Sunday, July 08, 2012

Spain makes football history, the cats are back, a scientific discovery, the porch arguably the best place in the world, our holidays are approaching, Wimbledon and can Andy Murray do it?

Our porch by day, arguably one of the best places in the world, albeit for us

Hi again

It’s Sunday.

A week ago Spain made football history by winning the Euro Cup in an incredible win against Italy scoring 4 goals to Italy’s nil.  Spanish fans had been chanting; “no hay dos sin tres” (there is no two without three) referring to this possible win as the third consecutive win of a major football championship.  After all, the Spanish team had won the 2008 Euro Cup and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.  With the victory on Sunday, the dream came true and the news of Spain’s historic win made the front pages of all the newspapers in the world. The debate then started as to whether this Spanish football team was the best in history. The country was ecstatic with joy for two days, forgetting stories of its bail out, struggling banking system and the ever increasing “prima de riesgo” (risk premium).

La Roja made football history by winning the Euro Cup on Sunday
The next day La Roja was welcomed home by crowds numbering up to a million when an open topped bus drove through the streets of Madrid.  The team then disgraced itself by getting rather drunk and not making the best example on the stage set up for the celebrations.  The welcome was televised live from their landing at the airport at midday until the evening celebrations finished late that same day.  It was indeed a happy day for football fans in Spain. 
The Spanish football team's welcome home was one big fiesta for a million people!

At home on Monday, we welcomed back Joe, our black cat who has been missing for more than two months now. I watched his homecoming as I was about to step into my car to go to the office on Monday morning.  Then miraculously Phoebe also appeared and Eladio and I both witnessed their greeting each other outside the house.  Phoebe had reappeared more recently but judging by their reencounter, I feel they had taken their separate ways and that they had met again on Monday for the first time since their disappearance. 
It was great to have both cats back on Monday (Joe - black - and Phoebe - light coloured)

It’s lovely to have them back, although I wonder for how long it will be until they “go “ again.  The culprits, of course, are our dogs Elsa and Norah.

Our dogs, Elsa the labrador and Norah the beagle are the main culprits of the cats' disappearance

The week has been quiet, with not much activity.  I had a nasty summer cold which had me under the weather for most of the time, although I am feeling a lot better now. After the previous week’s busy times, I felt a little disoriented, as my next big project won’t be until September.  I got a lot of positive feedback from the Yoigo Summer party and was happy to send out the video and photos to all the guests.  A lot of people commented it was the best Yoigo party ever.  That was nice to hear, of course, but I tend to hear the same comment after nearly every party.  I am wondering now whatever will we come up with next year to surprise people again.  That is always my problem.  However I shall cross that bridge when I come to it and hopefully, be creative enough to hear people say the same again next year.  That sounds easy but I can assure you it’s not.

On Wednesday the newspapers were full of stories about something called “Higgs Boson”, which unless you are a physicist, you will probably never have heard of.  I certainly hadn’t and am still trying to understand what the noise is all about. As I don’t understand it at all, the best I can do is to quote the BBC’s introduction to the story: “Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have discovered a new sub-atomic particle consistent with the long-sought Higgs boson. The particle's confirmation would stand out as one of the great scientific achievements of the 21st Century so far”.  That bit I do get and also the fact that the man behind the scenes, Peter Higgs, an English physicist, will most probably be next year’s Nobel Prize Winner for physics, or so says the most famous physicist on earth, one Stephen Hawking.  When I mentioned the scientist was British, my philosopher husband who knows much about the history of science, remarked: “an Englishman again” which I must say made me feel extremely proud.

It has been another warm week but thankfully not a scorcher like the previous week.  We spend most afternoons and evenings by the pool in the shade in our porch and at night after our daily walks.  Susana joined us just once this week.  She is very busy with her job and any free time she has she tends to spend at her new and very cozy flat.  Olivia spends many a night there with her too.  But on Thursday afternoon Suzy was with us, brightening up our lives and it was great to see her.  She is such a charismatic sort of person and I miss her bubbly character.  She went swimming and I captured one of my favourite photos in a long time, when she stopped at the deep end to nuzzle Norah our 4 year old beagle who I am sure, misses Suzy nearly as much as we do.  I posted the photo on Instagram and entitled it “pure love”.  I’m sure you agree.

