Sunday, May 27, 2012

Oli’s 27th birthday, Suzy “on stage”, Yoigo a trending topic, RIP Jambo, shopping again and this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Oli’s 27th birthday, Suzy “on stage”, Yoigo a trending topic, RIP Jambo, shopping again and this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

My beautiful daugher Olivia was 27 on Tuesday

 Hello again,

As I begin to write, it is Sunday and I am alone in the kitchen and the sun is shining outside as it has been all week.  Eladio is in Madrid invigilating exams at the UNED University, my Father is reading the Sunday papers in the dining room, Oli is asleep after last night’s party, Suzy is at her new flat, the dogs are asleep in the shade and dear Ivanka is cleaning which is music to my ears.

The week has been great in many ways.  I last wrote on Monday, so this week’s blog post begins with Tuesday 22nd May.  The most important event that day, and in fact, the highlight of the week, was Olivia’s 27th birthday.  For the first time ever Suzy was missing and because of that we felt her absence even more strongly.  

That morning, whilst I was making her cake, Eladio was mowing the lawn and I have to insert a picture here of him with his cowboy hat:

My good looking gardener mowing the lawn on Tuesday

I made the usual Victoria sponge cake and used my new M+S heart shaped silicone cake tray.  For the record, I never tried a piece as I am battling with my weight and sticking as much as possible to the Dukan diet.  I was told it was delicious.  There was so much left over, Olivia took it to work the next day for her colleagues to enjoy.

The heart shaped cake I made for Oli for her birthday

We had a family lunch, where, apart from the cake, there were of course presents and birthday cards as there are at all the birthday celebrations in our house.  We were joined by Olivia’s friend, Dave, for lunch who my Father thought was her boyfriend which made us all laugh, as he is not. You can see more photos of her birthday here.

A lovely photo of Oli with her Father on her birthday

In the afternoon Eladio and I made our way to Madrid to visit his brother José Antonio, who had been operated on Monday at the Clínica San Francisco de Asis.  Eladio was with our sister-in-law Dolores, the day before during his operation which took some 3 or 4 hours.  The poor chap reacts badly to the general anesthetic and was in a poor state that night.  The next day, however, when we visited him in the afternoon, he was recovering well.  On Thursday he was discharged and I am sure he is far happier to be at home, away from the white walls of the clinic. Funnily enough it was at the Clínica San Francisco de Asis that both our girls were born. So it felt nostalgic to be visiting it for the first time on Olivia’s birthday as the last time I had been there was precisely when she was born and the visit brought back many memories.

The Clínica San Francisco de Asis in Madrid where our girls were born and where José Antonio was operated this week.  More sadly it was where "Pitina" died on Tuesday.

 On a sadder note, that morning at the same hospital, “Pitina”, the 62 year old wife of Florentino Pérez, the Real Madrid Club President and chairman of ACS, Yoigo’s shareholder in Spain, died suddenly of a heart attack.  Later I was asked to draft a letter of condolence, something I found hard to do, as in a way it was a first for me and of course the occasion was very sad.  They had been a happy couple for some 42 years and everyone says “Pitina” was the driving force behind this very public and famous figure in Spain.  I can hardly begin to imagine his sadness and the void this loss will bring to his personal life. RIP “Pitina”. Her real name was María de los Angeles Sandoval but was always called affectionately “Pitina”. 

Sadly "Pitina" died this week of a heart attack

On Wednesday I would have loved to be in Barcelona at my older daughter Susana’s side but that couldn’t be.  Suzy has been working for the American food giant, Aramark, for a year now as a dietician.  Recently she was asked to form part of a group that would be helping to implement an important HR project for the company’s employees in Spain.  I have to add this was because she is one of the few employees who know English well.  So there she was in Barcelona this week for the event to launch the programme.  But she was also to do one of the presentations and this was a first for her, her first company presentation and her first time “on stage” so to speak. I well remember being with Susana in Barcelona some years ago where she joined me, for the ride, at the Mobile World Congress.  She got her first taste there of the corporate world and commented that she would probably never be part of it.  Well she was proved wrong on Wednesday when her bosses and colleagues congratulated her on her “performance”.  All I can say is “well done Suzy”.  I am delighted at the work ethic instilled in both our girls and how diligent they both are about their jobs.  This is a pretty poor picture of Susana presenting on Wednesday to the management of Aramark Spain, but it’s all I’ve got, so here it is to record that wonderful moment for Suzy.

Suzy "on stage" in Barcelona, making a presentation at a conference organised by her company, Aramark.

