Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cooling off by the pool, a family barbecue, our 28th wedding anniversary, Grandpa went to hospital, Oli’s debut on television, Elsa was run over, much ado about nothing and other stories.

Oli with Elsa, both feature in this week's blogpost.
Hello again

It is Sunday 28th August, nearly the end of the month and I haven’t written since Tuesday 16th.   So sorry for the delay which in part is due to laziness but also to so much happening that I never found the right moment.  So I have lots to tell you in this new edition.

The weather has changed for the cooler since I last wrote.  We went through a dreadful heat wave and all we could do was cool off by the pool every afternoon.  That was when Eladio’s Mother was here and even she, who is very sensitive to the cold, complained, although I suspect she didn’t suffer as much as us.  I had to persuade her to take her thick stockings off when it was 40ºc.  However she refused to remove her vest and underskirt.

The abuela and Eladio by the pool which is where we spent most of our time during the heat wave

The week before last was very quiet, the highlights being a trip with Olivia to the Tres Aguas shopping centre where I bought t-shirts I didn’t really need, and dinner out with our friends Juana and Oscar.  We went to an Italian place called Viancco in Zielo, yet another shopping centre, this time in nearby Pozuelo.  It is called “zielo” which sort of means “cielo” (sky or heaven in Spanish) as you can see the skyline of Madrid from where it is located.  The skyline at night from the rooftop dining area of Viancco was spectacular.  The heat had remitted a little but was replaced with heavy winds of warm air which kept blowing our napkins and bread basket away.  Juana who used to work in Nokia and now works in Microsoft and Oscar who works for Siemens Nokia Networks were colleagues of mine when I worked for Nokia.  Apart from talking about our holidays and families, the conversation naturally turned to the events in the industry, such as Google buying Motorola.  We discussed too whether one day Microsoft may buy Nokia which at the moment is a just a rumour.  One thing is for sure, there is never a dull moment in the telecommunications sector and changes and takeovers are the rule of thumb we all live by. 

This was the terrace where we had dinner at Viancco with Juana and Oscar with the view of the Madrid skyline.

If the week was quiet, the weekend was busy.  On Saturday Olivia invited the girls’ friends Ana and Juli for lunch and to spend time with us cooling off by the pool again.

Ana, Rocío and Juli came to be with Oli and cool off by our pool and Juli brought Oddy.

Juli brought with him his lovely Westie dog, Oddy.  We were worried that Norah and Elsa wouldn’t be too happy but after some initial suspicion and sniffing, they couldn’t have been happier with their canine visitor.

Norah and Elsa were delighted with Oddy's company

On Sunday we were expecting Eladio’s sister, Pili, her husband Andrés and their daughter Paula and her boyfriend Pedro as well as Eladio’s brother Isidro, his wife Yoli and their daughter Alicia who is our god daughter.  They had been staying in Madrid in Eladio’s brother’s, José Antonio, house in Madrid where they had come from León to prepare the flat that Paula and Alicia will be living in from September onwards.  For the records it belongs to Pedro Delgado, my cycling friend, and his wife Ludy.  They were also coming to pick up the abuela to take her back to cooler León where she lives with Eladio’s sister Adela.

I was up early that morning as there was a lot to do to make lunch for 13 people.  I also wanted to take an early morning walk as I wouldn’t be able to later as we had a dinner engagement that night.  The walk turned out to be a bit of an adventure.  I couldn’t go on the normal walk as it is the shooting season and I could hear shots being fired at what I imagined were poor scurrying rabbits on our usual path.  So I walked all the way up our steep street and made a left turn at the top.  The walk would have been too short that way so I decided to prolong it by taking a different route back through the nature paths behind some of the houses and that was my pitfall.  I was not sure of my way and there were many paths to choose from.  At one stage I hit upon thick bramble and had to turn back and I still have the marks on my legs to prove it.  From there onwards, totally disoriented, I tried to find my way back to a street and to the top of the hill.  I did finally but the whole adventure took nearly two hours.  Amazingly, when I got home, no one had noticed my absence.  I then had a quick swim to cool off before heading to the local supermarket to get provisions for the big lunch.

