Saturday, October 13, 2018

Oli in New Mexico, surprise flowers on my mother's grave, Airbnb guests from all over the world, the house of love, lunch with three sisters, death and destruction in Majorca and other stories.

Sunday 14th October 2018
Making our purchases at the fruit and veg market in Villaviciosa on Monday
Good morning all,

It's Sunday again and "blog day" to quote my Father.

Last Sunday was a normal sort of day with guests going and guests coming. There would be no French expression of the day as I can no longer access The Local France without a subscription. That's a shame. "Quel domage" or should I say "ton pis". 

We went on our walk before any of our guests were up. It was sunny but with a nip in the air. The temperatures went down from the mid to high 20's to the very low 20's that day and it has remained like that. So no more bathing for our guests I'm afraid or so I thought as later our Portuguese footballer, Valdo, went in a couple of times. He was very brave I thought as the water is very cold as the season is coming to an end. 

At about noon our 7 guests from Cistierna (small town in León) left rather reluctantly. The 3 kids adored our place and our dogs. They left me a glowing report both on Airbnb and in my treasured guest book. Goretti later wrote to me on whatsapp to say what a special couple Eladio and I are. That was so nice. Maybe we are .....

Once they left, it was all hands on deck to clean their rooms and change their bedding in time for the arrival of our next guests. If July, August and September were fully booked, October looks to be the same with only 2 vacant nights! That may change too as I keep getting new reservations. I think it is since I included the professional photos in my listings and of course because of the good reviews and my super host status. If you had told me a year and a half ago that my main new job would be hosting guests on Airbnb in our own home, I would never have believed you. 

Just before lunch I caught up with Oli who was in New Mexico, on the phone. That day she was going to an Indian reserve to film and was looking forward to it. Apparently the village of "Taos" is one of the few original native American settlements left in the USA. I should correct myself here, after having looked it up on the web and I quote here: "Taos Pueblo is the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark". Oli loved it and later sent us photos. Here is one with the adobe buildings in the middle of what looks like a desert. 
Adobe buildings in the Taos village in New Mexico
And here is one of her with a real native. The American Indians there speak a language called "Taos" (800 speakers) in this village which is a branch of the  "tanoan"  language of which there are 7 languages approximately. Taos and and Tanoan have has never been written down or so I read.  The languages are also known as the "Pueblo languages" as are the natives.  They are a very close knit and supposedly secretive society especially when it comes to their religion. Interesting eh?
Oli at Taos village with an Indian last Sunday
It was after lunch that the first of  our new guests arrived; a love struck couple, Valdo a Portuguese football player with curly thick black and long hair of obvious African extraction and his beautiful Spanish girlfriend, Elo from Cádiz. She works in Malta of all places, in advertising, which is where they met when he played football for a team in Valletta. They are now parted as he currently plays for a team in Portugal, thus their relationship is a long distance one. They had come to Madrid to be together for 3 days and had chosen our house. I told them that once Eladio and I had been in the same situation but that our love survived the distance and that we had been together since 1980. They were impressed. There was love and happiness on their beautiful young faces. They loved the house, the dogs, their room, the pool, the garden and after settling in, went off to do some shopping. I saw them come back but wouldn't see them until the next day. I called them my love birds. We spoke a mixture of English and Spanish and I even tried my rusty Portuguese on Valdo. 

Meanwhile, we read by the pool. It got a bit cold for me so I snuggled under a blanket on the wicker sofas surrounded by our dogs and continued reading. What was a I reading? Well, another novel by Fredrick Forsyth, this time "The Avenger", mostly set in the Balkan wars.

That afternoon, my dear friend from St. Joseph's school in Bradford, Geraldine was visiting her parents' graves which are at the same cemetery as my Mother's; Charlestown in Balidon.  She offered to put flowers on it, knowing it had been the anniversary of her passing away on 1st October. That was so nice and later she sent me a photo of the grave with a bunch of flowers with pretty autumn colours. That would please both my Father and I. Before he left England in 2005 he had paid a nearby florist to put flowers there once a week for a year. Months later we visited and there were none. He had been duped. So thanks a lot Geraldine for such a lovely gesture.
My school friend Geraldine put flowers on my Mother's grave last Sunday
It was while I was making our dinner that night - duck, avocado and orange salad - that my next new guest arrived. Richard, from Poole in the UK, in Dorset and near Bournemouth according to my Father, who knows his English geography a lot better than I do. He motored to our house in a British registered car arriving at around 7.30 pm. He looked to be an interesting chap, very tall and in his 50's perhaps. I thought he had driven from the UK but no, he drove from Granada. Apparently, he lives in a small village in the tucked away mountain range, "Las Alpujarras" in Granada. I commented that was just like the English Hispanist, Gerald Brennan who lived there too from about 1919 and on and off until his death. Brennan is famous for his book "South of Granada" which I read when I studied Spanish at Nottingham University many years ago. I decided then to download it on my kindle and read it again. Richard had come to stay a couple of nights with us to see his son who  is here for his gap year. He seemed a really nice chap. 

So once again the house was full but at dinner time we were alone and were soon in bed watching the TV.  One of the main international items of news this week has been about the supposed murder in the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Istanbul of the Saudi dissident journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. He lived in the US and was working for the Washington Post. On 2nd October  he went to the Saudi Embassy  in Istanbul to get papers for his upcoming marriage. His girlfriend waited for him outside but he never came out again.  It has since transpired, he was murdered inside the Embassy although the Saudi Government denies it. So where is he then if he was never seen leaving the Embassy? The Turkish government says it has evidence he was killed and dismembered there. That's Saudi Arabia for you I'm afraid. There has been a big international outrage at his disappearance and I think the Saudi Government will be under big pressure. It was one of the main topics of news this week. 
Jamal Khashoggi
Of note on Sunday it was my little cousin Ruby's 10th birthday. Ruby is the granddaughter of my cousin Zuka who lives in France and Ruby and her family live in New Zealand, so far from us all. Thankfully we generally see our Kiwi family once a year at the "cousinade" in France. Happy birthday dear darling Ruby. Love you to bits.
Happy birthday little cousin Ruby
Monday came and the temperatures fell although it was still sunny. After our walk, my English guest Richard had just got up and I offered him a cup of coffee and slice of my home made bread for toast. He told me he just loved our house saying "the house is beautiful, the family is beautiful and so are the dogs". That was so nice to hear. He said he wouldn't mind moving in if he could find a way for us to leave hahaha. I loved his British humour.

