Monday, May 02, 2011

A new walk, two birthdays, a royal wedding, a circus, some good and some breaking news and other things

Suzy's 27th birthday this Thursday, one of the many highlights of this week
Well hello again

Today is 1st May, Sunday, Labour Day, Mother’s Day (in Spain) but it is also my Father’s birthday and he is 92 today. He is my most loyal reader and always gets a printed copy of my blog as soon as it is published. Therefore it is fitting that the first words of today’s entry be to him. “Happy birthday Daddy and long may you live and be happy with us!”. But more about his birthday later as I have to tell you all about this week first.

This week has had its ups and downs, but mostly ups. Last Sunday, Easter Sunday, we went out to dinner with our friends Roberto and Mari Carmen to Arrepiento, a little Andalusian place in Pozuelo. Monday of course brought with it the return to the fold of the Dukan Diet after 10 days of over indulging during my trips to Asturias and Ibiza. 3 days of pure protein were sufficient to lose the 2 kilos I had put on and this seems to be the norm with me these days; a bit of over eating and then a couple of days of sacrifice and the scales return to my ideal weight. I wonder if it will always be like that.

Olivia had introduced me on Good Friday to a new walk on the paths in the woods behind the houses where we live. Suzy, the instigator of this new route, was our guide on Monday afternoon’s walk, which Eladio and I loved. I should add here that Suzy has the best sense of direction in the family. The walk is longer and has some obstacles with sudden steep paths but is glorious because of the spring vegetation and above all because of the peace and quiet. Norah, I know, must appreciate the lack of noisy vehicles as we have the path almost to ourselves. On Wednesday and Thursday the four of us were able to enjoy this new walk together, quite an occasion and you can see some of the photos here. I have included the new walk in the title above because of its importance to us. Walking has become an essential part of our daily lives as a married couple. Of course we do it for the exercise but it is more than that, it is an activity that unites us and gives us quality time together daily. Add to that the endorphins the exercise produces and the end result is a bit of extra daily happiness. I recommend you to try it if you don’t already do so.
Eladio, Suzy and Norah on our lovely new walk.

Happiness was not exactly the key note on Tuesday. I got into trouble over an article in the press which made me realise that being a communications director is a bit like walking on a tight rope. I am responsible for the information given for the press about my company but have no control over what they write. Then of course when something is published that is controversial, negative or wrong, I am in the eye of the hurricane and there is not much I can do about it. It is a job with a risk which all in all I generally enjoy but it is a job which every now and again I lose my sleep over.

No,Tuesday was not a good day. In the afternoon I had a big session at the dentist for more root treatment for another tooth under the bridge my dentist has had to remove. I am waiting for the day when the new bridge and the implant on the other side are finally in place. I am also hoping I will be comfortable with them and one day soon will be able to eat on both sides again.  For the moment I will have to wait.

Wednesday was better. I went shopping with Suzy in the evening after our lovely new walk. Of course I had to get something for her birthday the next day. That night was not a good night for Real Madrid. After winning the King’s Cup recently to their arch rival Barcelona, on Wednesday they lost to them in the first leg of the Champions League final 2-3 on their own turf. They ended up with 10 men as seems to be the norm for Real Madrid these days. I for one shall not be watching the second leg at the Camp Nou next Tuesday. I mean why would I want to watch them not make it through to the final at Wembley in May? That match is almost certainly reserved for Sir. Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola's teams to play; in a way England vs Spain for me which has has my loyalty somewhat divided.

Thursday brought with it the first birthday of the week. Suzy was 27, the same age I was when I gave birth to her, my wonderful outgoing fun-to-be with daughter. Suzy celebrates in style and birthdays are of utmost importance to her. I certainly brought up both girls in the importance of celebrating them. Thursday was the family birthday, just the beginning, as she will be having a party for her friends sometime next week. We had breakfast together when we gave her our presents and cards. Lunch was special too and that's when we had her spectacular two flavour cake made the night before. In the evening after another walk on the new route, this time all four of us, we went out for a birthday dinner. We went to La Vaca Argentina, surprise, surprise and were joined by Gaby, Suzy's boyfriend. Oli was joining us straight from her postgraduate lectures and got lost on the way, running out of petrol, having left her purse at home! Suzy and Gaby went to her rescue and so we started a late dinner with me trying to pacify everyone’s nerves as so often happens at family occasions. I just want us all to be happy and hate rowing. If you know me you will understand that.  You can see the rest of the photos of Suzy's big day here.

Suzy made her own double flavoured birthday cake which was delicious

Friday was the highlight of my week bringing with it numerous events, the most important of all, of course, being the royal wedding. It was a very full day and started with me doing some quick shopping locally. I went to a nearby shopping centre and when I had finished decided on a cup of coffee in the sun at the Mirabal Café. There on the table next to me was a group of English teachers from the local Olivar de Mirabal school and I couldn’t resist introducing myself. I have lived in Spain now for longer than I ever lived in England and as I progress into my mid fifties I find myself feeling more and more nostalgic about my origins. It was great to meet Carol from Liverpool and Victoria, of Russian origin, like me, from Queens in New York and the other two ladies, all about my age. I gave them my card and I now hope they will follow this blog but even more I look forward to having coffee with them again at the Mirabal Café and exchanging notes about being British or American and living in Spain. Here is the photo of this delightful group of ladies as promised to them for this week’s blog post.

The group of English teachers I met on Friday

As soon as I was home I switched on the BBC on the ground floor and was soon joined by my Father, Oli and Eladio to watch the much awaited wedding ceremony of William and Kate; the so called "wedding of the century".  I have to say I loved every moment of it. Britain was at its best on Friday and is the country which knows how to put on the greatest show possible in pomp, pageantry but also emotion. The numbers were enormous: more than a million people in the streets of London and some 2 billion television spectators from around the world. I well remember watching Prince William’s Mother, Diana marrying Prince Charles 30 years ago in 1981. I was in Callosa at the time and had just met Eladio. We had no access to a television and watched it in a bar and I think I was the only person interested! Their marriage proved to be a disaster as we all know. I on the other hand have now been happily married for nearly 30 years ....

The wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981, 30 years later and what a difference to their son's!

And on Friday it was Princess Diana’s son, William, marrying Kate Middleton, a “commoner” and it was a fairy tale come true but on the biggest scale possible. This time the wedding was available on any media channel you could wish for; be that TV, Twitter, Facebook or their own official wedding website.   You can even watch it and watch it over again here on You Tube if you so wish.

I don't think I can even begin to imagine what the the lump in the throat was like for Kate's Father as he walked with her up the aisle at Westminster Abbey, knowing he was giving his daughter in marriage to the future King of England. The only person missing was of course William’s dearest Mother, Diana. In her place was  “Camilla”, the lady Prince Charles should have married in 1981! I later realised that a tribute was paid to Diana in the singing of one of the  hymns, "Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer", which was also sung at her funeral. I love that hymn as I also loved "Love Divine all Love's Excelling" but above all I rejoiced to hear Jerusalem by Sir Hubert Parry, that most patriotic of hymns always reserved for the Last Night at the Proms. It begins with the words; "And did those feet in ancient times" as the lyrics are by the British Poet William Blake whose poem is called that.  It made me feel even more emotional and so when the National Anthem was played afterwards both my Father and I stood up out of respect and tradition. Olivia was amused but then again I haven’t brought up my daughters to be patriotic about their other homeland.

