Sunday, October 25, 2009

The girls’ trip to India continues, itchy feet, more Lis Salander and dinner with friends

<"The girls" in the Punjab in local dress. Sumit had bought them the outfits (kameez I think they are called) as part of their Diwali presents.

We are well into October and last night the clocks went back which, for me at least, is always difficult to adjust to. Autumn has made its entry and I wore winter clothes for the first time this week. However this weekend the sun has been radiant and we even had Sunday lunch outside today.

The girls’ trip to India is coming to an end and they have had a fantastic time. Last week when I wrote, they were in Simla and then headed back to Chandigarh to spend one more night and day with their friends Sumit and Sophie. Oli told me later they had been treated like princesses by these wonderful Indian friends and their families. Sophie and her mother, who cried when the girls left, even gave them a foot and head massage.

From the Punjab they took the night train to Jaipur, known as “the pink city” and the capital of Rajasthan where they stayed at the Madhuban hotel recommended by their guide book. The journey must have been quite an experience as the train was not luxurious. They complained about people burping, the smell and the noise. As Oli described in Facebook, “India moves with the sound of the claxon” and she felt “in between silk and cow flap”.
Great picture from Olivia and illustrates India's contrasts very well.
Well that’s what India is all about, contrasts. They love the people, the colour, the culture and are enjoying every moment. From Jaipur they went to Jodhpur, “the blue city” with their driver. Yes, with a driver, what luxury. Well actually it’s only costing them some 20 euros a day! Jodhpur seems to be their favourite place, in the heart of Rajasthan as this is where they have been able to walk along its crowded and colourful streets and feel India as it really is, rather than through a window. Here they stayed at a lovely little guest house for 10 euros a night, called the Haveli guest house which has fantastic views of the magnificent fort from its rooftop.

The blue city of Jodhpur as seen from the fort (taken by us in December).
Yesterday they were in Pushkar, that holy city with the famous lake and Brahma temple where hippies used to flock and still do. It is where I fell ill so my memories of the place are not so good. They will also be visiting Varanasi, the most important holy city in India which sits by the even more holy Ganges River. They will be back on Thursday and we will welcome them with open arms. This will be one of the most important trips of their lives. They are looking forward to eating western food again. They have enjoyed the local food but after nearly 3 weeks it can get tiring. You can see the full set of photos, well the ones they have posted from India, here on Facebook.
The temple in Pushkar which attracts so many people, it's so crowded.
I have been enjoying the girls’ trip vicariously so to speak and have been also thinking about my next trip. I was actually inspired by 2 ladies in the street last Monday who were complaining about their offsprings always travelling and that got me thinking that life was short and it was time to plan our next trip. So where to, I asked myself?

New York has always been at the top of my list of most desired places to visit and somehow I have never managed to go there except in transit at JFK airport and that doesn’t count. My itchy feet, an expression my Father used to use to describe my brother – it definitely runs in the family, wanted to go during the December bank holiday. However I had to contend with Eladio’s sort of procrastination: he has lectures on Mondays, it would be too cold in January and February so how about May? Well I didn’t want to wait till May so got out the calendar to see which Monday he would be free and lo and behold, he would be free at the end of March. And there and then I booked our flight and hotel. We are going for 8 days and will enjoy the experience enormously. It’s lovely to have something to look forward to and visiting perhaps the most famous city in the world will be a great experience for us both. I am already working on the programme as I do with all our trips.
The world famous New York sky line. We'll finally get to see it next year in March.
On a more humble level, we have another little trip to look forward to and that’s with the girls and my Father to the Parador in Almagro in the middle of November. More than anything it’s a family trip as we don’t often go away with the girls.
The 16th century Franciscan Convent which is now the Parador in Almagro, Ciudad Real and where we'll be going with the girls and my Father in November..
There we will be visiting the Tablas de Daimiel national park which has been in the news a lot recently because believe it or not, it is burning underneath. Apparently it is the peat that is burning from lack of water even though it is supposed to be a wetland; well that’s dry Spain for you. We will also have some good quality family time, walking, reading and enjoying good food at the lovely 16th century Parador which was once a convent, in the pretty town of Almagro in the province of Ciudad Real.
The Tablas de Daimiel, the smallest of Spain's national park which we will be visiting when we go to Almagro in November for a family weekend.
Meanwhile at home, life is quiet without the girls. I went into the office 3 times last week which is a lot for me and, this week, envisage going even more. Now the work is creeping up and will crescendo around Christmas time. I have 4 events plus a whole load of other stuff on my plate. But I don’t mind being busy as what I hate is long term inactivity and I need constant new challenges.

