Saturday, August 11, 2018

Earthquake in Indonesia, escape from the heatwave, off to Montrondo, Katty visits Suzy in Bali, a day trip to Oviedo and other stories.

Sunday 12th August
Monday. Happy to be back in Rueda.
Good morning everyone.

This week finds me in our beloved village Montrondo and in our lovely new house which in October turns 3. We love it here and enjoy this house tremendously, the only one we have ever built. The walls are those of the house Eladio was born in; just the walls as everything else was rotten and we had to build it from scratch which took nearly 2 years but now we have it for life to enjoy.

Last Sunday we were still in Madrid suffering the heat wave. I shall never forget the 42ªc it reached that weekend, the hottest I have ever known it where we live. 

That day, Nicolas Maduro, the President of Venezuela who rules the country with an iron fist, suffered an attack on his life. He survived a rather crude drone explosive attack while in a public gathering. He blamed the US and Colombia and later in the week detained a political opposition leader for the attack on his life. 
Maduro survived an assassination attempt on his life last Sunday 
That was headline news, after all it's not every day there is an assassination attempt on a government leader's life. It also shows how vulnerable they are or he is. Certainly using a drone to try and kill someone is a new type of killing weapon and I don't like it. New technology should be for good not for bad in my mind. 

After making lunch that day, Oli and I had some quality time together. It was nice to have her back. We went out on a few errands and then had a coffee at Alverán in Boadilla. It was there we video whatsapped Suzy. We had a lovely chat. Later in the day she warned us there had been an earthquake in the nearby island of Lambok, so near from Bali. 
Sunday's earthquake, the epicentre. 
More than 300 have died after the magnitude 6.9 struck. It was the 3rd quake since she went to live there. Apparently there are over 7000 tremors a year in the area and people live with earthquake warnings often but Sunday's was particularly strong. My daughter told us she was riding her scooter when it happened and even though she didn't notice the tremor, she saw people running out on the streets and shouting in fear. It must have been awful. It certainly sent tremors down my spine. Earthquakes are no joke and Suzy has been lucky so far. I am praying there will not be another one while she is in Bali. 

Monday would find her in Singapore on a day trip there to renew her Indonesian visa for a further 6 months. It must have been tiring as it's a 2.5h flight, a bit like flying to London from Madrid so not that near. The alternative was Malaysia which is even further. She left on Sunday our time I think and got there while we were sleeping. Her mission turned out to be successful although it must have put her out of pocket for a while. She told us she has been giving nutrition sessions so is earning something and that she intends to teach English online for more income. That is thanks to my dear friend Jacky. Thank you darling. And here she is with her coveted visa. Suzy is happy living her funny new life in Indonesia and that for me is what matters. Go for it Suzy. Love you.
Suzy with her new 6 month visa for Indonesia which she had to travel to Singapore to get 
From Alverán, Oli and I drove to Carrefour market to get some provisions to take to Montrondo on Monday and to make sure there was enough in the cupboards for my Father and Lucy while we were away.

Again in the afternoon we installed ourselves on our beach chairs in the shade under the trees in the garden, leaving the pool to our French Airbnb family. It was still very hot reaching 39ºc that day, a little less than the 42ºc on Friday. It had reached 46ºc in some parts of Spain and a total of 4 people died as a consequence. Later I heard the figure just in Catalonia was 11! Most of Europe last weekend was suffering the heatwave which we would escape when we came to Montrondo on Monday. 

We were joined by the dogs and soon by the little French girl, Marian who has just turned 8 and is so sweet and pretty. She loves the dogs, Elsa and Norah but we have to keep Pippa away from her. My little dachshund does not like children and there is nothing I can do. Marian sat with Elsa and spoke to Oli and I in her perfect French and the two of us did our best to understand and reply. She told us she wanted to be a vet when she grew up which didn't surprise us. She also told us she adores her brother Clement, that her Mother is a teacher of history and geography and that her Father works in a bank or for a bank. Jerome came down to join us a bit worried his daughter was being a nuisance but we loved her. He explained that his was a "modern family", he being the father of 5 siblings from 3 different mothers, little Marian being the youngest and whom he had with his current partner. We also learned that Clement is Peggy's son from her previous marriage or partnership. Indeed they are a "modern family". We felt practically like dinosaurs as we have been married for 35 years and both are girls were born inside our marriage.  

We all read our books in the shade. My latest book was "Night" by the Auschwitz survivor, a Hasidic Jew, Elie Wiesel, who died in 2016. I heard about his book when there was news of his former home in Romania having been vandalised with anti-Semitic graffiti. How sad. What a story by the way. He was an amazing man. 
My book of the week
On a much happier note, that afternoon, far away in India, the 25 year old Spanish badminton player from Huelva, Carolina Marín, won her third world championship being the first person ever to do so. Badminton is a minority sport in Spain but now everyone here knows who Carolina Marin is. Well done Carolina, well done Spanish sport excelling again. 
Carolina Marin with her third world championship medal on Sunday. 

We coincided with our French family while making dinner on Sunday night. They are lovely people. Jerome told me he was born in Casablanca where his Father taught French to Moroccans and that he was later transferred to a school in Normandy. He told me it was a huge culture shock to move from Casablanca to northern France when he was just 15. I chatted to his wife Peggy, the teacher of French and Geography and who speaks great English and told her that history had been my favourite subject at school, especially the French Revolution and Napoleon. I had a great history teacher at St. Joseph's College, Miss Scorer, who I will always remember. 