Pure love, Suzy nuzzling Norah from the pool on Thursday

You are probably wondering why I think our porch is “arguably the best place in the world”, for me at least.  Well it is and I came to that conclusion last night.  We were sitting on the benches by the pool with the dogs at our feet and I looked at it and took in just how wonderful and luxurious it is.  We have never lived in a better house, although I am not attached to this house in any sort of sentimental way as I know one day we will move from here when we retire, probably to the coast. But I do appreciate just how marvelous it is and how lucky we are to live here.  I commented to Eladio that soon we would be going on our holiday but that nowhere would we find anywhere as nice as our porch and that it will be wonderful to come back to.  So why are we going I wonder?  His answer was so that we can appreciate it even more when we come back and he is probably right.   Last week I posted a picture of the porch at night and yesterday I took a photo of it by day.  I felt as if I was maybe showing off too much by posting it on Facebook and maybe I was but then again why hide something which gives us so much pleasure?  So here it is again, just a shot as there is no way one photograph can take in the whole picture:  the pool itself which is just a few metres from the lounge with its huge glass French windows, the covered part of the porch with its whicker sofas and dinner table we use so little, the new parasol and wooden table given to us by Eladio’s brother Isidro many years ago, the patch of grass and trees at the far corner where we usually sit or lie to be out of the sun during the hot afternoons and then the open part with the wooden benches we sit on at night, the wrought iron chairs and table brought from the old porch from our house in Bradford and finally the lovely orange flowers that surround the pool, adding wonderful colour in the summer.  So, yes, it is arguably the best place in the world, at least for us.  I wonder if you agree.

We will miss it, especially in the evenings, in our up and coming holidays.  Yes, whoopee, we are going on holiday next Saturday.  This time next week we will probably be on the beach at the seaside town in Galicia, called Sanxenxo.  On Saturday we will drive to Verín, to stay one night at the Parador there near Orense, in order to break the long journey to the Rias Baixas area of Galicia where will be staying for a week.

Hotel Rotilio where we will be staying in Sanxenxo

After seven nights at the Hotel Rotilio right by the Silgar Beach in Sanxenxo, we will drive to Asturias, to the small fishing village of Cudillero where we will be returning to the wonderful Indiana hotel called La Casona de la Paca. 
The beautiful Casona de la Paca where we will be staying in Cudillero in Asturias

I wrote a review of this beautiful little establishment on Trip Advisor and since then have been a huge hit with the owner Montse.  We look forward to returning to the magical Beach of Silence (Playa del Silencio), swimming at the Playa de Aguilar, not to mention enjoying the local gastronomy, especially at El Pescador. 

The beach of silence (la playa de silencio) near Cudillero, a magical place especially at sunset

This will be our second trip to Asturias which I wrote about extensively in this blogpost.  It will be also be our third trip to the Rias Baixas of Galicia.  We were there first in August 2007 and again in August 2008.  My Father came with us on both trips to Galicia and I’m sure he will be remembering the happy times we had there when he reads today’s blog post.  Unfortunately he cannot travel with us any longer as he is not mobile enough but I know that he will be enjoying our travels vicariously and of course we will be sending him lots of post cards.

We have been thinking about our trip for most of the week but the days seem to pass rather slowly.  However I remind myself that I should focus on the journey rather than on the destination and that looking forward to the holiday is probably just as pleasurable as the holiday itself.  Soon it will be just a memory.

If the week was quiet, Friday was definitely the highlight for many reasons. On Friday the girls left for Santa Pola, leaving the house even emptier and quieter than on the previous days.  There will be seven of them there and I hate to think of how they will leave the place, although these days they are much more responsible than in the past.  Since writing this blog, Suzy posted some of the photos which you can see here.  Ah and I later found out that they had actually been 8 people - oh poor apartment.

Suzy and Oli at the beach in Santa Pola this weekend with two of their friends

But Friday wasn’t a highlight because of that.  The first piece of good news was the story my scales told in the morning.  I had been on the consolidation phase of the Dukan diet for just one week and had actually lost more weight which was an unexpected piece of good news.  So that night I thought I deserved my celebration meal of the week which is allowed during the consolidation phase.  We went to La Txitxarrería in nearby Pozuelo where I enjoyed my first glass of red wine for at least two months! 