The weekend has been fun as we had more social activity than usual. On Friday we had a date for dinner with the González-Gálvez family at Gerardo and Vicky’s house and Irene and Thomas were also coming along. We haven’t seen each other for years and years and now we see each other regularly. It’s great to have found them again. Gerardo and Irene were the kids I gave English lessons to when I lived with them from 1978 to 1979. They were in their early teens and I was just 21 yet we struck a friendship for life. Today Gerardo is the proud father of 5 (adorable Vicky, Lucía, Ana, Gerardo and Irene) and Irene the proud mother of 4 (Paula, Thomas, Celia and Nacho). For me they are still my fun loving kids with the same sparkle in their eyes.
The dinner table at Gerardo and Vicky's house on Friday night.
We were offered champagne and Georgian caviar in Viky and Gerardo’s elegant and big yet cosy home while the kids were shooed away. Irene, the smallest couldn’t resist being near us and promptly fell asleep on the sofa. Lucía, aged 12, was the perfect Mother’s help and kept the dishes moving, bless her.
Little Irene's experience of Friday night's dinner party.
Dear Lucía who helped her Mother so well at the dinner party on Friday.
You can see these photos and more here on Facebook.

And last night I had a date with Lis Salander, that wonderful crime fiction heroine in Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, Millennium. As you probably know I finished all three and was missing the unconventional, fearless, brilliant hacker so when I heard that the second film was coming out this weekend in Spain I grabbed 2 seats at our favourite Cinema, Equinoccio in Majadahonda for last night’s evening session.

It was good, yes, quite faithful to the book but maybe had less impact on us than the first film. I am wondering now when the last film of the trilogy will come out but then Lis Salander will only remain in my memory. Oh well, maybe I will reread books 2 and 3 which I skimmed through so fast I must have missed out on a lot of detail.

Afterwards we had dinner at La Alpargatería with our friends Roberto and Maricarmen. We hadn't been there for ages and it was nice to be back and to sit at our favourite table, number 5.
La Alpargatería in the Equinoccio leisure centre, one of our all time favourites.
I have come to the end of this week’s post and Eladio is urging me to go for our daily walk, an hour earlier as dusk will come earlier after the clocks have gone back. So I will leave you now and post the photos later.

Hope we all have a good week. Mine will start well as tomorrow, Monday, I will be having lunch with my best friends, Julio and Fátima whom I haven’t seen since the Santander telecoms conference at the beginning of September.

Cheers for now / Masha.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Getting on with life while the girls are in India and a boy in a balloon

The 3 girls with their hands painted with henna for the Diwali festival last week in the Punjab.
Hi again,

