Monday, March 26, 2007

Spring has come, Fernanda and Jerónimo's party and a new member of the family came from Jérez de la Frontera.

Hello again and this is my weekend update:

This week Spring came and brought with it the cold weather with lots of snow in the north of Spain. One day of this week when I was having lunch with my dear friend Susana Blázquez at the Annapurna Indian restaurant, we could see the snow drops falling outside the window to a backdrop of sunshine. That was something to look at.

Friday night was a stay in night where we, Eladio and I, hired a film and had a take away for dinner. We watched United 93 – about the plane during the 11th September that was high jacked and then taken over by the passengers to stop it crashing into the Pentagon. It was quite claustrophobic and of course, very realistic. I actually don’t really recommend it but Eladio was impressed.

On Saturday while I had the episode with the red high heeled patent shoes Eladio went to look at barbecues for installing in the garden. This house has everything but funnily enough it lacks a barbecue. Of course, Eladio ended up ordering one of the very best they had at Leroy Merlin. It’s so big it probably does chops for 20 so it will be great for parties this Summer. Hopefully it will be installed here in about a week or 10 days.

In the afternoon we went to a small party at the Hesperia Hotel in Madrid held by my dear Mexican friend Fernanda Navarret to present her first born son, Jerónimo to her friends in Madrid. Fernanda went back to live in Mexico last Spring and to have her baby there. I had only seen photos and didn’t really think I would be seeing her again so soon. She had come to Spain to accompany her parents on holiday here which was also an excuse to show her new baby to all the friends she had left behind in Madrid.

Fernanda looked radiant and Jerónimo, so beautiful he could have been a girl. It was lovely to meet her Father, Don Carlos who was actually born in Madrid in C/Arenales in 1932. He gave us a short version of his life story and how he had married Fernanda’s Mother, the daughter of the then Minister of Health in Mexico. Quite a lovely encounter. However just an hour and a half with Fernanda shared with over 20 people was certainly not enough time together so we will be meeting up for a long girlie lunch this week before she goes back where we shall be able to catch up on what we have both been up to since we last saw each other a year ago.

Me, Fernanda with Jerónimo and Eladio

Jerónimo in his father's arms, Paco.

Jerónimo in his grandmother's arms, Fernanda's Mother.
In the evening we met up with Roberto and Mari Carmen for dinner at our usual place, La Alpargatería, and our usual table, number 5. Dinner with them is always a relaxing affair. Next week we will be going together to the country spa called La Senda de los Caracoles. There will be a full report in next week’s post about that.

Suzy was away this weekend because she went to Jérez (of sherry fame) with her boyfriend Gaby who is from there. It was the motorbike championships which he adores but they had also gone to get a puppy from an aunt of his for his new house in Madrid. There had been talk of this puppy for a while before they went and apparently the puppy was a boxer. As the weekend progressed so did news of 2 puppies they were bringing back. It seemed Suzy could not resist a little white one with a black patch on her eye. Eladio and I didn’t really want the responsibility of having a dog again but know we wont’ be able to resist a month old puppy. Suzy and Oli swear they will be take complete care of it but that, of course, remains to be seen. So lunch today was all about what name it would get. My favourites are Patch, Rosie, Poppy or Polly.

Just as I had finished writing this post, in walked Susi and Gaby with the new acquisitions - see the picture below. Of course, they are so sweet that any opposition from Eladio and I was swiftly dispelled. However it was made very clear that the girls would take complete care of it/them - it seems Gaby's puppy Kiyo will be staying for a little while until they move into their new house. This, of course, includes cleaning up all their "doings".

Kiyo and Polly/Patch/Donna (not yet decided) sleeping in their box in the kitchen. Polly/Patch/Donna has the big patch on her eye and is lying horizontally.
It was funny to see stylish Henry's reaction (our cat). He's such a coward and is absolutely frightened of them that now he prefers to stay outside for the moment at least!

And last night the clocks went forward so we lost an hour of sleep but the good thing is that there will be more daylight now. As I am writing now, it is 20.30 and still light, so great, Spring is really coming now.

Cheers for the moment.

A voice from the past.

A bird's eye view of Nottingham University campus - Trent building and the lake are what I remember most.

The famous Trent building

Hi again,

On Friday my dear friend Adele Brierley rang me. Adele and I went to University together and lived in the same flat with friends in the second year. Adele went to live in France while I went to live in Spain and she had 4 boys while I had 2 girls. The most dreadful thing is that we haven’t seen each other since her first child Jonathan and my first daughter Susana were born. That was at her parent’s house in Boroughbridge nearly 23 years ago!!! We have written to each other every now and again over the years and have had the odd natter on the phone and always with the promise of making the effort to see each other again some time. But time goes on and the time to see each other never comes.

