Sunday, June 09, 2013

A close shave, first dip of the year, the 7th anniversary of our moving into the new house, Spain: the healthiest country in the world, remembering my mother, an all Spanish final at Roland Garros, welcome Inda and other things.

My first dip in the pool this year was on Monday

Hello my friends again,

Another Sunday and another blog post but not just any post. I just looked it up and this post will be number 500 since I started writing this blog in September 2005.  That’s over 7 years ago.  Also I was amazed to see via blogger analytics this statistic: Pageview all time history 171.271.  Of course it wasn’t like that at the beginning but today there are some 5000 page visits per month.  Would you please tell me my friends and readers what you find so interesting about this blog?  

Last Sunday Olivia was returning from her trip to London and it was a very quiet day for us until I got a whatsapp in the early evening from her boyfriend, Miguel’s phone.  It said: “Mummy, I am Oli. I lost my sim card … we might miss the plane, the underground line was cut.  Can you please look and see if there are more Ryanair flights today other than the 7 pm one?”.  I left my book by the pool with Eladio, rushed to my pc and soon found out there were no more flights after 7pm from any London airport and that their Ryanair flight from Stansted was the last that day.  Their only option was to stay at a hotel by the airport and buy another ticket to fly back the next day at 09h.  My adrenaline was running as we went for our walk with the dogs and I felt frustrated that for once I couldn’t help my daughter in distress whilst I also had thoughts that this experience – not the first in her life – could well teach her a lesson.  Whilst I imagined her checking in to some god forsaken airport hotel at Stansted which must be a terribly boring place, I was relieved to get a message saying: “We made it but it was a close shave”.  This is an expression my girls know very well ever since they were introduced to Wallace and Gromit and to the very funny film called “A close shave” when they were children at school.  I had never been so happy to read the phrase “a close shave” than on Sunday last.  I was not able to help her catch her flight of course, but I was able to get a replacement sim card which thanks to Carolina at Yoigo arrived on Monday afternoon.  It was nice to have Olivia back but the truth is we hardly saw her until this weekend.
The Film called A Close Shave with Wallace and Gromit where the girls first learned the meaning of the expression

On Monday Eladio went off early, as he was to do every day this week, to invigilate UNED (Open University) exams.  It doesn’t often happen but this week he caught someone cheating.  Eladio recognized a pupil from the previous year who he suspected of cheating then and this time he took a closer look.  He walked around the man a few times and then lifted up some of the papers on his desk and found the evidence: what is called in Spanish a “chuleta”, a sort of cheat sheet.  The man apologized, hoping to get away with it by saying he hadn’t used the sheet.  But of course he was taken away from the exam room and who knows what the repercussions will be.  I well remember using cheat sheets as a student and I am not very proud of myself.  Some of my better inventions were writing on my thigh and lifting up my skirt to use what I had written or using a black pencil case written all over with a blue biro which you could only see at certain angles.  I can only imagine that this case for Eladio helped to spice up the otherwise very boring activity of invigilating.  The highlight of his week was when he recognized one of the pupils entering for an exam.  He couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw Pedro, Paula’s boyfriend who is studying Political Science. It was a nice coincidence.  I hope Pedro did well in the exam.  

Whilst Eladio was away I worked from home of course and spent many a morning by the pool either working or with a book when I wasn’t.  The weather was great at the beginning of the week and in fact on Monday it was so warm I decided to take my first dip in the recently opened swimming pool.  The picture illustrating this week’s blog is of that moment.  The experience didn’t last long as the temperatures plummeted towards the end of the week and this weekend has been very strange for this time of year; instead of heat, we are experiencing March like temperatures of 14c and rain too.  I have read that June will be colder than usual and that we are actually heading for the coldest summer in many years.  That pleases my husband from the north of Spain but not me.  

