Sunday, November 27, 2016

A rainy week, what a difference a few kilos makes, mentoring session, Thanksgiving and Black Friday, goodbye Fidel Castro, becoming an Airbnb host and other stories.

Sunday 27th November 2016

8 kilos down and 3 to go.  What a difference a few kilos makes.
Good morning everyone,

It's been a cold and rainy week but that's November for you and I can tell you it's not my favourite month.  I far prefer the spring and the summer but on the bright side Christmas is coming soon and I adore it.  Suzy will be here on 17th December and I can't wait for our family to be complete to enjoy and celebrate  the festive season together.

When I left off last Sunday it was raining too, perhaps fitting weather for the 41st anniversary of the death of Spain's ex dictator, Francisco Franco.  It was hardly mentioned here and only a few die hard fascists would honour the day.  I can imagine a small group of elderly fanatics visiting his grave at the Escorial cathedral he ordered to be built under a rock by republican prisoners after the Spanish Civil War, a fascist monument built by blood. 

Oli was home for lunch.  It rained so much in the afternoon I had to skip my walk. Instead we did a lovely Sunday afternoon type of activity, watching a film with a blanket on.  Our choice from Netflix was a film called "Searching for Bobby Fischer".  I loved it although I suspect Oli wasn't quite as interested as she seemed to spend more time watching the screen of her phone than the TV.   
The film Oli and I watched last Sunday afternoon
It is about a child chess playing prodigy who could well be the next Bobby Fischer except that he refuses to emulate the American champion's winning and aggressive character.  It is a very compelling story and I am a sucker for this sort of genre, especially tucked under a warm blanket on a Sunday afternoon. 

That night Eladio and I finished watching the Peaky Blinders series and now we are immersed in The Good Wife.  
The latest series we are watching on Netflix.
It's an American legal series, not quite our favourite genre but it's quite entertaining and wonderful for helping me fall asleep. 

Monday brought good news on the scales.  I had lost 1.2 kilos since the Monday before. That makes a total loss of 8 kilos in 7 weeks.  You can follow my progress in the photo illustrating this week's blog. There I am wearing a blue and white striped dress I bought in Stockholm quite a few years ago.  Well, you know I love stripes. Every week I try on the clothes I didn't fit into before and there are more and more of them which is a great boost in morale. So, no need to buy anything new yet but you bet I will when I reach my target weight.  I have 3 kilos to go or hopefully a couple more but we'll see. The worst thing is that Christmas is looming and it's difficult to be on a diet at Christmas.  I shall break it but only on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Or that's the idea at least. Keeping my fingers crossed. 

Tuesday was the quietest day of the week.  The weather was miserable. I was all dressed up to go to a meeting when it was suddenly cancelled. There is nothing more frustrating than that. So I down dressed, braved the weather and went on a wet walk. 

Wednesday started off quietly.  There I was having breakfast early in the morning, reading the news on my iPad with the dogs in their beds. I just had to have a picture of them and called it, "let sleeping dogs lie".  However, as soon as Eladio came into the kitchen, as always happens, they jumped out to greet him and stood at his legs while he prepared his breakfast, hoping for some crumbs. Oh how I love our dogs.
"Let sleeping dogs lie".
Don't you just love how little Pippa is curled up next to Elsa our Labrador?

The big news that day in Spain was the sudden death of the larger than life Spanish politician, Rita Barberá, the ex mayoress of Valencia.  She was in the middle of a corruption scandal and had been appearing in court the day before when the next morning she died of a heart attack in her hotel room in Madrid. Aged just 68 she was not a healthy looking woman and I can only suspect that the tension of the court case and media hassling were big contributory factors to her death. 
Rita Barberá, one of Spain's most famous politicians and embroiled in various cases of corruption, died of a heart attack on Wednesday this week. 
I was no fan of the woman but many were, especially in her home town Valencia.  So all I can say is RIP.  You will be remembered for sure. Ironically I could add she will now have no more need for any of the luxury handbags she was accused of receiving as bribes from town hall suppliers. 

It was on Wednesday that I gave my first mentoring session ever.  Mentoring is very much in fasion as is coaching in the corporate world and I was keen to give it a try. I had agreed to give an initial 3 sessions, each lasting an hour or hour and a half, in the next few months with L, a marketing and communications manager who works for a company in the medical and dental industry.  
In case you didn't know it, this is the definition of mentoring
She was a bundle of fun and a great person to mentor to.  Talking to her and giving her some of my experience and tips, I realised how the same sort of issues come up in most companies in the corporate world.  We all have difficulties with certain people and the corporate office is much like a classroom. There are the popular people, the quiet people, the loud people, the jealous people, the drab people and yes the bullies. Bullies are everywhere as I know from my own experience and from what my "mentee" or protégé told me during the session.  I really hope my mentoring will guide her to find her place in the corporate world which I told her is often like a battle field and it is. Later I got some very positive feedback from the company about the session and I look forward to the next one. Perhaps this is something I can explore more. It was right up my street and I have plenty of advice and experience to share with younger executives.

Thursday was Thanksgiving in America. We do not celebrate it here yet and I hope we never will.  It is the biggest festive holiday in the USA although this year it will have been tinged by the tension of the outcome of the recent elections.  Americans don't get as much paid holiday as the rest of the world and in the 4 days off to celebrate Thanksgiving, the whole country seemed to be on the move to gather with their families. I was amused to see a photo shared by my friend Sandra of a gigantic traffic jam in Los Angeles. That can't have been fun.
Traffic in Los Angeles because of Thanksgiving
I have always heard that Thanksgiving is more important in the US than Christmas which is our big holiday.  Funnily enough though there is a smaller equivalent, at least in the UK, which I well remember celebrating as a child. It was called "Harvest Festival" and we used to take food, mainly vegetables, to the church or do special projects at school. I have a feeling it has fizzled out now. Hopefully it won't be replaced any time soon by the bigger American version.  After all we eat our turkey at Christmas and not for Harvest Festival.  

On the subject of Christmas, I have been busy this week organising a reunion Christmas dinner for my ex-Nokia colleagues.  It's going to be at one of my favourite places, La Vaca Argentina in the middle of December.  The Christmas menu is very inviting but that night I shall stick to protein and vegetables if I don't want to break my diet.  To animate the party, I have been thinking of activities and games for the event.  They are already in the planning and now all I have to do is write down the instructions for the guests and take along the things needed to play.  I hope they like what I have planned.  

That day Oli had good news. Her programme, "Mi Cámara y Yo", moved its production offices to the HQ of Telemadrid in Boadilla at the area called Ciudad de la Imagen. It moved from "Callao" in the middle of the city where it was impossible to park and the office was too small for the team. Oli is delighted as it nearer her home (and ours) and she will be able to go by car.  
The Telemadrid HQ, Oli's new workplace since this Thursday
On the plus side she will be working at the TV station's headquarters with all the advantages that offers.  Her next programme will be about special things to do at Christmas.  I wonder what she has in store for us. 

