They would continue throughout the day. I love Facebook on my birthday:-) I would be swamped with them. 

Javi and Alba, my Airbnb student guests had arrived during the night and I wouldn't see them until the next day. January has been very quiet and February too so far but thankfully I have them coming nearly every week and of course Andy our permanent lodger. 

Birthday greetings were coming all the time. However, I couldn't concentrate much on my big day as I would be busy all morning. I had the Adamo press conference that morning at EQT's offices in Madrid and could only concentrate on that. There were so many details to attend to even once I got there. It was starting at 11, but blow me, at 8 in the morning I found out Expansión - Spain's top financial newspaper - had given the game away. Through their sources in the financial sector they leaked the news. The news was Adamo had closed a financing deal of 100 million euros to further expand its network in rural Spain to reach 1 million homes. Damn it, if Expansión had already published it that would put off other journalists covering the story. In normal circumstances they probably wouldn't attend. But they did, apart from one whose editor wouldn't let him go,  as they are faithful to me and I was very grateful. I was also very happy that day to see my old boss from Yoigo, its ex CEO, the charismatic Swede Johan A who is actually Adamo's President. Here I am with him and 3 of the most senior and veteran reporters in the telecoms sector. Love the photo. It felt like old times and I was so glad I hadn't lost my touch in getting reporters to come to my press conferences and then publish the news.
With Johan and 3 veteran and well loved and respected reporters: Ana, Nacho and Miguel Angel
All the reporters knew it was my birthday and we took a photo together before the press conference began - very unorthodox for press conferences but that is how mine are. They sort of feel like a party and everyone feels at home.
With my 2 Swedish bosses, Johan and Fredrik and all my faithful journalists at Friday's press conference
The news was interesting for them and needless to say they would all publish the story. I spent the rest of the day monitoring all that was being published and frankly couldn't keep up with it as there was so much news. On Monday I should get a report from my press clipping agency, JP Media, but I already know I will have probably beaten a record for number of clippings.

I was on a big high and once it was over it was time to pack up, close my PC down, say goodbye to my Swedish bosses Johan and Fredrik who are just great to work with and leave feeling very happy for a job well done and for which they congratulated me. This may sound like boasting but it has been a year since I have held a national press conference and I'm always worried I'll lose my touch. But I haven't yet.

In the taxi home, my phone was full of messages from all the diverse media available to us and I could hardly keep up to. However, there was one particular email that made me very happy. It was from Clifton College Bristol where my Father and his brother Raymond went to school. They had unearthed his school photo from his file and this is it. I was delighted to see it and later showed it to my Father.
The file on my Father from his time at Clifton College Bristol. The photo is from 1933 when he was just 14. He was at North Tower, the day boy's tower.
They also included a photo of him and all his "chums" from North Tower, Clifton College, one of the day boys' towers. I must have it enlarged and printed. He was a very good looking boy. See if you can spot him in the photo.
My Father at Clifton College Bristol, his school. 1933.
I was home on time for lunch. I showed these photos excitedly to my Father who was rather surprised. I then told him what a fascinating life I thought he had. His reply was lovely "quite an enjoyable one I think".

We had a normal non birthday food lunch as I wasn't there to prepare it. But of course there was mabirthday cake, my favourite. Made with fruit, sponge and white chocolate it comes from Alveran, a bakery nearby.  You can see it in the photo at the top of this blog where I am about to blow out the candles. That is when I opened my presents, the clothes I had bought hahaha. I tried them on for all to see and they were met with approval.

Later I should have slept a siesta but was too revved up to sleep. I was also seeing and replying to all the amazing and countless birthday wishes. There were so many I couldn't keep up.

We went for our walk of course which was much needed after all that cake. I came home to find a beautiful plant on my desk. It was from Andy, our lovely Scottish lodger for my birthday. I was very touched.

That night we went out to dinner too, as we would on Saturday night. Friday night was just the 2 of us and we went to Ginos where I gobbled down a huge pizza, well not all of it. Talking about the biography of my Father we ended up talking about my dear brother George who died too young in 2001 and as ever I ended up crying. I carry him in my heart always. I was too sad to have my dessert which is saying something as I always have one when I got out to dinner.

Once home I calmed down and treated myself to a piece of chocolate. I also met my 2 lovely student guests, Alba and Javi and chatted to them for a while. They are the best type of guests.

