Sunday, March 24, 2013

Olivia in Galicia, new church leaders, Father’s day and birthdays, making oxtail croquettes, Spring came, more Downton Abbey, the two Popes meet, home made soda bread and other things.

History in the making - the two popes meet on Saturday
Hello everyone,

This week there is lots to tell.  It has been busy and full and best of all I am over my flu.

Let me start from last Sunday where I left off.  It was a good day for Spanish sport.  Rafa Nadal, over his injury, won at Indian Wells and Fernando Alonso was second in the first race of this season’s Formula One, the Australian G.P. 

It was a happy Rafa Nadal who won at Indian Wells last Sunday

It was also St. Patrick’s day, the Patron Saint of Ireland which seems to get bigger every year.  On Sunday too, with a view to celebrating Easter, I was tempted by an email from the Hotel Chocolate site, introduced to me some ago by our dear Indian friend, Sandeep.  These are the wonderful eggs I ordered; the extra thick milk chocolate egg and one called Raspberry Eton Mess sandwich.
The extra thick chocolate Easter egg I ordered from Hotel Chocolate is on its way here

This lovely Easter Egg is also on its way

On Sunday evening Olivia was back from her master of ceremonies event in Lisbon. Suzy brought her back from the airport and I thought we would be having a family dinner.  But that was not to be as Suzy went out that night, as the next day was a holiday in most of Spain.  

On Monday Oli was up literally at the crack of dawn at 04.30.  A car was coming for her from TVE to take her to the airport to catch an early plane to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.  She was to spend the week there covering news for her programme, La Mañana de la 1.  Her first story was that very day, the story of the sabotage of 10 lorries in Ribadeo, a beautiful coastal town in the province of Lugo and one close to our heart as we have stayed there before.  You can see the clip here if you go to 11.30h.
Olivia reporting from Ribadeo in Lugo on Monday

I told her when she came back on Friday just how much her appearances brighten up our lives and how we all enjoy watching her.  It makes us so proud and I never tire of seeing her on the TV.  I know it brings much joy to my Father too and regret my Mother never having seen her.

Monday was a great day. To begin with it was a holiday to celebrate San José (St. Joseph) which was actually on Tuesday 19th but for some reason the authorities had moved the holiday to Monday, something we will see more of in the future, like the bank holidays in the UK.  On Monday, well on the mend from my flu, we went for our first walk together with the dogs in nearly two weeks.  It was sunny and felt good to be outdoors again.
Eladio on our walk on Monday, the first for a long time because of my flu

It was Oufa’s day off so I made lunch that day.  I had an urge for pasta, something that comes upon me every now and again, so I made spaghetti carbonara.  Suzy joined us for lunch that day and then in the afternoon the two of us went shopping to Gran Plaza 2.  I was in need of some retail therapy after being cooped up at home with my flu.  I was also in need of some time with my wonderful daughter.  Needless to say we went to Zara and H+M.  I have absolutely no need of any more clothes and actually didn’t feel very inspired.  I was however tempted by a black pencil skirt from Zara which instead of the slits had white material on either side.  I have yet to wear it. I could have worn it that night when I went out to dinner with Eladio but didn’t as it is a bit too formal for where we went.  It was our first dinner out for two weeks and we chose to go to nearby De Brasa y Puchero where we had what we always do there: “patatas revolconas”.  As usual they were delicious. We had an early dinner out in order to be able to watch the next episode of our current favourite series, “Gran Reserva”.
We just loved the "patatas revolconas" at De Brasa y Puchero on Monday night

Tuesday was Father’s day and a fitting day for the new Pope, Francis, Jorge María Bergoglio to be inaugurated at the Vatican.  He had chosen his name Francis, or rather Francisco after the Italian Saint from Assis, as the symbol for peace, austerity and poverty.  Indeed this new Pope has made a great start with his simple ways.  He refuses to wear the luxurious red shoes his predecessor favoured and on Tuesday reduced the pompous ceremony by one hour.  Instead of being given a gold fisherman’s ring in honour of the first pope, St. Peter, it was made of silver.  The other symbol given to a new pope is the “pallium”, a strip of lambswool that represents his role as a shepherd.
The Pope's inauguration on Tuesday