Another week has passed and here I am writing in our study on my own. Next to me are a cup of tea in Oli’s Emma Bridgewater hearts’ mug and a small punnet of raspberries to keep me going until my dinner of bran flakes. My diet continues but is not proving very successful and that is getting me down. Eladio has gone to his Uned (open University) lecture, the first this year but he will be back just on time to watch our favourite series, La Señora. It’s a drama set at the beginning of the last century in Asturias in the north of Spain and has all the ingredients I love, romance, history, marvellous scenery and clothes of the era, superb characters and an impossible romance between the beautiful Señora, Victoria and a working class boy, Angel who is forced into the priesthood to avoid any relationship with her. I’ve heard it’s also the Queen of Spain’s favourite series and it’s nice to know we have the same taste.
Victoria and Angel in La Señora, an impossible match.
Meanwhile “the girls” as they are known in this house, Suzy and Oli and a friend called Rocío are in India. They left last Monday and have seen and done an awful lot in just one week. I am living on their news and have some great photos thanks to Oli’s friend and host in the Punjab, Sumit. Oli met Sumit and Sandeep (inseparable friends) in her Erasmus year in Falmouth and they made ties for life. I met them once when we went to Cornwall to see Oli and I consider them my friends too. They are charming, educated and good fun Indian boys who are involved in the film industry.
A picture of 2 friends reunited, Oli and Sumit.
They flew to Delhi via Istanbul and in Delhi went to stay with a past pupil of St. Michael’s school, Arantxa who is working with an NGO taking care of underprivileged and undernourished children. They were in Delhi for 2 or 3 days, after which they visited that amazing temple of love, the Taj Mahal and on Friday last, left for Chandigarh in the Punjab to spend Diwali (the festival of lights) with Sandeep and Sumit’s families.
Candles lit for Diwali.
Dewali is the most important festival in India and was a fascinating experience for the girls. The hospitality they received was magnificent and the experience with real locals will be something they will never forget. They rode on a rick shaw, had their hands painted with henna, bought a sari and wore it, visited a temple where they had to be completely covered and were hugged by the women.
Suzy in her sari, priceless.
The families welcomed them as if they were their own daughters and for 2 days they lived as the Indians do. They are apparently, loving the food although I heard some of the sweets eaten at Diwali were a little too sickly for them.
Rocío and Suzy choosing material for their saris with Sophie.
Yesterday they went to Shimla by hired car (with a driver) which is some 100km away from Chandigarh but it took apparently nearly 4 hours. Not for nothing is Shimla also known as the “queen of the hills”. It is high in the mountains and quite cold. In Facebook today they wrote that they had slept with 5 blankets last night. They stayed at a hotel called The White House (hahaha). Shimla is associated with the British Raj as it was once the summer capital of the British Empire in India. Today they visited the Jakhu Monkey temple there (think they had to get there on a mule as the path was so steep) and I read that the monkeys had stolen Oli’s and Rocío’s shoes and had jumped on Suzy’s shoulders. I don’t think they are any worse for wear.
The Monkey temple in Shimla.
The next stage will be a return to Chandigarh in the Punjab to stay with Sumit and Sophie (Sandeep’s sister) and from there they will make their way to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. But more about that in my next post.

Meanwhile life goes on at home. The house is quiet without them. The weather is still nice but we no longer get the high lower temperatures and people are beginning to wear winter clothes. Work keeps me busy but this is a quiet period for me until we get nearer Christmas which is perhaps one of my most frantic times.

So what have we been up to? There’s not much to report really. We watched the Polish film, Katyn, which won the Oscar for the best foreign film in 2007. I ordered it from for my Father and it eventually arrived last week. He watched it two nights in a row. It’s the horrific story of the massacre of more than 20.000 Polish officers by the Russian army who then tried to put the blame on the Nazis. It is harrowing but well worth watching.

Not so well worth watching was the much publicised Agora by the Spanish Chilean director, Alejandro Amenabar. He is a great director who has made just a few films, all of them gems. Agora is about Alexandria under the Roman Empire in the 4th century AD. The main character is the woman astronomer, mathematician and philosopher, Hypatia, her theories, two men who are in love with her, including her slave and how the famous library with all the works of the times before them becomes destroyed by the new Christians fighting the pagans. The film I suppose is very well done but the era just doesn’t do much for me. The film somehow lacks passion. I am much more looking forward to Millennium 2 which comes out next weekend.

In the outside world, of note Jensen Button won the Formula 1 for himself and of course for England. That’s good. Hopefully though next year, the 2 times winner, Fernando Alonso, will win for Spain and for Ferrari, the team he has just signed up with.

Jensen Button, the Brit who won this year's Formula 1.
I cannot end this post without making a mention of something that happened in the US at the beginning of the week that has made the headlines all over the world. A hot air balloon was apparently let off by a 6 year old boy from his home in Denver. His parents then reported the boy was in the balloon which alerted all the emergency services in the area. The balloon was seen on all the TV screens in the world when it finally landed but there was no boy to be found and the worst was feared. Finally though he appeared at his home,having been hiding in the attic. Later it transpired this had been a gimmick and publicity stunt on the part of the family. There are no words to describe the futility of this.
The balloon which was thought to be carrying the little boy.
And that folks is it for this week. I will now post this blog, add the photos, put in the links then take darling Norah for her walk.