We were in bed later than normal and thankfully I slept better than usual, although I woke up at 5.59 and got up early as always.

On Saturday my birthday celebrations would continue. It started with the birthday breakfast that didn't happen on the day because of the press conference. This year it was just the three of us, Daddy (my father), Eladio and I. I did miss not having the girls with us. Here is what the table looked like before my father and I gobbled down all the pastries. Eladio doesn't like them. He doesn't have the sweet tooth we do hahaha.
The table in the dining room laid for my birthday breakfast yesterday
Late I spent the whole morning updating the biography. I keep asking him for more information about his life, information I wish I had asked before. The poor man is being bombarded by me with so many questions. Then I keep adding gems from memories from some of his old boys. David Whitlam, turning 60 this year, who studied Russian at Oxford and was my father's star pupil, paid a beautiful tribute to his ex teacher on Facebook which, if you haven't seen it, I have to reproduce here. It's so moving. He used the lovely photo of my father which is reproduced above, of when he was just 13 at Clifton College Bristol, his old school. Here is the marvelous tribute.

"I owe this amazing man so much.  Courtenay Lloyd, my Russian, French and Swedish teacher at Bradford Grammar School. You advised me to go to University College, Oxford for Russian in 1978. You will be 100 years old this year. You made my life. Thank you Masha for sharing this photo of your wonderful dad, I owe you a lot, "Clarence" (his nickname at BGS). Thanks too Masha for this lovely reminder of your dad's centenary. It's huge for little me".

I was very moved. Other old boys started commenting on David's post and one post I have to reproduce here as it is so funny. You see my father is not the saint I always paint him, but only sometimes and when it is deserved. Julian Michael K replied to David's moving tribute: "He was a great teacher. Not afraid of using unconventional tactics, such as calling me a "filthy idle swine" which is probably about right". I was shocked and asked what had provoked my father to utter such words from his gentlemanly mouth. Julian explained: "I rashly admitted I probably performed best with a boot up my backside. He did look a bit self-conscious about delivering said boot". I replied, laughingly, that he, Julian, had deserved the words my father delivered. I hope that made you laugh. I just can't imagine my father saying those words hahaha. He was a very even tempered person but when he got angry which was very seldom, woe betide the person at the receiving end. I was often on it as a naughty teenager hahaha.

At lunch, I asked my father more about his early years and got more gems of information which had me updating his biography again in the afternoon. Thus there was no siesta. But there was a walk with Eladio and the dogs and the weather was glorious. We went quite late and saw later that it only gets dark now at around 7 pm. We weren't the only creatures on the walk, the herd of sheep was all over the fields near the path but thankfully there were no sheep dogs to shoo us away.
Sheep on our walk yesterday
Once home, it was time to go out again. We were taking Olivia and Miguel to celebrate my birthday at De Maria in Majadahonda, the stalking grounds of many of the players and staff of the Atlético de Madrid football club. The meal was divine and it was nice to catch up with my daughter who I hadn't seen all week. It was a nice end to what has been a frenetic, busy but a great week with the highlights being the successful press conference and my birthday of course.

Today is Sunday and the sun is shining. I am now at the end of the tales of this week and will love you now and leave you to get on with the day. I hope you have enjoyed this post.

Until next week my friends,
Masha



Saturday, February 02, 2019

Montrondo in January, finally some snow, polar vortex in the USA, home again, stories and photos of my Father's life, and other tales.

Sunday 3rd February 2019

In Montrondo this week where it snowed but not as much as I had hoped.
Hello again friends and readers.

Gosh it's already February. How time flies but thankfully January is behind us. It's not my favourite month.

Last Sunday found us in Montrondo. We had come for a break and would stay until Thursday, Lucy's last day with us. We woke up to a thin coat of snow after a light snow fall the night before. We had expected much more  but it was not to be.
Snow on Sunday in Montrondo
It was cold and blustery outside and it carried on snowing but the snow flakes were tiny so it never settled. Thus we stayed indoors in the morning and had a very lazy day overall. Here is Eladio lying on the sofa after breakfast with the fire on and Pippa on his lap.
Eladio enjoying the comfort of our house in Montrondo while it was snowing outside last Sunday
We spent most of the morning watching our latest series, El Embarcadero on Movistar Plus on my iPad Pro. Our silly Ikea smart TV, an Uppleva which I regret buying, doesn't have this app so we had to make do with the iPad which was fine really. 

