Sunday, March 07, 2010

Mother Nature continues her cruelty, a new month new activities and a red sofa from the Calle Montera.

Devastation caused in Andalucía (the south of Spain) by the Xinthia storm last week.
Hi again

We are now into March but the weather hasn’t noticed it’s soon spring and has been pretty awful again. Yes, Mother Nature continues her cruel capriciousness and it has been raining all week here. I read today it hasn’t rained as much in Spain for 50 years! Well that’s a lot of years. If last week we had an explosive cyclogenesis warning this week we got a storm, called Xynthia, which blew into France early last Sunday with hurricane-force winds (up to 166 kilometers per hour) that flooded ports, destroyed homes and left 1 million households without electricity. It also battered Belgium, Portugal, Spain and parts of Germany and played havoc with train and air travel throughout the continent. The death toll in France was at least 50 people, imagine. We have also had snow this weekend although nothing like the snow we had in January.

It spoiled our walks and we had to wear wellington boots and walk on the street rather than over the fields but luckily we at least were not affected like the people in the south of Spain who suffered terrible floods.

A new month brought with it new activities. On Monday after going to the dentist for a terrible filling (oh how I hate the dentist) I decided to take a look at the gym nearby where I had actually parked my car. Spurred on a bit by the outing with Sandra to her lovely gym, The David Lloyd leisure centre, I thought I’d take a look and see whether it was worth becoming a member of the Hispaocio Centre in Villaviciosa the town where I live near Madrid. I wasn’t so much interested in the body building machines as in the spa. It had a great Olympic size pool but more importantly a good Jacuzzi and big sauna and Turkish bath. There was a discount if you were registered with the town hall so at 40 odd euros a month I thought it was worth joining. I sent a message to Suzy who was on her way back from Cádiz where she had been for the weekend, to see if she was interested and she was thrilled but unlike me more interested in the exercise machines. So there you have us now signed up with the local gym. I have been twice and each time done a good 20 lengths and then pampered myself in the spa area. So now I don’t just go for an hour’s fast walk every day I also go swimming which means exercise is becoming an important part of my life. This new exercise added to my Up and Down diet is making me feel pretty much on top of the world; it must be all those endorphins the exercise produces.
My new gym (and Suzy's), Hispaocio in Villaviciosa. The last time I went to a gym it was to lose weight before I got married. So let's see how long the excitement lasts. Meanwhile I am enjoying the swimming and the spa.
My other new activity this new month is also thanks to my dear friend Sandra (you have always been a positive influence in my life my dear and thanks) and it was going along to the local Toastmaster's club. It is “a nonprofit club that aims to develop public speaking and leadership skills in a friendly and supportive environment. Yes, indeed, we can learn and improve these skills by practicing them, and, of course, also have a laugh and some fun along the way” to quote the description on their website. I took Fátima along with me, mostly to get her out of the house and meet new people and have some fun together. So what did we think? Mixed feelings really. I would have liked to see more English speaking members but there seemed to be more Spaniards eager to practice their English. I will go back a couple more times before taking the plunge and becoming a member. Fátima doesn’t really want to go back but Suzy says she’ll join me which could be fun for the two of us. Fátima and I treated each other to dinner afterwards and as we were near the Gran Vía, made a beeline for Le Pain Quotidien at number 46 which my friend liked as much as I do.

On the Toastmasters website I read about a shop that sells English food in Madrid called The Food Hall that also sells online. No sooner had I read about it I made an order which arrived the very next day. So now I am stocked with hot cross buns for Good Friday, pitta bread, hummous, more Typhoo decaf tea, J cloths, Andrex loo paper (too thick to go on a Spanish loo paper holder!) pork pies and Cornish pasties and Turkish delight for my Father as well as sugar free polo mints and penguin chocolate biscuits. Now I won’t have to stock up from the small English supermarkets in Alicante. That was a great discovery.