Till next week, hope you have a good one.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Shopping with Suzy, goodbye Lis Salander, Montrondo again and a farewell Indian dinner

The 4 of us in Indian dress during the girls' farewell dinner last night.
Hello again (I always write “hi” so this time it’s “hello” for a change)

Another week has passed and today is the 12th October, Columbus Day, or what is known in Spain as the “día de la hispanidad” or “fiesta nacional”. It’s the day the Armed Forces in Spain celebrate with military processions. Eladio loves them and was watching them with my Father on the TV this morning. Apparently one solider from the Legion dropped his rifle and the commentator said he’d probably be cleaning latrines for the next 10 days.
The military processions in Madrid on Hispanic Day, presided over, of course, by the Spanish royal family.
I haven’t been cleaning latrines as luckily we have a cleaning lady, Zena, from the Ukraine, who does that twice weekly. But I have been doing some clearing out and that was in Oli’s room after the girls left for India this morning, but more about that later.

Now I am writing on the terrace and unbelievably it’s 27ºc which is very high for the middle of October. I am listening to my classical favourites list on Spotify, that wonderful internet music service for which I now have the premium contract which means you don’t have to listen to adverts in between songs and can even listen to the music offline.

I have my cup of tea next to me and a golden delicious apple which is part of my diet. You will be pleased to know I have now lost 5kgs. I’ve told my sister-in-law, Pili, that I’ll let her know when I’ve lost 10kgs so she can come and visit me from León and we can go shopping. I’ve also warned Eladio that very soon I will go on a big shopping spree. After all I haven’t bought clothes for ages. Can’t wait!
Photo of Pili and I taken in Montrondo this weekend.
And talking about shopping, this week I went with Suzy to buy all sorts of last minute stuff for the girls’ trip to India. We also went to do her University matriculation. It was good to see she has only 2 subjects to pass until she finally finishes her studies. We had a lot of fun together and drove in the little Smart car that they lent me at work whilst mine was being serviced. One of the places we shopped at was Sánchez Romero and it was for food. Sánchez Romero is famed for being the supermarket where rich people like the Real Madrid football players buy their food. I hadn’t been for ages and just loved the place. You can buy all sorts of gourmet products from all over the world and lots of delicious ready- made food too. We shall be returning for occasions I can tell you.
Suzy driving the Smart when we went shopping.
This last week was a lot of fun. Apart from shopping with Suzy, I had lunch with Juan, my colleague, at La Máquina in La Moraleja and on Wednesday I had lunch at De María in Majadahonda with my ex Nokia colleagues, Ana, Jill and Zenaida. Also I took the girls for a goodbye lunch to Qüenco, the place we celebrated our wedding at and where we have been back to recently. They loved it and so did I. The staff remembered me and kept referring to me as “la novia” (the bride).
Quënco on Alberto Alcocer, 16, hasn't changed since we celebrated our wedding there 26 years ago.
The highlight of last week though was an interview with my boss and his friend with the posh men’s magazine, Esquire, at the five star hotel, Selenza in Claudio Coello, Madrid. It was for a section called “real men” sponsored by the whisky brand Chivas which I learned actually belongs to the Pernod Ricard goup. I enjoyed the 2 hours of preparation. There were so many people and at least 100 photos taken just for one to be chosen. I look forward to seeing it published.
The lobby of the Selenza Hotel, quite something.
And on the topic of publications, this brings me to the second subject in my headline this week, “goodbye Lis Salander”. Last week I finished the last book in the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson, “The girl who kicked the hornets’ nest” and am now dearly missing Lis Salander. It arrived on Friday 2nd October and I finished it on in the evening of Tuesday 6th October. You may think that was fast but I actually rationed myself. As you probably know the author died prematurely and his works were published posthumously. He did not live to enjoy the fame of having sold 12 million copies of his trilogy worldwide nor did he live to develop his marvelous character Lis Salander, the greatest crime heroine of this century and probably the last too. Oh well, I can at least look forward to the second film which has only come out in Sweden, the fatherland of Stieg Larsson, so far. Indeed, goodbye Lis Salander. I wish I could know you better. I loved your fighting spirit, your sense of fair play, your amazing mind and just wish you could have been happier and of course married “Kale “bastard” Blomkvist” as you called Mikael Blomkvist but then again you were so unconventional that could never have happened.
Stieg Larsson, died at the age of 50 just after having handed in the manuscripts of the Millennium Trilogy.
And on Friday Eladio and I hit the road again and to Montrondo again to be with his family for the bank holiday weekend. We drove on Friday and had lunch on the way at one of our classics, the Parador in Benavente which serve some of the best “garbanzos”, chickpeas in Spain. Of course they are from Fuentesauco of chickpea fame. Friday afternoon was just for us in Montrondo and after settling in we went for my favourite walk to Murias. We went via the church and visited Eladio’s father’s grave to pay our respects. A headache spoiled the afternoon a bit but luckily I woke up without one on Saturday.
Eladio in Montrondo this last weekend. Waiting happily for his family to arrive.
On Saturday we were joined by Eladio’s Mother, his brother José Antonio and wife Dolores and their son Miguel, by his sister Adela and her husband Primo and son Roberto, by his brother Alejandro, by his sister Pili and her husband Andrés and their son Mario and finally by his youngest brother Isidro and his wife Yoli. All in all we were 15 people, half the usual crowd.

Saturday was spent together having lunch and going for a long walk. The idea was to pick hazelnuts but there were no longer any on the trees. The weather was superb and the autumn colours beginning to appear.
On the walk in Montrondo this weekend.
Then Eladio decided it was time to inspect the roof of the old house as there was a leak in his mother’s bedroom. Thus the “boys” were once again engaged and once again there was a “spectacle” to watch. Pili and Isidro held on to the rope that held Eladio who was on the roof and José Antonio and Eladio ventured into the inside of the roof through the flap in the kitchen which I imagine no one had been into for the last 40 years judging by the amount of dust and fluff on their clothes when they came out.
Eladio on the roof of the family house in Montrondo, inspecting and repairing the tiles.
Pili and Isidro holding the rope tied round while he was on the roof.
José Antonio appearing from under the ceiling.
On Sunday Eladio and I parted in the morning as we wanted to see the girls before they left for India and also to have a special farewell dinner for them. Goodbyes were said over coffee at the nearby village of Senra and off we went. Once again we stopped for lunch at the Parador in Benvente and couldn’t resist the chick peas again (damn, thanks to them the scales went up this morning!). You can see the full set of photos of this weekend in Montrondo here on Facebook.

Indeed we got back yesterday on time for our walk with darling Norah and to see the girls in the throes of packing their rucksacks. Inspired by our own trip to India, we put on our Indian clothes which had been made to measure in Udaipur, lit rose incense and played music by Ravi Shankar on Spotify. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to cook proper Indian food but then thought that they will be having enough of it anyway during their trip. The clothes we were wearing I think are called “Salwar Kameez” (pyjama like trousers and a long tunic), most comfortable I must say. Eladio looked the best in his turban which we bought in the sacred city of Benares (or Varanasi as it is also called). And here are the photos of that magical evening.

My girlies, Suzy and Oli in Indian dress during their farewell dinner last night.
And this morning my girlies left in a flurry of nerves and hurried preparations. Gaby, Suzy’s boyfriend took them and on their way they picked up Rocío, their other travelling companion. They are going to have a great time, I know. In their plans are staying with a friend in Delhi who works with an NGO that cares for children, visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra and visiting Sumit and Sandeep’s and his families in the Punjab where they will join in the Diwali celebrations (festival of lights). They have gone loaded with presents of turron and Spanish fans and perfume as in Diwali there is a lot of present exchanging as there is in at Christmas in the Christian culture. They will probably visit Rajasthan too but will, unlike me who plans everything, will decide once they are there.