Oli and I were making "Spanish tortilla" and Peggy and her family were interested to know how to make it. That got me thinking that maybe I should offer Spanish cooking lessons as part of my Airbnb business where you can also sell experiences. I am even thinking of getting Eladio on board to teach our guests Spanish. Jerome is learning Spanish and our English family were interested too so maybe there is a market for it haha. There you have me, always on the lookout on new ways to find income. This, by the way, was the tortilla we made to which I added a bit of spinach. Adding anything but potato and onions is not very orthodox but I can tell you it tasted great. 
The tortilla I made for Sunday night's dinner
Sunday ended watching another episode of "Fariña" in our huge bed with Pippa at our side. This week we were really hooked on this series inspired by real events - the story of drug trafficking in Galicia which is still happening today. 

Monday was the day we came to Montrondo. Monday was also the day Suzy had her first proper lesson in the Indonesian language which she has been picking up and keen to learn while in Bali. I think that is a great initiative and the best way to get to know a country; learning the language. 
Suzy is learning Indonesian
We left quite early for Montrondo, at about 10 ish after saying goodbye to the French family, my Father and Lucy. As usual we stopped at Rueda at the Palacio de Bornos for a well deserved glass of local white wine; "verdejo" for me and "sauvignan" for Eladio. We had it with a plate of ham which would be our lunch.  Just as we arrived at the "bodega", a picturesque flock of sheep was crossing the road and I had to get a photo. Oh how I love country life.
Flock of sheep in Rueda
We got to Montrondo at around 5 and found it sunny and warm and about 30ºc - it would go down over the following days. Eladio had left everything clean and tidy since his stay here a few days ago and we soon settled in. 

Pippa and I spent time outside on the sunbeds under the shade of the apple trees where I continued reading my book, "Night". Eladio joined me shortly and we had our own kind of afternoon tea, fruit with nuts on our cool back terrace. It was nice to see Miguel and Claudia who came to visit us. We hadn't seen them since last year and were keen to know how life was for them in Cuba. 



I made a light lunch of "lacón" with asparagus followed by melon and cherries after which we watched another episode of "Fariña". It was early to bed for us that night. In Montrondo we sleep under a heavy duty duvet, unlike a simple sheet and air conditioning in Madrid. What a difference in temperature and how happy we were to have escaped the heatwave.




On Tuesday the temperature in Montrondo dropped by about 10º. That was fine by me. We missed our walk that morning as we had to wait for the central heating oil to be delivered. So I read on the sunbed after some household chores; cooking and ironing. That day I made a much loved Portuguese cod recipe "bacalhau a bras" which Eladio and I devoured. If you are interested, this is the recipe I use and it is "easy peasy" to follow and make. 


Bacalhau a bras
Lunch was followed by the 3 o'clock news as always. That day the news was about wild fires in Spain, the main one being in Lluxent in the province of Valencia. But far worse was the wild fire in California. A siesta was in order afterwards. Meanwhile, Oli and Miguel were on their way here. They arrived at around 5 pm to find us once again reading on the sunbeds, our favourite place here in the summer. It was lovely to see them and to have their company for a few days here. 


Eladio had invited an old school friend from the village, José Manuel and his Sevillian wife, Pepi, for coffee at 7 pm. Being a bit late for coffee, Olivia and I also served cider, shandy, black cherries, chorizo and whatever we thought they might like at that time of the day. After 7 pm here it gets cold and sitting on our back terrace soon we were all wearing fleeces; unimaginable in Madrid hahaha. 


Dinner was late on Tuesday. I can't remember what we ate but I can remember what we drank; the bottle of French white wine from the Loire Valley our Airbnb guests had brought us. Later the 4 of us watched Fariña which Miguel and Oli were hooked on too.


On Wednesday I was up late for me at 7.15. That would be the norm here which was a nice relief. I had my coffee alone with Pippa, read the "papers" on my iPad and even ironed before everyone else was up. I made them all breakfast, my favourite meal of the day.



Finally that morning we got our walk, our first since Sunday. It was a long one to Senra and back, made longer by stopping to talk to villagers. It was a lovely sunny day but later it would rain. Oh rain, I haven't seen any for ages. We walked to Senra where we had the usual coffee at Cumbres de Omaña. Once there we went to buy bread at the very old bakery which according to Eladio has not changed since he was a little boy. And here are MIguel and Oli with Pipps holding the 2 big loaves we bought.

Buying bread at the bakery in Senra
We walked back via the old Murias to Montrondo path, the mid way point being "God's rock" (la peña de Dios) where we have taken so many pictures over the years. Oli wanted one of her jumping down from it. Here she is jumping down. I did not dare.
Oli jumping down midair from God's rock
We were home really late for making lunch. For once I hadn't prepared it beforehand and thus had to rush to put the chicken legs in the oven which we would have with sauteed potatoes. It turned out a bit dry and we had our meal much later than usual. 

After siesta time, we spent more time in the garden which we call "la era". It was getting cooler and soon we went inside. It then started to rain and my what a strong shower although it didn't last long. Miguel, Oli and I spent the time eating biscuits, drinking tea and playing games; ludo and trivial. Amazingly I won both. I have never won trivial before and I had hard competition with Oli's boyfriend although I think it was more luck with the dice than anything else. 



After our games we had a break before dinner and it was then that, after checking my Facebook, I found out that my dear cousin Katty who lives in New Zealand and is  an air hostess for Air New Zealand was in Bali and that she had met up with Suzy my daughter. I couldn't believe it and was over the moon they were together. You see I love Katty as if she was a sister even though I am more her aunt. The two of them had planned the visit and wanted to surprise me. Well they certainly did surprise me. I sort of wish they had told me well on time and then maybe I would have done the crazy thing and gone out to join them. Here they are like two peas in a pod.

Suzy with Katty in Bali
While they were out at a concert, we rustled up a simple dinner from whatever I could find in the fridge and later we carried on watching Fariña until Eladio and I began to fall asleep. 

Thursday was the day of our day trip to Oviedo. Oviedo is the capital of the province of Asturias in the north west of Spain, just 1.5h from here. It's a relatively small old town with a population of about 220.000  but with a lot of history and charm. The famous Spanish statesman and writer Campomanes is from here as well as the  author Leopoldo Alas Clarin. Clarín really put Oviedo on the map with his novel "La Regenta" and also gave the town another name, "Vetusta" in this well known book.  Vetusta means old, antiquated and also conservative and has become a synonym of the city. Woody Allen also put Oviedo on the map in his film Maria Cristina Barcelona and apparently loves the city. There is a statue of him in one of the squares and  talk now of removing it after the accusations of his sexual wrongdoings. When we saw it we did not take a photo for this very reason. Of interest are the old town, the beautiful squares, the late Gothic cathedral, the Foldán indoor market which is a jewel, as well as the theatre, "Teatro Campoamor" and also the beautiful 5 star hotel La Reconquista where I would love to stay one day. Asturias, actually a "principado" (principality) as the heir to the throne in Spain is always the Príncipe de Asturias, is a beautiful province with some of the best food in the country owing to its Atlantic coast and mountainous regions. The best cider in Spain comes from here and as you will read there is a peculiar way of pouring it to get the most sparkle, called "escanciar" and the waiters in the local bars pour it over a device called "no me chisques" (don't splash). We were to drink lots of local cider on Thursday.  

Asturias is the rainiest part of Spain and Thursday didn't disappoint. Oviedo was the coldest provincial capital that day with temperatures between 18 and 20ºc, thus we went well wrapped up and even wore coats!  We drove via the motorway but would come back the via the mountain roads which were much more picturesque. By about 12 am we parked just outside the centre and walked from there to the old town. In need of a coffee, we went in search of the nearest bar we could find and sat in the cool weather and slight rain. Here are Eladio and I enjoying the beginning of our day out. I should add it was a first for us, as we never venture from Montrondo other than to do the main shopping in Villablino. I had been to Oviedo before but many years ago in the Tour of Spain and my memory was hazy. So that day I was to rediscover the beautiful town of Oviedo also full of very interesting statues which I loved.  There are about 100 dotted all over the town which make it like an open air museum. 
Coffee in Oviedo 
While we were having coffee, other people were having cider. I asked the waiter if I could take a photo of him pouring it the way they do in Asturias and he obliged.
Pouring cider the local way in Oviedo 
From the café we walked the old streets; the most famous one is Calle Uria and here we were offered local chorizo and cheese from one of the many shops offering local fare. Eladio and Miguel were very happy to try it as you can see in the photo.
Trying the local chorizo and cheese, Eladio and Miguel.
We walked along the Uria street until we came to the square with the Cathedral. We did not go in as there was a queue and the entrance fee was 7 euros per person. Since when do they charge to enter a cathedral in Spain? Also, no dogs are allowed so Pippa couldn't go in. But isn't she one of God's creatures I thought. No, Spain, is not a dog friendly country I can tell you.
The 14th century Cathedral of San Salvador in Oviedo
In the same square there was one of the most famous statues in the city, La Regenta, the protagonist in the novel who, apparently was the lover of a bishop from the Cathderal, her confessor. No wonder the book became popular. Everyone takes photos of it and we did too.
Oli and I by the statue of La Regenta in Oviedo
From the cathedral we made our way to the famous indoor market, "El Fontán" where we were keen to buy local produce.
The Fontán market in Oviedo.
Sadly ogs are not allowed, so not wanting to leave Pippa outside, we smuggled her in, covered in my coat hahaha and we took turns to carry her. 
We smuggled Pippa into the market in Oviedo
Here we bought lots of fruit and veg, as well as fish which we would eat the next day.

Outside the indoor market there were lots of stalls with some nice looking produce as well as flowers. I got my three companions to pose for a picture and here they are.
Miguel, Eladio, Oli and little Pippa by the market stalls in Oviedo on Thursday
Oli and I didn't buy anything from the stalls but spied interesting little boutiques. Oviedo is well known for its well dressed inhabitants. You can tell them apart from tourists from a mile away. At a pretty little shoe shop which stocked very original espadrilles, both of us bought a pair. Mine are yelllow and Oli's are blue. Here we are in the shop with our new shoes.
Oli and I with our new shoes
It was lunch time when we left the market and we had a table booked at a place Miguel had found on Tripadvisor, "El gato negro".  It was actually a typical "sidrería" (cider bar). However, as we had Pippa with us, we had to ask for a table outside and thus had to wait quite a while to sit down and taste the local fare. While we waited we all enjoyed the local cider and a small tapa. Finally we got our table outside under the parasols which was a good thing as it was raining lightly. The food was great and we all tasted the Asturian "fabes" (habas in Spanish, broad beans in English). I had the typical Asturian bean stew "fabada" and Miguel had another typical dish called "cachopo" which is really a huge breaded piece of steak with cheese which comes with an enormous amount of chips. 
My fabada and cider
Here are Oli, Pippa and I at our table at the restaurant in Oviedo that day enjoying our outing and being together.
Lunch in Oviedo
Our lunch finished late and with plenty of time on our hands, we walked back to the car to unload our purchases from the market after which we would explore more of the city. As we left the restaurant I spied another of Oviedo's lovely statues. This one was of a donkey and as I love donkeys, I just had to get on it and have a photo. I'm such a child inside my friends.
On a donkey - one of Oviedo's lovely statues
After leaving our stuff in the car we returned to the centre and walked towards the Teatro Campoamor where the yearly Princesa de Asturias prize giving ceremony takes place.
Teatro Campoamr Oviedo
I once went there during a Tour of Spain. It was to a homage event for a local cyclist, "El Tarangu" who was very well known in Spain. Later we went to his house and had a fabada and even a "queimada" a hot alcoholic drink typical of this area. 

From the theatre we walked along the Avda Uria or was it Avda Pelayo and came across more statues. I particularly liked this one of a traveller and got Eladio to pose by it. Oviedo really is the city of statues and they seem to blend in very well with the architecture.
Eladio posing by one of Oviedo's many street statues 
Our last stop was the Hotel Reconquista, the only 5 star hotel in town and where the prize winners of the Princesa de Asturias awards always stay. One day I shall stay there too, I hope:-)
The Hotel La Reconquista in Oviedo
From the hotel we ambled back towards our car. It was to be the end of our lovely day in Oviedo except for a stop at the Carrefour supermarket to stock up on provisions for the rest of our stay in Montrondo. Miguel was our driver and this time took us via Los Bayos along country roads, roads we had never been on. We were home by about 9 pm and I can tell you none of us was hungry. We just had fruit for dinner, the fruit we had bought at the Fontán market in Oviedo. 

Friday was a lovely day. It was warmer too. Oli and Miguel did all sorts of exercises in the garden that morning while we preferred to go on a walk. Here they are working out. I have to say they are both very sporty. 
Oli and Miguel working out on Friday morning
Our walk that morning with Pippa was to Murias and back via the old path and along the "Camino Valle" which takes around 1.5h. Here is Eladio opening the makeshift gate into one of the fields; not lovely turnstiles like in England and not many sign posts either.
Eladio on our walk on Friday
On Friday Miguel cooked with Olivia's help. He made a dish from the fish (cod) and vegetables we had bought at the Fontán market in Oviedo which was delicious. I liked the method which was new to me: chopped vegetable with the fish placed in little bags of greaseproof paper which he then fried in olive oil. This is what it looked like.
Fish and vegetables for lunch on Friday
After the compulsory siesta, on Friday we had a bit of outdoor fun and games. I introduced Miguel and Oli to the Finnish bowling game of Molkky which Oli won by the way. I was introduced to the game by my cousins in France and bought one for Montrondo but we haven't played it very often. So having a go at it on Friday afternoon was a treat.
Game of Molkky on Friday afternoon
We also played a bit of badminton with rackets I bought when we first built the house. Miguel even put up the net that came with the set I had bought. It was quite strenuous. Badminton is not a well known game in Spain although that is changing thanks to Carolina Marín the Spanish three time world champion. But I well remember playing it at school and at the local church and always liked it. Here are Miguel and Olivia playing. It was Miguel's first time but I think he enjoyed it as he seems to like all sports.
Miguel and Oli playing badminton on Friday
Dinner was courtesy of Miguel too on Friday and he made us Spanish tortilla. It was my lucky day on Friday as I didn't have to cook although I did do the skivvying of course. That night all four of us watched the last 2 episodes of Fariña. It was a very good Spanish series that I highly recommend. It's about the Spanish drug trafficking "narcos" in Galicia which is still going on today I will read the book now that I have seen the series. 

Yesterday after breakfast we finally got to talk to Suzy and we had a family video call on whatsapp, not something we do often, although we should. It was great to see Suzy so happy and pretty and wearing colourful clothes - no more London black. She also introduced us to her new boyfriend during the call and we got to see Dous I think his name is. He is Indonesian and plays the drums in the band she sings in. If she's happy, I'm happy. She looked it too and I took a screenshot of the call to share with you here. Later in the day she booked her flight to come home for Christmas. She'll be coming from the 11th to 27th December and I can't wait.
Suzy during our whatsapp video call on Saturday
On Saturday Oli and Miguel were going away to Gijon, the big coastal town in Asturias to stay with a colleague of Miguel's. They will be back today. Eladio and I decided to go for a trek up the mountains with Pippa and to take a picnic. Eladio wanted to show me the "Boz Quemao" valley high up in the mountains and I was keen for a day out walking. So I packed our picnic which we carried in an old Nokia ruck sack. We left at just after 11 am and were not back until about 4.30 pm. It was a long hard walk in the sun and we were grateful for the many water springs on our way up, like this one, "la canalina". Every nook and cranny in this area has a name, hahaha and after so many years being married to a man from this village they are all now quite familiar to me.
Drinking water on our way up the mountains. 
I wish I knew how many kilometres we walked yesterday but I don't as I lost my fitbit in France and forgot about turning on one of the health apps on my phone. Eladio reckoned we had done between 12 and 15 but they were tough ones as the terrain is difficult with lots of stones and water to get across, not to mention just how steep some of the paths are. At about 1.30 we got to "Boz Quemao". meaning "burnt wood" (bosque quemado in Spanish) which is really just a big meadow. It means a lot to Eladio as this is where in the summer he and his family used to cut the grass and turn it into haystacks for their cattle. When he was little, his job was to walk up the mountains to take his Father his lunch. 
Eladio at "Boz Quemao"

I was too tired and hot to carry on so we turned back to find somewhere near water to have our picnic. We also had to find a place in the shade which wasn't easy yesterday. All three of us were hungry and enjoyed our ham and tomato sandwiches. I had even made a mini one for Pippa. After a good rest in the shade and more water from the nearby spring, we set off down the mountain path again which would take us at least another 2 hours. We came home dirty, tired but happy and all dying for a shower. Well, Pippa wasn't dying for hers but she was the first to have her bath hahaha. We all felt a lot better afterwards. 

With the house and garden to ourselves, I did the washing, hung it out, wrote a bit of this blog and then joined Eladio on the sunbeds outside and started on my new book, "Fariña". We had an early dinner, tuna fish salad, then watched the news. Both of us fell asleep really early in front of the television and I think we turned in before 10 pm.

This morning after a long night tossing and turning, I woke up at 6.30 to a quiet and dark house. It only gets light here at this time of year at about 7.30. On the plus side the sun sets at 9.30 pm. 

Today I shall be making "cocido" stew for lunch and Oli and Miguel will be back. It looks like we will have similar weather to yesterday, warm and sunny so I look forward to a nice and quiet Sunday with my family. We shall be going back to Madrid either tomorrow or on Tuesday. We can't stay away much longer than a week and tomorrow we will have been here for 7 days.

Wishing you all a great Sunday and week ahead, I shall sign off now until next week.

Cheers Masha


Saturday, August 04, 2018

A Welshman wins the Tour de France, baching it with Olivia, picking plums again, Eladio home at long last, goodbye Brody, heatwave and other stories of the week.

Sunday 5th August 2018
Picking fruit from our green plum tree this week
Hello again everyone,

It's now August and we are in the middle of a sweltering heatwave here. It has reached 42ºc here this week which is just too much for me.  It's hot all over Europe including the north of Europe. Imagine Germany with 35º c. If that isn't thanks to global warming then give me another explanation. It's literally sizzling and the only place to escape is to our air conditioned bedroom with the ceiling fan on too and all at high speed. Eladio is back too, finally but last Sunday I was alone until Oli joined me in the evening.

That morning I took Pippa on our walk, feeling bad about leaving the others behind. On our way we bumped into a dog friend of hers, perhaps the only one apart from Elsa and Norah. She usually barks at other dogs except for this one. Here they are together. Notice just how dry everything is in the background. And it's going to get dryer if this weather continues and in the not too distant future, if global warming is not stopped, Spain will be just one big desert. 
Pippa greeting her canine friend on our walk on Sunday
Once home and showered, I spent some quality time with my lovely English family. In fact I gave a Spanish lesson to Brent and to Brody, the 7 year old boy who stole my heart last year. He is so talented and fun to be with. They then went out to have "churros" for breakfast or rather "porras" (the thicker, longer version) while I prepared lunch, simple spaghetti bolognese for my Father and I only. Lucy's sister, Gloria, would be visiting her and had brought some Paraguayan food. 

I spent the afternoon alone with the dogs, reading in the garden. Before the heatwave, the weather was lovely with temperatures in the low 30's. I finished James Rhodes' book, Instrumental and by then it was time to prepare dinner for Oli and myself. She had come back from Galicia in the north west of Spain (Rias Altas) and first had to drop off Miguel at the station for him to return to Valencia where he works. It was a delight to see her again and finally to have some company as I must say I was feeling a little lonely. She made my day. 

Meanwhile my English family were out to dinner. They went to El Kiosko, my latest favourite and sent me a photo. Here they are together, all  7 of them. 
My English Airbnb family from Northamptonshire
They have enjoyed their stay here enormously, hardly venturing out. At the beginning, little Brody was made to keep English hours, i.e. going to bed early. After a couple of days though, he was into Spanish children's habits, taking a siesta in the afternoon and staying up late. I think he liked that. 

I'm not sure they were too aware that a British cyclist had been proclaimed the winner of this year's Tour de France that day in the Champs-Élysées. I should correct myself and say the Welsh cyclist, Geraint Thomas from the Sky team. He has become the third Briton to win the Tour after Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and his team mate the four time Tour champion Chris Froome. Froome was supposed to be the team's big star and set to win but it didn't work out that way and now anyone interested in cycling knows that a Welshman called Geraint Thomas has won it. It's amazing how British cyclists have been dominating the French race since 2012 (6 wins in the last 7 years!).  He is 32 years old and  winning this year is an amazing feat. I later read he went to the same school as Gareth Bale in Cardiff. Well done Wales, well done Great Britain. 
Geraint Thomas flying the flag for Wales on the Champs-Élysées on Sunday
Oli and I had a long and late dinner and later called Eladio. We then went to bed with little Pippa and watched a film on Netflix. It can't have been very good as I don't remember what it was called.  

