Sunday, July 19, 2009

Playing at houses in Montrondo, Russian folk music, the oldest man in the world dies and how I remember the first landing on the moon.

Ludmila Zikina celebrating her 80th birthday just a few days ago on 10th July and being presented flowers by Svetlana Medvedeva, the Russian premiere's wife. Her death came as a shock to this music loving nation.
Hi again

As you will have read from my last entry, we spent some time again in Montrondo last week. I took my pc and with a slow connection was able to work from the kitchen in the old house whilst Eladio and his sister Pili and husband Andrés painted the staircase and ceiling and doors all in desperate need of a new coat of paint and thorough spring cleaning. We also went to receive some more furniture from Ikea, basically the two chests of drawers for our room and the room the girls sleep in. The rooms are looking great and now that our accommodation is so appealing we know we will be going back more often than before.
Eladio painting in Montrondo.
Pili and Andrés, the quarrelsome but loveable couple pausing from painting for this photo.
Montrondo was very quiet and only woke up while we were there when Ceferino and Livia celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They arrived at the church in an open top car decorated with flowers, something probably never seen in sleepy Montrondo. Afterwards they invited the whole village (some 50 people, half being there only for the summer) to drinks and food at their home which was also decorated for the occasion. Maybe if Eladio and I make it to our 50th we might consider doing the same.
Ceferino and Livia's 50th wedding celebrations last week in Montrondo.
I was chief cook as I’m no great painter and also because I had to be connected most of the time arranging for an important press release to be sent out and continue preparations for a big event I am planning for the beginning of September in Santander. In Montrondo we all tend to have huge appetites perhaps because of the mountain air and I mostly served them appetising cooked dishes typical of the area such as lentils with chorizo or “cocido” with chick peas. There are no shops in Montrondo or in any of the surrounding villages so once we had run out of supplies I had to shop at the van that comes twice a week and felt like a real villager.
Shopping in Montrondo is unique.
Lettuces, potatoes, eggs and bread are easily acquired though and I would walk down to Primo, my brother-in-law's place every day to pick a fresh lettuce from his vegetable patch for our salad. It tasted so good. I think we haven't left him very many and I hope he doesn't mind. I did see some new ones sprouting though.
Genaro, Primo's neighbour's vegetable patch in Montrondo.
Sometimes it felt like playing at houses and actually we all enjoyed our stay much more than when we are all there and the group grows to nearly 30 people and cooking becomes a nightmare Toño and Dolores were with us at the beginning and then Pili and Andrés took their place.
Eladio and Toño enjoying being together in Montrondo, outside Toño's newly built house.
We only went out once and that was to dinner in Senra with Pili and Andrés. There is not much choice so we went to practically the only restaurant within 50km, to Cumbres de Senra in the nearby village of the same name. You have to book for them to open the kitchen and we were the only diners! In the evenings we would work off all the delicious food with a brisk walk to Murias and back under a wonderful starlit sky. Throughout our stay we were accompanied too by Eladio’s mother who, is, of course, at her happiest in her beloved Montrondo.
I took the opportunity to take lots of photographs of the village with my new Canon Ixus 970 camera which is proving to be a treasure. Here you can see the whole collection.

Suzy stayed at home, studying and cooking for my Father who for once preferred not to come to Montrondo. Oli had moved to her new flat and when we came back we missed her again as she had gone off to the Music Festival in Benicassim with friends from work. We ourselves will be going away again next week on Wednesday for our much awaited trip down memory lane, with my Father to Yorkshire. Hopefully we will see her on Tuesday night at least.

Of note since I last wrote it was Bastille Day on 14th July so I hope the French enjoyed their “fête nationale francaise”. Of much more interest to me this week was the passing away of Ludmila Zikina, considered the people’s artist of the USSR as the most popular and loved singer of Russian folk songs in the last century. She was 80 and died of a heart attack and I know that the Russian people will miss her dearly. Amazingly she sang in public only recently and it was at the Eurovision Song contest in Moscow in the spring. Thankfully her songs will live on forever.
The "young" Zikina probably when she was at the height of her popularity. I think you could safely call her "the voice of Russia".
I didn’t remember her name until my father showed me her obituary in El Mundo. That got me interested and I was soon surfing the web for her songs, most of which have a place in my heart from my singing days and family music heritage which was brought to me by my Mother and dear Aunty Masha. I used to sing and very well, had a superb soprano voice which I ruined by smoking. But when I was in my teens I would sing for my Aunt’s choir and on stage solo at the Norwich Russian courses. So when I listed to Zikina sing Течет река Волга (the Volga flows as my father translated for me yesterday), those days come back to me. I for one have ordered some lovely Russian folk music from which will help me remember even more vividly my singing days and more importantly wake up the Russian blood in me.