They will be back on 27th October so meanwhile life goes on here at home. Just before I finish I must mention that I had some good news this week. Pernille, our dear Danish au pair will be visiting us in November with her lovely husband Thomas. And then I got a message out of the blue from Adele in France that she too will be visiting us around Easter next year with her husband Bernard. I went to University with Adele and haven't seen her since we had our first babies. I look forward to both visits immensely.

And now I have finished. Hope you all have a great week.


Sunday, October 04, 2009

It’s autumn again, the 10th anniversary of my Mother’s passing away, her recipe for Golubtzi, tea, the Spanish Olympic dream is over, and life goes on

The Spanish olympic dream is over.
Hi again

I’ve been a bit lazy with my blog recently. Today is Sunday and it’s time I got back to the good habit of writing my posts at the weekend. Since I wrote last, autumn came and amazingly the good Spanish weather has held. So here I am sitting at the table outside the kitchen with Eladio who is reading this Sunday’s El País. He is probably reading about the earthquake in Sumatra where thousands are feared killed, or about the corruption in Formula 1 (by the way the Spanish driver, Fernando Alonso has just signed with the Ferrari team – maybe that will help him be a winner again) or most probably about the continued financial crisis and the Spanish premiere, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s questioned handling of it. Just last week he announced measures such as increasing VAT from 16 to 18% which are proving very unpopular.

He will have read last week about Zapatero’s daughters as the news has now died down. So what happened to his daughters you might ask? It’s very simple, they are called Laura and Alba and are 13 and 16 approximately but hardly anyone knows anything about them as their image is guarded strictly by their parents and there is a tacit agreement with the Spanish press not to publish their photos. A huge hullabaloo was caused when Zapatero and his wife went to the G20 summit in Pittsburgh recently and a photo was published of them with Obama and his wife and the 2 now famous daughters. The photo was published on the White House’s website and when Zapatero asked for it to be removed, it was too late as it had been on the front pages of newspapers in Spain. Zapatero had been hoping that his presence at the G20 would bring him good results but all it brought was talk about the photo. I would certainly not have liked to be his PR advisor last week. The photo was subjected to huge debate but mostly because of the physical appearance of his daughters. They seem very plain and their dress code was unacceptable for the occasion. They seem to follow the Otaku fashion and are great fans of Manga. And here is the famous photo:
The famous photo.
My girls are away. Oli, of course, will be at her flat in Madrid although she was with us yesterday and enjoyed a day by the pool. Suzy has gone to Santa Pola with Gaby and his brothers as they were going to a christening in Murcia last night.

So just the “oldies” are here which is becoming a bit of a norm and is a natural process of our life. The person missing, of course, is my Mother, born Princess Elena Lieven. Last week, 1st October, was the 10th anniversary of her passing away.
Mummy in the porch at 6 Heaton Grove, our family home, in 1975.
She was just 79 and died, unfortunately of that disease she so dreaded, cancer. She would have loved to see the girls grow from fun loving awkward teenagers to the beautiful young women they are today. She would have loved to grow old with my Father, possibly here at our amazing new house. She would have loved to know about internet and email. She would have loved our dog Norah and our cats Joe and Phoebe. She would have loved to read the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larrson that I am so enjoying now and, of course, she would have loved to cook with me and the girls, dishes like pelmeni, borsch, perushki or golubtzi, the dishes she taught me to make as a child.

And in honour of her, but also because Oli was coming for lunch yesterday, I decided to make golubtzi. I posted the fact on Facebook and was asked for the recipe. And here is my Mother’s recipe for anyone interested.
Golubtzi, Russian stuffed cabbage rolls.
Ingredients: 1kg minced meat (I use beef), one chopped onion, 2 small bags of long grained rice, one cabbage, tomato sauce and a dash of milk plus smetana sauce (one natural yoghurt to be mixed with a bit of single cream, salt and lemon juice). Fry the meat and onion, cook the rice separately, add salt and pepper and mix together. Core the cabbage and separate the leaves carefully and parboil them until pliable. Be sure to remove the larger veins so they roll easier. Then on each parboiled cabbage leaf, place a spoonful of the meat mixture and roll into little packets like this.

