Sunday, May 15, 2011

The curate’s egg, bad news from the Giro, an earthquake in Spain, remembering George and news from abroad.

An expression we use a lot in our family comes from this picture called "True Humility" by George du Maurier. It was originally published in Punch in 1895 to illustrate the "curate's egg" joke. The conversation goes like this: Bishop: "I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr Jones"; Curate: "Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!"

Good afternoon my friends this sunny Sunday afternoon in May.

I hope you’ve had a good week. Mine has been a bit like the curate’s egg, only good in parts. How can an egg be good in parts you may ask? If an egg is not good, it’s bad I would have thought. That expression has been used often in my family and was first seen in a cartoon in the famous magazine Punch in 1895. A bishop and his curate were having breakfast and the bishop told the curate his egg looked bad. The curate, trying to be polite, answered it was “good in parts”. The exact conversation actually went like this: “Bishop: "I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr Jones"; Curate: "Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!" My Father used it again this week to refer to the pineapple we had at lunch one day and when he explained the joke to Eladio we all had a good laugh.

So yes, this week has been a bit like the “curate’s egg”, only good in parts. Bad news came for me last Monday when I heard that a colleague of mine, Fernando’s Mother had died. She was just 70 and had an attack in the car last weekend whilst they were driving with his small children to a first holy communion. She had thrombosis caused by defective arteries and died later in the hospital. A year and a half before Fernando had lost his Father too, so now he is an orphan. What a tragedy.

There was news of another tragedy on Monday too when the 26 year old Belgian rider Wouter Weylandt met his death at the Giro, the Tour of Italy. It was after a high-speed crash during a descent about 25km from the finish of the stage from Reggio Emilia to Rapallo on 3rd day of the Tour.

The young Belgian rider, Wouter Weylandt who met his death on a descent on the 3rd stage of the Giro on Monday
His death which the cycling world mourns brought memories for me of the equally tragic death of another cyclist, the young Italian Olympic gold medallist, Fabio Casartelli. He rode for the Motorola Cycling Team when I worked for Motorola and I happened to be at the stage at the Tour of France when he died. It was on another descent, that of the very steep Col de Portet d’Aspet during the 15th stage of the 1995 Tour de France. I had been with him that same morning before the start when the team were fooling about and we were all laughing. I shall never forget how I found out. I was in one of the team support cars with Fátima and Eddie, the Belgian soigneur, was driving. We were going towards the finish line ahead of the peloton and were out of the range of the race radio so wouldn’t have heard the news. A Belgian press car was going passed and stopped to tell us the news in French: “Fabio est mort” (Fabio has died). We stopped the car, not quite believing the news and were only confronted with reality when we reached the finish line. That was a terrible day for cycling and something I shall never forget. The next day Lance Armstrong, the team leader, with the blessing of the whole peloton, won the stage and dedicated the victory to his team mate Casartelli. Fátima and I could only watch it in on the TV in our bleak hotel room in Paris and cried our eyes out. We had left the mourning cycling world and felt orphaned and bereft watching this amazing gesture alone in Paris. Being part of something like that leaves a mark on you and so the sad news of the death of Vouter Weyland reminded me of that tragic day in the Tour de France. I used to be very close to the cycling world and so could understand how the cycling family will have felt at the Giro on Monday, bereft, just as Fátima and I felt in that hotel room in Paris in 1995. RIP Wouter, the cycling world will always remember you.

Lance Armstrong who won the stage for his team mate Fabio Casartelli who had died the day before in the Tour de France.
The only good thing about Monday was that Susana was starting her career as a nutritionist and dietician with the big American company Aramark. She has been visiting a psychiatric hospital and senior citizen residence this week as well as going to a meeting at the Madrid headquarters on Thursday. She has also worked from home quite a lot; something she will be encouraged to do with her new job. Now that’s a step in the right direction I certainly think. Here is a photo of her all dressed and ready to go to her first meeting this Thursday.

Suzy looking smart for her first company meeting with Aramark on Thursday

Tragedy struck on Wednesday too. It was the day of Seve Ballestero’s funeral which I watched part of live. I was amazed to see the coverage on the BBC. But then again “Seve” as he is known there is “God” for the British sports and golfing world. It was a sad day for the golfing family too.

Seve Ballestero's funeral in Pedreña on Wednesday

Just a few hours later, we heard that tragedy had struck the small town of Lorca in the province of Murcia in south east Spain. This town of some 90.000 inhabitants was hit by an earthquake. The first one of a magnitude of 4.4 hit the town early on Wednesday evening and around two hours later it was hit by a bigger one measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale. Murcia lies close to the large fault line where Europe and Africa meet. I didn’t know it but apparently Spain has hundreds of earthquakes every year, most of them being too small to be noticed. But this was the worst earthquake for Spain in 50 years, killing 9 people and destroying some 20.000 buildings. It has come as a huge shock to this country and was completely unexpected. We hear about earthquakes in other parts of the world and were shocked reading about Japan’s recent experience, but never believe it could happen here. The whole country has rallied around to help the town and the inhabitants affected. Some 20% of the people are immigrants and they are the ones you see mostly on the television in the make shift camps queuing for blankets and food. The local residents either have second homes or families nearby to go to.

