Sunday, June 12, 2011

A quiet week, my Mother’s birthday and her connection to the Yusupov family, a Mediterranean garden, time for reading and other stories.

My Mother aged 24 in Sofia Bulgaria in 1944, just before fleeing to Germany from the Russian invasion.  She never saw her father again.
Hello everyone,
I am writing quietly on my own this warm Sunday afternoon by the pool.  We haven’t actually used it yet as the weather has been pretty poor which is unusual for this time of year but who knows, maybe I will today after our walk.  Eladio is sleeping the siesta as is my Father.  The girls are at a party, so it was just the three of us today for a left over barbecue lunch.  The pets are sleeping too.  Joe is a little under the weather but taking him to the vet could be a traumatic experience fo so we shall have to wait and see.  Norah is under the weather too.  The other day we discovered we had been underfeeding her since she was a puppy, only giving her just over a 100 grammes of dog food in the mornings.  We decided to take a look at the packet and it appears she should be fed double that or more.  According to a dog encyclopedia Susana consulted, she should be getting 300.   Of course she always gets extra, by eating the cats’ food whenever she can or the odd bone.  For a beagle she is a little aggressive so I wondered whether that maybe due to her undernourishment.  I started feeding her double three days ago and today she couldn’t finish her bowl and is now looking definitely down, asleep on the mat outside the kitchen instead of here beside me. She was hardly interested in the lamb chop bone I gave her after lunch so we will be watching out to see how she progresses too.

Norah who we have been underfeeding unwittingly, is today a bit under the weather

I am not under the weather, just in need of a bit more action. There are no trips or lovely meals to recount this week I’m afraid.  In fact it’s been quiet, far too quiet.  The highlight in my life this week was my Mother’s birthday.  On 7th June she would have been 91 and probably going quite strong if it hadn’t been for the cancer which struck her for the third and final time when she left us forever on 1st October 1999.  What can I say that I haven’t said here before?  That we miss her of course and will never forget her.  She was, as many of you know larger than life, a most extraordinary woman and well loved by many.  Her life was marked forever by the Bolshevik Revolution of course, being born in the midst of it, when her aristocratic family fled to Rome.  I cannot be completely sure but I think she was born in what had been the Russian Embassy in Rome.  This fact could well have given her citizenship in Europe after the Second World War but she never thought to tell the authorities and thus started life as a refugee in England in the late 40’s.  Mummy, I love you and I miss you, especially on your birthday and on the1st October, two dates I will never ever forget.

My Mother in Cambridge in 1954, just after she married my Father

After writing that last sentence I looked for a photo to illustrate this part of the blog and went to my archive, a file and album I compiled about my Mother some years ago.  I flipped through it and came across the document I was looking for: “The Life of Mrs. Elena Lloyd, Princess Von Lieven, The key details”, written by Richard, Amanda’s first husband in 1993 when he interviewed my Mother in the hope of writing her story.  Unfortunately my Mother did not like the first three chapters and asked him politely not to continue, the reasons too long to go into right now. Here I was able to confirm that my Mother was indeed born in the former Russian Embassy in Rome, that she was christened in the Russian Church there and that her godmother was Princess Zenaida Yusupov, her maternal grandmother’s first cousin (and mother of Prince Felix Yusupov who killed Rasputin!). The Yusupovs were the richest noble family in the Russian court and I well remember visiting their family palace in St. Petersburg when I hosted a press trip whilst working for Nokia a few years ago.   It’s one of the top places to visit in that most Zarist of cities. I could not tell anyone what I thought as I walked through the “museum” or that my grandparents had probably been invited there on numerous occasions.  In my Mother’s family Princess Zenaida Yusupov was known as “Aunt Fairy” and they lived with her for a year in Rome before moving to Bulgaria.  As I looked at her portrait and walked through the palatial rooms the lump in my throat grew and I wondered what life was like for my ancestors and how the Bolshevik Revolution tore all their lives apart.  I was not just another tourist, I was one of them, albeit a poor ancestor, and the feeling was very intense.

Princess Zenaida Yusupov, my Mother's godmother.  They called her "Aunty Fairy"

When my Mother was born in Rome, by then the family had lost everything and were preparing a new life which would take them to Bulgaria.  Years later my Mother asked her Mother what it felt like to be rich.  She replied, “when I was rich I didn’t notice it and when I was poor there was too much to do to notice it”!  And thereby lies a very long story which one day I will write in a biographical manner not as a novel which is what Richard tried to do.  I owe it to my Mother, I owe it to myself and I owe it to my daughters.

My Mother would have loved our Mediterranean garden.  I love it too but this week even more as it is at its best at this time of year, I looked at it more closely than I usually do. 

