Sunday, February 17, 2013

The fast diet, the Pope resigned and the importance of knowing Latin, remembering George, Valentine’s Day, black and white is in fashion and other stories.

Tuesday 12th February would have been my brother George's birthday
Hi everyone,

How has your week been?  Mine has been different, in that I started the Fast diet (remember I wrote about it last week?) and on Monday I experienced my first day of fasting – or rather semi fasting as on the two non consecutive days of the week you “fast” you can only eat 500 calories.  For the “feed days” I was told I could eat 2000 calories but decided to stick to approx 1.500 as 2000 is far too much for me. Suzy also started the diet so, although we weren’t together, we were, at least, able to give each other moral support at a distance. For the record this is what I decided to eat: Breakfast: porridge made of two spoonfuls of oat bran with 150ml skimmed milk, coffee made with 100 ml skimmed and 50ml semi skimmed milk, Lunch: a 40 calorie yoghurt and a cup of coffee with 100ml skimmed milk, Early evening: a cup of herbal tea and one mandarin, Dinner: an omelette made with one big egg and two slivers of lean ham grilled in 1tsp of oil, 5 boiled asparagus and one 40 calorie yoghurt. 

During the fast day, I made sure my mind was not on food.  It wasn’t so difficult in the morning but not joining my husband and my Father for lunch was a bit of a sacrifice.  I got a rumbling stomach occasionally and a few hunger pangs, but otherwise got through the day the best I could.  I didn’t feel any loss of energy and enjoyed our daily walk as usual.  Dinner of course helped me get a good night’s sleep and it felt like a banquet after eating so little during the day.  The great news on Tuesday morning was that I had shed 1.5kg (3.3lb).  After the second day of fasting – Thursday – I was disappointed to see a loss of a miserly 100 grammes.  However I shall persevere as I am not only seeking weight loss but all the health benefits the diet promises – keeping the dreaded diseases of cancer, Parkinson, Alzheimer and dementia at bay.

So, on a pretty empty stomach, on Monday I made my way to Alcobendas for my annual medical checkup organized by the HR department at work.  In the past I hated going because I was overweight, but that is no longer the case.  Having kept slim now for nearly three years and going for an hour long walk nearly every day of our lives, I knew I was fit.  So I was not surprised to pass the medical with flying colours.  I even think the lady doctor was surprised to see with how much ease I was able to touch my toes.  

Just as I was getting into the car, I checked my phone and saw the most surprising news; the Pope, Benedict XVI, had just resigned, apparently due to age and declining health.  I think the whole world went into shock as he is the first Pope to do so in more than 600 years.  The 85 year old Bavarian Pontiff announced his resignation in Latin on Monday morning at a regular public consistory organized to canonize several blessed individuals; not a particularly important event.
The Pope announced his resignation on Monday

No one was expecting the announcement and there were very few journalists present.  When Giovanna Chirri, who covers the Vatican for Italy’s ANSA news agency, heard his whispering speech, she couldn’t believe what she was hearing but understood every word as she knows Latin, unlike the other journalists present and it because she knows Latin that she became the first journalist in the world to report the Pope’s resignation.  
Giovanna Chirri was the first journalist to break the news of the Pope's resignation because she understands Latin.

After alerting her news desk, she tweeted in Italian, "B16 si e' dimesso. Lascia pontificato dal 28 febbraio" (Benedict XVI resigns leaving the pontificate on 28th February) becoming the first person to break the news on social media.
Giovanna Chirri's laconic tweet in Italian, the first news of the Pope's resignation on social media

The world went into shock and this has been the main news of the week with plenty of speculation as to the real reasons behind the Pope’s announcement.  There is suspicion that the real reason is that the church is ungovernable because of in fighting and that the aged German pontiff can no longer bear the pressure of accusations of pederasty.  Whatever the reasons, he will step down on 28th February and probably retire to a monastery in the Vatican devoting the rest of his life to prayer, meditation and theology, three things I suspect he prefers to governing an unruly Church.  And now the race is on to choose his replacement.  The conclave will take place in the middle of March and many are betting on the new Pope being a non European, either an African or a South American.  I wonder, as others probably do too, whether Benedict XVI has already settled the issue.  

I’m sure Olivia my daughter was totally unaware of this breaking news as she was busy reporting on the snow at Navacerrada in the mountain area of Madrid.  I was able to watch her first report at 10.15 before going for my medical.
Olivia reporting on the snow on Monday from Navacerrada outside Madrid

But I missed her at 12.15, although I was able to see her second report on internet later on in the afternoon. She had gathered together a group of school children enjoying the snow during their morning break.  You can see the clip here if you fast forward to 12.10.  Olivia as a journalist will have envied Giovanna Chirri's moment of fame for being the first journalist to break the news of the Pope's resignation.  The next day, though, Olivia, like many journalists around the world, had to do an extensive report on the papal story.

Eladio would have been unaware too, although very interested because of his clerical past, as he was busy invigilating the Spanish Open University (UNED) exams.  He was to do so every morning of last week, leaving the house early each day.  He is officially retired but continues as a part time UNED tutor.  This week he was asked to give more lectures or rather tutorials and the new subject he has taken on is the history of medieval and renaissance philosophy.  There is no subject my cultured husband cannot put his hand to and I am very proud of him.

I think my niece Paula was probably unaware too of the news of the Pope resigning as she had her own good news that morning.  She has landed the job of communications officer for the Dutch insurance company, Aegon, in Spain.  Her boss will be my friend and ex colleague, Marta.  I was instrumental in her getting an interview, but it is Paula’s merit that she landed the job; being the best candidate. I am very happy that the two will be working together and wish my sweet and beautiful niece lots of luck in her new job. 