Monday is my most newsy day as Oli and I packed in a lot together that day. Once again, we laughingly said we were "baching it" and agreed that we could do anything we wanted.There was no one to stop us hahaha. 

The day started with an early walk with all three dogs thanks to Oli being here. I was pleased to see an email when I got back from my clipping agency, JP Media. I had garnered nearly 50 articles in the media from Friday's Adamo press release. I could hardly believe it; much was thanks to the Spanish news agency Efe (thank you). 

Waiting for us at home after our walk were our 2 Emma Bridgewater orders. It was my umpteenth and Oli's first. Both orders were for items in the sales. Here is Oli with hers.
Oli with her first Emma Bridgewater order which arrived on Monday
And this is just some of mine. My collection is now getting so big I'm not sure it can all fit in the cupboards.  The mugs usually cost 20 odd pounds each and in the sale they go for about 7 so I couldn't resist the temptation could I.
Adding to my Emma Bridgewater collection
Oli and I had plenty of errands to do that day. After getting some cash out of the "hole in the wall" in nearby Boadilla (Sector B), we had a coffee and a mini croissant at our favourite café (Alverán). That was when I commented how lucky we were to be having a coffee together there on  a Monday morning when most people were working. Here we are together. 
Coffee with Oli at Alverán on Monday
Our next stop was the fruit and vegetable market in Villaviciosa de Odón recommended to me by my friend Fátima which only opens on a Monday. It's a tiny little one with just 3 stalls of fruit and two or three of clothes. We looked at the clothes but did not buy anything. We got some fruit and it was pretty good so no doubt I shall be going again. Here I am with my bag of fruit at the market.
Buying fruit and veg at the little market in Villaviciosa de Odón on Monday
From the market we drove back to Boadilla, this time to the petrol station to clean Oli's car in the automatic car washer there. That's a job I never like. We would have to clean mine in the afternoon as it was filthy. Just next to the petrol station is a small shopping centre and we went to the  shoe repairer shop to get a new battery for my gate keys. Once there Oli and I spied a new dress shop and in we went. My youngest daughter bought a pair of trousers and a strawberry coloured jump suit. I bought a yellow summer dress.  We were baching it and we didn't care hahaha. 

Before going home for lunch we had one last errand to do. We had to go and see Celes, the mother of the girls' great friend Copi. She was to give Oli a bag of clothes for her daughter who lives in Vitoria and who Oli was going to spend a few days with this week.  I hadn't seen Celes since the girls were still at school and well remember her as they would spend days at Copi's house and vice versa. It was great to see her and we just had to have a selfie.
Oli and I with Celes on Monday
We were home on time for lunch with my Father and Oli pushed his wheel chair up the path. When we had finished, I suggested we pick the last of the green plums from the tree in the kitchen garden patio. Believe it or not, Lucy, whose back is obviously better, climbed up the tree barefoot and did a marvelous job. This was the last of the plum harvest for this year. I think all in all we got about 3 or 4 kilos of the delicious fruit.
The last of the plums
I did not climb up the tree (hahaha), preferring the ladder.  Oli took a picture of me with the one plum I actually picked and which I chose for this week's main photo. It was just for show really. Little Brody and his Aunty "Sissy" saw the whole thing and he went and told the rest of the family that a show was going on in the garden haha. 

Oli later accompanied me to a routine doctor's appointment. Then we had to go and clean my car. It had a lot of sticky nasty stuff on the roof from the trees. Thus we had to shampoo and power wash it before putting it through the car washer. Oh my, did we get wet and oh how we laughed. And then on the spur of the moment we decided to go out to dinner, on a Monday night, together. We both decided on an old favourite, La Vaca Argentina in Las Rozas. We were gutted to find it closed down when we got there. I suggested De María which is also Argentinian in Majdadahonda as an alternative and that's where we went. I must say our meal was fantastic. I love the terrace there and all the extra bits and pieces of food you get served supposedly for free although I'm sure they go in the bill somehow. Here we are enjoying our bachelor dinner on Monday night and eating delicious food.
Dinner at De María with Oli on Monday night
I didn't just eat, I drank too which is unusual for me as alcohol nearly always gives me a headache. I drank the "free" pink cava we were given when we arrived, I drank a large glass of Rioja with our meal and then had a small glass of something which looked and tasted like Bayleys at the end when we were offered free liqueurs. And guess what? I did not get a headache the next day or that night. 

Monday was a super special day and I loved every minute of it. Thanks Oli for Monday. 

Tuesday came and as I do everyday I went on our walk after breakfast. Oli came, thus Norah and Elsa also got their walk. It was my last morning with her as she was off to Vitoria with the girls' friend Elena to stay with Copi, Here she is with little Pips in her arms that morning. Pippa would miss her too as would Norah and Elsa.
Oli with Pips (Pippa) on Tuesday morning
She left before lunch which I had with my Father. For the record we ate spaghetti bolognese leftovers, not my favourite but my Father likes it a lot. It's such a chore having to think what to make for lunch and dinner everyday. Maybe I should plan better. 