There were government and church leaders from 130 delegations, the most important of all being Bartholomew 1, the Patriarch of Constantinople.  In the Orthodox Church, unlike the Catholics, there is no overall head.  Having said that Bartholomew I is considered their de facto spiritual leader. His official name and title are: “His all holiness, Bartholomew 1, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch”. So why was his presence important you might ask?  Well, because it was the first time an Orthodox Patriarch attended a Papal inauguration since the great schism between western and eastern Christianity in 1054.  One of the main reasons of that split was the growth of papal power. My Mother was Russian Orthodox, her Father was a priest and two of her sisters were nuns, so I do know something about the Orthodox.  I learned from my Mother of the hate and distrust they have of the Catholics and she always hid the fact that I went to a Catholic school from her fanatical sisters Olga and Dara.  I often wondered what they would have thought about me, their niece, actually marrying a Catholic priest.  They wouldn’t have liked to know that the Orthodox Patriarch was present in Rome on Tuesday.  Had he been the Russian Patriarch I think they would have been more worried. 
Pope Francis welcoming Bartholomew 1, the first Orthodox Patriarch to be preset at a Papal inauguration since the great schism in 10.54 - it was a historic moment for Christianity

Pope Francis I know is very into the reuniting of Christians and so am I, so I was happy to read that a few days later he received more than 30 delegations representing other Christian churches as well as Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain religions.  My Mother, a lot less fanatical than her nun sisters, would have definitely approved.  In the 70’s and 80’s she acted as the official interpreter for the Russian Orthodox Archbishop Pitirim and thereby goes a long story.  Her first assignment at the ecumenical event was in Uppsala in Stockholm.  When she got back she handed the money she had earned in cash to my Father who promptly hid it in a book in his study.  The awful thing is it was never to be found again as he did not remember in which book he had hidden the money my Mother earned as an interpreter at the World Council of Churches. There are many more anecdotes of her times as Pitirim’s employee, but this is one that stands out most in my memory.

As I watched some of the Papal inauguration I wondered how on earth the protocol of who sat next to who was managed.  It could not have been easy but I suppose the Vatican is the world’s biggest protocol artist.  I mean fitting in Mugabe with Angela Merkel, the royalty of Europe and all the heads of states can only be a nightmare in my mind.

Whilst I was watching the Papal inauguration, Olivia was on her way to a remote village in Lugo.  Later we watched her report on the amazing story of the sale of abandoned villages in the region, some of which were being sold for a song at 60.000 euros.  Who on earth buys villages?  Well apparently singers and artists, but also normal people from countries like Norway or England.  You can see her report here in this clip if you go to 11.30.
Oli telling the story of abandoned villages on sale in Lugo on TVE on Tuesday

On Tuesday afternoon I felt like a lady of leisure as Suzy had arranged for a friend of hers who is setting up business as a private masseuse, to come and give me a massage.  Bea arrived with “Chati” (Maria is her real name), Suzy’s companion to London when they leave Spain in May, in the afternoon, Bea lugging a very heavy looking professional massage bed.  For just 30 euros I got a great massage lasting nearly 1.5h and boy was it good for the muscles on my back, which Bea said were tied in knots.  Later I had a relaxing Jacuzzi to get rid of all the massage oils.  

