Sunday, May 05, 2013

Mother’s day, Oli in León reporting on the snow, a quiet May bank holiday, the best restaurant in the world is Spanish, a new King in Holland, a Bridget Jones Dinner, my Father’s 94th birthday, deep water marathon swim between Formentera and Ibiza, a Spanish garden in Spring and other stories.

Sunday 5th May 2013
With my Father - the cake blowing moment on his birthday on 1st May
Hello again, 

It’s Sunday and the time to write my blog.  Today is Mothers’ day in Spain and the girls are not here.  I have myself to blame probably as I never brought them up to celebrate it.  Meanwhile families in Spain will be celebrating all over the country with family lunches which has me feeling a little bereft.  Just as I wrote this, I got a call from Olivia who is in Valencia, to wish me a happy Mother’s Day which has left me feeling a little better.  No sign of Suzy though which rather gets me down as she was supposed to be coming home to live with us before going to London but that doesn’t seem to be happening.  

I am now adding a bit of news here about Mother’s Day.  After I wrote the above, Susana appeared, a little shame faced but with a beautiful bunch of flowers and wonderful cake. 
Mother's Day flowers from Susana most appreciated and unexpected
Thus we had an unexpected Mother’s Day lunch, albeit without Olivia.  But it was nice and we had it outside.  My Father enjoyed the cake, made with thin pastry, cream and raspberries.  It reminded me of one my Mother used to make which we used to call “the slice” not very appropriately.
A wonderful cake from Suzy for Mother's Day
But let me start from the beginning, from last Sunday.  That afternoon Olivia went off to León as there was snow forecast in the north of Spain and her programme, La Mañana de la 1, wanted her to report on it as snow is somewhat unusual at the end of April even in those parts of Spain.  León, of course is where most of Eladio’s family live so instead of going to a hotel, Olivia and her producer colleague, 23 year old “Esme”, went to stay the night with my sister-in-law Pili and her husband Andrés.
Oli with her colleague Esme arriving at Pili and Andres' home last Sunday
They got wonderful hospitality and Olivia told us later it was so nice to stay with them rather than at a hotel and that Andrés had been like a Father, waiting in the street for them to arrive, accompanying their chauffeur to a hotel and even going out at 11 at night to buy them oranges for juice at breakfast.  Thanks Pili and Andrés, you are both so special.

They were up early in the morning to drive to a village in the mountains called Isoba where Oli would be reporting at 10.29 (clip) and again at 12.31 (clip).  Isoba is in the mountain range called The Peaks of Europe (Los Picos de Europa) and one day we most go there.
Olivia deep in snow reporting on the weather from Isoba, León, last Monday
Adela, Pili’s sister, a primary school teacher in León, later told me she watched Olivia live on the television with her class.  What a lovely gesture Adela.  Thank you.

On Monday Oufa left for a four day break, good for her of course, but I wondered how we would manage.  Manage we did of course but it was a relief to get her back on Friday.  Part of her time off was due to the May bank holiday. It was a holiday on Tuesday (1st May) and on Wednesday too in Madrid as the 2nd May is celebrated here to commemorate the uprising by the people of Madrid in 1808 against the occupation of the city by the French.  This in turn triggered the famous Peninsular War.  For a lot of people in the city it was a chance for a week’s break, or at least a long bank holiday which is often called a “Puente” (bridge) here.  We stayed at home and I must say our May bank holiday was one of the quietest in years.

Monday was a great day for Spain, which may be going through an awful financial crisis with 25% unemployment, but the news that day did a lot to enhance its brand abroad.  Spain excels at many things and is often in the news with victories in sport but it is also known for its Mediterranean diet and great gastronomy. So when the British magazine Restaurant announced the top 50 restaurants in the world on Monday night the good news was that the Spanish restaurant “El Celler Can Roca” in Gerona took first place.  There was more good news for Spanish cuisine too as there were 3 Spanish restaurants in the top ten, the other two being Mugaritz in fourth place and Arzak, the only one I have been to, in 8th place.  So I think we can happily conclude that Spanish cuisine is the best in the world.  In a way I think it is thanks to Ferran Adriá, the owner of the now closed El Bulli who started this amazing wave of fantastic chefs who come from this great country.
Celler Can Roca in Gerona, voted best restaurant in the world 2013
El Celler Can Roca is run by three Roca brothers, Juan, the head chef, Jordi the pastry chef and Josep the head sommelier.  I would love to go one day but read later that, as at most top restaurants, it is difficult to get a table, which are often filled with Japanese tourists as the Japanese tourist agencies block the tables years in advance. They are also full of food and restaurant so called journalists who go there for free.  What a cheeky but wonderful profession they have.

