Sunday, October 28, 2007

A lot of lunches, celebration and shopping, Mencía is born, 13 Roses and a day trip to Segovia.

Eladio by the Palace of Riofrío in Segovia
Hi again

As you can see from the title, this last week has been full of activity again. Do I ever stop you probably wonder? Well, I think I don’t and that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to plus juggle work and play which is what I do most days.

So this week brought lunch with Miguel Angel Muñoz, a journalist friend who I have known since my Motorola days, some 15 years ago. We had lots to catch up on and something big to celebrate as he and his wife Lourdes are expecting their second child. Congratulations to you both from here.

The week also brought a lunch with my best friend Fátima and JLP who we also know from our Motorola days. The world is very small because he is now the Country Manager of Nokia Siemens Networks in Spain. Our conversation revolved around the cycling and football sponsorship we used to be involved in, the difficulties of having adolescent kids plus a bit of reminiscing too.

The week also brought time for lunch with my beautiful daughters which is something of a treat. We felt a bit bad about leaving the men at home to have lunch on their own but then the indulging was well worth it. Just look at Oli and the desert plate to understand why.

Midweek found me at a company party I had organised to celebrate a new milestone in the number of customers. It was well attended and the place highly recommendable for the atmosphere and food and drink, not to mention the central location of the famous La Latina. A good time was had by all I think.

I even had time for shopping and Thursday evening found me sneaking off to Centro Oeste in Majadahonda to buy some new half calf loose leg brown leather boots which are high fashion this season in Madrid. Oh, how I love them. Now I need some new boots, but black this time!!

Midweek Mencía was born to Ana Valdivieso and her husband Tomy. So Jill and I arranged to visit the 3 of them on Friday afternoon. Mencía is their first child and both Ana and Tomy have been looking forward to being parents for such a long time that happiness was the name of the game at their lovely suite of rooms at the Ruber hospital in Madrid where the Spanish Royalty give birth. We had to make our way through all the plants, flowers and other gifts in order to see the happy Mother and her tiny little baby. Ana has a constant Cheshire cat type smile on her face of pure satisfaction and Tomy holds his baby and stares at her without looking up. And here are the photos to prove.

Mencía at 2 days old.
This weekend Eladio and I went to the cinema to see 13 Roses, an emotional and shocking new Spanish film about the execution of 13 young girls at the end of the Spanish civil war by Franco’s new government. It was beautifully enacted and had me crying from half way through to the end. We came out feeling a bit too emotionally hit to want to go to dinner, so just came home to a bowl of soup and went straight to bed; after having put the clocks back.

And today, Sunday, we went with my Father on a day trip to enjoy the Autumn scenery in the hills of Madrid and Segovia. This is something we do most years and we usually go to Rascafría. However, this year we changed routes in order to have lunch at the new Parador in La Granja de San Ildefonso in the province of Segovia. But first we visited the beautiful gardens of the Palace there, built by Felipe V in the 18th century. They meant quite a lot to Eladio as this was our first visit there since before we were married.

Eladio in the gardens of the Palace at La Granja de San Ildefonso

Me in the gardens too.

My father and I by the Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso.
After the wonderful lunch of suckling lamb, typical of the area, we made our way to another palace very near from La Granja, in Riofrío built by Felipe VI's wife, Isabel de Farnesio. The palace is nothing special but the surrounding woods and location are spectacular. The place was riddled with deer which were quite happy to be photographed without running off.

The deer at Riofrío

Me by the Palace of Riofrío
This week coming up will probably prove just as full of activity as this but with the added pleasure of including a bank holiday on Thursday and Friday.

Cheers till after then and have a great week.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Lunch with a friend, tasting outing, visit to the flea market, visit to the cinema, back to the Alpagateria and planning our next trip away.

Olivia and Eladio at the flea market in Majadahonda
Hi there

Last week was pretty busy from both a social and professional perspective, although I managed to mix the two which is actually a personal trait. The sad point of course was Quillo's accident but I won't dwell on that here as I have just written a special post for him.

The week was great as I had lunch with Jill and bumped into old Motorola friends, Alejandro Bueno and Juan Luis Velázquez (both work for the competition: Telefónica and Orange!). We have promised to organise another of those great ex Motorola dinners. I also moved into a nice new office at work. I’m not quite sure if it’s a prize or a bribe to get me to go more often. I say this because I work at home as much as I can.

