Sunday, April 03, 2011

A royal visit to Spain, well done India, shopping, cake making, sharing clothes with my daughters, Gretel’s story, Paula came for lunch and many other tales.

Making cakes with Suzy on Friday

Hello again, my friends.

I hope you had a great week. Mine hasn’t been bad at all, nothing to complain about but still not enough action for me. That will be soon remedied as this week I will be starting on the first of my up and coming trips, to Stockholm for work on Wednesday and to my adored Helsinki on Friday for a great girly weekend. I can’t wait. But meanwhile let me tell you the stories for this week and there have been many and they are varied.

The beginning of the week was quiet and pretty uneventful. I went into the office on Monday for an interview with a magazine called Capital and on Tuesday for what turned out to be a cancelled management team meeting. I also went in on later during the week for a surprise meeting with the Board. Of note I was the only woman present.

Of importance on Tuesday, in Spain at least, was the story of the Madrid Zoo’s miraculous baby twin pandas which were to be let out into the open air for the first time. The Queen of Spain was there for the occasion and here I really envied her role as I would also have loved to have the two delightful cubs on my lap as she has in this picture.

The Queen of Spain with the twin panda cubs at Madrid's Zoo which were let outside for the first time this week

And royalty is the next subject of this post because on Wednesday crown prince Felipe and his ex journalist wife Princess Leticia were to host the visit of the Prince Charles and Camilla to Spain. I have to admit that of all the news on the television that night, including the conflict in Libya and the aftermath of the Japan earthquake, this was the piece of news I was most interested in. I suppose it’s because I am afflicted with a mild dosage of fascination with the royal family as most British people are to a smaller or greater degree because we are brought up on it and all its marvellous pageantry. I haven’t followed their visit very closely but I did read that they declined to eat the wonderful Spanish “jamón” at the equally wonderful San Miguel market when on a “walkabout” on their first day in Madrid. Some curious bystanders were asked what they thought and one lady uttered what probably many of us think, that she far preferred the previous wife.  I certainly did and I wept buckets when the beautiful and unhappy  Lady Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997.   The British Embassy who organised the visit informed that around one million British nationals live in Spain all or part of the year. Now that’s a statistic that surprised me although I know Spain is popular with many of my countrymen.

A royal visit to Spain.  Prince Charles and Camilla were hosted by Prince Felipe and Letizia.
If I lived in England I would be following more closely the warm up to the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana's son, Prince William,and his commoner fiancée Kate Middleton. I hear they are trying to call her Katherine for her future role in the British monarchy but that the public prefer plain “Kate”. When I am in England in the Summer I shall be looking out for a commemorative mug of their wedding to add to my collection of Royal mugs which my Grandmother started and my Mother and I continued. The oldest one I have is of George V.  I shall certainly be watching the wedding next month too as I did that of Prince William's parents in 1981.

My royal mug collection will soon be joined by a mug commemorating the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton

Wednesday was not particularly important for me but wow was it important for India. Why you non Indian nationals may well ask? Well India beat Pakistan in the semi final of the Cricket World Cup with all the political nuances blended into the game and the victory of course. They talked about “cricket diplomacy” during the match for example. Now for most of us cricket isn’t important and we don’t understand it unless we were brought up to play and love it like most nationals of the commonwealth countries. So, sure football is more popular in the world but did you know that 1000 million people watched that match on TV on Wednesday? India went on to win the final yesterday in Mumbai (I will always say Bombay) against Sri Lanka and must be feeling as ecstatic as Spain when they (or should I say we?) won the Football World Cup last summer. The Indians are known as a “cricket mad nation” and this was their second world cup victory since 1983 and on home ground this time to add to the excitement. All that remains to say is well done India. Enjoy your glory which I am sure you well deserve, although I haven’t watched the matches nor do I understand the game, despite having being brought up in England and more recently having watched that superb Indian Bollywood film about cricket called Lagaan. Of course I am thinking of our Indian friends, Sandeep and Sumit who gave me the film and who will be as pleased as punch, especially Sumit who was an amateur player and now lives in Mumbai. Well done boys, I am glad for you too. Below is a picture of the winning team. What surprises me is to see the members in blue. In my time, at least, cricket was a sport played only in white but times must have changed.

The team that brought glory to India by winning the Cricket World Cup this week
Friday was probably my highlight of the week; a day accompanied by glorious sunshine and warm temperature. Funnily enough it was April Fools’ day which is not celebrated in Spain, or rather they have a similar day but on a different date (28th December). It was also a wonderful day to go shopping and here I have to admit it wasn’t the only day I went shopping this week because nowadays I seem to be doing it always to the terrible detriment of the limit on my credit card I’m afraid. Since I’ve lost weight and kept the loss up on the Dukan Diet my greatest pleasure is buying clothes. One of the consequences too is that I can now share clothes with my daughters. The other day I lent Oli a “posh” red dress she needed for an occasion. Later she told me a friend had complimented her on the dress (have to admit she looked spectacular) and that she said it was her Mother’s to which her friend replied how lucky she was to be able to share clothes with her Mother. That was nice to hear. Suzy and I have been sharing a particular black and white striped dress I got at Oysho this week which she is wearing in this picture. No doubt Oli will be wearing it too next week.

