Friday, July 10, 2009

Home and off again, a fall, reading and languages, Winston Churchill, a farewell dinner, strawberries without cream, Tour de France and other things

Winston Churchill, England's most famous Prime Minister, puffing a cigar on his Chartwell estate some time in the 40's. Apart from a brillian politician, soldier, writer and journalist he was also an amazing character.
Hi again

I’ve been a bit lazy with my blog recently. I like to think it’s because I have been very busy for the last week or so. That is so, but also keeping up a blog weekly is actually quite a task. You can’t just sit down and begin to write. You have to write the list of things to mention, get the photos together and of course find the links. Then you have to feel in the mood or be inspired which is perhaps the most difficult part.

I don’t know if I’m inspired right now but I do have the perfect conditions to write a new entry. I am sitting in the quadrangle in Montrondo on an old wooden chair with my pc. The sun is shining on the other side and I can hear Eladio and his Mother discussing how to put up the Ikea curtains we brought for our room on yet another trip here to improve our living conditions. We are alone, just the three of us and have Montrondo all to ourselves which is perhaps how I like it best.

So where shall I start? The title says “home and off again” and actually refers to Olivia’s return from Guatemala and her moving into the new flat. Oli returned last Sunday after her two week adventure in Latin America where she went to work with an NGO that helps underprivileged children. She had a grand time and the experience must have been very enriching.
Oli with Laura her friend outside Lucrecia's house where they stayed in Antigua in Guatemala.
No sooner had she arrived we went to visit her new flat which she actually moved into on Tuesday. It’s a little place in the centre of Madrid near Atocha which she will be sharing with her colleague Miriam whom we have yet to meet. It’s small but in a perfect condition. I hope she will be happy there. Luckily, as she’s not moving far, we will not miss her too much as I know she will be visiting and staying with us often. For her first night she was accompanied by Suzy who I know will miss her dearly. They might fight like cat and dog, but they are very close.

“Home and off again” also refers to Suzy coming back from her week’s holiday in Santa Pola with her friend Juli and cousins Laura and Alicia. They returned on Saturday brown and relaxed but we didn’t see much of them as they went off almost immediately to a barbecue at Copi’s place in Bonanza. Laura and Alicia went “off again” too on Sunday, back to their native León just before Olivia arrived.
Alicia on the left and Laura on the right of the photo on Sunday just before they left.
Whilst they were all away, Eladio’s mother, Ernestina, came to stay and for a few days it was just the “oldies” at home and it felt a bit like a senior citizens’ residence!

Ernestina is not self sufficient like my Father and unlike him doesn’t know how to fill her days and seems to live from meal to meal. She is in good health but doesn’t read or walk. She doesn’t like to help in the kitchen either. She is not much interested in the television and is very hard of hearing. She is very skilled, however, at sewing and knitting so we gave her the task of making woollen socks to keep her occupied and she happily knitted wool in the unbearable heat of July.
Ernestina sewing and Eladio keeping her company with his book.
Ernestina is at her happiest in Montrondo which is where she was born and brought up her own family. So when we told her we were coming here for a few days, her eyes lit up and she came to life immediately. And here she is, with us now, pottering around, helping Eladio with the curtains, watering the plants and feeling thoroughly at home.
Eladio's Mother here in Montrondo today where she is at her happiest. She is wearing the classic blue dressing gown which is how I'm sure I'll remember her always.
My father stayed behind this time, perhaps because he prefers his peace in a place he is familiar with and where he doesn’t have to depend on anyone. He gave us a fright not so long ago when he tripped over Norah or a cap Norah was playing with in the kitchen. He fell flat on his face and my heart sunk as we helped him up. My father for someone aged 90 is in very good health and my only fear for him is a fall. His own Father fell in his early 70’s which caused a massive stroke. He died within the week. That same fear for my Father has always been with me. Miraculously though he came away nearly completely unscathed apart from a superficial bruise on his head. I always thought he was more fragile but his bones must be made of rock to have resisted a fall like that.

My Father is a great reader. Eladio’s mother always marvels at him reading the paper, doing the Daily Telegraph crossword or reading a book in German, Russian or whatever language takes his fancy. I am a bit of a reader too when I have the time and recently Eladio seems to be joining me. I have just read Clara’s War, the miraculous story of a Jewish girl in Nazi occupied Poland. It is, of course, my favourite genre. I also love biographies so this book was doubly interesting. Eladio is reading it too now in English, is fascinated by the story but also pleased that he is able to understand the English. It is the first book he has ever read in English and I imagine it will not be the last. In order to learn a language, it is fundamental that you read too in that language. It was my Mother’s trick and she knew 6 languages!

Right now I am finishing the biography of Phyllis Moir who was one of Winston Churchill’s personal secretaries but in America. I have also read the one by Elizabeth Nell who was his secretary in war time London. Both are a fascinating read. Churchill is an amazing character as we all know but in these books comes to life. I am more interested in him as a person than as a prime minister or war strategist. He must have had one of the most brilliant minds of his times. I learned that he was three things in life, a soldier, a journalist and a politician and that he never stopped being all three. He was also a great writer which is where he made his money. He might have been an aristocrat but the family was relatively poor. He wrote his own father’s biography and asked his son, Randolph, to write his but once he was dead. Randolph did begin to write it but unfortunately died early and never finished it. Phyllis Moir wrote her book in 1941 so in it she refers to Churchill in the present which is quite funny to read. Fascinating man, fascinating times.

