Saturday, June 26, 2010

A bad start to the week, shopping, a visit from Finland, Suzy’s good news, apartheid and more on the World Cup.

My eldest daughter Suzy at the Mercado San Miguel with me this week.  On Thursday we had the good news she had passed the last exam of her degree.  Olé Susana!!
Hi again,

Another week has gone passed in my life and here I am by the pool on a very hot Saturday afternoon writing a recap of what the week has been like for me, or should I say us. Eladio, my husband, always says this isn’t my blog but our blog and of course he’s right as it’s all about us.

The week did not get off to a good start. Monday, which was the first day of the summer (my favourite season, by the way), brought with it a bad beginning. I was on my way to the office for a meeting with my events agency, QuintaEsencia , to discuss hundreds of arrangements for the Yoigo Mid Summer Party when I realised I was running out of petrol. I was going passed the super duper Sánchez Romero super market and thought I would stop off there, after filling my tank, to buy some of the big black cherries which are now in season. I filled the tank and made my way to Sánchez Romero and when I left the car started making funny noises and was losing power so I decided to stop at the Galp petrol station in Majadahonda again. That’s when the car decided to halt and there I was stuck in the lane where the cars leave after buying petrol. I rang the office, the towing company and then Eladio. He suggested maybe I had put the wrong petrol in my tank: petrol instead of diesel oil and boy was he right! How stupid can you get I thought but then realising I had a good story for my blog, got out my camera and took a picture of the car being towed away. No way was I going to let this spoil the first day of the summer. I then promptly rang Cristina from QuintaEsencia and we finally met in a cafe by the petrol station.

My car being towed away on Monday after having filled the tank with petrol instead of diesel oil!
I was then left without a car. However as I was going to have lunch with my dear friends Fátima and Julio, I asked them to pick me up. We had a great belated birthday lunch in Julio’s honour at one of our favourite restaurants, El Buey in Boadilla after which Fátima drove me home.

Monday got better as the day went on and ended with Spain beating Honduras in the qualifying round of this year’s World Cup which is taking place in South Africa.

Tuesday certainly made up for Monday’s bad beginning. Suzy and I went shopping to Madrid in the afternoon, something we rarely do. My main objective was to buy more espadrilles, as if I hadn’t bought enough pairs in Barcelona recently you are probably thinking! We parked in the centre and made our way up or down the most commercial street in Spain, Calle Preciados which is also the most famous street for pick pockets. We were extremely careful, hugging our bags to our bodies and I had also left at home all unnecessary credit cards as I’m now extremely wary of thieves after having had my purse stolen in Santa Pola a while ago. The shop we were heading to is called La Alpargatería Casa Hernanz and is quite famous in Spain. It has been in business for over 150 years and it looks like it hasn’t been renovated since it opened. There are queues to go in and it is apparently where the Queen of Spain buys her espadrilles or rope soled shoes as I think they are called these days. Here I bought 4 pairs in pink, green, red and black.

The amazing espadrille shop in Madrid called La Alpargatería Casa Hernanz where the Queen shops too.

The shop is just off the Plaza Mayor which we walked through to get to the Mercado San Miguel, that lovely new food and drinks venue which is becoming increasingly popular. Here we bought more of the big juicy black cherries as well as other favourite fruit: strawberries, raspberries and billberries.  As you can imagine we have been eating cherries all week!

After a coffee in the Plaza Mayor we stopped at a small Le Pain Quotidien and got all sorts of lovely bakery food for the next morning's breakfast. We were served by an exceedingly good looking Argentinian from Patagonia! The last stop was Zara for something Suzy wanted before we headed home happy and loaded with shopping bags. You can see the full set of photos of our shopping escapade to Madrid here.

Suzy in Le Pain Quotidien, how I love that place and she does too.
Wednesday was my busiest day of the week. I was attending my second management team meeting and I was a bit unlucky as I thought it was starting at 11 instead of 10 and ended up being 15 minutes late. That was a bad show for something which is so important and so unlike me as I am a stickler for punctuality. I had lunch that day with the only other Brit in the office, my friend Tony, and we had a great meal at the local Fast Good restaurant. Fast Good is owned by the top Spanish chef Ferrán Adriá and offers good or healthy fast food. I had a meeting after that in the office and when it finished I picked up my restored car and drove home to get ready to welcome my dearest Finnish friend Anne who was coming to visit us for the week. Anne and I worked together at Nokia Spain when she was the Marketing Manager from 2002 to 2004. I was then the Communications Manager. Like many of my ex colleagues she no longer works for Nokia. Today she is the Marketing Manager for her home town, Salo and works at the Town Hall. Anne fell in love with Spain and comes at least once a year to get an annual dose of all the things she loves: the climate, the food, the people and the culture in general and we love to welcome her.  You can sell all the photos of her visit here.

My dear Finnish friend Anne enjoying the weather at our place with Norah by her side.
Meanwhile England was playing Slovenia for a place in the last 16 and won. England will now meet Germany tomorrow, a big match for both countries. There is always an historical innuendo in any competition between these two countries and this is when the memory of the second-world war rears its ugly head. Unfortunately we won’t be able to see it because it will be on Canal+ which is pay TV and I feel most sorry for my Father who is enjoying the World Cup so much. It’s quite ironic as it was on this day, Wednesday, that they brought and installed the new gigantic screen TV for our bedroom, the 47” LG. The difference in quality is enormous and I can now watch it without my glasses. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that we now have 7 TVs in our house. You probably think we spend the whole time watching the TV which is actually not the case. For me it’s a method to get me to fall asleep whilst watching mostly rubbish or repeated news programmes. Eladio’s favourite as you probably know are those ghastly political debates where everyone interrupts and which I hate.