From lady of leisure I became a cook just a while later, making a huge batch of homemade croquettes from the leftovers of a dish of oxtail casserole I had made at the weekend.  I made another batch the next day too as there was still more meat left over. In the end I think I made over 80 of these delicious morsels of food which are very popular in this household especially with the girls.  This is what they looked like when I fried them.
My home made oxtail croquettes

Tuesday as I said was San José, so all Josephs in Spain would have been celebrating either their birthdays or saint’s day, not only Fathers.  It was Eladio’s second brother down, José Antonio’s birthday too and we all greeted him from afar via whatsapp, although I do know Eladio called him to personally wish him a happy birthday.  He was alone at home, so I was worried he would be celebrating alone too and thus was happy to see from a photo posted by his youngest son, Juan, later on Facebook that they had organized a celebration dinner at Juan and Cristina’s flat that night. Happy birthday Toño from me too again.
José Antonio's birthday dinner on Tuesday thanks to Juan and Cristina.  Notice Nuba his mongrel in pride of place

Wednesday was good too.  First we had the pleasure of seeing Olivia on the TV again.  At 10.15 she reported from Santiago on actually a rather sad case.  It was about some members of the Spanish national rugby team (yes they do play rugby in Spain, although it’s a minority sport) having been beaten up by a group of Portuguese hooligans.
Olivia reporting on Wednesday from Santiago on the Spanish National rugby team members being beaten up by Portuguese thugs

On Wednesday, at apparently 12.02 on the dot, just past midday, spring officially started.  We certainly have signs of it in the garden with lots of blossom on the trees as you can see in the picture here.
Spring came on Wednesday - there is plenty of signs of it in our garden

Wednesday brought with it another birthday.  Susana’s beloved friend and neighbour, Elena, the sister of “Chati”, was 30 that day which is quite a landmark as far as birthdays go. Suzy came to get cream for the cake which she asked me to whip.  Thus I happily contributed to Elena’s celebrations.  Happy birthday Elena too from these pages.
Elena was 30 on Wednesday and Susana made her this cake

It was also on Wednesday that my order of seasons two and three of Downton Abbey arrived.  I have had mammoth sessions watching it on my pc ever since but am now rationing myself as I don’t want to finish it yet.  I have fallen in love with all the characters and can safely say it is probably my favourite TV series ever.  My love is divided between Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonnerville) and Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle).  I was most shocked when His Lordship had the short but sweet affair with the widow housemaid Jane Moorsum (Claire Calbraith) but enjoyed every forbidden kiss on screen.  I have since ordered the special 2012 Christmas episode called A Journey to the Highlands, as well as the scripts of series one and two and two books, The World of Downton Abbey and The Chronicles of Downton Abbey. That means when I polish off series three I will have more to look forward to, not to mention series 4 which is not out yet.  I shall certainly enjoy the scripts and as my friend Anne commented, it is Maggie Smith who plays the Dowargess Countess of Grantham (Lord Grantham’s mother), Violet who has the best lines.  I particularly like this one when her youngest granddaughter Lady Edith Crawley remarks how exciting the preparations for her wedding are to which her grandmother replies: “at my age one has to ration one’s excitement”.
The Downton Abbey characters who are all so familiar to me now

On Thursday Downton Abbey helped me get through my first fast day since my flu started, putting my mind off food and into the lives of these characters in the early part of the 20th century. 

Olivia excited us and her audience as she reported on strong winds of up to 120km/h that day from Muxia on the death coast (costa da morte) in Galicia.  She really looked as though she was going to be blown into the rocks if not the sea.  You can see her here if you go to 11.30h.
Olivia reporting on the wind in Muxia on Thursday 

On Thursday it was the turn of another church leader’s inauguration or in this case enthronement.  Here I refer to Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury whose enthronement took place at the Cathedral there on Thursday afternoon.  He will be the spiritual head of 1.7 million members of the Church of England, far fewer than Pope Francis’ 1.2 billion Catholics, but the ceremony was no less pompous, although sprinkled with singing and dancing that you would never see in a papal inauguration.  The Church of England also broke with papal authority in the 16th century in a time that became known as The Reformation.  The catalyst of course was the refusal of the Pope to annul the marriage of Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon.  Interestingly enough Justin Welby worked for 11 years in the oil industry before entering the church.  Very unlike the Pope he is married and has two sons and three daughters.  The Most Reverend Justin Welby not unsurprisingly studied at two of England’s most prestigious academic institutions, Eton and Trinity College Cambridge where he studied history and law.  I do think the Catholics could learn from the Church of England and allow their priests to marry and women to become priests, but somehow, I don’t think that will happen even under the outwardly revolutionary new Pope Francis. 
Justin Welby the new Archbishop of Canterbury was enthroned on Thursday, just two days after Pope Francis