On Tuesday I had my own share of good news.  The interview that I had arranged with my boss’ boss, the head of Mobility Services for our mother company Teliasonera, a week or so ago, was published that morning in Spain’s leading financial daily Expansión.  I was happy to see too that it was all quite positive.
The interview in Expansión that made my day on Tuesday

That morning Olivia, who had moved on from León to Asturias, was reporting on the snow from a village called La Raya.  That night she slept at Esme’s parents’ summer house nearby, where she enjoyed another night away from home but not at a hotel.  You can see the clip here if you go to 11.31h.
Olivia reporting on the snow in La Raya, Asturias, on Tuesday
People all across Europe were watching events in Holland that day, as the new King Willem-Alexander was being crowned in the company of his Mother Beatrix who had abdicated in his favour aged 75, all his family and representatives from all the Royal houses in the world.  King Willem-Alexander is the first Dutch King since Willem III in 1890.  Argentinians were ecstatic that day to see his wife, Argentine born Maxima, become Queen.  They can now boast a new Pope and a new Queen. I wonder if the Kings and Queens of Europe, such as Queen Elizabeth II or King Juan Carlos will be harbouring thoughts of abdicating in favour of Prince Charles or Prince Felipe.  I think they should but suspect they will go on until the end when they are doddery, unlike the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.  Also in the news this week was the latter’s moving into the Vatican where he will be near Pope Francis; two popes in the Vatican is indeed breaking news.  However the ex German Pope has made it clear he will not interfere and will spend his time praying away from the rest of the world.  I wonder what the ex Queen Beatrix will spend her time doing now that she has abdicated in favour of her son.
The new King of Holland and his wife Maxima and three daughters
That day, probably inspired by the news of the top restaurants, I made more meringues, as well as a very Spanish dish, “fabada” (sort of thick bean stew) and I also tried my hand at making bread with proper yeast.  I am very sorry to report it didn’t rise and that I had to throw it away.  Both girls were here unexpectedly for dinner that night but as they hadn’t told me I had nothing prepared and already had eaten a meager dinner of cereal before they came.  Even so I joined them and we had a Bridget Jones moment of devouring ice cream from a tub.  Oli, who came back from her snow reporting trip that afternoon, remarked that I shouldn’t feel bad as I hadn’t done anything like that for a long time.  It reminded me of my University bingeing days where I used to have chocolate egg and toast competitions with Adele, Christine and others and squirm inside every time I think of it.

Whilst we were devouring ice cream, my Father and Eladio were watching the second leg of one of the Champions League semi finals between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.  Remember Madrid were thrashed 1-4 in the first leg in Germany the week before?  In order to get through to the final, Real needed to score at least 3-0.  Frustratingly they managed to score 2-0, a decent result but not enough to reach the final I’m afraid.  The next day, Barcelona were playing their second leg against Bayern Munich to whom they had lost 0-4 in the first leg in Germany.  They needed what is called a “remontada” or miracle in the second leg if their dreams of being in the final were to be fulfilled.  They were crushed 0-3, a rather unheard of result for the Spanish team who has won the competition four times.  So, as predicted, we will have a very boring all German final in Wembley this month.

Wednesday was 1st May, a holiday to celebrate international workers’ day but also my Father’s birthday.  He was to celebrate his 94th birthday, something of a record.  I only hope I reach his age and in the same good mental health.  These days birthdays at home are not only celebrated with presents, a card and a special lunch but, also special breakfasts.  So off I went before 9 to buy freshly made croissants and churros and porras (those lovely Spanish fritters you dip in thick hot chocolate). For once we were all together as you can see in the photo.
My Father's family birthday breakfast on 1st May
Suzy left later for Santa Pola where she would spend the week with what I call her other family.  But Oli was with us for lunch. 
Suzy spent the bank holiday with her girlfriends in Santa Pola (Alicante)
Instead of cooking I went to a gourmet store I love called Mallorca and brought back all sorts of delicacies.  This is what the table looked like.
The birthday lunch for my Father - fit for a king
The Photo illustrating this week’s blog is of me with my Father just as he is about to blow out the candles on the cake, made by Oufa by the way.  