Last week Adele wrote to me to tell me her new email address and she wrote that all was fine but she was so busy and had no time to write. It was lovely to hear from her but I wanted to know how she was, what she was doing, how her boys were – so I wrote back to say we had to make time for each other. And lo and behold, the darling beautiful, curly, smiling red haired 1.75cm tall Adele rang me on Friday afternoon and we chatted for at least one and half hours as we had so much to catch up on. We also had time for University day memories such as when we had chocolate egg eating competitions or one of our flat mates, Wombat, got lice in her hair!

She is fine, remarried to her psychiatrist (that is a story in itself) Bernard and they live in a town house in Orleans. Adele is a teacher of English and goes to her lessons by bicycle which compares very favourably for her with my 50km away office which can take a 2 hour drive to get to! Her boys Jonathan, Ben, sorry I can’t remember the 3rd boy’s name and Tom are all at different stages of their studies.

Ever after the conversation she has remained very much in my mind and I really hope that they do come and see us sometime soon. I told her about my reunion with Sandie – another mutual University friend – a few months ago. It’s so funny to have known each other as students and to meet again as mature ladies (a euphemism for middle aged).

Darling Adele, thanks for ringing and coming back a little into my life. You were never forgotten!

As I had no photos of Adele I decided to illustrate this post with pictures of our old University and when I looked it up in Google I was pleasantly surprised to see that Nottingham University is now in the top 10 of the British league of Universities which is something to be proud of I suppose. I also looked up our old Hall of Residence, Florence Nightingale, of the famous British nurse fame. It looks just the same except that it has been mixed since the year 2000. People like Adele and I made sure there were plently of boys there in our time and I remember one memorable fire drill that took place unexpectedly during the middle of the night and how all the boys caught there walked sheepishly out into the grounds, covered in blankets! In our day the bedroom walls were painted purple! What a good time we had!

Florence Nightingale Hall, our Hall of Residence in our first year at University.

In search of red patent high heeled shoes.

Hi everyone:

When Anne (Nenonen) was here last week we went shopping to Centro Oeste where we visited Lola Rey, one of our favourite shoe shops. I had no intention of buying any shoes nor did I need any until I spied my life long fantasy: a pair of red patent high heeled shoes! They were just the sort I have always wanted and have never had. Oh, yes I’ve got red shoes, have had many pairs of red shoes, but not patent red shoes. I remember as a child my Mother buying me a pair of red shoes which I put on immediately and walked out of the shop with them on. And when I went to bed I put them on a chair at eye level height so’s I could see them as soon as I woke up without having to get out of bed. So yes, I have always loved red shoes. There is something about red; it’s probably my favourite colour.

So how awful it was to find out they didn’t have my size!! I asked if I could order my size and yes I could, just had to leave a deposit and return one week later with the slip of paper. Well, I couldn’t wait a week could I, so returned on Thursday after work. But they weren’t there. Never mind, I was told, they would definitely be there on Saturday and I agreed to ring before. On Saturday I rang but they never answered so I thought they must have been too busy to pick up the phone. As we had to go into “town” anyway – to Majadahonda – Eladio dropped me off while he went to look at barbecues. In I went with my crumpled slip of paper which I gave to the gormless looking shop assistant who had “sold” them to me and who, of course, didn’t remember me or my red patent high heeled shoes. He disappeared into a very disorganised looking storeroom and I stayed outside wondering whether they would be there or not. Well my luck was not in. The gormless shop assistant’s boss told me she was terribly sorry they had been mislaid at the warehouse they were supposed to have come from!!! But not to worry as she herself would go and pick them up personally and they would be ready for picking up that afternoon. Oh well, I thought, at least I can pick them up this afternoon on our way to Fernanda and Jerónimo’s party. However, it was not to be or maybe the shoes were not supposed to be mine as just as we got home they rang me from the shop to say they hadn’t been able to pick up the shoes because of some emergency. They assured me though that they would be in the shop on Monday. Somehow these red patent high heeled shoes are eluding me. When I go on Monday with my crumpled slip of paper, for the 4th time, I think I will have very little hope of finding those so desired red patent high heeled shoes I so desire.