I only stopped to make lunch - roast chicken legs with jacket potatoes and a bit of the left over blue, purple or red cabbage hahaha. 

We had a lazy siesta when I read - another story of a female spy with the French resistance during WW2, "Nancy Wake, SOE's Greatest Heroine". It was quite a suitable story to read that day which was International Holocaust Remembrance Day - the day of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. That's not so long ago and we must never forget. There are people who don't believe it happened but it did and there is plenty of macabre evidence to prove it.

Later we wrapped up well - me with 4 layers - Pippa included, dared the elements and went on a long walk to Murias, to the end of the village and back. 
On our cold, snowy and blustery walk last Sunday
It snowed lightly as we walked but we were thankful for the bracing air after having been inside all day. I was delighted to see "my horses" again - the dappled ones, looking so beautiful in their field. I only wished I had brought some sugar cubes or bread to feed them.
Horses in the fields near Montrondo
I adore horses and always have although I never learned to ride. It was considered a very expensive sport when I was a child and I envied my friends who went riding.  I think horses are the most beautiful and  noble of all domestic animals. With the horses was one lone pony and a very friendly one at that. It came towards me and let me stroke it to my heart's content. It was so clean and beautiful I would have spent more time with it but Pippa was getting anxious and Eladio was getting cold. Here I am in my element with the friendly pony.
With "my little pony". Isn't it lovely?
We came home to watch the end of Season 1 of El Embarcadero. It ends on a cliff hanger which is very frustrating and we shall now have to wait for months and months until Season 2 comes out.

We had a luxurious dinner of giant prawns and salad and then watched the news and a political interview which was so boring I fell asleep in front of the fire. It was early to bed again that night at about 10.30.

Amazingly I woke up "late" for me on Monday morning at 7.15. It was cold again and all traces of snow had gone. We would have all the weathers on Monday and on Tuesday; snow, sun, wind, rain and sleet. I spent most of the day writing my Father's biography. I more or less finished it that day but would continue editing it during my stay here and am still adding more information to it as well as photos.  Once home I dug out photos to illustrate it which was very interesting if time consuming.  . His life story is really quite extraordinary although, being the modest man he is, I know he thinks it is quite ordinary but it is not. I have entitled it: "The unknown story of Charles Courtenay Lloyd, WW2 veteran who contributed to the Liberation of Norway, was an intelligence officer in the Allied Control Commission in Germany, a Selwyn College Cambridge graduate and teacher of spies in the Cold War who married a Russian princess and taught modern languages at Bradford Grammar School and who turns 100 on 1st May 2019".  I trust it will make interesting reading for his old school, University and hopefully the media.  This is the photo I have chosen to illustrate his biography. It sums up his positive attitude in life and how he enjoys the small things that give us pleasure, like drinking a glass of Rioja with his meals.  The photo was taken when his ex pupil Simon H, an art critic who lives in Geneva, came to visit him 2 years ago.
 
My Father enjoying life in Spain

I only stopped for lunch. Being away from home, I was not on a diet in Montrondo and that day we enjoyed a plate of fish and chips!

In the afternoon I went for a walk with Pippa. Eladio preferred to stay at home by the fire saying it was too cold outside. Actually it wasn't although it was pretty blustery. I did not see a soul on my walk. In fact until that afternoon I hadn't seen one of the villagers. My neighbour, Salo was away on holiday in Buenos Aires and it seemed the rest of the small group of villagers were indoors. I did see Manolita though that afternoon and it was nice to chat and catch up for a while.

I came home to watch Olivia on TV with Eladio. That day she was in Zaragoza covering the news of the flooding of the River Ebro. Here she is reporting live. Even though she has been working for TV for about 10 years now, I still get a thrill from watching her. I suppose that is normal if you are a Mother.
Oli reporting from Zaragoza on Monday evening on the flooding of the River Ebro in Zaragoza
Spain has been hit by a storm called Gabriel and there has been lots of flooding and freak weather mostly in the north of Spain. They are calling it that fashionable term "explosive cyclogenesis" which I don't quite understand.  I suppose though, that is why we had such strange weather in Montrondo. Later Storm Helena would replace Gabriel. 

We had a quite dinner and watched the news - mostly about the taxi driver strike in Madrid and the situation in Venezuela. Again we went to bed early.