The weekend was full of socialising, starting with a tasting dinner in the old part of Madrid, La Latina. This was to try out a menu for a party I am organising this week. We took José Antonio and Dolores and they have agreed to come with us any other time we need them for similar activities. It was amazing to see how full Madrid is at night. Suffice it to say it took more than 40 minutes to find a parking space which was very frustrating.

Dolores and I in the bar in La Latina

Eladio and Toño in the bar in La Latina
On Saturday and out of the blue, I decided to visit the Majadahonda flea market. Oli and Eladio quickly decided to join me and we spent a great morning spending money on cheap and nice things. I hadn’t been for years but am a great one for flea markets. Recently a lot I have been too though are pretty “++++”. Majadahonda is probably the best one I have ever been to. It’s not surprising that people come from all over to visit it. So what did I buy you might ask? Well, a great pair of short bootees which are the latest fashion for 16 euros, a lilac coloured pashmina for 5, a black jumper with a white cotton collar for 10 euros, 4 pairs of socks for my Father at 1 euro each, a photo frame for Eladio for 2 euros and a 3 tier steam saucepan for less than 20. I was very pleased with my purchases. Eladio, though doesn’t want to go back for a long time as he ended up forking out over 150 euros between Olivia and I!

This weekend we also went to the cinema, something we haven’t done for some time now. We went to see the Spanish candidate for the best foreign film at the Oscars. It’s called “El Orfonato” (The Orphanage) and is a bit scary and esoteric. There have been many positive write ups here but unfortunately Eladio and I were not that impressed. It’s very similar to “The others” by Amenabar with Nicole Kidman, at least the end is.

After the film we met up with Roberto and Mari Carmen for dinner at our usual place, La Alpargatería and at out usual table. And over dinner we planned another trip together for the next bank holiday this coming 1st November. We shall be going to the Parador in Cazorla. But more news about that when we’ve been.

And that's that for this week. This week coming up will be full of planning and the odd pr lunch too.


Requiem for a dog

Susi with Quillo (left) and Elsa (right) recently

This last week had its sad point as on Tuesday last, Quillo was run over by a car and died. You will remember Quillo from a recent post when Amanda was here and we went to Susi’s boyfriend’s house to take Quillo (Gaby’s dog) and Elsa (Susi’s dog) for a walk. Quillo and Elsa were brought from Cádiz to live with us when they were very small and when they were about 3 months old they went to live with Gaby and his family. Both of them were very enthusiastic about life and the people around them as well as very inquisitive and it was perhaps this inquisitiveness that caused Quillo’s accident. They had both escaped from the house and the accident occurred on the main road near their house. Luckily Elsa was not hurt. But now poor Elsa will have to live her life without Quillo, something which will be difficult for her as they have been together since they were born.

The girls with the puppies when they were small

Elsa and Quillo when they were little (Elsa left, Quillo (Chiquillo) right)
All of us were very upset, specially the girls and Gaby. We found out when we heard them crying after they had received the news on the phone a little while after the accident. And I must say that I shed a little tear or two also for dear Quillo who was a wonderful dog loved by us all.

Rest in peace dear Quillo, you will be sorely missed.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Autumn colours reach Montrondo; a family weekend.

Hiya again,

Friday morning saw us all preparing to leave for Montrondo. There were so many preparations – last minute suitcase packing, loading all the food needed for the 6 of us plus the rest of the family, leaving Phoebe and Henry serviced with food and accommodation outside while we were away, etc, etc. Thus we weren’t able to leave until past 11 in the morning. We went in 2 cars; the 3 girls in one and Eladio, my Father and I in the other and judging by the boots and back of both cars it looked like we were going away for a month and not just 2 days!

O course, it being a bank holiday, we were to face the proverbial traffic jam out of Madrid. It actually took us 3 hours to crawl less than 50 km. Luckily we got to Rueda (about half way) by 2 o’clock, just in time for lunch. The Palacio de Bornos wine cellar is a must on every trip to León and if you ever go, which I highly recommend, you will understand why. They sell the best white wine in the world (remember the name RUEDA) and their ham and cold cuts are of superb quality.

Oli, Copi and Susi at the Palacio de Bornos in Rueda

The Palacio de Bornos in Rueda, the place to stop on the way to León.
We arrived quite late really, but not too late to appreciate the wonderful Autumn colours that have now reached Montrondo. We were greeted by Eladio’s brother, José Antonio, our sister-in-law, Dolores and their oldest son, Miguel – just back from 2 years in London. They are just finishing building their own house in the village next to the family house. You can tell by the beams on their face when they show you round the new house or when you sit round the fire in their new lounge at night that it is their pride and joy.