Thursday was the busiest day of the week.  It was the day Yoigo was launching two revolutionary tariffs on the Spanish market.  As Yoigo is different and the tariffs are different, so too was the PR and I broke the rules in how I usually communicate.  In the end I’m not sure it was the right way to go, but it did bring some good results in the press, albeit only online but even more so, in the ever increasingly powerful social media.   We were launching the “tarifa infinita” (for 30 euros a month, unlimited nationwide calls plus 1giga of internet) as well as an “ATAN” (any time any network) tariff at 2 cents per minute plus 1giga of internet.  Communication was limited to Twitter and Facebook and our other social media pages and very soon the net was buzzing with the news.  Journalists called me incredulous at the news and impressed for the first time in while.  As I was not going to get much offline news with this strategy, my main objective that day was for Yoigo to be a “trending topic” on Twitter.  Unfortunately only the geeks around me know what that is.  So, if you don’t either, let me explain.  Trending topics, are exactly what the name says, topics that are a trend, or rather subjects or news that are most being talked about or tweeted on Twitter at that moment, either in a specific country, town or worldwide.  I was delighted to see that at about mid morning, I had reached my goal and Yoigo was a trending topic in the whole of Spain. 

Yoigo was trending topic on Twitter on Thursday!

The story repeated itself in the afternoon when we were again a trending topic as the conversation about our new tariffs grew bigger and bigger with most people reacting really favourably. 

There is the evidence to show that Yoigo was trending topic on Thursday on Twitter!

This was the video on our You Tube channel we texted to one million of our customers to tell them about the new tariff.  I wonder whether you like it.

Whilst Yoigo was being talked about on the net, I was happy to sit down to lunch outside with the family.  We were joined by the girls.  I hadn’t seen Susana for more than a week, so it was great to see her after her event in Barcelona.  She was happy but tired, but also worried about Jambo, her little kitten who was ill.  

Tired of social media and my efforts to get Yoigo to become a trending topic on Twitter, I suggested to Eladio in the late afternoon that we go and visit the brand new shopping centre in nearby Las Rozas, Gran Plaza 2. It had opened last month but we had never found the moment to go. I am not a great fan of shopping centres as I often find them too big and rather overwhelming.  However I was impressed with this one, perhaps the most luxurious I have ever seen in Spain.  It was funny to find it full, despite the crisis but the shopkeepers who I asked confirmed that it was very popular.  We took the time to buy Eladio 5 pairs of shorts from Zara, Pedro del Hierro and a small boutique, as he is forever spoiling the ones he has with bleach marks or stains from the garden.

At Gran Plaza 2, the new shopping centre I visited with Eladio on Thursday

Friday started off as a very quiet day until I received a phone call from Susana.  She called to tell me that little Jambo had died that night.  I was devastated for her and very sad to receive the news.  Jambo had not been well and she had taken him to the vet the day before.  He was very tiny, rather dehydrated and apparently suffering from a virus but he seemed cheerful enough and was apparently eating.  Later a friend told me that small kittens have a very high mortality rate.  As soon as I heard the news I rushed to Suzy’s flat to be at her side, to comfort her and also to clean all the signs of little Jambo’s existence in her flat.  Oli joined us very soon and took the news badly of course.  We all love animals in this household and had taken to Jambo who had given us much joy in his short life.  This is an album dedicated to the memory of the little ginger kitten we were so sorry to lose on Friday.  RIP Jambo, we loved you.

RIP little Jambo

Determined to cheer the girls up, they came home for a quiet family lunch and in the afternoon I took them to Gran Plaza 2 for some much needed retail therapy.  We had a grand time in Zara, H+M and other clothes shops, buying lots of inexpensive summer clothes.  My favourite are these floral printed jeans from Zara which of course on me look nothing like they do on the model in the photo! 

My new floral print Zara jeans, love them.

That evening we went out together for dinner and took the girls’ friend Rocío with us.  We went to the Mercado San Antón where I had to taste the menu for the party we will be holding there.  It was very full of people, many of them tourists and the night was hot and balmy.  The dinner was great but the place a little too loud for my liking.  As we left, I took a photo of Eladio in his new Pedro del Hierro yellow shorts sitting on one of the giant coloured pigs at the entrance.  It was a nice end to a day that started off so sadly.

Eladio at the Mercado San Antón on Friday night.

