Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas should begin with “F” as it’s all about family, friends and food! “F” for mystery fish and thanks Mercadona!

Eladio and I with happy Christmas faces at Julio's annual dinner on Boxing Day
Hi again

Here I am writing my blog now that we are well into Christmas. And what have I been up to for the last 10 days? As I think back, it seems Christmas is all about family, friends, food and, of course, presents.

It all started with an invitation to the Ericsson Christmas party in the town of El Molar at the famous caves on 19th December. It was a great do but as I’m not a real party animal, I came home early as I had Christmas at home to prepare and I was a bit behind this year.

The next day, Eladio and I ventured into Madrid by car to pick up his Father’s old radio from a repair shop in La Latina, in the heart of old Madrid. It turned out to be a bit of an odyssey as the Christmas traffic was horrific. From there we went to José Antonio’s house to pick up Eladio’s Mother who was coming to stay for Christmas.

This is Eladio’s Father’s radio which he has inherited and means so much to him. According to the the man who mended it is a jewel of a radio and was manufactured in the 40’s.
Saturday was the annual Christmas lunch at home for Fátima and Julio. This year Fátimas’ Mother and daughter also joined us; so we were 10 round the dining room table. I decided on a “light” lunch, in preparation for what was to come later, so prepared baked fish. The fish part proved to be a bit of a mystery. I had everything ready for lunch and it was time to prepare the fish when I just couldn’t find it even though the day before we had bought 10 fresh fillets which should have been in the fridge. Well, they weren’t, so our conclusion was that we must have left it at the supermarket (Mercadona). However, it was already 1.30 and my guests were coming within the hour. Luckily I had quite a lot of frozen fish which I got out and hurriedly unfroze. Meanwhile Eladio rang the supermarket. And amazingly, within the hour, Mercadona had delivered 2 whole filleted hakes (merluza) direct to our door. I have to add we had nothing to prove we had left the fish there and neither did we ask them to bring us more fish. They just believed our story! That is real customer service for you!!! Full marks Mercadona.

Gloria, Susi and Fátima's daughter, Fátima.
And on Sunday, we had guests again, but this time for tea. So in the morning we went to the Plaza Mayor with my Father and Eladio’s Mother to see the traditional Christmas market. The traffic was horrendous again and it took Eladio over an hour to park. Meanwhile, I waited with the “abuelos” in a bar for Eladio to come. The wait proved a little incidental as I kept ringing Eladio to find out when he was coming but he never answered. Later it turned out his phone was switched off and there I was imagining him kidnapped or attacked. Luckily he wasn’t and we were able to make some fun purchases, as you can see in the picture.

Fortunately our afternoon guests, Juana and Oscar, brought the food with them; delicious snacks from Mallorca. We hadn’t seen them for over a year and we were to meet their new offspring, Patricia who is 9 months old. Julio, who is the Godfather of Santiago, their 2 year old, had brought the children their Christmas presents which kept them well occupied most of the afternoon. The family, who I know from my Nokia days, now live in Mexico City. In fact you can follow their lives through Juana’s blog; the link to which is on mine below. They are flourishing in Mexico and having a great life, as you will see from the blog.

A lovely afternoon was spent with Juan, Oscar, Santiago and Patricia
And suddenly it was Christmas Eve, that most important date at Christmas for the Spaniards and what they call “Nochebuena”. Nochebuena is celebrated with a family dinner which is the most special dinner of the year when you get out the best china and table finery you have. So I spent the 24th cooking most of the day. I cooked so much stuff that we have been eating it for the last 4 days which, of course, is a great advantage as I don’t have to cook any more. We are now totally fed up of potato salad, bacon rolls and cold turkey.

Christmas Eve dinner
Christmas day is the most important day for the English at Christmas and I have followed the traditions I learned from my Grandmother all my life. The girls have a stocking full of small goodies then we all have a special breakfast together. And after it is time to open the presents and this is what we all look forward to every year.

Unwrapping the presents from under the tree is the best moment of Christmas and the one we all prepare for weeks in advance or months in some cases. The important thing here is the quantity rather than the quality; so we all give each other lots of little things, but nothing over the top ever.

Photo of the tree moments before opening the presents on Christmas day

Everyone ready to open the presents on Christmas morning
And as Christmas lunch is the most important meal in the English calendar, there I was cooking again most of the morning. And here the menu cannot be altered like it can on Christmas Eve. So, of course, I made roast turkey and all the trimmings and Christmas pudding with white brandy sauce like I have done every year of our married life.

On Boxing day, we were invited to the annual dinner at Julio’s house. This year we were only 5: Julio, Fátima, Susi, Eladio and I but the dinner was as big a success as ever. An intrinsic part of this dinner is the exchange of presents and the wishes we make for the new year; all of this, of course, to the sound of laughter from beginning to end. Thanks Julio for another great dinner this year!

Susi with Anne's lovely Santa sack full of our presents for Julio and Fátima
And today, we took the “abuelos”, my Father and Eladio’s Mother, to El Pardo to see the palace there and have lunch out at El Gamo. El Pardo was built in the 16th century as a royal hunting lodge. It was never used to live in permanently until the late General Franco took up residence there in 1940 until his death in 1975. And from the 80’s it has been used as the residence for heads of state visiting Spain, the latest being Mohamed Gadaffi only a week ago.

Eladio and his Mother posing by the El Pardo Palace.
And that is what we have been up to this Christmas so far. I have also been working, but of course, at half steam due to the holiday season.

Very soon we shall be off to León to spend New Year’s Eve with Eladio’s family as we do every year. But more about that next week.

Meanwhile, I wish you all a fantastic 2008.


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