Our "love birds" were up at about the same time. They were such a  gorgeous couple. Pippa would bark at Valdo a bit sometimes and he said he was sure it was because of his thick Afro style hair. It was then that I showed them a photo of Suzy's beau, Dous, whose hair even beats Valdo's hahahaha. They spent the whole day at home, only going out to buy food. They just wanted to be together and we left them to it, respecting their love and need to be together.  I told them that they had come to the right place as our house, in a way, is the "house of love", because we ourselves are in love and because many of our guests have told us what a lovely and loving atmosphere our house has. I also told them that in the room they were sleeping in, Suzy's room, a marriage proposal had taken place this summer between an equally in love English couple, Luella and her partner Brent. Later when they sent me this photo of the two of them by the pool with the caption "the house of love", I was as pleased as punch. Nice eh? I'm so lucky to have such wonderful guests and from all over the world.
My two love birds, Valdo the Portuguese football player and his Spanish girlfriend Elo who lives in Malta. Lovely couple
Later Eladio and I visited the Monday fruit and vegetable market in Villaviciosa de Odón which we now go to every week. That day we spent up to 93 euros on a huge crate of wonderful fruit and vegetables. I wondered, once again, if it would last a week. It nearly did. I chose a photo taken there of me holding 2 delicious mangoes to illustrate this week's blog. I love it because of the colours; so autumnal.

In the afternoon we spent the time reading. For the first time since before the summer, we read inside. Meanwhile our lovebirds were hogging the last of the sun by the pool and we wanted to respect their privacy. That afternoon we got unexpected guests for tea. Richard had brought his son, Alex, to meet us and to talk to us in Spanish. If Richard was tall, at least 6ft, Alex towered over him at well over 6ft and at just 18. He seemed like a giant next to Eladio and I wished I had taken a photo of the two together. I offered them tea and biscuits served with my lovely Emma Bridgewater pottery and we had a nice cozy time in the lounge which, in fact, we hardly ever use. Alex whose shoe size is 15 (that's 51 in Spain), is a lovely boy. He will be studying French and Spanish at Exeter University and, as I said, is on his gap year here in Spain, teaching English in nearby Boadilla while completing his TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) course.  Richard only wished he had found our house for his son when they came looking for accommodation. I just wondered whether our beds would have been big enough for him hahahaha. It was nice to have English visitors for tea that day.

We had dinner indoors too that night which was also the first night since about the beginning of June that we used our duvet. It was lovely to snuggle under.

Tuesday came and the weather was similar to Monday. Rain threatened but it wouldn't come until the next day. That morning we had a check up appointment at the vet for dear Norah our beagle who was so ill last week. We finally got the MRI results which were not too bad as we were expecting the worst. She has a cyst next to one of her ovaries which will have to be removed. She also has something called discospondylitis. This is what caused all the pain and is apparently an infection of the inter vertebral disc space. The good news is that it is not pressing on the medulla and she is being treated with antibiotics.  The other good news is that the ongoing leishmania illness she has, provoked by a mosquito of the same name, has not affected any of her organs and the illness is now under control. Dear Norah needs a lot of looking after from now on; even more than before.

After the visit to the vet we drove home and decided to go on our walk in the afternoon. I would be busy again with Airbnb guests coming and going as I would be for the rest of the week. That morning I had another sudden booking for my only free room left that night, the Green Room, from someone called Jennifer from Abu Dhabi. I wondered who she was but would find out later.

I was having lunch out that day but would leave a meal prepared for my men and Lucy. While I was in the throes of making "fabada", (bean stew), cream of vegetable soup and even home made bread, I was joined by my English guest, Richard,  who was leaving that morning. I gave him a cup of coffee and more of my home made bread and we had  a lovely natter together in English. Hopefully he will be coming again. I suspect so as his son lives nearby.

One of the highlights of the week was lunch out that day with the girls from my events agency, QuintaEsencia. This amazingly creative agency with whom I have worked with for years and who I wouldn't swap with any other, is run by 3 sisters, each very different: Cris, Bea and Gloria and I love them to bits. They had invited me out to lunch as we hadn't seen each other for a long time. I was sad to have missed Gloria's wedding to Ramón but it coincided with my "cousinade" in France this summer. They took me to "De María", a lovely Argentinian restaurant in Majadahonda right next to the Atlético de Madrid's training grounds.

We had a great lunch, as the food is superb, but also we chin wagged all the way through as if there wasn't enough time to catch up on all our news and lives in general. I was interrupted by a sudden new booking for the one spare room I had for Wednesday and Thursday night. It came from a French chap, "Jean", from the basketball world whose daughter studies at the University here. Then I got a call from Eladio to say Jennifer and Manjit from Abu Dhabi had arrived, were hungry and didn't have a car. Thus I had to curtail the lovely "sobremesa" - word in Spanish which means time after a meal talking around a table - to rush home to their rescue.
Lunch with 3 sisters - Gloria, Cris and Bea from my events agency QuintaEsencia.
Jennifer is Australian and her husband Manjit is from Malaysia. She is an ex primary school teacher and he a pilot with Abu Dhabi airlines. They were coming back from a holiday with her sister in Alicante and returning to Abu Dhabi on Wednesday morning. They had not been able to find a single room in Madrid either in a hotel or in an Airbnb for anything under 300 euros a night. That's how they found us but of course, if you don't have a car, we are really in the middle of nowhere. Jennifer who was really friendly, said finding our house was a bit like the Bethlehem tale of no "room at the inn". They wanted to go out for a meal at 5 pm which I told them was impossible in Spain. So, I offered to take them to Carrefour Market to buy take away food or whatever and come home and eat it. That's what they did. I only wish they had stayed longer as I absolutely know Jennifer and I would have become friends. Later she would write the most beautiful note in my guest book. Bless you Jennifer. Was great meeting you. Please keep in touch and please come again.

After they had settled by the pool with their meal and bottle of wine, Eladio and I went on our walk with the dogs. Eladio didn't really need it as he had walked enough that day by spending most of the morning mowing the lawn. In any case it was as lovely sunny and cloudy walk and I needed it.

I came home to make our own dinner just as Valdo and Elo were going out for theirs on their last night with us. They would be leaving the next morning at 5 am so we said our goodbyes. They promised they would come again and this time with their "Mums". They were such a lovely couple, we had to have a photo before they left and this is it, courtesy of Andrew, our Scottish long staying guest.
Saying goodbye to my "lovebirds" Valdo and Elo
Dinner that night was going to be something different. At the fruit and veg stall, we had been given some free chard (acelgas in Spanish). I have often eaten "acelgas" in Spain  but never made a dish out this very green vegetable which is very similar to spinach. . So I just looked up a simple recipe and made it with a bit of chopped potato and garlic. It was lovely and we shall be having it again.

Meanwhile, it was 8 hours earlier in New Mexico and Olivia was visiting  the apparently famous "White Sands dunes" there. She adored them and even slid down the dunes on a toboggan. I read it up on internet and learned that this "gypsum crystal dune field" is the largest of its kind on earth (710 km2 or 275 sq miles). Here she is on the beach with the person she was including in her programme.
Oli and a colleague or maybe one of her "madrileños" at the White Sands dune beaches in New Mexico on Tuesday
We went to bed a bit later than usual but were soon tucked in and watching the news and then some boring debate which quickly sent me to slumber land. It was funny to think of how many nationalities would be asleep in our house that night: Paraguayan, Spanish, English, Scottish, half Russian, Malaysian, Portuguese and Australian out of 9 people. Many of us were mixed nationality partnerships too. It would get even more exotic from Wednesday onward with more guests arriving from France, Lithuania but of Russian extract and from Belgium but originally from Lebanon. Airbnb is not just about making an extra income, it's about meeting interesting people from all over the world and often making new friends. For sure Jennifer will be one of them as Rania already is.