Terror hit Lorca, a medium sized town in Murcia this week when it was struck by two earthquakes

As soon as I heard, I knew that at Yoigo we should do something to help. So I got in touch with my RSC colleague and friend Belén who soon organised an sms number for our customers to send messages to and donate the cost of the message. The text messages would be in the form of donations to the Red Cross. So if you are a Yoigo customer reading this, or even a customer of our competitors Orange or Movistar here in Spain, I urge you to send a message to 28077 with the text LORCA. You will contribute 1.20 euros which will go entirely to the Spanish Red Cross and will be used for aid for the people and town of Lorca. Thanks.

All this bad news put a bit of a damper on me really this week and I didn’t pick up until the weekend. Yesterday, Saturday, was a good day, perhaps the best of this week. I went shopping with Suzy to Centro Oeste, a nearby shopping centre. I couldn’t resist some lovely bright red and bright green tight trousers at Zara which I shall be sharing with the girls. It’s nice to be able to do that these days I must say. In the evening I dragged Eladio back there with me to try on some white shorts at Zara which he didn’t like. We ended up buying him some very colourful bathing trunks at Cortefiel. As shopping makes you hungry we decided to go to dinner to one of our all time favourites at the nearby Equinoccio leisure centre, to La Alpargatería. As we got there early we were able to sit at our favourite corner table number 7. To our delight the menu has been improved with some delicious new dishes, such as the green tagliatelli with artichoke and ham I tried. True to habit, dessert was at Haagen Dazs afterwards. I mean they do have the best ice cream in the world don’t they?

We were home early and could have watched the end of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest but Eladio refused point blank. I didn’t insist as these days it’s just not what it used to be. The songs are more than lousy, Spain never wins and England doesn’t either these days. One of reasons is that countries near each other vote for their neighbours and neither England nor Spain have many so it’s nearly impossible to win. There was not much interest in the event this year as seems to be the tonic of the last 10 or 15 years. I used to enjoy it as a child and teenager but for me at least, it no longer has the magic it used to hold. I woke up to the news that Azerbaijan (and I had to google the name to know how to spell it!) had won which didn’t really excite me. The couple called Ell and Nikki who won will of course be delighted. You can listen to their song, Running Scared,  here on You Tube and judge for yourselves whether they deserved to win. One good thing for Ell and Nikki, a lot more people will now know how to spell their country’s name. Well done for winning this year’s contest.

The winners of this year's Eurovision Song Contest, Ell and Nikki with their song Running Scared are from Azerbaijan.  I had to google the name to be able to spell it!
That piece of news brings me to the end of the week, to Sunday 15th May. Today is the patron saint of Madrid, San Isidro. Today is Eladio’s brother Isidro’s 49th birthday, just one year to go to 50. Happy birthday Isidro. But today, above all, for my Father and I, it is the tenth anniversary of the death of my dear brother George. There are 4 dates for me in the year that I can never forget apart from my family’s birthdays and they are the days of my Mother and brother’s birthdays and the days of their deaths. Once we were four but today we are only two.

We were once a family of 4.  Now we are only 2.  My parents and my brother and I in 1961 in Cambridge, UK
Today as I write and think about him I have a lump in my throat. George was born with all the talents. He was tall, blonde, blue eyed, incredibly good looking, gentle and very talented at music, sport and languages. He excelled at them all but could not make a career of any of them because of drugs and later mental illness. He loved travelling and had the same “itchy feet” bug I have inherited from my Father. Life did not treat him fairly but I like to think he had his good moments when he was speaking to locals in some village in Afghanistan or Mexico or composing a song on his guitar or working out a piece of music on my grandmother’s old piano. I think one of his happiest moments was probably two years before he died when he married Sanya, his dear Serbian wife who sadly is no longer with us either. She died of a broken heart. RIP together dear George and Sanya. I carry you both in my heat always.

George and Sanya on their wedding day in February 1999, the happiest day of their lives. 
Sadly they are no longer with us.

I don’t want to finish this week’s blogpost on a sad note, so let me tell you about the news from abroad I have had this week. On Monday I got a surprise email from someone I don’t know. It was from Andrea all the way from San Francisco. She is the niece of George Konzevich and his wife Valya, my parents’ friends, who I had written about here when George passed away in March this year. She had googled his name and up came my blog post. Isn’t the world a small place in these days of the internet I thought, and how marvellous that all these communication tools are available for people to keep in touch. Life would have been very different for George, Valya and my Mother, all of whom were refugees and had family all over the world with whom it was not possible to communicate with as it is for us today. And it was thanks to Internet too this week that I heard for the first time from my school friend Maggie W. since we left St. Joseph’s College in Bradford. Maggie it was great to get your news and know you are living in Edinburgh and have two grown up children like me. I do hope you will write again.

A photo with a group of friends at school in our last year, 1974.  I heard from Maggie W. this week for the first time thanks to internet. She is in the middle of the front row.  Nice to hear from you Maggie.

Maybe Maggie and Andrea will now read my blog too. I hope so. Well dear readers, I have come to the end of this week’s activities and will now leave you before we go for our daily walk and out to dinner with Roberto and Mari Carmen as we do most Sundays. I hope you all have a good week ahead of you and that mine this time will not be like the curate's egg; only good in parts.
Cheers till next week


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