Meanwhile in London on Thursday, Suzy had a very special visitor, Sandeep who is one of Oli's greatest Erasmus friends. He is Indian but lives and works in the UK in Devon and has recently acquired British nationality That day he was passing through London and would be spending one night there before travelling to Delhi on Friday morning to spend a holiday with his family and friends. 
Sandeep with Suzy in London on Thursday night.
Suzy would later tell me they had a great night out together.  I would love to see Sandeep and Sumit again soon and hope they can come and visit us in Spain in the not too distant future.  

Friday was "Black Friday", another American invention.  It is traditionally the day after Thanksgiving and the black refers to making money by the retail trade.  Don't ask me how but over time, we in Europe and in many other parts of the world, have adopted first St. Valentine's Day, then Halloween and now Black Friday. I really do hope we never ever adopt Thanksgiving (see above).  Black Friday for me is just one big commercial invasion I do not want.  I am not one for joining huge queues in a rush and fight to get products at a supposed discount.  
A typical image of Black Friday. Fighting to shop is not my thing.
I think it is shopping for shopping's sake and prefer to buy things I need as and when I want, not prompted or provoked into doing so thanks to campaigns like Black Friday. On Monday we shall have Cyber Monday for electronic goods and I shall pass on that one too.  

The weather got worse on Friday but I was delighted to see it had snowed in Montrondo.  Manolita, who lives there, posted this picture of the village. 
Snow in Montrondo on Friday
She later wrote that she did so to make us jealous but that she herself is not a great fan of snow. Hahaha. To quote a friend of mine, Vicente, it was not Black Friday in Montrondo that day but White Friday.  I loved the comment and just had to add it here. Thanks my friend for the idea. 

Saturday came and brought with it the news of the death of the Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro aged 90. That was a surprise but I suppose it had to come one day. The former president and leader of the communist revolution passed away at 03.29 GMT.  He ruled the country with an iron rod for nearly 50 years until his brother Raúl took over in 2008. 
Goodbye Fidel Castro who died early on Saturday morning.
His party was a one government one and he suppressed any opposition with a vengeance.  I wonder if things will change after his death and hope they will for the better. His supporters, the mainstream of the country, who have been brain washed to support him as their sort of semi spiritual leader and as the hero who "gave Cuba back to the people", will mourn him for days and weeks to come. I wonder if it will be the end of Castro's Cuba.  This week we received our tourist visas to Cuba for our trip at the end of December and I suppose we shall find out then. I imagine things will stay the same as I can't see Trump and Raúl Castro seeing eye to eye and the election of the former may put an end to the truce that Obama set in motion in 2014. As I always say in events like this, only time will tell. By the way you can read the BBC's obituary here which very succinctly describes this most curious man and his life. 

But it was the story of a death much nearer home that shook me to the core yesterday morning.  I heard from my friend Grainne that a school friend was having her darkest hour after her youngest son, a doctor aged 28, took his own life on Friday.  That Friday for my friend E. was not just black but bleak and tragic.  It is the worst tragedy any Mother can ever suffer.  I can't even begin to understand or imagine how she must be feeling.  My thoughts are with her.  May God and her friends and family comfort her in her darkest hour.  
Later on that morning Eladio and I spoke to Suzy via the new whatsapp video call service.  It's new and the first time I have used it.  I wonder how its use will affect the amount of people using Skype. I felt so happy to be talking to her in contrast to the news I had just had.  
Our video call with Suzy on Saturday morning
Suzy was having a lazy "chillax" Saturday morning at her flat in Haggerston, Hackney in North London.  It was nice to see that since my last visit there in August, the girls had made some decoration improvements in the lounge.  It was lovely to talk to her but I long to see her for real which will be in just under a month's time from now. Can't wait Suzy Puzy.  Love you.
Oli and Miguel came to lunch yesterday after a session of swimming at the club they go to. I hadn't seen my younger daughter for a week and was missing her company. Later we spent some quality time together with Pippa of course who Olivia adores as much as I do.
Oli happy to be at home in her bedroom with little Pippa
I did something rather daring not long ago and it brought its first fruits yesterday afternoon.  We are rattling in our huge house since the girls left and after having redecorated both Suzy's empty room and a guest room I thought I might have a go at being an Airbnb host.  I did two adverts, one for each room. This is the ad for Suzy's room which you can see here.
Suzy's room which I have advertised on Airbnb
And this is the advert for our other guest room which I call the "green room".
The green room which is now available on Airbnb
My target are the parents of the students who attend the local private University, "Universidad Europea de Madrid" where, by the way, Oli studied.  You see there are no hotels around here so I thought it might be an opportunity. Many of them come from abroad like the French couple, parents of a physiotherapist student at the University, who will be our first guests.  Yes, they booked the green room on Saturday.  Am I mad?  Well, no actually, it's a great way to earn a bit of extra money and the way to go.  I am told "everyone" is doing it.  I'm not sure about that but we'll see.  Again, time will tell.  
And today is Sunday, blog day and time to publish this post.  It is wet outside but not actually raining so after posting this week's blog, I shall be out on my walk listening to British hymns thanks to Spotify (yes keeping up with the times) on my bluetooth cordless headphones.

So, let me love you and leave you until next Sunday.

Have a good week my friends and readers,

Cheers till next time
Masha.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Super moon, Oli’s TV programme on “Mi Cámara y Yo” this week, a girly lunch and a girly dinner, an unasked for day in bed, better again and other stories of my week.

Sunday 20th November 2016

Ex Nokia girl lunch on Monday with Fátima, María Jesús and Juana. 
Hi again

Another week but not very many stories this time as  life has been exceptionally quiet since I last wrote on Sunday.

Sunday was very much a family day. Miguel and Oli came for lunch and I made an effort to cook for them.  While I'm on my diet, the last thing I want to do is cook but I did that day. It was a wonderful sunny day and of course I went for my second walk that afternoon with Eladio and the dogs, as always.  Elsa is shedding her coat for the winter so we took her special comb and my dear husband groomed her as you can see in the photo hahaha.
Eladio grooming Elsa on our sunny walk last Sunday afternoon. 
I came back to my treat of the day, a Pronokal dry and tasteless biscuit with a tiny piece of artificial white chocolate and cup of tea with dried skimmed artificial milk. So when you are having a proper cup of tea and biscuit remember me hahaha.  

The other treat of the day was watching the last episode of the TV series Victoria.  It ends when she gives birth to her first child and left me wanting for much more. I do hope they hurry up and come out with more seasons.  But I did get a bit more as I enjoyed all the extras the DVD included.  I'm missing Victoria already, but especially Lord Melbourne who, I suspect, won't have much of a part in season 2.  But who knows?

That night we watched a horrific documentary by the provocative, controversial and probing journalist who is well known in Spain, Jordi Evole. It was about the coltan war in the wrongfully called "Democratic Republic of Congo" and the devastating results of extreme violence, to women.  I had no idea but Congo is called the "rape capital" of the world.  There is literally no public service or infrastructure such as a judicial system or hospitals and the only help comes from NGOS. Coltan is a mineral used in mobile phones and many electronic devices.  20% of the production comes from this country which could be rich because of the mineral but sadly isn't. 