Tuesday came and it was raining and would do so all morning. It was a dark and gloomy day and a day to stay indoors.
It was a dark, wet and gloomy day in Montrondo on Tuesday.
In fact I did stay indoors most of the day, skipping my walk. The bad weather didn't seem to bother the cows I saw visiting the field behind our house. I saw them grazing in the sleet and wind and felt rather sorry for them.
Cows grazing in the sleet in the fields behind our house on Tuesday afternoon
In the afternoon Manolita invited me over for coffee. Josefa, another villager, was there and we had a great chinwag over coffee and delicious biscuits and chocolates for a good hour or two. It was lovely to catch up. This area of Spain is very rural and sparsely populated, yet Manolita who lives alone lives a very full life. She goes to gym classes once a week, walks nearly every day, takes part in a theater group and travels extensively in Spain at least once a year. She is definitely the heart and soul of the village.

I wasn't at all hungry for dinner but of course we ended up eating again - salad with something and then sprawled on the sofa to watch the news. Oli wasn't on TV that day as she given time off after travelling to and from Zaragoza where she covered the news of the flooding of the Ebro River.

That night we switched off the light quite late after watching a disturbing documentary about religious sects in the USA that are against medical care. Believers are covered by law and not obliged to take their children to a doctor when they are ill. Healing apparently can only come from prayer and through God. That sounds great but it isn't because many many children and adults have died because of this belief. This is taking freedom to unacceptable extremes. America is rather a strange country is all I can say after seeing the documentary.

Wednesday was our last full day in Montrondo and we would enjoy it immensely. Our there was quiet and relaxing. Above all I was finally able to write and nearly   the biography of my Father which was pretty impossible to do at home with so many interruptions. I shared it with my oldest friend from St. Josephs (my school) Amanda. I wanted her feedback and some corrections. I loved her reaction which was so positive. She told me it brought back so many memories of our childhood, after all she had lived through most of them from the time we met as children aged 11 at school. I do miss my oldest and best friend who I haven't seen for so long.

That morning we woke up to sunshine; amazing. I prepared our lunch, a Spanish warm winter dish called "fabada"  which is really a butter bean stew. It took over 2 hours to cook but was well worth the time as it was just delicious.
Bean stew, a sort of "fabada"
Once it was ready, we went off for our walk at about midday. It was very frosty and there was a sprinkling of snow on the ground but not much. We met no one on our walk, not even my horses and pony which were high up on the hills behind Murias de Paredes. The photo illustrating this week's post is of me  on the old path from Montrondo. I needed one for this blog and Eladio obliged. Of course I had to have Pippa with me. She was well wrapped up in her red jumper as you can see in the picture below.
Eladio and little Pippa on our walk on Wednesday morning
We came back feeling refreshed and also hungry and we ate the stew with gusto while we watched the lunch time news. Tension is rising in Venezuela and things are not looking good. In Madrid the taxi strike continued with no solution yet.

Just as we were finishing lunch, snow began to fall in Montrondo and Eladio who knows, said that it was a proper snow fall. It was and it continued snowing until about 9 pm. Joy of joys. You are probably wondering why I like snow so much. I think the answer resides in my childhood in Yorkshire where I lived with my family in Bradford from the age of 7 in 1964 until I left for University aged 18. We had lots of snow in the winter and it always meant either no school which was great or going sledging with my brother and friends. We used to get massive snow falls, so much so the buses couldn't run. Thankfully, or not thankfully, we lived near enough for me to walk to school. Once it snowed  a lot and I got to school hoping they would announce it was to close and send us home. But they didn't. Thus I took matters in my own hands  - I was a very naughty girl in those days - and spread the rumour we had been told to go home. Thus the girls began to leave walking up Cunliffe Road to Manningham Lane, me leading them, while our teachers Mrs. Russel Jones and Mrs Plunket Jones could be heard crying: "girls come back, girls come back" but it was too late we had all gone by the then and weren't coming back. I think they never found out that I was the instigator of the prank and all thanks to the snow hahaha.