Rain came on Wednesday in the Madrid area but nothing compared to what happened in Majorca, the main Balearic island. Sudden flash floods, like out of Dante's hell, struck the holiday island bringing with it destruction and worst of all loss of lives. Some died when their cars swept away by the rain and wind landed in the sea and others were saved, only just, by the emergency services.  The death toll is of at least 10 people and one small boy aged 5 is still missing. The images on TV were horrific and it was the main news of the day and during the rest of the week.
Death and destruction in Majorca this week
The area hardest hit was in the north, especially a town called Sant Llorenç. Spain's Rafa Nadal who is from the island and had family living in the area, immediately offered his tennis academy as shelter. But he also volunteered along with many other islanders to help clean up the mess caused in the streets. With a broom in hand and wellington boots, he shunned the cameras and went to work with his fellow islanders as just another volunteer. But of course he hit the news as he too famous to have gone unnoticed.
Rafa Nadal from Mallorca joined volunteers cleaning the streets in the island yesterday after the flash floods
The weather in general was big news on Wednesday. Florida and central America were hit too but by a hurricane, Hurricane Michael, a particularly deadly one of category 4. I'm glad Oli was in New Mexico and not in Florida.

The rain made us postpone our walk until the afternoon. Thus the morning was quiet although busy. More guests were leaving and others coming. That morning Valdo and Elo, our two lovebirds left as did the couple from Abu Dhabi. I saw the latter off at 7 in the morning. I was later delighted to read their reviews in my treasured guest book. They were so lovely that I am including a photo of what they wrote here. Their comments left me feeling that Airbnb is not just about earning income. It's also about meeting interesting people from all over the world and making new friends.
Some lovely comments from my Airbnb guests this week in my guest book. 
Their lovely comments and many others like these make being an Airbnb host worth all the effort I put into it.

The next guests to arrive were repeat guests but they weren't coming until the afternoon or evening. Jean from Nantes in Northern France was coming with his wife, by car (yes the French drive long distances!) which is just over 1000km away and a 10 hour drive. Their daughter who is studying physiotherapy in French at the local UEM University is in lodging just up the road. Our other guests would be the Russians from Lithuania whose son and his friend are studying at a school near us that specialises in basketball, their country's main sport.

We enjoyed our peace before they arrived with a quiet lunch and quiet siesta. It was still raining and thus we watched a bit of Netflix, the film about the Norwegian massacre of young people on an island near Oslo that happened on 22nd July 2011. The film is simply called July 22nd.

The French were the first to arrive. Jean's wife does not speak English or Spanish so I had to speak French which I was happy to realise had improved since I started taking lessons. It was only then that we could go for our walk. Thankfully by about  6 pm the rain had gone and was replaced by sunshine.

We came home to make dinner and just as we were starting, my Russians arrived. Instead of the three people who came last time and who had booked, Veronica and Vladim, the parents of George and Viktor, their friend, the father of George's friend, Maximillian, only Veronica came but with her oldest son Artur. Thankfully Artur speaks English so communication this time would be a whole lot easier. They came late as they had waited 4 hours at the airport to get a hired car. Something tells me they didn't book it beforehand. They arrived loaded with presents; a special cake from Lithuania and black Lithuanian bread. That was so kind. Called "Sakotis" it is a tree shaped cake made of butter, eggs, flour, sugar and cream and is probably Lithuania's most famous culinary item.  It's a total bomb as far as calories are concerned and I am concerned about eating it hahaha. I remember being given one when I was in Vilnius for a communications meeting when I worked for Yoigo or rather the mother company, TeliaSonera. This is a photo of the cake and the black bread.
Presents from my Russian Airbnb guests - famous Lituanian Sakotis tree shaped cake and the black bread.
After drinking a whole bottle of wine between them (very Russian haha), Artur and his Mother Veronica went off to pick up the two boys and take them out for dinner. The boys's choice was Burger King but later they told me they had been to a place called The Good Burger; possibly only slightly healthier hahaha.

We had a far healthier meal, cold ham and salad. Our French guests with whom we had a nice banter in a mixture of French, English and Spanish, prepared theirs and ate it in our very large dining room. while we had ours in the kitchen. It was funny to see how the Mother cooked Spanish calamari in butter rather than in olive oil as they do in Spain.

We left them to it at about 9.30 and went upstairs to our quarters to get a bit of privacy and of course get ready to go to bed. We watched the end of the film July 22nd which is pretty grim and feeling drowsy, switched off the lights at around 11 pm.

Thursday came and brought with it more rain but again the sun would shine in the afternoon so we left our walk until later. That morning Olivia sent us a photo which must have been taken on Wednesday her time. It was with one of her "madrileños" in Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico, outside one of the oldest houses in the USA. On the De Vargas street it is an adobe home which must once have been a house belonging to the Pueblo Indians.
Oli in Santa Fe outside one of the oldest houses in the USA
I noticed how nearly all the towns and probably streets have Spanish names in New Mexico.  Oli had told me that NM is a bilingual state but after a bit of googling I found out that although it isn't officially a bilingual state, Spanish is much used.

I didn't go out on Thursday, except for our walk, and spent the morning mostly cooking. I made a batch of "bitki" (Russian meat patties) for freezing. I also had a go at making baked apples for my Father and Eladio who love them. The best cooking apples in Spain are "reinetas" (little queens) but I had bought mine at Mercadona and not the Villaviciosa market and they were not as sweet unfortunately. Next time I will do this dish with the apples from the market.
My baked apples
I'm not a big fan of baked apples but have to admit they are a lovely dessert for a cold day.

We had a long siesta on Thursday. Unusually for me, I slept for about 1.5h. I suppose I needed to catch up on lost sleep as I get up so early. Norah was sleeping too and later I would find her rolling around peacefully on our Persian carpets in one of the lounges where she is definitely not allowed haha.  It was obvious she was on the mend. Until Wednesday she was not well and I think Thursday was the turning point. She ate well, walked a lot better and even played with her "sister" dogs. She would enjoy our walk that day too.

The walk was lovely with the sun shining in contrast to the morning's rain. We came home to find most of our guests out. We hardly saw any of them that day. We were home quite early, so, with plenty of time on my hands, I made Spanish tortilla (with potatoes and onions) to which I added fresh spinach. It was scrumptious but we could only manage one of the two small ones I made.
My potato, onion and spinach omelet I made for dinner on Thursday night
Just as we were finishing, our Russians were home and there was time for a chat. The three boys, Artur, George and Maximilian speak good English but unfortunately I can only exchange a few words of Russian with their delightful mother Veronica. She claimed she loved me and kept hugging me this week. Without the fathers around, this group was much better behaved than last time.

We left them to make their meal and went up to our quarters to bed. That night we started watching a new TV series we shan't continue with; Elite. It is a drama set in an elite school but we didn't like the script. We thought we would enjoy it as we like series or films set in schools, hospital, prisons, convents etc. Don't ask me why as I am generally not a fan of institutions in real life hahaha.