The other good news on Friday was Andy Murray’s win over Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semi finals at Wimbledon, the most prestigious tournament in tennis.  He made history too in that he will be first man to play a final at Wimbledon for many years.  In fact it was 76 years ago that the last English man won the tournament and it was the famous Fred Perry.  We must not forget though that it was a lot less time ago when an English woman won the women’s singles.  I well remember Viriginia Wade doing so in 1977.  Today the Scotsman will meet Roger Federer who has already won Wimbledon 6 times.  If he wins again, which he probably will, he will equal Pat Sampras’ 7 wins.  He would also return to the number one position in the tennis world standings. So obviously, there is lot at stake in this match for the popular Swiss too. I couldn’t help mentioning to my Father this morning that Andy Murray had got as far in the tournament, most probably because Spain’s Rafa Nada was knocked out in the second round.  Be that as it may, Andy Murray has reached the furthest ever in his career.  Today some 20 million Brits will be watching him on the television and the country will come to sort of standstill, similar to Spain when La Roja were playing the Euro Cup final last Sunday.  Wimbledon is a like a religion in England, even though British players have not performed well for many years.  When I lived in England, we used to watch nearly every match.  Funnily enough though, the tennis fever is over once the championship has finished as if only Wimbledon counted.  All I can say is, I hope Andy Murray makes tennis history for England today.  But can he do it I wonder?  He probably can as right now he is playing the best he ever has and especially since he has Ivan Lendl as a new mentor, his play seems to have improved dramatically.  Well we will know in a few hours time. We won’t be watching it as you can only see the matches on pay TV, but, like Andy Murray’s grandmother, I don’t think I could bear the tension even if I could watch it. 
Andy Murray could make tennis history for Great Britain today ...

But the best news of all on Friday was José Antonio’s all clear after his prostate gland removal operation just over a month ago.  He did tests last week and on Friday was pronounced all clear.  We are so happy for him and can now stop worrying.  We look forward to celebrating with him and the rest of the family in Montrondo after our trip to Galicia and Asturias at the end of July.

Saturday was quiet.  We spent a lot of time by our lovely porch, the big sporting news of the day being Fernando Alonso making pole position for today’s drenched F1 Grand Prix in Silverstone in the UK.  However all eyes will be on Murray not on F1 today Sunday. 

And today is Sunday, the sun is shining again as it has all week and we look forward to another quiet day, as we count the days until our holiday begins.  The girls will be back tonight and I wish them a safe journey back from Santa Pola later on today.

Meanwhile, I wish you all a great week.  Cheers till next time


Sunday, July 01, 2012

104º Fahrenheit, Football, Oli live from Galicia, a press conference, this year’s Yoigo Summer Party and 10 years since the girls left St. Michael’s school.

On the octupus with Isabel at this year's Yoigo Summer Party on Thursday
Hi again

Hope you are all well.  Today is 1st July and we are well into summer.  Wow has it been hot this week and you can’t imagine how much.  The thermometer often reached 40ºc, an unbelievable 104º Fahrenheit.  When I lived in England, it never ever reached such a figure.  I remember thinking it was very warm when it got to 70ºF and could never imagine living in a country dominated by so much sunshine.  Nor could I ever imagine having peach trees in my garden.  All we ever got at home in Bradford were apple trees.  So I often go and look to see how the peaches are coming along.  We also have a wonderful greengage tree which this year promises a huge harvest.  Also I am thinking of making jam when they are ripe which will be a first for me.

Peaches growing in our garden

Most nights, when there hasn’t been a Euro Cup match, Eladio and I could only think of venturing out for our walk with the dogs from 21.30h onwards and even then it was too warm for a comfortable walk.  The best moment of the day was often when we would come home and take a swim to cool off.  Here is a photo of our lovely porch and swimming pool where we spend most evenings.  The afternoons have been too hot, until yesterday and today, to even think of a swim in the middle of the heat.

The porch and swimming pool where we spend most evenings these days

The week has been dominated by football.  On Sunday England lost to Italy in a terrible penalty shoot out.  But it was also dominated by other sports. On Sunday too, Spain’s Fernando Alonso won at the Valencia GP, after starting out in 11th place which puts him in the lead of the F1 championship. 