More news tomorrow.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Dinner with Anne and Graciela, The five day headache, Oli came back, Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns and The Bad German

Hi again

Well this week would have been better without the 5 day headache and even as I am writing here, it’s still there in the background; just won’t go. It started on Wednesday night when I went out to dinner with Anne and Graciela to La Txitxarrería in Pozuelo and is still with me today. It took me to bed on Friday afternoon in the middle of a visit from Manuel, Paola and little Daniela who had come to see Anne. I guess it will go eventually but I’m afraid it does take the beans out of me.

Girly dinner at La Txitxarrería in Pozuelo on Wednesday night
So, yeah, Anne came to stay for the weekend as part of an extended business trip. It’s always lovely to have her as she’s like part of the family. Her stay coincided with Oli’s return from Falmouth for her Easter holiday. Both of them were instructed to bring English chocolate Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns (typical currant buns with a cross on the top which the English have for toast on Good Friday and ONLY available in the UK). So we now have a huge pile of both.

Anne and I went shopping on Saturday morning for food for lunch but also to Centro Oeste, her local shopping centre when she lived in Majadahonda. I wasn’t supposed to buy anything but ended up with a beautiful black and white vintage type jacket and a pair of red patent high heeled shoes (very sexy for a 50 year old!!!). Lunch was a full family affair as we had both girls and both boyfriends (welcome back too Pepelu) and the food was typically Spanish to cater for Anne’s craving for Spanish cured ham and tapa type food. The piece de resistance though was American, in the left over brownies Susi and I had made the week before. So after that the only thing any of us could do was take a siesta. Actually I half slept through an old TV favourite film from the girls' childhood, “The Little Princess” – the perfect Saturday afternoon.

In the evening Anne, Eladio and I went to see The Good German to quench our thirst for Second World War films. It turned out to be a complete flop of a film despite George Clooney and Kate Blanchett. It is set in post-war Berlin where an American military journalist is covering the Potsdam peace conference. He gets drawn into a murder investigation which involves his former mistress and his driver; all incredibly complicated and mysterious. It’s a sort of Casablanca style imitation vintage film made in black and white which had me half a sleep before the middle. So I’m afraid I’ve renamed it The Bad German as you can see in the title of my post this week.

Dinner was at Mood again, great food but a little noisy.

And today has been a typical Sunday; most of the morning cooking and washing which are the usual weekend household chores. I’m a bit late with my blog today as the oxtail stew I made this morning took longer than planned. Well I did have a Jacuzzi in the middle of cooking I must admit so I suppose that’s why.

And now Anne has gone, back to London and tomorrow to Helsinki; what a globe trotter she is. I used to be to in my previous job but now my business trips are few and far between unless you count driving from Villaviciosa de Odón to La Moraleja, of course.

Cheers my friends until next week. Have a good one.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Going to the Cinema, the influence of communism and the Second World War. Spring is in the air. Anniversary of 11th March Madrid train bombings

Hello again

The week has been quiet so when the weekend came we felt a need for going out and what better than going to the cinema and then out to dinner on our own or with friends? So on Friday we were just the two of us and on Saturday we were joined by Eladio’s beloved brother, José Antonio and his wife Dolores. It’s thanks to Dolores that I first met Eladio, so she is someone very important in my life – but that story is for another time.

On Friday we went to see The Lives of Others which won this year’s Academy Award for the best foreign language film. Frankly it’s one of the best films we have seen for a long time. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's film is about the horrific system of observation in the former East Germany.

When I told Susi my daughter what the film was about – basically life under the Communists, she opened up my eyes to really how much my life has been influenced by Communism and the Second World War. The fact is both my parents were affected by both and at home the topic of conversation always revolved around them. So many of our guests and visitors were of the same condition; either Poles who had survived the war, Russian friends who had survived the Leningrad Seige, Soviets visiting the UK and telling the tales of life under communism (queuing up for bread or milk, empty supermarkets, …), my Mother’s stories of being imprisoned by the Germans in Berlin, her cycling around Vienna in a dare devil game when it was being bombed or my Father’s medal for having contributed to the liberation of Norway when he was a young Lieutenant in the British Navy. But all that’s another story too.

To gain some sanity we went to Mood for dinner afterwards and spent the whole time talking about the film which had made so much impact on us both.

On Saturday Susi and I made brownies and I must say they were the most successful we have ever made – actually I am not the best cake maker in the world. And in the evening, after our daily constitutional (walk), we went to see The Departed with José Antonio and Dolores. It is the Martin Scorsese film which won four Oscars this year, including “Best Picture”. It stars Jack Nicholson and Leonardo Di Caprio, amongst others. It’s all about the Irish mafia in Boston in the 20’s and is extremely violent. Actually none of thought that much of it and would have preferred to see “The Good German” – another Second World War film to feed our permanent interest in the subject. Food for thought was at La Alpagatería but that you must have guessed by now.