Whilst Eladio was preparing the fire for the barbecue and I was laying the table, making the salad, getting the meat out and all the other etceteras, the family arrived early and unannounced.  Luckily my sisters-in-law gave an immediate hand and we were then all able to enjoy being together around the pool for a while before lunch because that was the only place we could be in the prolonged heat wave.

We were to have a barbecue but we couldn’t eat it outside unfortunately because of the heat so we retreated to our air conditioned dining room, just fitting 13 people round our big table. 

The family barbecue we had to have inside because of the heat.

We spent more time by the pool after lunch and it was so hot even the abuela put her feet in the water, despite Pili’s hesitance. You can see from the smile on her face in this group picture just how much she loved it.

Cooling off by the pool with Eladio's family.  Even the abuela put her feet in the water!

You can see more photos of their visit and the time the abuela was with us too, here on Facebook.
All too soon they left us, eager to be back in their beloved hometown León and we were left alone again, to clear up and spend more time by the pool with our books.  I was re-reading an old favourite, A Townlike Alice by Nevil Shute, an English author who wrote in the 50’s.  I cannot recommend the book highly enough.  Set in England, Malaysia and Australia, it tells the story of a young English girl who is caught prisoner in the war in Malaysia and how she and a group of women and children walk aimlessly guarded by Japanese soldiers for years.  It is here that she meets Joe, an Australian.  They seek each other after the war and the reference to a town like Alice refers to how she builds a town like Alice Springs in the settling in the Queensland outback where he is a ringer.  It is a book I have read and reread over the years and was also a favourite of my Mothers which makes it even more special for me.

Often when I read by the pool, I am joined by our dogs. I particularly like this picture Suzy captured on her camera some time last week.
The dogs often like to join me when I am reading by the pool!
Sunday was important for the family barbecue of course but it was more important in my heart for it being our wedding anniversary.  It was actually rather fitting to be with Eladio’s family on that very day as they had all been with us on our wedding day on 21st August 1983. We were celebrating 28 years of happy marriage, something of a rarity these days.  We actually met in the summer of 1980, so have been together for 31 years.

Eladio and I the summer we met in 1980 (camping in Portugal)
 I was a snippet of a girl at the time, just 23 years old and when I met Eladio I could hardly have known that I would be spending the rest of our lives together.  But that was life’s gift to me for which I am forever grateful.

Eladio and I 31 years later, still looking good I hope
 That night we had a dinner engagement with our friends Javier and Ana, who have been our hosts many times in their adopted village of Peñacaballera in Salamanca and, of course, in New York where they are have been living for the last three or four years.  We couldn’t make it to “Peña” this summer, so arranged to have dinner in our around Madrid last Sunday.  Knowing our taste, Javier suggested La Vaca Argentina in Las Rozas where they live when they are in Spain.  We immediately agreed as it is probably our all time favourite.  We hadn’t seen them since Christmas and they were looking as radiant and happy as ever and it was good to catch up.  This year they will be apart as a family, the women staying in Spain and the men in New York, except that Ana will be coming and going and it will be tough for them. Thus we celebrated our wedding anniversary with them, just as we did last year in Peña, when they ordered cakes especially for the occasion.

As we were out to dinner with Javier and Ana, we missed Suzy returning from her holiday in the south of Spain with Gaby, her boyfriend.  I wasn’t to see her until breakfast the next day.  She had been away for two weeks, first with her friends in Almería and then camping with Gaby in Huelva and in the Algarve in Portugal.  She was looking as brown as a berry and radiant as ever.

Suzy and Gaby on holiday, camping in Portugal

Monday was back to normal, with all of us for lunch for a change but little were we to know that it wasn’t to last very long.  We had booked an appointment with my Father’s G.P that afternoon because his chiropodist had noticed his ankles were swollen.  Eladio, being the “doctor” in our family accompanied him.  The appointment was at 16h and it seemed they were taking a long time.  I texted Eladio to find out what was happening only to get an alarming text back saying they were at the emergency ward of the Puerta de Hierro hospital in  Majadahonda.  My Father’s GP had detected arrhythmia which could cause blood clots and had obviously caused the oedema in his ankles; an abnormal retention of liquid.  Only one person could accompany my Father so it was no use going to the hospital which felt very frustrating.  The next news was that he would be staying the night for observation.  By then it was nearly 11 o’clock at night and neither of the men had eaten.  I knew it had to be me who would accompany my Father and I wanted to be with him.  So I made some sandwiches and packed a small bag of my Father’s things and a pillow and cardigan for myself and Suzy drove me to the hospital. I took over from Eladio just before midnight and prepared to spend the night with my Father at the Emergency ward.  And, what a night that was.  My image of a hospital being glamorous from the hospital television series I so love, went out with the wind as I witnessed the reality; the smells, the coughs, the noise in an atmosphere of near chaos.  My Father was not given a bed until 2 in the morning.  Luckily he was given a bed in a corner by a window, not like other people who lay on stretchers in the corridors.  They had run out of pillows but thankfully I was able to offer mine to my very uncomfortable Father that ghastly night we shall both remember for a long time. I had a stiff plastic chair with a low back to sit next to him.  Needless to say neither of us slept a wink and I still have a sore rib cage as I write today from sitting on that uncomfortable chair most of the night.  Things got worse for me as at about 6 in the morning after coming back from getting a bottle of water, I found my chair was missing and had to stand for the next couple of hours.  When I complained to the orderlies, they told me they themselves had needed my chair!  What was I to say?  OK I wasn’t the patient but at the hospital they need the patients to have an escort to look after the patients as there is not enough staff to administer their needs especially during the night.   If that is the case, there could at least be a reclining chair for the escorts.  I was not to find any sympathy in the Emergency ward and would never ever want to spend a night there again and I know I speak for my Father too.  I cannot forgive them for leaving him aged 92 in a wheel chair from 5 in the afternoon until 2 in the morning without giving him even a stretcher to lie on or a morsel of food.  Unbelievable!

Luckily the atmosphere, care and treatment were much better in the room he was moved to the next day.  Eladio took over in the morning and I was able to come home and have a shower and rest before returning after lunch.  My Father had rested too by then and was more comfortable and well looked after.  All my fears about the Spanish public health system became history as I saw how kindly and professionally he was treated by the nurse called Elena and the pregnant doctor Esther as well as by the cheerful orderlies and auxiliary nursing staff.  He was given a big, impeccably clean, single room with his own bathroom and luxury of luxuries, a sofa bed for his escort who was to be Eladio on the second night. Happily that night both slept all the way through. Grandpa underwent all sorts of sophisticated tests including a scan and electrocardiogram before the treatment began.  The doctor told me that he was in very good health for his age and that he was responding well to the treatment, pills to keep the water retention and blood clots away.  In fact he responded so well he was discharged after only 2 nights and we were able to bring him home on Wednesday morning.  It was a huge relief.  He has been a bit unsteady on his feet since the stay in hospital but is quickly getting better.  Furthermore with the new medication, he is now sleeping better than he did before, hardly getting up in the night anymore. The episode was a shock for us all and only served for me to try and look after him even better than before by anticipating his needs rather than waiting for us to tell us if he has a problem; something he never does.  We are so happy he is on the mend and home again with us.  Life can now go back to normal.

Grandpa tucking in at the hospital with The Daily Telegraph at his feet. He recovered very quickly thank goodness.

On Wednesday, whilst Grandpa was in hospital, Olivia made her debut as a presenter on television on the main state channel, TVE1 in the programme she is working for called “La Mañana de la 1”. My Father and I were able to watch it proudly together from his hospital room.  She had prepared a report which she herself presented on screen about modern day hippies; not the most scintillating of subjects, but I didn’t care as I was so proud to see her on TV.  You can see it for yourselves in this link.  Until now she has done voiceovers for many reports but hardly ever actually appeared on the screen which was why this was such an important moment for us all. If you are a mother and are reading this, I am sure you will relate to how proud I feel.

So life was back to normal but not for long.  On Friday morning I had a meeting with Cris (an avid reader of my blogJ) at Zielo to go over our activities in Santander next week.  This time I will be going alone as Eladio will be invigilating the UNED (Open University) exams whilst I’m there.  I will miss him.  

The next shock came in the afternoon. Eladio and I were by the pool when we heard a car coming up the drive.  We then heard a terrible shriek which I knew came from Elsa and it was immediately evident she had been run over.  We rushed to the drive, me without my glasses to find Olivia distraught and Elsa nowhere to be seen.  I wasn’t wearing my glasses so mistook a big stone for Elsa lying on the ground.  I’m ashamed to admit I went a bit hysterical, thinking she was dead or dying.  I quickly found my glasses and then found her sitting frightened between two chairs by the swimming pool.  We picked her up, not sure what had happened to her and Olivia drove us to the vet.  After an initial examination and exhaustive x-rays, it turned out that Elsa had been very lucky.  She had hurt her left paw but nothing was broken.  Valeria, the Argentinian vet, gave her a painkiller and told us to observe her for the next 48 hours to look out for any possible internal damage, such as her bladder.  I can happily tell you now, that, all she has is a bruised limb which will surely heal very soon.  Again, luck was on our side.  

That evening we had another dinner date, this time with our friends and neighbours, Elena and José Luis.  They picked us just after the Elsa incident, when all was calm, and we went to an Italian place in Boadilla, Il Portone, which was new for us.  Apart from telling them about Grandpa and Elsa, most of the evening, we spoke about where we would like to retire, which is Marbella.  This was done, over wonderful Italian dishes such as ham and mango carpaccio and warm prawn salad. As they are lovers and connoisseurs of the area, it was great to get some inside information from them.  As to whether we will ever actually retire there, who knows?  At the moment it is only a dream.  In my dream I want to live in a luxury dwelling, big enough to accommodate the girls and their families for holidays, probably in a secluded set of apartments with a lovely communal garden, right by a nice quiet and clean beach.  I want to have a sea view, but above all, I want to be able to walk outside the gate and cross the road or path straight on to the beach and be able to take morning walks daily before breakfast and at sunset.  I hope that’s not too much to ask.  Meanwhile back to reality.

It was only yesterday, Saturday, when things really returned to normal; i.e. no more nasty surprises like Grandpa’s stay in hospital or Elsa being run over.  It was also one of those Saturdays when we all had lunch together and Gaby, Suzy’s boyfriend, joined us. I cooked, of course, as Olga is still on holiday.  I am dying for her to come back as the house needs a thorough clean, although I am sure she is not.   

Today Sunday, has been another normal lazy Sunday, if not a bit cooler, although as I write from the table by the swimming pool, Suzy and Rocío are bathing in the company of Oli and Juli who came for lunch again today.

As I write too, the dreaded IreneHurricane has hit New York City.  Luckily the hurricane which swept the east coast, causing at least eight deaths and massive power cuts, lost its power as it hit Manhattan and had turned from a hurricane into a tropical storm.  Amazingly in its anticipation all the shops had been closed, public transport was cancelled, 300.000 people were evacuated, provisions for food were scarce and people were ordered to stay at home.  It sounded incredibly alarming so I was a bit worried for Javier and Ignacio.  Therefore it was music to my ears to read a message from them on Facebook to say that nothing drastic had happened and that they were perfectly alright.  So, to quote Javier, Hurricane Irene in NYC was “much ado about nothing”.  Well that is my best effort at translating “mucho ruido y pocas nueces”.  It might well have been much ado about nothing, but I can only imagine the US authorities went to such strict measures after the lessons learned from the terrible devastation caused by the Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans just few years ago that they weren’t taking any chances with New York City, one of the most populated areas in the world.
NYC empty and  much in the news because of Hurricane Irene.

And on that good piece of news, I have come to the end of my tales for this blog post.  

I do hope you all have a great week.  I can only hope that ours is incident free and would just ask for “normality” with no more nasty surprises.

Cheers till next week,

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