On Monday I was disappointed with the scales.  I had only gone down 300 grammes in one week despite my heroic efforts.  The Doctor who I saw at midday would tell me that's normal as the nearer I get to my target weight the more difficult it is to lose it, plus of course my age (thanks Doctor!).  But I shall persevere.  He has now put me on phase 4 for a month and joy of joys I can eat fruit again: 3 small portions a day and not with the main meals. I can also eat oats (2 tbsps) for breakfast. Life is looking good.  I am so fed up with the vegetables I don't think I could look another cauliflower in the eye, not to mention lettuce, raddishes and cucumber.  I feel like a rabbit sometimes hahaha. But there you are it works and I can already see the results after losing about 7.5 kilos and feel a whole lot slimmer

I had a lunch appointment that day with my group of what we call "Nokia girls"; some of us left years ago and some of still work for the company.  But before going to the restaurant, La Txitxarrería in Pozuelo, I had to get a present from all of us for Juana whose birthday it was that day. I couldn't choose, so in the end I bought 3 presents, two of which I also got for myself (couldn't help myself hahaha). I chose an ultra light down jacket from Zara, a lovely soft dressing gown from Oysho and a new fragrance from Vitorio & Lucchino. This is the jacket and I am happy to announce the size M from Zara fitted!!!  

The size M Zara ultra light jacket I got for Juana and for me 
There were only 4 of us for the Nokia girl lunch on Monday.  But we had plenty to catch up on and talked until suddenly it was nearly 5pm and I had to go, as did we all. It's Juana who organises these lunches and if it wasn't for her we would not see each other as often. Thanks Juana.  

By the end of my second walk on Monday, it was dark and I had forgotten that the so-called super moon would be making its appearance that evening.  I only remembered quite late at night.  But even so I got a good view of it.  We saw it very clearly in Madrid as the sky was completely cloud free. This is the view of the super moon from my bedroom balcony that night.

The view of the super moon from our balcony on Monday night. 
I later heard on the TV that to get a good picture, or rather a photo which shows just how big the moon is, you have to take it from kilometres' away.  I would think you need a pretty professional camera too and know how to take the picture.  For the records the moon that night was the biggest, closest and brightest of the year.  It was also the closest in 70 years since Jan 26th 1948 and won't come as close to the earth again until November 25th 2034.  Gosh I will be old by then. 

Of more intererest to us that night was watching Oli's report for her TV programme "Mi Cámara y Yo". This week it was about entrepreneurs who have been successful. 
Oli reporting on successful entrepreneurs in this week's programme
To make it even more special, we watched it with her. We loved it although she is very critical of herself.  I wish she wouldn't be.  If you missed it or want to watch it you can see it here online.   Great stuff Oli. The next programme will be about ageing and women.  So watch this space.

On Tuesday morning after a much nicer breakfast thanks to starting Phase 4 of the Pronokal diet, Oli joined me for the walk. She's so busy and since she's left home we don't see much of her and I miss her. So it was super special to be joined on my walk that morning by my youngest daughter.  Later she would be off shooting all sorts of stories for the next programme; lots of them about beauty and enhancing plastic surgery and others I'm sure. 
A pleasure to have Oli join me on my morning walk on Tuesday 
It was on Tuesday that I was asked, out of the blue, from an ex Nokia HR colleague who now works in a different industry, to be a mentor.  Wow I was flattered.  The "mentee" (name for the person who receives the mentoring) is a marketing and communications executive in the medical sector.  I look forward to the sessions.  I think all my life I have been good at helping young colleagues and am a sort of a natural mentor and like to help people, so this may be just up my street. It's only 3 sessions over a 6 month period, so not much of my time will be spent mentoring but I'm sure I shall gain from the experience as much as my mentee.  I'll let you know how it goes. 

Tuesday night was not good. I went to bed with a funny stomach and in the very early morning was sick over and over again, It completely washed me out.  I was not able to eat any breakfast and all my body wanted to do was to go back to bed. Thankfully I had some "primperan" injections which stops the sickness and dear Doctor Eladio provided the service.  Thus I found myself in bed literally all day.  All I did was sleep for an hour, wake up a bit and then sleep another hour. I couldn't work nor read nor watch the TV, nothing as my stomach hurt so much.  Of course I couldn't eat either as my stomach was rejecting food. Thus I got a whole day in bed unasked for and unwanted.  Wednesday is thus blacked out of this month's calendar. What an awful night and day.  

On Thursday morning I woke up at 6.50 feeling slightly better, although very ginger and not hungry and still a slight pain in my stomach.  I have no idea what caused it and thankfully by Friday it was all gone.  The good thing though was that I lost a whole kilo in one day.  I have to wait to see if that is a real or not a real kilo.  I will only know on Monday when I weigh myself again.

Oli was busy shooting on Thursday too. She sent us some hilarious photos of her at a plastic surgery clinic like the one below.  
Oli shooting a plastic surgery operation for her next programme
She sure does get to shoot some different stories.  Oli later told me that this was an operation for a "boob job" for a woman who was only 30 but had had 4 children. I'm surprised she wasn't sick in the middle of shooting it. She also had to stomach filming an botox type face treatment.  When she described it, if I had ever had any thoughts about undergoing any kind of beauty treatment, I decided no way was I going to go through any procedure of that sort ever.  

That night I had a dinner date and was worried I'd miss it because of my stomach.  But I was ok. It was to be a "girly" dinner too but this time with women in communication in the telecoms sector. Ana G hosted a lovely meal for 8 of us in her own house.  Very sweetly she had catered for my dietary needs so I was able to enjoy a meal out for a change. 
The girly telco dinner at Ana's house on Thursday night.
We had a grand time gossiping about the sector and some of our colleagues across the industry.  I was having such a good time that the time passed really fast and suddenly it was 12.30  which is way past my bedtime. So I had to make my excuses and leave as it was quite a long drive home. 

Friday came. I love Fridays by the way, don't you?  I was in for another sunny cold and crisp Autumn day walk both in the morning on my own and with Eladio and the dogs in the afternoon.  

One of the reasons I love Fridays is that is we go out to dinner although there has been no going out to dinner to restaurants since I started my diet.  Our nightly treat is watching series on Netflix and that's what we did on Friday night too. Currently we are watching Peaky Blinders as recommended by my sister-in-law Dolores.
The series we are currently watching on Netflix
It's about a group of gangsters of gypsy origin in Birmingham in the 1920's and is a bit violent. However, the main character, Tommy, has two sides to him, one evil and one good.  He also has mesmerising eyes, although maybe the actor who plays him wears coloured contact lenses. They all do these days I think. 

Saturday would be the last sunny day as rain and cold weather had been forecast for Sunday onwards - hate rain! Oli was with us for breakfast but left just afterwards as the "manada" (the girls' group of friends) had hired a cottage in Zarzalejo near El Escorial for one night. I hope they have a great time, eating, drinking, going for walks, playing games and generally relaxing which is what Oli, at least, needs. 

Saturday witnessed the much awaited for  Liga derby between Real Madrid and Atlético.  I was happy to read later that my team had won.  To the team's fans' delight, the Portuguese striker, Cristiano Ronaldo, scored a hat trick and the final result was 3-0 to Real who had all the difficulty of having to play on their rival team's home ground, El Vicente Calderón.
It was a good night for Cristiano Ronaldo yesterday when he scored a hat trick against city rival El Atlético de Madrid.
This puts Real Madrid well ahead in first position of the Liga table with 30 points.  Trailing behind comes eternal rival Barça wtih 26 and Seville with 24.  Real Madrid haven't won the Liga for quite a while so maybe 2017 will be their year.  I hope so.

