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


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