There was time before dinner for a short walk to Murias (the bigger village down the road). The “boys”, José Antonio and Eladio decided to take us on the old route through the fields where there turned out to be an obstacle for the last lap of the walk and we all had to climb a sort of ditch to get back on to the road. It was actually quite fun.

Eladio and José Antonio by the Peña de Dios (God's Rock) on the way to Murias

Climbing the ditch

Miguel and I on the walk to Murias
Dinner together round the kitchen table was a happy affair and the mountain air guaranteed great appetites from all 10 of us.

Needless to say we all slept well. We had expected cold and damp weather but we were extremely lucky to get lots of sun and it was only cold at night, nothing that couldn’t be remedied by a nice hot water bottle.

The view from our bedroom window the next morning was a wonderful surprise as a family of horses had installed themselves in the field right outside it. In fact the whole village is full of lovely brown coloured horses. They are a lovely sight for sore eyes.

View from our bedroom window
If we were 10 for dinner on Friday night, we were going to be 20 from Saturday lunch till Sunday lunch which, of course, meant a lot of work in the kitchen. But I didn’t mind as I find cooking very relaxing and actually quite creative. Cooking in Montrondo must be a bit like cooking in the army or at a scout camp. You need huge pots and pans and enormous quantities of everything. The only problem is calculating how much food to cook or how much bread to buy. Funnily enough 1kg packet of lentils was enough for 20 people! I would never have known that!

As the morning progressed, the rest of the family who were joining us began to make their appearance. We were to be joined by Eladio’s Mother and his sister Pili and his brothers Isidro and Alejandro plus their respective families.

Saturday afternoon was spent chatting and working in José Antonio and Dolores’ house. Once again we took a walk, this time up the mountain to the “Abedular” (Birch tree wood). It’s quite a walk up but the views are breathtaking. On the way down we were stopped by what must be the last herd of cows in the village which added to the bucolic scenery to be had in all Montrondo.

By the Abedular

A close up of me on the way up to the Birch tree forest (Abedular)

My Father at the Abedular - a 1.5h round trip walk from Montrondo. We did it once and he did it 3 times! Not bad for 88!

Eladio posing in front of the famous Tambarón mountain that towers over Montrondo.

Isidro and Yoli with the Tambarón behind them too.

The last herd of cows in Montrondo?
And all too soon it was Sunday morning and our stay was coming to an end. We had an unfortunate end in that Andrés, Pili’s husband and one of my favourite borther-in-laws, had an accident while the “boys” were cutting branches from trees in one of their fields. He fell off a wall and on to his bad knee and was in such pain he was unable to walk. To add to the bad luck, their daughter Paula had been sick several times in the night and was feeling very shaky. The three of them, of course, had to leave suddenly to go to the hospital in León. News later was that poor Andrés had his leg half in plaster and has to be immobile for 2 weeks and will then to be x-rayed again to see what damage has been done to his knee. I wish him lots of luck from these pages. Sorry Andrés!

We did still manage to have a happy lunch all together before packing and closing up the house to go home. Luck would have it again that we had another 6 hours of traffic to face before we got back home.

Despite Andrés’ accident and the traffic there and back , a good time was had by all, not least by my Father. He stayed at a lovely country inn in Murias called El Holandés Errante (The Flying Dutchman) which is actually run and owned by a Dutchman, Hans. He stayed there because it is much more comfortable for him. If you are ever in those parts, it’s a beautiful place to stop for a meal, a night or two or even just for a drink.

And that was our bank holiday weekend in Montrondo.

Cheers till next week

Monday, October 15, 2007

Lunch with a friend, a funeral, and preparations for a holiday weekend

Hiya again

This week I met up with an old friend, Ramón Pradera who is actually a TV news presenter now. I knew him when he was just a reporter, so I’m very proud of how well he has done. We met through Nokia when I took him on a trip to London for some new phone launch. We stayed at the famous St. Martin’s in the Lane hotel where one night dear Ramón ordered a cigar which turned out to cost 100 pounds! I fit the bill of course!

We had lunch at a great restaurant which belongs to a friend of his. It’s called “Escauri” and serves some wonderful French Basque food. I highly recommend it. Oh, and Ramón has just got married. So congratulations from these pages to you and your lucky wife. ¡Enhorabuena a los dos!