Whilst the temperatures were dropping in Spain, there were floods in central Europe but my sister and brother in law Pili and Andrés on a package tour in Italy were lucky with the weather there.  I mention their trip because they are not frequent travelers, this trip being possibly only their second or third abroad since they were married over 25 years ago.  Each evening Pili would inform the family group of Eladio’s brothers and sisters on whatsapp of their trip, using the wifi at whichever hotel they were staying at and we would normally join the chat on our walk or after dinner.  They have had a grand time, although, they, like many tourists in Italy, certainly experienced what is known as the “Stendhal syndrome” – a sort of fatigue when exposed to a surfeit of beauty or art which probably happens more in Italy than anywhere else.
Pili and Andrés were on holiday in Italy this week

This week was not the most productive week work wise and in fact I had a few setbacks in a very big project I am working on. This had me worried and frustrated most of the week but thankfully it was all sorted out by Friday and now I will have to fly to catch up and make sure everything is alright on the day.  I wish I could be more explicit but I can’t.  Suffice it to say I always prefer to have my projects organized and prepared well in advance but sometimes that just can’t be and when it can’t I have to rely on my own last minute efficiency or on the last minute efficiency of colleagues and this will be another of those experiences.  

Thursday 6th June was the anniversary of our moving into the new house 7 years ago.  Certainly time flies and we remarked so at lunch that day when my Father, Eladio and I reminisced about the occasion.  You can read my blog post about our removal which I wrote on 9th June 2006. I well remember just how hot it was and the removal men dragging the boxes and even the Christmas tree up the path and Eladio and I rushing around telling them where to put things.  I also remember the nightmare of making everyone’s beds on the first night and how we literally didn’t leave the new house for nearly a week getting everything ship shape. 
Moving into this new house - this week was the 7th anniversary

Thursday 6th June was Swedish National Day and as I had been there recently and love the country was interested to read the story behind it and which I share with you here: Since 1916, June 6 has been celebrated as Swedish Flag Day. This finally also became Sweden’s National Day in 1983 and a public holiday from 2005.The date was chosen for two reasons: the election of Gustav Vasa as Sweden’s king on June 6, 1523, laid the foundation of Sweden as an independent state; and on the same date in 1809, Sweden adopted a new constitution that included the establishment of civil rights and liberties. Some of my Facebook friends posted a picture of the Swedish flag but Susana’s childhood friend, Erika, whose mother, Gunila, is Swedish, posted a picture of herself as a child wearing the traditional Swedish crown of flowers so typical of all their celebrations. She was a beautiful child and is a beautiful young woman and I thought it fitting that her photo illustrates the part of this post about the Swedish National Day.  
Erika's delightful photo to illustrate Swedish National day this week
On Thursday I was intrigued by a piece of news from the prestigious Medical journal, The Lancet that stated that Spain was the healthiest country in Europe and one of the top ones in the world.  I found it funny that the Spanish media did not pick up what was for once good news for Spain.  The report which shows how Spain, despite its economic problems, has the highest life expectance (81.4) and highest average of healthy years (70.9) concludes that Spain’s high performance is due probably to four important factors: the climate and Mediterranean diet, an excellent health system and the fact that families look after their elderly in their homes rather than sending them off to residences.  I think that is a pretty good conclusion.  We may complain here about the health system but I can only say that in my experience it’s pretty good. You can see the full table of countries in this BBC report where you will read that the UK comes 12th and the USA even lower.  When I told Eladio about the report his conclusion was that it is the not the most developed countries who have the best health.  He may have a point. I for one look forward to many years of health here, until I am an old lady in my 90s, in this wonderful country which has become my own.

The Spanish mediterranean diet is a contributory factor to its being the healthiest country in Europe