The truly happy newly-weds, William and Kate, now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, my home town which makes me doubly happy

I should spare a few lines in this blogpost to mention the dress as there has been so much expectation and coverage about her choice, mostly in favour. Yes I loved Kate’s “Grace Kellyesque” romantic yet simple dress, in sharp contrast to the over the top gown designed for her late and lovely mother in law. I should mention the name of the designer was Sarah Burton from Alexander McQueen's fashion house. All I know is that she is a British designer. I have to admit too that Kate’s sister, Pippa, the Royal Maid of Honour (commonly known as chief bridesmaid in an ordinary wedding!) was dressed in a divine gown, also by Sarah Burton. However it surprised me and others that it was white. I always thought you couldn’t wear white so as not to outshine the bride. Pippa did not manage to outshine her sister but did win many hearts that day for her beauty, poise and sheer radiance. Unfortunately for some of them, it seems her heart is already taken.

Kate's simple, beautiful and romantic wedding dress

Her sister Pippa's, much admired gown also designed by Sarah Burton

All in all this wedding was a truly joyous occasion and much happier than the one I watched in 1981 in Callosa. I think it brought back the shine to British royalty and brought with it too, a moment of light in the economic gloom, this last to quote The Guardian, bar Princess Ann and the ghastly daughters of the Duke of York as I wrote to Amanda yesterday. I also wrote that Friday was one of those days I really wanted to be in England, in "that green and pleasant land", a line from Jerusalem, that hymn I love so much and is so quintessentially British and which, as I mentioned above, was sung at the wedding on Friday.
After the “Yes I will”, the big moment I and I suppose most of the world was waiting for was the kiss on the balcony at Buckingham Palace.  I had left the television screen for a few moments so missed the moment live but of course have seen it countless times since. This is a picture  I particularly like as it includes one of the small bridesmaids screwing up her face and holding her ears from the noise made by the “fly over” that took place during the event.

The Royal Wedding kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace

On the day of the wedding, Eladio, Susana, Olivia and I had a family outing to look forward to later in the evening. Some of the employees at Yoigo  had been invited by our network supplier, Ericsson, to the Cirque du Soleil show called Corteo. It was something we had been looking forward to for quite some time but it turned out to contribute to one of the down moments of the week as we got lost on the way. It was taking place at a big marquee in the Madrid park called La Casa de Campo, somewhere I nearly always get lost in. And true to tradition it happened again. We all argued in the car about how to get there and time was running out. The roads in the park were closed off in many places and in the end we just parked the car outside the fun fair and made our way to a road nearby on foot and called a taxi. The taxi brought us to the entrance 15 minutes after the circus had started and our nerves were all on edge so we were not in the best mood to enjoy this much awaited occasion. So did we like it? Sort of but not enormously. A few years ago Eladio and I had seen  Saltimbaco also by the Cirque du Soleil and I have much better memories of the latter. I did enjoy some of the trapeze artists’ amazing feats on Friday but did not really understand the story line which I think was based on a funeral starring a not so funny fat Italian artist, at least for me.

A photo taken live at the Cirque du Soleil Corteo show on Friday

Afterwards, Suzy went off to Cadiz for the weekend for a first holy communion with her boyfriend Gaby and Olivia went to meet friends. Eladio and I finished the day by having dinner at one of our usual favourite places, Tony Romas in Majadahonda. It was a better finish to the day than the Cirque du Soleil.

Whilst we were at the circus, my Father was giving a Russian lesson to my friend Fátima’s brother, Manolo a self learner of this most difficult language. Daddy, who also gives English lessons informally to Olga each day at tea-time, is most happy to be back at his trade. He was a successful teacher of French, German and Russian during his working life and I think these lessons will give him something useful to do and to look forward to. Manolo is very lucky in having the best teacher in Russian to help him with his doubts in his self-learning. My Father too self taught himself Russian as the story goes. When he finished his studies in German and Scandinavian languages at Cambridge University in the early 50’s, the Professor of Russian, Dame Elizabeth Hill, offered him a job teaching Russian to British officers. It was the Cold War and many of them were to use their knowledge in this language later as spies.  He replied that he didn’t know the language, her answer being, “don’t worry, you just have to be one lesson ahead of your pupils”! And so his journey to learn this language began. The journey included meeting my Russian born Mother who was a secretary at these secret Cambridge courses. He went on to master the language to perfection and it became an essential part of his life. No doubt he is happy to be dabbling again at what he is best at, teaching Russian. And Manolo is a very lucky pupil to have him.