Fernando Alonso, emotional on the podium, at the Valencia GP

Alonso, although a bi champion, is nowhere near as popular as tennis star Rafa Nadal here in Spain.  So we were all very upset to see him leave Wimbledon in only the second round.  And now all hopes are pinned on La Roja, Spain’s football team.  Spain is immersed in a financial crisis and any sporting wins serve to cheer the nation up and boost morale enormously.  Thus it was great to see Spain beat Portugal on Wednesday in the semi finals.   What was not great was that it also came to a nerve racking penalty shoot out.  When we lost the first penalty, I decided to go to bed as I just couldn’t watch until the end, in dread of losing.  So up I went, put on the air conditioning, shut the door and switched the TV on to any channel that wasn’t showing the football.  I then lay down, secretly hoping Eladio would come up and tell me that Spain had actually won, but, of course, was prepared for the worst. He did come up, took one look at me which I interpreted as negative until he burst into a smile which was when I knew we had won.  I then jumped out of bed and hugged him, switched my phone back on and tweeted the good news.  La Roja had got through to the final and if things go well, could well be the first national team ever to win 3 big championships in a row: The 2008 Euro Cup, the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and who knows if the 2012 Euro Cup tonight against Italy.  My Father predicts another win for Spain and again with a penalty shoot out.  I sincerely hope he is right but do not wish it to be with penalties.

Casillas and Fabregas celebrating Spain's win vs Portugal on Wednesday

Olivia would have been watching the match from Santiago de Compostela in Galicia where she was reporting for La Mañana de la 1 (TVE) most mornings last week.  It was to be her last week with the programme until it resumes in September, or that is what we hope. 

My beautiful TV reporter daughter Olivia

Monday saw her in a small village called Villarino de Conso in Orense.  Here she reported on a nursery school that was to be closed down until more children joined.  Thus the town hall came up with an initiative to offer free housing to anyone with children wanting to come and live in the village.  The story was quite big in Spain that day as free housing doesn’t come on the market very often.  You can see the video here at minute12h.16.

Oli reporting from a village in Orense, Galicia, on Monday

Tuesday saw her in Narón, in La Coruña covering the terrible story of a 28 year old young woman, Iria García Bouza,  killed, supposedly, by her ex partner.  Another terrible story of wife battering and one of the subjects Olivia can never be comfortable with.  You can see the video here at minute 12h.16.

Olivia, very seriously reporting on a case of wife battering in La Coruña on Tuesday

On Thursday she reported from the border of Portugal from the Spanish town Tui and its Portuguese neighbour, Valença do Minho.  The story was on how the two towns had watched the Euro Cup semi final between Spain and Portugal together.  It was a lovely story of two border towns united by football.  Olivia interviewed a mixed married couple where the Spanish husband had cheered on La Roja and his Portuguese wife who thought Cristiano Ronaldo’s team should have won because they “played better”.  The report ended with the two mayors toasting the winners, the Spanish mayor drinking Portuguese port wine and the Portuguese mayor drinking Spanish wine.  It was a lovely piece of television reporting, perhaps the best Olivia has done so far.  You can see the full story here in this video which even TVE tweeted on its official Twitter account.

Olivia on the border of Portugal on Thursday.

Wednesday was the day of the match and also the day we had our press conference to announce a wonderful agreement with Spotify, the Swedish music company which is revolutionizing the way we listen to music.  I had chosen The Hard Rock Café in the centre of Madrid, a very fitting place for the occasion.  It was full house with some 32 journalists and we got much coverage, all of it positive, although these days coverage is much more online than offline, a sign of the times I suppose.  You can see the photos of the event here.