As some of you know, I am an avid reader – of all sorts of genres. So my passion (and my Father’s) is It’s just great ordering on internet from the biggest library in the world and then having the stuff delivered to your door within days. So this week there were 2 or 3 lovely parcels awaiting me with dvds such as “How green was my valley”, and “Attic” (the story of the people who hid the Anna Frank family during the war in Amsterdam) and books such as “A mighty heart” about the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl plus a couple on the fate of Middle Eastern women. My father’s book last week was “The battle of Japan” – quite a different genre, of course.

This week brought with it, the funeral for Gerardo González, the father of the Spanish family I lived with when I first came to Madrid as a student. The funeral was emotional but also very beautiful. The church was packed with family and friends and I must say my congratulations go to the priest whose homage to Gerardo was perfect. It was as if Gerardo’s spirit was there with us and there was no sad moment, except at the end, of course, when we all crowded round the family to give our condolences.

The funeral brought a little surprise as I saw a colleague from the telecoms sector who I know quite well. We were both surprised to see each other there away from our “natural” habitat. It turned out that he is Gerardo’s son’s best friend from their school days. What a small world!

The week was also full of preparations for our trip to Montrondo at the weekend. Friday 12th October was a national holiday and like most of the population, we were going to take a short break and go away for the long weekend; that is all 5 of us plus the girls’ oldest friend Copi. This meant a lot of meal planning and taking of food as Montrondo is high up in the mountains and an hour away from the nearest shop. More about that in my post on our weekend in Montrondo.

Cheers for now

Sunday, October 07, 2007

An emotional week in many ways.

Amanda and I, still firm friends nearly 40 years on! It was great to have you darling.<


This week has been marked by quite a few events. First Monday was the anniversary of the death of my amazing Mother on 1st October 1999. She will, of course, never be forgotten. Unfortunately only those of you who knew her will understand why I write “amazing”, because that’s what she was but her story will have to come another day. On Monday too we had a visit from my best friend from school, Amanda who was here until Friday for a girly visit and rest. The 2nd October was the first anniversary with my new company and I must say the job is going fine for the time being. Then there was the news about Gerardo’s passing away which hit me hard in the heart and you will understand why if you read my earlier post to him. And finally there was a reunion with his family on Friday which was probably the most emotional event I have experienced in quite some time.

But, in between work, Amanda and I had good fun too and spent a lot of time catching up on each other’s lives. She happily joined in our family routine for 4 days and did the shopping with the men on Thursday and went for a walk with us every night of her stay. She was impressed to see that we do it always, come rain or shine. She was a bit unlucky with the weather and, of course, had been expecting sunshine. Unfortunately it began to rain the moment she arrived and stopped the moment she left. There were some sunny intervals though where we enjoyed meals outside. Amanda loved Phoebe, as you will see from the pictures. But then who wouldn’t. Phoebe is just the most beautiful kitten ever to exist with her little blue eyes and wonderful Siamese type colouring. She loves people’s laps too. In the afternoon she will only go to Eladio’s and we all get jealous but in the morning any lap will do. Funny little thing she is!

Amanda and Phoebe one morning
One eventful outing was to Susana’s boyfriend’s house to give her dog Elsa some medicine. Elsa and her brother Quillo live there together and Elsa has just been neutered. The problem is that Quillo won’t leave her stitches alone and she has had to be restiched and then separated from Quillo in the garage for a week at least. They are so enthusiastic and were so pleased to see us, we had them both literally jumping right on top of us. We tried to take them for a walk which turned out to be mission impossible because of the barking from the other dogs in the neighbourhood.

The three of us had dinner out on Thursday and decided to go somewhere called Los Pescaitos which is usually too full at the weekend. It is an imitation Andaluz restaurant which mostly serves fish but it was actually pretty good. So we will be going back.

On Wednesday, as you know from my previous post, I heard about the passing away of Gerardo and, unable to attend the incineration, I went to see Pili, his wife on Friday afternoon together with Dolores.

That was some reunion. I hadn’t been to their flat for probably more than 8 years. And there, apart from Pili, I was to greet Lucía, her youngest daughter who is the replica of Catherine Z Jones and just like her older sister Irene when she was younger. Then Julieta arrived for the weekend. Julieta had been a bridesmaid at my wedding and is now nearly 40! It was lovely to see her. Finally Gerardo and his wife Vicky and 4 of their 5 amazing kids arrived: Vicky (12) , Ana (6) , Gerardo (5?) and little Irene (1). They were so alive and amusing and such fun, I had the little ones crawling all over me and repeating the behaviour of their Father and Aunts and Uncles when they were small and I was living with them. But, actually, I fell in love with them, the same as I did with the previous generation. I showed them my post to Gerardo and read it out in Spanish and it stirred a few tears from Pili and us all, of course.