Friday was indeed the highlight of our week as it brought great news for Susana and of course for us. 10 days earlier she  had an interview with the big American multinational, Aramark, a food services company that supplies food to all sorts of big institutions. Amazingly Suzy was chosen for the job and the phone call came in the morning. Whilst the kiss on the balcony was taking place, Suzy told me her good news. Thus missing the moment live was well worth it! She will be a intern nutritionist for the 50 senior citizen residences that Aramark supplies to in Spain. Well done Suzy. I know the pay is nothing special and that the contract is a two year internship but it is a great company and it is a foot on the career ladder for your future. Well done too darling, you are now joining the work force as Spain has just announced nearly 5 million people unemployed, not an easy feat.

Sunday too was a highlight in our lives and the lives around us.  It was May 1st, workers’ day but also Mothers’ day in Spain. But most important of all it was my Father’s 92nd birthday. The day began with presents and a card at breakfast. I then made a special birthday lunch which included home-made “salmorejo” (thick gazpacho), followed by one of my specialities, meat loaf. Lunch included a lovely Sacher chocolate birthday cake. Here is the moment when Daddy blew the candles.

Grandpa celebrating his 92nd birthday on 1st May yesterday

Sunday was important for my Father but it was even more important for the late John Paul II who was being beatified in Rome; apparently the fast track process to later sainthood in front of more than a million fervent Catholics.  When my Mother was alive she always used to say my Father looked like Karol Wojtyla and I think he did. So it’s fitting these two events happened simultaneously yesterday.

John Paul II's beatification took place yesterday in Rome, Daddy's look-alike according to my Mother!

My Father and probably the late Pope too, will have and would have been pleased at this morning’s breaking news which once again proved how printed newspapers have been overtaken by the internet when it comes to news. Amazingly I heard thanks to Facebook that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by American forces yesterday in Pakistan, with the help of Pakistan’s Government. Osama Bin Laden, America’s most wanted person, the leader of Al Qaeda, was the instigator of the 11th September attacks in 2001 and it has taken them some 10 years to finally track him down. Let me quote the NYT here as I just couldn’t put it in better words: “Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the most devastating attack on American soil in modern times and the most hunted man in the world, was killed in a firefight with United States forces in Pakistan on Sunday, President Obama announced”.

Today's breaking news, the killing of America's most wanted person, Osama Bin Laden

I imagine that the second most wanted person for the US Government is Colonel Gaddafi of Libya, a country which is undergoing huge revolts to oust this dictator and protector of terrorists. I don’t think it will take 10 years as it did with Bin Laden but is proving difficult. Yesterday, in fact, Nato attacks on the dictator killed his youngest son Saif aged 29 as well as three grandchildren.

The news came this morning, the 2nd of May a holiday in Madrid. It commemorates the Second of May uprising when in 1808 the people of this city rebelled against its occupation by Napoleon’s troops and which triggered the famous Peninsula War. For me and people in Madrid it means a bank holiday one week after the Easter break this year, but is very welcome in any case. Thanks to the holiday too, I have been lazy with this week’s blog which will get published today instead of yesterday.

For those of you working, and those of you who are not, I hope you enjoy this week’s bumper edition about the royal wedding, our family birthdays and of course Susana’s good news.

Cheers till next week my friends



Marucha said...

que barbara !!!!!

haces toda una reseña con gran maestría de tu pluma,

haces que me emocione,y vaya que sólo vi algunos cortos noticiosos de la boda real,y me encantó la descripción que haces del cumpleaños de tu padre.

recibe un saludo desde México.

me descolgué desde el periodico digital El País.

Masha Lloyd said...

Gracias Marucha. Me alegro que leas mi blog y que te haya gustado mis comentarios sobre la boda real. Recibe un saludo Masha desde Madrid.