Tuesday was 12th February, a date ingrained in my memory since childhood. It was my brother George’s birthday, just four days after mine.  He would have been 58 but sadly died in 2001 on 15th May aged just 46, too young to leave this wonderful world.  He will never be forgotten.

On Tuesday I had a belated birthday lunch with the girls from my events agency, QuintaEsencia.  Bea, Cristina and Gloria treated me to lunch at a new restaurant in Madrid called No.  It had a special meaning for us all as the restaurant belongs to the Antoñanzas brothers who are also owners of the events agency I used to work with and where the three sisters learned their trade; Comunica.  Amazingly, Jaime, the brother I know best, was there too and it was nice to greet him.  We hadn’t seen each other for maybe ten years.  Of course we have aged but I well remember Jaime when I was in my thirties working for Motorola and the wonderful events we did together in Lisbon and Madrid.  I learned part of my trade from him too. 
The Antoñanzas brothers' restaurant "No" where I had lunch on Tuesday

Thursday of course was St. Valentine’s day but it was also my second day of fasting, so there was to be no celebration dinner with Eladio that night.  Instead I booked a table for Friday.  Meanwhile, to take food off my mind, I did some retail shopping that day at Gran Plaza Norte 2.  Here I discovered that black and white is very much in fashion, or at least that they were selling a lot of black and white articles at H+M and Zara. Weighing a bit less, I spent a bit more than I should but purchased some lovely clothing.  At Zara I invested in a pair of black and white vertical striped skinny jeans, a black blazer with a wonderful black and white vertical striped lining, a white shirt, a black and white vertical striped blouse and my favourite item; a black leather pinafore dress.  At H+M I bought a black jumper and a navy blue jumper and the best find of the day, a striking and flattering tight fitting black and white harlequin type dress.   
The black and white dress I bought from H+M on Thursday
Isn’t it lovely?  I was to wear it for the first time at dinner on Friday to celebrate St. Valentines.

Whilst I was trying on and mixing and matching black and white, the world learned of a St. Valentine’s horror story.  In South Africa, the famous Olympic Games legless runner, the dashing Oscar Pistorius, was accused of killing his girlfriend, the beautiful model, Reeva Steenkamp.  My ex South African colleague at Nokia, Tanya, shares the same surname as the model and for a while I was worried they were related.  Tanya told me later that they weren’t but that the whole country was in shock.
A Valentine's horror story, Oscar Pistorius accused of killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp the South African model
If South Africa was in shock on Thursday, it was Russia’s turn on Friday.  The world had been waiting most of the week for a huge asteroid to brush past the earth, but no one expected a ten ton meteoroid to hit the earth on Friday.  It hurtled through the atmosphere and hit the town of Chelyabinsk, some 900 miles east of Moscow.  At least a 1000 people were injured and buildings severely damaged and the noise and shock the meteoroid caused lead people to believe they were experiencing the end of the world. 

The 10 ton meteoroid that crashed into the Russian city of Chelyabinsk on Friday

I am sure the Swedish photographer Paul Hansen would have liked to take that photo.  But that day his mind will have been on the prize he won; the World Press Photo 2012 for the Gaza Burial, a photo of two Palestinian children, a brother and a sister, killed in an Isreali missile strike and being taken to their funeral by an anguished group of men, probably their relatives. 

This year's World Press Photo prize goes to Paul Hansen for The Gaza Burial

But that night, my mind was on celebrating St. Valentine’s Day with my beloved husband. I had booked a table via the restaurant website, El Tenedor which offers discounts at selected restaurants.  I wanted to try somewhere new and found just one restaurant with a discount at nearby Villaviciosa de Odón, a place called “Costa Vasca” (Basque Coast).  I have always thought that the Basque Country in Spain offers the best cuisine so hoped I had made the right choice. It turned out we were the only diners in a rather old and slightly shabby dining room.  However the owner’s wife who is the restaurant chef, is from Bilbao and we were served delicious food.  I’m not sure we will be going back soon, but maybe we will in the summer as they have a terrace with a garden where the atmosphere will be better than their dining room.

Saturday was quiet, the highlight being lunch when we were joined by both girls and Olivia’s boyfriend Miguel.  I should have mentioned earlier that he came on Monday to stay the week with her.  He is very sporty and as I have written before here, Olivia now runs and swims, skis and even goes paragliding with him.  Yesterday before lunch they went off for a 5km run and this is what they looked like.
Miguel and Olivia just before they went on a run yesterday

On Saturday it was my friend Jacqueline’s birthday from Yorkshire. She now lives in a village in Murcia and as I saw from pictures she posted on Facebook, she had a great birthday surrounded by her family.  Both of us commented we hadn’t received flowers for St. Valentines.  Olivia had though and not just a beautiful plant of red roses, but also a lovely watch from Miguel.  

We didn’t go out on Saturday but of course our daughters did. Here is a photo of Suzy with some of her friends from their group they call “La Manada” (The Herd) enjoying last night.

Suzy and some of her friends on Saturday night

Now it is Sunday. Oufa has her day off today so I did the cooking.  We were to be joined by Suzy and Juli and I made delicious oxtail, from a trusted recipe from my Spanish cookery book by Simone Ortega.
The oxtail I made for lunch today

The dogs have enjoyed the bones, as they always do.  Everyone is now sleeping after the meal and I am quietly finishing this week’s blogpost. Later we will go for our walk. Afterwards  I will continue watching the hilarious series called Benidorm about English tourists on holiday at Spain’s equivalent of Blackpool and I will do so on my iPad via the great BBC iPlayer application. 

Tomorrow Monday will be my third “fast day” and funnily enough I don’t fear it.  But more about that in next week’s post.

Meanwhile I wish you all a good week ahead.

Cheers Masha

No comments: