Sunday, October 09, 2011

Shopping with the girls, RIP Mrs. Wright, an eccentric Duchess, goodbye Steve Jobs, homemade cooking and other things

Mrs. Wright in 2008, already aged 100 I think.
 Hello again, 

Another week has passed.  We are well into October and the good weather continues. I am still wearing summer clothes believe it or not.   I have been shopping with the girls this week on quite a few occasions (there is nothing like retail therapy to make you happy) but felt reluctant, with this weather, to buy any winter clothes which is what the shops stock at this time of year.    I did buy some lovely shoes and boots but will wait for the weather to turn cooler before wearing or buying any real winter clothes.  On Saturday morning Suzy took me to a little boutique in Majadahonda called Despacio, recommended to her by Rocío, where I found a treasure of a striped long jumper come dress; something I think I can wear in all seasons.  The little shop was a true find and we will be going back I am sure.

Shopping with Suzy at a boutique called Despacio in Majadahonda on Saturday

Shopping took up some of the week, but certainly not all.  I was in and out of the office for various projects I am working on and also had lunch with the new telecoms journalist for El Mundo, Spain’s main right wing newspaper, as well as a meeting over coffee with the girls from my events agency, Quintaesencia, at Zielo.  

And on Wednesday evening I got a phone call, which I knew would bring fatal news.  It was from Susan Wright, our neighbour in Bradford.  Susan’s Mother, Marguerite, Mrs. Wright to me, who would have been 103 in a fortnight’s time, died in her sleep on Monday night and left Susan, a spinster, with whom she has lived all her life and most of it at 5 Heaton Grove, an orphan, aged nearly 80 herself.  As she spoke and half cried to me on the phone, she pronounced that “Mummy was all my world and I cannot live without her”.  They were my parents’ neighbours for nearly 50 years as my Father remarked just now whilst I was ordering flowers for Mrs. Wright’s funeral next Tuesday.  Susan and Marguerite were a slightly eccentric, but loveable genteel daughter and mother with somewhat fiery characters who lived their lives surrounded by beautiful antiques in a Victorian house.  Today it is an oasis of beauty in a street, now completely owned by Asian immigrants but which was once described as millionaires’ row when it was first built by German textile merchants in the 1870 when Bradford was at the heart of the wool industry.  I saw Mrs. Wright for the last time in the summer and as I was saying goodbye, I knew then, that I was saying goodbye forever.  “The Wrights”, as we called them, were wonderful neighbours of my parents, but especially so when my Mother died and my Father was left alone in that big house in Heaton Grove.  They would share the newspapers everyday and my Father would be invited each Sunday for afternoon tea and homemade cake and they would do or finish the Times or Telegraph crosswords together.  My heart goes out to Susan now, who will be left in that great big house surrounded by beauty but absolutely alone.  Meanwhile my thoughts are with her Mother too.  Although she had a seemingly eternal life, her last two years were cruelly afflicted with dementia.  Now she can finally rest in peace.

The Wrights, our loyal neighbours at Heaton Grove for nearly 50 years.

The Wrights, I am sure, would have been fascinated to read in The Times about the marriage of an eccentric Duchess in Spain this week.  I refer to the Duchess of Alba, the woman with the most titles in the world; more than Queen Elizabeth herself, who at the age of 85 got married for the third time this week to a titleless civil servant 24 years her junior.  She did so after huge opposition from her children and the Spanish royal family.  Only after making her future husband who some call a “toy boy”, sign away any rights to her fortune, could the wedding go ahead.  The Duchess of Alba whose full name is Maria del Rosario Cayetana Alfonso Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, was once known for her looks, but after so much plastic surgery has completely ruined any remaining beauty and in my eyes looks like a ridiculous scare crow.  Her lips are so pouted she can hardly speak and her hair looks like a kitchen mop. 

The wedding of the larger than life 85 year old Duchess of Alba was the news of the week in Spain.

The wedding was much in the news here and even Olivia found herself reporting on a topic around it.  The day before the wedding the Duchess’ youngest child and only daughter, Eugenia Martínez de Irujo was reported to have chicken pox and would not be able to attend the wedding.  Most people took this to be an excuse on the part of her daughter who didn’t want to attend the wedding.  As it turned out the story was true and in fact the Duchess’ youngest child had to be admitted to hospital with complications.  And this is the story Olivia reported on from the Gregorio Marañón hospital where she was admitted.  You can see the clip here - minute 01.52.42.

This week in fact, Oli did two live reports, both of which I missed.  On Tuesday she was reporting on the story of a baby who died after a shoot out in a church near Madrid by some mad man.  She hardly ever lets us know these days as if every live reporting were just part of a new routine.  To us, it is still a novelty and we are extremely proud of her.

It's always news for us when Oli reports live on TVE1

Now that Olivia no longer has a double job, we see a lot more of her, in the afternoons and evenings of course.  She starts work at 7 and finishes at 2 and is home in time for lunch. We try also to have dinner all together and go for family walks.  It’s what I call quality family time.  Quality family time is also spent in the early evenings by the pool with Eladio, my Father and the dogs.  This is our quiet reading time.  As I told you I would, I started Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd this week and am riveted by it and far prefer it to Restless the previous book I read by the same author.