Friday dawned, 12 October which is Spain's national day or Columbus day. It was a holiday in Spain. Eladio watched the military parade which he loves. However, the rain dampened the event as did the booing of the new PM Pedro Sánchez. People called him a "squatter" and called for elections. The King, however was cheered. The funniest thing that happened that day will go down in political history as one of the biggest faux paux for sure. After the parade, the King and Queen received visitors at the Palace. Members of the government, the opposition, authorities, etc queued up to shake their hands. Pedro Sánchez and his wife were the first in the queue and instead of shaking the monarchs' hands and walking on, they stayed next to them, thinking they had to be there to shake the other guests hands. It was an awkward moment and someone from the Palace Protocol team had to tap the PM on the shoulder and tell him to move on. Twitter blazed with memes and criticism of the PM and his wife.
Yesterday's embarrassing moment for the new PM
He and his wife then walked away a little pink faced, as if they had been caught out at school for some misdemeanour.

I wasn't at all interested in the military celebrations and I was busy too. That morning, our two guests from Nantes left very early and I had to see them off. Then I had to supervise and help get their room ready for our next guests. I was really looking forward to seeing Rania again. You will remember she is my new friend from Belgium although she is actually Lebanese.

She arrived late at around 12.30 accompanied by her dentist husband Pierre and little boy Raphael (11). They had picked up their older son Jonathan on the way from his University residence. We embraced immediately. It was lovely to see her again. My lovely Lebanese guests from Brussels had also brought us a present. We are truly spoiled by our guests. They gave us a splendid box of wonderful Belgian biscuits, some of them the famous "speculoos". We would eat some of them after lunch with my Father which would leave me feeling rather full and guilty. This is the beautiful box.
The amazing Belgian biscuits Rania brought for us from Brussels
Later they left to visit Madrid. The Russians also left, I think, for Toledo, thus the house was empty for a while, except for us. We had quiet lunch with my Father and a relaxing siesta after which we read by the kitchen terrace surrounded by our dogs. We took them on our walk at around 6.30 when the sun was at its strongest.

Friday, of course, was the day of the royal wedding. Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson's younger daughter Eugenie, aged 28, was marrying someone called Jack Brooksbank in a full blown royal wedding at Windsor. I wasn't very interested in the wedding per se, but was curious to see the family photo where the bride's Mother, "Fergie" would be photographed with Prince Philip for the first time in 20 years. Apparently she was very worried at the encounter as her ex father-in-law, had frozen her out of the family after the divorce and the famous "toe sucking" scandal which marked her exit from the family. Months after her split with Prince Andrew in 1992, a photo was published of her on holiday with her financial adviser, John Bryan where he was sucking her toe while they were on holiday near St. Tropez. That photo was her undoing, as far as the Royal family was concerned. So of course a photo of her with the family including Prince Philip was gong to cause news and bring up the subject of that famous incident once again. I bet she has regretted it all her life. This is the photo of the family together with Fergie just next to her former father-in-law. I bet they didn't speak or did they I wonder.
Family photo after the wedding of Princess Eugenie on Friday
Being Friday night, we went out to dinner. Our choice that night was one of our usual places, La Txitxarrería, a Basque restaurant in Pozuelo. Eladio went for a bean and squid casserole and I, of course, went for the steak. The steak at La Txitxarrería is the best in the area. Here is Eladio about to enjoy his dinner on Friday night.
Dinner on Friday night at La Txitxarrería
For once I was too full for a dessert. We were home by just after 10 pm and after saying goodnight to our Russians, we went up to bed. It was on Friday that Amazon Prime premiered the new series called The Romanoffs. Unfortunately it is not about Nicholas and Alexander. I had hoped for an historical saga and was slightly disappointed. Difficult to describe, the series focuses on the lives of some of the supposed Russian royal family descendants' lives after the revolution. I think they are all fictional. The first episode was a bit bizarre and not what I was expecting but I actually quite liked it.

Meanwhile, Oli was on her last day of shooting in New Mexico. Friday saw her at the Tent Rocks near Santa Fe. A bit like Capadocia, according to my daughter,  this national monument is actually known as the "Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks". It is famous for its cone shaped formations made of "pumice, ash and tuff deposits" from volcanoes 6 or so million years ago. Kasha Katuwe literally means "white rocks" in the Pueblo Indian language.  Here she is living the moment, lucky girl. What a wonderful job she has.
Oli at the Tent Rocks in New Mexico on Friday
While she was filming there, it was time for us to get some shut eye.

Saturday was the warmest day of the week with temperatures reaching 26ºc.  Our guests all went out and the house was quiet but just in the morning. After our walk with the dogs, I got ready for my weekly French lesson which again would be a conversation lesson as Olivia was not there. Yesterday she would start her long journey home. She should be arriving today at around 15h and we hope to see her for dinner tonight.

When Helene left, it was up to me to make lunch for my Father and Eladio which would be a simple affair. We had our siesta and then some quiet time by the pool reading. I am now reading, as I said I would, South from Granada by Gerald Brennan. It makes for very easy and interesting reading. Eladio, meanwhile, cleaned the pool. It was full of conkers that fall from the chestnut trees surrounding it. You have to be careful not to stand under the trees as one might fall on your head. Here he is busily removing the conkers.
Eladio removing the conkers from the pool yesterday
Conkers are a sure sign of autumn and I am a little sad the summer is over. Later, amazingly, the Russian boys swam. I suppose for them it was quite warm but I wouldn't have been seen dead inside that freezing water hahaha.

Soon it was time for dinner and while we were in the kitchen, our guests slowly came back from their outings. Andy was there, making his meal too and then Rania, her husband Pierre and sons Johathan and Raphael appeared. We were about to go up to bed but my dear friend Rania urged us to stay and chat with them for a while. The kitchen was a cacophony of languages and banter. Zena, our Ukranian weekend carer was there too, adding another nationality. Eladio took this impromptu photo of us. Just the Russians were missing. And here we are together. Sorry about the "Mercadona" plastic bag in the middle of the picture hahaha. It was a happy moment.
With Rania (white top), her family, Andy our Scottish guest (far left) and Zena (far right) last night in the kitchen
I sat with them while they had their dinner outside on the kitchen patio and we were to hear more about life living in Beirut when it was at war with Israel and what it is like today. It is sometimes described as "the city that would not die"! It was always known in the past as "the Paris of the middle east" for its culture and vibrant cultural and intellectual life. The Lebanese speak a language similar to Arabic or a variety of North Levantine Arabic. Pierre told us it was similar to the language of Jesus Christ, Aramaic. They firmly told me Lebanese is not a dialect of Arabic. Well, they will know best. Because of the small country's heritage (France's colonial rule) French is widely spoken. I would love to visit it one day.

I went to bed late after staying with my guests and missed the news. I only saw the end, the weather forecast which was all about Hurricane Leslie which had just touched down in Lisbon. Thankfully it had turned from Force 1 into a tropical storm. During the night it was on its way to Spain.

This morning it was very windy and was raining, no doubt, a repercussion of "Leslie". The north west of Spain will have been harder hit.

So today, Sunday,  will be cool and wet, a sure sign, along with the conkers, that autumn is truly here. This morning my Russian guests will be leaving.  Rania and her family will be going tomorrow so I'm glad I will be seeing more of them. I am also dying to see Oli who we haven't seen she left for the USA about 10 days ago. No doubt she will be suffering from jet lag when we see her, probably tonight for dinner.

I am now at the end of the tales of this week and must now get on with the day. Wishing you all a great week ahead, cheers till next week friends and readers,

Masha




Saturday, October 06, 2018

Norah unwell, remembering my Mother, RIP Charles Aznavour, a press prize invitation, Oli to New Mexico, Adios Montserrat Caballé and other stories.

7th October 2018
My dear Mother in Cambridge in the early 50's
Hi again everyone. How was your week? I hope it was good. Now, let me tell you about mine. 

Last Sunday was quiet but busy. As you probably know I love my quiet time in the morning having breakfast and reading the news before everyone else gets up. As you also know I am refreshing my French and improving it by a weekly lesson with my daughter Olivia. Part of the process is learning a new expression every day from The Local France, most of them being coloquial. 

Last Sunday's expression was "mince" which has nothing to do with mince meat. Mince itself means lean but it has an alternative and more euphemistic meaning. It is used instead of a swear word, a bit like we use "oh sugar" in English. It can also be used with "alors" like "zut alors" which is similar to words such as crikey or blimey. It can also be used to express disappointment. Another way of using it is as an adjective of affair or feat, such as "ce n'est pas une mince affaire" meaning it's no small matter. 
Sunday's French word or expression of the day
Sunday was quiet but busy as a guest was leaving and others arriving. It was Zaid, our Muslim guest from Sweden who was leaving that day. I will miss my chats with him about Shia Muslims and other issues around religion but he has promised to come back to see us. I wish him all the luck in the world in his first year of dentistry at the UEM University. 

We went on our walk with Oli but didn't take Norah because she didn't look well at all. She had been off her food, looked in pain and had difficulty standing up and lying down. Thus we took her to the vet that morning where they took an X-ray and did a blood test. The X-ray showed a problem in her gut and we would get the results of the blood test later in the day. She was given two injections, one for the pain and one for the gut and we took her home. She looked very poorly and I was very sorry for her. She has leishmania, an illness caused by a mosquito bite of the same name which is very prevalent here. Dogs don't usually die of it but need treatment to keep it under control 
Poor Norah unwell on Sunday
Just as we got back from the vet, my new guests had arrived from Argentina. Marcelo, probably in his 40's and a business man had brought his parents, Matilde and her husband Adelino who were to visit Europe for the first time. They are in their 70's. Exhausted from the long flight and jet lag, they went straight to bed and we wouldn't see them until the evening. They would occupy Suzy's room and the "green room". That left me with a problem as Pierre, our red haired French guest, also a dental student, was returning that night. Thus we had to use Oli's room which is an exception. You see, my younger daughter wants to keep a foot in the house so to speak, so we don't rent out her room. That day would be an exception. We would be a very full house on Sunday and Monday night. 

Meanwhile, Andrew, our Scottish lodger, who will be staying with us for 6 months, went to visit El Escorial, hike up the mountains and visit the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos) where Franco is buried. The Government wants to remove the dictator's remains from the mausoleum so he may not be there for much longer. 

Once we had settled the Argentinians in their rooms, I made lunch with the help of Zena. It was simple, "bitki" (Russian hamburgers) with vegetables from the Villaviciosa market. 

Watching the news afterwards in our bedroom I was delighted to see and hear that a young Spanish woman, Ana Carrasco, aged 21  had made motorcycling history. She is the first woman to win a motorbike world title, the World Supersport 300 race. Well done for her, well done for Spain. 
Ana Carrasco made motorcycling history on Sunday
Later in the day there would be another sport victory for Spain. Alejandro Valverde, the 38 year old professional cyclist, from Murcia, won the Men's world race championship in Austria. I could use my new French expression here to describe his win; "mince alors". In any case Sunday was a great day for Spanish sport. That's pretty amazing for a cyclist aged 38.
Alejandro Valverde at the Finish line on Sunday
While the cycling world was celebrating his victory, we read by the pool. Oli worked in our study on her up coming trip and TV report in New Mexico.  Before leaving apart from preparing all the logistics, she also had to research a lot about the places she would visit. All I know about New Mexico is that it is on the border of Mexico and next to Texas and Arizona, that it once belonged to Mexico which once belonged to Spain and was called New Spain. It was the Spaniard Hernán Cortés who conquered the land and caused it to fall from the Aztec Empire. Today, centuries later, New Mexico is full of towns with Spanish names and the state has officially two languages, English and Spanish. That is the extent of my knowledge. No doubt Oli knows a whole lot more. 

Later we got a call from Norah's vet, Noelia. She had the partial results of the blood test which showed she had no infection but acute anemia possibly by the mosquito leishmania. We went to get all the medicines she prescribed but as the local chemist didn't stock them, went to the clinic where Noelia prepared everything Norah would need and give us the instructions on how to medicate her. It wasn't easy as she wasn't eating. It was my Father's streaks of bacon with the pills inside that did the trick in the end as she would eat them hahaha. 

After she had had all her medicine, we set about making our dinner. I made duck and mango salad. Meanwhile, our Argentinian guests were up. Marcelo had gone out to buy food to make a barbecue or an "asado" as they call it over there. His parents made their "mate" (herbal drink typical of Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) and sat by the pool. 

Later when we were in bed we could smell the meat they were grilling on the barbecue. They must have finished eating at 1 in the morning. I suppose, sadly, this time, Norah was not begging for some of their food. I hoped she would get better soon.  

Monday was 1st October, a new month but also a date etched in my mind because it was on 1st October 1999 that my dear Mother died. That was 19 years ago and she was aged 79 but I shall never forget her of course. She is always in my thoughts. What an amazing and wonderful person she was. It is difficult to describe her. Size wise, she was a large woman, measuring at least 5.10" and with a shoe size 8. She had long legs and beautiful hands. The only thing I have inherited from her were her green eyes. Of aristocratic origin and Russian parents she had a difficult early life due to the Russian Revolution and 2nd World War. She ended up in England when the war finished and after working as a refugee cleaning hospitals she finally got residency and even worked for a short stint with the BBC with Voice of Bulgaria. Later she met my Father in Cambridge where they  both worked as teachers in secret classes of Russian to future British spies. That makes for a story of its own which one day I shall write. It was her personality that made her sparkle. She was slightly bohemian, slightly academic but with a foot on the ground too. I have never met anyone so gregarious as her who made friends with anyone she met, be they king or pauper. She would walk barefoot, a British custom she loved. One day in Callosa where my parents bought a modest house in the 70's, she was walking barefoot in the street when a small gypsy child, also barefoot, asked her if she was poor too.  She used to  love telling this story. I don't have many photos of her but love one taken in the early 50's in Cambridge where we were born and which I have chosen to illustrate this week's blog post. 

1st October was also the day the French singer of Armenian origin, Charles Aznavour died. My Mother  loved him but preferred Edith Piaf. Aznavour died aged 94 this Monday, the last of the great French singers. He was on stage practically to the end of his life. I loved his crooning voice. RIP Charles Aznavour
RIP Charles Aznavour
Norah was still unwell on Monday. We gave her her medication, including pain killers. Despite feeling awful, she insisted on going on our 6 km walk. We took her but would have preferred to keep her at home. We would monitor her all day.

Suzy rang me when we got back. She called me on Whatsapp Video and it was lovely to see her face. She seemed in great spirits. We do miss her and should talk more often.

She called just before we went to the Villaviciosa fruit and vegetable market. We are now going there every Monday. Here is Eladio by the stall where we bought most of our provisions. We ended up taking 2 whole crates  home. This time, I am sure it will last the week.  
Eladio at the fruit and veg market on Monday
We came home to unload everything with not much room in our fridge as 2 shelves were devoted to guests staying with us. 

I made lunch which we had as always with my Father. Later we had a quick siesta and then retired to terrace by the pool. There was no sign of our guests. Andrew was at work, the Argentinians were on a city tour in Madrid and we simply did not see Pierre, our French dentistry student. I didn't see them but I did get a new Airbnb reservation that afternoon, my first for November. It was from a couple from the UK, nice. 

I read for a while but was interrupted by 2 calls. One was from Gloria from my events agency. She rang to invite me to lunch on Thursday. It was quite good timing as I have to give her and her sisters a briefing for a series of launch activities with a new customer. Then I got a call from one of my other customers with an urgent assignment for this Friday. It felt good to be busy again. 

We had dinner early and ate on the kitchen terrace which seemed chillier that night. Well, after all it is already October.   Thus we were early to bed. We watched a new film on Netflix called The Chosen. It's about the assassination of Trotsky in Mexico and right up our street.

Tuesday came and poor Norah was worse. She was crying in pain so as soon as Eladio was up and ready, we took her to the vet. While I waited for him, I looked up my French expression of the day. It was an easy one but new for me. "Cést parti" means literally it left but is used to mean "let's go" in general or, a bit like "on y va", "off we go". So off we went to the vet. 

We had to carry her in her bed as she couldn't get out. Luckily we were attended to as soon as we got there. Norah was examined and then admitted to hospital. They took her blood test and at least the anemia was down which meant she wouldn't have to have a blood transfusion. Later in the  morning her vet, Noelia, rang with the results of all the tests. It seems she has an irritated pancreas which can be treated but also a bag of liquid has formed possibly by one of her ovaries and she will have to be castrated. But she also had a problem with her back, a problem she had as a puppy. I think that was what was causing the pain. She was put on stronger pain killers (methadone believe it or not) and during the day perked up, got out of her bed or cage should i say, walked and even ate. We went to see her in the early evening and even took her out for a walk. 

Norah when we went to see her on Tuesday evening
Unlike little Pippa, she made no complaints when we left. Beagles are so submissive and can put up with anything. Poor Norah. 

When we left Norah at the clinic in the morning, we drove home and then took the other dogs for our walk. They must have wondered where she was. The rest of the morning was quiet but busy. I had to work on preparations for a press conference on Friday.


Finally on Tuesday morning we saw our "ghost guest", Pierre who had returned on Sunday night. The dear boy had brought us all sorts of different patés from his native Pau. He doesn't eat breakfast nor did he cook at home so we hardly every see him.  That morning we also saw off our Argentinian Airbnb guests who were leaving for Portugal. The son was taking them to his Adelino's father's village in the north of Portugal. It was to be an emotional trip for the son, Marcelo's parents. They were great guests.


The afternoon was quiet, I worked but I also read and at 6 left for the hairdresser to have my eyelashes tinted; something I tried for the first time about a month ago. It was over and done pretty fast and now my eyelashes look as though they have mascara on them. 


I was home on time for our visit to see Norah and was happy to see her in better spirits than in the morning. 


Dinner was late but soon we were in our bedroom and in bed watching the news and later a film about spies in the 2nd world war on Amazon Prime which was just up our street. If you are interested it is called "The catcher was a spy" and it is based on a real story. 


Wednesday came and October progressed but it has still been nice and warm this week. I was up early as usual. And, as usual, I looked up the French expression of the Day on The Local France. Wednesday's was one I knew, hurray, "tant pis" meaning never mind, too bad, what a shame or a pity. 

Straight afterwards,  as usual again, I read the news and the headlines on Google and from The Times, the BBC and El Pais. I was a bit cross to read Real Madrid had lost their opening Champions League match against CSKA Moscow. That's now 4 matches in a row they have lost if you count last night's in the Liga against Eibar.  Barcelona would win theirs against Tottenham Hotspurs the next day. I was also unhappy to read more news about the alleged rape case by Cristiano Ronaldo. That's the dark side of football. Kathryn Mayorga accuses him of raping her in a Las Vegas Hotel in 2009. Despite an out of court settlement with him, to apparently silence her claims, inspired by the #MeToo movement, she has gone ahead and accused him. He denies it. If he really did rape her, that will be the end of his career. He is apparently using a "reputation management company" as well as lawyers to defend him. We are seeing and hearing a lot more about these type of companies these days. I hope I never need one. Their speciality is a spin off from PR, but not my sort of PR I can tell you. 



On the subject of PR, I had a pending press release to write and I have to say I am always more inspired early in the morning. I had written it and sent it off for approval by 8 o'clock, just as Eladio was getting up. It was a good feeling, to have it out of the way, by the time we were on our walk. It was to be a walk without poor Norah who was still at the vet hospital.


Later that morning I rang Noelia, Norah's vet, to get the latest. She was better but still very wobbly. They think and I think too that the pain comes from a problem in her back, one she had when she was very young. But there's more as I wrote earlier and in the coming days she would have an MRI to see from which organ the liquid is coming from. Poor old thing. She will be 10 in November or December so is getting on and we need to care of her. Veterinary expenses are probably as high as dental fees and this week only we  spent nearly 1000 euros on  her tests, medicines and hospital stay. Now we shall have to face bills for neutering her and whatever else is needed. Well, it's all worth it for our dearest beagle Norah. 

With work out of the way, I was able to relax on the sofas by the pool with my book. That day I finished The Fist of God by Frederick Forsyth about Irak's invasion of Kuwait and the supposed weapons of mass destruction or rather the search for their nuclear weapons. It's a good story but far too military and sometimes makes for boring reading if you are not interested in military jets or weapons and the technical descriptions of them. 

Lunch should be mentioned and I always mention it because it's when we spend time with my 99 year old Father. One day this week he was telling us about when he worked for the Imperial Tobacco Company in Bristol. He amazingly remembered the exact date he started. I think he said 15th April 1935!! When he joined the company he was given loads of free tobacco and he told us he quit smoking on was it 8th or 9th August 1941. What a memory. 