I spent time in the garden reading under the trees while part of my English family went off to Madrid, their 2nd and last trip away from the house. Their younger daughter, Mia, aged 14 and her friend, only ever left the house to go out for dinner, preferring to stay by the pool the whole time "tanning". 

Brody came back really happy as his Mother and her partner, Brent, had bought him a Real Madrid shirt with Isco on it. I was shocked to hear it cost 89 pounds!. Brody said he had to wear his England shorts with it as he hadn't been able to persuade his Mother to buy him some Real Madrid ones. I'm not surprised. I had no idea that football club clothes cost so much. Probably that is where they make most of their money from after TV rights. 

By the evening, Oli and Elena had arrived in Vitoria (the capital of the Basque Country) and I was rewarded with a photo of them by the sign of the city made out of hedgerow I think. Here they are, both wearing summer hats. It was warm there but nowhere near as hot as here.
Oli and Elena in Vitoria (Gasteiz) after arriving on Tuesday evening
I had dinner on my own, if you can call it dinner: stoned cherries with yoghurt. That night I watched (in English) a very interesting documentary on Netflix called "One of Us". It tells the tale of the lives of Hasidic Jews in New York who decide to leave the community and how difficult it is for them, especially the women. This ultra orthodox Jewish community, live and dress like their forefathers did in the 18th century. Women are considered mere baby machines. Communities like them fascinate me. It's amazing to see how they isolate themselves and shun anything "modern", especially the internet. Children born into these communities are not offered a choice. 

Wednesday, the day Eladio was coming home, finally came. He had been away for 10 days in Montrondo looking after his Mother. I think it was perhaps the longest time we have ever been apart and both of us felt strange being alone. It was a challenge here without him on many occasion, especially having to push my Father up the path and Lucy's episode. But finally he was coming back. 

He would be returning to the beginning of a heat waver, our first this summer. The temperature was to rise to 39ºc that day, pretty high I can tell you.  He was back just on time for lunch; baked hake and vegetables, a healthy option which is quick and easy to make. After a siesta in our room with the air con on, we spent time reading under the trees but it was too hot. Our English family were sweltering by the pool and I'm sure it was too hot for them too. The girls asked for a photo of Eladio home again and I obliged. Here he is with Pippa who was as pleased to see him again as I was.
Eladio home on Wednesday at long last
Just after 6 pm, that evening I had another doctor's appointment. It was to see the results of the back and hip MRI I did a few weeks back. I was diagnosed with Spondylolisthesis over ten years ago and at the beginning of the year had quite a lot of back pain. If you are interested this is a description of the condition: " is a slipping of vertebra that occurs, in most cases, at the base of the spine. Spondylolysis, which is a defect or fracture of one or both wing-shaped parts of a vertebra, can result in vertebrae slipping backward, forward, or over a bone below".  To cut a long story short, apparently the two vertebra affected had fused some years ago and on Wednesday the trauma specialist confirmed they were fused by 75%. She said that 75% fusion would be the aim of surgery which I won't need thanks to the natural healing process that occurred.  She commented that mother nature was amazing and I quite agree. It will give me sporadic pain over the years but I can put up with that. As to the hip; well it has wear and tear and a bit of arthritis but thankfully no need for a hip replacement which I was worried I might need with all that that would entail. I know now that it was caused when I fell and fractured a vertebra at the age of about 11. I was climbing up the ladder of a diving board at the Shipley baths and slipped and fell on my back from quite a height. I think it was the only time I have ever been in an ambulance. My brother George was with me (aged 13) and he was most excited about being in an ambulance. The X-ray showed a fractured vertebra and I remember the doctor telling my Mother I would have to keep very thin and do ballet, neither of which I ever did. He also said that by 40 I would probably be in a wheel chair. Thankfully he was wrong and mother nature was on my side. 

I came home feeling quite good with the results and by the time I was back it was time for dinner. Oh what to make? Well I made one of our usual dishes, tuna fish salad which we both enjoy. Who wants hot food on a hot night. 

Oli was enjoying herself in Vitoria with her friends Elena, Copi and Copi's little dog, "Paris". Here they are seated on a statue of a bull that day.
Oli with her friends in Vitoria on Wednesday
It was great to get my official bed partner back on Wednesday night. Who was a little bit sad that night was Brody, our 7 year old Airbnb guest from Northamptonshire. He said to  his Mother, Luella,  "sadly, we only have two days left. I'd stay here forever. Meeting Masha and Eladio and and having a  pool are the best parts". I was so flattered. He stole my heart last year and he stole it again this year. He is so bright and fun to be with. I told him I liked his personality. I then asked him if he knew what that meant and he said "I'm afraid I don't". So I told him that it meant what he was like as a person and added that he was friendly and open and bright. He replied "Well I am very popular" and I laughed and told him to continue to be that way and treat everyone nicely. He said he always did that. 

The next day, he mentioned playing darts and I remembered we had an electronic dart board in the hut by the kitchen. I got it out and it made his day so I gave it to him and he actually managed to get it through security at the airport.  I had to have a photo of him with his new darts and here he is dressed too in his RM shirt. Love this little boy.
7 year old Brody, my favourite Airbnb guest all time
Soon he was hitting the bull's eye over and over again. There is nothing this talented little boy cannot do when he puts his hand to it. He even dances ballet at school and is not at all worried he is the only boy. Good for him.