Sunday came and brought the rain that was forecast.  As I am writing now it is pouring it down and I am debating whether to brave the weather and go on my first walk now or later. Well let me finish this post and publish it and then we'll see.

Next week promises to be quiet and with the sun gone, my spirits too maybe.  But as usual I shall try to rise to the occasion and be as positive as I can.  I once went on a training course about the benefits of being positive and the lesson has remained.  The more positive you are, the happier person you become.  I shall be passing that on to my new mentee in our first appointment on Wednesday.

So that's it for now. I shall leave you to get on with Sunday and wish you all a great week ahead.

Cheers till next time,
Masha

Sunday, November 13, 2016

In love with Lord Melbourne, US Elections dominate the world, hearing my Mother’s voice, a fabulous Chinese party, remembering the 11th hour of the 11th day, RIP Leonard Cohen and more tales of this week.

Sunday 13th November 2016

Ready to go to the Chinese party (ZTE mobile phone manufacturer launch) on Thursday
Good morning all,

The week has been completely dominated by the US elections and the outcome - yeah Trump won, above all odds - as well as the aftermath of tales of doom once he takes over in January.  But there have been many more stories and experiences this week that have touched me as much or more. 

Last Sunday was a crisp cold and sunny autumn day and the weather would be like it most of the week with the temperatures increasing slightly towards the end.  I enjoyed my first morning walk in the sunshine, wearing my favourite Uniqlo ultra light down jacket, the blue "rain defender".  Here I am feeling good listening to my collection of best loved Sunday hymns, such as "Immortal Invisible God Only Wise" among others.
On my walk last Sunday morning
I made Sunday lunch for everyone; roast beef with lots of the trimmings; although I could only allow myself a few lean slices and some cauliflower.  Would have loved the roast potatoes and gravy - sigh - not to be if I seriously want to lose weight.

That afternoon, after my second walk, I treated myself to re watching episode 6 of The Crown, the Netflix lavish TV series about the first decade of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.  It was all about the denied romance between her dazzling sister Princess Margaret and the divorced Group Captain palace official, Peter Townsend in the mid 50's.  It's pretty ironic to think she couldn't marry a divorced man when later 3 of the Queen's own offspring were divorced one after the other.  
Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend in The Crown and in real life
She could have married him once she was aged 25 without the Queen's and the Government's permission, but to do so would have had to give up her title and rights, marry outside the church and emigrate from her beloved country.  It was huge news at the time with the establishment against the couple and popular opinion in favour of them.
The end of their romance in the newspapers at the time. 
Not so long ago I read an article about a letter she had written to the Prime Minister at the time, Antony Eden, which sets a question mark over whether she gave him up because of "duty" or because she had decided he wasn't the man for her. Whatever the case, their romance has gone down in history as a "famously doomed love story of a tragic princess who was forced to give up the love of her life in the name of duty."  I always felt sorry for her.  Interested in her fate this week I read the authorised biography of her, "A life of contrasts" by Christopher Warwick. She died young, just over 70 and just before her own Mother died.  Interestingly she chose the hymn, Immortal, Invisible, God only wise, my favourite one too and the one I mentioned above,  to be played at her funeral.  I would like that also. 

That night we had dinner at home with Oli after which we watched a programme by the famous Spanish inquisitive journalist, Jordi Evoli, about globalisation and global warming. It was pretty heavy stuff. 

Monday was another cold and sunny day. These days I am wearing my blue ultra light down Uniqlo coat with my Yoigo electric blue touch screen gloves, my sketchers and more importantly my newly acquired blue fur collar, like the one I had before but which got left behind at Uniqlo in Oxford Street. Very recently I was lucky to find another one which I shall be looking after better I promise this time.   I know it's made of rabbit fur - a no no these days - but I love it.
My walking outfit on cold days
Early in the evening, back from my second walk, I settled down to start watching the new ITV Series about the early years of Queen Victoria's reign and wow am I loving it.  
Loving this TV series about the first years of Queen Victoria's reign.
It was created by Daisy Goodwin and Queen Victoria is played by Jenna Coleman.  Tom Hughes plays Prince Albert but I was much more interested to get to know Rufus Sewell (aged 48) who plays the 58 year old Lord Melbourne, the Queen's first P.M.   You see, he's drop dead gorgeous and I was to fall in love with him this week.  
Queen Victoria played by Jenna Coleman and the dashing Lord Melbourne played by the drop dead gorgeous Rufus Sewell, my discovery of the week. 
I'm a sucker for British period dramas.  Of course I had learned about our famous Queen at school but am learning a lot more watching the series.   To refresh your memory and mine, Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria 24th May - 22nd January 1901) became Queen of Great Britain on 20th June 1837 aged just 18 and measured just 5 feet.  To quote the series, she was "every inch a queen". Victoria was the daughter of Prince Edward, the fourth son of George III. It was never on the cards that she should inherit the throne but the King and all his sons died, leaving it empty for the young teenager who had been protected by her Mother more or less in confinement with only her dog and dolls for company. She had no preparation to be a Queen and has Lord Melbourne to thank  for his mentoring and belief in her during the first 3 years on the throne whilst her Mother and other courtiers and politicians were plotting a regency which never came about thanks to the strong personality of the young Queen and the help of Lord M.   
A painting of the young Queen Victoria - not as pretty as Jenna Coleman I am afraid.
Her first Prime Minister was the dashing and charming Lord Melbourne.  He was aged 58, 40 years older than the teenage queen, but there must have been something about him that attracted her deeply. Maybe she saw him as a father figure but later she would have strong feelings for him as he would for her.
The real Lord Melbourne 
It was not only Queen Victoria who fell in love with him.  I did, as I imagine many other female watchers of the series did too.  He's everything you want in a Prime Minister and man and I am swooning.  In the series she declares her love to him.  He obviously loves her too but sees the match as doomed because of his age and position so declines her love in the most beautiful romantic way in the setting of the gardens of his country home, Brocket Hall and had me nearly in tears.   Prince Albert doesn't appear until episode 4 and although she falls in love with him fairly soon, he leaves me cold.  Not a favourite of young German princes hahaha. For the records, he was the penniless son of Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.  It was a pretty good match for him. He married the most eligible woman in Europe but. as it was for the penniless Prince Philip in his marriage to Elizabeth II, it would be difficult for him to find his role in the partnership, although theirs was also built on true love. 
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert Consort on their wedding day
Tuesday 8th November was the day of the US Elections.  The campaign had been going on for too long, I, for one, was sick of it.  It was nearly 2 years when the term of a President is 4.  It has been a nasty campaign, with the larger than life billionaire business man and showman, Donald Trump running as the Republican candidate against the no-need-to-introduce Hillary Clinton for the Democrats. He has been brash and bigoted, with his misogynist comments and actions and downright racist with his ideas of building a wall with Mexico or not allowing Muslims into the country.  The race was fierce and the polls led us to believe that Hillary would just pip him to the post which is what most of the world hoped for, except for the white mostly "rusty belt" American men as well as women and possibly Russia and certainly fascist politicians like Marie Le Pen or UKIP's Nigel Farage.  I had my doubts, remembering the polls about Brexit. We would know for sure on Wednesday morning when we would wake up to what would seem like living nightmare. The news was dominating the worlds' headlines as if nothing else was happening around us. 