On Thursday morning Suzy woke us up early to announce the good result (“notable”) of the last exam of her degree in Food Science and Technology. So now she is more or less officially a graduate (just needs 2 credits which she will get by attending a training course in El Escorial in July). That was the best news of the week and great relief for Eladio and I who have been nagging her about her studies for years now. It’s good that we won’t have to nag her on that subject ever again. Now she will have an exam free summer to enjoy, something quite new to her. Great Suzy, great, I just wish you had worked harder and finished earlier; but there you go you did it in the end.

Friday was an activity packed day. I tend to wake up earlier and earlier which I imagine is due to my age and there I was at 07.30 having breakfast. It being an up day I wanted to make salmorejo for my friend Anne to try and of course it has to be cold so there I was making it before everyone had had breakfast. I spent most of the morning working on last minute details of what promises to be a great Yoigo Mid Summer party in Valencia next week. My biggest task now is to make up 22 teams of 7, 9 and 11 people for the “water activities” we will be doing on Tuesday. Cristina and Gloria came in the afternoon to compare notes and make final decisions and in the middle of our meeting by the swimming pool we had what must now be the 3rd or 4th sudden summer shower of the week.

Friday was important for Spain as it was playing Chile, the leader in their group, for a place in the Last 16 of the World Cup and this was one match I watched from beginning to end. It was to have an impact also on my summer party. If it went through as the leader of the group it would play the Last 16 round on the night of our summer party dinner and of course we would have to include football and also buy everyone t-shirts and all the football paraphernalia for the occasion. Anne and I decided to make a party of the match and brought in a tray with wine, ham, crisps etc. Maybe it was the wine, but suddenly Spain began to win and the match ended with a 2-1 score in favour of Spain. Spain will now meet Portugal which is probably an easier rival than Brazil which it could well have played had it gone through as 2nd in the group.

Football has dominated most of the week and touched us all, apart from Suzy who is not interested. Oli had a special interest from a work point of view and on Friday went to cover the Brazil Portugal match at the Casa do Brasil in Madrid a place for Brazilians in Spain to meet which is actually a student residence. There she found a great atmosphere with everyone dressed in the green and yellow colours including the Ambassador himself. There were no goals but still everyone celebrated with caipirinha to quote the headline of her article which you can read here.

Oli went to the Casa do Brasil in Madrid to cover the match against Portugal.
She did more pieces related to the world cup and South Africa and of course the big question was to do with apartheid. One of the articles was on why the South African team, known of course as Bafana, has only one white player and if you read the article you will learn that this is because football has been the traditional sport for blacks  whilst rugby, the national sport,  was reserved for whites. This spurred her interest on and she asked me if I knew anyone from South Africa to interview.  It turned out that I did and I contacted my ex Nokia colleague there, Tania, who was a great help to Olivia. She herself answered Oli’s questionnaire but pointed out that the opinions expressed there were from a white South African point of view and very kindly offered to get a black colleague to give her opinion too. Linidine’s answers were different to Tania’s as you can read here and I suppose that shows that in South Africa not everything is “black and white” and to quote Tania, “not all South Africa’s problems can be blamed on the whites”. It is a fascinating article. Thanks Tania for your help.

Tania a white South African and her Black South African friend and colleague, Linidine who Oli interviewed.
When I told my friend Fátima that Olivia was interviewing South Africans for an article, she told me that her daughter’s English teacher, Cheryl, was also from there originally and asked her if she would mind being interviewed by You can read Cheryl’s story here, which again is different from Tania’s. Tania is of Afrikaans origin whilst Cheryl is of English origin and suffered at school from bullying and was often called “red neck” referring to the English whose necks go red in the sun!

Today Saturday, most of Spain will have woken up happy with the result of the national team. Anne and I decided to have a girly shopping morning and went off to the great little market in Majadahonda nearby which is by far the best market anywhere in the Madrid area. I hadn’t been for years but I know people come from afar to shop here. We had a grand time buying shoes, tops, scarves, costume jewellery and bags. We stopped, tired from shopping and the heat, to have a coffee and a bite to eat (at least Anne did) in the main street of the town. And here is a picture of Anne enjoying lovely Spanish fare: patatas bravas.

Anne enjoying patatas bravas in Majadhonda this morning in between shopping.
And here is a photo of me with all our shopping.

Me with my shopping from the market in Majadahonda with Anne this morning.  What fun!
After the coffee and potatoes we returned to the market to buy some delicious fruit and veg. And here is a photo of the stall we went to. Later for lunch we made a salad from the ingredients we got there and we were well praised at home and forgiven for being away so long on another shopping escapade and spending too much.

The fruit and veg stall we shopped at this morning at the Majadahonda market, top quality.
And now my friends I have reached the end of this week’s blog post but before leaving you I must share with you this unique picture of Norah our dog and Joe one of our cats, lying together in peace by the swimming pool this week. After over a year and a half living in this house, this is the first time I have seen them quietly lying together. Let’s hope the relationship continues in that way and maybe one day, Phoebe, our other cat, will join them.

Joe, our black cat, and Norah finally lying in peace together.  A happy sight indeed.
Meanwhile I wish you a great week ahead. Keep your fingers crossed that all goes well at my Yoigo Mid Summer party for 200 people in Valencia and cheers till next time.


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