That morning, Thursday, life was back to normal here as Eladio was home. All three dogs got their walk. Then we had to do the food shopping, a chore I hate, especially putting everything away. I felt tempted to go in the pool which would have helped but didn't want to disturb our guests. It was just too hot under the trees in the garden so both Eladio and I read in our study that afternoon which has air conditioning thank goodness. I read until my eyes could no longer see. This week saw me reading a best seller by an author called Martina Cole. I read her first book, "Dangerous Lady", which is a bit like "Peaky Blinders" but set in London. It's a good crime book, if a little violent, and I am now reading the sequel, "Maura's game". 

For some reason, on Thursday, I thought it was Friday and so booked a table for dinner that night. When I realised it was actually Thursday I decided to go ahead with the reservation and took Eladio to my latest favourite, El Kiosko, in nearby Boadilla. I had booked a table on the terrace but at 8.30 pm it was far too hot to eat outside so we got a table inside. If it was too hot outside, it was too loud inside. Spaniards are loud and if the acoustics are not good it can be very annoying. We shared a starter (artichokes) and a main course (a sort of fish and chips) and each had a tiny tiny brownie for dessert. Their desserts are very small. 

It was on Thursday night I found out that Brent our Airbnb guest had proposed to Luella and guess what? He did it in Suzy's room, under our roof. Wow a marriage proposal in our house from Airbnb guests! That is really something. Brody was ecstatic and had apparently been egging them on to get engaged as he wanted Brent to be his "real dad". Isn't that lovely?
The beautiful engagement ring Brent gave Luella when he proposed at our house on Thursday night
On Friday morning I congratulated Brent who was the first up after Brody. He told me he had originally intended to propose at the car park or airport when they flew out the Friday before and I'm so glad it happened in our house haha. He gave Luella his Mother's ring, which was very special to him as he had been very close to her and  lost her when he was just 18. I was very happy for my lovely English family. This is their second stay and from what they have said they intend to come again next year. Luella later wrote to me to say Brody is already planning their return hahaha.

Friday was the hottest day of the year so far. 

Friday was the hottest day of the year
It was unbearable. It was too much for our guests  and they left early in order to bask in the air conditioning at the airport. So we all said our goodbyes, hopefully until next year. Dear Brody and I hugged and cuddled and he told me he would like to be able to come here at Christmas. I said it would not be warm but he said he didn't mind and that in fact he'd like to come every three or four months bless him.  Good bye dear Brody, I will miss you. It was so sad to say goodbye. 

When they left we retired to our room to the air conditioning and the news on the TV. The main items of news here have been the taxi strikes against Uber and the likes, as well as the increasing number of migrants arriving at the shores of Spain.

Later I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening by the pool. I went in and out of the water every ten minutes. When the sun went down, Eladio mowed the lawn, stopping every 15 minutes or so to take a shower by the pool. 

It was still boiling at 9 o'clock at night when we had dinner on the kitchen terrace. And even with the air con on, our room still felt too warm. I had to get into the shower and cool off and only then did I feel comfortable. 

Friday was the peak in temperatures. On Saturday they began to descend slowly, to 39º c which is far too much still. It will only get back to normal in the middle of next week but by then we shall be in Montrondo and away from this suffocating heat.

Saturday dawned and we had lots to do to get the house, pool and garden ready for our next guests, a family of 4 from France.  Pippa would be a problem with the little girl as she doesn't like children, thus we would hide her during their stay.  They were coming in the afternoon so we did all we had to do in the morning. Our walk yesterday was even earlier than usual, again to escape the heat, when we left the house at 7.45.

Oli was home from Vitoria just on time for lunch. She complained of the heat (39ºc) but she had missed Friday the hottest day of the year and the most suffocating day I have known ever since I came to live in Spain in 1981.

A siesta was in order in our air conditioned rooms after lunch. I sleep a short siesta so not long after was downstairs and went straight into the pool. At around 5.30 pm our French guests from Normandy arrived: Peggy the mother who speaks perfect English, Jerome the father, 17 year old Clement and a very beautiful little girl, Marian aged 7. I fell in love with her immediately. I showed them around the house and garden and they spent time settling in. Meanwhile, Oli and Eladio were up and joined me on the benches under the trees by the pool. After one last bathe - in order to leave the pool to the guests - off we went on down to the garden to under the trees to have some private and quiet family time. 

We spent a lovely afternoon together. Yes it was hot at 39ºc but believe me, you notice the difference when it's 3 degrees less. 

Before dinner, both Oli and I needed a cold shower; it must have been my 3rd that day!. Dinner was simple, salad, ham, gazpacho and bread followed by delicious summer fruit.

Eladio announced that Netflix was showing the famous Spanish series called "Fariña" about the drug trafficking business that went on in Galicia in the north west of Spain for many years. The book had been banned but the series has been very popular here and we were keen to watch it. So, on our large 1.80 bed, the three of us, together with Pippa, watched the first episode and part of the 2nd in our air conditioned room. We shall be watching more of it tonight and no doubt in Montrondo too when we go tomorrow. 

Today is Sunday and it will be another scorcher so I am really looking forward to escaping the heat in Montrondo where it is usually 101ºc less than in Madrid. 

It's only 07.15 as I write but I must finish soon if we want to get our early morning walk in before it gets too hot.

So, my friends, that's it for this week.

Happy reading everyone,

Cheers till next Sunday/Masha