It carried on snowing and at around 5.30 Manolita sent me a whatsapp to tell me to meet at Josefa's house for coffee for another lovely natter with our neighbours here. Eladio preferred to stay behind reading his book about the beginnings of the Spanish Civil War. I wrapped up well and delightedly stepped outside into the snow and everything looked so beautiful, white and peaceful and I had to take lots of pictures. Here is a selfie for starters. Don't I look happy?
Happy that snow finally came 
The village looked lovely in the falling snow as you can see here.
The fields of Montrondo covered in snow with the church in the distance
I had to have one of the house too with the snow falling. Here it is. The one in the middle with the balcony is ours. The ones next to it belong to Eladio's siblings.
Our house when it was snowing on Wednesday
It's only a few metres to Josefa and her husband Jose Antonio's house but I arrived wet and covered in snow but  didn't mind at all. We sat in their big old kitchen, Montrondo style, with the heat coming from their "aga". Again we had a lovely chinwag and talked about the village in the past when it used to snow much more and the boys, including Eladio,  would ski to school on home made wooden skis.

As I stepped outside when we left, it was still snowing but already dark and it felt magical. I had to have more photos, including one of Manolita in the snow. Here she is.
Manolita in the snow in Montrondo on Wednesday afternoon
I came home to find Eladio still reading although he had stopped to move the car outside the front of our house so we would be able to leave in the morning. He needn't have bothered as later it rained in the night and all trace of snow had gone when we woke up on Thursday morning.

We were to leave quite early on Thursday to be home on time for lunch with my Father and also on time to see Lucy and say goodbye.  We left at about 10.15, stopped just once on the way for refreshments and were home by just before 3 pm, too late to have lunch with my Father.

Lucy was about to leave and said a very fond goodbye to my Father, she was crying in fact and telling him how much she loved him. With a heavy heart I drove her to the bus stop and we said goodbye. We will miss her a lot but I wish her great happiness now that she is returning to Paraguay. There on arrival she will see her granddaughter for the first time. She will also be going back to celebrate her daughter's wedding and I look forward to seeing the photos. The other Lucy who seems to be doing a good job will be filling in in the meantime.

We came home to find the central heating was not working properly. That meant the two top floors were freezing. However, I shouldn't complain about the cold or the weather here as it's much more extreme in other places. My cousins in New Zealand are suffering a heat wave but the biggest weather news came from the US, mostly from the Mid West including Chicago. Over there they were experiencing a "polar vortex" - cold winds coming from the North Pole. Chicago for example,  was suffering with temperatures nearing 40c below zero. That could be colder than even Siberia. I have a friend and ex Motorola colleague,  Carrie W who lives there. That day she posted a photo of herself all wrapped up and about to take her dogs for a walk, also suitably wrapped up. She said it took more time to wrap up than the actual walk. I don't know how they dared to go out. More than 20 people people have died from the bitter cold and the advice is not to leave one's house. I wouldn't. Here is Carrie all dressed up to go out. Imagine!
My friend Carrie in Chicago on Thursday!
We didn't go for a walk, but stayed at home and settled in. I had work to do as well. Also that afternoon, I dug out the photos I would be using for my Father's biography. Here for example is a photo of his parents on their wedding day on 15th Janary January 1918 in Uphill (Somerset) near Western-Super-Mere.  My Grandfather, John Collins Lloyd, is dressed in his WW1 uniform where he was a chaplain or "padre". I love the photo. Don't you?
My English grandparents on their wedding day, January 1918. 
I also dug out a photo of my Father when he was 13 about to turn 14 when he attended Clifton College Cambridge. He was so good looking. I added photos taken at the same time of his siblings, Raymond aged 10 and Gloria aged 6. Sadly Raymond died of polio aged 16 and Gloria died in an air crash with all her family in May 1971. RIP
My Father and his siblings, Bristol May 1933
Olivia meanwhile was in a small town in the nearby province of Avila, called Navarredonda. We once went to the lovely Parador there with my Father. It was at this Parador that Spain's Constitution was partly written and signed.  Her story that day was to explain how the village, which is in one of the coldest areas of Spain, prepares for the cold. Here she is preparing the report.
Olivia and her colleague editing their TV report on Thursday
Later we would see her report live on her programme España Directo. In the photo she is with a farmer and some stunning cows.  Well, at least I think they are stunning. Apparently they are very well fed and lots of the meat is sold to countries like Saudi Arabia!
Oli live on TVE from Navarredonda Avila on Thursday evening
After watching España Directo, it was time for dinner. We had some leftover soup which did wonders as it was so cold in the kitchen. Thankfully the boiler men or whatever they are called would come the next day to make the necessary reparations.

Friday come and it would be a busy day. I never stopped. In between writing my Father's biography, or rather adding more information and  photos, I had a long conference call with one of my customers and now have sudden and urgent work to do. There was not much time for anything else although I did accompany Eladio in the morning to pick up his Volvo after some very costly repairs. Poor Eladio had to deal with the central heating and later in the afternoon with the repairing of the water filter in the kitchen.

