Sunday, January 13, 2013

A depressing task, searching for a cottage in Ireland, Oli reporting from Valencia, Zero Dark Thirty and other stories

Sunday 13th January 2013

It is a depressing task to take down the Christmas Decorations

Hi everyone this cold Sunday in January. 

I am writing from the kitchen, half cooking and waiting for the girls to come and half scouring the web for a cottage in Ireland.  The dogs are asleep at my feet and I can hear them snoring.  Oufa is laying the table, my Father is walking in the dining room with the help of his zimmer frame and Eladio is at his desk downstairs.

The week has been a bit uphill, after all the Christmas festivities.  On Monday, a cold and foggy day, Eladio and I had the depressing task of taking down all the decorations one of my most hated tasks of the year.

We both remarked that actually the task took only a short while, about half an hour, whereas putting them up is a much longer activity.  In any case all signs of Christmas have now disappeared, unless you count left over chocolate and turrón of which, unfortunately, or fortunately there is still some left.

It was just over a week ago that we started searching for a cottage in Ireland for our summer vacation.  I was prompted by an email from Sykes cottages with whom we booked our cottage in Gargrave, West Yorkshire in 2010. We have always wanted to visit Ireland, but I as I don’t know the country I asked for advice from friends on Facebook and boy did I get information.  The general consensus was to go to the West Coast or the South West.  We have scoured the web, rung agencies and looked at countless numbers of properties.  The problem with the internet is that yes you see photos and read reviews but can’t actually see where they are unless you have the address which you can use to see them properly using Street View on Google Maps.  Finally we booked this lovely looking cottage by the sea on the much recommended Dingle Peninsula, near Tralee.

The deceiving picture of the cottage we booked in Ireland

It looks lovely doesn’t it?  So we booked it, as we saw that the best properties were fast becoming unavailable, and paid our deposit to what seemed the biggest website for cottages in Ireland; Imagine Ireland, funnily enough based in Skipton in Yorkshire.  You can see the description and more photos here.  This morning as I saw I had the address, I decided to look the place up on Google Maps and this is what I saw; rather different from what we thought we had booked.  The problem is the eyesore cottage on the right and also the rather drab surroundings.

The real picture of the cottage we have booked as seen on Street View Google Maps

I felt very cross with Imagine Ireland and have written to them to complain. I think we will try and cancel and are now scouring the web again.  So watch this space and cross your fingers we have better luck in our next search.  What I am really looking for is a pretty cottage by the sea and in a small village with three bedrooms, at least 2 bathrooms, lovely décor and wifi – not easily fulfilled when searching the sites for cottage to let.

Meanwhile, this week Olivia has been in Valencia, staying and working with her TVE cameraman boyfriend Miguel and it looks like they had a whale of a time.  Later I heard that in 4 days she had done 7 reports but I’m afraid we missed quite a few as either she didn’t warn us or I was away from the home.

Oli and Miguel "working" this week in Valencia

Tuesday saw her reporting on free flats for people with no homes in Carlet in Valencia and on a school bus accident in Xativa.  You can see her in this link if you go to 12.10 and 13.46.

Wednesday saw her reporting about Calendar girl like Mothers who were fund raising for a school bus.  The item was national news and Olivia had already reported a few months ago on the beginnings of the initiative.  You can see the clip here if you go to 13.44

Olivia live on TVE1 on Wednesday reporting on the Spanish "calendar girl" Mums.

The story she reported on Friday was from Santa Pola, near Alicante, where we have our holiday apartment.  The floor of a local school collapsed and children fell in the hole.  The story, again hit the national news. You can see it here if you go to 12.14.  I’m afraid I missed it as I was doing the food shopping with Oufa.

The highlight of the week was Suzy’s visit for dinner on Thursday evening.  The house was so empty without the girls after Christmas, so it was great to have Suzy’s company that evening.

The other highlight was the trip to the cinema on Saturday night.  The Oscars are coming up and there are quite a few films we were and are interested to see such as Ana Karenina, Twice Born with Penelope Cruz, Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty.  We chose the latter as the subject, the hunt and killing of Osama Bin Laden by the CIA, interested us both equally.

A controversial but great film

In Spanish it is translated as The Darkest Night so I was curious to know what the original title meant.  I learned that it is a military term meaning, “thirty minutes after midnight”.  It’s up for an Oscar but has received much criticism for its apparent promotion of torture.  I hate torture and found the scenes brutal, as did Maya, the CIA agent played by Jessica Chastain although we are constantly reminded throughout that valuable information was gained by its use.

The filmmakers have also been accused of being provided with classified documents to make Zero Dark Thirty directed, by the way, by Kathryn Bigelow. The film had us rigid in our seats taking in every word and scene of the hunt that took 10 years.  The portrayal at the end, of the US Navy Seals storming the compound in Abbottabad on 2nd May 2011 in the hope of finding Bin Laden; something not confirmed until they made their entry, made me remember the famous picture of the US President and staff watching the real scene live.

Barack Obama and his staff watching the real thing

Later I read that one of the Seals, Matt Bissonnette has written a book, “No Easy Day” which contradicts the official storyline of the killing of the most famous terrorist to walk the face of this earth.  We were made to believe that the former had put up opposition but Bissonnette reveals he had already been hit in the head when the Seals entered his room and that he posed no threat.  Whatever the truth is, we never saw the body and nor did we see it in the film and will never know exactly what happened.  This film, however, I think, gives a very good clue of that very long night and the ten years running up to it.

We discussed the film avidly afterwards over dinner at Ginos at the far too crowded Equinoccio leisure centre in Majadahonda.  We thought it was a great film but decided that from now on we will go on Fridays to avoid the endless queues for overcrowded and noisy restaurants which make me want to run away.

And today is Sunday and we have just had a big family lunch.  Suzy went with Juli to pick up Oli from the Atocha train station where she arrived from Valencia on the AVE (high speed train).  I had to conjure up a big meal out of leftovers of our roast lamb lunch from yesterday and a new lentil soup Suzy wanted me to make. 

Spanish lamb roasted the English way, how I like it best

And now the house is quiet again, Suzy and Juli have gone and Oli will be joining them soon.  Eladio and I will go for our walk and then continue to scour the web for that perfect cottage which seems to escape me.  And tomorrow will be Monday again and the start of another week.

Meanwhile I wish you a good week ahead,

Cheers for now

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