Yesterday Saturday was a great day.  I had the morning to myself as both girls were at Suzy’s flat, which seems to be the norm these days.  Also Eladio, very unusually, was away too.  He was invigilating for the UNED University exams and wouldn’t be home until the evening.  However, he surprised us by coming home for lunch.  He had thought he would be there the whole day but in the end it was only for the morning.  Meanwhile, I read the papers by the pool with my coffee and then decided to go and visit two of my local boutiques in search of more inexpensive summer clothing.  I found two pairs of baggy summer trousers, a long green skirt and some red espadrilles which I will probably be wearing most of the summer.  

Eladio and I spent the afternoon reading by the pool with the girls sunbathing in the garden. Later we went for our walk and after dinner retired early to watch the Eurovision Song Contest.  It’s not an event I am extremely fond of but something of a tradition to watch since I was a child.  Half awake, half asleep I only watched and heard some of the songs.  As soon as I saw the group of Russian grandmothers in their 70s  appear, I woke up completely and was bowled over by their performance which was quite unique.  They started off in their typical peasant dress with a classical Russian folk song which soon turned into a modern song called “Party for Everyone”.

The Russian babushki (grandmothers) who came second in the Eurovision Song Contest yesterday

Falling asleep early I missed the part I like best, the voting and only found out the results this morning.  Sweden had won and Russia came second.  Loreen representing the Scandinavian country with the song “Euphoria” was the winner and her song was good.  However I would have wanted the Russian group from a village called Buranovo in the Udmart Republic in the Urals to win.  In any case they are now world famous.  What was your favourite entry I wonder?

Loreen from Sweden, the winner of this year's Eurovision Song Contest

For the records here are the results for all the countries participating.  As the event was held in Baku, the capital of that rather corrupt ex Soviet republic, Azerbajan, I was not surprised to hear that their neighbouring country and arch enemy Armenia had decided not to participate.  Next year, of course, it will be held in Sweden where of course there will be no political repercussion as there has been this year because of the nature of the host country.

The results of this year's Eurovision Song Contest.  Judge for yourselves.  My favourite was Russia

And now my friends, I have reached the end of this week’s entry.  This afternoon Olivia will be travelling again to Valencia to cover the news there this week for the TVE programme she works for, La Mañana de la 1.  We will miss her but of course, love watching her on the TV.  To quote my Father in his birthday card to her on Tuesday, “her live appearances make our day”. 

I look forward to a quiet week, no trips, no dinners out but who knows what else?  Well, of course, you will find that out in next week’s blog post.  Meanwhile, all the best to you all.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Hello Jambo, Oli reporting from Valencia, 15th May, Bulgarian cooking, this week’s online purchases, to Montrondo and Galicia and back and other stories.

Eladio and I in Bueu this weekend

Hello again

It’s Monday and you will have realised I didn’t write yesterday but that was because we were away for the weekend and a fabulous weekend it was as you will hear later.
On Monday we said hello to Jambo.  Jambo is Suzy’s new kitten and has been given the Tanzanian Swahili name actually meaning “hello”.

Little Jambo, Suzy's new kitten

So, yes hello Jambo.  Suzy rescued the tiny ginger kitten on Sunday evening as she was driving home.  It was in the middle of the road and in immediate danger of being run over.  Suzy is very like her Father Eladio in that she loves animals so of course she had to rescue it and give it a home.  The tiny little creature soon adapted to her cozy new flat and has been receiving visits all week.  Jambo also came to visit us or rather was left with us as Suzy went to give a lesson to San last Tuesday, 15th May. 

Suzy and Jambo

I suspect that we will be hosting Jambo many times.  In fact this week Suzy is in Barcelona where she will be giving an important presentation to the management of her company, Aramark and actually Olivia is in charge of looking after Jambo while she is away. We will probably have the pleasure of the little creature’s company once again and will have to be careful to keep it far away and out of the danger of our frisky and over enthusiastic dogs Norah and Elsa who wouldn’t think twice about taking a mouthful of Jambo. 

Jambo came to visit on 15th May, a bank holiday

Whilst Jambo was adapting to life with Suzy, Olivia was in Valencia reporting for the morning programme she works for; La mañana de la 1.  She was to be live on the screen two or three times a day throughout the week. 

Olil reporting for TVE from Valencia this week

 Many of the cases she reported on were court cases and by now she seems to be well versed in how these work as well as familiar with the jargon. 

Oli interviewing a witness in a court case in Valencia this week

Although she was based in the city of Valencia, she travelled with her team all over the area, including Murcia, Alicante and Castellón. Her favourite report was about a Counsellor called Olga Camps from Burgassot. The counsellor became famous overnight in Spain when the town hall held an important voting session in the hospital where she gave birth as her vote was considered important to improve a local plan. 

Oli with the counsellor whose story hit the news this week

Tuesday was 15th May, an emblematic day in many ways.  First the 15th May is a holiday in Madrid to celebrate the capital’s patron saint, San Isidro.  It is also, as I wrote last week, Eladio’s youngest brother’s birthday who is called Isidro as most boys are in Spain, who are born on that day.  For me the 15th May is tinged with sadness, as it is the day my dear brother George died in 2001, aged only 46.  What can I say, except that life has never been the same and that we miss him but carry him always in our hearts and here I speak for my Father and myself.  He was a beautiful boy as you will appreciate in this photo I treasure of the two of us when were about 18 and 20 years old.

George and I when we were young

The 15th May was also the anniversary of the so-called Spanish revolution, the beginning of demonstrations of discontented young people, symbolized by the taking over of Spain’s most famous square, the Puerta del Sol.

For us it was a quiet day at home and I must say it was very warm, in fact the whole week until the weekend seemed like the middle of the summer and we spent a lot of our time outside. 

Me by the pool on 15th May

Here I am sitting by the pool in the late afternoon.  There are more photos of 15th May here in this file you can access in this link.  All in all it was a memorable day as you will now understand.

Last week we had a taste of Bulgarian cooking thanks to Ivanka. I remembered dishes my Mother and Aunt used to make and asked her whether she could cook them.  Of course she could. My favourite is a cold cucumber soup made with natural yoghurt, cucumber and garlic, called Tarator and you drink it like you would gazpacho.  It is so refreshing and of course has hardly any calories.

This is what tarator looks like

Ivanka also made “sarmi” which my Mother used to call “gloupsi” and is a dish of stuffed cabbage leaves.  The filling is made with minced meat, rice and onion.  When Ivanka is cooking in the kitchen, it reminds me of when my Mother used to cook and gives me a good homely feeling.  I know she can also make “baklava” but I’ve told her to leave that till Christmas as it so fattening.  

This week some of my online orders arrived.  The first to arrive was a parcel from Amazon with two Jubilee cushions.  They are now gracing our sofa in the bedroom and are my contribution to the Diamond Jubilee fever.

My jubilee cushions which came from Amazon this week

Just before we went away for the weekend, the parcel with more soft yellow towels from Marks and Spencer’s arrived.  You probably didn’t know, but now you do, that I am something of a towel freak, to Eladio’s despair of course. 

The lovely yellow towels which came from M+S online this week

The last order arrived in our absence at the weekend and I was delighted to open the parcel from Emma Bridgewater when we got back on Sunday.  I had ordered more pottery to replace some of the pieces Olga had broken and others that Suzy had taken to her new flat.  Here you can see how I enjoyed a cup of coffee this morning with my new polka dot cup and saucer with a matching napkin.  Coffee tastes even better if the cup is attractive.

Coffee in Emma Bridgewater cups always tastes better

On Thursday Eladio and I left for Montrondo where we were to join José Antonio and Dolores for the weekend and also to be there on Sunday for this year’s family gathering in honour of Antonio, my Father in law who passed away 7 years ago on 20th May.

The weather was lovely but got much cooler as we approached the mountains.  We were there in good time to make a simple but delicious dinner after which we went for a walk to nearby Murias de Paredes and back.

In the morning, we packed our bags again as the four of us were leaving for Galicia.  However before going, I took a short walk in the village to take a few photos with my lovely Samsung Galaxy S2 to capture Montrondo at its best in the middle of May.

Montrondo is lovely at this time of year

We were going to Galicia, to the “Rías Bajas” on a sort of personal site inspection trip to look for accommodation for our holiday this year and José Antonio and Dolores, who is from Lugo in Galicia, were coming along for the ride. 

The Rias Bajas in Galicia in north west Spain, one of the most beautiful parts of the country

Our destination was the small fishing town of Bueu where we were to go and look at a flat belonging to a friend to see if we wanted to stay there in the summer.  We had booked rooms at one of the three modest hotels in Bueu and our choice was the Hotel Loureiro on the small beach of the same name. 

The view of the Ría de Pontevedra from the dining room at the Hotel Loureiro in Bueu

We arrived at about 14.30h just in time for lunch and decided to try the seafood on offer at the restaurant at the hotel.  We were not disappointed.  The zamburiñas (small scallops) were out of this world.

The zamburiñas (small scallops) were delicious
In need of stretching our legs and eager to explore Bueu, we walked into the small town centre which is dominated by the fishing port.  Here we walked the length of the sea front and back and then returned for a siesta.