Pili. We certainly cheered her up.


Seeing Gerardo, now aged 42 and a responsible Father of 5 took me back a bit. But I still saw the little boy in him and that lovely twinkle in his eye.

Gerardo and the kids.

Vicky and their youngest daughter Irene.
When we all left, we made the firm promise of holding a proper reunion and not letting so much time pass till we see each other again. I certainly intend to keep that promise.

After such an emotional week, the weekend has been quite lonely, specially because the girls went away. They have been to Ponferrada to visit one of their favourite cousins, Marta. From the multimedia messages I have received, it seems a grand time was had by all.

And finally to add to the emotion of things, I must just mention that my niece Sara who has been looking for a job in London after 2 years in China has finally landed a post with BBVA starting tomorrow. Congratulations Sarita and the best of luck from this page. And I also must mention that the F1 is not over as Hamilton did not classify in the Shanghai GP. There is now only one race left, Brasil next week and the standings are: Hamilton 107, Alonso 103 and Raikkonen 100. Who do you think will win? Place your bets ladies and gentlemen.

And here’s to this week coming up. Hope it’s a great one for you all.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Goodbye Gerardo!


When I came to Spain as a student some 29 years ago, I lived with a marvellous Spanish family called González Gálvez in a lovely flat in Madrid. I loved them then and I still love them now even though we haven’t kept up much over the years.

They are part of my past but also a part of my life in many ways.

There was Gerardo the Father, always cheerful smiling, very handsome and someone who lived life to the absolute full. There is Pili, his wife who is indescribable. The only adjective that comes to mind is “endearing”. She is the heart of the family. Pili taught Chemistry at the same school as José Antonio and Dolores and it was thanks to Dolores that I went to live with them.

Gerardo and Pili, a successful good looking couple had 4 children, Gerardo, Irene, Julieta and Toti (Alberto) when I went to live with them. Part of the deal was teaching Gerardo and Irene English every day. It turned out to be mission impossible as the kids enjoyed their time hiding from me or locking me up in the bathroom. However we got on famously and I became very close to them all; so much so that they have been in my heart and mind always even if we don’t see each other so often.

When I first fell in love with Eladio who was a priest at the time, they accepted us with open arms. In fact they were probably the main guests at our wedding after my family and the 2 daughters, Irene and Julieta, were my bridesmaids. They also put up some of my guests, including my dearest friend Amanda who they also knew from her visit to their house when I was living with them. Amanda got on famously with them all too. It was their car which, driven by dear Gerardo, was used to take me the church on my wedding day. And Gerardo, a cookie monster when he was 13, is now the proud Father of 5 children!

Then when I was pregnant with Susana, Pili became pregnant too, very late in life and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Lucía, just a few months after me. Very, very unfortunately darling Pili became blind afterwards. It must have been a nightmare for her and a great difficulty in life still. I will never forget when I went to see her at the time. She opened the door, looked at me and asked me who I was? I said, “Pili, I’m Masha can’t you see me?” to which she replied, “No, I can’t but you just tell me who you are and I will hug you”. That brought a few tears to my eyes and still does, even as I am writing this.

And I am writing this post today because yesterday they rang me to tell me that Gerardo had passed away on Tuesday night after fighting an aggressive lung cancer. He was only 69 and too young to die and leave his wonderful wife a widow. I cannot get them out of my thoughts and so many memories come back.

As I wrote to Pili in a text message yesterday I have only good memories of Gerardo. He was a great enthusiast of life and his family. He was successful, he was generous, he was witty and he was handsome. He had a smile constantly on his face and above all he had a knack of making people feel welcome. My parents came to visit me when I lived with them and not only did they invite them for dinner, but Gerardo took my Father out on a couple of occasions. He took him to a Real Madrid match and to his golf club, both of which my Father will never forget.

He was a true gentleman and will be much missed by his family and friends but he will never be forgotten.

Goodbye Gerardo. Enjoy your beer and “marisco” up there, smile down at us and why not light up a cigarette and enjoy it now you can.

It was a pleasure to have known you.

Forever Masha