Olivia reported live on TVE1 every day this week and Friday was not an exception.  At 10.20 we saw her report on the story of a car accident in La Guardia on the border with Portugal.  The story was about a girl called Kenya who was rescued by a handsome policeman and by her fellow passengers who later escaped as the driver reportedly did not have an insurance policy for the car.  Olivia later told me that she had to persuade the girl to talk as otherwise the story going around was that her fellow passengers had fled and didn’t help her out of the burning car.  Eventually she agreed and Olivia told her story and hopefully it had a happy ending.
Olivia reporting from Pontevedra on Friday a car accident case

Friday being Friday we went to the cinema and then out to dinner.  I bought tickets to see the new version of Anna Karenina, perhaps the most famous novel of Russian literature and one I can boast I have actually read although it was a long time ago.  The author of course is Leo Tolstoy and every time I hear his name I remember my Mother telling me that her Mother, my grandmother used to play tennis with him when she was about 15.  That must have been in the late 1890s or early 1900s.  Fancy that you probably think and so do I.  It certainly is an interesting part of my family history.

However, Tom Stoppard’s version of this wonderful novel is rather strange and the whole setting a little too theatrical for my liking and a bit ridiculous at times.  Nevertheless the music and the costumes were simply wonderful.  We discussed the film over dinner at Gino’s afterwards and both agreed that it was rather over the top and had not really met our expectations.
We were a bit disappointed with the new Anna Karenina film on Friday

As we were enjoying our dinner, the Spanish national football team, the world champions, were drawing with Finland 1-1, not exactly a nation known for being good at the game.  The match which should have been a walk over now complicates Spain’s passage to the next world cup in Brazil. In order to be guaranteed a place there, Spain now has to beat France in St. Denis next Tuesday and that I can tell you will be no walk over at all.  So keep your fingers crossed for Spain please.

Olivia was back from Galicia on Friday evening and that night her wonderful boyfriend Miguel came from Valencia to stay with her for the weekend. But we were not to see them until Saturday morning.  Olivia had been incubating a cold or flu virus which sounded similar to mine so Saturday morning saw me accompanying her and Miguel to find a doctor to help her cure it.  Thankfully she was given a bout of antibiotics and is taking a turn for the better but of course has spent most of the weekend in bed.  I hope she gets better soon.

Yesterday, Saturday, we had a big family lunch with both girls there, albeit Oli with her flu and not much appetite.  In Italy at about the same time, history was being made as the new Pope Francis went to meet the emeritus Pope Benedict and they had lunch together too.  The latter looked extremely frail to me and I now think he probably really did resign because of his age and health and not only because of the church’s woes, all probably contained in the famous and secret Vatileaks file both Popes will be familiar with now.  The photo illustrating this week's blog is of the two popes together and I chose it because of its historical importance.

Saturday brought with it more cooking.  After our walk in the afternoon I decided to try out my friend Anne N’s recipe for soda bread.  This is it and it is incredibly easy to make as there is no waiting for the yeast to rise because the raising agents are the bicarbonate of soda and yoghurt which does its rising in the oven.  The latter should have been buttermilk which is not to be found here so I used yoghurt instead.  It was a bit of an experiment as I haven’t made bread for years. Oufa helped me make it, or rather we made it together and this is the result.  Was it good?  Well yes, but it tasted a bit cake like and didn’t have the same wonderful smell you get with bread made with yeast and fresh out of the oven. 
The soda bread Oufa and I made on Saturday afternoon

And now it’s Sunday.  We went for our walk in the morning, I made Russian food for lunch – boeuf strogonof from my Mother’s Russian cookery book (delicious) and now it’s time to publish this week’s chronicle and say goodbye until next week which of course will be Easter week.

So goodbye my friends and readers until next Sunday,


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