You may be interested to know that this book which I got via, was actually out of print but was sent to me via Kessinger Publishing’s Rare prints who reprint anything for anybody, even a single copy. Churchill would have been impressed I’m sure.

Meanwhile it was Independence Day on 4th July in America. I didn’t get to go, of course, but did get my taste of America this week, in that I acquired my 3rd pair of white leather sneaker Keds which you can only buy in the States. I am a “sucker” for this footwear and have worn all my Keds to the ground, especially in the Summer. I bought my first pair in Phoenix, Arizona, on a press trip with Motorola. The second pair came from Macy’s in Los Angeles on another press trip this time with Nokia. These, however, come from New York, from Broadway to judge by the packaging and I got them thanks to my friend Javier and his wife Ana who are living there now. I actually went to pick them up at their house in Las Rozas and got to meet their 4 nearly grown up kids. We will be seeing more of this family in August. Thanks guys. As I write, I am wearing them too and they feel comfy on my feet.
My keds, as worn today whilst writing this post in Montrondo.
I didn’t wear them, though on Tuesday when I went to the Spanish Senate, or Upper House, for the annual report from the Government on the state of the telecommunications market in Spain. Fortunately the news for Yoigo was good, but then we knew it would be. Here the crème de la crème of the sector meets every year and it is a grand occasion for networking. The press are there too and I was privileged enough to be invited to the press conference afterwards.
The Spanish Senate, a beautiful building.
On Tuesday though, one journalist was missing, Antonio P who was unfortunate enough to be included in the black list of the ABC newspaper recent layoffs. I have known Antonio for many years. He was even instrumental in my joining Yoigo so when I heard he was leaving, I quickly took part in the organisation of his farewell party. It took place on Wednesday at Naia, a restaurant owned by Pedro, a colleague, from work, which is in the heart of old Madrid in Plaza de la Paja, number 3 if you are tempted to go and taste their amazing food which we all enjoyed on Wednesday. Their foie and croquettes are superb as is the brownie dessert as well as many other delicacies on their very reasonably priced menu. There were 29 of us there on Wednesday to bid Antonio farewell, but not goodbye. We were a crowd made up of the communications managers from all the operators as well as the journalists from Spain’s main media who write about the operators. But that night, as I said in my improvised speech when we gave Antonio a lovely Cross pen and Moleskine pad that later everyone wrote on (good thinking Ana!), we were only competing for Antonio’s heart. He will have a place in mine always. Good luck Antonio and don’t disappear.

I cannot finnish this entry without mentioning two sports close to my heart and that are part of our lives in June and July always, tennis and Wimbledon and cycling and the Tour de France.

The Women’s final was no surprise and was played by the William’s sisters who have dominated women’s tennis for quite some time now. Serena, the younger of the two, beat Venus 7-6, 6-2, and garnered her 3rd Wimbledon whilst Venus has won 5. That sounds fair to me. Wimbledon is all about fair play but it also about strawberries and cream, of course.
Serena Williams won this year's Wimbledon, her 3rd, as ever against her own sister, Venus who has already garnered 5. I wouldn't like to be their parents watching them.
I read this year that Wimbledon without Nadal, the world’s number one until this week, and winner of last year’s edition, is like strawberries without cream. The cream, I’m afraid, went to Federer. Federer became tennis's greatest men's champion, watched by a legion of champions, as he beat Andy Roddick 5-7 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 16-14 in four hours and 16 minutes to claim his sixth Wimbledon crown. It was also a record 15th Grand Slam title for the Swiss master, overhauling the total of Pete Sampras who was in the Royal Box along with fellow legends Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver, as reported by the official website.
Federer winning Wimbledon. He is dubbed as the history man of tennis. I bet he was glad Nadal wasn't there this year.
Very soon afterwards, the start of the Tour de France last weekend in Monaco, saw the comeback of Lance Armstrong, who has returned to the sport 3 years after resigning as the one and only 7 times champion of this legendary competition. He is now 37 and there are mixed opinions as to whether he will win it or not. So far, he is second in the general classification, thanks to his superb performance in the prologue and team time trial which his team, Astana won. It is in these stages that seconds are fought for but it is in the mountains where they fight for minutes. Today, in the French and Spanish Pyrenees, the first mountain stage takes place. We will know just how fit and able Armstrong is today as he competes against the Spanish winners of the last three editions, Pereiro, Contador and Sastre. Lance’s comeback and this competition certainly make for a promising Tour de France this year. I for one will be following it avidly.
The Austrian rider, Cancellara, who won the prologue, pipping Armstong to the post on the first day. His won was no surprise as he is, after all the olympic time trial champion. He won't win the Tour de France, though, that's for sure.
And that, folks,is it for this week, or last 10 days.

Cheers from Montrondo.


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