Suzy wearing the dress I bought at Oysho this week.  I can now share clothes with my daughters.

Actually the shopping on Friday wasn’t all about clothes. It was about food, another topic of enormous fascination in my life and world as you all know. I took Suzy to the English shop and then to the American store, Taste of America, both in nearby Pozuelo.

Taste of America in Pozuelo where Suzy and I bought some cake making items on Friday
Suzy’s great area of interest these days is cake making, so she had a field day in both shops, stocking up with all sorts of baking tools and icing instruments. Of course she had to try everything out as soon as we got home with the excuse that it was her friend Estafanía’s birthday “bottle party” that evening but also that Paula was coming the next day. So an enormous cake baking exercise ensued in between Susana’s sunbathing in the glorious sunshine. Illustrating this week’s blog is a moment of the two of us enjoying cake baking. Below is just some of our output which is and was delicious.

Some of the cakes we made
Although I wrote above that Friday was my highlight of the week, I wasn’t really referring to the afternoon as at 17h that day Suzy and I had an appointment with the dreaded gynaecologist for a routine check up at the Quirón Hospital in Pozuelo. It ended up being a pretty painful experience as I finally had the coil removed because at this age sadly I no longer need it. I have mixed feelings about this stage of life and maybe shouldn’t be writing about such an intimate subject, but in the end, of course accept it. There is a very stupid saying in Spanish which says “la arruga es bella” - wrinkles are beautiful - and of course they aren’t but we have to accept them unless we want to undergo surgery; something I will never ever do to look younger or more beautiful. In any case right now at 54, with all my wrinkles and everything else that goes with late middle age, I do actually feel beautiful. It’s mostly because of weight less and new clothes. I seem to get a lot of compliments for both and they are a wonderful compensation for all the effort put into losing and maintaining my weight.

So yes I’m always buying new clothes. But I also love to shop online for books and pc and mobile phone accessories and there on Friday when Suzy and I returned from our food and clothing spree, was a package waiting for me from Inside was the much awaited pink leather case for my Samsung Galaxy S phone.

The new pink leather case for my Samsung Galaxy S phone which arrived from on Friday
In the same package was my new book. It’s called “A different sort of courage, Gretel’s story” which I can’t wait to start this afternoon after publishing this blog post. It will come as no surprise to you that this is yet another Second World War story, another subject of fascination for me and inherited from my Father. This time though the story is not of Jewish survival of the holocaust but of a young German resistance fighter, a subject that interests me enormously as I have often wondered how the normal German population lived the horrors of possibly the worst dictator in world history. No doubt Gretel’s story will be my book of next week and I look forward to stolen moments probably flying to Stockholm and to Helsinki for a chance to read it.

Gretel's Story, another Second World War biography for me which I ordered on
Friday came to an end with a superb meal with Eladio at La Vaca Argentina, one of our favourite local restaurants. Yesterday, Saturday, was full of action. Eladio, spurred on by the good weather, got out his painting gear and started on the somewhat rusty railings by the swimming pool. Here he is clad in old clothes with the paint brush in his hand.

Eladio painting some of the garden railings this weekend, in readiness for summer

Whilst Eladio was painting the railings, a decisive moment in Spanish politics was taking place. The Spanish premiere, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero who is from León, just as my husband is, was announcing to his fellow party members of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) that he would not be a candidate for the 2012 general elections. There has been much talk about whether he would run for a possible third term and now we know he won’t. This news opens up huge debate as to who will be his successor. The two names most branded are Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the current “Home Secretary” and Carmen Chacón, the current (lady) Minister of Defence. I would of course love to see a woman prime minister in Spain. Which woman wouldn’t?

Spain's premiere, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero announced on Saturday that he won't be running for a third term of office.

Whilst Olivia and I were watching the announcement on the PC in the kitchen, our eyes were drawn to a good piece of sports news on the screen. Rafa Nadal had beaten Roger Federer in the Miami Masters semi finals. He fact he crushed him with a score of 6-3 6-2. Today Rafa plays Djocovic in the final and to quote my Father, this will be no “pushover”.

Spain's number one player, Rafa Nadal, beat Roger Federer in the Miami Masters semi final on Saturday

On Saturday too we were to receive the visit of our niece Paula for lunch. Paula is Eladio’s sister Pili’s daughter who was particularly interested in this visit as our niece was coming with her new boyfriend, Pedro, from Málaga whom Pili has yet to meet. In fact we were to be the first members of the family to have that privilege. Paula is finishing her studies in audiovisual communication at Salamanca University and Pedro is a recent graduate in journalism who has just started working at a PR agency in Madrid. I went to pick up the lovely young couple from the nearest metro station to join us for lunch. Olga had made a great lasagne and of course there was the cake Suzy had made and I had decorated. Here is a moment of us all at the table on Saturday, except for Suzy who arrived a bit late after going to watch Gaby race as a co-pilot in a car rally. It was great to have them and we look forward to seeing them again soon, who knows, when the weather is better and we can use the pool with the gleaming white railings which Eladio is lovingly preparing for the summer.

Paula and her beau Pedro came for lunch on Saturday.

And that my friends, was my week. I hope you had a good one too. More from me next week.

Cheers till then


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