Our mediterranean garden is at its best at this time of year
We have two peach trees which always seem a luxury to me who was brought up in the cold climate of Great Britain.  They are growing in our Mediterranean garden and soon we will pick them, although quite a few will be lost to the birds.  Meanwhile this is what the peaches look like.
It's so exotic to have peaches growing in your garden.

Eladio planted more hydrangeas last year and now they are in bloom.  They are one of my favourite flowers after roses of course.  Here you can see what they look like in another photo I took of our garden this week.

Eladio's hydrangeas are in full bloom

Being a quiet week, there has been time for reading.  This week I started and finished one of John Grisham’s latest books, TheConfession, which I picked up at Stockholm Arlanda Airport on my last trip.  I loved his first books but began to tire of the American legal jargon but the Confession is riveting and I read most evenings until the end which disappointed me.  I wanted the innocent man to be exonerated before being executed brutally and unfairly at the terrible Texan prison. 

Suzy joined us in our reading by the pool and I like this photograph of her here with Norah sitting on the wicker sofa. She probably won't like it as she's wearing a nightie but she looks so relaxed and Norah does too.

Suzy reading with us and Norah relaxing.

The book I started afterwards is by Isabel Allende, the Chilean novelist and niece of Salvador Allende.  I do not generally read in Spanish, the idea being to read in English to keep my English up.  You may not understand that if you are a native English speaker but as I left England 30 years ago, it is very easy to lose the fluency and hesitate about spelling when you have been away so long. That is partly why I write this blog in English and not in Spanish. I have always loved the film The House of the Spirits, based on her book (the inspiration for Clara came from her mystical grandmother) and the other day I listened to an interview with her on the radio.  That, together with the fact that Olivia was a fan of hers, spurred me on.  I was particularly interested in reading her only biographical book called Paula.  Paula was her daughter who had porphyria and died because of an alleged medical blunder.  Isabel Allende wrote the book whilst at her daughter’s bedside in a hospital in Madrid and in her home in California between 1991 and 1992.  In the book she tells Paula about her family, her origins whilst talking to her, in the hope that she will wake up from the coma.  She never did and I can only imagine that Paula is her most heart rendering book.  As a Mother myself I cannot imagine what she went through.  Probably her writing has saved her from literally going mad.  I think I would go mad if anything like this ever happened to me.
I am reading my first book by Isabel Allende this week: Paula

So yes I read a lot this week.  I don’t have much more to tell you.  Oh yes, I received yet another parcel from Emma Bridgewater, the crockery/pottery we use for breakfast and that Olga keeps breaking.  I bought a new pattern, Hellebore, to add to my collection and this is what it looks like.  Eladio has begged me to order no more so I won’t for another year at least.
Yet another parcel came from Emma Bridgewater this week.  I promise it will be the last at least for a year.

More importantly I went to the dentist for one more final session in the process and treatment that started some 6 months ago.  Since Thursday I can now eat on both sides of my mouth as at last as Dr. Garralda, with a little help from his lawyer daughter Paloma who will be reading this blog, finally put in a new bridge on one side and the crown of the new implant on the other.  My mouth feels strange but now I can smile without being wary of what I look like.  Thank you Dr. Garralda for the great job!

On the news front, you will be following the E-coli outbreak in Germany which was first thought to have been caused by Spanish cucumbers.  Last week the incompetent German authorities confirmed that was not the case and finally they say the deadly infection comes from sprouts or rather bean sprouts, the type you may want to add to salads or eat at Chinese restaurants.  Meanwhile Spanish producers of vegetables have lost hundreds of millions of euros and have had to throw tons away.  I wonder how the German government would have reacted if the outbreak had been in Spain and the Spanish authorities blamed the infection on produce coming from Germany.  A few centuries ago, countries would have gone to war over something like the cucumber crisis.  Good to know though that now we can eat cucumber, tomato and lettuce  and be safe. 

So yes it has been a quiet week.  Things have happened which are too private to recount here and that is frustrating.  But of course you cannot include private things in a public blog.  But I can tell you that we are upset as our best friends are splitting up because you won’t know who they are.   So no more meals out with them or trips.  They are our only close friends in Spain as the others live in Belgium and the UK.  Eladio remarked the other day that at this late stage in life it will be difficult to find a replacement.  We are sad that they are splitting up of course but we are equally sad that we are losing them because, once they are separate, our friendship will just never be the same again.

And on that sad note I leave you.  However I have an action packed week ahead of me with important meetings on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  What I am most looking forward to, is our trip to Brussels on Thursday for a long weekend with Sandie, Jeffer, Adele and Bernard, another wonderful University reunion.  I can’t wait and I know it’s going to rain but I don’t care.  There’ll be plenty of news about it in next week’s edition.

Till then, have a good week,


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