The day started off well for me though, as my scales told me I had lost a total of 6,5 kilos. That is just over 1 stone.  Well done I hope you say as this diet is very uphill.  Since 4th October not one morsel of carbohydrates, fruit, fat or alcohol have touched my lips; or better described as only having eaten vegetables and protein.  I can't wait for the next stage when at least some fruit may be introduced.  I will know on Monday when I see my diet doctor who I hope will be pleased with me. My prizes for the sacrifice are getting into clothes I couldn't wear before. But there are still many garments to go until I reach my goal. 

If it was good news for me, it was bad news for one of my favourite British stores, Marks and Spencer.  They had issued what I think were their worst results in history that morning and had announced the closure of some 60 shops in England and 10 or more of those in Europe which had only been re-opened a few years ago; alas never in Madrid. 
Not good news for M+S this week - too many people outside the store and not enough inside says this photo to me.
How sad.  Their problem is the clothes.  Young people don't buy them and even older women like me, are not attracted. They have lost touch with their previously loyal and I think older customers. What does sell well is their food and I suspect their underwear.  I was sorry to see the one in Brussels would be shut down too, where I had shopped with my friend Sandra when we were last there.  I know she will miss it.

Wednesday was a holiday in Madrid to celebrate La Almudena; the Virgin Maria La Almudena and the patroness of Spain's capital.  Oli had the day off too and was at home with us. 

There seemed not much to celebrate on Wednesday morning.  I was up early, off to do my blood tests, when I read on my phone that Donald Trump had won and will be the next President of the USA and the first one ever to have no political experience - how scary!  
This is how the world felt when we heard Donald Trump had been elected the next President of the US
We heard it was the disgruntled, unemployed white men mostly, but women too, who had been seduced by his messages.  They are supposedly fed up of of the "establishment" which the Clintons represent.  I too am fed up of the establishment but would not prefer a candidate like Trump who is brash, bigoted, megalomaniac, racist, sexist and misogynist and many other negative things.  I actually can't think of any positive adjective to describe him.  He even looks awful.  I mean with all the campaign people around him advising him, hasn't any told him to get a new hairdresser or lose some weight? In a way I could ask the same question of Boris Johnson who in the UK is described sometimes as a buffoon.  But I far prefer an Eton educated buffoon to him.  
I hope Donald Trump changes his hairstyle when he moves into the White House.
The voting system in the US is complicated and the votes are not counted as individual votes for the candidates, rather through electoral colleges.  What I do know is that Hillary won the popular vote; i.e. more people voted for her than for Donald Trump which makes the current system seem completely archaic and unfair.  Look at the numbers and think for yourself.  Also very interesting is how many people did not vote.  Like with Brexit, if they had got off their couches and bothered to do so, the outcome may well have been different.  
The results of the popular vote

The news put the world in shock with the dollar plummeting. Funnily enough the pound gained meanwhile.  There comes now an age of uncertainty.  Will Trump really put into action his frightening promises?  Thankfully his acceptance speech was surprisingly moderate and none of the diatribe we are used to hearing from his lips was there and no mention of the actions we most fear. Also the threat of not letting Muslims into the country suddenly disappeared from his website, or so I read. So maybe, just maybe, there is a glimmer of  hope his bark is worse than his bite.  The next day he met with President Obama in the White House which was to be their first encounter.  It was expected to be very tense but we later heard it wasn't and that Trump had even ventured to say he would study the Obama Care health law before repealing it which is what he had said in the campaign.  Time will tell. Meanwhile young Americans and those who fear him and voted for a first woman president, have taken to the streets to protest and the first acts of racism are occurring, just as they were and are  in the UK after the Brexit referendum.  Let's hope it dies down, but somehow I think Trump being elected is a game changer for the bad.  Time, again time, will tell. 

On Wednesday I was shocked by the news of Trump winning but I was in for a more personal shock that day.  You see I was to hear my Mother's voice for the first time since she died in 1999.  I had recovered the tapes of an interview the ex husband of my best friend Amanda had done in 1993 when he interviewed her with my Father present at their home in 6 Heaton Grove in Bradford with the idea of writing her biography.  She was 73 at the time.  I had the notes from the interviews as well as his first 3 chapters of the book which my Mother rejected for being too novelistic but did not have the tapes. She gave them at the time to my cousin Zuka who had intended to transcribe them.  She lost them and I only got them back this summer. They were damaged and I had them remastered although part of them is lost for ever.  

So it was on Wednesday evening that I sat down at my PC with my headphones on in great trepidation to listen to her voice.  So many years have passed and I couldn't remember it.  My Mother as you know, was Russian though born in Rome, went to school in France, lived in Bulgaria and left for Germany 6 months before the Russian invaded after the Nazis had gone. From Germany she went to Vienna then Salzburg to escape the Russians at the end of the war and after the war, unable to return to Bulgaria to her parents as the iron curtain had closed it, decided to start a new life in England from scratch, alone and without a penny in her pocket. As she said at the time, she knew, Russian, Bulgarian, Italian, French and German but she didn't know English and wanted to learn it. She would end up living the rest of her life in her newly adopted country, Great Britain, a country she fell in love with. She would, however, remain Russian and a staunch Orthodox at heart.  

As I got into the tape, my memory of her voice came back.  The voice of my dear, fascinating, fun loving, bohemian, badly dressed, intelligent, academic, aristocratic, coffee drinking and heavy smoker of a Mother soon became familiar and I could hear her BBC English coming through with strains of her Russian accent.  I say aristocratic because she was born Her Serene Highness Princess Elena Andreivna Lieven; albeit penniless. When she was alive I never noticed she had a Russian accent, only on the phone, so I suppose it is normal that I hear it too on the tapes.  I cried as I listened to mainly familiar stories of  neglection by her Mother, being sent to school in France at the age of 6 because of her bad behaviour and only being allowed back 4 years later, only to live in a fanatical religious home where everything was a sin.  It was too much for my high spirited Mother. These stories I knew and they were sad to listen to. But it was her stories of the War, of her arrival from Sophia in 1944  in Vienna and Berlin and internment in transit camps where she had to go naked with all the women and be showered and deloused in public and shut in horrible cold huts with little or nothing to eat that shocked me to the core with all their detail and her amazing memory of events and people.   The camps she was sent to were not concentration camps but the next worst type. Amazingly she escaped and joined her brother Sasha in Berlin but soon she was found out and the Gestapo put her in prison and that was frightening.  I won't go on because her story is too long for this post.  What I will say though, is now that I have the tapes and the notes, I have nearly all the material I need to write the book that I shall write about her and her family, their life in riches under the Tzar, their escape from Russia and how her family was scattered all over the world thanks to the Bolsheviks and the Nazis. It will make very interesting reading and is my obligation to my daughters Susana and Olivia who have to know the story and their heritage.  Wow, Mummy, I wish I had listened to you with more interest when you used to talk about your past. Love, you, wonderful to hear your voice again.  The tapes brought you back to me.  And now the girls have them too and are listening to them with joy and amazement. You are irreplaceable. 

