Saturday, December 10, 2011

Friends for tea, a family visit, Oli on the TV again, a long bank holiday, Suzy in Santa Pola and the Perfidious Albion

We had a wonderful time with Pili and Andrés last week.  Here we are resting from shopping in La Vaguada

Hello again

I’m sorry for not writing last Sunday but I think you will excuse me when you see just how busy I have been since I last wrote.  

Let me start from where I left off.  It was Sunday 27th November and a special day at home as we were expecting visitors.  Rocío, the girls’ best friend, came to afternoon tea with her parents Esmeralda and Juan Ignacio.  Juan is the doctor at my Father’s hospital who has been looking after his every need since he first fell ill.  To show our gratitude, we invited them to our home and I went all out in making a splendid English cum Spanish platter of food, including Rioja and Port wine and of course the proverbial pot of English Typhoo tea.  The photo below is of us all enjoying the occasion.  Oli is not in the photo as she joined us later. We have so much in common with Rocío’s parents that I trust one day we will be become proper friends.  As you know, most of our “couple” friends live abroad or outside Madrid and the only ones who live near us have just divorced, so we are well in need of a local replacement.  The same goes for my girlfriends; they all live abroad or far away.  That is a bit of a sad reflection actually.

Rocío and her parents came to tea
I mentioned my Father’s health and you may want to know how he is these days.  In reality his life hasn’t changed very much, habit wise, in that he still enjoys his English newspapers, his books and the BBC news as well as his food and chocolates (oh yes he is a chocolate freak!) but of course he is now bound to a wheel chair.  He was making progress with walking again using a zimmer but unfortunately he developed a bed sore on his heel which is now heavily bandaged and on the mend but it means he cannot even try to walk until it gets better and that could take months.  On the bright side, he is recovering the movement in his right hand which had suffered from a small stroke.  He goes to physiotherapy three or four times a week in the afternoons to Juan’s hospital and they are doing a grand job with him.  Olga tells us he is very popular in the hospital because he is such an “English gentleman” and everyone calls him “Charlés” with the accent on the “es”.  His real name is Charles Courtenay Lloyd and he is known as Courtenay but I have given up trying to explain that to anyone in Spain for obvious pronunciation reasons. So I was very happy the other day when he asked me for a pen to do the Daily Telegraph crossword.  He can now write again, hip hip hurray.

The week commencing the 28th November was full of action for me on the work front, the most important day being Thursday 1st, Yoigo’s fifth anniversary.  We celebrated it with the staff and here is a great picture of us all with our hands in the air symbolizing Yoigo’s five incredible years making a bigger and bigger niche for itself in the Spanish market as a low cost mobile operator.  I really hope the next 5 years are just as successful and as much fun as the last.

The Yoigo employees celebrating our 5th anniversary on 1st December.  Can you spot me?
The same day as the anniversary I had an appointment with the urologist for a diagnosis after all the ghastly tests I have had to go through in the last few weeks.  The doctor was young and unsympathetic.  He prescribed me a new medicine called Toviaz 8mg and said it had an  80% success rate but I wouldn’t notice any improvement until after 6 weeks of taking the very expensive tablet (76 euros a box!).  I was very disappointed there was no better cure and had absolutely no faith whatsoever in the new medication which I started on 2nd December.  That was 8 days ago and actually I am already beginning to notice a minor improvement.  I am determined to try it for at least 3 months and then decide whether it really works.  Meanwhile the nights are getting better, you will be glad to read.

The 1st of December was good and bad, like the curate’s egg.  Most important for me that day though was Olivia on the television, which of course I missed.  Thankfully I can see her live reports later on the programme website, La Mañana de la 1.  This time she was reporting on an initiative by a washing machine manufacturer called Beko who had the great idea of building a fake gigantic washing machine in the centre of Madrid for people to donate clothes for Africa. You can see her report here at minute 12.20.  

A picture of Oli and her TV crew when she reported on the giant washing machine for donating clothes.
I missed her again on Monday last (5th December) when she reported on a gruesome homicide case when a schizophrenic son killed his elderly mother who had terminal cancer.  You can see that report on this link at minute 13.40.  Maybe I am glad I missed it. 

Friday, 2nd December was much better and a good end to the week.  I went shopping with Eladio to Carrefour in Centro Oeste and we tried the “scan and go” technique for the first time.  I was curious to see that the devices are made by Motorola, the first telecommunications company I worked for.  It worked ok until we got to the till and here it turned out that our heaving trolley had to be inspected before we could pay and go.  We tried again this week and this time the whole trolley had to be inspected just because one item had not been scanned properly.  Frankly we will not be bothering again until the system works better.  