Whilst we were gorging, Olivia’s boyfriend Miguel was doing something very special and very difficult.  You will be wondering why I included a “deep water marathon swim between Formentera and Ibiza” in this week’s headline. Well it refers to the marathon or Ultra Swim that Miguel did that day from Formentera to Ibiza (30km). And he did it in 11.39h, imagine.  He came 3rd which is some achievement.  He told Olivia later that he suffered from cramp most of the way.  If you thought cycling or marathon running were the hardest sports in the world, you were wrong, deep water marathon swimming has to beat them all.  Well done Miguel.  I hope you have recovered now.
Miguel on the podium on the beach in Ibiza after coming 3rd in the ultra swim marathon between Formentera and Ibiza (30km - it took just over 11h)
Thursday, 2nd May, the holiday in Madrid, was a fast day for me.  Watching the end of The Paradise and working on documents for next week’s press conference where Yoigo will be announcing its launch plans for 4G, helped take my mind off food.

On Friday, thankfully Oufa was back and I could leave the cooking to her, as well as all the rest of the domestic chores.  So, not having left the house for a few days, other than for our afternoon walks, I stepped into my car and drove to the Centro Oeste shopping centre in search of a black belt.  Of course I came home with more than a belt; yes the odd blouse, scarf and cardigan are now helping to fill my walk in closet now to the brim.  

On Friday afternoon, Olivia left to spend the weekend in Valencia with her swimmer and cameraman boyfriend Miguel.  She will be back to day but just for half an hour because just as she gets home she has to leave again, this time to spend the week reporting in Galicia.  We continued with our routine and went for our usual walk which was beautiful because of the sunshine and all the wild flowers. Elsa spied a rabbit in the distance which was the perfect moment to get a good photograph of her like the one below.  God bless her she’s a wonderful dog.
Beautiful Elsa on our walk on Friday as she spies a rabbit in the distance

Friday being Friday we went out to dinner that night.  This week’s choice was Sibara in Majadahonda where I always choose their marvelous gazpacho and Spanish style fish and chips, neither of which would be served at El Celler Can Roca of course.
Spanish style fish and chips at Sibara in Majadahonda
Yesterday, Saturday, was a glorious spring day.  The sun shone and the temperatures increased, not a lot, just to 20ºc but it was the perfect day. Eladio spent most of it in the garden removing weeds and dead bushes. He took some marvelous photos of what I call our Spanish garden in spring, so green and full of flowers at this time of year. You can see them here.
A scene from our Spanish garden in Spring

I took the opportunity to pick some of them and get out vases and fill the house with some of the yellow roses, lilac and these very special white roses the name of which I don’t know.  These are them and they are spectacular.  If you know the name, please tell me.  Ah and they are not hydrangeas (hortensias), although they look like them in the photo.  These are much smaller and grow on very big bushes.
The beautiful flowers from our garden the name of which I only learned now.

Finally I have found out that these flowers are  called Viburnum Opulus in Latin,  also European cranberry bush or Guelder Rose ah and Kalinka (or Kalina) in Russian, as in the song. In Spanish it is called a snowball (bola de nieve).  Nice to know.  Thanks my Facebook friends for enlightening me.

I will remember yesterday too because it was the day I had arranged a phone call with my oldest and best friend Amanda.  We exchange emails on a regular basis but haven’t spoken for a long time.  So yesterday it was great to hear her voice and chat openly, as we always do, for nearly an hour. Amanda I miss you and Andy and am dying to see you again.

After finishing The Paradise, yesterday Saturday, was the perfect afternoon to start watching Gosford Park.  I bought it after watching Downton Abbey, sure that it would be good as it was written by the author of the latter, the much admired Julian Fellowes.  I have only started but it is a very promising period drama series, reminiscent of both Upstairs Downstairs and of course Downton Abbey but different as it is also a mystery film.  It stars Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith as well as a host of other excellent British film and television stars.
I started watching Gosford Park this weekend

And today is Sunday, Mother’s Day as I wrote at the beginning of this post. I am waiting for Olivia to return with Suzy who has gone to fetch her from the station.  We have already packed her case for her trip to Galicia, via a list she sent Suzy from the train.  In a few moments the peace of this house will be taken over by a bit of bedlam caused by her rushed arrival and departure.  But then once she’s gone, the house will be quiet again.  In any case we look forward to seeing her on the television next week.  In my case that will probably be on my phone as I shall be very busy and on the move most of next week.

So my friends, this is it for this week.  Wishing you all the best, cheers till next time,


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