Thursday came and there was more good weather. Eladio decided to start on lots of pruning needed in the garden.  It's pretty tough work so he is taking it in stages.

That evening I had an engagement; I was going to a "Chinese" party. Actually it was the launch of a new mobile phone, the Axon 7 by the Spanish branch of the ZTE company which is one of the largest Chinese telecommunications companies.  It was to be held at the Capitol Cinema in Gran Via and would be teeming with people from the sector.

Just as I had put on my lovely black dress which I now fit into, poor little Pippa who was rushing around, suddenly got the nail and toe (or is it digital pad of?) her paw  stuck in the groove of the radiator in our room, while trying to reach for a soft toy.  She was completely stuck and bleeding and screaming; yes, literally screaming.  I nearly died watching her suffer. Eladio of course came to the rescue. He cleverly forced open the groove as much as he could until her paw came out. Salud came to the rescue too. I was only able to be of help afterwards by cuddling her and cleaning her. The whole episode must have lasted about 10 minutes, 10 minutes of dreadful suffering and fright by poor little Pippa who whilst screaming, looked at us with eyes of fright and dread as if begging to be released from her pain. Finally she was, thank goodness and now her toys are no longer placed on top of the radiator. She gave me such a scare but thankfully nothing was broken and she is perfectly alright. 
Little Pippa with her favourite soft toy, the orange crab, curled up on our bed after the horrible incident.
I had to put makeup on a puffed face from crying but I hope no once noticed.  The party was very glamorous and it was great to see familiar faces and especially to catch up with ex colleagues from Motorola such as Gonzalo E, Carlos G, Lubas or Vicente H, not to mention lots of other people.  We were in for a surprise when the launch started.  We sat down in the cinema seats and a famous model was the compere.  Her name was Laura but I can't remember her surname.  She was very thin but completely dressed in black as if she were a nun and all her bones stuck out.  The dress did not look good on her. She made a faux pas at one time saying HTC, a rival phone manufacturer, instead of ZTE.  Then my friend and ex colleague Gonzalo E introduced the new phone and wow it seems amazing with much focus on the audio and the camera.  
Gonzalo right who presented the new phone. In the middle the Ara Malikian and to the left Jia who works for ZTE
The theme of the night or the phone was "touch the sound" which I liked. Then we were in for a delightful concert by the hands of the Lebanese violinist, Ara Malikian and his guitar playing Argentinian partner Fernando Egozcue.  
A unique concert at the ZTE party on Thursday night.
Ara, by the way, doubles as a comedian in his accented Spanish.  Their music was a delight to us all. Later I tried out the phone with some amazing head phones and wow is the sound good. The ham and drink looked good too but were not for me. Instead I drank water and surreptitiously ate my Pronokal protein bar during the concert hahaha.  Being like Cinderalla, I left before midnight as I had a long journey home. But it was nice for a change to go out and be invited to a party and see people from the sector.  Well done ZTE for a great event and a great phone too. That was one good "Chinese" party. But actually there was absolutely nothing Chinese about the party except for the origin of the company hahaha.


Friday 11th September was Armistice Day or Poppy Day as it is often called in England. That is another tradition I have had to forego when I came to live in Spain.  But I still take part in spirit.  
Friday was Armistice Day.  Let us never forget
Did you know that on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Great War, World War I came to an end?  There would be 2 minutes silence at 11 o'clock that day to remember the country's dead and Prince Harry would place a wreath at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. He would would also be reciting  one of the most famous WWI poems by the WWI laureate Rupert Brooke called The Soldier. He himself died in that war but his words have lived on and I happy to reproduce them here for you.  If you went to school in England you will have heard this poem of course.  I always loved it. I also loved In Flanders Field with the reference to the poppy fields but the poem is by John McCrae from Canada not Britain haha.


IF I should die, think only this of me:
    That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
    In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
    Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
    Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
    A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
        Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
    And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
        In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.


It's very patriotic isn't it?  I hope you liked reading it whether you have read it before or not. It always makes me feel nostalgic for England.. 

Perhaps it was fatalistic that the great Canadian poet, song writer, singer and guitar player, Leonard Cohen,  died aged 82 or his death was made known to us on Armistice Day by his family.  Since his death I have created an album of my favourite of his songs which include Hallelujah and Suzanne. He, by the way, loved the poem In Flanders Field by his Canadian compatriot and you can hear him recite it too if you search  You Tube. 

Leonard Cohen in the 60's. An exceptional artist, an exceptional man. RIP
Later I read in an article by The Local how much Spain gave to his music.  He learned 6 basic flamenco guitar chords from a Spanish guitar player who gave him lessons in Montreal which would inspire all his music from then on.  I also learned he found his voice through the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca and that he even called his daughter Lorca.  Lorca was my favourite poet too when I studied Spanish at Nottingham University. In 2011 when he was awarded the prestigious Principe de Asturias prize for arts, he told this to the audience. He also said that his guitar of choice was a "Conde" one made in Spain and bought at a musical instrument shop at number 7 Gravina Street. This story told during his speech at the awards came as a surprise to me. You can watch and listen to his speech here in English.  He was an exceptional man and an exceptional artist. At least we can still listen to his music.  RIP Leonard Cohen. 

Friday 11th November wasn't all bad news. It was also St. Martin's day, the supposed start of a second Indian summer (veranillo de San Martín) and it is true we are having a period of unseasonably warm dry weather which I hope lasts at least a few more days.

Well it lasted and on Saturday I enjoyed my first walk of the day in the sun.  Once home I put my hands to acquiring our tourist visas for Cuba.  Thanks to my nephew Miguel who provided me with the correct website, I filled in the form and paid 44 euros each for visas to visit Havana.  I booked the flights in August and now the trip is coming closer and we are much looking forward to visiting Castro's Cuba.  I can imagine Trump's election will not have gone down well in the island after the restoring of relations with  the US Government and Barack Obama's visit.  Again, time will tell.

And today is Sunday and the Indian summer - St. Martin - continues.  Now that I have got to the end of the tales of this week, I shall don my Uniqlo coat, sketchers and touch screen gloves and go on my first power walk of the day. The rest of Sunday will most likely pan out as it usually does; a quiet day at home with my family and dogs.

Wishing you all a great Sunday and week ahead, let me leave you for now until next time,

As ever, all the best,

Masha



Sunday, November 06, 2016

Last day in Peñacaballera, home again, a new Government in Spain, All Saints’ Day holiday,“The Crown” on Netflix and other stories.

Sunday 6th November 2016
A photo of myself in the mirror in Suzy's empty bedroom on Saturday morning,  looking decidedly slimmer.  I hope you can notice it too.
Dear all,



It's Saturday 5th November and if you are British and in England you will probably be celebrating Guy Fawkes' night with a bonfire and fireworks; eating "parkin", home made toffee, baked potatoes and sausages. I won't as that was one of the things I had to give up when I left England for Spain so many years ago in 1981.  In any case I wish you all a great time.  "Remember remember, the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot".  All I can do today is "remember".


It's raining today.  Just one week ago we were in Peñacaballera staying with friends and the sun shone all weekend.  I left off last Sunday morning from their delightful house, so let me start from there.