A new month also brought with it the desire for a bit of renovation at home. Eladio and I spend hours at our desks in our “study” which my Father calls the “IT room” and it is the only room we haven’t bothered much with décor wise and it has far too many "white elephants" in it we have to get rid of. So we are now on a mission to revamp and modernize it. Our first step was to scour the internet for 2 matching desks and a red sofa. Meanwhile we visited Ikea and there, unsurprisingly, we found just what we wanted: a modern thick glass table called Galant, some great red chairs as well as some very practical bookshelves (Billy). We didn’t find the sofa we wanted, a corduroy red sofa which is no longer in stock. However we found a second hand one later on internet for half the price and on Saturday morning Eladio and I went to Madrid to get it. We bought it from a Polish girl who lives in the Calle Montera, right next to the Puerta del Sol, famous for its brothels which had us worried about the sofa’s origin. She turned out to own a language school and seemed very bonafide with a small baby in her arms. The sofa looked fine and so we loaded it into our car with the help of her friend. After washing and ironing all the cover it looks great as you can see in the photo below. Hopefully next week we will have the tables and the bookcases and the room will be like new.
This is the red sofa we got from the calle Montera in Madrid on Saturday and which now sits proudly in our study awaiting the other furniture which will hopefully revamp the whole room.
The rest of the time we have been pretty cooped up at home because of the weather and enjoying the new insert in the fireplace. Oli, my globetrotting daughter is away in Sicily with friends and won’t be back till next Wednesday. And then on the Thursday she will be going with Suzy and other friends to Lisbon for a long weekend. Suzy who is much more domestic then Oli, has been going to the gym with me and also doing a lot of socializing after her exams. She is turning into an excellent little cook as you can see here in the photo of the cake she made to take to her friend Elena’s housewarming party this week. She used a recipe for a Victorian Sponge cake which comes from a very old cookery book I brought from my parents house and which I used to make cakes myself as a child. It's a book I treasure.
Suzy's chocolate cake made from the Victorian Sponge cake recipe from the family Trex recipe book
We have taken to watching films in the evening with the fire on. Of note we watched the BBC series The Diary of Anna Frank which left me a little displeased. I read the reviews on the website which were all very positive. The characterization of Anna Frank was too cantankerous and she was portrayed as a bolshy teenager who did not get on with anyone except her Father. She may well have been a difficult teenager but what I missed were some of the remarkable insights in that diary and less emphasis on her intolerance of those around her.
An image from the BBC series The diary of Anne Frank which left me somewhat displeased.
Last night we watched a very moving film called “Return to Hansala” about the plight of Moroccans trying to get into Spain illegally on make shift boats and dying in the attempt. This film is not only about how many die on the shores of the Spanish coast but about returning their bodies to their families and tells the true story of how Leila takes her 19 year old brother Rashid home to Hansala in a van driven by Martin a Spanish funeral parlour owner. In Spain we read every day about this plight but the film brought the tragedy closer to me and made me realise what a difficult life these people and their families have. Of course if you come from a remote village with no running water or electricity and no future, you too would pay the cost and risk your life to take a plastic boat and try and enter Spain illegally. I have always been very sensitive to the needs of immigrants and find it so unfair that movement between countries is not freer. Take America, the biggest example of growth by immigration in the world. It is the grandsons and granddaughters of the immigrants of the beginning of the last century who now close the doors on people like Leila or Rashid. That does not make sense to me. If you haven’t seen it, it’s an eye opener on the problem of Moroccan immigration into Spain.
A scene from the film Return to Hansala about the plight of Moroccan immigrants many of whom lose their lives trying to enter Spain illegally on make-shift boats. The story, a true one, focuses on the difficulty of returning them to Morocco.
Of note this week I must also mention that on Monday I had lunch with Julio and Fátima at De María on Majadahonda for a late celebration of my birthday. I am always very punctual as most of you will know but that is not Fátima’s trait and Julio always has to wait for her. They turned up nearly an hour late but were forgiven when the present (my current favourite perfume, Lola by Marc Jacobs) ended up being the 100ml bottle rather than the smaller 50ml one, hahaha. As usual we enjoyed each other’s company and vowed to do it more often. I was told I always cheer them up which was nice to hear.
Julio and Fátima giving me my birthday present at our lunch on Monday.
On the birthday note, I must mention too that today is my Mother-in-Law, Ernestina’s 88th (2 fat ladies in Bingo jargon but don’t laugh because she is not fat!). Eladio was so worried he would forget to ring her that he rang her so early she was still in bed. His brother José Antonio (famous for forgetfulness in the family) however, did not have to worry about remembering as his sister Adela rang him to remind him. José Antonio then rang Eladio to remind him which was a bit of redundancy and made me laugh.

And on that note I leave you until next week. I do hope the sun shines this week coming up and that it’s a good one for us all.

Cheers till then/Masha

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