 So when I read this week about the latest pastry craze in the US; the cronut, a cross between a croissant and a donut, which is catching on in the UK, it made me think too about the difference in diet in these countries compared to Spain.  It seems the cronut maybe the next big thing after the cup cake.  For me a cup cake is just an iced bun.  I don’t see what all the fuss is about.  As for the cronut, well I like croissants and only very occasionally eat a donut, so I’m bound to try it one day.  But if I’m to remain slim and help Spain’s top ranking in the health league, I think for the moment I will stick to snacking on black cherries, my favourite fruit which is the fruit in season at the moment.
Introducing the cronut, the latest pastry craze in the US, a cross between a croissant and a donut
 Friday, the last day of the week, the day everything at work was sorted out, was 7th June, my dear Mother’s birthday.  She would have been 93 and she is still sorely missed.  I always remember her but on 7th June we remember her especially as we do on 1st October, the day she died in 1999, nearly 14 years ago. My Mother’s story is so long and interesting it is impossible to summarise here.  I once wrote about her when her beloved sister Masha died and you can read part of my Mother’s story here. One day I promise I will write a book. She deserves it as do her grandchildren.  When I posted it on FB on Friday, Olivia wrote: “if there was one person I could bring back to life it would be Grandma”. Me too. 
Remembering my Mother. Friday 7th June would have been her birthday

One thing I regret is my Mother not seeing her grandchildren grow up.  She would have been thrilled to know Susana was in London following in her footsteps.  She would have been equally thrilled to watch Olivia live on TV reporting on current news.  I thought just that when I watched Olivia on Friday morning reporting on an initiative in Madrid to make the Guinness record of collecting food for the poor.  Father Angel or Padre Angel is a well known figure in NGOs in Spain.  He heads up “Mensajeros de la paz” and it was he she interviewed in her report on Friday morning.  You can see from the photo I took that he was very taken with her. You can watch the report here if you fast forward to 10.26h.  Oli later told me that the PR manager for the local administration tried to thrust a politician at her to be interviewed too and she had to fight with the woman to get on with her job.  Olivia was not interested in giving the politician fame for just trying to get into the picture. I totally agree with her.

Olivia on TVE on Friday - my Mother would have been so proud of her

 That afternoon Oli and I had some quality time together, the only moment in the week really.  I accompanied her to Zara to change an item of clothing.  You will not be surprised to know I also bought something for myself, the lovely floral print trousers below and a green blazer to go with them.

The floral print cropped trousers I got from Zara on Friday
 Olivia bought a beautiful dress we both had spied some time ago.  She looked wonderful in it and I look forward to seeing her wear it.

The beautiful dress Olivia bought from Zara on Friday
 While we were at Zara, Rafa Nadal was battling with Novak Djokovic at the Roland Garros French Open tennis semi final.  We were delighted to read that Rafa had beaten Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (3), 9-7 in the most thrilling match in recent tennis history.  Just afterwards fellow Spaniard, David Ferrer, a top seed tennis player who is much less known, went on to win his semi final match against France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga by beating him in three straight sets, to get through to his first grand slam final.   This crushed all hopes for the first Frenchman to win the French Open since Yannick Noah in 1983.  I commented to Olivia just how wonderful Rafa’s win was for Spain’s brand image.  And today Sunday, Rafa will be playing Ferrer to make tennis history and become the only tennis player to win Roland Garros 8 times and the player who has won the greatest number of a grand slam.  It’s a big day for both of them and the chance for Ferrer to win his first Grand Slam. For the records, this will be the fourth all Spanish Final in Paris in 19 years after Sergi Bruguera beat Alberto Berasategui in 1994. Nadal’s fellow Majorcan and boyhood hero Carlos Moya did the same to Alex Corretja four years later and in 2002 Albert Costa beat Juan Carlos Ferrero.  It is true to say that the Spanish tennis players are the kings of the clay courts. I am sure the French public would far have preferred a Frenchman in the final as they are probably fed up of their “poorer” neighbours beating them again and again not just at tennis but at football and cycling too. All the odds are on Rafa, who still suffers from his knee ailment, to win, but this is sport and you never know who will win until the end.

Rafa Nadal meets fellow countryman David Ferrer in the final of the French Open today
 Saturday was quiet and not warm either.  Again in Sweden there were celebrations, this time for the so-called “party princess” Madeleine who was marrying the Anglo American banker Christopher O’Neill. The beautiful 30 year old, the youngest of King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia’s three children was married in a grand ceremony at the Royal Chapel which we visited in Stockholm when I was there recently with a group of journalists. The Swedes, like the British, are very good at pomp and tradition but the former add a bit more warmth to the occasion than the latter in my mind.  The story of their wedding will fill glossy magazines the world around and at the same time probably put the problem of immigrant riots out of the minds of the Swedes whilst they feast their eyes on the images of this Nordic fairy tale rather than on the ugliness of the riots, so out of character in civilized Sweden.