Later we watched the news. This week has seen a lot of disturbances in Catalonia after the 1st anniversary of the illegal referendum last year. There has even been violence, this time from the radical CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Republic) pro independence groups who tried to attack the parliament. They had to be held back by the Catalan police themselves, the Mossos d'Escuadra. Later the CDR called for the resignation of the President of the Catalan Government, Quim Torra which is pretty ironic as it was he  who spurred the CDR on in their demonstrations. What an ugly picture all this paints. 

But on the other side of the world, many people were suffering and many had died after the earthquake and a tsunami on the island of Sulawesi. The death toll is above 1600. Well, to add insult to injury the poor islanders suffered another natural disaster on Wednesday. A volcano erupted on the same island believe it or not. 
Smoke from the volcano eruption in Indonesia on Wednesday
According to the media "Mount Soputan spewed a massive column of ash more than 6.000 metres into the sky". It was possibly accelerated by the earthquake. As you know, my older daughter, Suzy, is living in Indonesia, in Bali but thankfully for us and for her, Sulawesi is 1800 km away. But she will live in danger of an earthquake and volcano eruption in Bali itself anytime as the whole area is located in what is known as "the ring of fire"; "a major area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean where many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. About 90% of the world's earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire. 

The afternoon was quiet. I had a few work related calls, one funnily enough with my previous company. The call was with my successor, the new Communications Director of the company,  It felt funny but he's a nice chap so no bones to pick with him. I know I have lots of readers from my previous company so cheers guys if you are reading this. While he was working at an office all day, I had done my work for the day and was able to have time with my husband by the pool reading. I don't think I could ever go back to a 9 to 5 job or should I say 9 to 8 job as those are the typical hours in Spain. No, definitely not.  A lot of my work these days is Airbnb. That afternoon I got yet another reservation, this time from a student called Lourdes from Pamplona. She would be coming on Friday for one night only, the day before a group of 7 was coming from León. Yes, Airbnb keeps me very busy indeed. 

After the calls, I started on Frederick Forsyth's latest book, "The Fox" about computer hacking and hoped there would not be  too many technical descriptions.

Later I made our dinner which we would take to Olivia's house to have with her on her last night here before she left for New Mexico on Thursday morning. We won't see her again until she is back in about 9 days time. I made a chicken and mango salad and took along Pierre's lovely patés from Pau, including my favourite, "rillette". I first discovered it at the "Cousinades" in France these last 3 years and love it. Yes, it's full of fat, I know, but the taste is so special. 
The "rilette" paté Pierre brought for us from Pau along with other patés. Just delicious
We took Pippa along. We realised later that she knew the way from our car to Oli's flat and was leading us there and even into the lift and right up to her door. Don't tell me dogs are not intelligent hahaha. We had a lovely quiet dinner together. I even drank a glass of wine which, for once, did not give me a headache. Here is a selfie of the 4 of us. It's not great but it's what I have to remember the occasion.
Dinner at Oli's on Wednesday night
We made it a day at about 10.30 and said goodbye to our lovely and capable journalist daughter who was off to the USA to shoot and coordinate her next programme. I remarked to my husband while driving back, just how proud I am of her. He is too, of course. 

We were home on time to start watching another film. The genre was again World War II, one we never tire of. The film, Operation Finale, is about the catching of the notorious Nazi and orchestrator of the "Final Solution", Adolf Eichmann. He is played by Ben Kingsley. 

Thursday came and the first thing I saw on my phone that morning - well the first thing I do in the morning is look at it. Don't you? - was an invitation to a prize giving ceremony at the Madrid Stock Exchange, a beautiful old building by the Ritz Hotel. It was the Carlos Humanes financial journalist prize and will be given to a friend and neighbour too, Mariano Guindal. None less than the Spanish Treasury Minister will be handing it to him. You may notice I never use people's surnames unless they are famous or dead in my blog, but in the media world in Spain, Mariano is king. Nearing 70, he has worked for La Vanguardia for many years and has followed Spanish politics and economics since a young and budding reporter, uncovering many famous affairs or scandals. Eladio, Oli and I will be honoured to attend. We know him and his family through my work of course but have become friends too. The girls used to teach his young adopted son from China, little San, and give him extra coaching after school and became very close to him. I'm really looking forward to the event which, no doubt, will  be the highlight of next week.
So pleased for Marinao.
I first met Mariano when he was part of a press trip I took to see the Motorola factory near Edinburgh, in Easter Inch. We stayed at the amazing Gleneagles Hotel. It must have been the mid 90's and being a die hard journalist set in old ways, he wouldn't use a mobile phone. And there I was taking him on a press trip all about them. That was until, during his trip, his newspaper, La Vanguardia, went on strike for the first time ever. Well, being editor-in-chief of the economy section, he needed to talk to the paper and fast. Thus I offered him my phone and he used it. It was possibly the first time he had ever touched one. Once back in Madrid, I think I gave him one and I do know that from then on he became an avid fan. So, yes, it was lovely to receive the invitation. 

On the topic of prizes, I was pleased to read that the Nobel Physics prize was being awarded to a woman for the first time in 55 years. It has gone to Donna Strickland from Canada along with two other men colleagues. The prize is for their discoveries in laser physics, especially applied, I think, to laser eye treatment. I wonder if that was what was used on me when I had it done on my left eye this summer after the cataract surgery hadn't worked completely. By the way, I can see very well now as the laser surgery did the trick. I just need glasses for very small print.

It was on Thursday morning that Oli and her cameraman colleague left Madrid Barajas on an American Airlines plane to Dallas. The flight would take 10 hours - the whole of our day - and from the capital of Texas they would have to take another flight to Albuquerque. The poor girl would be shattered I know but of course is on an exciting mission and is young, so I'm sure she got  over her jet lag quickly. Here she is at the beginning of the flight that morning.
Oli leaving Madrid on a "jet plane" on Thursday morning for Dallas and then Alburquerque
We went on our walk and of course missed Norah. She was my concern that morning. I rang shortly after 11 to get the day's update. She was better but had been administered strong pain killers such as methadone and tramadol. I went to see her as I had to sign the consent form to sedate her for an MRI. Maybe I shouldn't have gone as when we opened the door she was peaceful. However, as soon as she saw me she cried in a doggy way that nearly broke my heart. Noelia, her vet, later rang me to say she should stay another night at the hospital. Poor old Norah. I bet she thought I was coming to bring her home and I wasn't.

I had lots of work to do that morning for one of my clients on a couple of press releases. I also had a lunch scheduled with the girls from QuintaEsencia, my events agency. However they had to cancel it until next week. That left me a bit in the lurch as Eladio was off to see his friend Roberto and then have lunch with his brother in Madrid where he went to see his mother. On the off chance she was free, I rang my best friend Fátima. She was free, so the two of us had a lovely girly lunch together at a little Asturian restaurant nearby. She brightened up my day.

Pippa was happy to see me come home. Eladio wasn't back yet and so I changed into relaxing clothes, slept a short siesta - about 20 minutes - then came down to the pool terrace to continue my riveting new Frederick Forsyth book, The Fox. Eladio was back by 5 and would later join me.

We had an early dinner, still out on the terrace and an early night, as usual.