On Friday too we went to the cinema and out to dinner, as our weekly Friday treat.  Saturdays and Sundays are more difficult as Olga is away and we cannot leave my Father alone at home.  We went to see the new Jane Eyre film by Cary Fukunaga who I had never heard of.   Of course you know I am a great Brontë fan, having lived near Haworth and visited it so often, so I was not going to be critical.  I have seen many versions of this wonderful classic by the only Brontë sister, Charlotte, to reach the age of 40.  But wow, what an imagination these girls had and how I would have loved to know them.  I loved the film from beginning to end.  It enthralled me and brought me right back to the Brontë world of gloom, rain, the Yorkshire moors, the strict, cruel and rigid society, the formal language, large, imposing and dark houses and vintage costumes, all woven into an amazing story, one that remains a classic and has fascinated me always. If you are a Brontë fan, go and see it, you won’t be disappointed.  Here, by the way, is the trailer to whet your appetite.

I loved the new Jane Eyre film

Dinner afterwards was at La Alpargatería as usual and here we enjoyed a meal at our table but annoyingly not at table 7, as we hadn't booked in advance.  Afterwards I made the difficult decision of not going to Hagen Dazs for one of their delicious ice creams.

Saturday was spent at home and was very quiet.  Of note that day Mario, my nephew and Eladio’s sister, Pili’s son,  turned 21.  Imagine!  When he was a little boy he was known as “the little terrorist”.  Today he is a groomed, quiet and charming young man.  Gone are the days when he would wreck my parents-in-law’s curtains or groan to his Mother constantly.

Last Sunday was a highlight in the recounting of this week’s blog post.  First we had a bit of an emergency with my Father’s bed sore which had taken a turn for the worse.  Luckily the Samur (Madrid emergency medical service) came to take care of it but we did have a bit of a scare. Up till then we were changing the bandage ourselves every two days but after last Sunday, the local nurse now comes and it has got much better ever since.  Carmen the nurse also calls my Father “Charlés” but is very efficient.

That day we were having visitors for lunch and we were to be 12 around the table.  Pili and Andrés had come to stay with Paula their daughter who now lives and studies in Madrid with her cousin and our god daughter, Alicia.  They were all coming for lunch and we would be joined by Toño and Dolores and little Nuba; a nice canine visitor for Elsa and Norah.   

Elsa and Norah were delighted to see Nuba again.  This is a photo of the three of them exhausted after our walk

I made a huge English roast beef lunch with all the trimmings and spent most of the morning peeling Montrondo potatoes and the sprouts as well as making a wonderful Yorkshire pudding and gravy.I love Eladios’ family coming to visit.  I have practically no immediate family of my own except for my Father, so they are my substitute family and I love them.  This is a picture of us around the table.

Sunday lunch at home when Pili and her family came, joined by Toño and Dolores
Whilst we were having a siesta and going for a walk with the dogs, Spain was playing Argentina in the Davis Cup final.  We were able to watch the exciting end of the match between Spain’s beloved Rafa Nadal and Argentina’s tough opponent Del Potro.  To our joy and relief Nadal won not just the match but the whole championship.  Thus Spain has now garnered 5 Davis Cups, four of them in the last five years.  Well done Spain and what a great sporting country it has turned into.  That was not the case when I first started living in Spain when it was hardly on the sports’ map.  Today Spain excels in cycling, Formula 1, motor cycling, tennis, football, basketball and brings a lot of joy to a country whose sporting victories are often seen as an antidote to its deep financial crisis. 

The Spanish Davis Cup team who last week garnered Spain's fifth victory in this championship
The next day was Monday 5th and the beginning of a semi holiday week. In Spain the 6th December is a national holiday to celebrate the Spanish constitution and the 8th is also a holiday to commemorate the Immaculate Conception.  Thus Tuesday and Thursday were “days off” and many people will have chosen to take the whole week off, adding three days of their official holiday days, or maybe just the Monday or the Friday, thus enjoying what people call here a “Puente” or bridge.  I chose to work most of the week taking time off now and then.  Suzy chose to take the whole week off as Gaby her boyfriend was obliged to take two weeks of his annual holiday in November.  They went off on Monday to our apartment in Santa Pola near Alicante and we have not heard much from them since they left.  As I write, today Saturday 10th, they are on their way home and we are expecting them any minute.  I know they had good weather as there seemed to be sun and temperatures of up to 21ºc every day.  I have also seen some pictures of the food Gaby cooked for them.  He is rather a good cook which is very fortunate for Suzy.  In this photo, Suzy is enjoying a dish he made called “fabes con almejas” (big white beans with clams).

Suzy in Santa Pola this week enjoying Gaby's cooking.
On Monday while Susana was on her way to Santa Pola, I went to the chiropodist and then to the hairdresser for a haircut and my Father went to the hospital for a check-up with Olga who is his constant companion.  In the afternoon we met up with Pili, Andrés and Paula and Oli joined us as did Pedro, Paula’s boyfriend.  We met in Callao, the centre of Madrid which was a bit of a mistake as it was far too crowded.  The women wanted to shop for clothes in Zara and HM and we bored the men stiff of course, so we had to abandon our retail therapy until the next day when we would meet again at La Vaguada shopping centre.  Eladio took the opportunity to buy some more Christmas lottery tickets for what is called “El Gordo” in Spain and which is probably gives the biggest lottery prize money in the world. He did so in one of Madrid’s most famous streets, Alcalá and I caught the moment on my camera.