It was to be our last day.  Dolores was interested in buying wicker goods so our hosts took us to nearby Baños de Montemayor which is actually in the province of Cáceres, on the border of Salamanca.  Baños is equally famous for its spa and wicker making and there were plenty of shops with hand made local goods.  Dolores was the one who was interested but it was I who did the buying hahaha.  I bought two lovely baskets, an old miniature iron and a lovely miniature wicker chair for Eladio to sit on whilst lighting the fire in Montrondo.  There and then Javier and I got him to pose outside the shop with my purchases hahaha.  It was a freak moment with people going by thinking I was a bit eccentric which I suppose I am.
Eladio with my purchases at Baños de Montemayor last Sunday
After exploring the little town, our friends took us on a steep walk up the hill to see a pretty house which is now a rural apartment type hotel called Villa Asunción. The views on the way up were to die for, especially those of Baños like this one.
The view of Baños de Montemayor on our way up the steep hill to Villa Asunción.
The walk down was even more beautiful through thick woods and paths carpeted in autumn leaves. We came across a flour mill with waterfalls and stopped to admire our surroundings.
Eladio by one of the waterfalls near Baños de Montemayor
Once back in the village my companions enjoyed a drink and some tapas.  All I could have was water so I wondered off to see more wicker shops.  One of them sold walking sticks which Toño and Eladio couldn't resist. They both have quite a collection and bought the ones you can see in the picture below.  Dolores, if you are reading this, Toño left his in the back of our car!
The two brothers, Toño and Eladio, pleased with the new walking sticks they bought in Baños de Montemayor
Once back in Peñacaballera or "Peña" as the locals call it, it was time for lunch which we had outside thanks to the pleasant weather.  Here is the table we would sit around later.  Someone mentioned it looked like a scene out of Tuscany with the pretty blue chairs.  I tend to agree.
The table set for lunch last Sunday in Peñacaballera
Whilst the men dozed a short siesta, we women went out to gather chestnuts for Dolores.  We also went to get more tomatoes from Jorge's greenhouse but it seemed as if the locusts had been there, hahaha.  All his friends and relations had been after us and there were hardly any left.  However we did not go home empty handed as our hosts gave both couples a bag of the amazing sweet and juicy tomatoes to take home.  The difference in taste between them and the supermarket kind is just vast.

All good things come to an end and at around 5pm we said our goodbyes and thank yous and started on our journey home. It should have taken 2.5 hours but due to an accident on the A6 coming into Madrid, it took a further 30 minutes and we were not home until 8pm.  Oli and Miguel were there to greet us but left shortly so we had a quiet and frugal meal for dinner alone together.  We fell asleep that night watching another episode from Season 5 of Homeland.


Monday, the last day of October, was a lovely sunny day.  I got good news on my walk. The results my brother-in-law was waiting for after his operation a month ago were negative.  I jumped for joy.  I was so happy for him and all the family.   I would go for another walk in the afternoon.  Believe it or not I was wearing shorts and a short sleeved t-shirt. I probably won't be wearing them again until the spring.  I would be in for a shock later in the week when the temperatures plummeted and the rain made its appearance with a vengeance.


Monday was the day the newly elected Spanish President Mariano Rajoy took his oath during a ceremony at the Zarzuela Palace with the King.  If you notice in the photo below you can see that he has his hands on both the bible and the Spanish constitution with a Christian cross on the table while he takes the oath. This was much commented on here as Spain is supposed to be a lay state.  I have no comments to make by the way. So finally we were to have a new government, albeit the same one as before.  That's not to everyone's taste but you have to give it to them that they have turned around Spain's economy which is now set in the right direction. They have also lessened the unemployment figures but there is still so much need for improvement.  Rajoy and his party will govern in minority which is good and bad.  Only time will tell how things work out.
Mariano Rajoy taking his oath on Monday as the "new" President of Spain's government. Notice the bible and the cross as well as the Spanish constitution on the table where he takes his oath. 
Meanwhile in the UK, the high court ruled that Parliament must vote on whether the UK can start the process of leaving the EU; i.e. invoking the now famous article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.  This has caused a hoo-hah in the UK and even brought a glimmer of hope that Brexit might not actually mean Brexit anymore.  We have one person to thank here and that is a young woman caled Gina Miller who singlehandely took on the government on this issue.  This London based investment manager is described as "the woman leading the Brexit legal battle". She said as the ruling was made: "This result is about all our futures" and she is damned right.   Straight afterwards Teresa May said they would fight the sentence and I'm sure she will; although I believe she has met more than her match in Gina Miller.  
Gina Miller speaking to the press after the historic ruling from the High Court
Monday night saw the showing of Oli's third programme with "Mi Cámara y yo" which this week was about tourism in Madrid.  Did you know that Spain is the third most visited country after the US and France?  Yeah well it is.  There is of course a battle between Barcelona and Madrid and I think the former is the winner in the tourism market although more and more people are visiting Madrid and many of them are Japanese and Chinese.  Oli was critical of the programme but I was pleased to learn of new places to see and take future visitors.  She gave a bird's eye view of 3 lesser known gems of museums such as "El Museo Cerralbo", "El Museo Lázaro Galdiano" or the Museum of Romanticism.  They are well worth visiting after you have seen The Prado, the Museum of Contemporary Art of the Thyssen Museum. But Madrid is not only about musuems, there is wonderful gastronomy too and Oli included a piece on the Bar La Campana which serves the famous calamari sandwiches (bocadillos de calamares) and has been doing so since 1870.  Here is Olivia making one of the 1000 sandwiches served there every day. I have to admit I've never been but now I shall put Bar La Campana on my Madrid to visit list. 
Oli making and serving a calamari sandwich at Bar La Campana in her programme about tourism on Monday night
Another bar to add to this list is the "Chocolatería San Ginés" which is famous for its "churros" - you know the Spanish fritters which you dip in thick chocolate.  The programme ended with a visit to Chinchón, a famous medieval village outside Madrid, where Oli joined a group of British tourists.  I particularly liked it when she got them to try and pronounce the name of the town and also made a toast in Spanish - the words being "chinchin in Chinchón"; chinchin meaning cheers. We thoroughly enjoyed the programme which you can browse here if you are interested.


Tuesday was 1st November, All Saints' Day and a national holiday in Spain. It's the day people traditionally take flowers to the graves of their loved ones; although Eladio pointed out to me that the official day for that is 2nd November. 
All Saints' Day in Spain
It was also Halloween, a festival, I have said here many times, means nothing to me.  In any case it was a nice day at home and we were joined by Oli and Miguel for lunch. It's always lovely to have them, one of the reasons being they bring down the average age in the house by quite a few notches hahaha.


The worst thing about this week was getting used to the clocks having gone back an hour resulting in it being dark at 6.30pm.  That meant that on many of our evening walks we would come home in the dark.  On All Saints' Day I was back at 7pm and found Oli and Miguel making pancakes in the kitchen with nutella and cream. This was in stark contrast to the prawn salad I would have for my dinner.