José Antonio, Dolores and Eladio at Bueu

 I myself skipped on the siesta and went in search of the beach the other side of our hotel.  I was delighted to find it was the Porto Maior beach we had been to with my Father in 2007. 

The Porto Maior beach just outside Bueu

Later we went to visit my friend’s flat in the centre of the town, after which we got into the car to visit nearby Sanxenxo.  Sanxenxo is perhaps the area’s most famous town and beach and is where Spain’s Prime Minister spends his summer holiday.  I had only been once before and only briefly by car so did not recall it very well.  I was bowled over by the wonderful Silgar beach and seafront.  There and then we decided that at least a part of our holiday would be spent there.  Sanxenxo, if you haven’t been, is a sort of min Santander or San Sebastián with the sea front being an integral part of the small town.  We would be back the next day to further search for accommodation.

The Silgar beach in Sanxenxo

From Sanxenxo we made our way to nearby Poio in search of a recommended restaurant, the Casa Solla.  Casa Solla, an old Galician stone house, converted into an haute cuisine restaurant with a Michelin star, turned out to be an amazing gastronomical experience with lots of tasty appetizers like you get at the finest restaurants in Spain, such as Arzak in San Sebastian.  We expected an enormous bill but were pleasantly surprised when we were presented with a most reasonable bill.

It was fine dining at Casa Solla in Poio

With very happy stomachs we returned to our modest hotel and got a much better night’s sleep than I had expected.  The next morning we rose to a fantastic view of the Ria de Pontevedra and saw that it had rained heavily until early morning.  The weather forecast for the weekend was dreadful but in the end it hardly rained at all and the sun was out most of the time, to our delight of course as we had gone equipped with umbrellas and all sorts of rain gear that wasn’t necessary in the end.

Breakfast was simple but delicious.  José Antonio and I enjoyed two of these amazing croissants whilst Eladio and Dolores preferred toast.

The croissants at the hotel in Bueu were fantastic

We checked out bright and early and by 10 were in Sanxenxo.  We went into an estate agency to enquire about summer rentals only to be advised that it was much cheaper to book rooms at a hotel if we were only two people.  Then I remembered Eladio’s sister, Pili and her husband, Andrés, had stayed at a hotel there the year before, so texted them to get the name.  It was the Hotel Rotilio right by the harbor with views of the port and the Silgar beach.  We loved the rooms on sight, but thought we would go and see the more luxurious Hotel Sanxenxo first before deciding.

The hotel Rotilio where we will be staying in the summer in Sanxenxo

In the end we booked 7 nights at the Rotilio and decided over a cup of coffee at a café in nearby Portonovo that the other week would be spent in Asturias.  So there and then I rang Montse, the owner of La Casona de la Paca in delightful Cudillero ( similar to Robin Hood’s Bay) and booked the “special room” for 5 nights to be spent straight after our stay in Sanxenxo. 

The Casona de la Paca hotel in Cudillero, Asturias, where we will be staying in the summer after Sanxenxo

Delighted with our arrangements, we decided to have lunch at nearby O Grove, a rather fashionable little town on the seafront just across the way from the even more fashionable tiny island of La Toja.  For Eladio and I, it was our third time at the much recommended Posada del Mar where we had been with my Father on previous visits to Galicia.  Here we feasted on “caldo Gallego” (local broth) and Dolores and I enjoyed zamburiña pie.

Eladio and I in O Grove by La Toja island on Saturday

After lunch it was time to head back to Montrondo, some 500km away, so a long drive.  This time we took the motorway via Santiago, La Coruña and Lugo and actually were “home” by 8.30.  I hardly had an appetite for dinner after so much food in Galicia and whilst Eladio and José Antonio were watching Chelsea play Bayern Munich in the Champions League final, Dolores and I went for a much needed walk to Murias and back.

We came home to see the English beat the Germans, again in a penalty shoot out and went to bed exhausted.

The next day we were up early and I spent a good part of the morning making lentils as a first course for the family lunch. The rest of Eladio’s brothers and sisters and his Mother arrived at about midday and 12.30h had us at the village church for the memorial mass for Antonio, the family patriarch.

Just before the mass started Alejandro, one of Eladio’s brothers, went up to the belfry and started ringing the bells. He was shortly joined by Eladio and the two had a grand time as you can in the picture.  I think they were remembering their past and how they used to love ringing the bells when they were boys.

Eladio and Alejandro who enjoyed ringing the bells at the church in Montrondo on Sunday

After a short and boring mass in the very cold church, we visited the cemetery to pay our respects at Antonio’s grave after which we all walked back to the house and started preparations for the family lunch.  Everyone had brought something and we all shared our contributions.  Best was Adela’s cocido.  We were 12, just the adults as the younger generation was not able to come this year.  Once again I realised that thanks to Antonio, the family was reunited and remembered my smiling and somewhat cantankerous father in law with great fondness.

You can see all the photos of our trip to Montrondo and Galicia here

It was too cold to enjoy being outside so soon we all said our goodbyes and got into our cars to make the journey home.  Eladio and I were home by 8.30 and glad to find the house nice and clean and looked after by Ivanka.  My Father was pleased to see us and I had brought him some typical Spanish biscuits made with almonds for him to enjoy with his tea in the afternoon.
The girls were not there, Suzy being at her new flat and Olivia out to the cinema.  We did see her briefly though before we turned in.  I would have liked to see Susana before she left for Barcelona this morning at the crack of dawn for her important event in Barcelona which I think takes place on Wednesday. Tomorrow will be Olivia’s 27th birthday and for the first time ever, I think, Suzy will be missing.  

As I finish this week’s post, just a few words to tell you that José Antonio is having an operation right now in the hospital in Madrid where both my girls were born.  Eladio is at the hospital and we are waiting for news. Meanwhile, I wish him lots of luck and a speedy recovery. 
On that note my friends, I leave you until next week.
All the best/Masha

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Summer is here, shopping online at M+S, the Mercado de San Antón, Elsa’s first birthday, “panem et circenses”, my film of the week, the first bathe of the season and lots of other things.

Sunday 13th May 2012

Summer is here, shopping online at M+S, the Mercado de San Antón, Elsa’s first birthday, “panem et circenses”, my film of the week, the first bathe of the season and lots of other things.

On Saturday I took my first bathe of the season

It is Sunday again so hello everyone and welcome to this week’s blog post.  I have lots to tell you.

The best thing about this week is that summer has come, or rather the good weather.  We have had over 30ºc temperature since Wednesday and loving being outside and wearing summer clothing.  I just hope it lasts.  

On Monday we all woke up to the news that François Hollande was France’s new President elect.  He will be the first socialist president for 17 years since Mitterand.  The news is buzzing with how he will get along with Germany’s “iron lady”, Angela Merkel who together with France’s outgoing Sarkozy were called “Mercozy” as Europe’s financial strategy in the current crisis was truly in their hands.  Only time will tell.

François Hollande, France's new socialist President

On Monday as I drove a Jaguar for the first time (no not mine, just a substitute car whilst mine is being serviced), coming back from the office, I heard on the radio that Spain’s third bank, Bankia, previously known as Caja Madrid, was to be bailed out by the Government.  Caja Madrid has been my bank since I came to Spain and has some 10 million customers, so I was doubly hit.  The government has since nationalized this bank or “caja” whose customers tend not to be the richest.  Thousands of millions of euros have been injected and there is public outcry at the enormous sums whilst cuts are being made in education and the health system.  For the moment I will give a vote of confidence to Rajoy, Spain’s Prime Minister, who is doing a good but difficult job to get Spain back on the right route and will not remove my account from the bank I have always trusted.  Eladio says not to worry as the state guarantees any bank account with up to 100.000 euros.  Rodrigo Rato, the ex head of the IMF and previous minister of finance under Aznar, announced his resignation on Tuesday as Bankia’s president and has been much criticized too.

Bankia, formerly Caja Madrid, has been my bank ever since I came to Spain

Whilst Rodrigo Rato was probably undergoing the worst day of his professional life, my life was as normal as usual.  I returned home to find my latest order from M+S had arrived.  I love shopping online at M+S but also on Amazon and Emma Bridgewater.  So what I had I bought you might be interested to know?  I had ordered some kitchen utensils and of course clothes.  I can never resist M+S’ knitwear.  As you know, I am a sucker for stripes, so invested in this lovely long jumper come dress which I was able to wear on Monday when it was still cool.

The striped jumper come dress I purchased online from M+S

I also invested in a basic light blue pullover which I also managed to wear on Tuesday before the heat came on Wednesday.

The blue pullover I also bought online from M+S and which arrived this week

Tuesday saw me again at the office, for the weekly management team meeting and then I rushed to Madrid for a lunch meeting with my two agencies: QuintaEsencia, my events agency and Ketchum, my PR agency.  We had lunch at one of my favourites in town, Castellana DF which I think makes the best hamburger in town.  Here we discussed the details of this summer’s events.

I came home to bad news as Eladio was at the hospital with Olivia.  He had been mowing the lawn without glasses on and something got in his eye.  It began to bleed and looked as though he had been in a boxing match.  I spent the rest of the afternoon with him whilst he had a scan and other tests. Thankfully he had done no real damage as whatever had penetrated the eye got no further than the white part.  If it had hit the pupil or iris, he might well have been blinded. 

That night Olga came to get her things and there was a moment of tension when she coincided with her “usurper” Ivanka.  Olga was quite cheerful with plans to put forward her trip to Paraguay to see her parents after 5 years or more of absence and had even found a new job for when she comes back.  So we parted amicably.  Ivanka has now been with us for 10 days and so far we are delighted.  She certainly knows how to run a house and her cooking is out of this world.  I mean just look at this dish she made with chickpeas in the photo below.  She has also made marvelous chicken legs in vegetable sauce, ribs with potatoes and a fantastic homemade gazpacho.  I am now looking forward to tasting some of the dishes from her native Bulgaria.

Ivanka's amazing chickpea stew

Wednesday saw me in the centre of Madrid in the Chueca area.  I was meeting Bea there to site inspect the lovely San Antón market, a traditional market which has now been renovated and is a hot spot for tourists and also local people, with its upstairs terrace and bars and restaurant.  I was enamoured with the place at first sight and decided to purchase some of the first class produce to bring home for lunch; excellent cold cuts, fruit and amazing fillet steak which you can actually buy and take up to the restaurant to have it grilled.

Octavio cut me some superb ham from his stall and told me about the story of the renovation.  Customer service from him was the best.  I gave him my card and told him I would write about the market in my blog and of course I kept my word.

Octavio cutting ham for me at the "upmarket" San Antón market in downtown Madrid

I came home to join the family for lunch and whilst I had been away Eladio and Ivanka had spring cleaned the kitchen terrace furniture and the table was laid outside.  This was to be our first lunch of the season outside where we have been taking our meals ever since.

Our first lunch of the season in our "outdoor dining room"

Wednesday was dear Elsa’s first birthday, our beautiful golden Labrador.  She was born on 9th May one year ago and came to live with us last July.  Since then she has become Norah our 4 year old beagle’s constant companion and friend come daughter and we adore her as we do Norah.  They are our companions on our daily walk and bring so much joy to the family and I suppose one day will be in a way surrogate replacements of our real daughters. So happy birthday dear Elsa.  

Elsa has grown enormously since her arrival.  Then, aged just over 3 months she was much smaller than Norah our beagle, but today she is nearly 3 times bigger.

Elsa the day she arrived in July 2011 with Norah under the table.  She was much smaller than Norah then but today is probably 3 times bigger.

This is a photo I took of her on Monday when she was mournfully looking in the window hoping to be let inside which wasn’t going to happen as it was wet and I didn’t want her dirty paws to sully Ivanka’s diligent cleaning!  But of course, Elsa did not understand!

Elsa who was 1 years old this week

Wednesday was a fiesta for Spanish football with two Spanish teams playing the final of the Europa League cup in Bucharest.  Atlético de Madrid beat Athletic de Bilbao with a resounding 3-0 score.  None less than 65 planes arrived from Bilbao and Madrid to witness the important match. The next day, Madrid saw huge celebrations of the red and white coloured team driving through the capital on an open top bus.  If Spain excels at something it is football and indeed most sports, something which is a great antidote to the crisis of course.  Wasn’t it the Romans who said “bread and circuses” a strategy to distract the people from criticizing politics? “Panem et circenses” (or bread and games) was a sort of drug to superficially appease people.  Today’s drug, of course is pretty much the same with football being the modern day “circus”.

Atlético de Madrid celebrating their victory in the streets of the city this week

The next day Olivia spent most of the morning at Madrid Barajas’ airport to report live on the arrival of the winning team.  No media were allowed near the players which was, somewhat, frustrating for Olivia and her journalist colleagues.  Unfortunately we did not see her as she had no time to warn us.  However I watched it later here on the programme video.  You can see it here too, if you fast forward to 12.18h and 12.41h.  For the records Olivia was wearing my new M+S striped dress and apparently boiled in it throughout!

Friday saw me at the office again.  In fact I went in every morning this week except for Wednesday when I went to Madrid. Friday also saw me return to the Dukan diet.  I am ashamed to admit I have put on 3 kilos since February and this has to be sorted out so no dinners out this weekend or anymore homemade birthday cake for a while I’m afraid.  