Eladio buying Christmas lottery tickets in Madrid this week
Later we were joined by José Antonio and Dolores and we had a great meal together in the centre of town.
Tuesday was the first of the two holidays in the week and we had agreed to meet up with Pili, Andrés, Paula and Alicia at La Vaguada, where this time we were able to enjoy our retail therapy whilst the men had a glass of beer and a cup of coffee in one of the numerous bars in this gigantic shopping centre.  Shopping is fun but can be tiring as you can see in the  photo illustrating this week’s blog.

In the picture I am holding a wonderful dress I bought in Zara.  It is a size M tight figure hugging black sequined evening dress with a low back and elbow length sleeves which is very slightly too tight for me.  Yet I adore it and Pili, Paula and Oli urged me to buy it when they saw it on me.  I will be wearing it on New Year's Eve, that is if I don't put on too much weight around Christmas.

Later we all had lunch together.  Guess where?  La Alpargatería of course.  We were joined again by Paula’s beau, Pedro.  They make such a lovely couple and radiate love just by looking at them.  I should mention here, that Andrés treated us, and not only because he is a great fan of this blog but because it’s worth a mention.  !Gracias Andrés!

Lunch in La Alpargatería in La Vaguada on Monday with Pili, Andrés, Paula, Pedro, Alicia, Oli and Eladio

Pili and Andrés were returning to León later that afternoon, so soon we were to part.  It was great spending so much time with them.  After their visit, life was pretty quiet and there is not much to report about the rest of this week really.  We went on our walks, my Father went to his physiotherapy sessions, Oli went to her TV programme and I worked on and off most of the week.  And suddenly the week came to an end and it was Friday again and Eladio and I did the enormous weekly shopping at Carrefour where we had the bad experience I mentioned earlier with the “scan and go” system.  In the evening, for our weekly Friday treat, we skipped on the cinema as there was no new film that caught our fancy.  We did however go out to dinner, but not, I am sure you are happy to read, to La Alpargatería.  No, we went to De Brasa y Puchero in nearby Boadilla where we had the most scrumptious meal in a long time.  Want to know what we had? Feeling hungry?  Well we had “patatas revolconas” (sort of potato bubble and squeak but with paprika) and fried artichokes for starters.  My second course was a sort of bomb as I chose to eat Fabada (Asturian bean dish) as I am a sucker for Spanish pulses.  Eladio, being the moderate guy he is, chose fish.  

As I am on the topic of restaurants, very soon we will be trying an English one in nearby Pozuelo, recommended to us by Rocío and her parents.  For an English restaurant it is very fittingly called La Pérfida Albión (in English: the Perfidious Albion), a term which took me right back to my history books during the period of the Napoleonic Wars but apparently its origin is far older if you read the entry here in Wikipedia.  In Wikipedia it says Albión comes from the Greek for England.  When I told my philosopher husband, he corrected Wikipedia and told me Albion was Latin for white and referred probably to the white cliffs of Dover and thus England.  My Father tended to agree.  Perfidious, of course, means a lack of faith and I am not getting into a discussion here about England having faith or not having faith.  The name reminded me too of my history lessons with my favourite teacher Miss. Scorer at St. Joseph’s College from whom I learned and will never forget that Napoleon called England a “nation of shopkeepers”.  Be that as it may, I look forward to tasting the restaurant’s fish and chips and I am tied between the Eton Mess and Autumn crumble on their dessert menu.  

As I am writing this, it is half past eight and time for our dinner and I’m hungry again.  But no worries, as I have a wonderful broth (sopa de cocido) waiting for me to have with some of my home made ham croquettes with Eladio and my Father.  So, on that gastronomic note I will leave you until next week.  Ah but before I go I must mention that tonight is the “clásico” or derby between Real Madrid and Barcelona which my Father and Eladio will be watching with great interest.  I am less interested in the play and more interested in the result, so will probably be uploading this blog whilst they are enjoying the two teams playing in the Bernabeu stadium this foggy rainy night in November.  
Tomorrow Christmas will be coming to this house as it’s time to put up our tree and all the Christmassy things I have collected over the years to decorate the house and bring in some of the season’s magic.  I have only begun to prepare for Christmas but the main ingredients are on their way with crackers from The Christmas Cracker shop and Christmas pudding, cranberry sauce and chocolates  from The British Corner Shop.  I could get neither from Marks and Spencers online or because neither will send crackers abroad as they are now considered fireworks!  M+S won't send food abroad and it was very difficult to chocolates from Amazon too.  So let's hope my orders from the two newly discovered online sources will arrive ok.

And that is it my friends for this edition.  I wish you all a great week.  I will have a busy one, I’m sure. 
Until next week, take care.

PS You can see more photos of my recent activities here.

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