The crowded Yoigo Spotify press conference on Wednesday

Thursday was my big day, the day of the Yoigo Summer Party.  I have been organizing them now every year for 5 years.  It is unbelievable to think that in October I will have been with Yoigo 6 years. All I can is that it is the best company I have ever worked for and long may that be so.  The party was to be held in Hoyo de Manzanares in the main square (Plaza Mayor) and we were to host a typical Spanish fiesta with all the trimmings and more.  It started in great heat at 19.30 and went on until past 2 in the morning.  There were some 250 guests made up of our 104 employees and partners and suppliers. We were joined by the villagers that only helped to create possibly the best atmosphere we have ever created.  The party started off with a welcome act from the marketing and sales team where they simulated a part from a famous Spanish film: “Bienvenido Mr. Marshall”.  They came on singing and dancing, dressed in rural attire to the astonishment of the guests.  The “priest” and “mayor” arrived on donkeys to the delight of everyone. 

We had a great first act at the Yoigo Summer Party this year

We had chosen a very special “pregonero” or master of ceremonies for the occasion, in the timeless comedian, Fernando Esteso of the 70’s and 80’s who played a great part in the “fiesta”.

Me with larger than life Fernando Esteso at the Yoigo Summer Party on Thursday evening

We had a village band from León, care of my brother in law Alejandro and all the usual attractions you would see in a typical Spanish fiesta.  The funny thing is that most of the guests seemed to think that we had actually come to the fiesta put on by the village and didn’t realize that it was Yoigo who had organized everything!   

With Susana and Alejandro at the Yoigo Summer Party

There were bumper cars, an octopus, a shooting range, a bingo, a mechanical bull, a tombola, not to mention candy floss, hot dogs, churros, etc.  Dinner was served on colourful tables by the local restaurant, El Vagon de Beni and drinks were served the night through. True to tradition a television (well actually two) was raffled, care of Fernando Esteso who had us in stitches, along with a fabulous ham and various mobile phones. 

A great time was had by all at the Yoigo Summer Party on Thursday

Taken up by the spirit of the party, I dared to go on the octopus (the picture illustrating this week’s blog) and thoroughly regretted it later.  Likewise the bumper cars where I hurt my knee and all the contents of my bag spilled into the car.  I came to the conclusion that I am far too old now for such activities and swore never to go on either again.  However the rest of the guests, most of them who were far younger, seemed to have a grand time.  You can see some of my photos here.  But much better is this first selection of photos taken by the official photographer on Flickr.

At about 1.30, whilst the party was still in full swing, I decided it was time to turn in, exhausted, mostly from preparations.  Suzy, who had been working there with me, drove me home and for a change, slept at home that night.  I had a splitting headache, despite having only drunk water throughout the evening.  The next morning I felt dreadful as I did for the most of the day.  Like always I got a better night’s sleep the following night and now feel totally recovered.

It was great to have Suzy for breakfast on Friday.  In fact she was with us at lunch too.  But it wasn’t until the late afternoon, when Olivia returned from Galicia, that the family was complete.

Yesterday was a quiet day.  Of note I have lost the stubborn three kilos thanks to the Dukan diet and was able to start what is known as the consolidation phase yesterday.  So, glory of glories, I was able to taste bread and fruit for the first time in a month.  Also I was able to go out to dinner with Eladio for the first time in ages.  We chose to go to La Vaca Argentina where I would have a big choice of protein and vegetables.  I went to bed on a reasonable stomach, not having had any carbohydrates, alcohol or dessert.  Eladio commented it was probably the first time I had not had a “pudding”.  I wonder if I will be able to resist next time.  

Whilst we were out to dinner, the girls had gone to a party to celebrate the 10th year since they had left St. Michael’s school.  Ever since they mentioned it was happening, I have been thinking just how much has happened since then and how can it already be 10 years since they left St. Michael’s?  I remember being in the same situation myself, after leaving St. Joseph’s College and of course Nottingham University.  First it is one year since you have left, then ten, then twenty, then thirty, then forty and then suddenly you are middle aged and then one day you are old.  And now it is happening to my daughters. Wow!  Here is a picture of the group of them celebrating yesterday at the party.  It’s nice also to think how well they have done since leaving school.  I couldn’t be a prouder Mother of Susana and Olivia.

The girls at the St. Michael's party yesterday night

And now I have reached Sunday, the last day of the week and the end of this week’s blog post.  There is not much to tell about today.  The only thing on most people’s minds is the match tonight; the final between Spain and Italy to be held in Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine at 20.45.  Keep your fingers crossed for Spain.  Mine are firmly crossed.

And that’s it for this week my friends.  All the best until next week.

Cheers Masha