Upon a recommendation from my dearest friend Sandie, I bought tickets online to see a film called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  We saw it at our usual cinema in Equinoccio and enjoyed the story and setting in Jaipur in India, recognizing many of the city’s landmarks.  It is about a group of retired English people who decide to retire to less expensive and colourful India.  They expected luxury but the Marigold Hotel turned out to be a shambles.  It is really about how this bunch of people reacts to the circumstances, each in their own way.  This delightful film stars actresses like Judie Dench and Maggie Smith, both probably now in their 80’s but just as good as in their prime.  If you want to know more, here is the link to the trailer. We came home to a cold dinner on the terrace accompanied by Norah and Elsa and it felt like midsummer.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a delightful film.

On Saturday we did more spring cleaning outside, helped by Ivanka.  José Antonio and Dolores were coming for lunch and it was to be a lovely family affair with only Olivia missing.  Suzy, whom I hadn’t seen for a whole week, joined us, lowering, thankfully, the average age around the table.  Here is a photo of the lunch in what I call our “outside dining room”, the terrace outside the kitchen.

Lunch outside on Saturday with José Antonio and Dolores

Lunch was a simple meal, the main dish being a household favourite: bitki.  Bitki is a word used in my family and is the Russian name for something similar to beef burgers, the recipe of which I inherited from my Mother.  Here are the “bitki” before I grilled them.

I made  "bitki" for lunch on Saturday

The afternoon was spent around the pool which Eladio and José Antonio got ready, by taking off the winter cover and cleaning the bottom, so that Suzy and I could take our first bathe of the season.  Suzy was the first to take the plunge and I was in next.  The photo illustrating this week’s blog is of that freezing moment.  Luckily it was so hot the cold on my skin was soon just a tinkling sensation.

Eladio and his beloved brother José Antonio getting the pool ready for our first bathe

Later we went for a walk with the dogs and came home, once again, to a cold dinner, prepared by dear Ivanka.  In all a great day was had by all.  

It was a great day for us, a sort of start for the summer, but in a way, it was tinged with sadness for me.  A school friend, Mary D. who is not very close to me, but who has been part of all the St. Joseph’s College reunions, lost her student son Paul last week and I was alerted to the fact by another school friend Maureen B on Saturday morning whilst I was preparing food for the family lunch.   I met Mary D and other former fellow pupils for the first time since we left school in the 70’s in 2008, as middle aged women. We were still looking good as you can see in the picture taken of a group of us at the Centenary celebration of our school, St. Joseph’s College in Bradford, West Yorkshire (UK).  Mary D is the on the far right of the bottom row.

The SJC centenary reunion in 2008.  Mary D, who lost her son Paul this week, is far right on the bottom row.  My heart goes out to her.

I felt so sorry for poor Mary and rather frustrated as how to send her my condolences.  In the end I found her on Facebook and opted to friend her and send a message of condolence.  The poor woman has not replied but accepted my friendship so must have seen my message.  Life for her from now onwards will never be the same and my heart goes out to her.  Dear Mary, all I can say is how terribly sorry I am for you as a shiver goes down my spine and that you are in my thoughts.   

Today is Sunday and of course I have reached the end of my tales of this week.  The sun is still shining and it continues to be hot, although rain threatens.  However, the temperatures will not really go down now until the end of the summer. The garden is looking great.  The plum tree promises a bigger harvest then ever of the unique sweet green fruit which other years never filled more than one small basket.  The same goes for our two small peach trees.  But most glorious of all are the roses.  I have filled a vase of pink roses for my Father’s room, another vase of different coloured roses for the “outdoor dining room” table as well as a vase of my favourites; miniature white roses, which now grace my desk.

Miniature white roses gracing my desk at home

Suzy will join us again for lunch and will probably sunbathe afterwards.  I will join her with a book on the whicker sofa whilst Eladio and my Father take a siesta.  Olivia will be missing again and in fact she will be away the whole of next week.  A van from TVE will be calling for her in the mid afternoon to take her to the Atocha train station to catch the high speed train to Valencia.  She will be a correspondent again, as she has been recently in Galicia and Santander and we look forward to watching her on television most mornings of next week.  

I wish you all a great week ahead.  Tuesday 15th May will be a holiday in Madrid to commemorate San Isidro.  It is also a day I will never forget as on 15th May 2001, my dear brother George passed away.  On the bright side, it is also Eladio’s youngest brother’s birthday, fittingly called Isidro.  

So, with a lump in my throat, I will stop writing here and publish this post.

Until next time, all the best