In the afternoon I spent a few hours with my Father asking him all sorts of questions about his life, specific dates, etc and he knew every one of them. This was for the biography so I had to get all my facts right. I also found out about the ships he served on in the War, HMS Wells and HMS Mansfield.
My Father Charles Courtenay Lloyd just after signing up with the Royal Navy. Photo taken Bristol 1940
My Father in 1941 just after he became an officer. 
Scotland 1941 by his first ship, the HMS Wells
He was a liaison officer with the latter which was loaned to the exiled Norwegian Navy where he was on board. He even remembered the name of the captain, Ulstrup as well as some of the officers on board: Holst, Haug and Fjellheim. Here my Father would participate in the Liberation of Norway until the Nazis finally surrendered in 1945 and gradually left the country.

The greatest achievement of the HMS Mansfield was the  raid of  a  German run fish oil factory in Norway Oksfjord near Hammerfest. He told me the"O" had a line down it while he spelled out the  names. He remembers too the view of the snow capped mountains above the fjord when they landed. He also told me the locals gave out post cards to the ship crew saying "Takk for besoket" (thank you for the visit!):

When I asked him where his Father was born in Anglesy, he told me it was in Holyhead and gave me the exact address: 19 Alderley Terrace. I looked it up on Google and found it is still there and is on sale. While going through his things, including his sister Gloria's WRAC (Women's Royal Army Corps) Army book we found ration coupons and many letters he and his sister had written to each other during the War and even a diary written by Raymond. 

My Father's sister Gloria's army book when she was with the WRACs in WW2 what a ind. 

I must read them. Later that night, out of interest, I looked up the Vicarage in Henbury on Station Road belonging to St. Mary's Parish (Bristol) where he had lived as a child because that afternoon we had seen photos of the family there. Very very sadly I read it had been burnt down this last summer after various arson attacks. When I read that, I burst into tears, tears of sadness and frustration. It was so sad to see a picture of the destroyed vicarage where my Father and his sister and brother played happily on the lawn. They are all gone now, apart from him, even the Vicarage where they were so happy. It felt like a curse. I think writing the whole biography has made me very sad about so many deaths; his brother Raymond, his parents too early in life, his sister Gloria and all her family who I miss to this day, and of course my brother George, my dearest Mother and Aunty Masha. They are all gone and only my Father and I are here today. But we remember. We shall never forget because they live on in our hearts.

After a long time with my Father, I had to rush out with Eladio to do the shopping which felt so mundane after delving into his past but it had to be done.  We didn't go on our walk that day as the weather was foul. I was gutted to see that there was a very heavy snowfall in Montrondo that day. It's Murphy's law. I wanted snow and the heavy snow fall came after we left. Bah, not fair.
This weekend's real snowfall in Montrondo - the one we missed. 
Oli missed appearing on TV with her live report on Friday as the cameraman went to the wrong town! Poor girl. We would see her on Saturday, for our French lesson and then she would join us for lunch.

We had a later dinner and then watched a film which was right up my street as it was about WW2. Called The Zookeeper's wife, it tells the true story of how she and her husband, the owner of the zoo in Warsaw, hid and saved hundreds of Jews during the war. It was very sad but a beautiful story.

I fell asleep late and feeling sad.

Saturday came. I had to do my French homework all about indirect and direct speech. Funnily enough our French teacher had lost her voice so the lesson was a bit difficult for her. Homework for next week is on the subjunctive. Remember "puisse", "sois", etc. Pity I never listened back at St. Joseph's College.

We had a healthy lunch where I gleaned more information from my Father. If only I could tape him but it's difficult. In the afternoon, I carried on reading, had a cup of tea and then went for a walk with Eladio. It was freezing and was actually quite unpleasant because of the wind.

I came back to spend more time with my Father sorting out his old letters and photos. Amazingly I found quite a few from my brother George to me from our University years. They will be lovely to read if a little sad.

Today is Sunday and I have work to do for my customer for a press release and press breakfast next week which seems as though it will fall on my birthday, Friday 8th Feb. It's funny but for the last 2 years I had a press event on my birthday and it looks like there will be another one this year.

Anyway friends and readers, I must sign off now, print a copy for my Father and leave you until next week.

Cheers all
Masha


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