I had a long chat with Suzy on the phone that night before going to bed to watch more of Homeland Season 5. She was well or seemed to be and had no particular news.  I was happy to hear she is still pleased with her job as a dietitian for Pronokal (my diet remember!) in Harley Street and is getting on very well with her "Manada" flat mates, Chati and Anita.  She has been commenting lately that she thinks this might be her last year in London. She's not sure where she wants to go but Barcelona seems to be in her plans. Well, it's still far from Madrid but nearer than from London.  I imagine one of the reasons is the weather.  If it's dark here at 6.30, it's getting dark in England even earlier and that would be something she is taking into consideration and I totally understand.  Time will tell .......


On Wednesday I was very busy. I had a meeting that morning and I also went into the office on a few errands.  On my way back I went to pick my watch up from a local shopping centre and very naughtilly ventured into H+M. There I bought a pair of trousers and two jumpers. I know I should wait until I shed all the weight I need to before I reward myself with new clothes but I couldn't stop myself. For the first time in my life I bought some fashionable "torn jeans".  It wasn't the torn bit that made me buy them actually but the good fit. If you are interested these are the ones I got. They are called "patchwork jeans" and this is their description: "5-pocket low-rise jeans in washed stretch denim with hard-worn details and slightly wider, tapered legs with patchwork details".
My new "patchwork" and "torn" jeans from H`M
 In any case I'm happy with them. Soon they will be too big as this week I made more progress with my diet and have now lost almost 6 kilos.  Still more to go and I am sticking to this incredibly difficult diet. I think when it's over I will never want to eat cauliflower, mushrooms, courgettes or lettuce ever again as I will always associate them with the diet.  But, I shall soldier on I promise.


Oli was busy this week filming for her upcoming programme which will be about young entrepreneurs in Madrid.  Wednesday saw her at the astonishing Google Campus in the city which she came back entralled about.  In the picture below she is with an organiser and a woman entrepreneur who takes her baby to work.  
Olivia at the Google Campus on Wednesday
She and Miguel joined us for dinner that night as she would be off shooting the next day near home. I'ts always lovely to have them.


Thursday was the last sunny day of the week. It was also the day Mariano Rajoy announced the cabinet reshuffle.  It certainly wasn't a new one as only 3 members left.  This is the new government.  5 men and 8 women. 
The "family photo" of the new Spanish cabinet. Soraya stands next to Rajoy and Cospedal is far right.
Rajoy has 2 strong women he depends on in his close circle and the main one is Soraya Saenz de Santamaría, his right hand woman. The other is Dolores de Cospedal who was appointed Minister of Defence; a very unpolitical post really.  Rumour has it the two women can't stand each other and the clear winner of the two was the former when she was reinforced and remains the only Vice President, the Prime Minister's deputy and also his troubleshooter.  Soraya is more popular than Dolores and actually much more popular than Rajoy himself and will have as her main task to deal with the Catalan issue. Let's see how she does that.


While the country was digesting the news broadcast that night on television, we turned to Netflix for our entertainment. Having finished Homeland Season 5, we started watching Peaky Blinders, a British saga based on the story of the gang of the same name based in Birmingham in 1919.  We've only watched 2 episodes so far and have yet to get hooked. I'm not sure we will. The next day, season 1 of The Crown, the story of the first decade of Queen Elizabeth's reign would be premiered on Netflix and I know where my loyalties lie and couldn't wait to watch it.


As predicted, the rain came on Friday.  It poured it down putting an end to the St. Martin's summer (veranillo de San Martín) which had come early this year.  It was a very grey and cold day. The highlight was having Oli for lunch as she had been shooting nearby at El Ganso, a new Spanish clothes chain with shops in over 150 countries believe it or not. She came loaded with a tray of cakes as she had also been shooting the story of a woman entrepreneur who left her legal career to become a very successful confectioner. Here is Oli with her.
Oli shooting the story of a woman who left her legal career to become a successful confectioner
When Oli left late on Friday afternoon it was still raining and so there and then I decided to start watching The Crown on Netflix. I didn't think my Spanish husband would be interested but he was game for it. However, I inisted this time that I had to watch it in English. After all, I couldn't possibly hear the Queen speaking in Spanish and he  agreed as long as there were subtitles in Spanish:-(
The beautiful series about Queen Elizabeth II by Netflix
We went on to watch 2 more episodes that night and we are rivetted.  I had big expectations as everything about the series created by Peter Morgan was supposed to be lavish, including Princess Elizabeth's 35.000 pound replica wedding dress; despite it supposedly having been made thanks to ration coupons at the time!  They even got real surgeons to perfom surgery of the time on a dummy of the sick King George VII in a ballroom at the palace.  Amazing. My only complaint is that the actors who play the Queen, Prince Philip, the Queen Mother and Churchill don't look like them enough.


Season 1 spans the first decade of the life of the Queen since she married Philip Mountbatten, a penniless Greek prince,  in 1947 and became Queen at the tender age of 25 when her beloved Father died in 1952 of lung cancer.  He smoked, by the way, until the very end.  I am loving it but still after 3 episodes I keep having to explain to my non British royalist husband who is George V, George VI, Queen Mary and who is Princess Margaret not to mention the Duke of Windsor  and then go on to explain that he was Edward VIII who abdicated in favour of his brother "Bertie" who was crowned George VI to marry the American divorcée Wallis Simpson and whose real name was David!.  My explanations go on to tell him who was The Queen Mother Elizabeth (Bowes Lyon), George VI's wife as well as Antony Eden, Peter Townsend, Lord Mountbatten, the origins of Prince Philip and a long etc. It's such recent history to me but chinese checkers to him I'm afraid.


On Saturday it rained again, but when there was a glimpse of it stopping, out we went for our walk. It rained again until the mid afternoon when I ventured out again for my second walk, always accompanied by my music lists on spotify thanks to my cordless bluetooth headphones. I came back to re watch episode 3 of The Queen as I had slept through parts of it the night before.  After my diet dinner last night, we were to watch 3 more. Talk about binge watching!  I can't get enough of it although, today Sunday, I shall have to re watch episode 6 as I partly slept through that too.  It's dreadful to think we have only 4 more episodes to watch of season 1 and that season 2 is only being filmed now.  Maybe I shall resort to re watching the whole of Downton Abbey for the 3rd time as a substitute.  That remains to be seen hahaa.



So yes today is Sunday and thankfully the sky is clear and I shall go for my first walk shortly.  The music I play on Spotify will be my collection of favourite church hymns; suitable music for a Sunday and will take me straight back in my mind to morning assembly at my school, St. Joseph's College Bradford, or to evening service at St. Peter's church in Shipley.


It's a happy Sunday for two men in particular.  Yesterday Andrew Murray became the number one tennis player in the world. That's great for British sport.  A less known achievement comes from the prowess of Spanish ice skater, Javier Fernández who  yesterday won the prestigious Rostelcom Cup in Russia for the third time by the way.  Ice skating is no big sport in Spain and I am always disappointed in such achievements being under reported in the Spanish press.  I have had to resort to finding the news from Canadian media.  Isn't that sad?


Javier Fernández, the unsung hero of Spanish ice skating whose prowess is under reported on in his home country
I'm not sure how the day will pan out for us as Olivia hasn't told us her plans for lunch.  My lunch, of course, will be according to my strict diet which is the norm these days.



So I will leave you now, publish this and print a copy for my Father before my walk.



Wishing you all a great week ahead,

Cheers till next time
Masha