The Swedish Royal wedding on Saturday. Princess Madeleine and her now husband Christopher O'Neill
 There have been riots too this week in Turkey.  It all started with a group of environmentalists demonstrating against the building of a shopping centre in a park on the outskirts of Istanbul.  It has grown and other discontent groups of people have joined the ranks.  So far so good so far, if it wasn’t for the violent reaction from the police and authorities.  A woman in red has become the icon of the protesters, as pictures of her emerged being sprayed with tear gas by the police when she was obviously a peaceful demonstrator. The Turkish government now has on their hands what is known as the Turkish equivalent of the Arab Spring.  It remains to be seen how the problem will be solved if it ever can be.

The woman in red: the icon of the Turkish protesters

 On Saturday afternoon after our walk I went to see Inda. Who is Inda you will want to know?  Well, let me explain.  Inda belongs to Rocío, the girls’ close friend, and is an adorable 2 month old jet black labrador she puppy.  Rocío adores dogs and, like me, was never allowed to have one when she lived with her parents.  So recently emancipated and well employed as a lawyer with a TV production company, she decided that her first proper acquisition had to be a dog, or rather a black labrador.  Rocío has been wanting a dog all her life and on Friday her dream came true, together with the hard part, the toilet training and all that involves before the puppy knows how to behave. Inda was taken from her canine family on Friday afternoon to live with Rocío.  As soon as I saw a picture of the darling, I knew I had to see her, or it, as soon as possible.  If you know me, you will know I love dogs, especially short haired ones and far prefer to see and hold a puppy than babies.  I should explain here that I refer to other people’s babies, not my own. I never go “ooh and aah” when I see a baby in the street, reserving that for nearly every dog I see.  So yesterday afternoon I was delighted to be introduced to Inda.  Olivia was there too and she took this delightful picture of me with Inda.

With Inda yesterday, Rocio's delightful 2 month old black labrador.

I look forward to the day Inda comes to visit Norah and Elsa but that won’t happen until she is 3 months old.  Meanwhile all I can say is “welcome Inda” and that I am in love with you. Rocío, meanwhile, is ecstatic with joy at her dream come true. I wish them happiness together and not too much trouble with Inda chewing her belongings hahaha.

And today is Sunday and there is not much to report.  I asked Suzy to send me a photo for this week’s blog as she hadn’t posted any new ones this week.  This is what she sent me. 

Suzy in London this week with Chati, wearing the trendy glasses

 I couldn’t understand why she was wearing glasses in the picture of her with Chati at a tube station.  Then she told me they are the trend, the height of fashion.  It seems funny to me to wear glasses for fashion when they are designed for people who need them to enhance their eyesight and that anyone who needs glasses would prefer not to wear them.  It seems to me to be a sort of upside down idea, but there you – that’s London fashion for you I suppose.

Suzy is enjoying her London experience. She spends a lot of time scouring the net, applying for jobs, tailoring her cv for the job application as well as the cover letter and I got many questions from her during the week. Also this week she did her first part time job with the events catering company.  Believe it or not it was at a gala dinner held right by the dinosaur at the wonderful Natural History Museum.  I would love to have seen her.  She will be home one day soon as she has to come back for documents needed for work purposes, such as a criminal records certificate, blood test, etc.  I look forward to her coming home.

Meanwhile Oli has just gone off to Santiago in Galicia where she will be reporting for TVE1 for her programme all of next week.  We look forward to watching her on the television as we always do and I will be telling you about her reports in next week’s post, post 501 for the record.

I am now at the end of this week’s story which I hope you have enjoyed.  It’s been good but there have been difficult moments.  I hope next week will be plain sailing as I hope it will be for all of you too.

Cheers till next week

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