I didn't get news about Olivia's arrival until I was up on Friday morning. She had arrived safely in Albuquerque via Dallas probably while we were asleep. We wouldn't hear from her again until about 2.30 pm our time when she was just getting up to have her breakfast at 6.30 am her time.  She later sent us a photo of herself in Albuquerque which she said was a lovely city. The climate is similar to Madrid.
Oli in Albuquerque on Friday
She told me she had difficulty understanding some of the Americans there when she had spoken to them on the phone for different filming permits. I'm sure that's because of a very strong accent. I cannot understand the Texans from the state next to New Mexico so no doubt, their accent must be similar. Later when we finally were in touch, she told us she had had a nightmare at immigration in Dallas. Her cameraman had trouble going through immigration, although later he was admitted and they only just caught their ongoing plane by the skin of their teeth. Olivia had trouble too, despite her UK passport, and it was because she was carrying an apple. A huge fuss was made over the apple. I hate US immigration. It's so humiliating and frustrating and the officials or agents don't give a damn if you are going to miss your plane or not. She arrived in Albuquerque pretty stressed out and not to mention tired but thankfully she had a good  night's sleep and was fine the next day.

Olivia will have been happy to know about the winners of this year's Nobel Peace Prize. There was talk of it going to Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump or even Puigdemont, God forbid, but sanity prevailed and it went to far more deserving people. It was awarded  to the anti rape in war activists Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege. Nadia is an Iraqui Azidi who was actually captured and raped by ISIS. She went on to tell her story in a plea for help against rape as a weapon in war. Denis Mukwege is a brave Congolese gynecologist who tries to repair women who have been raped in that country which is known as the "rape capital of the world". I can't think of anyone more deserving of this prize than them. They are very brave people.
Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege
Life continued as normal here. We went on our walk after which I had some work to do. That day my customer, Adamo, had a press conference up in the lovely wine region of Spain, La Rioja. I had supervised the arrangements and written the press release. Thus, I was happy to see quite a lot of coverage coming out later even though it was only local news. The announcement was about Adamo and Knet's plans to deploy fiber across the region. Adamo had recently acquired the local operator Knet.

That morning I got another Airbnb reservation, this time from a Portuguese couple coming on Sunday. It was going to be full house as on Saturday 7 people from León were coming for the night. They would leave on Sunday and the Portuguese will come tonight and leave on Wednesday. Then on Wednesday my 3 Russians are coming for 4 nights and will coincide with my Lebanese guests from Brussels coming next Friday. Airbnb is my main work at the moment and I am astonished how we have had full house since July until now and the end of October. No doubt things will quieten down in November. In the afternoon, Pierre, our French guests who I called our invisible guest, announced he was leaving to go to France as he couldn't find accommodation here over the weekend. We were sad to see him go and hope to see him again. He would be replaced by a young Spanish girl from Pamplona on Friday night.

As Pierre was leaving, we were leaving too but to go and pick up Norah and bring her home. We were dying to bring her home as I know she must have been so frustrated after 3 days and nights in a cage at the hospital.  It was such a joy for her and for us when she was finally given to us with a whole load of instructions on her medicines. We shall be going back on Tuesday, hopefully, to get her MRI results. The first thing I did when we got home was to bathe her, something she needed a lot. The other dogs were pleased to have her home too and we were also pleased to see that she looked so much better.

That night, after giving her meds, at least 8 different types, including 2 injections, we got ready to go out to dinner. It was Friday night so time for dinner out and my prize of the week. We decided on Tony Roma's an American fast food place which is not good for the figure but has good comfort food. It was closed for renovation when we got there so we opted for another similar "joint" called Foster's Hollywood nearby in Majadahonda. Here we feasted on onion rings, a meat dish and then an amazing brownie. I left feeling full and a bit guilty. Amazingly,  I slept well that night and didn't have a headache when I got up.

I was up on Saturday at 5.30. Oh dear. On the other hand I had loads to do and I would have more time to do it in. I had to prepare lunch, prepare everything for the arrival of our 7 guests, do the food shopping and all by 12.30 when Helene would be coming for my French lesson.  I felt dizzy with all the things I had to do.

It was amazing but we did everything just on time for my French lesson. As Oli was away, we had a conversation class instead of using the exercise and grammar books. Just as the lesson finished, I got another Airbnb booking which means that today I will have 3 new guests, a couple from Portugal and an English gentleman from Poole. The latter is coming to see his son who is studying at the University here. So it will be full house again tonight. Eladio had his tasks too and swept the leaves, mowed the front lawn and cleaned the pool just in case the children coming with the group of people from León (Cistierna) wanted to bathe.

The group arrived just as we were finishing our lunch which was good timing. They are a group of 2 families and the lady who booked called Goretti, after an Italian saint I think, told us later she works at the local train station as station master. The kids were excited to be in our house and one of them asked me why we had such a big one. I was a bit stuck for an answer. Once they were settled in, they went out again for lunch and we suggested Ginos which they later told us they loved. We, in turn, went up to our room to watch the news and take a siesta.

The main news on Saturday was the sudden death of Montserrat Caballé, the Spanish singer and soprano, known to her fans as "la superba" .Well, she was superb that's for sure and is up in the league of Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland, although Caballé was very modest, insisting she was not a "diva". She was a very large lady and had a huge sense of humour but will be remembered forever for her voice. According to the NYT which wrote a beautiful obituary which you can read here, "Stereo Review magazine said of Ms. Caballé in 1992, "one of the most beautiful voices ever to issue from a human throat". I totally agree. Condolences poured in from all corners of the world for the Spanish renowned soprano who died in a hospital in Barcelona aged 85 after battling with a problem with her gallbladder. For non opera fans she will be remembered forever for her duet with Freddy Mercury of the song Barcelona, the theme tune for that city's, her city's, Olympic Games in 1992. I was shocked when I heard the news and felt that Spain had lost a huge music ambassador and icon. All I can say is "adios Montserrat Caballé", you will be sorely missed and never forgotten.
Adios Montserrat Caballè
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world or more concretely in New Mexico, Oli was out shooting at the Albuquerque International Balloon fiesta or festival, one of the biggest if not the biggest in the world. In order to go up in one of the balloons, she and her cameraman had to get up at 3 or so in the morning. That would have been to assure there was no wind. And here she is with lots of balloons in the background.

After our siesta, we went to sit and read in the garden, preferring to leave the pool to our guests. As I had expected, the kids swam. We read quietly until it was time for dinner. Our guests went out for dinner which meant the house was  quiet last night. After the news we watched 2 documentaries about the life and death of the Spanish soprano singer one of which included a very recent interview with her. What a lovely and modest woman she was considering she reached the top of her career. We learned from the interview that she came from the very bottom, as in post war Spain her parents were poor and were even evicted three times from their house. While she learned music from her Father's meager wages, she vowed to sing well enough to bring money and food to the house. She did much more than that but her beginnings forever kept her head in perspective.

And today my friends is Sunday. It's quite early in the morning and I have lots to do, with guests leaving and guests coming. So I shall sign off here now, publish this and give a printed copy to my Father.

Wishing you all a great day and week ahead, all the best until next time,

Masha