Not long after Ludmila Zikina died in the country which represents half of my origin, in the UK, where the other half comes from, the world’s oldest man died at the age of 113. He wasn’t just any man, he was the First World War veteran Henry Allingham who became the world's oldest man in June 2009 following the death of the previous holder of the title in Japan, according to the Guinness World Records. Henry Allingham, who was one of only two surviving First World War veterans in the UK and the last surviving founder member of the RAF, had celebrated his 113th birthday on June 6.
Henry Allingham in 1916. Fancy having lived 113 years. I bet he never thought he would be famous when he posed for this picutre.
In his own words, he owed his longevity to: "cigarettes, whisky and women". This is him on his birthday in 2006. He may well have still been smoking and drinking but not much else judging by these photos.

Neither Henry Allingham nor Ludmila Zikina will live to witness the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing tomorrow but it will have marked their lives as it did mine. It happened on 20th July 1969 when I was 12. I remember my Mother staying up all night to watch it on the television. I was quite interested but too young to stay up. I certainly remember the moon walk by Armstrong and his famous words which I will never forget: “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. I find it difficult to fathom that it might have been a hoax as some people aledge and prefer to think it wasn’t. It’s funny how I remember the first moon landing but none of the subsequent ones. What I do remember on that day were my preparations for the Girl Guide camp I was going to. I think it was to Baildon Moor.
The first moon landing on 20th July 1969. No one who witnessed that moment will ever forget it.
The world will be celebrating the anniversary tomorrow. One family will not and that is the Moroccan family who lost their wife and daughter Dalila who died recently in Madrid due to swine flu. She was pregnant and as she died, her tiny son Ryan lived which was the family’s saving grace. And then last week, little Ryan died too after an inexperienced 22 year old Spanish nurse fed him through the wrong tube. The family is devastated and most of Spain is in shock with the news.
Baby Ryan being buried by his bereaved family in Mqid, their native town in Morocco this week.
Swine flu has not gone away and I read today that it is most virulent with pregnant women and small babies, as was the case of Dalila. It's supposedly because their immune system is down so that their bodies don't reject the baby growing and then, of course, the babies catch it from their mothers. I'm sure doctors don't describe it that way but that is how I understand it.

I don’t want to end on a sad note, so I thought I ought to tell you that I made “salmorejo” yesterday. And what is that you non Spaniards may ask? Salmorejo is like thick gazpacho and comes from the Córdoba region. This is what mine looked like yesterday.
My salmorejo was delicious. It was the first time I made it but it won't be the last.
And here is the recipe: 1.5kg very ripe (pealed) tomatoes, 200gr of old bread soaked in water, a piece of garlic (optional) and loads of oil (some recipes say 250ml). Of course you must add salt and vinegar and the final taste depends often on the amount of these two ingredients. You just have to liquidise all the ingredients so the mixture is completely smooth and leave it to cool in the fridge. When you serve it, it is typical to add diced boiled egg and Spanish ham. This is a great summer starter, similar to gazpacho of course, but thicker.

And on that tasty note, I leave you until next week when I will be in my home country. More about that in my next entries.


1 comment:

Andre Lieven said...

Hi, Masha. Reading your latest post brought this one to my attention. I also not only remember the Apollo 11 landing coverage, but I do recall the coverage of all the subsequent lunar flights. But, given my long time status as a space geek, that logically follows. It also still boggles me that there are millions of doofuses who don't accept that humans did land on the Moon, and that it was done six times. There are some really terrific documentaries about the men who flew to the Moon, I would heartily recemmend In The Shadow Of The Moon, available on DVD. Many of the men who went there have since published memoirs. Also well worth the reads.
"Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." 20 July 1969, 4:17 PM.