Not much mention of the girls this week. Susi sent me a message at just before 10 am this morning from her bosom friend Copi’s house, not to expect her for lunch. The way to interpret that is that her night out finished just after 9 am this morning. Oh to be young again!

Oli will be back next Friday for her Easter holidays. We are dying to have her home. Her room is so, so empty without her. Her Erasmus University Exchange programme will soon be over really as she will be returning definitively to Spain at the end of May.

And we will also be welcoming my dearest Finnish friend, Anne, next weekend. Friday was her birthday which she celebrated with my other dear Finnish friend Anne Marjut who was here with us last week. Hi girls, hope you had a great time this weekend in lovely Somerset together.

Meanwhile Spring is in the air. And here is a picture to prove it – Eladio, holding the reluctant Henry, against the backdrop of one of the trees in blossom in the garden.

The only sad note today, Sunday, is that it is the anniversary of the 11th March Madrid bombings. Who will ever forget?

Cheers until next week.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Visitors, surprise party for Tomas’ 40th, Eladio and the breathalyser and love is in the air

Hi again

This weekend has been quite hectic socially and with even more visitors than usual. On Friday, Anne Marjut, a Finnish friend came to stay for the weekend. She works for the company that does Nokia’s promotional material and had come to Madrid for business and extended the visit for a girly weekend with me. Girly occupations are basically shopping and eating, as well as chatting, all of which we did a lot of this weekend. We did rest also though and Anne sunbathed by the pool twice over the weekend, something none of us here at home would be seen dead doing with only 20ºC however sunny it is. We, meanwhile, practiced the Spanish national sport of having lovely long siestas.

Anne Marjut preparing the fruit platter for lunch on Saturday

Lunch at home on Saturday - picture taken by Anne Marjut
On Saturday, the night of the total lunar eclipse, we went to Tomas’ surprise 40th birthday party organised by his darling, extrovert and extremely vivacious wife Ana Valdivieso. Ana had been preparing the party for weeks and seemed on the point of a nervous breakdown trying to keep the secret from the very curious Tomy. There must have been over 60 guests and we were all instructed to arrive just before Tomy, to put the lights out and sing Happy Birthday. Cars were also supposed to be parked away from the house – Ana’s parents’ place – so as to avoid any suspicion. It was worth all the effort because Tomy was duly surprised (see the picture to prove it) and the party was a great, great success. I spent quite a part of the evening drinking some very lovely cava and when Fátima asked Ana’s father for another bottle of “cava” he politely corrected her to say it was actually Moet Chandon!!! Very nice it was too. As was the food of which there was far too much even for 60 people. Tomy is the youngest of 11 brothers and sisters and Ana had had the help of his numerous amount of sisters for the catering so, of course, there ended up being an abundance of everything. I don’t know who made the ham croissants or the prawn vol au vents but my congratulations from here to the cook or cooks. Excellent!!

Tomy arriving at the party with Ana at the door.

Susana, me, Fátima and Anne at Tomy's party
On the way home, after sighting the moon which at 1.30 in the morning was nearly completely covered in red, we happily said goodbye to our hosts and friends and drove home with the help of our new sat nav. Actually we still managed to get a bit lost as we were having too much fun in the car and listening to El Divo to bother listening to the lady’s instructions. Fátima was highly amused but quite impressed with the technology so I think she will be acquiring one soon too. Then just as we were nearing Boadilla we got stopped by the police and Eladio was asked to blow into the breathalyser. And I thought, that’s it, we’ve got caught, we’ll get fined as I was absolutely sure he had drunk well over the limit. But miraculously the result was 0.0%, quite inexplicable but very relieving for us all.

And today Sunday, after quite a long lay in, I prepared a big roast meal – can’t get away from the English tradition even after all these years - because we were having visitors again. Eladio’s ex boss, Alberto was coming with his girlfriend, Olga whom we hadn’t met before. So once again there was a visit of the new house which is actually not so new any more as we moved in more than 9 months ago! Their visit coincided with a lovely sunny day so instead of the usual siesta, we took them on our daily walk. Their newly found love was so obvious to all around them but blended in beautifully with the sunny day, the blossom on the trees and the birds singing. Very romantic, I must say.

Alberto and Olga - the History of Art teachers - love is in the air
Cheers until next week my friends.