We spend most afternoons or evenings reading by the pool these days and are always accompanied by the dogs.  Here is Eladio with  darling Elsa, our labrador puppy, soon to be 5 months old
If Wednesday was the Spanish Duchess’ big day, it was also the day that Apple was to announce what the world thought would be the iPhone 5.  Apple, the masters of communication, had the whole industry waiting and I, for one, was a little disappointed to find out later that they were only launching the so-called iPhone 4S and that the iPhone 5 (whatever that is, a low tier version of the icon phone?) wouldn’t come until 2012.  The supposed big new feature of the iPhone4S is voice recognition.  Hopefully it is a better or easier to use voice recognition technology as my experience with it has never been successful and I long gave up on it ever working properly either in a phone or in my car. My first experience goes back to the early 90’s whilst setting up the Motorola stand at the Spanish SIMO exhibition with the help of a young technician, Alex Good.  The ****** application never worked; it just kept saying “voice not recognized” until I could have thrown it off the stand.  As it was at least 2 in the morning at the time, my patience was at its end.  Alex’ explanation was that it probably preferred a man’s voice and it did.  

Luck would have it that the very next day, the man at the core of the company, Apple, the quickly becoming legendary founder, Steve Jobs, passed away.  He was only 56 and died of that dreadful disease, cancer.  Steve Jobs needs no introduction as he was one of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs or business magnates and heads a league of men of similar stature such as Bill Gates, Mark Zukckerberg or the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergei Brin, who all built iconic companies in Silicon Valley.

 I have read a lot about him since his death on Thursday, as people have paid tribute to him on internet and offline all over the world.  He has been compared to Einstein, to Henry Ford and there have even been jokes about him in heaven offering to make applications.  I agree he was a visionary, he was probably a great man, but he did not invent the pc, nor the mobile phone as you might be lead to think.  In my mind he reinvented them or led a team of people to do so and he made very desirable and beautifully finished products.  Above all he was a master in communication, hardly ever needing to advertise his company’s products.  The media were happy to advertise any news about Apple for free and for that to happen you have to be someone very special or make very special products.  His name was entwined with the company as part of its brand and you cannot imagine Apple without Steve Jobs, nor can you think about Steve Jobs without thinking about the company called Apple.  

Steve Jobs was entwined with Apple as part of its brand.  I wonder how Apple will continue without him.

For me he was the Father of the best mobile phone ever.  To understand him better, to understand this very clever, charismatic entrepreneur, I recommend you watch, if you haven’t already, the Stanford commencement speech made by him in 2005.  I love the bit especially when he says: “Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle”.

On Thursday I was hit unexpectedly by a small brick on my head and my whole world came tumbling down for a day and a night, at least in my mind, and it made me think over a lot of things.  It also made me appreciate even more everything I have.  Then when I read those words by Steve Jobs, I identified with them one hundred percent and they will keep me going even in the darkest times.    In fact on Friday when it was all over, Eladio and I went out to dinner to Tony Romas and I wrote in my check-in at Foursquare, “celebrating life with Eladio”.  In Steve Job’s speech at Stanford, he also said that he had learned to live every day like it was the last day of his life.  I like the idea but won’t be taking it too far if I want to maintain a bit of equilibrium in my life.  In any case, thank you and goodbye Steve Jobs.  The world will never forget you

The day Steve Jobs died, my Father, who has never owned a mobile phone, nor used an iPhone, received his very first email.  It came from a fellow retired teacher at Bradford Grammar School, Raymond Shaw Smith.  Ray, to my Father, Mr. Shaw Smith to me at the time, taught Classics and was married to a woman with a Spanish name, Dolores, who unfortunately died two years ago. They lived on a farm in West Yorkshire which I remember visiting it as a child with my family.  My Father was delighted to get his “first email” and he dictated a long reply to me to send to Raymond. I did so and included a photo of the five of us and sincerely hope he received it and writes back as it cheered my Father up enormously.

We continue to look after my Father with loving care and I am paying particular attention to his meals. I have been making food he especially likes to whet his appetite. In the results of a recent blood test he has lost a lot of iron, so on Saturday I made one of my specialities, Spanish lentil soup but added spinach for some extra iron.  It was followed by homemade croquettes, fruit salad and ice cream.  This is what the lentil soup looked like.  We had it for lunch yesterday and again today when the girls’ friends, Juli and Rocío came for lunch unexpectedly. 

My homemade lentils

As I am finishing my blog, I can hear Suzy, Juli and Rocío emptying the washing up machine in the kitchen, whilst Olivia has made a disappearing trick as usual.  Olivia loves food but is at odds with domesticity.  My Father is sitting next to me in his wheel chair with a cup of tea and biscuits and will soon be reading this entry.  As ever, he is my most loyal reader.

I hope you enjoy this week’s post and I also hope you all have a great week ahead of you. Mine will be quite exciting as I shall be travelling to Lithuania for a meeting in Vilnus on Wednesday.  There will be news about that in next week’s blog post.

Meanwhile, all the best


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