Place all the rolls into an oven proof dish. Pour some of the water from the boiled cabbage over all the rolls. Finally heat up some tomato sauce (bought if you want), add a splash of milk to get a salmon colour and pour over the rolls again. Place in a hot oven. When the dish begins to cook and turn brown, cover with silver foil. Leave in the oven for just under an hour. Serve with Smetana (in a separate bowl). One spoonful per portion should be enough.

Food is always mentioned in my blog in one way or other. We have been out to dinner with Pedro and Ludy to Quënco, the place where we celebrated our wedding, I took the girls to Iroco, a lovely modern restaurant in Madrid last week but the main news here is, that despite that, I have managed to lose 4 kilos since I started my diet one month ago. That has not been easy but I have been very constant. Breakfast is a cup of coffee, a small glass of fresh orange juice and a skimmed yoghurt. I am careful at lunch and for dinner I have a bowl of Special K or Bran Flakes. In between I sometimes have an apple and nearly always a cup of tea in the afternoon.

Tea gets a special mention in this week’s blog. Ever since my Father came to live with us 4 years ago I started to have a cup every afternoon but soon realised that it had to be decaf tea if I was going to be able to sleep properly. Thus I consume 365 bags per year of decaf tea and unfortunately last month I completely ran out. I can only get it at an English supermarket in Santa Pola and they had run out too. So I resorted to my friend Gerardo when he went to London recently and asked my friend Amanda to buy me some and give it to him to bring me back. And the tea trading mission was completed when on Friday I finally set my hands on the 4 packets of 80 Typhoo decaf tea bags dearest Amanda had acquired for me and Gerardo had brought me back. And here they are:

And from tea we move to the Olympic dream. If you are not from Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid or Rio de Janeiro you have probably not been following this week’s election of one of these candidate cities to host the 2016 Olympic world games. This was held with great rigmarole at the Olympic Congress in Copenhagen. It was Madrid’s second attempt after being beaten by London the last time round. This time I watched and read with greater interest as it seemed there was a big chance for Madrid, although we all now know that Rio won.
President Lula talking after being awarded with organising the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.
What amazed me most was the hulabaloo created around the election. So much effort was put in by each city, with people like Obama and the King of Spain flying in or talking on behalf of their cities, there were huge parties organised in all 4 cities, each city had to make a final presentation (as if the members of the Olympic Committee hadn’t already examined them and the city over and over again) with country premieres, like Zapatero having to answer silly questions from Prince Albert of Monaco. None of this was at all necessary and rather unfair for the 3 cities which were not going to be awarded with hosting the games. The deception caused to the people of Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid, as well as the money invested, could have been avoided by a much fairer system and way of voting. The members of the Olympic Committee have far too much power.
The expense of futile parties such as this, just to demonstrate to the Olympic Committee local support, really makes my blood boil.
In the end Rio won, probably because the games have never been held in South America. Madrid won the first round but probably lost after that because there is an unwritten rule that the games cannot be held consecutively in the same continent. I frankly think it would be much easier and fairer all round if cities didn’t have to compete in this way and spend so much time and effort on something so difficult to win. If, as they say, the vote for Rio was “guided”, it would probably be better in the end if the Olympic Committee chose the city each time and did away with this circus way of deciding the fate of a city.

So yes, the Spanish Olympic dream is over. I am not sure it would be wise to try again. Maybe Madrid should just focus on the World Cup. But then again, I wonder whether the FIFA create the same sort of circus as the Olympic Games committee. It remains to be seen.

And yes life goes on for Madrid and for me, of course. I have been enjoying reading Stieg Larsson and finally on Friday the 3rd book in his trilogy Millennium, The girl who kicked the hornets’ nest, arrived and I can enjoy my time with Lis Salander, “the most original heroine to emerge in crime fiction for many years”, to quote the front cover. I will be reading it slowly to savour every page as this is the last and I want to enjoy it.

And that’s it for this week. Next week will bring all sorts of things, I know. And on Friday we will be going to Montrondo for another family gathering. But more about that in my next post.

Cheers till then.